My three kids go gaga over fruit snacks—and they’re not the only ones. You can find them at the movies (in the kids snack pack), in birthday party goodie bags and in school snack or lunch bags. But are these chewy goodies good for our kiddos or just too good to be true?
Fruit snacks run around 80-90 calories per small pouch—which is a reasonable amount of calories for a kids’ snack. They’re free of fat, cholesterol and are very low in sodium. Many also provide vitamins A and C.
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Don’t let packing back-to-school lunches stress you out; we’ve got 10 fun and fresh ideas the kiddies will gobble up.
Start by ensuring your little ones’ lunches are safe from food germs. Here are our food safety tips for packing kids’ lunches.
1.) Yogurt Parfait
Pack up yogurt, with small containers of fresh fruit and granola for crunch, and let kids layer them at lunchtime. Or try making the parfait ahead of time in a screw-top jar for a fun and healthy on-the-go lunch.
Regular or Greek? Find out which yogurt wins our Food Fight
Give grilled cheese a makeover! Combine whole-grain tortillas, veggies and cheese. Melt in the microwave, slice, and voila – excellent finger food hot or cold.
Get more quesadilla recipe ideas
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With all the so-called “healthy” messages on juice boxes, it’s tough to decipher which is really the best choice for your little ones. We’ve tasted and anylized popular juices so you’ll be better informed on your next trip to the market.
Even if you’re giving your kids 100% juice, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:
- 1 to 6 years: Limit juice to 4 to 6 fluid ounces per day
- 7 to 18 years: Limit juice to 8 to 12 ounces per day
Remember, fruit juice shouldn’t be used as a substitute for whole fruit. There are no nutritional benefits of drinking juice over whole fruit. It’s important to stick to the AAP guidelines as too much juice in your kiddos’ diet can lead to obesity, poor nutrition and tooth decay.
When shopping for juice, not all boxes are created equal and not all markets are stocked with the same brands. You want to look for those that are made from 100% juice as opposed to mostly sugar + water. Size also matters—for kids 6 and under, opt for the smallest (4.23 fluid-ounce) box whenever possible.
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Lisa’s Vegetable Quesadillas on Whole-Wheat Tortillas
Lisa Leake is the woman behind the popular blog, 100 Days of Real Food. As a mother of two, she and her husband pledged to go 100 days without highly-processed or refined food in 2010. Since then, she has challenged others to follow her family’s healthy lead by taking a 10-day pledge or committing to “100 days of mini-pledges.” Her blog offers tips on meal planning, packing school lunches, shopping for real food and more.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your commitment to real food. Why did you start and how did you decide on the 100 day pledge?
Like many others I always knew eating whole grains and vegetables was supposed to be good for you, but the problem was I never truly understood the “why” behind this advice. I became intrigued by the topic after seeing Michael Pollan discuss where our food comes from in a TV interview, and then I went on to read his book In Defense of Food. What came next was a huge wake-up call for our family when I realized what I thought were healthy food choices were actually highly processed and not good for us at all. It wasn’t easy at first, but I felt compelled to completely revamp the way we planned our meals, shopped for food and cooked.
I also felt compelled to spread this important (and shocking!) message to others, which is why we decided to create our 100 Days of Real Food pledge. Cutting out highly-processed food was honestly not easy for us at first and even kept me up at night. I thought my kids might starve if Goldfish, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and Gogurt were suddenly out of the picture. So once we figured out how to realistically make the transition to real food it just made sense to share our research, tips, recipes and experiences with others to hopefully inspire them to do the same.
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Kids who lend a hand in the kitchen are more likely to make healthy food choices, according to a recent University of Alberta study.
The Canadian university surveyed fifth graders in 151 schools to learn about kids’ cooking experiences and food choices. “Kids who like fruits and vegetables more tend to eat them more frequently and have better diets,” said lead author Yen Li Chu, a post-doctoral fellow in the School of Public Health, in a recent interview. “These data show that encouraging kids to get involved in meal preparation could be an effective health promotion strategy for schools and parents.”
