Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hectic Holidays? Try Soup

Nothing warms the heart on a wintry day like a nice bowl of soup. And during the hectic holiday season, it's an easily accessible dish. It's a great do-ahead meal for the crock pot and an easy dish to throw together with leftovers. There are also some delicious choices out of a can--yes a can. If you haven't strolled down the soup aisle in a while, you might be surprised with new varieties that sound like restaurant food: Italian Wedding, Vegetable Orzo, Chicken Mushroom with Barley. (and they have just 480 mg of sodium--part of Campbell's Healthy & Delicious line

Here are a few ideas and recommendations.

*Homemade Bean soups: I love split peas and lentils because you don't have to remember to soak them overnight. Beans soups work great in the crock pot. If you want to do other types of beans, do the quick soak method--my favorite. Cover the beans with water and bring to a boil for several minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and soak for 1 hour. No matter what kind of beans you make, the spices are pretty much the same--onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme. If you are making beans with a south of the border flare, add cumin and chili powder. For lots of tips and recipes check out:

Semi-homemade and Canned Bean Soups: I love Progresso bean soups; minimum of ingredients and low in fat. For example, the Progresso Lentil soup has 150 calories, 2 grams of fat and (ouch) 870 mg sodium. But you can easily turn canned beans into a soup by pureeing in the blender or adding a broth, (black bean soup: some leftover barley and vegetables for a quick appetizer soup. Here's a great recipe using both canned condensed tomato soup as well as canned beans.

*Homemade stews: A stew is like a soup, only thicker--at least that's how I look at it. Although I'm not a fan of American stew, International stews are growing on me--in fact I made Beef Caldito last night! It's easy to turn an old fashioned stew into a gourmet dish by switching a few ingredients. Think Boeuf Bourginon (red wine, thyme, bay leaves) Caldito (chiles, cumin, chile powder). Check out this Caribbean themed stew that includes sweet potatoes: Canned soup can simplify a stew; check out this pork stew:

Talkin' soup is hard to keep brief--and it's making me hungry. Stay tuned for the next post about vegetable soups!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back to School Lunch-PART 2

Hello my lunch-packing friends,

It's time for Part 2 of Our Back to School Lunch Series.

Can you think outside the sandwich for a moment? If so, read on; we'll get to sandwiches at the end.

Think of lunch in 3 parts: you've got the entree--something that has protein and carbs of some sort, then you've got the fruits and/or veggies. For a visual, think about this--the fruit and veggies should take up half the "plate."

You can also mix it up--putting the protein, veggies, fruit and carbs all together. Visualize this: spinach salad with chicken & mango salad wrapped up in a whole grain tortilla.

Below is a 10 day menu for your favorite brown-bagger--and it doesn't have to be a kid!

Meatless Monday:
Bean burrito with grated cheese, avocado and cilantro. Try black beans for a change. On the side--a container of salsa and fat-free sour cream or plain greek yogurt and some baked blue tortilla chips. (yep-salsa counts as a veggie!) For dessert: mango slices or peach fruit cup.

Tuesday: Chili con carne in a thermos. On the side: grated light cheddar, baby carrots. For dessert: tapioca pudding cup.

Wednesday: S'more Lunch: Graham cracker, peanut butter (sunflower butter for allergy-free zones) and banana sandwiches with mini chocolate chips. On the side: Yogurt tube

Thursday: Deli wrap: Put your fav deli meat with a slice of low fat American cheese or grated mozzarella into a wrap with favorite condiments. Slip in some thinly sliced red or yellow peppers and a few sliced olives. On the side: apple slices

Fishy Friday: Mix canned salmon (remove the skin) with light cream cheese, dill and garlic powder in the blender or food processor. Spread on: bread, crackers, celery, etc. On the side: cucumber slices with lime, fresh pear.

Meatless Monday: Dippin Lunch: Hummus with whole grain pita triangles, celery, cucumber and carrot sticks for dipping. Dessert; frozen melon balls.

Tuesday: Lettuce wraps with roast beef: Using leftover or deli roast beef wrap lettuce around it and cucumber strips.

