Friday, April 30, 2010

Words of inspiration

(Or in other words, I have no time to blog today!)

The best six doctors anywhere
And no one can deny it
Are sunshine, water, rest, and air
Exercise and diet.
These six will gladly you attend
If only you are willing
Your mind they'll ease
Your will they'll mend
And charge you not a shilling.
~Nursery rhyme

"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." - Benjamin Franklin

"He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician." - Chinese Proverb

"The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine." -Hippocrates 

"We never repent of having eaten too little�." -Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reinventing the peanut butter & jelly sandwich

Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are a staple in the average child's diet. My kids would gladly eat one every day! If made correctly, a PB&J sandwich can be an excellent part of a balanced diet. However, if you use white bread, sugary peanut butter, and sugary jelly, you're not doing yourself or your kids any favors.

Here's how we make a healthy PB&J:
-2 slices Nature's Own whole grain bread
-Smuckers Simply Fruit spread (thin layer)
-Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter

You can also change this sandwich up by using real fruit like sliced bananas or strawberries instead of jelly or using a whole wheat wrap or tortilla instead of bread. By making a few simple changes to a typical PB&J, you've increased the healthiness of a kid favorite! PLUS, young kids can easily make this sandwich on their own!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Banning toys in kids meals?

It is no secret that I'm not a fan of the Happy Meal or any other kid's meal at a fast food restaurant with a toy. Do my kids get them every now and then? Sure, but it is pretty rare. Would my kids like to get Happy Meals more often? Of course, they are normal kids who see commercials and here/see what other kids have. Do they know WHY we don't get Happy Meals often? ABSOLUTELY! And to me, this is the key.

Yesterday, a Santa Clara county in California voted to ban toys with fast food meals. While I appreciate the message that we shouldn't teach our kids to associate fattening foods with rewards, I don't like the government making more decisions for parents than they already do. Parents should be allowed to make their own decisions (within legal reason, of course) regarding their children and their diets. If the government starts controlling diets, where will the line be drawn? How will people ever learn what is good for them and what isn't?

If the government wants to get involved in the diets of our children, they should start with education. Teach children in school what is good for them and what isn't and why. Give parents resources to learn more about how to feed their children properly. Don't just start banning foods and business concepts.

There is my rant for the day. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pet Peeve #1

I'll admit it - I cringe when I see adults giving soda to kids. I don't understand why anyone would give their kids liquid sugar and caffeine when it offers nothing redeeming and there are so many better choices out there. Shockingly, I see it a lot. Don't even get me started on how many folks I see putting soda in a bottle or sippy cup....

There are so many reasons why no one should drink soda, but even more so for kids:
  1. Obesity - A 12 oz. can of soda is loaded with 10 teaspoons of sugar and about 150 calories.Would anyone let their kid sit down with a bowl of sugar and eat it? Empty calories with no nutritional value makes you gain weight.
  2. Tooth decay - All of that sugar is horrible for a child's developing teeth. Cavities are no fun for anyone!
  3. Caffeine - Most sodas have caffeine in them, which is stimulant that gets a child all wired up and hyper. I have heard many parents complain that they have a hard time getting their kids in bed at night while cracking open a Mountain Dew for them to drink. Plus, caffeine is addictive!
  4. Calcium - If a child is drinking soda when they are thirsty, then they are probably missing out on calcium from milk. Soda also contains phosphoric acid which interferes with calcium absorption. That daily soda habit could be making your child's growing bones weak. 
  5. Hydration - Soda is not a hydrating beverage. In fact, a caffeinated beverage is a diuretic and contributes to dehydration. If your child is thirsty, they need water.
There are plenty of other reasons for children not to drink soda.  It is a bad habit to start, and a hard habit to break. Keep your kids hydrated with water, milk, and a little bit of 100% juice to give them good habits to grow into healthy adults!

P.S. There are companies out there making healthier versions of carbonated drinks, like Juicy Juice. If your kids really love soda, perhaps you could offer these as an occasional option.

Monday, April 26, 2010


As soon as the weather starts warming up, my kids get popsicles on the brain! I prefer to make my own homemade, but I don't always have the time. I like to keep some store-bought ones in the freezer to have when I haven't made my own. They also travel easier if you're taking them to someone else's home. (I'll blog on homemade ones the next time I make some!)

Edy's makes a good "real fruit" variety that the whole family loves. It does have added sugar, but it is real sugar instead of HFCS like most popsicles have. They also make a ton of other varieties that you can feel good about giving your kids on occasion, including smaller snack size portions.

