Archive for August, 2010

Cheeseburger Pizza and Berries & Yogurt Parfait

Who says cheeseburgers and pizza are off limits?  This meal is a healthier take on the classic All-American favorites- pizza, burgers, and milkshakes- and makes nutrition feel like an indulgence.  Just stock your “Dinner Bar” with all the ingredients, even dessert, and let your kids have fun assembling their very own creations.  You will need:


  • Whole-wheat ready-to-eat Naan, small


1 lb. lean ground beef


  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce, 1 head

Condiments and flavorings:

  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt & pepper
  • Dill pickle chips or pickle relish


  • Low-fat sharp cheddar cheese
  • Low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • Milk


  • Fresh blueberries
  • Fresh strawberries

To prepare the pizzas: Cook ground beef in a large frying pan.  Drain the grease and season with a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a little salt and pepper.  Add the beef to your bar along with the chopped veggies and other toppings.  Portion out just enough ketchup in a bowl for everyone to spread on their Naan, using the back of a spoon.  Let your child top the Naan with cooked beef, onions, and cheese.  Place all of the individual pizzas on a large sheet pan coated with non-stick cooking spray, and bake according to the Naan package directions.  Alternatively, grill the Naan pizzas. Once cooked, encourage your child to pile on the fresh veggies, and maybe even some mustard and pickles.

To prepare the dessert: Set out parfait glasses, or any other tall clear glasses that you have, to get the full visual effect.  Let your child layer the yogurt and berries for a sweet and colorful ending to their dinner.

I can’t think of any meal that is more kid-friendly.  Take this opportunity to teach your family about moderation and appropriate portion sizes, especially with condiments and higher fat items.  Keep in mind that “The Dinner Bar” is about letting them make their own choices with food and eating.  And don’t forget to practice what you preach when making your own pizza!  You will be setting them up for success in making better choices!

Note:  If your kids tend to over-do cheese, simply create your own blend with the addition of mozzarella, which tends to be lower in fat.  Keep in mind that sharp cheddar is stronger in flavor than mild, so you can use less to get the same taste.  You can also blend the yogurt with frozen berries for a refreshing smoothie-like “milkshake”.  Don’t forget the straws!

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark


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The Low-Down on Vitamin A

Vitamin A is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins.  It also provides antioxidants that help protect little bodies from developing chronic diseases.  It can be seen in many of the things that give color to your child’s world, from food and flowers, to animals and insects.

Vitamin A plays an important role with eyesight, skin, cell production, immune system, and protection from infections. Kids who eat diets high in this vitamin, especially from plant-based sources, have been shown to live longer and have fewer illnesses.  That means fewer sick days and associated visits to the pediatrician.

Where or where is it?

You may have heard a lot of confusing terms associated with this vitamin, especially in relation to veggies and/or skin health.  Vitamin A is a broad term used to classify a long list of similar compounds with distinct functions.  The two main forms of Vitamin A are retinoids, found in animal sources, and carotenoids, which are mostly found in plant sources.  Because they are a little different, they fulfill different biological needs and it is important for children to get enough of both.  Sweet potatoes, liver, and carrots are among the foods highest in vitamin A, but there are many other good sources.  The food guide pyramid represents the balance and blend of both retinoids and carotenoids (Vitamin A) for your child–using this guide is your best bet to taking the guess work out of feeding.

Animal sources:

  • liver
  • fish
  • egg yolks
  • cheddar cheese
  • milk (fortified)

Plant sources:

  • orange, yellow, red, and many dark-green leafy veggies
  • breakfast cereal (fortified)

Could my child be deficient in Vitamin A?

Vitamin A deficiency, although unlikely, can cause many serious problems, starting in the womb. In addition to some birth defects and poor growth in childhood, there is an increased risk of fertility problems later in life. Deficiency can also lower immunity, cause dry and scaly skin, and wreak havoc with vision.  In fact, it is so important to eyesight that the ancient Egyptians used foods high in Vitamin A to treat night blindness before vitamins were even discovered. Children with malabsorption problems, such as Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, and Autism, are more prone to vitamin deficiencies and may need supplementation;  advice from a medical professional or Registered Dietitian is warranted for safe supplementation.

Enough is Enough!

Vitamin A is stored by the body and it is possible to get too much, otherwise known as Vitamin A toxicity.  It is not likely to overdose with diet alone, but extra supplementation should be done with caution.  Excessive intake can cause such serious problems as birth defects, nerve and liver damage, skin problems, temporary yellowing of the skin, and abnormal bone growth, just to name a few.

