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Healthy Road-Trip-Friendly Snacks for Kids

Editors Note: Summer sun and holidays mean family road trips….and lots of challenges finding good-tasting but healthy snacks for your children. Check out these options which can be ordered online or obtained in most locations.

Funley’s Wholly Granolly ClustersRoad trip snacks

Kids will go crazy for the Peanut Butter Pretzel and Double Chocolate flavors, which come in mini clusters — perfect for tiny hands. You’ll love them for what they don’t have: preservatives, trans fat and high fructose corn syrup. (For a savory and healthier alternative, their Cheddar n’ Stuff Super Crackers have broccoli hidden inside.)

Funleys.com, $4.59

Buddy Fruits Pure Blended Fruit to Go

Fruit cups and applesauce tins aren’t really made for road trips. Enter these all-natural, pure fruit purees in convenient drinkable packages, which make kids eager to eat their produce. Best of all, they don’t need to be refrigerated.

Amazon.com, $18.98 (pack of 18)

Sensible Foods Crunch Dried Snacks, Tropical Blend

When your kids want something crunchy and sweet, reach for these intensely flavored dried fruit snacks. Filled with a mix of dehydrated apples, pineapples, mangos, and bananas – and nothing else — each .75-ounce pouch offers the equivalent of half a cup of fresh fruit.

Agapebabies.com, $7.55

EnviroKidz Organic Lemur Peanut Choco Drizzle Crispy Rice Barenvirokids-lemur

Moms, if you’re on the hunt for tasty organic, gluten-free treats that your kids will actually eat, look no farther than EnviroKids Crispy Rice Bars. Think of them as a healthier alternative to candy bars. If you’re going to be in a hot car for awhile, you might want to opt for the melt-free flavors, like berry or peanut butter.

HHMatters.com, $6.86

Frigo Cheese Heads String Cheese

If you’re the type of mom who packs a cooler on road trips, toss in a handful of Frigo Cheese Heads. Kid-friendly and fun, without being too messy, string cheese fills kids up with protein and calcium while on the go.

Walmart (in stores only, price varies)

Post Halloween: Teaching Our Kids the “Why” Behind Moderation

Teach Post-Halloween Moderation2My son, Evan, was on quite a roll a recent morning! He started off by telling me his leg hurt. I asked him if he hit it on something and he said no. I then explained that when his body grows, it can cause his body to hurt sometimes. He said, “Oh, I know why! I think I ate too much candy for Halloween.” I stopped in my tracks and smiled. “Really? You think that’s why?” He said, “Yes. Mommy, will you give me something healthy to eat? I need to make my leg feel better.” I almost fell over. I explained to him that the foods he ate for breakfast were actually healthy (whole grain waffles, yogurt, orange juice) so that should make his leg feel better soon.

I think Evan remembered me telling him and his sister about how candy can make them feel “yucky” if they eat too much. I’ve explained that eating some candy is fine, but eating a lot can make them feel sick and can even take some of their “super powers” away. Even though I thought Evan wasn’t listening, I think that made an impression on him after all.

As parents, let’s remember to tell our children the “why’s” behind being healthy. Avoid making associations between food and weight or “to avoid getting granny’s sugar disease,” but instead mention things that matter to them right now.

Evan loves soccer, being strong, smart and running fast. I tell him that eating healthy foods help him with those things and he gets it. Get them invested in the healthy lifestyle for their own reasons; it will stick with them for the rest of their lives. [By the way, he recently started eating broccoli after over 3 years of rejecting it on his plate and now he says it’s his favorite food. Perserverance in healthy messaging and exposure pays off!]

Stick with those positive messages, Mom and Dad. They are listening even when you don’t think they are. I was reminded today that my son is listening to me!

Kid-friendly Foods That Soothe

When children are under the weather, they usually turn to Mom for comfort. This season, be prepared with tasty treats that do double duty – they soothe symptoms and help speed up the healing process.

“Runny noses, coughs and intermittent fevers can all be soothed at home,” says Dr. Ben Lee, a hospitalist at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and an assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern, in Dallas. “The old adage of a bowl of chicken noodle soup does have some truth, as it provides necessary fluids and calories to help kids feel better.”

There are other options too. Here are a few unexpected, inexpensive and tasty treats to have on hand for your kids this cold and flu season.

Oatmeal Cookies

Every mom knows that extra sleep is key for sick children, but getting an unhappy child to climb into bed is seldom an easy task. Oats contain high levels of tryptophan, the amino acid best known for making you feel sleepy after eating a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. A bowl of oats may be a bit heavy on the stomach, especially for a sick kid, but eating one or two oatmeal cookies will produce the same effect and help kids settle down and get the rest they need to feel better.

100 Percent Juice Drinks

It’s normal for most kids to become mildly dehydrated while sick with the flu. Watch for signs, which include a dry or sticky mouth, dry skin, irritability and dizziness. “Liquids are important to prevent dehydration,” says Lee.