Wednesday: Chicken & rice salad: Using leftover chicken, and rice (you can also use leftover barley, quinoa or bulgar), add dried cranberries or raisins and chopped red pepper and julienne carrots. Add a little vinaigrette.


Above are lots of sandwich-free ideas. What if you or kid still loves a good sandwich? No problem...just don't forget to add the fruits and veggies to go with!

The trick with sandwiches, is how to make them different day after day:

1. Make them into finger sandwiches, which are especially great for kids of all ages who don't like the crust.

2. Cut them into cute shapes using a cookie cutter.

3. Use different colored bread: brown & white for example

4. Use different kinds of bread: French bread, whole grain bread, raisin bread. There's a bread that works well with every filling.

5. Add unexpected ingredients. I've seen corn added to sandwiches before! If you can get a whole of fresh herbs, a little fresh parsley or basil adds a nice touch to sandwiches.

Above all, follow the golden rule for a lunch that your kid won't toss or trade: Get him involved in the process. At the store, or when making the grocery list. Ask him what he wants for lunch. Let him help put the lunch together. And don't things in his lunch that he won't eat at home--there is probably a smaller chance he will eat it at school (unless of course all of his friends are eating it!)

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back to School Lunch-PART 1

So-- you've made it through the second week of school and are patting yourself on the back for a job well done--kids seemed to have eaten their lunches (at least the lunchbag comes back empty) and all is well. Only 60 more lunches to make until the Winter Holidays... but who's counting?

If you are already wondering how you can come up with healthy lunch ideas that your kids will actually eat, the following tips will help make sure your kids happily anticipate their lunch instead of tossing or trading it.

1. Get a kid's perspective. "Buy in" is not only necessary in the business world, it's also a big plus when getting kids to eat. Get your kid involved in the whole process--from making the grocery list to making choices on a daily basis. Do you want an apple or a fruit cup today? A wrap or a sandwich? Bring or buy? Kids have very little control over their day once they leave home--giving them a choice (but a choice you approve of) makes them feel more independent. There are also lots of teachable moments involved--your kid wants chips--explain the benefit of baked over fried... (FOR MORE TIPS SEE PART 2 OF THIS BLOG-PACKING A LUNCH--coming soon!)

2. Buy: When there is no time to pack a lunch, there are 2 options: buy or bring a pre-boxed lunch. While school lunches have gotten their share of brow-beating, it's not as bad as you think. School lunch does have to meet USDA nutritional guidelines, which admittedly are not as healthy as most dietitians would like, they do insure your child gets a balanced, nutritious lunch. Burgers and hot dogs on the menu--what about that? Here's what's not on the menu--hot dogs are reduced fat because they're made with turkey, beef is often a beef-soy mix--also to reduce the fat. There are also some teachable moments at the lunch line. Schools have the option of "offer" vs "serve". In our schools, it's "offer"--that means your kid needs to pick 4 things off the line. The good news, is again, if your kid picks it, he is more likely to eat it. The bad news is, he can walk away with the main entree, (which could be pizza), along with bread and corn. Yep it's definitely a starchy's where mom's or dad's influence comes in.

3. Pre-packaged meals. Lunch nirvana for kids and moms alike is often lunch in a box. Yes, I'm talking Lunchables. Over the years, Lunchables has decreased fat, sodium and calories—more than 20% . Now, some options include bottled water, fruit and bread made with whole grains. I see Lunchables as not an everyday thing, but a great option when all you have is 15 seconds to put lunch together. I also see some teachable moments for Lunchables. They are perfect portions for a kid--for overweight kids, they provide a moderate calorie, balanced lunch that has “cool” appeal.

4. Send a little love. (And I don't mean a candy bar!) Sending a little note in the lunchbag is a great way to let your child know you're thinking about him. A post-it note is perfect for this. Jot out a little poem, or just say I love you! You can help a Boys and Girls Club near you by making a promise to send a lunchnote! Go to and make the pledge and Lunchables will donate $1 to a Boys & Girls Club in your state. And there are lots of really cute notes to download too.

