Ways to Help Your Kids Eat Fruits and Vegetables

Most babies start out loving fruits and vegetables as some of their first foods. But somewhere during the toddler years, their feelings girl eating fruitoften change. Or maybe fruits and vegetables fall off your kids’ radar later in childhood. What can you do?

Ways to Help Your Kids Eat Fruits and Vegetables:

  1. Prepare them in kid-friendly formats. Think of some of your kid’s favorite foods, and then think about how you can make fruits and veggies like those foods. For example, most kids love potato chips. Try making baked kale chips or zucchini chips. Another example is ice cream. Try making homemade mango or strawberry ice cream by blending nonfat greek yogurt with frozen mangoes or strawberries.
  2. Make them appealing. This sounds like a no-brainer, but consider the difference between a pile of pale green canned green beans or peas compared to fresh, bright green ones arranged into a smiley face or Read more

3 Reasons Your Child Needs A Meal Schedule

Today, there is the great debate among parents to whether or not put their kids on a schedule. Should I give my child a daily routine or Family eatinggo with the flow of what they want, when they want it? In terms of feeding, schedules are very important for kids that are over 6-12 months old. Prior to 6 months old, feeding really should not be done on a schedule, but rather on demand. Breast or bottle feeding on demand helps infants learn to respond to hunger and satiety cues. In addition, it allows them to eat what they need to grow to their potential. At this age, eating is very instinctual and babies know best how much to eat and when to eat, with the exception of some cases of medical or developmental issues.

During the transition to solids, between 6-12 months of age, I advise parents to introduce a routine of “meals” from the beginning. Feed the infant at the same time as the rest of the family’s mealtime(s) every day. Then, as the child gets older, continue sticking to regularly scheduled family mealtimes and snacks that occur around the same time each day.

Below are three reasons why a meal schedule is crucial for children:

  1. Teaches good mealtime habits. Ask any parent and they will say that they have experienced mealtime struggles at some
    point. One way to eliminate mealtime struggles is to have set expectations from the beginning of introducing solids. Teach your young child that when it’s time to eat, we come to the table, sit in a high chair or booster seat and have a variety of healthy foods to eat. It makes the connection for them from the very beginning that sitting at the table means that it is time to eat.
  2. Prevents “grazing”. Grazing happens when we eat randomly all throughout the day. This can lead to over-eating unhealthy foods for older kids and it may actually lead to under-eating for younger kids. When children eat little amounts here and there, they fill up just enough to decrease their appetite for well-rounded meals.
  3. Promotes healthy digestion. Eating on a schedule means that we are filling up the gut at meals and then giving it time to empty before filling up again. The rhythmic filling and emptying of the gastrointestinal tract is the ideal pattern to stimulate regular bowel movements. Furthermore, a regular pattern of meals helps keep blood sugar balanced throughout the entire day, which helps to improve energy, concentration and moods.

If your family struggles with implementing mealtime schedules or routines, contact one of our registered dietitians to schedule an appointment. A registered dietitian can help you implement ways in which you can get your family back on track and address any nutrition concerns.

Food Journaling 101

Food journaling involves writing down everything you (or your child) eat and drink over a certain period of time. I often ask parentsfood journal and children to do this and they are often not thrilled about the “assignment”. The detailed record keeping of foods and beverages consumed may provide a lot of useful information and can be a great tool to direct the nutrition plan of care.

