Healthier Chocolate Nut Spread

chocolate hazelnut spread

You asked for a healthier alternative to the famous (and delicious) chocolate hazelnut spread (you know which one). Today I'm sharing not just one, but 4 alternatives. All are much lower in sugar and have no palm oil. Just in time for back-to-school. I mention back-to-school because you'll not only be looking for packed lunch ideas, but also breakfast ideas for rushed mornings and quick after school snack ideas.

All of these contain nuts or seeds. That's the foundation of this foodstuff afterall. Some preschools and schools are nut and seed-free, some are nut-free (i.e. seeds are okay), and some are peanut-free (i.e. nuts and seeds are okay). Always check with your individual facility to find out exactly what is and what isn't allowed.

An important note, especially if you are introducing these to picky eaters who already are familiar with the famous chocolate hazelnut spread, none of these taste exactly the same. So, don't try to pull a fast one on your little one and swap one for the other. They'll notice the difference - kids have keen observation skills with their food. Call this spread by a different name. This way they will be expecting something different.

A huge THANK YOU to student volunteer Carla for her help with these recipes!

Enjoy!

nutfree chocolate spread

Healthy Nut-Free Chocolate Spread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups toasted sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. In a pan over medium-high heat, toast the sunflower seeds until light brown and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Using a food processor, process the sunflower seeds until powdery. Scrape the sides.
  3. Add the cocoa powder, icing sugar, milk (optional), and canola oil. Blend until smooth.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • ½ cup milk (optional)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ to ½ cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. In a pan over medium-high heat, toast the whole hazelnuts with their peels on for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Once the whole hazelnuts are cool, rub them in between a kitchen towel to loosen and remove the skin.
chocolate spreads_medmed

Habibi's Chocolate Tahini and Powerplant's Chocolate Sprouted Seed Spread

(Note: In the spirit of being fully transparent, both of these were given to me for free. I did not receive payment to review either. I'm super picky about what foods I'll share with you in my reviews.)

I brought both of these to my co-working space last week so that everyone could try them. Yes, there are perks to having dietitians as friends and co-workers! Both received very positive reviews. Some people preferred one and an equal number preferred the other. Both products have a short ingredient list with only recognizable foods. They're made with nuts or seeds, providing healthy fats (and no palm oil). Each has just a touch of sugar/sweetener. Check each product's websites for a listing of what stores you can find them in.

Powerplant's spread has an intense chocolate taste for you dark chocolate lovers. It has a chunkier texture but smooth mouthfeel. So it's perfect for spreading on a cracker but not on soft bread. It totally screams to be included in your next smoothie.

Habibi's Chocolate Tahini has a milder chocolate taste. A few people found the tahini and chocolate flavours fought eath other. Most of us thought it was delicious (me included). This spread is the more classically kid-friendly of the two.

Looking for more healthy, kid-friendly recipes? Check out my recipe page.

5th Annual Homemade Ice Pop Recipes

spinach-kiwi ice pop

It's back, my annual home-made ice pop recipe collection. Some may call these homemade popsicles or paletas. Or, frozen smoothies. Whatever you call them they're a delicious summer treat. I want to give a big shout out to Carla, the dietetic student who is volunteering with me for creating these recipes. My directions for her: the recipes need to be simple, include no added sugar, include fruit and even veggies, and only include easy-to-find ingredients. Oh, and of course, that they needed to be delicious. She sure delivered.

The directions for each recipe are the same:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour into molds.
  4. Freeze.

Enjoy her work!

Kristen

P.S. For more delicious, healthy frozen recipes, check out these links:

Spinach Kiwi

Inspired by: http://www.kiipfit.com/spinach-kiwi-popsicles/

Packed with fruit and leafy greens, the vibrant green color of these popsicles comes from blending both kiwi and spinach.

  • 1/3 cup spinach
  • 1  kiwi
  • 2 drops lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water

Mango Lassi

mango lassi ice pop

Inspired by: http://revisfoodography.com/2015/04/mango-lassi/

Inspired from a classic Indian cold drink, mango lassi is a blend of yogurt, fruit and spice. Not a fan of cardamom? Simply omit the spice and you can still enjoy it as a mango-yogurt blend.

  • 1 mango
  • 160 ml greek yogurt
  • 1 small pinch cardamom (to taste)

Cantaloupe

cantaloupe ice pop

This very simple and refreshing recipe allows you to use ripe or extra ripe cantaloupes. No added sugar necessary.

  • ¾ cup cantaloupe
  • ¼ cup water

Get more healthy home-made ice pop recipes here:

5th Annual Healthy Home-Made Popsicles (ice pops, paletas)

4th Annual Healthy Home-Made Popsicles (ice pops, paletas)

Healthy Kids Snack - Banana Roll Ups

healthy kids snack banana roll ups

Sometimes the classics are a classic for a reason. Bananas and peanut butter simply taste great together. Here's a fun way to bring this classic duo together in a healthy kids snack. I'm choosing to share it today because it's easy for young hands to manage. Perfect if you're gearing up to pack snacks or a lunch for little ones with back-to-school next week. This works well with peanut butter, other nut butters (e.g. almond butter) and the non-nut butters if your child attends a nut-free facility.

