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Archive for July, 2010


WARNING:  This is, in part, a brag post. It is also a ‘For Your Information’ post.  I want you to know about this, and hope it will help everyone appreciate how powerful kids can be (though I think we all know this on some level).  Also, I think it is important to pay attention to and recognize kids who are doing good for others.

This is a story about a lemon-ade stand…not your typical lemon-ade stand, which may raise money for personal spending or may be a fun distraction for kids on a boring day. No, in fact, these kiddos took on a project to help others halfway across the world.  They operated  LEMON:AID.  They sold lemon-ade to raise money for African children. African children who do not have access to clean, plain, unflavored water.  These children operated LEMON:AID for Blood : Water Mission.  

Over 320 million Africans lack access to clean water. Many African children drink the water they bathe in, the water in which they wash their clothes and dishes, and the water that cows may wade in, bathe, and drink.  It is no wonder that diarrhea is one of the leading acute medical issues for African children.

Our Nashville children made me proud on so many levels.  They created signs and flyers.  They walked and distributed these into mailboxes throughout our neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods. They created unified “lemon” hats to wear on the day of the sale.  They set up their stand (and quite a stand!).  They solicited drivers to come for lemon-ade, snow cones, and drive-by donations.  They were friendly.  They told customers what they were doing, who they were doing it for, and why. And they raised money for children in Africa, so that they could have clean water to drink.  And they sweated it out in nearly 100 F weather…with a smile.

$1 buys 1 year of clean water for 1 African child.  Our kids took care of the clean water supply for 250 African children for a year, in 3 hours.  What an impact!

These children heard the calling, and responded.  And that makes me proud to know them, and excited that this is the future of our nation.

Go Kids!

If you have a motivated group of children in your life, they too, can set up LEMON:AID and raise money for clean water in Africa.  Go to Blood : Water Mission for the details.

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Here in the south, the peaches are starting to roll out and you can find them at any farm stand, grocer, or roadside fruit stand.

I have always liked peaches, but since moving to the south I have fallen IN LOVE with them! Not only are they yummy and versatile, they are nutritious too.  This sweet, juicy, and tender fruit isn’t just a great treat–it is packed full of good-for-you nutrition that your family can benefit from.  What better (or tastier) way for your kids to meet their recommended “Five A Day”?

Fuzzy Fruit Facts:

  • Peaches originated in China
  • China is still the world’s largest peach producer
  • The United Sates produces about 25% of the world’s peaches
  • Although Georgia is the peach state, about half of the peaches grown in the U.S. are from California
  • Peaches grow on trees with beautiful blossoms and belong to the rose family
  • The pit contains a poisonous substance–hence, keep away from experimenting toddlers..and puppies!
  • Peaches come in hundreds of varieties
  • There are 2 types of peaches: clingstone and freestone

Why Pick Peaches? They are yummy and good for you.  They contain antioxidants, fiber, potassium, Vitamin B3, and are a good source of Vitamins A (beta-carotene) and C.  They are also fat-, cholesterol-, and sodium-free.  All of these factors help prevent chronic diseases and obesity, which means they are a great choice for growing bodies.

When to Pick Peaches: Although they are available almost year-round, they are best in July and August.   Your family can also enjoy canned or frozen peaches anytime.

How to Pick Peaches:

  • They should have a nice “peachy” fragrance
  • They shouldn’t be too firm, and yield slightly to pressure
  • When shopping, choose ripe-picked fruit with a bright yellow background
  • Peaches spoil easily, so don’t buy too many at one time
  • Don’t buy soft, bruised or blemished fruits
  • Don’t refrigerate unripe peaches

How to Prepare Peaches: From al fresco to a la mode, there are countless ways to enjoy this succulent fruit.  Try some of these suggestions:

  • As a fresh snack, alone, or over cottage cheese
  • On hot or cold cereals
  • Frozen and blended into a smoothie
  • With grilled or roasted meats
  • On a salad
  • In place of other fruits in your favorite recipes, such as Peach Shortcake
  • Grilled, baked, sliced, diced, or pureed

No matter how you slice it, peaches are a great summer fruit for your family.  Take advantage of their peak season and buy a bunch today!

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark

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Fish Tacos; Sweet n’ Sour Slaw; Mango

With the sweltering heat, these tilapia tacos are a satisfying, yet light, addition to your family’s summer supper repertoire.   They are also a great opportunity to introduce lots of colorful fruit and veggie options.  Remember, “The Dinner Bar” is all about giving your kids freedom to choose what to eat from the healthy foods you provide.  You will need:

Protein:

  • 1 lb. tilapia, or other mild white fish
  • ¼ c. slivered almonds (for slaw)

Veggies and Fruit :

(for slaw):

  • 1 package broccoli slaw with carrots
  • ¼ c. golden raisins

(taco fixin’s):

  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 5 radishes, sliced
  • Lime wedges
  • Salsa

Healthy Fat/ Sweet n’ Sour dressing for slaw:

  • ½ c. olive oil
  • ½ c. cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. sugar or honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Grains:

  • Whole grain hard and soft taco shells (small)

Dairy:

(beverage):

  • Milk

(taco fixin’s):

  • Fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Mexican-style white cheese, shredded

Fruit/Dessert:

  • Fresh mango slices

To prepare the fish: Rinse and pat dry, squeeze fresh lime juice over it, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover a large flat baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy clean-up) and coat with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 F for 12 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork.  (Baking in the oven helps to minimize the oil needed for pan-frying and/or grilling)

To prepare the slaw: Whisk together dressing ingredients and drizzle over broccoli slaw mix until just coated.  Discard the excess.  Top the mixture with golden raisins for a bit of sweetness and slivered almonds for a little crunch.  Toss to combine.  (This part can be done in advance and refrigerated to save time and let the flavors blend.)

