Healthy Tips

4 Ways to Involve Kids with Thanksgiving Preparation

Preparing for Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to get the kids involved with sharing some of the responsibilities in the kitchen. There are plenty of tasks your children can help with no matter what age.

  • Let each family member select one dish they’d like on the menu. Discuss what new foods they would be willing to try. Use this time to explain the importance of having a balanced meal that includes protein, vegetables and a variety of other dishes.

  • Let children help with table decorations. Ask them to craft some simple table decorations like placing colorful fall leaves in a bottle and create name cards for all your guests. Or they can get creative and crafty with glue making pilgrim name cards.

  • For kids who want to be more hands on with the prep work, give them a specific job in the meal preparation, i.e. mashing potatoes, chopping vegetables or stirring the gravy. (Of course, make sure they are being supervised when they are using sharp knives.)

  • On Thanksgiving, ask your kiddos to help set the dinner table. They can help fold napkins, set out the plates, put ice in the water glasses. Depending on the age, they can also help cook and serve plated dishes.

Your kids will become more invested in the celebration and come to the table with pride in their contribution. Happy Thanksgiving from the Mom Made family to yours!

thanksgiving_leafdecor.jpg
Thanks
Thanksgiving placecards made by kids

Packing Mom Made in Your Child's School Lunch

Are you tired of packing the same thing Monday thru Friday in your child’s lunchbox? We hear from many customers that their kids love to have Mom Made meatballs in their lunchbox. They make a perfect lunchbox main as they’re easy to prepare, high protein and clean to eat.

Easy as 1-2-3!

  1. As you are preparing the lunch in the early morning, heat a thermos. Add hot water to the thermos and let it set for 5 minutes.

  2. In the meantime, heat the Mom Made meatballs according to directions.

  3. Pour out the hot water used to heat the thermos. Add the meatballs to the thermos along with some of the liquid you used to heat them. Add a fork to their lunchbox, a love note and some healthy sides your child likes. Voila!

If you don’t already have a thermos for your child’s lunch, click here to see some we like.

To find Mom Made meatballs in a store near you or purchase online, click here.

Packing Mom Made in your child’s lunchbox

Cook with Kids: Rainbow Meatball Kabobs

Cooking with your kids is an excellent way to help them build healthy eating habits.

This recipe is a Mom Made favorite. It's easy, healthy and fun to make! Get creative with the assortment of fruits, vegetables and cheeses then stand back to let the kids add whatever they wish to their kabobs. Challenge them to make it a RAINBOW kabob by adding many colors.

5 Reasons Mom Made Foods Is Found in the Freezer Aisle

Happy #NationalFrozenFoodDay! Did you know there was such a thing? Here at Mom Made, we think the process of freezing is pretty cool. No pun intended. Freezing is our preservative.

Here are the top 5 reasons why Mom Made is frozen:

1. Frozen food is convenient, fast and still provides nutritious value.

2.  Occasionally leftovers just end up in the trash. Frozen food eliminates food waste. Did you know that 2/3 of the population ditch up to 20 items a month?

3.  Compared to home freezing, manufacturers, like Mom Made Foods, freeze food within minutes to keep the nutritional value, as well as locking in texture and taste. 

4.  Freezing food is a natural process and the use of any preservatives is NOT required. Instead, it seals in freshness, locks the vitamins and minerals.

5. Thanks to freezing, Mom Made Foods is available year around, allowing busy families the option to help their home freezers stocked with easy, healthy meal options for those really busy days. 

Find a store near you.

Mom Made Foods makes healthy frozen meals for kids. Freezing is our preservative.

Happy New Year! Would you like a tomato?

Photo on  Foter.com

Photo on Foter.com

When I was five, my dad tried to get me to eat a tomato by forcing it into my mouth.  What I now refer to as “the incident” has made me refuse to eat tomatoes ever since.  This year I’m trying to get over my fear/aversion/disgust of tomatoes by incorporating them (very slowly) into my diet.  Looking back, I was probably being a bratty and uncooperative kid, but “the incident” still had a profound effect on the way I looked—and continue to look—at food (or at least tomatoes). 