Hey, it's also a delicious idea for those of us who are young at heart :)

Banana Roll-Ups Ingredients 2 small tortilla wraps, whole wheat ¾ medium banana 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, nut butter or non-nut butter ½ tsp honey (optional) 1 dash cinnamon, ground

Banana Roll-Ups Directions

  1. Slice banana.
  2. Spread nut butter or non-nut butter on wraps.
  3. Top with bananas.
  4. Drizzle honey and add a dash of cinnamon.
  5. Roll (pack in lunch boxes) and enjoy.

Get more healthy, simple, kid-friendly recipes.

Peaceful Fruits: A Healthy Snack Food that also Does Good

Peaceful fruits

A new feature that I'll be doing on occasion is reviewing food items. Why? Because I know that sometimes you just want to know what the heck to put in your grocery cart. 

Any foods that I share with you will be healthy choices that are also either good for the Earth and/or socially responsible. 

I believe in being transparent so I'll always share with you if I've been paid to promote a food or given a free sample.

The first food that I'm sharing is Peaceful Fruits Fruit Leathers. Evan, Peaceful Fruit's creator (that's him in the photo), asked me if I'd share them with you. He sent me samples of Wild Acai + Pineapple and Wild Acai + Apple. They are delicious and a nice (not too big) size. Currently they're only available for purchase online. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for their arrival in our local grocery stores.

I asked Evan to share his story with you. Here's what he wrote: 

Is it too much to ask for a snack to be delicious, healthy, and environmentally responsible? It shouldn’t be! I’d like to share with you the 4 things that I look for in a snack. These are what I was thinking about when, about a year ago, I launched my social good snack food startup – Peaceful Fruits. Our mission is to support sustainable development in the Amazon Rainforest while creating delicious snack foods people can enjoy with peace of mind!

1) Simple

No additives (preservatives, extra sweeteners, coloring, whatever). Really, the fewer ingredients the better. And not just the listed ingredients but what is INSIDE those ingredients. So I want to know it’s 100% organic, GMO free, etc.

That’s why, when I started making dried fruit strips, I decided there would be nothing besides fruit in them! Call me crazy, but it just makes sense!

2) Super

Personally, if I pick up a packaged food I want it to have something extra to offer me. As I said I like to keep things simple, so why should I reach for something besides an apple and/or a handful of nuts?

My answer was to make wild-harvested açaí the main ingredient in everything I produce. I love being able to add this exotic fruit to my diet!

3) Sustainable

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I think about this a lot – how do the products I enjoy impact the environment and the people who are part of making them?

Sustainability is built into every aspect of Peaceful Fruits. That means big stuff like our açaí is sourced in partnership with local Amazon communities, offering them an opportunity to generate needed income without sacrificing their way of life or their rainforest. And also little stuff – our “plastic” packaging is actually compostable!

 4) Delicious

We all know that, too often, taste can be sacrificed to “healthy” or “local.” But we also know it doesn’t have to be! Food should taste good. Period.

I look for fun flavour combinations (like açaí + pineapple) that create something that you can really enjoy – while still being confident you are doing something good for your body and the world at the same time!

The bottom line:

You shouldn’t have to sacrifice convenience or flavor to eat something good. If you agree with me about that, I hope you’ll think twice about this important, between-meals part of your day! And please check out Peaceful Fruits on Facebook and Twitter  so you can be part of our story!

Of course, tasting is a great way to be part of the story too! If you’d like to buy our snacks, the best way for now is online - for example on FarmtoPeople.com

Thanks to Kristen for letting me tell a part of my story!

Banana Ice Cream (Dairy and Sugar Free)

banana ice cream

I wish that I had discovered this recipe earlier in my life. It’s creamy, smooth and delicious – just like ice cream! Banana ice cream.

While it’s vegan and sugar-free, the best thing about this recipe (besides the taste) is that it only includes 1 or 2 ingredients. How great is that!

The secret is very ripe bananas. Buy them when you see them in the store. Slice and freeze them. Then you’re ready to make ice cream anytime you wish.

Blending the bananas does take a little while. At first they will break into a chunky slurry and you will likely think that this “ice cream” idea doesn’t work. Be patient. Next it will form one big ball. Then, suddenly, it will become a beautiful, smooth, whipped texture – just like ice cream. If you haven’t added any strongly coloured flavourings, the colour of your bananas will also suddenly lighten considerably to a creamy off-white. That’s what you’re looking for – your “ice cream” is ready!

There are likely hundreds of flavor combinations. I’m sharing the plain version (so you know the base recipe) along with 3 flavour ideas. My favourite is the cinnamon.

Banana Ice Cream Directions

  1. Peel and slice bananas. Freeze.
  2. Place frozen sliced bananas in a blender. Add flavouring ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Banana Ice Cream Ingredients

Plain

1 cup              sliced bananas

Cinnamon

1 cup              sliced bananas

¼ tsp              cinnamon

Chocolate

1 cup              sliced bananas

½ - 1 tsp        cocoa

Half a teaspoon of cocoa results in a banana ice cream with just a hint of chocolate. One teaspoon gives a full chocolate flavour. Choose a level that you enjoy.

Strawberry

2/3 cup          sliced bananas

1/3 cup          strawberries

This combination works best if you partially blend the bananas first until they are just about to start creaming. Then add the strawberries. The result will be a creamy ice cream with strawberry flavour. Adding the strawberries at the same time as the bananas results in a more icy rather than creamy texture (more sorbet-like rather than ice cream-like).

Check out more healthy recipes.

Fresh Fruit Granitas

Fresh Fruit Granitas

Similar to a slushie but made with real fruit, granitas are super refreshing in the summer heat.

