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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.

Do You Know What Vitamins & Supplements Your Little One Needs?

The average healthy American child probably does not need much of anything to supplement their diet and the emphasis should be placed on offering a healthy diet in moderation of all portions of that diet to include fats and carbohydrates (sugar). Most regular vitamins we all hear about are needed in very small doses that are easily supplied by a varied North American diet. Having said that, there are certain groups of children who definitely need supplementation; to mention just a few, certain chronically ill children, certain children from third world countries suffering from starvation or emotional deprivation, or severely abused children in this country who have been subjected to the worst possible environmental deprivations.

The Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for other special groups:

  1. Since another recommendation is to limit sun exposure in children in order to prevent later skin cancers, and this restriction can lower amount of vitamin D normally produced in sunlight, and therefore, a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D is recommended based on sun exposure (or lack thereof). For exclusively breast fed babies, 400 IU of vitamin D daily is recommended early after delivery. For those babies drinking 32 ounces of formula a day no vitamin D supplement is recommended since all American formulas have the correct supplement of this vitamin. Whole milk also has correct vitamin D supplement but whole milk not recommended for children over 12 months of age. Check with your baby’s Doctor about the need for this vitamin. Similar recommendations are made for calcium and phosphorus intake.
  2. Babies who are full term and have no problems have probably received enough iron from their mothers during the last month of pregnancy to last the first 3- 4 months so an exclusively breastfed baby should begin Iron supplementation beginning at age four. Iron in breast milk is only partially absorbed. Preterm and developmentally disabled children are also at higher risk for Iron deficiency while formula fed infants will receive the proper amount of iron as long as they continue formula. Fortunately, it is common place for Pediatricians to check a blood count as an indication of iron status at age 9- 10 months and again at around 15 months and if anemia is found iron can be added to the diet. The bottom line again is to check with your Doctor for the need and amount of iron needed for your infant and child.
  3. Large amounts of certain vitamins such as A, C, D and K has never been shown to provide any beneficial effects in normal healthy North American children and can be toxic– this is not a case of “if a little is good a lot is better”- often times this is not the best policy for anything.
  4. As far as other vitamins (such as A & B) are concerned, I stick with my original paragraph that most healthy children eating a fairly well rounded diet over all, (not day to day) does not need any extra vitamin supplement at.

Homeopathic supplements for children are very popular now but there are no adequate recommendations for amount used and frequency for children and therefore should be used with caution; further knowledge and research is needed.

Other complementary medical treatments have no definite guidelines for use in children, but certain children may benefit from their use.

Always involve your child’s Doctor when considering going beyond the established guidelines in your children.

Are You or a Family Member Ditching Dairy? CAUTION!

I once attended a Dairy Forum in Alexandria, Virginia that was all about lactose intolerance. It amazed me to learn how many people avoid dairy products because they think they are lactose intolerant! Before ditching the dairy, consider my caution for you and/or your family, as it can have major nutritional consequences.

When people think of milk and other dairy foods, they think of calcium. But the truth is that milk contains 9 essential nutrients that our bodies need in order to function normally. Of those nine essential nutrients, milk meets at least 20% of your daily value for not only calcium, but vitamin D, riboflavin and phosphorus. That is why the 2015-2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans strongly recommends including servings of fat free or low-fat dairy each day in order to meet your minimum nutrition needs*. Did you know that dairy foods are most Americans primary food source of vitamin D? Much in thanks to the great work by Dr. Michael Holick, we have been learning more and more about the epidemic of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency that is having serious health consequences.

The lack of nutrient information regarding dairy really hit home with me the other day. An amazing, well-respected doctor I work closely with in my practice shared with me that when a patient comes to him with lactose intolerance, he simply tells them to avoid milk and start a calcium supplement. I had to remind him that dairy not only provides so many more nutrients than just calcium, as mentioned above, it also contains naturally occurring ACE inhibitors similar to the same components given in prescriptive form that help regulate blood pressure. That is why the government-backed blood pressure diet, called the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), has encouraged 3 servings of dairy, because it has all 3 of the nutrients of the DASH diet that help regulate blood pressure – calcium, potassium and magnesium. Milk also contains melatonin that helps decrease stress and promotes sleep. (Ever drink a warm glass of milk before bedtime? There’s a reason behind that!) And as if that was not enough, over the last several years there has been a slew of research coming out on the impact of dairy foods in weight management. Hmm…a link between a decrease in dairy foods and obesity? Many say, yes.

