Fuel Your Child for Learning More this School Year

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Kids learning potential skyrockets when they are healthy from head to toe. This school year, support your child’s growth, development and learning by following these 3 tips each day:

Bank on Dairy

From celebrity websites and diet books to popular Instagram feeds and “clean eating” blogs, its trendy to ditch dairy. Yet experts say going dairy-free has multiple downfalls – and it may be downright dangerous – especially for kids and young adults. Kids and teens have a limited time period to build bones. A dairy-free diet during these critical growing years could mean a child doesn’t reach Dairy for growth and learningtheir full height potential, they may have an increase in stress fractures during adolescence, and a greater chance of developing the brittle bone disease osteoporosis as an adult. In addition to 9 essential nutrients, including bone-building calcium and vitamin D, the combination of protein and carbohydrate in dairy will help build and fuel active muscles and minds.

Make Fruits and Veggies Fun

Introducing kids to new foods can be both fun and easy. In addition to offering a food multiple times and modeling healthy eating (eating a wide variety of foods in front of your kids), try pairing less familiar foods with ones that are more familiar. Many kids love getting in the kitchen and helping prepare food, especially when it comes to baking. Why not make muffins, bread or even a cake with vegetables in it. Carrot cake, zucchini muffins and avocado cupcakes taste great and  make a child more familiar with these vegetables. Once kids see them again, sautéed at dinner time, baked into a lasagna or  sliced on top of a sandwich, they will be more likely to eat them.

Pack better Snacks for better Learning

As a kid I played hard then lost steam quickly. Luckily my parents let us snack whenever we felt the need to eat. Frequent snacking can help keep children alert and attentive. Pack snacks that please their taste buds while fueling their bodies with nutrients they need for good health. Naturally sweet fresh or dried fruit, trail mix, yogurt, string cheese and nut butter with whole grain crackers are all excellent options that will satisfy your child’s taste buds while providing the nutrients they need for good health.




Junk Food in Disguise: Foods that Seem Healthy but Aren’t

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Foods that Seem Healthy But Aren’t

Some marketing teams are so good they can take what’s otherwise considered junk food, wrap it up nicely (with natural hues of green and tan on the package of course) and market it as something you should feel good about eating. Before you give yourself a pat on the back, check out these not-so-healthy “health foods” that I featured on WBAL NBC Baltimore, MD this morning.

1. Trail Mix. It’s so easy to believe that all trail mix is healthy. But, you’ll want to watch out for sugary candies, milk chocolate, dried fruit coated with added sugar or fake yogurt coating. Leave the candy for Trick-or-Treaters, and choose in-shell pistachios for your snacks instead of prepared trail mixes. Preliminary behavioral studies suggest that you may consume fewer calories if you opt for in-shell pistachios versus those already shelled because it takes time to break them open and the shells are a visual reminder of what you’ve eaten. Wonderful Pistachios 100-calorie snack packs make a great on-the-go snack that conveniently helps control your portions. If you still want trail mix, make your own with dried fruit that doesn’t contain any added sugar (dried plum bits, apricots or papaya for instance).

2.  Veggie Chips. If you flip over the package you’ll see that most veggie chips are really fried potato chips with added spinach powder, tomato powder or little bits of dried vegetables here and there. Unfortunately they don’t count as a serving of vegetables.

Better Alternatives: black bean chips made with real black beans, roasted chickpeas – you can    make these at home or buy them in a wide variety of flavors or kale chips. All of these options give you the crunchy and salty texture you may be craving.

3. Veggie Pasta. Like vegetable chips, veggie pasta often contains small amounts of powdered vegetables that do little more than turn the pasta a different color. If you want pasta that is actually made from vegetables, check out Explore Asian’s line of bean pastas. They are gluten free, vegan, organic and high in both fiber and protein (24 or more grams of protein per serving). I made black bean butternut squash for TV this morning as well as a homemade pesto for Explore Asian edamame pasta.

4. Light Olive Oil. Light (or extra light) olive oil isn’t lower in calories or fat. Instead, “light” refers to the flavor and color. Here’s what you should look for:

“Extra virgin” means the olives have been pressed to release the oil (anything labeled just “olive oil” means chemicals or other methods were used to release the oil from the olives; this oil is lower in both nutrition and flavor quality).

Dark glass containers. Heat and light can damage olive oil. Glass protects better than plastic and dark glass protects better than light glass. Your olive oil will not only taste better but also preserve the integrity of your oil (rancid oil isn’t good for your body).

