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Easy Ideas for Packing a Healthy Lunch for Your Child

I wrote a similar post to this last year around this time on school lunchbox meal ideas, but as a mom and dietitian, I know I am always looking for fresh ideas for my family’s meals. When putting together lunch for school, it is helpful to think of the Healthy Plate Model to make sure all bases are covered:  whole grains, protein, fruits, and veggies.

Here are some ideas in each food category to try to branch out beyond the sandwich-in-a-baggie lunch:

  • Whole grains:  Whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, brown rice cakes, whole grain tortillas, granola, multigrain chips
  • Protein:  Sunflower seed butter, nuts (if allowed at school), hummus, yogurt, tuna or chicken salad, cheese cubes or string cheese, nitrate and nitrite-free lunchmeat, edamame
  • Fruits:  Any fresh and seasonal fruits, dried fruits or fruit leathers, applesauce
  • Vegetables:  Sliced bell peppers in a variety of colors, carrot or celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, snap peas, broccoli or cauliflower pieces

Some parents might be thinking, if I pack XYZ, it’s just going to come home untouched every day, so what’s the point? Just like your kids are constantly growing and maturing, their palate and attitudes toward food are developing over time too. You never know when your child is going to give those cherry tomatoes a try, but he can’t try them unless you offer them consistently. Kids work up quite an appetite during the school day, and they are positively influenced by seeing their peers eat a variety of foods. So give your kids the chance to eat healthy, and you might be surprised!

Click here for more healthy twists on your children’s favorite foods!  For more information on our childhood nutrition programs, click here.

Food Choices for a 1 Year Old | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric registered dietitian provides food suggestions for a 1 year old.

In this video you will learn:

  • What model is used to determine food choices for a 1 year old
  • What food is best for a 1 year old to consume at different periods of the day
  • How many meals and snacks should a 1 year old consume in a day

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. I’m standing here today with a Pediatric Registered Dietician,
Stephanie Wells. Stephanie, can you tell our viewers what are some food
choices that are preferable for a one-year-old?

Stephanie: Sure. When you’re making meals for a one-year-old, you want the
plate to reflect what’s called the Healthy Plate Model. So the plate should
be divided in half, where half of the plate has grains and protein, and the
other half has fruits and vegetables.

In terms of the grains, about half of the grains should be whole grains.
And in terms of the protein, it could be from a variety of sources, such as
meat, beans, eggs, tofu, and even cottage cheese and yogurt are good
sources of protein. The fruits and vegetables could be a variety of fresh,
frozen, dried, or cooked. One-year-olds should eat three meals and about
two snacks per day. They should drink whole milk with their meals and water
in between, and limit juice to zero to four ounces per day.

In terms of an example of a one day meal plan for a one-year-old, you could
offer at breakfast scrambled eggs, oatmeal or cereal and blueberries. A mid-
morning snack could be something just simple like crackers or pretzels. At
lunch you could offer grilled cheese, green beans, and cut up peaches. For
the mid-afternoon snack, you could do something like a rice cake or if they
like edamame, they could try that. Just watch out because it could be a
choking hazard. At dinner time you could offer something like spaghetti and
meatballs, and cooked carrots and apple sauce.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for even providing that menu as
well. Thank you to our viewers, 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.

Breakfast for a Better Kid and Day!

Breakfast often gets skipped in the haste of the typical morning. Mom and dad are getting themselves ready, getting the kids ready, and tying up loose ends around the house. Many people report not having an appetite in the morning. Often, this is caused by over-eating in the later part of the day. family breakfastKids will model their parents, so think about what example you may be setting for your kids. In any case, the fact is, this morning a lot of kids woke up late and got breakfast at a fast food drive thru or ate nothing at all.

Studies show that kids who eat breakfast do better on tests in school. Nourishment in the morning provides brain fuel needed for concentration and energy. Even behavior and general attitude is better. Have you been around a hungry, tired kid lately? Not so fun and probably not the kid who’s skipping to the head of the class, so to speak.

Not only do kids who eat breakfast do better in school, but kids who eat breakfast tend to have healthier BMIs. It’s hard to say exactly why this is, but likely it has at least something to do with kids having less energy during the day to be active, and then over-eating later in the day. Eating in a balanced way throughout the day will prevent over-eating later, and leave room for a good appetite in the morning.