Below are five situations when food journaling may be helpful:

  • For weight management: Writing down everything you eat and drink during weight loss cases provides two benefits: First, you are accountable and aware of everything you are eating and drinking in a new way. You are seeing it listed on paper. Second, you don’t forget about the foods you consumed when asked about it during the visit a few days later.
  • For picky eaters: Again, recording everything a child eats throughout the day serves a few purposes. It helps me to identify the “gaps”- what nutrients are falling short and which nutrients are being met. It may also help you as a parent to reflect on how many things your child is actually consuming, especially if you review it over the course of a week. Finally, seeing the pattern and timing of what your child eats is very important. Adjusting or creating a structure around meals and snacks is very beneficial for picky eaters.
  • For suspected food allergies or sensitivities: If a child is having physical symptoms that I suspect are correlating with food, food journaling is one tool that can decipher whether the symptoms are food-related or not. In these cases, in addition to the foods and beverages consumed, it is also helpful to write down the times of a day. Through the course of the day, it can be difficult to remember every detail of what your child consumed. For example, you notice a rash on your child in the bath tub before bed and are trying to remember if it was the vanilla granola or oatmeal she had for breakfast? Or was it eggs today? Wait, was that yesterday? Did I send lunch to school or did she get hot lunch? Did she trade and eat something else at school? The goal of the food log is to provide clearer information.
  • For underweight kids: Similar to picky eaters, it is beneficial for a parent to keep a food log for the underweight child once in a while. The parent may be able to focus on whether the child is eating well and then troubleshoot with me on how to maximize calories and protein; however, I do not advise children that may be at risk for having an eating disorder to record everything they are eating, nor should parents of these kids keep a food log for them. The reason is because this can easily become a tool to control and restrict the diet further.
  • For general healthy eating goals: Any of us can benefit from doing food journaling every so often. If you find an area of your health that you would like to improve, start with a food journal. Examine what exactly you eat over the course of a few days. Establish where there are gaps, strengths and areas for improvement. Do you need more variety? Are you not actually eating as many fruits and vegetables as you thought? Do you eat more in the evening than in the morning? Is your calcium intake low?

If you would like a registered dietitian to do a food journaling exercise for your child, contact NSPT at 877-486-4140. One of our nutrition professionals can meet with you to create a food log template, guide you through the process and then analyze the nutrition for you.

Staying Healthy on Spring Vacation

Spring break time is here and many families will be getting away for some quality vacation time. Although the purpose of vacation is to family vacation take a break, relax and have fun, it is worthwhile to maintain some healthy habits for the family. First, a drastic change in diet, especially for kids, can lead to some major mood swings. It is also crucial to remember that many people experience digestive issues while traveling, such as diarrhea or constipation. This can put a bit of a damper on having a good time. Lastly, straying from healthy habits during a vacation can carry over and continue when a family arrives at home again after a long trip.

Here are some tips to stay healthy on vacation:

  1. Plan ahead. Research the area and find out what food options are available. By doing this, you can avoid last-minute decisions, such as fast food or vending machines. It is almost always healthier (and more cost-effective) to eat food cooked from home. Take advantage if your accommodations include a kitchen and/or a refrigerator. For example, a simple breakfast such as oatmeal or eggs and cereal are easy to make. They are also healthier than pastries and juice in the lobby. You
    can also buy or bring healthy snacks, such as fruit or granola bars, instead of giving the kids candy and ice cream.
  2. Beware of buffets. These are common in vacation towns and are a hallmark of all-inclusive resorts. All-you-can-eat does not mean that you should eat too much. Overeating will cause stomach aches, diarrhea or constipation. To avoid overeating, limit meals to one plate full. Another tactic would be to have plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean protein first. Once your appetite has been stifled a bit, you can then go back for richer foods.
  3. Parents- caution with alcoholic beverages. It is easy to get carried away with drinking alcohol on vacation. Not only are these drinks very high in calories, but they also impair our ability to make healthy food choices. Of course, alcohol is also dehydrating. Be aware that many typical vacation-inspired alcoholic drinks are loaded with sugar (think margaritas, pina coladas, strawberry daiquiris, etc). Ask if they can be made with less sugar or as “skinny”.
  4. Remember physical activity. Some people think of physical activity as a chore, therefore, it is not a welcome part of a relaxing vacation. If you think of exercise as a stress-reliever that increases your energy and overall vitality, then some physical activity is a perfect addition to your vacation. Hopefully, your kids will stay active while on vacation- playing outdoors, swimming, biking, hiking, etc. Joining them gives you quality time and the benefits of physical activity. Other great vacation activities include walking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, playing a round of golf or joining a tennis or sand volleyball match.
  5. Stay hydrated. If your family is spending long days in the sun, make sure to offer plenty of water throughout the day. Water is the best source of hydration and is always a better choice than sugary beverages. Bring bottled water for the family any time you leave the house. Staying well-hydrated also helps keep digestion regular.