What is your favorite "healthy" store-bought popsicle?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Annoying commercial #9

This KFC commerical is not specifically marketing children, but this sandwich is making so many headlines lately that there almost no way to avoid it! I don't see why anyone would find this sandwich appealing, but I'm sure KFC is selling a ton of them given all the attention it is receiving in the news. And now I'm giving it attention too...but more of a warning.

Even the grilled version is too  much! 

Sandwich Calories Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
KFC Original Recipe® Double Down 540 32 1380
KFC Grilled Double Down 460 23 1430

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sloppy joes...slop, sloppy joes

My kids absolutely love sloppy joes. But really, who doesn't? As I've blogged about before, you don't have to rely on the canned sauce to enjoy a quick, easy, and healthy sandwich. This is my very rough recipe - I just throw stuff in. I don't use green peppers because we don't really care for them cooked, but here is a good "real" recipe that calls for them and may give you a better idea on exact measurements.

Sloppy Joes
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 cup diced onion
1 small can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
Chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper, etc. to taste

Brown ground beef with onion and drain any fat. Add in rest of ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve on whole wheat/grain buns. I served this meal with the leftover green peas from the night before and beets, which my kids love.

I can't help myself, so I will leave you with this (it is oddly relevant)...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Another busy night, another quick dinner

April is our busiest month - Harper is in gymnastics and t-ball and Grayson is playing baseball and soccer. Have I mentioned  how much I rely on my crock pot??? Maybe I'm sounding like a broken record with these quickie recipes, but I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate a hot, healthy meal that you can get on the table quickly.

Last night was something I normally call chicken spaghetti but I used penne pasta instead, so we'll just call it chicken penne pasta.

-1 pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-1 jar of pasta sauce (I prefer Prego Marinara) - as much as needed (I use about 3/4 of a jar)
-Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, etc.
-1 box pasta (as much as needed, I use about 3/4 of a box)
-Shredded Italian cheese (to taste)

Put the chicken breasts in crock pot, sprinkle with seasonings, cover with sauce, and cook on low. When it is time for dinner, prepare pasta according to directions. While this is cooking, shred chicken in pasta sauce. Drain pasta and mix with chicken sauce. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve with a vegetable of your choice.

Presto! Dinner in about 15 minutes! One day soon, I will post a recipe that is actually time consuming!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cheap Pirate Booty!

If you've never tried Pirate Booty, now is the perfect chance! You can get 12 full size bags at Amazon for $16.67 (free shipping if you buy $25 worth of stuff), which work out to be about $1.39 per bag (cheaper than anything the grocery store!). Pirate Booty is sort of like healthier Cheetos - absolutely nothing funky in them. I highly recommend this snack!

YummyEarth candy on sale!

YummyEarth makes some fantastic all natural treats that you and your kids will love! Amazon has the brand on sale, and you can save 20% more with coupon code YMET924. I am not claiming these are healthy, but they are far better than candy with HFCS, artificial flavors/colors, and other junk. Plus, everyone needs a sweet treat every now and then!

Love the message!

I don't necessarily believe it is a good idea to start kids out from the very beginning on processed baby foods, but I like the message that Gerber is sending in this commercial. The problem is, many parents are going to assume feeding their kids jarred baby food and "toddler" meals is the best way to give them a good start. I won't say it is the worst thing you could do, but I definitely believe fresh and homemade are better! But still, props to Gerber for putting out a good message that will hopefully get parents thinking.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why we don't hide the veggies

Ever since Jerry Seinfeld's wife went on Oprah a while back promoting her cookbook, hiding vegetables in "kid friendly" food has become a popular trend. I don't know about you, but I really don't have the time or desire to cook and puree all sorts of vegetables to put into the meals I'm already cooking and preparing. I also think it defeats the point of encouraging children to eat healthier. How will a child ever learn to like real vegetables if they are constantly being coddled with hidden veggies? How will they ever develop a taste for the real deal?

I have no problem with adding veggies to enhance a food's nutritional value as long as regularly prepared vegetables are also being served. For example, I add spinach to a lot of sauces or I'll make pumpkin pancakes. I'm not trying to trick my children into eating anything, just boosting what I'm already serving.

I'm not a fan of lying to kids to get them to do what you want them to do. They deserve the same respect that adults do. If a child is not told that veggies are hiding in their foods, how will they feel if they find out? They are likely to lose a level of trust and/or not want to eat foods that potentially could be hiding foods they don't like, creating an even pickier child.