(Disclosure: I have a worked as a consultant for Lunchables for the last 5 years. Why? I believe they offer an acceptable lunch option for kids and they consistently strive to improve on the nutrient content of their products.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Six Ways to Eat Blueberries for Breakfast

Ah, summer...although officially it's not summer yet. We've got all the essentials--kids out of school, pool's open and it's definitely hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. And let's not forget all the summer fruit arriving at your local market: strawberries, blueberries, cherries and melon (to name a few) are yours for the tasting. Adding the bounties of summer to your table also do some favors for your health. Summer fruits are packed with vitamin C, potassium, fiber and water. Potassium is good for your blood pressure, vitamin C is good for your immune system and we all need fiber and water to help the digetive system do it's thing. I must mention all the antioxidants in your summer fruit that you could never get by taking a vitamin supplement!

Which brings me to one of my favorite summer fruits, blueberries. That bluish color that we love so much (except when it's on your white shirt) is provided by an antioxidant called anthocyanidin. Anthocyanidins neutralize free radicals that can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, heart disease, cancer and much more. Blueberries even contain 38% more of that antioxidant than red wine! Just imagine how healthy we'd all be if we had a cup of blueberries every night with dinner! Blueberries are also brain food--animals studies show they decrease oxidative stress in the brain, which could lead to Alzheimer's.

I just had a cup of them on top of my cereal, which inspired me to inspire you to eat them too!

Five Ways to Eat Blueberries at Breakfast:

1. On your cereal. What could be easier? (My personal fav is Kashi Go Lean Crunch) If you like your cereal hot in the summer, blueberries are great thrown in at the last minute of cooking. They burst and then you've got blue oatmeal. Yum!

2. Over a whole grain waffle. What I like to do is spread the waffle with natural peanut butter and then stick the blueberries in the holes. The berries stick to the peanut butter and you can pick it up with your hands. Fun for kids!

3. On your bagel. Spread some lowfat of FF cream cheese on that small, whole grain bagel and again stick the blueberries on. Make a smiley face to start your day on the right foot!

4. As a crisp or in a quick bread. OK so it sounds more like dessert, right? You can make a low sugar blueberry crisp with oatmeal and eat it for breakfast. Seconds anyone? Don't forget the milk!

5. In your pancakes--or crepes. I know what you're thinking--this dietitian likes sweets! Well, true, but here I'm advocating for a healthier pancake. Even Aunt Jemima makes whole wheat pancakes now. Or take the regular mix, throw in some wheat germ and oatmeal in place of some mix, and use milk instead of water. Mix in blueberries in the whole batch, or just poke them on top of the pancakes while they are cooking. Crepes are thinner so you can eat more of them and fill them to overflowing with berries and light whip cream.

6. In a race. Those with teenagers at home will like this one. See how many you can throw in the air and catch with your mouth. If you have a toddler at home, you can see who eats more--the baby or the dog waiting for the baby to throw them over the high chair!

7. I only promised 6 ideas, and here is the bonus. I don't count it in the official list because it is more of a thinking out loud idea. All the above are sweet ideas, but now that I'm trying to eat more protein (increases satiety, prevents muscle loss from aging etc) how could I fit blueberries into a hot, high protein menu? How about a blueberry omelette? A stretch to be sure, but you could put blueberries and cream cheese in the omelette. (Actually if you google this, you fill find lots of recipes!)

See you at Sam's--where I buy 2 quarts of blueberries a week! Enjoy!

More health benefits of blueberries.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Allergies? Eat This

For many allergy sufferers, this is a really annoying time of year. But for kids, it can be even worse since allergies often lead to painful ear infections. And, many doctors don't want to prescribe allergy medicines for young children.

So what's a parent to do? Feed your child allergy-friendly foods, of course!

1. Eat foods rich in folate. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that people with the highest blood levels of folate have a 40% less chance to have antibodies to allergens in the bloodstream or to suffer from allergic skin rashes.

Folate Rich Foods:

Lentils (which can easily be made into baby food for babies)
Black, navy and pinto beans
Beets (another baby favorite--just don't forget the bib because beet stains are bad!)

