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Eat These, Not Those: The Toddler Edition

When you think of the typical diet of a toddler, there are some common foods come to mind; however, the food industry has created many toddler-suited kids with cupcakes foods that may not always have a toddler’s nutrition needs in mind.For every not-so-great toddler food, there is a better choice.

Below is a list of toddler foods that have more nutritious alternatives:

  • Say no to: Flavored yogurts packaged for on-the-go.
    • These may contain artificial food coloring and some have up tp 20 grams of sugar or more per serving.
  • Instead, tryPlain yogurt with fruit and a little maple syrup or honey stirred in. Only feed honey to kids that are older than 1 year of age.
  • Say no to: Fruit snacks.
    • These often have artificial food coloring and minimal nutritional value as they are made of sugar or corn syrup, gelatin and other chemicals.
  • Instead, try: Dried fruit. Dried fruit is a great source of fiber. Try a variety, such as cranberries, blueberries, mangoes, strawberries, cherries and peaches.
  • Say no to: Processed meats.
    • These are often high in sodium and most have nitrates. Nitrites used as preservatives can form carcinogenic compounds during digestion.
  • Instead, try: Nitrate and Nitrite-free hot dogs and lunch meat. High quality products that are made of 100% meat without additives are a better alternative to processed meats. You may also forgo the processed part and stick with whole, cooked meats.
  • Say no to: Juice, especially if it is not made with 100% juice.
    • Kids do not need juice every day for nutrition. Drinking juice displaces room for other healthy foods.
  • Instead, try: Plain milk with meals and water throughout the day.
  • Say no to: “Puffed”snacks.
    •  Again, these snack foods often do not offer much nutrition and can take-up room for other more nutritious foods.
  • Instead, try: Whole grain crackers, brown rice cakes, or whole grain cereal pieces.
  • Say no to: Processed cheese.
    • If cheese comes in a package, read the label and take caution if there is anything other than milk, salt and enzymes.
  • Instead, try: Real blocks of cheese, grated or sliced by yourself or by the deli.
  • Say no to: Peanut butter products.
    • Read labels. If you see the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”, the peanut butter includes trans-fats. These are particularly unhealthy fats that are highly susceptible to oxidation in the body, which leads to generation of free radicals that can contribute to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • Instead, try: Peanut butter or other nut butters that have only nuts listed in the ingredients.
  • Say no to: Cereals, specifically those with 10 grams of sugar or more.
    • The sugar content of some of kids-themed cereals should ultimately be categorized within the dessert aisle, rather than the cereal aisle.
  • Instead, try: Whole grain cereals with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Say no to: Fast food, specifically the burger, French fry and chicken nugget variety.
    • Fast food, especially fried fast food, is high in sodium, calories and saturated and/or trans fats. Fast food is often chosen out of convenience.
  • Instead, try: Packing a lunch from home when you know you will be on the go.
  • Say no to: Candy, especially when given as a reward.
    • Many parents use candy as a bribe for potty training, for eating vegetables or for staying quiet in the shopping cart at the grocery store.
  • Instead, try: Dried fruit or a non-edible reward like stickers, stamps, crayons or hildren’s books.

It is the caregiver’s responsibility to make good nutrition choices to offer to children. Children, as they mature,  will then choose foods from the foods they are most often exposed to from an early age.  For more information on feeding toddlers or how to manage picky eating, contact one of our registered dietitians to schedule an appointment.

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Food as Medicine

The seasons are about to change, school has resumed, and it’s only a matter of time before kids start getting sick. You can do your best to try to shave off those dreaded illnesses by ensuring proper nutrition and rest every day. But there’s just no avoiding it sometimes. Try not to get too stressed if your child has decreased intake when he or she is ill. It’s normal, and likely they will rebound after and make up for it by eating more of what they need for re-nourishment. Drinking adequate fluids is very important, however, as dehydration can have serious consequences. Also, adequate hydration helps the body “flush out” the bacteria, viruses, and immune factors causing symptoms.

sick child eating

For the following illnesses, here are some nutrition considerations:

Sore Throat. Eating and drinking can obviously be painful. Focus on cold, liquid foods.

  • Applesauce. Stir in quinoa for extra protein. Just cook the quinoa, let it cool, refrigerate, and stir into applesauce when your child is interested in eating.
  • Yogurt
  • Smoothies, made with yogurt, frozen fruit, and baby spinach leaves.
  • Gazpacho
  • Frozen bananas
  • Frozen fruit puree popsicles
  • Pediasure, especially if your child is on the low end of the growth chart, has other chronic medical issues, or otherwise has poor nutrition.

Diarrhea and/or Vomiting.

Gastrointestinal illnesses can occur for a variety of reasons. Likely eating or drinking will induce nausea. Hydration and electrolyte balance/replenishment are important with prolonged diarrhea and vomiting. Call the pediatrician if the vomiting or diarrhea persists longer than 24 hours. Seek medical care immediately if you see blood in the stool or emesis, and also if your child seems dehydrated. Some signs of dehydration are decreased urine output, darker colored urine, urine with a strong odor, dark circles under the eyes, lack of tears when crying, “tenting” of the skin (when you pull it up it doesn’t retract quickly), dry mouth, and lethargy. The best you can do is to encourage drinking fluids and eating small amounts as able. Focus on easily digested foods that are low in fat.