They’re easy to prepare. The only tricky thing is to plan ahead so that you’re home and you remember to break up the ice crystals every hour (I set the alarm on my phone to remind me).

Kids can help measure ingredients, push the buttons on the blender, and scrape the ice crystals.

The fruit flavor is strong in granitas. The recipes here are listed from the most mild to the strongest. If your little ones prefer mild flavours, stick to the melon granitas. The kiwi granita is so strong that it almost made my eyes water (which I enjoyed on a hot afternoon).

Fresh Fruit Granitas - Directions

The steps are the same for all the recipes:

  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar and water.
  2. Bring sugar water to a boil until the sugar is well dissolved.
  3. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. In a blender, combine the fruit (removed from it’s peel and pits), fruit juice (or other liquid), and sugar water.
  5. Pour into a non-metal baking dish, such as a glass lasagna pan.
  6. Place in the freezer. Freeze for 1 hour.
  7. Remove from the freezer and scrape thoroughly with a fork, breaking up the ice crystals.
  8. Return to the freezer for 1 hour. Again, remove from the freezer and break up the ice crystals with a fork. Repeat at least 2 more times.

Fresh Fruit Granitas - Recipes

Cantaloupe

Adapted from: http://www.whiskaffair.com/2013/03/cantaloupe-lemon-and-mint-granita.html

1                      cantaloupe

1/4 cup          sugar

¼ cup             water

4 TBSP            fresh lemon juice

Raspberry-Watermelon

Adapted from: http://whipperberry.com/2013/06/raspberry-watermelon-granita.html

5 cups             cubed, de-seeded watermelon

2.5 cups          raspberries

½ cup             sugar

½ cup             cran-raspberry juice cocktail

(Combine sugar and cran-raspberry juice cocktail in saucepan.)

Pineapple-Mango

Adapted from: http://www.muybuenocookbook.com/2013/03/pineapple-and-mango-granita-blendtec-giveaway/

Juice from 2 limes

1/3 cup          sugar

1                      pineapple, peeled, cored and diced

2                      mangos, peeled, pitted, and diced

(There’s no heating the sugar in this recipe. Simply combine all ingredients in a blender.)

Kiwi

Adapted from: http://dhaleb.com/2010/03/

5                    kiwis

½ cup           sugar

½ cup           water

1 cup              club soda

2 teaspoons   lime juice

See more delicious, healthy recipes here.

Nuts: Why You Want More Than Just Almonds

Nuts: Why You Want More Than Just Almonds

Have you taken the healthy step of including nuts in your daily eating habits? Perhaps you’re eating nuts because of their healthy fats. Or, because you’re eating a more clean, plant-based diet. Or, because they make a great protein-rich snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Whatever your reason, nuts certainly are a healthy food to include regularly. When I work with clients, I look to have them eat nuts and seeds frequently. The good news is that word about how healthy nuts are seems to be getting out to people. Most clients I see are eating nuts several times a week. However for a large number of clients, eating nuts equals almonds. Only almonds. It may be whole almonds, almond butter and/or almond milk, but the only nut or seed that they’re eating is almonds. This is a problem.

If almonds are the only nuts that you eat, now’s the time to expand your repertoire to include different nuts and seeds. Here’s why:

Variety is Better Than Any 1 Food: We humans are omnivores. Your body is designed to eat a wide variety of foods. Yet, so many people eat the same few foods over and over again. Nuts and seeds are all different. Some have more healthy fats, some have more protein, and they vary in the amount of minerals and other nutrients. By sticking to only one or two nuts/seeds you are missing out on many of the benefits of different nuts/ seeds. And, when you eat a lot of only a few foods, you can get too much of some nutrients.

California Drought: Most of our almonds come from California. Did you know that California has been experiencing a drought for years? And, that their ground water is decreasing fast. Did you also know that almonds trees take a large amount of water? It’s not a good combination.

Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater (I hate that saying, do you know of a less violent one that expresses the same meaning?), please note that I’m not saying to never eat almonds again. What I’m saying is that considering that eating a variety of foods is a healthier choice, now’s a good time to take the pressure off of California water sources by expanding your nut and seed repertoire. Enjoy almonds amongst a wide variety of nuts and seeds.

There’s a whole world of nuts and seeds out there. Explore it. I do - half a shelf of my fridge is taken up with nuts and seeds. And yes, you want to store them in the fridge to keep them from going rancid.

Here’s some ideas of nut and seeds to check out. Alternatively a trip to your local bulk food section can inspire you.

  • Macadamias
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts (Get these while you can. There’s a blight wiping out all the trees in North America).
  • Pine nuts
  • Pecans
  • Chestnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sesame seeds/ tahini
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds/ hearts
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds/ pepitas

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

4th Annual Home-made Popsicles (a.k.a. Ice Pops, Paletas)

Home-made popsicles, healthy, no sugar

I love that the healthy home-made popsicles trend is continuing (also known as ice-pops or paletas). Have you jumped on board? It's a fantastic way to enjoy some fruits and veggies. All these recipes are delicious. You won't believe that they have no sugar. Kids often love to help make them too. Here are 4 new home-made ice pop recipes for you to enjoy this summer. In case you're wondering why there are 4 recipes but only 3 in the picture, I ate all the banana-strawberry-orange ones before taking the photo :)

Home-Made Popsicles Directions

All the steps are the same for all home-made popsicles. And they're very easy:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour into the ice-pop molds.
  4. Freeze.
  5. ENJOY!