2. Eat yogurt. Researchers at UC Davis found that people who ate just 6 oz of yogurt a day had fewer days with hay fever attacks--especially from grass pollens, and they also had fewer symptoms. Why? Keeping gut flora healthy is important for maintaining the immune system. (Antibiotic therapy throws this balance of "good" bacteria" way off.) Yogurt smoothies anyone? Yogurt makes a great dip for toddlers to eat more fruit.

3. Eat coldwater fish like salmon. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish have anti-inflammatory properties which protect against the overproduction of some antibodies that can trigger allergies. They may also reduce the severity of allergies. The American Academy of Pediatric's view on introducing fish to babies has changed; unless you have allergies in your family, their policy says you can introduce any food after 4-6 months of age. (However, if you do have severe allergies in your family, check with your child's doctor, just to make sure.) If you do serve fish to your baby, make sure that it is the proper texture for her developmental stage. And make sure there are no bones. Some kid-friendly foods are also fortified with omega-3's--such as milk, yogurt and some infant cereals and baby foods.

4. Eat Fruits and Vegetables: Especially those rich in Vitamin C and beta-carotene. These antioxidants are said to also reduce inflammation in the lungs, which can contribute to asthma attacks. Think citrus fruit, and dark orange fruits and vegetables: mango, peach, apricot, sweet potato, carrots, red peppers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pesticides and ADHD: DON'T hold the Fruits and Veggies

A study published last week in Pediatrics showed a significantly increased risk of ADHD in kids who had higher levels of pesticide residues in their urine. The type of pesticides studied are organophosphates--a type of bug killer that kills insects by disrupting the insect's brain and nervous system. What is notable about this study is that it looked at kids with average exposure, while previous studies looked at kids with excess pesticide exposure.

There are 37 organophosphate pesticides used in the United States. Exposure can happen by:

*Eating or drinking something with organophosphate pesticide residue
*Breathing air that has organophosphate
*Skin contact through skin or open wound

What Can You Do to reduce your child's exposure to pesticides?

Don't, I repeat, DON'T stop giving your children fruits and vegetables; the nutrients in them are vital for growth and development, as well as short-term and long-term health.

1. DO Offer Your Child a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables; this will limit the amount of pesticide he consumes from any one food.

2. Wash all fruits and vegetables well before serving. Personally, I like to use a produce wash called Fit.

3. Buy organic produce when possible, especially for produce with the most pesticides:

4. Take a look at home pesticide use:

Are you using a lawn service that uses pesticides?
Do you use a Pest Control service that sprays pesticides inside or outside?
Do you use insect spray to kill roaches and other bugs around the house etc?

If you answered yes to any of these, carefully consider the risk/benefits to the practice of regular pesticide use to your family. You may want to discontinue or decrease your use of pesticides at home or restrict their entry into the home by only using them outside, taking shoes off inside, etc. You can also look for natural and less harmful methods/chemicals.

5. If your children are in school, take a look at your school's pesticide use policy, which must be made available to parents. If organophosphate pesticides are being used; challenge the school to find a safer alternative for children.

6. If you live in an area with mosquitoes (or in a farming community) make sure your children stay inside and you have the windows closed when your community is spraying for them.

Environmental chemicals can be toxic to children and the unborn. Do what you can now to reduce the chemical burden for the children in your life.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Starting Solids? Not So Fast!

One of the most anticipated milestones in the first 6 months of age is that first bite of solid food. I can still picture the faces of my kids with sweet potato or green peas smeared all over them!

Working with parents, I find that starting solids is still something parents and grandparents REALLY look forward to. It's also something to be touted in those conversations of "my baby's doing this--what's your baby doing?"

Well as exciting as that first bite might be, research shows that it's one Kodak moment that may be best put off--at least for a month or two. The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at the BMI of 42 year olds and compared it to the age at which they started eating solids. The study showed that the later the introduction of solid foods,(up to 6 months) the lower the risk of overweight at age 42.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months--meaning breastfed infants don't need solids until about that time. That said, there are a small number of infants who are ready for solids before 6 months. In my experience, that usually includes babies who are born large and are developmentally ready for solids before then. On the other hand, when babies go through a growth spurt, it is easy to confuse this short period of increased demand in breastfeeding to a need for solids.

