It’s not just the ghouls and ghosts causing a scare on Halloween — how about the mountains of treats handed out to kids by friends and neighbors? Some treats are worse than others — these are the ones that I pick out of my kiddos’ candy stash when they’re not looking and toss them into the trash.
Depending on the brand, taffy has about 160 calories and 27 grams of sugar for about 5 pieces. The fact that my kids need to try VERY hard to bite into one tells me they shouldn’t be eating it. Read the ingredient list and you’ll find corn syrup, palm oil, hydrogenated oil and artificial colors. In one bite, your kid can eat at least 4 ingredients that many experts tell you to avoid.
Gum or chewy-candy filled lollipops may be exciting for kids but why on earth do they need a 2-in-1 treat? The only thing they’ll be getting more of is sugar!
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Clever marketing and confusing ingredient lists make processed junk look like a healthy choice for your kids. Get the facts about these healthy imposters.
Fruit & Vegetable Pouches
These squeezable sacks of suckable fruit and veggie concoctions promise mess-less nutrition but you might be getting more sugar than produce – many are sweetened with fruit juice concentrates (check labels). Even if your favorite brand’s recipe does only contain mashed fruits and vegetables, this process will destroy some of the nutrients and fiber. Plus, sucking food out of a pouch doesn’t exactly foster healthy easting habits as far as I’m concerned. Handing off the occasional pouch is fine but these sacs should not become a replacement for good old fruits and veggies.
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As a dad to two young children, Jose Garces is no stranger to the challenges that come with cooking for little eaters, but that doesn’t stop him from serving healthful fruits and veggies at home. This Iron Chef knows how to transform everyday ingredients into flavor-packed meals that are not only kid-approved but packed with nutrition, too. We checked in with Jose to find out his simple strategies for kid-friendly cooking and asked him to share a few simple suggestions to start the school year on a healthy note. Check out his best lunchbox picks, after-school snack solutions and more below, then get his top five healthy-eating tips for kids.
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Back to school also means back to sports. From elementary age to college-bound, these tips will help any athlete P.E.R.F.O.R.M their best.
- Pick nutrient dense foods
Athletes need vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep those muscles pumping. Calcium, iron, Vitamins C and D, and B-vitamins can be found in dairy, fruits, veggies, breads and cereals.
Nothing stalls metabolism like an empty tank. Eating every three to four hours is a must for peak performance in the classroom and on the field.
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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