Home-Made Popsicles Ingredients

Healthy Creamsicle

This simple 3 ingredient recipe is inspired by one of my childhood favourites – creamsicles. But unlike creamsicles, the only sugar in this recipe is that naturally found in orange juice.

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Banana-Strawberry-Orange

Use ripe bananas and in-season, local strawberries and these are naturally sweet – no added sugar is needed.

  • 1 medium banana
  • 10 strawberries
  • ½ cup orange juice

Watermelon-Cucumber-Spinach

Don’t let the deep green colour of this recipe discourage you. It’s my favourite of the 4 recipes here – super refreshing and subtly sweet.

  • 2 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 6 large spinach leaves, thick stems removed
  • 2 inches cucumber, peeled and seeds removed
  • ½ cup coconut water

Pink Grapefruit

This recipe doesn’t need to be blended. Simply juice the grapefruits and combine with the soda water in a pitcher. Pour into the molds and freeze. If you find pink grapefruits too sour, you can substitute freshly squeezed orange juice.

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruits (approx 3 grapefruits)
  • 1 cup soda water

See more healthy, delicious recipes for home-made ice pops.

Healthy Shamrock Smoothies - Green Smoothies

green smoothies

I'm a true kid of the 1980's Canadian suburbs. Growing up, we went to McDonalds a couple of times a year. One of those times each year, guarenteed, was in March. Why? If you grew up similar to me, you already know the answer...Shamrock Shakes. I totally LOVED those green, mint milkshakes that McDonalds only had on the menu around St. Patrick's Day.

To be honest, I had totally forgotten about those shakes. Those childhood days are long gone. But last Spring, while on a surf trip in California, I had a smoothie that brought it all back. It was pistachio and mint, and it was DELICIOUS! Ever since then I can't get mint or pistachios off my mind. So, of cource I had to create recipes for a healthy, minty green smoothie in time for St. Patrick's Day.

I didn't remember exactly what was in that smoothie in California. So I bought all sorts of green ingredients. And, I created a second green smoothie. Why not?!

The directions are easy. Simply combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Adjust the amounts to suite your tastebuds. Too thick? Add more liquids. Too thin? Add more solids.

The two recipes are:

Green Smoothie Pistachio-Mint

  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 3 tablespoons pistachios
  • 3/4 cup milk (or plant-based alternative)
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • 3 chopped dates
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Green Smoothie Avocado-Pistachio-Kale

  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 banana
  • 2 large kale leaves, centre ribs removed
  • 3 tablespoons pistachios
  • 1 cup milk (or plant-based alternative)

Don’t Be Heavy-Handed with “Nutrition” Talk - Teaching Nutrition to Kids

Teaching Nutrition to Kids

I had the best time on Friday! I was invited to the Valentine’s Day party at the local elementary school. I brought a variety of fruits and veggies and led an activity where we used cookie cutters to cut out hearts and thread them onto wooden skewers to make cupid’s arrows (thank you Pinterest). Do I have the best job or what?! But was I just playing? No. There’s a method to my madness. I’ve learned something in the (gulp) 20 years that nutrition’s been my world. It’s that teaching nutrition to kids isn’t the way to inspire people to have healthy eating habits. Sure, talking about vitamins, minerals, etc will change what some people eat. There will be the exception that proves the rule. But it truly is the exception. I learned this lesson the hard way. When I was a bubbly, enthusiastic nutrition student, I shared my new-found knowledge with anyone and everyone (whether they asked for my 2 cents worth or not). Guess what? Not surprisingly, most people rolled their eyes at me and went on with their same (unhealthy eating) behavior.

I’ve learned that the most effective way to influence people’s behaviour is to simply serve them delicious, healthy food. And don’t say anything about it.

With kids there is even more opportunity! You see they haven’t had 10, 20, 30 years-of habits that we need to break. With kids, all we need to do is to include healthy foods in fun and everyday activities. To make healthy eating the norm. That’s why I worked to get myself invited to the Valentine’s Day party. Because, it was a fantastic way to infuse a celebration day with healthy food. The kids totally got into it and had a fantastic time. In fact, we hardly had enough fruit to thread on the skewers because they were eating so much of it. I can honestly tell you that they didn’t miss baking cookies one bit.

Creating a positive association with healthy eating is more powerful than knowing that I “should” eat something because it has vitamin so-and-so in it.

Recently a study confirmed my experience. They found that kids were less likely to try a food. And, they rated a food as tasting worse, if they were told that it was healthy.

It’s so tempting to go on and on about WHY kids should eat a healthy food. But do your best to resist the temptation. It’s more effective if you aren’t heavy-handed with the “nutrition” talk.

As the saying goes:

“Actions speak louder than words”.

How do you incorporate healthy eating into fun activities? I'd love you to share in the comments below!

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Golden Milk

Turmeric-golden-milk

I created this recipe for two reasons. The first is that I love a warm mug of hot chocolate on cold evenings. But I wasn't crazy about the amount of sugar in it. Second, I've been reading about the positive health attributes of turmeric and wanting to include it more often. While I do love curries, I don't eat them multiple times a week. Also, I know that many kids don't like curries. So I was looking for another way to incorporate turmeric into their eating habits. I came across the idea for warm turmeric milk and I was inspired.

Personally I didn't care for it plain. But by adding some orange blossom water and just a touch of sugar, it came together as a delicious way to end my day!