In my opinion, the best option is to offer vegetables in their natural form in the most appealing ways possible. Prepare them fresh or frozen by steaming, sauteing, or roasting them for optimal flavor. Offer healthy dips like hummus or top with a little shredded cheese. Serve them in a fun presentation and let the child help in the preparation. Teach them young, and they will develop a healthy relationship with nutritious food without trickery.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Ugly

To round out my school food "research," I must include the foods I found to be particularly bad. Most of them could be made healthier or just not served at all. They are overly processed, have too much fat and/or sodium, too many unnecessary ingredients, and don't have much to offer in any way nutritionally. I'd like to see these foods off the school menus as they are now.

The ugly stuff:
  • Flame broiled beef patties - made from 70/30 ground beef - 13.42 grams of fat in each (compared to McDonald's burger that has 9 grams of fat). These patties contain a lot of extra filler ingredients, like textured vegetable protein, which shows up a lot on the bad list.
  • Chocolate low-fat milk - 2nd ingredient is HFCS, then some other unnecessary ingredients. There are 26 grams of sugar in a 1/2 pint carton. While it does provide 30% of daily calcium needs, it has about the same amount of sugar as a soda.
  • Hickory smoked ham - a 3 oz slice has 7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, and 45% daily value for salt.  Plus, it has sodium nitrites added in.
  • Desserts (cake, cookies, etc.) - too many ingredients, including partially hydrogenated shortening and/or HFCS. Elementary students get snack time (with ice cream being sold every day), so I don't see dessert as all that necessary with lunch.
  • French toast sticks - 3 of these have 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 9 grams of sugar, and loooong list of ingredients I can't pronounce. 
  • Sausage - 1 patty (1.5 oz) contains 9 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat. No ingredients are listed.
  • Cheese pizza - 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 650 mg of sodium, and a crazy list of ingredients. This is offered every single day at the high school. Pepperoni pizza is worse.
  • Breakfast sausage and textured vegetable protein pizza -Sounds delicious, right??? 11 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 680 mg of sodium, and a ridiculously long list of unpronounceable ingredients.
  • Maple pancake & sausage wrap on a stick - 10 grams of fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 20% sodium for the day, partially hydrogenated oils, and it is fried.
  • Breakfast on a stick - no nutritional information, but the first ingredient is dark turkey and mechanically separated turkey. Fried. 
  • Beef franks - no ingredients listed. A 2 oz. hotdog contains 325 calories, 8.5 grams of fat, 11.8 grams of saturated fat, and 1,012 mg of sodium. Unreal. Add some chili to that and you're adding on 239 calories, 19.6 grams of fat, and 746 mg of of sodium. No ingredients listed for chili. 
There were some other foods that didn't have much listed about them, so I wasn't sure where to put them such as pasta salad, sherbet, spaghetti w/meat sauce, french fries (which were listed as a veggie), meat lasagna, cole slaw, and taco salad. 

I think it is also important to note that the schools use Styrofoam plates and sporks. When I was in elementary school in the 80s, the food was almost all homemade and we had real plates and utensils. Why so much change?

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    The Not-So-Bad

    As I was looking through all of the school meals nutritional information, I found quite a few items that weren't as bad as I thought and/or could easily be improved upon without a lot of effort. Again, I'm encouraged that so many things just need a minor face lift!

    The not-so-bad stuff:
    • Mini-pancakes:  Label doesn't say so, but they have sweet potato in the them, giving them a boost of Vitamin A. Making them from whole wheat flour would be an improvement.
    • Canned veggies: Small improvement - serve a brand without added sugar and/or salt. Big improvement - serve fresh or frozen. 
    • Lowfat 1% milk: Switch to all skim. 
    • Condiments: Switch to varieties with no HFCS and lighter versions where applicable (dressings, mayo)
    • Dinner rolls: Switch to whole wheat.
    • Cereal: Switch from sugary cereals to healthier ones. 
    • Biscuits: Switch to whole wheat and/or offer less.
    • English muffins: Switch to whole grain.
    • American cheese: Use low-fat cheeses that aren't processed. 
    • Chicken nuggets/patties: Made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but also a bunch of unnecessary ingredients. I've seen way worse, but I'd be happier with just giving the kids baked whole chicken pieces. 
    • Mashed potatoes: Switch from instant to real. 
    • Canned fruit in syrup: Serve fresh. 
    • Crackers: Switch to whole grain. 
    • Turkey breast: Switch to a variety with no fillers and additives. 
    • Hot dog buns: Switch to whole wheat. 
    • Cheddar & mozzarella cheeses: Switch to low-fat version.
    • Fish sticks: Serve baked/grilled fish instead. 
    Am I naive to think that these changes could be easy to make? I hope not!