Do you have any horror stories about eating as a kid?  Think about the environment around your dinner table and what can improve or be changed to drive positive changes in your family.  Consider whether new rules or boundaries need to be reset. Consider new healthy recipes or food goals. Are your kids excited to adventure with new foods? If not, why not? Little changes in the way your family interacts around food can make BIG differences—such as your child not being afraid of tomatoes.

New Years is such an exciting time for us here at Mom Made because it gives us the extra motivation to make small changes that have huge positive impacts on our lives with our families.  Now is the perfect time to consider what parts of your family mealtimes can be improved upon and get your crew on board. With that being said, throughout the month we’ll be posting healthy tips, recipes, and articles to give you inspiration.

What New Year’s resolutions have you made?  This year, instead of resolving to lose 50 pounds in a week, give yourself a break and be realistic and inspired.  If you haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions, start small—but start now!  What better time is there?  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to tell us what your New Years resolutions are!

Happy New Years!

Your friends at Mom Made

Sous Chef Junior

Do your kids love watching “Top Chef Junior”? Put them to work in the kitchen. Here’s Mom Made’s list of recommended kitchen tasks by age.

If you love quality food as much as we do here at Mom Made, it only makes sense to get the kiddos involved in the kitchen! We believe in starting kids while they're young. It's genuine quality time while being productive in the kitchen. 

We encourage you to challenge your children to help with more than dessert. The more involved they are from a young age, the more they will learn to appreciate the joy of cooking and the link to healthy eating. 

Keep in mind - you know your kids way better than we do! Feel free to follow these age guidelines as you feel necessary. 

3-4 Years Old

  • Use cookie cutters

  • Rinse produce

  • Juice citrus fruit

  • Tear lettuce

  • Chop herbs (with much supervision if ready)

  • Cup soft fruits and vegetables (with much supervision if ready)

5-7 Years Old

  • Crack eggs

  • Form patties and meatballs

  • De-seed peppers (be sure to use gloves for hot peppers!)

  • Chop vegetables

  • Grease pans

  • Garnish dishes

  • Pour sauce

  • Use measuring spoons and cups

  • Shuck corn

  • Use microwave

  • Peel vegetables

8-10 Years Old

  • Use stove (to prepare eggs and other simple meals)

  • Use pizza cutter

  • Open can with can opener

  • Beat eggs

  • Pound chicken

  • Skewer food

  • Slice bread

10-12 Years Old

  • Boil pasta

  • Search for and follow simple recipes

  • Use oven

  • Use chef's knife

  • Simmer ingredients on stove-top

  • Make dressings

  • Cook a full meal!

If you're super confident in your new sous chef, give them the responsibility to plan and cook a full meal! You can relax in the living room, and enjoy having dinner made for you for a change. Regardless how involved your child was in their cooking responsibilities, they will come to the table proud of their participation and ready to try their creation.

Bon appetit!

 

Festive Stars on Your Lawn

Easy and fun way to make your house festive for the 4th of July and a fun project for the kids!

What you will need:

  • A large piece of cardboard -The top of a pizza box works well!
  • Scissors
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Flour
  • Sifter

Step 1: Find a piece of cardboard and cut a big star to make your stencil.

Step 2: Fill your spray bottle with water. Then squirt the grass star with water thru your stencil.

Step 3: Once the grass is wet (with some extra help from the older kids :)), use a flour sifter and sift flour thru the stencil onto the grass. And carefully lift the stencil from the grass once you have covered it in flour.

And, there you go! Your lawn covered with festive stars will stop traffic. Don't forget to fly your flag too.

Happy 4th of July from our family to yours!

Does your child move like a slug in the morning?