  • The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast). These foods are easily digested, and the bananas and applesauce contain soluble fiber, which absorbs fluids in the gut and promotes a bulkier, more formed stool. This counteracts loose, watery diarrhea.
  • Congee is used to treat diarrhea, and versions of it are used in African, Indian, and Asian cultures. It’s basically rice that has been cooked for a long time with extra water so that it boils into a soupy mixture that is easily digestible .
  • Offer electrolyte replacement beverages, such as those discussed in my exercise hydration post. A great, natural option is called Recharge and can be found at Whole Foods and other natural grocery stores.
  • Some studies have shown improvement in duration of gastrointestinal symptoms with taking probiotics. See my probiotics blog for more recommendations.

Common cold or flu. Warming, soothing foods are usually best accepted.

  • Soups or stews. Take advantage of the opportunity to get some quality nutrition in these meals. Butternut squash soup is a good source of vitamin A, tomato soup is a good source of vitamin C, potato soup is a good source of potassium, and beef or chicken stew provides good protein.
  • Bone broth. This traditional soup is made by actually boiling bones for a prolonged time, which creates a broth full of the nutrients stored in bones. You can use bones from a whole chicken after cooking it and using the meat for another meal. Put them in a crock pot on low over night or simmer on the stove for 8-12 hours. Use the broth to make soups, noodles, congee, or drink it warmed.
  • Offer good vitamin C sources such as fresh citrus fruits.

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School Lunchbox Meal Ideas

It’s here- the new school year! Bringing lunch from home is great if it is feasible for your family. It can be tricky coming up with school lunchbox ideas that include variety, foods your kids will eat, and foods that will stay good until lunchtime. I recommend getting a lunchbox that can Child with lunchboxaccommodate a refrigerated pack to keep certain foods cold.

Here are 5 ideas, one for each day of the week, that are dietitian approved:

Sandwich Lunchbox

You can’t go wrong with the tried and true staple.

  • Whole grain or 100% whole w­­­heat bread, nitrate- and nitrite-free lunchmeat, real cheese (steer clear of the heavily processed ones that come individually plastic-wrapped), lettuce, tomato, mustard.
  • 2 mini oranges
  • Whole wheat pretzels

Vegetarian Tortilla Wrap Lunchbox

Although it’s vegetarian, it’s not lacking in protein.

  • Use your kid’s favorite tortilla wrap (spinach, whole wheat, etc), and fill it with hummus or pureed black beans or lentils, sliced red and green peppers, and shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese.
  • To make a bean puree:  Saute ½ of a white or yellow onion in olive oil in a small skillet. Add pre-cooked lentils, beans, or canned beans and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Cool after cooking, and stir in chopped cilantro and a little of your favorite salsa. Puree or fork mash the mixture.
  • Tortilla chips
  • Grapes

Lettuce Wrap Lunchbox

Kids like assembling their own foods, and although this might seem outside of the norm in terms of “kid food”, they are delicious.

  • 3 pieces of whole romaine lettuce leaves (approx 6” long ), 3 strips of baked, grilled, or otherwise cooked chicken or steak, thinly sliced carrots, and a mini Tupperware container of Asian salad dressing (be aware that many Asian dressings contain peanuts. If your school is 100% peanut-free, try French or Catalina dressing instead).
  • Clif Z bar or Larabar
  • Dried cranberries
  • Milk

Bagel, Nut Butter, and Jelly Lunchbox

 Again, you can’t go wrong with this kid favorite.

  • Use a whole grain bagel or a whole wheat English muffin. If your school is peanut-free, instead of peanut butter, try sunflower seed butter, almond butter or cashew butter. Add your kid’s favorite jelly (I recommend organic preserves that have less sugar- check at the farmers market too), and even a little drizzle of honey.
  • Carrot sticks
  • Whole grain Goldfish crackers
  • Milk

Cracker and Cheese Assortment

With the right sides, this does make a good meal.

  • Whole grain woven wheat crackers (i.e. Triscuits)
  • Brown rice cake or rice crackers
  • Whole grain round crackers
  • Two types of cheeses, sliced into 2”x2” squares, such as cheddar, swiss, muenster, or whatever you have in the house.
  • Shelled edamame
  • Banana

Each of the above meals includes (at minimum) a source of protein, a whole grain, a fruit, a vegetable, and a dairy serving. Give your child’s lunch experience a special touch by including a little note from you or dad, or put a sticker on one of the baggies or containers. And remember, fueling your child’s body and brain with healthy foods before and during school promotes better learning and school performance.

*Tip to encourage your child to eat the above lunchbox meals:  Share these meal ideas with your child’s friends’ parents. Kids tend to eat better in social settings where they see other kids eating and trying different things.

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Tips to Get a Child to Try a New Food | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a registered dietitian provides strategies to help your child to try new foods.

In this video you will learn:

  • When is it recommended to offer a child a new food
  • How many exposures to a new food before we expect a child to eat it
  • How to make a child feel comfortable with trying new foods

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m standing here today with Stephanie Wells, a Pediatric
Registered Dietician. Stephanie, can you give us three tips on how to get a
child to try a new food?

Stephanie: Sure. The first tip would be that you want to offer the new
foods in a low pressure situation. Offer them foods at the table or on
their high chair, and consistently offer them a new food, maybe once per
week. Don’t pressure them to try the new food, but just offer it to them
and encourage them to try it, and let them sort of come around to it. Just
remember that research shows that it takes a child 8 to 15 exposures to a
new food before they might actually eat it.

The second tip would be to have them help pick out a new food that they
might want to try. And they can do that at the grocery store or the farmers
market. And also get them involved in actually preparing the food.

The third tip would be to be a good role model for your children, in terms
of eating the types of foods that you would like them to eat. It can also
be really effective if they eat in a setting with their peers. So if they
have cousins or a play group where they can eat together, and if they see
other kids eating those types of foods, then they will be more likely to
want to eat it themselves.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for the tips. And thank you to
our viewers for watching. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.