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    The Good

    The director of food services for our school system was kind enough to provide me with fairly detailed nutritional information on all of the food served in the elementary school for the month of April. I truly appreciated it! After skimming through the massive amount of information, I was pleasantly surprised to find some pretty good stuff in the mix. I'm going to focus on that first. Tomorrow, I'll talk about the stuff that could be easily/cheaply improved upon. Then I'll go into the stuff that isn't as bad as I thought it would and end with the ugly.

    The good stuff:
    • Whole grain white sandwich buns
    • Fresh bananas
    • Skim white milk
    • Several varities of 100% juice (served with breakfast only I think)
    • 100% whole wheat bread 
    • Veggie pizza toppings appear to be fresh 
    • Unsweetened apple sauce
    • 100% whole grain waffles and pancakes
    • Eggs 
    • Raw broccoli
    • Raw carrots
    • Pineapple in unsweetened juice
    • Fresh veggies for burger/sandwich toppings
    • Raw celery
    • Yogurt (real sugar, no artificial colors)
    • Raw cucumbers
    • Brown rice pilaf
    • Oranges
    • Vegetarian baked beans (didn't list ingredients, but I'm giving the benefit of the doubt)
    • Steamed broccoli & cauliflower
    • Grits
    • Pinto beans (canned, but I lump canned beans in the good category)
    • Baked Tostitos Scoops
    The good list is encouraging! One suggestion I plan to make is to let parents know when something is whole grain. I personally wouldn't assume it. I will admit, this was more good than I expected...a pleasant surprise!

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Food funnies

    A few nights ago, I made a chicken casserole (a particular recipe I'd never made before) and broccoli (Grayson's least favorite vegetable). This was our conversation after he finished.

    Grayson: Mommy, dinner was disgusting tonight.
    Me: Well, you cleaned your plate.
    Grayson: It was what you gave me for dinner, I was hungry, and I knew you weren't going to give me anything else.

    HAHAHA! Funny, but I felt a little victorious. Being a short order cook doesn't help anyone in the long run. (We also had a reminder conversation about dinner etiquette and rudeness for calling my meal "disgusting.")

    Grayson had a baseball game last night, and Harper is often very tempted by the concession stand food/snacks that are being sold. I let her know before we left for the game that we wouldn't be buying anything, but she was welcome to take a snack from home. She picked a banana. She begged me to take a picture of her eating it (I was taking pics of Grayson's game). What a nut.

    On a side note, the director of food services for our school system provided me with nutritional information on the food being served. I am very appreciative! I'll blog more on my findings in the next few days.

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Back to school = back to packing lunch

    After a week off for spring break, Grayson goes back to school today. Thankfully, he's excited! He has really been on a wrap kick lately! Today I packed him:
    -Cucumber and cream cheese wrap
    ($1 off coupon on web site!)
    -Baby carrots
    -Fruitables juice box

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    Fruit snacks!

    I think you'd be hard pressed to find a child that doesn't like those gummy little fruit snacks. They seem to practically have their own aisle at the grocery store these days! While these tend to be a kid favorite, most brands are nothing more than glorified candy filled with corn syrup, funky oils, and artificial colors. The snazzy characters on the box lure the little ones in and make you feel like the bad guy for saying no.

    Annie's Homegrown is one of my favorite brands, and they make organic bunny fruit snacks that I feel good about giving my kids. Walmart has started carrying them, and while they are a little more expensive than the junky brands, the ingredients are quality and they have less sugar in them than most other brands. This is one parents and kids will both easily agree upon!

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Let's talk about fat!

    Fat sounds like a four letter word when it comes to eating healthy, doesn't it?  But in fact, our bodies need certain fats in order to run properly - we just have to be careful when sorting through the good and the bad.

    Good fat (monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids) can be found in nuts, leafy greens, oils like olive and canola, and seafood. Many products on the market today such as yogurt and orange juice are adding good fats to make them healthier, as well as multivitamins. These healthy fats help our bodies in many ways including reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer's disease.

     Bad fat (saturated fats and trans fats) can be found in animal products, certain oils, and processed/fast foods.  These fats are responsible for heart disease, certain cancers, and a host of other health problems.

    Children need to follow the rules of good/bad fats not only for good health as a child, but to build good habits that will keep them healthy as adults.  Many products on the market today have good fats added to the

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Another retro commercial!

     Unhealthy products have been marketed to children for years - this is nothing new. 