Orange blossom water is available in any store that carries a decent selection of mediterranean or middle eastern foods.

Feel free to adjust the ingredients here to suit your taste. Be warned - both turmeric and orange blossom water are very strong flavours. Adjust them by very small amounts (I mean minuscule) to find the perfect balance for you!

Turmeric Golden Milk Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk (cow's or an alternative of your choice)
  •  less than 1/8 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 3 drops orange blossom water
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Turmeric Golden Milk Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Over medium heat warm the milk, stirring frequently.
  2. Enjoy!

Looking for other recipe ideas? Check out my healthy recipes here.

Can Kids Have Too Much Fruit?

baby w fruits & veg

Here’s what a Mom recently asked me: "I have what may be a silly question. Should I be concerned with my 8 month old getting too much fruit? In other words, can kids have too much fruit?

Can Kids Have Too Much Fruit?

In a word: yes. Let me expand with 2 key points.

  1. All of us (i.e. adults too) can get diarrhea from eating too much fruit at once. If your child’s stools are getting loose, then it's a sign of too much fruit.
  2. Of course, fruit is a healthy food. But human beings need a wide variety of foods from all the food groups to meet our nutrition needs.

In particular, for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, iron is a key nutrient that we’re looking to provide through food. Fruit is low in iron. It’s recommended that you offer iron-rich foods twice a day.

It’s normal for kids to have food preferences. However, kids aren’t at a developmentally ready to understand that human beings can’t survive on a favourite food alone until they’re well into their school-age years.

How to Make Sure Your Child Doesn't Get Too Much Fruit

If you notice that your child will always choose one or two favourite foods, I recommend starting a technique that I call “controlling what’s on the menu”.

Here’s how. You choose what foods you will offer, i.e. what foods are on the menu, at meals and snacks. Your child gets to choose what they’ll eat from what you’ve provided. And, they get to control how much of each food they eat (yes, including zero bites).

This way you are creating a situation where your child eats a balance of food groups throughout the day. And, your child gets to express themselves by controlling what they eat from what you’ve provided. You’ve created an environment where you’re making sure that your child is getting good nutrition at the same time as your child’s personal boundary with their body is respected.

For example, for this mom’s 8 month old, at one solid food time each day serve an iron-rich food either on it’s own, or with another food that isn’t fruit – maybe it’s a vegetable or a grain. Feel free to offer fruit at the other solid food time where you’re offering the iron-rich food. If your child eats a particularly huge amount of fruit one day and you notice that his stools are loose, hold off offering fruit for a day or two. Create balance by offering vegetables, protein foods, and grains.

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It’s Less Work than You Think (Healthy Snacks)

healthy snacks

When I’m introducing my concept of 5-6 equal opportunities to eat to Moms and Dads many think that it sounds impossible – it’s too much work. But I promise you it’s not. In fact, it’s likely the same amount of work that you’re currently doing. But it’s work that’s moving you in the right direction of getting your picky eater to try new foods (instead of inadvertently fuelling pickier eating).

But I think I’m getting ahead of myself here. First let me explain what I mean by 5-6 equal opportunities to eat.

Toddlers and preschoolers have little tummies, short attention spans, and big nutrition needs. That’s why they need more than just 3 meals a day. I’ve found that most kids so best with three meals plus two or three snacks per day.

When I say the word “meal”, you likely imagine something with healthy foods from multiple food groups, perhaps eaten while sitting at a table. In contrast, when I say the word “snack” you likely think of something small to eat, perhaps less healthy foods, grabbed and eaten on the run.

Most toddlers and preschoolers don’t have appetites that are bigger at “meal” times and smaller at “snack” times. Instead of differentiating between “meals” and “snacks”, I recommend treating these as all as “opportunities to eat”.

So, instead of giving your child 3 meals plus 2 – 3 snacks per day, I recommend re-framing the concept to offering 5 – 6 opportunities to eat each day.

But the phrase that I started with in this post had the word “equal” in it: “5 – 6 equal opportunities to eat” .

Here’s where the “equal” comes into play.

To best meet kids’ nutrition needs in the face of their short attention spans, I recommend taking each of the 5 – 6 opportunities to eat to provide kids with healthy foods. This way if they eat a lot at afternoon snack and only two bites at dinner, it’s less of a worry than if you gave your child junky foods at afternoon snack and were relying on dinner for those vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.

Consider each opportunity to eat an equal opportunity to provide healthy foods from 2 – 4 food groups. Yes, this may mean that you’re putting more thought and effort onto your child’s snacks.

However, I can’t tell you how many families I’ve worked with who are providing quick snack handouts all day long. These parents are feeding their kids almost every hour of the day. That’s a lot of work!!

Instead of putting all your time and effort into providing constant snacks, I recommend offering 5 – 6 equal opportunities to eat each day, each of which has 2 – 4 food groups.

It’s less work than you think. And, you will be more successful in helping your child get the nutrition they need and have less picky eating behaviour.

Have you been using the 5 – 6 equal opportunities to eat strategy? Have you found it to be more work? I’d love you to share your experience in the comment section below!

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Use After School Snacks to Get Picky Eaters to Try New Foods

picky boy eating new foods after school snacks

{Guest Expert Contribution to Kidzedge} If you’re like the parents of picky eaters I’ve helped for the last 6 years, you’re constantly on the look out for ways to get your kids to eat more (healthy) foods. After school snacks are a great (and often overlooked) opportunity to contribute to kids’ nutrition. Here’s why after school snacks are such a great time to get kids to eat more foods, how to do it, and some snack ideas.