In addition to its many health benefits, sources of Vitamin A are also pleasing to the palate and a beautiful addition to any meal. Although most Americans are unlikely to be deficient, Vitamin A food sources should make a regualar appearance at family meals and snacks. It is one of the four vitamins required on all food labels, making it easy to assess how much your child is getting from the foods you buy.  Find out the right amount for your child and add them to your grocery cart on a regular basis for an “A” in Vitamin A!

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark

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Welcome to our new series–Alphabet Soup!  The ABC’s of Vitamins.  In this series, I will be covering the essential information you need to know to ensure your child is getting the vitamins he/she needs for proper growth and development.   As the vitamin industry grows and its marketing campaigns emerge, many parents are left feeling unsure about what they should do about vitamins, questioning whether their child should be supplemented or not.

In this series we will discuss the role vitamins play in the growth and development of your child, the desirable food sources for each vitamin, the pros and cons of too much or too little consumption, and use of supplements.  With some fundamental knowledge, you can make sure your child is getting the proper amounts of vitamins in his diet, and from the right source.

Vitamins are essential for the proper growth and development of all children, and most children have no problem meeting their nutrient needs when they eat a diet that represents all food groups.  Vitamins don’t provide your child with energy (they are calorie-free), but they do help many body systems and processes function in a normal way.    

There are two different classes of vitamins:  fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) and water-soluble vitamins (B-complex and C).  Fat-soluble vitamins require fat in the diet to be absorbed, and are also stored in the body’s fat tissue for later use.  When over-consumption occurs, toxicity can result.  Water-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, travel through the bloodstream and are excreted in the urine, instead of being stored.  Due to this, children need to get sources of water-soluble vitamins daily.

A child’s growing body requires both fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins, in varying amounts, each day.  Food sources of vitamins are utilized well by the body. While each food item contains different vitamins in varying amounts, a balanced diet with lots of food groups and a variety of colors is important to assuring adequate intake of all vitamins. Fruits, vegetables, dairy sources, grains, and animal products are packed with vitamins; balancing these food groups can yield a vitamin-rich diet for your child. However, for a variety of reasons, some children are unable or choose not to eat a wide variety of foods and may be short-cutting their vitamin requirements.  These children may be candidates for supplementation.

Join us for this series to learn more–starting at the beginning with Vitamin A.

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I have a friend who uses the word “hinder” often.  He is from Ireland.  When he uses this word, my ears perk up.

Hinder.  Not a word you hear used frequently in the English language.  Hinder :  to delay; to slow down; to impede or impair.

I am sure my children feel hindered by me, my husband, or our rules. Like when I tell them they can have one “fun food” per day.  They interpret this as a major hindrance, especially on those days when there are lots of “fun food” options, which are times when they have to pause and think about which “fun food” they want.  Or if you have a teenager (or a budding one), it seems like they always feel hindered by their parents, in some way or fashion.

Do we really hinder our children?  Not purposely, but, in the world of food, nutrition, and children, parents do hinder and don’t realize they are doing it.  Here are some examples:

Unconsciously, we may hinder our children with the verbal comments we make about food, eating, body weight, shape, or size.  Often, kids will take on these messages, and internalize them.

  • “If you eat your dinner, you can have dessert.”   (Dessert is the most important part of this meal.)
  • “Be a good boy like your cousin, and eat your vegetables.”     (If I eat my vegetables, then I am good.  My cousin is good, and I should be good like him.)
  • “Don’t you think you’ve eaten enough?”    (My mom thinks I have eaten too much.)
  • “Oh, she’s stocky like her Dad”    (She thinks I am fat.)

The pressure that parents place on children, particularly if they need to gain weight, lose weight, or change their eating habits, can hinder them.  Internalized, look how these words could speak very differently than intended:

  • “If you would just try this new food, your life would be better.”   (My Dad doesn’t like me or my life unless I eat the foods he wants me to eat, or the foods he likes to eat.)
  • “All the other boys are bigger than you, because they focus on nutrition and health.”   (The other boys are better, and my Dad is unhappy with the way I look.)
  • “You’re not active enough–your girlfriend runs track and you should try that too.”   (My Mom thinks I make no efforts at being active.  My friend is thin and my Mom is not happy with the way that I look.)

This language and pressure can set up a perpetual cycle of disappointment, low self-worth, and ultimately sabotage any efforts a child is attempting at a healthier lifestyle. Parents can be more conscious of their language, by using a “think before you speak” approach.   Be a proactive and positive supporter of your child with regard to food and nutrition:  feed with an authoritative parenting style and lead by example.

Hinder not…or you, the parent, become a hindrance.

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