For the most part, children preferred fruits to vegetables, but those who helped with the cooking at home showed a greater preference for both, with a 10 percent higher interest in vegetables compared to their non-cooking counterparts. The research also showed those “who did meal prep and cooking were more confident about the importance of making healthier food choices,” according to the same article.
Kid-Friendly Recipes (to make with your kids!):
Tell us: Do you cook with your kids?
- Will your child ever love spinach as much as you do?
Getting kids to eat healthy has become the Mount Everest of parenthood. Every day is a rocky, uphill battle with daily obstacles thwarting parents’ best intentions: bake sales, kiddie menus, birthday parties and vending machines are everywhere. It doesn’t help that kids are still wired like their early ancestors to gravitate towards sweet foods to maintain their weight in case of a famine and avoid unfamiliar foods that may be poisonous. Fast forward to the twenty-first century with easy access to store-bought processed products and introducing kids to cauliflower can sound as daunting as climbing a mountain.
The good news is that there are plenty of tactics to encourage healthier eating habits in kids.
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Keep kids fueled for fun with easy, pack-able snacks.
Whether on a road trip, a day at camp or playing at the beach, kids need fuel! Keep tummies from rumbling with these nutritious and delicious snacks.
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If the struggle to get your kids to eat right is driving you nuts, there’s hope! We asked registered dietitian and (my all-time-favorite) child nutrition expert Ellyn Satter to weigh in.
Q: Why do so many parents have trouble feeding their kids? A: Because they care so much. Parents have been brainwashed about what is good and bad nutrition-wise and feel pressured to produce a healthy child.
The most important thing is the family meal. The parents’ job is to help preserve a positive attitude about eating. It almost doesn’t matter what you’re eating as long as it’s together. Once parents can establish structure and rhythm to getting meals on the table, creativity will start to kick in and deciding what to serve gets easier.
Q: When it comes to feeding kids, what’s the biggest mistake parents make? A: Parents often provide too little support and too much interference – insisting and bribery don’t work. You can’t fool a child. Parents need to trust that the child will learn to make smart decisions when it comes to what they eat. Read more »
Turn kid friendly mac and cheese into adult (and kid) friendly mac and cheese cakes.
People constantly confess to me that their biggest diet pitfall is nibbling on their kid’s leftovers. French fries, macaroni and cheese, burgers, pizza. Things you wouldn’t put on YOUR dinner plate, but eat while doing the dishes. Instead of feeling guilty, why not enjoy kid food with reckless abandon? Even better – get creative with leftovers and make memorable meals for the entire family. Macaroni and cheese is the perfect place to start because kids love it and parents devour all remaining scraps (along with their adult meals). That’s when calories skyrocket. To start, you need a great recipe for macaroni and cheese; one that’s healthy yet rich and bursting with cheese flavor. My renowned macaroni and cheese is below. I bake mine to create a creamy middle and crisp, Parmesan-spiked topping (the part everyone loves). It’s sinful tasting, yet lighter in fat and calories thanks to light sour cream and evaporated skim milk. Since the recipe makes a big batch, you can easily store leftovers and enjoy my mac n cheese cakes with spicy tomato sauce another day – crispy, Parmesan and panko-crusted cakes dipped in warm, smoky tomato sauce. Got creative uses for YOUR leftovers? Let’s hear ‘em!
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- Cheddar-Stuffed Pretzel Knots
When we talk about healthy and cool snacks, why is the focus always on kids? At what age does fun snacking end and boring snacking begin? For me, I’m still 8 years old at heart, so fun snacks are always a part of my family’s repertoire. Check out two nibbles I recently made for myself and my kids. The pretzel knots are a breeze to prepare (because you use store-bought pizza or bread dough) and they’ve got a hidden gem of sharp cheddar nestled in the middle. You can tuck any cheese you want inside – in fact, you can insert lots of different things into a pretzel knot (olives, sundried tomatoes, pepperoni, ham, and so on). The onion rings might seem like an odd snack, but we love them in my house. Plus, onions are rich in cancer-fighting sulfur compounds so enjoying them as a snack instead of a measly side dish means you’ll likely get more of the onion’s powerful goodness. We like to dip the rings in ketchup, but they’re also amazing dipped in smoky barbecue sauce. What are you noshing on between meals? Let me know!
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