A University of California Davis study found many brands of olive oil sold here in the US failed their test for sensory standards (possibly due, in part, to adulteration since olive oil is one of the most adulterated foods – lower quality oils are mixed in to increase the profit margin). Two brands that faired the best according to their study: California Olive Ranch and Lucini.

5. Turkey Bacon. Many brands of turkey bacon have almost the exact same nutrition profile as regular bacon in terms of calories, fat and sodium. So, choose this if you love turkey, not if you are looking for a leaner choice. If you want great tasting bacon that contains fewer calories, less fat and sodium, check out uncured Canadian turkey bacon.
Regardless of your choice – pork, turkey or some type of Canadian bacon, always look for uncured bacon. Consumption of cured meats can increase risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Better for You Snacks

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Several times a week I am asked about healthy snacks – what can I eat between meals to satisfy my hunger and fuel my athletic performance (or workday!). And, as Nancy Clark says, it is a good idea to think of eating a “mini-meal” vs. a snack. The word meal conjures up thoughts of whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean sources of protein whereas the word “snack” may make us think of the snack isle at the grocery store. So, fill up on smaller meals. Here are some great options from RD-to-be Sara Shipley from the University of Central Oklahoma:

  • Oatmeal with low fat milk and a spoonful of almond butter or peanut butter. Bob’s Red Mill is minimally processed and has a chewy, nutty flavor. (personally, I’m a big Quaker fan but I’ll try Bob’s one day!).
  • Greek yogurt. If you need it sweet, buy plain yogurt and drizzle a little honey on top or mix in a little bit of jam. Add granola or walnuts for crunch or or Yogi granola chips.
  • Edamame with a side of red grapes. Cook the edamame (it takes 5 minutes max and it is a great source of fiber and protein) and sprinkle a little sea salt on top. Pair it with red grapes for a sweet & salty combo.
  • Trail mix. Make it yourself or pick up a bag of healthy trail mix. If you are a DIYer, mix together an equal amount of dry roasted almonds, pumpkin seeds (great for magnesium), dried cranberries and golden raisins. Add any other nuts as desired.
  • Whole grain cereal. If you are concerned about your vitamin & mineral intake, add a little cereal to your nutrition plan. Most cereal is fortified and whole grains are a great source of antioxidants and fiber. My new fav: KIND Healthy Grains.
  • Mini toasts with goat cheese and sliced pears. Try spreading an oz or two  of soft goat cheese on several whole grain Melba toasts with thinly sliced pears for a tangy, salty, crunchy snack.
  • Guacamole (or salsa) with chips. Avocados are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats so pairing guac with whole grain chips works well (if you are worried about portions, check the individual servings of guac in some stores – I found these in Target).
  • Hummus and Sweet Bell pepper. Try slicing a red, yellow or orange pepper for a sweet flavor and pair it with hummus. Tribe original or, I love Sabra with roasted pine nuts!
  • Warm soup (many come in low sodium varieties) with 3-4 whole grain melba toasts. Try V8 butternut squash soup – great for the Fall and Winter!
  • Crackers and cheese. Kashi whole grain crackers with Laughing Cow cheese – a delicious combo!
On the Sweeter Side:
  • Graham crackers with a spoonful of ricotta. Spread the ricotta on and drizzle honey on top if you really want to up the sweet ante.
  • Jell-O Sweet Temptation French Silk chocolate pudding with a handful of raspberries (this time of year you can thaw frozen raspberries very quickly on the shelf or in the microwave).
  • Sandwich thins with a spoonful of Nutella and sprinkle of peanut butter chips. Place under the broiler for 1 minute and melt.
  • Core a red apple and place it in a microwave bowl. Cook in the microwave for 1-2 minutes to soften. Add a spoonful of peanut butter into the middle and zap again for 45 seconds. Dig in to your mini apple-peanut butter pie!
  • Kettlecorn with cinnamon and sugar (DIY) or Popcorn Indiana’s version (their holiday one drizzled with chocolate is so good!).
  • Banana frozen yogurt DIY. Add 2-3 frozen bananas (chopped) into a blender with 1/2 cup lowfat milk. Add 3/4 cup ice and blend until smooth. Add chocolate chips or granola for a topping.
  • Chopped figs with brie cheese on whole grain crackers. A little messy but it sure is good!
And there are two more I’ll add since I am frequently dashing through airports – I love KIND bars and Clif Builder Bars (and mixed nuts as well as cereal in a ziploc). Portable, easy and TSA approved!
Thanks Sara! I can’t wait to try these ideas myself!