If your house is at all like ours, you have some kids who have no problem getting out of bed in the morning and getting themselves ready. They pop out of bed then get that morning routine done - no questions asked. While there are other kids who make this slug meme a reality and they make all of us parents miserable in the morning.

I have one of each and recently I'd reached the end of my patience with my "slug child." We've tried everything from earlier bedtimes to nagging, to offering to help, to offering rewards. Nothing worked. I researched on the internet and came across an app called The Happy Kids Timer for Morning Routines. Done. Anything was worth a try to improve our mornings.

The first morning we tried it, immediate success! Not only did it add time to my morning routine that I used to be spending checking in on my "slug" but it add happiness and smiles to all of our faces. This app has literally worked a miracle! My "slug" child went from taking over 40 minutes to get ready in the morning with constant reminders to now she's ready in 17 minutes and has time to play before school. There's no yelling, no reminders, no whining. Instead, there's pride, happiness, confidence and PEACE.

Best $0.99 ever spent! I've since referred this app to several friends who have slugs in their house. They too found that it works! 

What's your trick to peaceful, happy mornings?

Happy Kids Tmer

Top Ten “Rules” for Successful and Positive Mealtimes with Your Kids

Mealtime can be hard. From getting the meal on the table to getting your kids to eating it, it's definitely stressful. Here are some tips on how to have successful and positive mealtimes with your kids.

  • Keep meals and snack times consistent and regular.
  • Eat as a family. Model good food habits and table manners. The kids will follow.
  • Sit down to eat and drink – don’t take meals on the run!
  • Keep a distraction-free eating area - no T.V., toys, or other distractions such as cell phones, laptops, or newspapers. That includes adults not jumping when they get a text during mealtime.
  • Provide a balance and variety of foods to keep kids interested satisfied.
  • Empower your child to make healthy choices about what to eat and how much. They will feel empowered, for example, if you offer them the option of healthy choice #1 or healthy choice #2, such as peas or carrots.
  • Don’t pressure your child to eat – this will backfire!
  • Respect your child’s choices and trust their natural ability to self regulate their food intake.
  • Set limits on age appropriate behavior at the table and stick to your boundaries.
  • Have fun! The less you stress at mealtimes, the more fun all of you will have!

Do you have other tips that work for you and your family?  Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter!

top10

Small Resolutions Can Change Lives

Motivation for your New Years Resolutions

Here it is January 6 and I am already questioning myself on where I am with my resolutions for this year. I am reminded of a true story and how one resolution can change lives forever…

Eighteen years ago, there was a great-looking, smart, single 20-something young man who made a New Years resolution that he needed to be more outgoing. On January 4, four days after he made the resolution, it was Saturday night and he went out with his buddies. He challenged himself to go introduce himself to some cute gals at the bar where they were. So he approached a group of three gorgeous women who were chatting away in the middle of a packed dance floor. His initial words to them were, “You gals need to stop talking and start dancing. What are you doing out here if you’re not going to dance?” The end. Well, not really…

That group of women was me and two of my best friends from college and that young man turned out to be the man I married. What’s so ironic in all of this is that I was always one who never liked meeting anyone in bars and that he is not the type for “hitting on girls” in bars.  But, bottom line, we’ve been happily married for 17+ years (and hopefully a lifetime to come!) and we have two beautiful children, all thanks to the New Years resolution he made in 1998.

My resolutions for 2017, and ways I hope make them happen, include:

1. Spending more time playing with my kids during the week and make sure to have one-on-one time. This means I need to somehow make more out of my already limited home time. When I cook, it eats into my playtime with the kids. So I aim to make larger portions and freeze meals, which will take me out of the kitchen and enable me to make more forts and build more towers. 

2. Trimming those few final pounds. For me, this means cutting back in a few areas, such as less lunches out during the work week, higher portion of veggies in every meal, less carbs, having healthy snacks always on hand at the office, etc. I have some exercise goals to go along with this - spin classes 1-2x/week and yoga 1-2x/week.