    When I was little, I wanted nothing more than for my mom to buy me Cookie Crisp cereal. What could be better than a bowl full of chocolate chip cookies for breakfast?? After begging for literally years, she finally got a box. I couldn't wait to dive into that bowl of cereal and taste the cookie goodness. I ate one bite - it was disgusting! I am a lover of chocolate chip cookies from way back, and this was not good!

    Showing kids that all that glitters on a commercial is certainly not gold is an important lesson! My kids still ask for stuff they see on TV, but they know that what is marketed to a child on television is usually junk food that is unhealthy for them or a product that is not nearly as cool as it seems (just ask my son how much he liked those Bendaroos....).

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    How are my kids sleeping?

    I'm going *slightly* off topic here, but I do believe a good night's sleep is the core of having a happy and healthy child. I know when I don't get enough sleep I feel awful and my whole day goes sour. Imagine being a sleep deprived child who has very little control over their day. Parents are likely going to face behavior problems all day, including mealtime behavior.

    How much sleep does a child need? Parents magazine has a great chart that shows the amount needed by age. Grayson is 6 years old and sleeps from 8 pm - 7 am. He literally falls asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed and wakes up on his own naturally around 7 am, so I know 11 hours is what his body needs. Harper is 3 (almost 4) and goes to bed at 8 pm when Grayson does but doesn't fall asleep until usually 9 pm (she "reads" and plays quietly with her stuffed animals until she falls asleep) and wakes up around 7:30. She still takes a nap on most days and goes to sleep earlier on days she doesn't, so she averages about 11-12 hours of sleep a night.

    I know a lot of parents who have trouble getting their kids to go to bed and trouble waking them up in the morning. I believe strongly in a consistent bedtime/sleep routine to solve these problems. Good sleep behavior is learned, and you make the rules! Don't forget - a child needs far more sleep than an adult. When the sleep is good, behavior is going to improve and mealtime struggles will usually be less.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    A snack for the road

    If we are going to be in the car for any length of time, I try to pack snacks for everyone so we're not tempted to get junk food at convenience stores. For the times that just doesn't work out, I'm thankful for Disney Garden Foodles. They make several varieties of snacks with fruits and veggies - my kids love the one with apples, grapes, and cheese cubes. I'm not sure of all the stores that carry them, but all of the Sheetz stores I have been to have had them. These are pretty filling and could easily be used as lunch on the road. If anyone knows of other places that carry them, please comment so we'll know where to look when traveling!

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    10 Minute Crock Pot Chicken

    As I've mentioned before, Thursday evenings are crazy busy for us. I rely on the crock pot to cook dinner for me on those nights! With crock pot chicken, I can spend 5 minutes in the morning getting dinner together, and 5 minutes in the evening finishing it up. Quicker than going to McDonald's!

    In the morning, I put a whole chicken in the crock pot on low. I sprinkle it with salt, pepper, onion powder, and Italian seasonings (but you could use whatever spices you want). That's it.

    When I get home, I steam a bag of microwave veggies and a pouch of whole grain rice, and I'm done! Chicken cooked in the crock pot isn't always the prettiest to serve, but it is so moist! It doesn't get any easier, and I've served my family a healthy, home cooked meal in no time!

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Homemade "Hamburger Helper"

    Like most kids of the 80s, I grew up on Hamburger Helper and loved it. It is a quick and easy meal for a busy mom to prepare, and kids will gobble it up so I understand the appeal. Good thing is you can make a homemade version just as easily and without the added MSG, sodium, hydrogenated oils, and artificial colors and with just as much variety as the boxed version.

    Here is my recipe, but let me warn you, I don't use a recipe to make this so I'm guessing! Proceed with caution! :)

    Homemade "Hamburger Helper" Chili Mac
    • 1 lb lean ground beef
    • 1/4 cup chopped onion
    • Chili powder, cumin, garlic, salt, & pepper (to your taste)
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 cup milk
    • 3/4 box whole wheat pasta shells
    • 1 small can tomato sauce 
    • 1/4 cup salsa/taco sauce
    • 1 cup cheese
    • 1/2 cup light sour cream
    Brown the ground beef and onions together and drain an excess fat.  Add in spices, water, and milk and bring to a boil. Add noodles and cook for the amount of time directed on box. When done, add in tomato sauce, salsa, cheese, and sour cream and stir. Continue cooking until desired consistancy - about 3-5 minutes.

    This recipe can easily be modified using chicken or tuna, different cheeses, adding various vegetables or beans...the possibilities are endless! This is a great one pot meal that is on the table in 30 minutes or less, and the entire family will enjoy it.