The bottom line: use your baby's developmental cues, not his age, to determine if he is ready for solids. If he has good control of his head and neck, is sitting with support and seems genuinely interested in what you are eating, it may be time to consider solid foods. Remember that rushing this milestone may not be good for your child's waistline in the future!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Happy Earth Day!

Every year Earth Day becomes more top of mind as it becomes more prominent in the media. Habits that we start now for Earth Day can help save the planet for our kids and grandkids--and can improve your health NOW.

Let's face it--the kitchen is probably the one room in the house that produces the most trash and uses a whole host of unpronounceable chemicals too. We make hundreds of buying decisions for the kitchen--and they can either help or hurt the environment. Below are my favorite ways to help mother nature, while at the same time, putting money in your pocket and improving your health too!

1. Grow Your Own. Growing your own vegetables, herbs or fruit not only gives you orgnically grown produce, it also dramatically reduces your carbon footprint for eating those foods. Think of the transportation costs saved--your personal ones and also the trucks that transport produce sometimes thousands of miles! Plant a peach tree today. It will be a few years before you can enjoy the fruits, but at that time you can enjoy organically grown peaches. (Peaches are one of the fruits with the most detectable pesticides.) The health benefit of growing your own? Gardening is great exercise and is very good for your mental health too! (for those gardening or time challenged: start with a cherry tomato plant on the patio!)

2. Decrease Your use of Chemicals. Baking soda and vinegar or lemon make a great substitute for an abrasive cleanser. (and there are entire books on natural cleaning recipes.) There are many biodegradable, natural cleaning products on the market too. Seventh Generation (most grocery stores) Method (Target) and Meyer's Clean Day (Bed, Bath & Beyond and Natural food stores) are just a few. My personal favorite for the kitchen is Meyer's Clean Day--completely biodegradable and cruelty free. You can also have a single (natural) fragrance for the whole house. I like the Geranium scent.

3. 3. Be Picky about Packaging. Sometimes you just can't get away from individually packaged foods. Some of the single serving cookies, crackers etc can help save us from ourselves! It's best when you can get away from layers of packaging or purchasing larger or refillable packaging. For example, Method hand wash and Mrs. Meyers comes in a bag so you can refill your pretty soap dispensers. When you buy the Meyer's Countertop Spray, the bottle suggests refilling it with water and 2 Tb of their All Purpose Cleaner to have the same cleaning effects. Biodegradable packaging is also on the horizon. Sun Chips now comes in a biodegradable bag!

4. Use Reusable Bags. OK-I'll admit that I have the reusable bags in my car but I often forget them. I usually remember when I'm checking out, so I'll instead just put the food back in the cart and bag it when I get to the car. When I buy a few small items at Walgreens, etc, I'll just walk out with the product and receipt in my hand. If you find yourself forgetting the reusable bags more than remembering them, you can now recycyle the extras at Target and Walmart.

5. Buy Recyclable.
In most communities that's #1 or #2. I've found that many of the organic products (box of organic greens at Sam's) are recyclable. Take advantage of curbside recycling and if you don't have it, encourage your community to start it.

6. Buy BPA Packaging. If it's BPA free it will most likely be labeled as such. Many plastic products have BPA, a chemical that has been found to have estrogenic effects on the body. (Hint-I've noticed that a lot of the plastic plates and glasses made in China specify that they are not dishwasher safe or only safe on the top rack. This probably means that they contain plastics that are more likely to come out with high temperatures.)

7. Stop buying Water Bottles. We stopped buying individual water bottles a few months ago because it was just too easy to grab one on the way out the door. Instead I just take a glass of water in the car with me or use a reusable bottle.

8. Buy larger packages of food.
True, a family of two may not be able to use 2 quarts of artichoke hearts that you can find at Sam's! Then, find a friend to share it with--which is exactly what I did with my artichokes!

9. Cut down on Plastic Wrap. Plastic wrap has been known to also contain BPA and other plasticizers not good for health. It's mostly a problem when it comes into contact with a high fat food. I'd guess that most of us use plastic wrap in the microwave at times--just don't let it touch the food.