After School Snacks Why it Works:

Have you ever tried getting a child to eat a new food when they aren’t hungry? It’s a lesson in futility. Many kids have big appetites at after school snack time. Appetite is a great motivator for kids to try new foods. Take advantage of this natural window of opportunity and use after school snacks to offer your child new foods.

After School Snacks Steps to Take:

Step #1: Plan snacks that include foods from 2 or more food groups. Often we think of snacks as a time for junk food. Or, as a time for a single food – e.g. an apple. But kids have big nutrient needs and small tummies. They need healthy foods more than just at 3 meals per day.

Step #2: Consider meals and snacks to be equal opportunities to eat. A mistake that many parents make is to give their child healthy foods at meals and favorite foods at snacks. This stacks the odds against kids eating well at meals. Instead, frequently, give your child a snack that includes either a new food or a food that your child has seen many times but hasn’t tried yet.

Step #3: Think outside the snack aisle. When looking for snack ideas, it seems natural to look in the snack aisle of the grocery store. But this aisle is mostly filled with highly processed, junk foods. Instead, look for easy to eat versions of meal foods. Focus on providing foods from the food groups where your child isn’t meeting the recommendations. To see the recommendations, check out My Plate or Canada’s Food Guide

After School Snack Ideas:

  • Edamame and an orange (2 food groups)
  • White Bean Dip* with a variety of raw veggies such as snow peas, carrots, and zucchini (2 food groups)
  • Hard-boiled egg and toast (2 food groups)
  • Yogurt with blueberries and hemp hearts (3 food groups)
  • Sliced banana on top of whole grain crackers/rice cakes/corn cakes spread with peanut butter, nut-butter, or non-nut butter. (3 food groups)

White Bean Dip Recipe

Makes 12 Servings

1 can (14 oz, 17.6 oz) cannellini beans, canned, drained 1 bulb garlic, raw 1/4 cup (2 oz) olive oil 1/4 cup (2 fl oz) lemon juice, fresh

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Remove the outermost skin of the garlic bulb (the loose stuff). Cut off the very top of the bulb so the tip of each clove is exposed. Rub the entire bulb with some olive oil. Wrap in tin foil, shiny-side inwards. Place on a cookie sheet or in a casserole dish.
  3. Roast in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until the bulb gives off the distinct roasted garlic (not raw garlic) aroma and the cloves are squishy.
  4. Allow to cool.
  5. Drain and rinse the beans (rinsing removes some of the “magical” part of the beans). Place them in a medium-size bowl.
  6. To the beans, add half the olive oil, half the lemon juice, and half of the cloves of garlic. Using a hand-held blender, blend the mixture until it’s smooth. Adding more olive oil, lemon juice and garlic to taste and to get the texture to the desired smoothness.
  7. ENJOY with tortilla chips, crackers, apple slices, and raw veggies like carrots, celery and bell pepper strips.

Note: You can roast the garlic days in advance.

Check out my recipe page for more healthy after school snack ideas for kids.

Healthy Home-Made Ice-Pops for Kids

Healthy Home-Made Ice-Pops

Recently my friends and I were having a nostalgic laugh about the rising trend of home-made ice pops – also known as paletas. The dietitian in me loves that parents are choosing to make tasty snacks for their kids that beat the heat that include real fruits (even veggies) instead of frozen, colored, sugar water. What made my friends and I giggle was remembering how we too had homemade ice pops when we were kids. However, we were raised in the suburbs in the early 80’s. Our ice pops consisted of frozen OJ concentrate, re-constituted with water, and then frozen again in the ice-pop molds. Not exactly gourmet!

Now pint-sized foodies are enjoying paletas (even the new name is fancy) made with on-trend, healthy ingredients like coconut, avocado, Greek yogurt, almond milk, even kale. And, while we were absorbing all sorts of plastic by-products, you can now buy BPA-free plastic molds and stainless steel molds. It’s amazing how far we’ve come!

Interested in making some yourself? A Google or Pinterest browse will supply you with a summer full of healthy frozen kids snack ideas. Here are two ideas to get you started. For the recipes, all the steps are the same:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour into the paleta molds.
  4. Freeze.
  5. ENJOY!

Blueberry-Kale Home-Made Ice Pops

You really need to blend this recipe well, otherwise the kale pieces are quite big which I found unpleasant (and I love kale). The kale is never truly hidden in these, but when well-blended, it’s an enjoyable part of their texture.

1 cup frozen blueberries 1 cup kale leaves, stems removed (ideally baby kale leaves) 2 cups coconut water

Raspberry-Almond-Coconut Home-Made Ice Pops

A luscious, dairy-free recipe!

1.5 cups almond milk 1/2 cup coconut milk 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries 2 teaspoons honey pinch of salt

Combine your favorite fruits with other healthy ingredients for a delicious and refreshing summertime paleta treat!

Get more home-made ice pop recipes here.

Food Rewards - How to Get Your Child to Behave Without Them

Food Rewards

I was happy to meet Julie recently. She's a child behaviour and discipline specialist. As soon as I met her I knew that she would be the perfect person to answer a question that parents often ask me. You see, I teach (based on the research) that it's not good to use food as a bribe or reward for kids behaviour. So parents would ask me for alternatives. And that's where I hit the end of my expertise - I'm a child-feeding expert - not a child behaviour expert. Read on to see what Julie recommends as alternatives to food for teaching kids to have good behaviour.