3. Having a night out with my girlfriends at least once a month. No more excuses. 

4. Planning ahead for date nights this year whether at home or going out with that handsome husband of mine.

What are your 2017 resolutions, and how do you plan to make them stick?  All of us need the support, regardless of where we are on the ‘healthy scale.’  Small choices and slight changes can have huge impacts! One day at a time. 

Five Tips: Making After-School Dinners Easier

Eat healthy, stay on budget, strive to thrive

back to school

With school starting super soon (if it hasn't already), we’d be remiss if we told you we weren’t in full BTS mode here at Mom Made's HQ. So to help keep our cool – and keep our family life on track – we created a few tips and tricks for getting a healthy meal on the table that won’t break the bank, and – depending on where you live – have almost everything on your shopping list delivered right to your door. Instead of waiting in line at the store, hanging out at red lights or piling all the kids in the car, you can relax, grab a glass of wine and spend some quality time with the kiddos before homework quickly eclipses these warm summer nights.

Tip 1 – Make your list ahead of time

Know exactly what you need before you head to the store. Pen and paper seem to be our tried and true method of note taking, but list making apps are super great too! Shelf Scouter and Any List are two of our favorites.

Tip 2 – Use online coupons!

Apps like Shrink are designed to hold your favorite product coupons in your phone, and reward you when you buy – no clipping required! There’s also some Mom Made coupons in the Shrink app (hint, hint).

Tip 3 – Meal plan

Take 30 minutes at some point during the week(end) and plan out what you’ll have for dinner that week. Our founder, Heather, swears by a meal planning weekly subscription with The Six O'Clock Scramble. Whether you create a spreadsheet with ingredients, recipes and the like, Pinterest boards of awesome crockpot dishes, or let the Scramble's service do it for you, you’ll breathe easier knowing that you have a few ideas when the week starts and the family inevitably asks “what’s for dinner?” or schedules have to be moved around because a soccer game is the same time as ballet rehearsal!

Tip 4 – Order online

Take advantage of online shopping to get your groceries delivered right to your door! Instacart and Amazon Pantry offer door to door service without getting off the couch. Fresh veggies, fruits, meats, pastas, sauces, and more are all available – often at the same price as your regular store. You’ll have more time to spend with the family, and no one tugging on you at the checkout line for those pesky M&Ms that just happen to be at eye level.

Tip 5 – Get the kiddos involved

Every chef needs a sous chef right? Let the little ones belly up to the kitchen counter and teach them the finer art of slicing and dicing veggies, rolling out dough, measuring flour and layering up lasagna. Classic dishes like meatloaf will really get their hands dirty (be sure to wash hands afterwards!) and baking cookies will make even the sourest of homework frowns turn upside down. Since older kids can handle some chores they can help with cleanup and setting the kitchen table. Give mini chefs a different job each night, so they get the full range of what it really means to be on Chopped Junior! Eat healthy, stay on budget, strive to thrive.

Eating Healthy

Thoughts from an 11-year old.  Why eat healthy foods? 

My name is Emory and I'll soon be starting 6th grade. I love to play soccer, ride my bike, swim, play with my friends, do triathalons and I also love to cook. 

I believe eating healthy is one of those things that everyone needs to do. I have always been eating healthy, so that I grow more. One of the reasons I love eating healthy is because of all the happiness it brings.

Usually after I have a good meal I think, ”WOW this feels really good”, or sometimes after I eat a lot of candy I feel, ”Ohh I can’t eat any more.” Which feeling would you pick? I think that I would pick eating the healthy food, which is always the better choice.

As I get older, I have started to learn more about the world happening around me, and one of those things is that so many people don't eat healthy foods. Growing up with a mom that has an organic food business I have always been eating healthy. The majority of the food in our house is organic. Since I have been eating healthy foods for so long I learned to like them a lot. I love to eat fruit and vegetables, they are two of my favorite snacks. Fruits and vegetables are the best things to eat, they give you all the right nutrition that your body needs to stay healthy. 