The right liquids make all the difference, though. Avoid caffeinated beverages and hydrate kids with 100 percent juice. All-natural juice drinks are fat-free and nutrient-dense, and are loaded with vitamins and immunity-boosting antioxidants that many of their sugary counterparts lack. If the juice is too sweet or strong, mix it with an equal amount of water to dilute the taste without washing away the nutrients. Kids younger than 1 year should hydrate with a beverage that contains electrolytes.

Ginger Ale or Ginger Candies

Many studies have shown that ginger curbs nausea and alleviates an upset stomach. The trick is to find foods and beverages that actually contain pure ginger. Look for the words “ginger” or “ginger extract” on the ingredient list. Some sodas, especially those available in natural food stores, are going to be your best bet. Ginger candies made from real ginger can also help provide relief for older children.

Ice Pops

A cool ice pop can numb irritated nerve endings to help soothe an inflamed sore throat and provide fluids to quell dehydration. Seek out ice pops made from 100 percent juice or fruit puree, and avoid unnecessary artificial sweeteners and additives. Ice pops made from 100 percent juice are loaded with healthy antioxidants, and those fortified with extra vitamins and minerals can give added boost to the immune system to help speed recovery time.

Honey

Honey is extremely effective at soothing coughs, according to research from Penn State College of Medicine. In fact, a small dose of buckwheat honey before bedtime reduced the severity and frequency of coughs and provided significant relief to participants in a recent study.

“Honey has been reported to reduce coughing by coating the throat to help reduce irritation,” says Lee. One to two teaspoons thirty minutes prior to bedtime should do the trick, he says. An important warning: Children under 2 years old should avoid this sweet soother to prevent the risk of a botulism infection.

The Smart Mom’s Tips for Healthy, Quick Homemade Meals

Quick healthy family mealsCooking at home is more cost-effective than ordering in, better for your family’s health, and if you do it right, quicker, too. New York based nutrition expert Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It, shares the items you should always have in stock for healthy, delicious, kid-friendly 30-minute meals.

When you don’t feel like cooking …

Taub-Dix loves making salads – and, yes, even for her kids. For those who find all that chopping and shredding a hassle, she recommends salads in a bag. Several bagged lettuce companies now make medleys with pea pods, carrots, croutons and even bacon bits. “You don’t have to start from scratch,” says Taub-Dix — although she does advocate washing even prewashed ready-to-eat produce. To make your salads kid-friendly, create a salad bar at home. Lay out their favorite ingredients, like dried cranberries, sliced almonds, cheese and mandarin slices, and let them build their own. For a quick protein topper, use canned tuna or salmon, canned beans or a store-bought rotisserie chicken.

When you’re craving comfort food …

“Carbs and comfort go hand in hand,” says Taub-Dix. Luckily, satisfying that yen can be achieved in 20 minutes or less. Her go-to recipe for a heart-warming dish includes just six ingredients: chicken, pasta, chicken broth, frozen or fresh vegetables, olive oil and garlic – all of which you should always have on-hand. Boil your pasta in low-sodium chicken broth. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and garlic in a sauté pan and add your vegetables. If you like a lot of flavor, season to taste with your favorite herbs, like pepper, thyme and oregano. Buying an already-barbecued chicken is the easiest way to go when in a time crunch, but you can just as easily sauté a pan of chicken tenders with your vegetables. (Just remember to toss them into the fridge to defrost in the morning). For picky kids, serve with shredded parmesan cheese.

When your kid is extra-finicky …

Sometimes there’s just no getting around your child’s cravings. When they refuse to eat anything but chicken nuggets, Taub-Dix says it’s okay to give them what they want – with a few rules, of course. Tell them they can have chicken nuggets for dinner, as long as they eat them with vegetables or a fruit cup, says Taub-Dix. “Secondly, not every chicken nugget is created equal. Some are more like cardboard and some are really chicken,” she says, which is why she advises a close inspection of the label. Make sure the first ingredient is chicken, so that the breading doesn’t outweigh the meat. Also, avoid brands that use sugar or hydrogenated fat.

The surefire crowd pleaser …

Who doesn’t love pizza? It’s a fun activity you can do with your kids, and an easy way to get vegetables onto their plate. According to Taub-Dix, you can buy pizza dough at the supermarket, go to the pizza store and buy dough, or just keep flatbread, pita or English muffins on-hand. “Every week, I would make different pizzas and they could choose their own toppings, like grilled chicken, pineapple or mushrooms, and have fun with it,” she says.

When your kids are done playing chef in the kitchen, make cleanup a breeze by letting them wipe down the counters and freshen up the air with odor-eliminating candles while your hubby does the dishes.

Print & Go Grocery List For Healthy, Quick Family Meals:

Flatbread

Shredded cheese

Bagged salads

Canned beans

Chicken tenders

Canned tuna or salmon

Frozen vegetables

Pasta or couscous

Pasta sauce

Olive oil

Garlic

Chicken broth

Dried cranberries, pineapple, mango or other fruit

Sliced almonds

Fresh chopped fruit like watermelon or pineapple

Healthy Back to School Lunches Kids Will Want to Eat

For many kids across the country, school is starting and that means kids will be eating lunch away from home. Proper nutrition is important for physical health and brain function.