Follow these tips to stay healthy on vacation. Most importantly, have a great time with the kids!

Milk Options: Which is the right one?

There are several milk options available on store shelves today. Many of us grew up drinking regular cow’s milk, but now it seems as if people are choosing alternative milks. When choosing what milk is best for your children, it is important to know what nutritional purpose milk serves in a child’s diet. Not all milks are nutritionally identical, therefore, knowing the nutrition facts of the milk you are buying is key to making the right choice.

Traditionally, cow’s milk has been the most common type of milk that parents choose for their children after age one. The reason is because it is nutritionally comparable to breast milk. Whole cow’s milk has the same calorie content, protein and calcium as breast milk. Protein, calcium and calories are all critical nutritional components for growing kids, which is why milk has been a staple in kids’ diets for years.

Alternative To Cow Milk:

There are a variety of reasons why a parent may not choose cow’s milk for their kids. For example, the child could have a milk protein allergy, lactose intolerance, vegetarianism or other reason. Soy milk seems to be the second-most popular milk choice. It is important to note that soy milk is lower in calories than whole milk (it is more comparable to skim milk), but contains less protein. In addition, many people choose soy milk due to cow’s milk protein allergy. In my experience, it is often that babies and young children with dairy allergies can also develop an allergy to soy. Furthermore, soy contains phytonutrients, called isoflavones, which are estrogen-like compounds that can stimulate estrogen receptors in the body. Research shows various long-term effects of this. In general, it is recommended that soy is consumed in moderation.

For those that are avoiding cow’s milk and soy, the remaining options include almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk and rice milk. Rice milk is actually the least nutrient-dense of all of the choices available, and so it is the one I recommend least for growing kids. On the other hand, some of the lower calorie alternative milks may be good choices for people seeking weight loss. See the nutritional breakdown* of all of these milks in the box below for more information:

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*Nutrition data varies by brand.
**Nutrition content of breastmilk is variable

If you are interested in more advice on choosing the right milk for your kids or ways to ensure proper nutrition for your family, contact us to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian. 877.486.4140.

The Healthy Plate Model

Did you learn the Food Pyramid as a nutrition guide when you were growing up? How about the Four Food Groups? Or was it Five Food Groups? Nutrition models can be quite confusing; however, the Healthy Plate Model is a new tool that is actually very simple to use. It is a way of visualizing how to put together a healthy meal without having to count or measure foods. Kids are now learning this method in schools and it is a model I advocate with families I work with as well.

Here are the basic features of The Healthy Plate Model:

  • Use a dinner plate for older kids and adults. Use a smaller children’s plate for younger kids.
  • Fill half of the plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • The other half of the plate is divided into two sections:
  • 1. ¼ of the plate has whole grains
  • 2. ¼ of the plate has a protein food

Visually, it looks like this:healthy plate model

By including these foods for each meal, and in these proportions, you can ensure a well-rounded diet for both you and your family. Notice that ¾ of the plate is represented by fiber-containing foods, which makes it easy to meet the recommended amounts of daily fiber intake. Although it might seem overwhelming to have that many fruits and vegetables on your plate, this does not always have to be salad. Consider vegetables in pasta sauce, soups, on sandwiches, as coleslaw, in stir fry, etc.

The Healthy Plate Model also promotes satiety, or feeling full and satisfied after eating, which helps prevent overeating. The high-fiber foods and protein moderate the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. This prevents the sugar “spike” and “crash” that comes with eating too much refined carbohydrates.