10. Keep Baggies to a Minimum. What do you do with that half of avocado, lemon or onion? Well if you're like me, you probably put it in a zipper bag. Recently I began using a small refrigerator container instead. I've noticed that putting it in a container also keeps it from getting pushed back in the produce drawer and getting lost.

Enjoy Earth Day and remember: your choices today can make a healthier planet tomorrow!

If you have more ideas, please post a comment!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Become a Fan of Cereal!

I've been a cereal eater all my life. It's a quick breakfast and an easy way to start the day with a whole grain, a serving of dairy and it's a great vehicle for a fruit serving too. My bowl is usually a smorgasbord of cereals--some Cheerios, with a bit of granola and some ground flax seed to top it all off. Or Raisin Bran with a sprinkle of oats. I also love Go Lean Crunch with a sprinkle of ground flax seed or wheat germ.Generally I slice up half a banana on top in the winter or some fresh berries or peaches in the summer.

My new winter favorite is what I call blue oatmeal. You cook the oatmeal 'til it's just about done and then put in about 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries and cook another 30 seconds to a minute until the blueberries just start to pop.

So now you get the picture--a cereal breakfast doesn't have to be the same day in and out. And the good news is it's super healthy. Besides the benefits mentioned above, research says that it's a habit you should stick with:
  • Frequent cereal eaters have healthier body weights--that includes men, women and kids--even if the cereal is pre-sweetened. In the 7-9 year old age group, 50% of kids who ate fewer than 4 servings of cereal in 14 days were overweight compared to only 16% of kids who ate more than 7 servings in 14 days.
  • Eating cereal is associated with better nutritional status--especially calcium and fiber intake.
  • Cereal can help lower your cholesterol. The soluble fiber found in oats, oat bran and Cheerios can reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels. I've always been a fan of cheerios--for toddlers, it's a perfect finger food, for kids, it's a fun to eat, low sugar cereal. For adults it's a tasty way to start the day.
  • Girls who continue to eat cereal regularly are less likely to become overweight during adolescence.
  • Because ready to eat cereal is quick to eat, it encourages breakfast eating. Kids who eat breakfast do better on test scores and have fewer problems paying attention in the morning and have reduced absenteeism and tardiness.
  • People who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off have one thing in common--90% of them eat breakfast and 80% eat cereal and fruit for breakfast.
Just one more word of advice which I think I'll follow: Go Pour Yourself a Bowl!

Friday, March 19, 2010

New York City Ban on School Bake Sales--Moms Say "No Fair"

Today moms held a "bake-in" recently in New York City to protest the ban on the selling of home baked goods at school. In an effort to curb rising childhood obesity rates, NYC banned the sale of home made desserts. Moms say this is an important way for PTA's to raise funds to help with school arts programs and other needed projects that schools can't pay for. On the other hand, packaged snacks that meet certain nutrition criteria (such as no more than 35% fat) can be sold.

Is the NYC restriction on bake sales pushing kids in the wrong direction--towards packaged snacks instead of home made food? In my opinion--YES! I sit firmly on the mom's side in this debate. However, I do understand what the officals are thinking--they can control food intake if they know what's in the food--which you can do more easily with a packaged food that has a label.

In fact, I crafted a "Healthy Snack Guidelines" for the El Paso ISD, as the chair of the School Health Advisory Council. In Texas, the school day is already well regulated--no sodas in elementary or middle schools and part of our health policy allowed kids to buy water any time of the day. What I had a problem with was what was sold after school--it was a junk food free-for-all! Kids could buy candy, soda, chips--any of the food not allowed during school--once the bell rang and school was out. I saw this as a mixed message to students--the PTA is raising money to do plenty of good things--but they are doing it at the peril of student health. The guidelines are to help PTA's find healthier snacks--to steer clear of sodas, candy etc---but it doesn't regulate bake sales, which don't happen that often anyway.