I Plea, You Plea, We All Plea for Gluten Free!

Mom Made Gluten-Free Cheesy Mac Highlighted by Celiac Disease Foundation

After many months of developing a great-tasting gluten-free noodle, we are pleased to announce that our first gluten-free product is featured in the Celiac Disease Foundation's marketplace.  Our Gluten-Free Cheesy Mac is available for purchase directly from Amazon or click here to find a Kroger, Dillon, King Soopers, Fry's, Ralphs, or Smith's carrying this item in the freezer aisle near you.

Enjoy!

Pack Up and Snack Up!

Whether you’re heading to the Grand Canyon or the beach this summer, road trips never seem to be as fun as the destination. There’s the hassle of packing everything up and making sure the kids are entertained. But it doesn't have to be that way! We’ve put together our top five tips to make your family road trip more enjoyable.

Tip 1: Backpacks Aren’t Just For School

Have each child help you fill their backpack with some of their favorite activities like coloring books, colored pencils, electronics, a journal and their favorite toys. Getting the kids involved with the packing will get everyone excited for the upcoming trip.

Tip 2: Snack On

According to a survey from “Choice Hotels” and “FamilyFun” magazine, 73% of families consider snacks to be the #1 way to keep kids happy on road trips. Be sure to pack an abundance of healthy snacks so you’re not stopping every 30 minutes for junk food.  With Mom Made’s Cheese Pizza Munchies, road trip snacks are easy and fun. Before hitting the road, wrap up the Munchies in a paper towel and heat for 60 seconds in the microwave. Then wrap it in tin foil for easy travel. Pack a cooler or bag of snacks like washed fruit and fill up the water bottles with H2O!

Tip 3: Power Up

The last thing you want is to hit the highway and realize that the electronics are low on battery. Also stock up at the library with books on tape and books for the car. Nothing like a “new” book for a child. Make sure to have all the electronics at full power and loaded with fun games, audio books, and movies for the drive. There are tons of apps out there that are great to keep the kids entertained while on the road. Check out “RoadTripBingo” and “A Family Matters” applications. “RoadTripBingo” allows kids to look for hundreds of things while you drive. See who can fill up their card first! “A Family Matters” is a great way to communicate with your children not just in the car, but around the dinner table and while waiting in line.

Tip 4: Play the “Old Fashioned” Games

Play the license plate game. Have a sing-a-long. Create a scavenger hunt - give each child a list of items to watch for while driving and have a prize for the child who completes it first. Count. Count red cars, black cars, police cars, animals, etc. Play the alphabet game with famous people, ie A = Amelia Earhart, B = Big Bird, etc, and talk about who these folks are as you name them. Play with aluminum foil – give each child a sheet of aluminum foil and have them make an animal, a mask, etc. Practice a foreign language. For more fun game ideas, click here http://www.momsminivan.com/bigkids.html

Tip 5: Give Them a Job

Keep the kiddos engaged by giving them a job to do every time you stop. Kids will love the responsibility of being the “Squeegee Master” or the “Cleaning Captain.” At every rest stop and gas station, have one person be in charge of cleaning the windows and the other clear out the car of any trash. Have kids switch roles every two or three stops to keep things fun.

How do you keep your kids entertained? What are your go-to snacks when you travel? Happy trails!

Munchie on a plate
Munchie on a plate

Ask the Nutritionist: Help! My Son Won't Eat Veggies!

My 7 year old son eats NO veggies, and hasn't since he threw up all his peas and his dinner in Kindergarten. I tried smoothies, raw carrots and edamame, which he refused and then puked up. It's all drama and a gag reflex, and incredibly hard not to be so mad, yell, etc. I obviously did something wrong when he was little, and now I am stuck. Any book suggestions, or advice would be much appreciated : ) Thank you!