Use caution when avoiding entire food groups,
including dairy. You may be setting yourself up
for nutrition deficiencies that may manifest
in health problems.

Growing up, our favorite mealtime beverage was milk. I grew up in a combined family of 6 children (think Brady Bunch, and I was “Cindy” — the youngest) and my mother reports that we went through 5-7 gallons of milk every week! I drank milk with every meal and so did all my siblings. But I remember very well that when I was around 17 or 18 years of age, milk and I started having problems. Within 2-3 hours of drinking milk, I would have bad stomach pain, bloating and eventually gas that was very characteristic of lactose intolerance. Oh, the shame as a teenage female! The very easy thing to do was just eliminate dairy to avoid the very embarrassing consequences. But as I fell in love with nutrition in the 90’s, I learned that this move was costing me dearly and as a result, negatively impacted my nutrition status. Now, I am enjoying dairy again and that has helped me be a positive role model for my young children.

So, the question for you is – have you or a loved one ditched dairy for the same reason I did as a teenager? If so:

1. Get Diagnosed. Don’t self-diagnose like I did because it could be something other than lactose intolerance. All that rumbles is not lactose intolerance! A proper diagnosis is done via a hydrogen breath test and it is covered under most insurance plans. Keep in mind that lactose intolerance is very different than a milk allergy. Lactose intolerance involves the lack of an enzyme that helps digest the milk carbohydrate, lactose. Milk allergy, or milk-protein intolerance, is mostly found in young children, and involves an immune reaction to the milk protein. If you or your child has a milk allergy, it is highly recommended that you see a Registered Dietitian for nutrition guidance. In this case, complete elimination of dairy components is necessary due to possible dangerous allergic reactions. The good news is that most children outgrow milk allergy by the time they are 3 years of age. It is rare that a person continues the allergy into adulthood. If they do, there are actually immunologists that can do milk challenges that will decrease or even eliminate the milk allergy altogether.

2. Work it in. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of milk at a time and most can eat yogurt and cheese without the negative side effects. At your local grocery store, there are lactose-free milk products of varying brands – Lactaid®, Dairy Ease® and even store brands now. Lactaid® even has an organic version of lactose-free milk for those that prefer organic varieties. There are even over the counter oral lactase enzyme pills that a person can take prior to the ingestion of dairy. The National Dairy Council has great educational resources to help you find ways to get dairy in even when you have lactose intolerance.

3. Seek a Registered Dietitian (RD). Anytime you are thinking of eliminating an entire food group, it is highly recommended that you meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) in your area to develop a plan for you. You may not realize what key nutrients you are eliminating from your diet that may be compromising your health. As an RD myself, I am very sensitive to the food desires of my patients. If eliminating dairy or other foods are simply a personal preference, we will honor that and can ultimately work within your desires to put together an alternate nutrition plan that will meet all your needs.

Get the facts when it comes to nutrition. Even if it’s written, it doesn’t always make it factual. And we all come with our own nutrition biases, so ask questions about those biases that may have been handed down from generation to generation. Are they really true? As in lactose intolerance for instance, many African American families avoid milk altogether because they already assume it will be a problem. Lactose intolerance in African Americans is grossly overstated, and teaching your children to avoid dairy can have lasting consequences for for them and you. Proper diagnosis and learning ways to get dairy foods in can be the best move for your family. What is your nutrition bias? Dairy or otherwise, ask the questions and get accurate answers. You owe it to yourself and you also owe it to your family.

Editor’s Note: all links have been updated to reflect the most current information available.

  • According to the 2015-2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended amounts of dairy in the Healthy U.S.-Style Pattern are based on age rather than calorie level and are:
    • 2 cup-equivalents per day for children ages 2 to 3 years,
    • 2½ cup-equivalents per day for children ages 4 to 8 years, and
    • 3 cup-equivalents per day for adolescents ages 9 to 18 years and for adults.

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