Perhaps the most useful aspect of the Healthy Plate Model is that it offers a visual guide that can be applied to every meal, every day. It helps with meal planning, grocery shopping and ensures quality nutrition without having to overthink too many details. Feeding your family meals that represent the Healthy Plate Model will provide good nutrition and promote healthy eating habits. For additional assistance with meal planning using the Healthy Plate Model, or guidance on how this model can improve your family’s health, schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitians. 877.486.4140.

Omega 3s: Do we need to supplement?

We have all received the message that Omega 3s are really important to one’s personal nutrition. We should eat more fish or include Omega 3fish oil supplements to our diets. Fish oil may be recommended by a doctor in order to help lower cholesterol or reduce inflammation in the body. Why are Omega 3’s lacking in our diet and why do we seem to need so much of it?

What is Omega 3?

To answer these questions, we must first understand what an Omega 3 is. Omega 3s are a type of long chain of fatty acid molecules. These fatty acids serve as important functions to the body. They are used for tissues in the brain, eyes and cell membranes. These fatty acids compose some of the most important parts of the human body. This is why pregnant woman are encouraged to take Omega 3s (or DHA supplements- a type of Omega 3). Similarly, breast milk is naturally high in Omega 3s and infant formulas are now being fortified with DHA and EPA (another type of Omega 3, both found naturally in breast milk).

When Omega 3 fatty acids are broken down in the body, they make Cytokines. Cytokines promote anti-inflammatory cell signals. In contrast, when Omega 6 or Omega 9 fatty acids are broken down, they produce pro-inflammatory cell signals. There are two key things to understand about this process. Firstly, there is an imbalance of the ratio of Omega 3s,Omega 6s and 9s in our modern day food supply. Omega 6s and Omega 9s are found in refined vegetable oils, such as soybean, safflower and corn oil. These oils are used in many processed foods. In addition, because animals are commonly fed corn, their fatty tissues are higher in these pro-inflammatory fats. Animals who are grass-fed and/or eat their natural diet have higher levels of Omega 3s as well as a better ratio of Omega 3s to Omega 6s and 9s. Another important thing to remember is that many chronic diseases and ailments are caused by or exacerbated by inflammation. These include cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, allergies, arthritis and more.

How can Omega 3’s benefit us?

Based on this provided information, Omega 3’s can help prevent and/or alleviate many chronic health problems. One way to reap the nutritional benefits of Omega 3’s would be to eat a diet that is low in processed foods and higher in whole foods, including animal products from animals that are fed their natural diet (meat, eggs, dairy products).

These foods are also naturally high in Omega 3’s:

  • Cold water fish, such as salmon, halibut, and sardines
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds and flax seeds
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Canola oil

To learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet or how your family’s diet may be impacting their health, schedule an appointment to see one of our registered dietitians. They can help you modify your pantry and kitchen to help prevent or alleviate inflammatory diseases.

Tummy Aches, Abdominal Pain, and Stools: What the signs and symptoms might be telling you about your diet

My professor in grad school spoke about how difficult nausea and abdominal pain is to manage. Think about the last time that your sick childstomach felt extremely upset. Have you ever experienced morning sickness during pregnancy? It is incredibly difficult to function on a daily basis when you are feeling that miserable. In addition, it is nearly impossible when you have to make frequent trips to the bathroom. What if this is how your child feels during the school day?

This is how many people feel almost every day, including children. They suffer from stomach aches, nausea, cramping and irregular bowel movements (diarrhea or constipation). Parents are unsure about what to do about this predicament when there doesn’t seem to be a medical reason for these symptoms.

If this is something that you or your child is experiencing, I would encourage you to speak with your doctor and schedule an appointment to see a registered dietitian. A dietitian can perform a thorough analysis of you or your child’s diet as well as eating patterns throughout the day. Following the analysis, recommendations can be made, symptoms can be tracked and adjustments to the diet can be made.