I *totally* know what you mean! When my daughter was around 6 or 7 months old, a well-meaning babysitter gave her spoonful after spoonful of avocado (one of the few solid foods I had introduced to her at that time) until she threw them up. For a long time, she wouldn’t touch avocados. But she did eat other vegetables and fruits and generally had a balanced diet so I didn’t push it.

My best advice to you is: relax. What your son is doing is totally normal for kids his age. It doesn’t sound as though he has any swallowing problems, since you’ve introduced all kinds of tastes and textures, and it’s only vegetables he’s refusing. If you really want to be sure you can ask your MD for a referral to a therapist specializing in swallowing issues. What you have here is a classic case of a power struggle. The more you pressure, the more he will rebel, and the more he rebels the more frustrated you get…and the result is an out-of-control spiral.

Here’s how to get you and your family back on track: know your roles. According to Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibilities (www.ellynsatter.com), it is a parent’s job to provide what, when and where to eat. It is the child’s job to decide how much and – yes – whether to eat.  That is all. As a parent, don’t pressure, cajole, beg, barter or fight. Don’t give in to demands to fix something else just so he’ll eat something, nor give a snack later when he might be hungry after forgoing a meal. Calmly serve a plate, keep your eyes on your own plate, and when dinner is over, clear the plates.

Easier said than done, I know. But bite your tongue, stay strong, and trust that he will go back to exploring and perhaps accepting vegetables as part of his diet. According to experts, it takes anywhere from 8-20 exposures to a food before a person accepts it (notice that I didn’t say “like” it – but rather tries it and makes a firm decision about whether the food is something they will eat or something they truly do not like). Other tips that help increase acceptance of a food:

  • Serve the same food in different ways. Perhaps he hates raw baby carrots but likes cooked round carrot slices, or julienned carrots in salads.
  • Serve it with something he likes. Maybe mashed potatoes aren’t so bad when they’re on a plate next to slices of lean flank steak.
  • Be liberal with toppings, sauces and sides. Broccoli alone may be “meh” to your son, but topped with melted 2% cheddar cheese or dipped in ranch dressing – yeah!
  • Be a role model yourself. All of your efforts may be thwarted if your spouse or another person your son looks up to refuses to eat his or her vegetables – or worse – badmouths vegetables and calls them “yucky.”

I personally am opposed to “hiding” vegetables in foods, since it only reinforces the notion that vegetables need to be endured and not enjoyed. But if you’re really concerned about the quality of your child’s diet, and if he isn’t getting adequate vitamins and fiber from fruits or other healthy foods, then incorporating vegetables into cooked foods is an OK option. One of the reasons I like Mom Made Foods is that while the veggies are baked into the munchies and sides, you can also see the individual veggies (the peas in the Cheesy Mac) and taste the distinct flavors (like celery in the Turkey Meatballs).

For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing all the right things by being so concerned about your son’s health and nutrition!

If you have a question for our nutritionist, please contact us. 

Don't Give Up Mac and Cheese!

For generations mac and cheese has been a favorite for families. Thinking of the creamy and cheesy smell mixed with pasta makes kids', adults' and even the pickiest eaters' mouths water. At first glance, mac and cheese appears to be made up of simple and wholesome foods: pasta, cheese, milk, flour, butter and sometimes breadcrumbs. But, these nutrients along with some hidden ingredients quickly add up... Before you know it, you polished off a box of mac and cheese containing more than 1,000 calories! See how Mom Made's Cheesy Mac compares...

A single box of mac and cheese has five times more calories and four times more sodium than Mom Made's Cheesy Mac. Boxed mac also often contains artificial yellow dye #5. In comparison, Mom Made's is 100% organic and contains sweet potato and butternut squash purees, along with whole fresh peas (and of course nothing artificial!)

Make a smarter decision and still enjoy! Find Mom Made's Cheesy Mac in the freezer aisle of many stores near you. Don't give up mac and cheese.  

mm_comparison_maccheese.jpg

Getting on a Healthy Track

Maybe the only green food your child eats is mint chocolate chip ice cream. It's easy to get frustrated when your child eats a limited diet, but it's not too late to learn new habits!