Additional prep:

  • Prepare taco shells and tortillas according to package directions.
  • Chop veggies for tacos and fruit for dessert.
  • Grab ready-to-eat toppings from the refrigerator.
  • Don’t forget the milk!

Find a spot for your spread: Place all the ingredients on your “dinner bar” and let your family choose what and how much to eat.

Kids have fun creating their own blend of flavors, textures, and colors.  And you can rest assured that you have provided a healthy meal as gate-keeper, and valuable lessons on eating as a role model.  Your family, and their taste-buds, will thank you!

Note:  I used Chipotle flavored salsa to give this mild flavored fish a little kick.  Peach salsa would also be a nice twist on traditional flavors.  Blue Corn hard taco shells were an interesting change of pace and provided a colorful addition to the meal.

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark

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With the rise in popularity of sushi, many parents are left wondering if it is safe for their growing families.  Of particular interest is the safety of this mostly raw delicacy for toddlers, and when it is appropriate to introduce it in the young child.

What the experts recommend:

So, at what age is a child no longer considered at high-risk? Immune system development is slow and steady during the first 2-3 years of life, and adult levels of immunity are seen around 4-6 years.  The immune system continues to develop throughout puberty.  Waiting until at least 6 years of age is the best way to ensure the body’s best defenses against potentially harmful substances.  The introduction of raw fish, such as sushi, in the young child deserves thoughtful consideration:

  • Consider Food Safety:  Bacterial contamination is a threat to any ready-to-eat food and cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Food poisoning symptoms are similar to the stomach flu, so may be hard to detect.  Asking questions about the quality of food and how it is prepared while also taking care to eat at reputable restaurants that you trust can help prevent adverse reactions to contaminated sushi.  US restaurants are required to use sushi that has been properly frozen and/or cooked to eliminate parasitic contamination.
  • Consider Food Allergy Risk:  The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network states that about 7 million people in the US have reported seafood allergies. In addition to seafood allergy risk, Asian cuisine can often contain other allergens such as peanut, egg, tree nut, and soy ingredients.
  • Think about Choking Hazards:  Raw or cooked sushi is assembled into a firm, round food and may present a choking hazard, especially for young toddlers.  Sushi may also have a sticky texture that may be foreign to your child. Cutting sushi into pieces before serving it to your toddler can minimize the risk of choking.
  • “When in doubt, leave it out” and “Better safe than sorry.” When it comes to raw sushi, this may be the best approach while your child is young and building a strong immune system.  However, there is no reason why your toddler can’t safely enjoy cooked or vegetarian Asian cuisine, with special attention paid to its ingredients.

If you enjoy sushi and other asian cuisines and want to pass this along to your child, think about alternatives to raw sushi such as:

  • Vegetable rolls
  • Those containing only cooked fish and/or shellfish
  • Rice bowls
  • Tempura
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Stir-fry
  • Teriyaki

The truth is that while food safety, allergies, and choking hazards should always be considered, there really is no consensus on an exact age that is appropriate to give a young child raw fish.  By age 6 years, a healthy child’s immune system should be strong enough to graduate to raw sushi with the rest of the family.

No magical age, grade level, or number of exposures to sushi will prevent the occurrence of an illness from contaminated food.  Good judgment and necessary precautions should always be in place.

***Update:  At the time of this blog writing, the recommendations from the American Dietetic Association (ADA) were to delay introduction of fish until after 2 years of age;  and no shellfish until after 3 years of age.  In August 2010, the ADA updated the recommendations for the introduction of allergen-containing foods, including fish, to align with the statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which state that there is insufficient evidence to support delaying the introduction of allergen-containing foods beyond 4-6 months of age.

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark

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Our family just got a trampoline.  I am almost embarrassed to admit this.  It reminds me of when my first child was born, and I swore that she would NEVER watch Barney…well, she never did, but my second child was IN LOVE with Barney.  How did that happen? After many years of raising children, I have learned that “NEVER” is a hollow word and often, likely to happen…and it has with the trampoline.

After many years of denying my children this pleasure, mostly out of fear of injury on my part, I finally acquiesced.  Frankly, the pleading, begging, and arm-twisting got old.  And, I had to agree that the trampolines of 2010 looked safer than I had remembered.

One of the biggest barriers for me was the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stance on trampolines.  They state that injuries on home trampolines are on the rise. While most injuries involve cuts and sprains, some may be serious and involve head and neck injuries. The AAP discourages the use of trampolines at home, school, and in community settings.

Further, an article in the British Medical Journal from 2009, acknowledged the rise in popularity of the trampoline, as well as the rise in injury, and found that the following factors were associated with trampoline injury:

  • the presence of more than one jumper on the trampoline (they noted that the lightest jumper is more likely to experience injury)
  • lack of a safety net
  • lack of adult supervision, particularly for mounting/dismounting, and keeping the “craziness” moderate

They also outlined preventive strategies:

  • sober Adult supervision (alcohol, parents/adults, and jumping do not mix well)
  • Mesh netting around the edge of the trampoline to prevent falling off
  • one Person at a time

Despite these dangers, we are trampoline owners.  My kids are thrilled, and my husband and I have sustained a brief period of heroism in our home and neighborhood.  My kids are surely enjoying this flying, bouncing, trajectory-producing play toy.  They are on it frequently, spending more time jumping, flipping, and somer-saulting than even I could have imagined.

Our family is implementing the preventive strategies above, to enhance the safety of jumping, and prevent injury.  Despite this, I still hold my breath as they mount, watch them carefully, and insist on the “trampoline rules”.

Never say never…or you may find yourself scratching your head, holding your breath, biting your nails, enforcing the rules, and supervising.

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