Enjoy! Kristen

  • Chocolate to stop crying.
  • Dessert if you finish all of your dinner.
  • Candy to buy a few extra minutes of peace & quiet.

Why Food Rewards Are A Bad Idea

Parents give food rewards to their children because it works……for the short term, plain and simple. However, the long term effects on the child may include poor appetite management, low self-esteem and distorted food control because they have now associated food with negative behaviour and/or pain. This learned behaviour could possibly leave your child with a potential food addiction which can carry right on through the teen years and well into adulthood.

There are many other ways to encourage your children to do what you expect of them without bribes, threats or rewards. Add more options to your Parenting toolbox so you are not left with food rewards as your only option.

5 of our BEST BEHAVIOUR Techniques (Without Food Rewards)

  1. Expectations & Routines – create routines throughout the day with your expectations in them
  2. Visuals – create a chart, poster or picture for each routine & reference them throughout the day
  3. Choices – offer your child at least 2 things to choose from instead of just demanding something
  4. Follow through – what you say…..you do!
  5. Consistency - say & do the same thing each and every time the same behaviour shows up

Try all 5 together for the BEST RESULTS!

Find out more on this topic and many others at www.missbehaviour.ca.

Learn about Julie Romanowski, Mom, Early Childhood Consultant & owner of

Miss Behaviour: parenting coach & consultant service.

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"CHILDREN'S BEHAVIOUR & DISCIPLINE SPECIALISTS!" behaviour - discipline - tantrums - communication - interactions - daily routines – solutions

Should I Feed my Baby Organic Food?

baby w fruits & veg One of the most common questions that I’m asked is: Should I feed my baby organic food?” I know what my answer is (scroll down to check it out). But it’s such a popular question that when two University of British Columbia dietetic students were looking for a writing assignment for class, I asked them to answer your question. Here’s what students Karalee Derkson and Connie Lau found in their research into the question of organic food for babies, and their conclusions.  

What is Organic Food?

There can be confusion with the term “organic food”. From the point of view of a scientist, all foods are organic – that is all foods are all living things (versus inorganic things like rocks). However, when most people use the word “organic” they mean foods that are grown or produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones (Dietitians of Canada). Instead, farmers use crop rotation, waste recycling, and natural pesticides to grow their crops (Dietitians of Canada).

Because all foods are technically living things, the term “organic” can be used for all of them. To distinguish foods grown using the methods listed above, groups have developed certification programs, such as the USDA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the EU. This is why you often see “certified organic” on labels – these foods have gone through and passed the certification process. Of course, to go through the certification process, it takes time, paperwork, and money.

Not every farmer who uses organic growing methods will choose to undertake certification – especially if they’re a smaller farm. There are also farms that use many organic methods but who don’t quite fit all the certification criteria.

Factors to Consider when Choosing Organic Food vs Conventional Food

Nutrient Content:

  • There may be higher levels of phytochemicals (compounds that benefit health) in organic produce because they are a natural pesticide (Dietitians of Canada).
  • In the studies that have been conducted to date, organic food does not contain more or better nutrients than conventional food (Forman; Dietitians of Canada; Dangour et al.)

Health Implications:

  • Currently, there is no significant evidence that consuming organic food leads to health benefits or that conventional food has negative health effects (Health Canada; Dangour et al.).
  • Infants and children consume more food than adults on a weight for weight basis during development, therefore their pesticide exposure may be higher (Health Canada; National Research Council).

Environmental Impact:

  • Organic farms use less energy and produce less waste (Forman).
  • In organic farms, no synthetic pesticides are used. Therefore, there is little risk of chemically damaging the surrounding ecosystems (Forman).

Pesticide Regulation:

  • In Canada, pesticides are illegal if they have the ability to cause cancer or birth defects (Health Canada).
  • In Canada, The maximum acceptable amount of pesticides is set far below the levels that could pose health risks, even for infants (Health Canada).

Price:

  • Organic food costs 10-40% more than conventional food (Forman).

Do All Conventional Foods have the Same Amount of Pesticides? The short answer is no. The amount of pesticides in a conventional food is based on how pesticides are used (both how much, were they’re applied, and when they’re applied during the plant’s growth) and the nature of how the plant grows/ what part of the plant we eat.

To empower people who wish to avoid pesticides without always purchasing organic, an American organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published the “Dirty Dozen” and  “Clean 15”. They look at the levels of pesticides in samples of foods in the USA and then rank them in lists. While many of the foods in the US come from the same places as those found in Canada, it’s worth mentioning that there can be differences. And, these differences may lead to differences in pesticide levels.

The EWG's Clean Fifteen™ for 2014:

  1. Avocados
  2. (Sweet) corn – i.e. the type of corn that we humans eat
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen (sweet) peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papaya
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet Potatoes

The EWG's Dirty Dozen™ for 2014:

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Bell peppers
  8. Nectarines - imported from outside US (and assumingly Canada?)
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap peas - imported from outside US (and assumingly Canada?)
  12. Potatoes

Leafy greens such as kale and collard greens as well as hot peppers were highlighted for containing significant pesticides, but didn’t quite fall in the top.

For more information on the EWG click here

Our Opinions

Dietetic Student Connie Lau: To take the extra step of precaution I would choose organic produce as a priority, especially during the crucial developmental years of a child. Although there are tight regulations on pesticide levels of food, evidence of long-term effects is inconclusive.