Get your children involved:  Even little ones can tear lettuce and wash fruit. Older children can stir or help with chopping things up (under your watchful eyes, of course!) . Let your child be a taste tester. Most children will try what they help prepare.

Focus on colors and flavors: Rather than saying, "Do you like your broccoli?," ask if it was crunchy, sweet, bitter or sour. Ask what other foods are the same color. This often helps children focus beyond yummy or yucky.

via cathe.com
via cathe.com

Decisions, decisions: Bring your little helper to the grocery store, and let them pick the fruit or vegetable you'll make that week. Let them choose what to have for snack. The trick is to give two good options, i.e. "Should we have apples or pears for a snack?"

via parentsavvy.com
via parentsavvy.com

Slurp up veggies with soup: Many children like veggies better as part of a soup! Adding carrots, celery and potatoes to chicken noodle soup is a start, or try a bean soup or minestrone. Yummm....

via crosseandblackwell.co.uk
via crosseandblackwell.co.uk

Get growin'! Sprout a seed or even grow a tomato plant and help your child get interested in fruits and vegetables. If you can, take a trip to a local farm for apple, pumpkin or berry picking.

via klme.wordpress.com
via klme.wordpress.com

What's in a name? Goblin goop may sound more fun than sweet potatoes. Be creative and come up with your own names for new foods!

via drawception.com
via drawception.com

Make it fun! Most kids like to dip their food. Let them dip broccoli, carrots, celery and other veggies or Mom Made Meatball Bites and more into ranch dressing, sour cream dip, hummus, guacamole, mild salsa, or plain or vanilla yogurt, etc.

via parentables.howstuffworks.com
via parentables.howstuffworks.com
cheesy mac
cheesy mac

Use more veggie ingredients: Make sweet potato "fries" instead of French fries with dinner. Add butternut squash to Mac and Cheese, add corn, peppers and tomatoes to rice and beans, or let Mom Made make it easy with Mom Made™ Meals.

Have "make your own" yogurt sundaes: Take a scoop of vanilla yogurt, and add toppings like blueberries, bananas, strawberries, pineapple or crushed graham crackers. Fresh or frozen fruit in its own juices are delicious too.

via popsugar.com
via popsugar.com

Monkey see, monkey do: Nothing makes kids want food more than seeing someone else enjoy it. Be a great example and make sure you're eating your fruits and veggies, too!

via tribladespiralizer.com
via tribladespiralizer.com

Written by Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD, Mom Made Food's Dietician

5 Reasons for Family Dinners

The busy schedules of both parents and kids make it difficult to have "family dinners" regularly. The benefits that come with regularly eating together at the table are a good reminder why the effort is so important. These are our top 5 reasons why you should make family dinners a priority:

1. Children who routinely have family dinners are less likely to start smoking and drinking, or have an eating disorder.

2. It takes 8-10 times of trying something new before kids develop a taste for it.

3. Studies show that setting time aside to have a family dinner can reduce stress.

4. Use dinner-time to get to know what's going on with your family members and stay close to them. Ask about the best part of their day and anything they might need help with.

5. Gratitude is strongly associated with happiness, and family meals are a great time to practice it. Have everyone at the table name one reason they're thankful today.

 

 

Family Dinners

Small Steps Towards a Healthier Life

Springtime. It's a great time to think about how you can make small improvements in your family's health. A few small changes can make a huge impact!