Here are some tips for a breakfast for a better kid:

  1. Change your morning so that breakfast is a requirement. Would you let your kids go to school in their pajamas? Just like getting dressed is a morning requirement, eating breakfast should be too. Carve that time into the morning, for yourself and your kids. Remember you are the most important role model in shaping their eating habits.
  2. Make breakfast count. Breakfast is just as important as lunch or dinner in terms of creating a complete, healthy meal. Strive for the healthy plate model at breakfast, which is to include whole grains, a protein source, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Vegetables are not typically the stars of the breakfast show, but try things like homemade hash browns or omelets with a variety of veggies. Potato pancakes are usually a hit if you have time to make them.
  3. Something is better than nothing. I would really recommend avoiding the fast food drive thru breakfast. Usually this isn’t going to be the healthiest food, but also, eating on the run results in poor digestion and tummy aches.If on occasion, you are late and have to do breakfast in the car, try a trail mix with dried fruit, nuts, and cereal. Another option would be a Clif ™ bar or Larabar ™ with a string cheese.
  4. Use the weekend to make breakfast a special meal for your family. The weekend breakfast can be such a fun family (and friends) tradition. Eating breakfast at home gives kids another chance to have a family meal at the table, which builds good habits, communication skills, and relationships. Breakfast foods tend to be popular with kids, and can be made with a healthy spin.

Examples of a Better Breakfast for Children:

  • Multigrain pancakes with blueberries and scrambled eggs. Try a maple-agave syrup blend (it’s less expensive than 100% maple syrup but still contains whole ingredients instead of high fructose corn syrup). Another healthy topping is homemade strawberry-rhubarb syrup which you can make by simmering chopped rhubarb and strawberries with a few tablespoons of water.
  • Granola, fruit, and yogurt parfait. Make it seasonal by stirring in pumpkin spice granola or farmers market fruit. Make it a winner by setting bowls of yogurt at the kids’ places at the table, and allow them to pick from an array of mix-ins on the table that they can spoon in themselves.
  • Organic bacon or sausage, whole grain English muffin spread with fruit preserves.
  • Whole grain toast, egg scramble or omelet with any of the following: chopped peppers, spinach, broccoli, peas, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes virtually any vegetable, black beans, cheese.
  • Oatmeal, berries, and nut butter mixed in. Top with homemade coconut whipped cream, which can be made by whipping canned coconut milk with beaters on high until foaming and thick.

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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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Healthy Barbecue for Parents and Kids

Grilling season is going to be wrapping up in the next few months, but not before one of the biggest grill-out holidays of the season:  Labor Day! Summer barbecues are a time to celebrate with good food. You can still have good food and be healthy at your barbecue.

Parents with both of their children sharing food at the Barbecue

Here are some healthy barbecue pointers that I follow for myself and my family:

Choose organic meats. My picks:

  • Organic chicken breast or drumsticks (the drumsticks are only $3.00-$4.00 for 5 large pieces at Trader Joe’s)
  • Organic, local, grass fed ground beef from Fruitful Yield (at about $5.00 per pound, it doesn’t cost much more than non-organic)
  • Trader Joe’s 100% beef, nitrate- & nitrite-free hot dogs
  • Applegate brand organic hot dogs, which can be found in many grocery stores

Choose whole grain or 100% whole wheat hot dog and hamburger buns

You can find these at any grocery store, and really, they don’t taste different. Especially with all the yummy grill flavor coming through, and of course condiments.

Choose produce from the farmers market

Add some veggies to your grilling repertoire. Right now in season there is plentiful corn on the cob, eggplant, yellow and green zucchini, onions, potatoes, fennel, all colored peppers, mushrooms, and more. If your kids are old enough, ask them to help wash and even chop some of the veggies for you into large pieces. Toss the veggies in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill them, turning them once. After removing from the grill, drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over them and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve in a large dish- beautiful with all the colors!

Make fruit skewers with yogurt dip

Again, get your kids involved by having them help wash, portion, and skewer a variety of fruits. Be creative and make a rainbow of colors with different fruits. You can make a simple fruit dip with vanilla yogurt (or any fruit flavored yogurt really).

Try pasta salad instead of traditional potato salad

You can make a delicious, healthier version of pasta salad by using whole wheat pasta or quinoa, an olive oil and vinegar dressing, and plenty of veggies, olives, fresh herbs and spices to flavor it.

Manage portions

Of course, there will likely be a variety of not-so-healthy food choices at any barbecue. Make just one plate of food, and make it reflect the Healthy Plate Model:  half of the plate filled with fruit and veggies, the other half split between whole grains and protein. Have a small dessert and drink water instead of soda.

Very important

Avoid over-cooking or charring foods on the grill, as this results in formation of cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). You can avoid these by cooking on lower flame for longer, pre-cook the meat a bit to decrease time needed on the grill, and trim off any charred pieces you do get.

Happy grilling!

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