Dietetic Student Karalee Derkson: Due to the high cost of organic foods, and the lack of significant health benefits, I do not buy organic produce. I feel confident that the regulations on pesticide levels of food will keep exposure well below dangerous amounts. I would be comfortable feeding my child conventional produce.

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD: I’m a strong believer in organic foods.

While research studies haven’t been designed to measure it, I don’t know how we can look at our health out of the context of the health of the environment. It’s clear that organic foods are better for the environment.

Yes, growing methods that are healthier for the environment are more expensive. Wanting cheap foods, available all year long goes against Mother Nature. That being said, personally I don’t have the budget to buy 100% organic. I do make choices with my money to be able to spend more on food. For example, I choose to live in a smaller home, drive a fuel-efficient car, and not have cable TV all so that I can have more money in my budget for food. Buy paying for (local) organic foods, I know that I’m using the power of my money to create a market for organic farmers. The more of us consumers who do so, the more incentive there will be for farmers (locally and around the world) to choose organic methods.

In addition to the growing practices, I also consider the distance that a food has travelled. I’ve been shopping at Farmers’ Markets and roadside stands since I was a child (far before it became trendy). What I love about this is not only do I reduce the fossil fuels used to transport the food, but I’ve learned a lot about farming methods. I use this knowledge to decide what conventional foods I’m willing to buy. For example, I don’t buy certified organic eggs from the grocery store. I buy my eggs from an older couple’s home. I can see the (small number of) chickens running around the yard. This couple hasn’t undertaken the organic certification process. Heck, they’re so old-school that they use the honour system for payment - I put my money in an unlocked box on their front porch! But I do buy other long-distance organic staples from the grocery store, such as tofu, polenta, and pasta noodles.

Here’s the order in which I choose foods:

  1. Local organic
  2. Local conventional and long-distance organic
  3. Long-distance conventional

Bottom Line(s) This article has been longer then my usual messages. But I wanted to dig into the issue a bit since it’s an important one. As you consider it all, please keep in mind these three points:

  • I encourage you to talk to your local Farmers. And, maybe even grow some foods yourself. Become more aware of where your food comes from. With knowledge comes power.
  • Regardless of the balance that you choose for your family, the research is clear that eating LOTS of vegetables and fruit is healthy. As Micheal Pollan so eloquently said: “Eat foods. Mostly plants.”
  • It’s important to introduce your baby to a wide variety of foods in the first years of life.

Click here to get more tips on nutrition for babies directly to your inbox.

Sources Alan D Dangour, Sakhi K Dodhia, Arabella Hayter, Elizabeth Allen, Karen Lock, and Ricardo Uauy. "Systematic Review of Nutritional Differences Between Organic and Conventional Foods." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2009).

Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Organic Products. 13 January 2014. Government of Canada. May 2014 <http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/organic-products/eng/1300139461200/1300140373901 >.

Dietitians of Canada. Are organic foods better for my health? 16 July 2013. May 2014 <http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Miscellaneous/Are-organic-foods-better-for-my-health.aspx>.

Environmental Working Group. Environmental Working Group. April 2014. May 2014 <http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/>.

Forman, J., Silverstein, J. "Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages." American Academy of Pediatrics (2012): 1412.

Health Canada. Consumer Product Safety: Pesticides and Food. February 2014. May 2014 <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_fact-fiche/pesticide-food-alim/index-eng.php>.

Environmental and Workplace Health: Pesticides and Health. July 2008. May 2014 <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/contaminants/pesticides-eng.php#a67>.

National Research Council. Pesticides in the Diet of Infants and Children. Washington, DC.: The National Academies Press, 1993.

Limiting Cow's Milk for Toddlers

toddlers cow's milk Recently a parent asked me this question: “How much cow’s milk to offer toddlers. Do you allow them to regulate/drink as much as they want or just fill the cup up once and then when it's empty that's it? Being only 17 months, he can fill up pretty quick on milk during the meal, but I also don't want to be taking it away. I would prefer to just allow him to self regulate, but not sure what to do once the sippy cup is empty.”

Regulating Cow's Milk for Toddlers

It’s common for little ones to fill their tummies with milk instead of eating foods. To make sure that your child is getting the nutrition that he needs, use what I call the ‘control what's on the menu’ strategy regarding beverages (the same as with foods).

  • Choose which meals/snacks you offer milk. In other words – you control what’s on the menu.
  • Let him drink as much (i.e. as many glasses) of milk at those times as he wishes.
  • At the other meals/snacks offer water.

This way there's no battle over how much milk he drinks. But he won't be able to fill his tummy with milk instead of eating at every meal/snack. Approx 500mL (2 cups) of milk provides calcium and vitamin D that little ones need without crowding out other nutritious foods. Little ones who drink more than 750mL (3 cups) of milk daily increase the risk that they’re not getting the nutrition that they need from eating a variety of foods. But again, it's not your job to referee how many cups he drinks at a meal/snack. Instead, use this as a guideline for how many meals/snacks to offer milk at. Restricting access (i.e. limiting the number of servings at a meal/snack) to a food or drink only increases a child’s desire for it. While restricting access usually comes from good intentions, it actually interferes with learning self-regulation. Another technique that can help make sure toddlers aren’t drinking too much cow’s milk is only offering milk in an open (lidless) cup. Often, toddlers who are drinking too much cow's milk are drinking it from a bottle or sippy cup. An open cup is more difficult for little ones to manage so it slows them down.

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