The sad thing about the NYC ban is this: Cooking is a lost art and many kids never get the pleasure of smelling a cake baking or the joy of eating a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. Bake sales give kids an opportunity to taste "real food." The point of school is to educate children--bake sales teach kids what wonderful things you can do with a few ingredients and a little motivation. Sure, they have sugar and fat but let's face it--don't we all like to indulge occasionally. Besides teaching our kids to read the label on packaged snacks, it's also vital that we teach them to enjoy high quality food--but to eat it in moderation!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Three Healthy Habits that Say No to Childhood Obesity

In health, as in life, sometimes the formula for success is simple. In this case, it's about some family routines that are fairly easy for most families:
  • Eat together as a family
  • Sleep enough
  • Have minimal of screen time
These three habits may be important in preventing childhood obesity. In the March 1 issue of Pediatrics, a study which looked at over 8000 children found that the 4 year old children who were regularly exposed to 2 or 3 of the routines were about 40% less likely to be overweight than those children who had none of the routines.

Did the routines have to be practiced to perfection? No. With regularity? Yes. They looked at eating together as a family 5 nights a week, the preschooler sleeping 10.5 hours and having less than 2 hours of combined screen time. These are practical targets for most families and simple enough.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Childhood Obesity Prevention: Start before Pregnancy

A new study in Pediatrics highlights some of the risk factors for childhood obesity that begin during pregnancy or the two first years of life:

  • depression during pregnancy
  • more rapid weight gain during first 6 months of life
  • introduction to solid foods before 4 months
  • more restrictive feeding practices
  • television sets in a toddler's room after 2

There are other risk factors during and even before pregnancy that increases a baby's risk of being overweight:

  • Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
  • Not gaining enough weight--or gaining too much weight during pregnancy
  • Having gestational diabetes--or abnormal blood glucose levels during pregnancy
I believe that to really halt childhood obesity, we need to start before pregnancy--and at the very least early pregnancy. Women often don't see their health care provider right when they learn they are pregnant. This is a missed opportunity for education about health habits and weight gain, that could help a mom have a healthier pregnancy and a smaller chance of a newborn who will grow up to be overweight.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Six Baby Products I wish I'd Had!

I've "been there, done that twice"--had babies, that is. But lots of cool products have come out since the days my boys were crib-size. Here's my wish list of things I wish I'd had--but it's not too late for you to try them!

  1. Diaper Wipe Warmer: yep that sure would have come in handy in Colorado, where I lived when my kids were born. But no matter what climate you live in, those wipes ALWAYS seem to be cold!
  2. Baby Bath with attached spray head. Ok, let's just call it a baby spa!
  3. Bottle that's more breast-like. I'm impressed with the look of the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottle, which looks more like mom's breast. My youngest had the hardest time drinking from a bottle--this may have done the trick. I'd love to know what moms out there think of it.
  4. The Boppy Pillow--with it you don't have to pile up a bunch of different sized pillows to get the right effect!
  5. Organic Infant Formula--my boys were mostly breastfed--but when they did have formula it would have been great to have a pesticide-free choice.
  6. Video Baby Monitor; no more guessing is he waking up or just making noise?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Childhood Obesity Dilemma--How Something So Simple Got So Complicated
Richard Besser MD Good Morning America

What Dr Besser described is exactly what my conversations with the parents of overweight kids are like as a registered dietitian at a public health clinic. I think parents don't understand how powerful their actions are in establishing healthy habits for their kids. Kids learn from a very early age from what they observe. And if they observe mom and dad with a regular diet of chips, sodas, etc. this becomes the "norm." Parents need to take back the gatekeeper role in the house. Don't want your kid to drink soda-- don't buy it! Want to drink it yourself--do it after they're asleep.

At the same time, I think it's important to teach kids that all foods can fit in moderation. At a birthday party, we might splurge on cake, soda and some pizza, but we don't do it every day. While tempting, establishing a "no sugar in the house" rule often backfires. The kid who is not allowed an occasional sweet with gulp down soda by the glassfulll when at his friend's house. (I've seen that one firsthand!) They won't learn moderation--which after all is the key to a balanced life.

My advice to parents--let your kids catch you "being good"--setting a good example for healthy living. Eat an apple for a snack. Push away from the table and say you're full. Play ball outside or take your kid to the park. Time spent outside is directly related to calories burned, so reserve some outside play time for the family

Monday, February 1, 2010

Does your baby need a vitamin?