A child who does not get enough nutrients in her lunch or has a sugar crash shortly after lunchtime may have a harder time focusing and learning. But how do we get kids to eat healthy at school whether they are choosing from the cafeteria foods or taking a lunch from home?

Here are some ideas I shared on Oklahoma City’s KOKH Fox 25 morning show to help your kids choose or take healthy lunches they will actually want to eat and won’t trade with their friends.

Get Kids Involved in Choosing What to Eat

Kids who are given choices about what goes in their lunchbox will be more likely to eat what is packed. The key is giving two or three choices among healthy options. Would he prefer whole grain bread or a whole grain tortilla or pita pocket? Broccoli or carrots? Grapes or an apple? Milk or water?

Teach your kids what different foods do for the body and how our body needs nutrients offered by these foods to fuel it so we can do the things we need to do and the things we enjoy. Does your kid like sports or have a favorite athlete? Point out how athletes (such as all our great Olympic champions) eat healthy foods and avoid junk foods so they have the energy and the strength to participate and excel at their sport. When kids understand how healthy foods can benefit them (make them stronger, faster, and even smarter) then they will be open to eating those foods.

If your child eats the school cafeteria’s food, get a menu for the week or month and have your child make some choices from the menu before going to school. This way, you can help guide the choices. If there is not a healthy option listed for a certain day, you can plan to pack a lunch that day.

Packing a Balanced Lunch

A balanced lunch is one that consists of a serving of protein (think lean meats, low-fat cheeses, nuts or nut butter, beans), a vegetable, a fruit, a serving of whole grains (whole grain bread, whole grain tortilla or pita pocket, whole grain rice, etc.), and a dairy serving (if able to have dairy).

Let your child help choose the foods he will take to school and help assemble his lunch. Kids who make their own lunch will want to eat it. Guide the choices when needed and praise healthy choices. And remember, it is okay to pack a little sweet treat too. A small cookie, fun-size piece of candy, or other small treat helps kids learn that these foods are okay in small portions and not with every meal. All things in moderation! As long as it is a small treat, even if she eats it first, she’ll still have room for the rest of her healthy lunch.

Add some WOW Factor to Make Lunch Fun

Another way to get kids to enjoy eating healthy lunches is to make them visually appealing and fun. Think outside the boring sandwich box! Cut foods into fun shapes with cookie cutters or fun-shaped sandwich cutters. Or consider making lunchtime kabobs using wooden skewers or thick big pretzels and alternating meat cubes, cheese cubes, and cherry tomatoes or a variety of fruits and veggies. Mix up some healthy trail mix to eat instead of chips or fries or pack some pita chips, wheat crackers, or crunchy carrot sticks. The more colorful the fruits and veggies, the healthier they are, so make a colorful lunch salad with dark leafy lettuces, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and pack a side of a low-fat, low-calorie dressing.

Do your kids love pre-assembled lunchable-type lunches? Make your own healthier version with whole wheat crackers, lean meats and low-fat cheeses cut down to size and in fun shapes. Do they like to dip their foods? Veggies and fruits can be dipped into low-fat yogurt or veggie dip. Do they like bite-sized foods? Cut up everything and pack them into separate compartments or put them in small snack-sized sandwich bags. Love a variety of fruits? Cut them up and mix to make a yummy fruit salad. Like to grill or cook-out? Make “campfire” foil packets with their favorite lean meat and veggies, grill until done and pack for lunch. Make it fun and they will be excited to eat their lunch and won’t be tempted to trade!

How to Make Fast Food Healthier for Kids

Research shows that kids consume an average of 55 percent more calories when they eat out than when they eat at home. While you should limit fast food to an occasional treat, it’s not a nutritional disaster if you make healthy choices:

Child-size it.

Keep your kids’ portions under control by ordering the child-sized meals that were meant for them — and try one yourself. Just this one move will cut half the calories and fat from your meal. Or share one order of fries with two or three people. This way, you still get to enjoy a little fast food without a lot of calories. Still hungry? Order a side salad with low-cal dressing.

Balance it out.

Cut calories and increase nutrition by making some smart substitutions. Chowing down on a cheeseburger? Forget the fries and order a baked potato or salad instead. Can’t give up the fries? Order a grilled chicken salad instead of a burger.

Skip the extras.

Save major calories by saying no to toppings like cheese, bacon, mayo and special sauces on burgers; pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese on pizza; and bacon bits, tortilla chips, Chinese noodles and regular dressings on salads.

Water it down.

A large cola weighs in at 310 calories, all of which come from sugar. Regular and diet sodas also contain phosphorus, which can prevent kids’ bones from absorbing calcium. The best bet for the whole family: water.

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