  1. Drink up:
    • Drink water before each meal.
    • Reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, punches, flavored milks, sports drinks and flavored coffees. These beverages are liquid candy and should rarely be served.
    • One hundred percent pure fruit juice does not contain added sugar, but may well contribute to excess calories. Portions should be limited.
    • Pack water or milk in your child’s school lunch instead of a juice box.
    • Add berries or cucumber to your water to give it a little flavor. The kids will love the berry treat when they finish their water!
  2. Pack in the produce:
    • High fruit and vegetable consumption decreases risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Ensure that your child eats fruits and vegetables at every meal and as a snack.
    • Try "Meatless Mondays."
    • Some great vegetarian proteins are also a good source of iron, such as beans, lentils, spinach, dried fruit, almonds, and iron-fortified cereal.
    • Vitamin C helps aid in iron absorption, so if you’re taking an iron supplement or eating a plant source of iron such as beans, take it with a cup of orange juice or some strawberries.
  3. Food labeling:
    • Look for the USDA organic label. Organic not only means the food was grown without pesticides or fertilizers, but it also guarantees there is nothing artificial in it, such as artificial coloring, preservatives, etc. None of our bodies need artificial anything!
    • Words like "bran," "wheat germ" and "fiber" do not mean a product is whole grain. Check the ingredients – if the first ingredient contains the word "whole," then it's likely (though not guaranteed) that the product is mostly whole grain.  If a product has a 100% stamp, then all the grain ingredients are whole grains and it contains at least a full serving (16 grams) of whole grains per serving.
    • If a food label, like Mom Made's turkey meatballs, says it is "low sodium," then it has 140mg or less per serving. If the label says "reduced" or "less sodium," then it has 25% less sodium than the referenced amounts customarily consumed compared to reference foods ("RACC" in food label world). Be careful though as the reference foods may not be "low sodium" to begin with! To keep track of how much salt you're actually eating, check out the amount of sodium on the label and try to stay under 2,300mg per day.
  4. Rain or shine, go outside:
    • Replace Sunday drive with a Sunday family walk. 
    • After dinner, turn on the tunes and dance or go for a family walk.
    • Play hide-n-seek or tag with your kids. Not only will you find yourself cracking up and out of breath, you will earn the coolest parent award!

Do you have other ideas to add to this list? Please share!

Ask The Nutritionist: How Much Protein?

How much dairy do toddlers really need? And is meat protein really more efficient than vegetarian protein?

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese provide essential nutrients that a growing child needs, including bone-building calcium and high-quality protein. Fluid milk is also an excellent source of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium - not to mention a bunch of other health benefits that are still being discovered! (Yogurt and cheese typically don't provide much if any vitamin D, FYI). Toddlers need about 2 cups (16 fl oz) of milk/dairy per day. Now, that doesn't mean 16 ounces of cheese! For USDA recommended "cup equivalents" of dairy products, click here. Between ages 1-2, dairy should be full-fat (or whole milk), since the milkfat is needed for growth and brain development. After the child's second birthday, it's a generally a good idea to switch to lowfat (1%) or nonfat milk.

Regarding protein, meat (or animal-sourced) protein is a more "complete" protein compared to proteins found in vegetables. However, with the right mix of plant proteins, you can still get the "complete" package that you might get from an animal product. For example, eating beans and rice together gives you all the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) for a "complete" protein. Also, don't forget that milk comes from an animal - a cow - so it, too, is a "complete" protein.

Our pediatrician said our daughter needed vegetarian protein in every meal to match meat protein given 3xs/wk. Is that right?

Let me start with the caveat that my comments here are not meant to be medical advice nor displace recommendations or treatments from your personal health care provider. With that aside, I guess I'm not quite understanding the issue. Yes, protein should comprise a portion (about one-quarter) of each meal, but there's no nutritional reason to limit meat as a protein source to 3x/week. In fact, lean meats are a great source not only of protein but of heme iron, or the type of iron that's best absorbed by the body. That said, there are some great vegetarian proteins that are also a good source of iron, such as beans, lentils, spinach, dried fruit, almonds, and iron-fortified cereal. For non-vegan vegetarians, egg yolks are also a great source of iron. Tip: vitamin C helps aid in iron absorption, so if you're taking an iron supplement or eating a plant source of iron such as beans, take it with a cup of orange juice or some strawberries.

If you have a question for our nutritionist, please contact us.