Does Your Baby Need a Vitamin? This is a common question among new moms.

The short answer: it depends...

On whether he is breastfed or bottle fed,

If bottle fed, your baby doesn't need an extra vitamins.

If you're breastfeeding, there are a few extra vitamins your baby might need. Does that mean that your breastmilk is insufficient? Not at all. But because your milk changes according to your baby's needs and your diet, there are a few things your baby might need a little extra of.

Vitamin D: the AAP recommends a vitamin D supplement of 200 IU if he is exclusively breastfeeding or drinking less than 17 oz of formula. Why? Research is showing that many of us are vitamin D insufficient--either we don't spend enough time in the sun for our skin to make vitamin D, or when we do, we wear clothes or sunscreen. Many pregnant women are D deficient which means their babies are born in a deficient state too, which can affect bone growth. Vitamin D is available on it's own (D-Visol) or in a mix as multi-vitamin drop.

Vitamin B-12. Your baby only needs this if you are vegan and your diet doesn't contain a reliable source of B12 (from a supplement or fortified foods), you should give your baby a supplement. If you're not sure, it's best to go ahead and give your baby the B12.

If you're breastfeeding, I recommend you continue taking a multivitamin--many women continue with their prenatals. It's especially important to have a source of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid important for brain and eye development) either from cold water fish (salmon twice a week) or a supplement.

For more on this subject, see my article in

Monday, January 25, 2010


Are you incredible or know someone who is? (That is--do you have an incredible skill or talent or have you done something incredible for your community?) If so, you could win the American Egg Board's Search for Incredible People. The winner has a chance to appear in an Incredible Egg Advertisement, receive a year's supply of eggs and select a local food bank to receive 10,000 eggs from America's egg farmers.

One more perk: for every video uploaded, America's egg farmers will donate one egg to Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief organization.

If you want to be incredible, you need to eat incredible; the incredible egg has just 70 calories and 13 essential nutrients. Egg's nutrients can help you with weight management, muscle strength, eye health, brain function and having a healthy pregnancy. Particularly important for aiding healthy brain function and pregnancy is choline. Eggs are an incredible value too--at just 14 cents a piece, it's hard to beat for their high quality protein that will keep you going all morning long.

For more info, go to
Here are a few of my favorite recipes from the site:

Spinach Ham and Cheese Omelet
: Yummy quick cooking omelette
Coffee Cup Scramble: A microwave breakfast in a minute!
Muffin Frittata: Cook now, eat later for a quick breakfast or snack

Friday, January 22, 2010

Infant Formula: How Much is Too Much?!

Babies are pretty good as knowing when to "say when"--that is--when they've had enough! But every once in a while, I run across a baby who is drinking too much formula! For example, this week I was reviewing a chart and found a baby who reportedly is drinking 64 oz of formula a day. That adds up to over 1200 calories a day--much more than a baby needs. So either this is a case of serious overfeeding, a miscalculation, or the mom not knowing exactly how much formula her baby is drinking. Considering the brain fog that occurs during those first few months, the latter could definitely be a possibility!

So what is a good amount of formula for a baby to drink? It varies, depending on the age of the baby and his weight. A premie 5 pounder is definitely going to drink less than a hefty 8 pounder! If a baby is growing well and following the same growth curve, this is a good indication that a baby is drinking the "right" amount. If your baby is consistently drinking more than 32 oz of formula, it needs a closer look. This may be what your baby needs, depending on the other factors mentioned above. If your baby is older than 4 months and the 32+ oz of formula doesn't seem to satisfy him, it may be ready to introduce solids.

Let's Review the Hunger and Full Cues for Small babies:

  • Lip smacking
  • Sucking on hands or fingers
  • Moving around, getting upset
  • Crying (it's best to feed your baby before he gets to this point!)

  • Falls asleep
  • Turns away from the bottle
  • Closes mouth to nipple
It's important to respect your baby's cues--he'll know that he can trust you to meet his needs. At the same time, don't encourage your baby to finish the bottle or keep drinking when he's shown signs that he's full. This overrides your baby's natural ability to control his food intake to meet his needs. Unlike adults, babies are good at following their appetite!