Here are some dietary factors that may be contributing to digestive issues:

  • Excessive intake of quantities of food
  • Inadequate (and sometimes excessive) fiber
  • Excessive sugary beverages
  • Excessive intake of processed foods
  • Excessive intake of sugar alcohols (found in diet foods and beverages)
  • Eating when stressed
  • Eating too fast
  • High fat diet
  • A diet that is imbalanced
  • Food sensitivities- a negative reaction in the body that manifests in response to certain foods.
  • Food intolerances- result from inadequate enzymes (or enzymes that are overwhelmed with volume) in the gut to digest certain components of foods.
  • Food allergies- an immune response in the body to certain proteins in foods.
  • Imbalanced gut bacteria.

Digestive pain is not normal and it should not be acceptable to suffer with digestive pain or other digestive issues. With the proper guidance, you and your family can be feeling much better while improving the quality of nutrition in your lives life. To schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian at NSPT, click here.

February Fun with Young Valentines

Cooking up Books with Blossom ~ a monthly series from Chef Blossom’s own heart cookingkitchen!

Valentines Books To Read:

Book: Pinkalicious
by Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann

Age: 5-8

Pinkalicious loves anything pink, especially pink cupcakes. One day, when over-eating these tempting delicacies, Pinkalicious discovers not everything in life turns up pink in the end. Enjoy the problem/solution trail of this delightful story, then bake up a batch of cupcakes (pink, of course) and decorate with sprinkles of pink or red in honor of our young protagonist.

Book: Where does Love Come From?
by Accord Publishing Illustrated by Milena Kirkov

Age: Preschool

Does love grow on trees? Wash up from the ocean? Discover love’s true home with the help of this whimsical, “see-through” picture book. Follow it up by baking heart- shaped pretzels with your favorite valentine.

Cooking Instructions:

Heart Shaped Soft Pretzels: Set oven to 400degrees
vegetable oil 2 cups flour
1pkg. yeast ½ tsp table salt
¾ cup warm water 1 egg
1Tbl sugar course salt

Cover cookie sheet with foil and coat lightly with vegetable oil. Sprinkle package of yeast onto warm water. Add sugar and stir. Let stand until mixture foams. Put flour and salt into a bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir until dough clumps together. Sprinkle flour onto countertop and knead dough until smooth. Roll pieces of dough into “ropes”, then shape into hearts on cookie sheet. Beat an egg with a fork and brush each pretzel. Sprinkle on the coarse salt and bake 15 minutes or till light brown. Cool, then munch together with love.

The following smoothies may also be used with either story above:

Strawberry Delight Smoothies:
1 banana 1 cup plain or strawberry yogurt
1 cup strawberries, washed and hulled ½ cup orange juice

Cut banana into pieces and put them into blender. Add strawberries, yogurt and orange juice. Blend until smooth. May garnish with whipped topping and strawberries, if desired.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Blossom, and all at NSPT!

My Child Won’t Sit Still During Dinner…Help!

Children with sensory processing difficulties may have a difficult time staying in one place for extended periods of time. family dinnerFrequently, parents will witness this kind of behavior during mealtime, particularly during dinner, after their child has been seated all day in school. This behavior is the child’s way of telling parents that they need to move! The fidgety movement is a cue that the child needs vestibular input to help him achieve an optimal arousal for the task at hand; in this case, eating dinner.

Below are some ideas to assist your child in sitting down for your family meal:

  1. Provide vestibular input prior to sitting them down for dinner. Have your child complete jumping jacks, frog jumps or log rolls to provide them the input to achieve the ideal arousal level for mealtime.
  2. Use a move-n-sit cushion on your child’s chair. This device will provide your child with movement while seated at the table.
  3. Allow your child to stand while eating. Some children may prefer to stand at the dinner table. Provide a visual boundary on the floor of the space they are to stand in while eating dinner.

These tips should assist you and your family to have a successful family meal together!