Archive for October, 2010

Welcome to “DE-Constructed”– a look at the nutrients found in common, popular kids’ foods.  This month we are looking at granola bars.  Sounds healthy, right?   And certainly a convenient, on the go snack! While some of these granola bars may be great options, others pay homage to the candy bar, packing a hefty dose of sugar and fat, and hiding under a “health halo”.  Just look at the packages: healthy, nature, fiber, TLC, organic. These claims lure me to the box too…for a closer look.

How is a parent supposed to know which to choose?  The Nutrition Facts Label and the ingredient list on each package can help guide your choices.  First, scour the nutrition facts label to check for sugar, fat, sodium, and fiber;  then turn over the package and look at the sources of these nutrients on the ingredient list.

We’ve done some of the work for you.  Check out these randomly selected, kid-oriented options:

Brand Calories Total Fat Sat. Fat Sugar Sodium Fiber Calcium
Nature Valley: Strawberry Yogurt 140 3.5 g 2 g 13 g 110 mg 1 g 200 mg
Quaker: Chewy Chocolate Chip 100 3 g 1.5 g 7 g 75 mg 1 g 80 mg
Kashi TLC: Chewy Trail Mix 140 5 g 0.5 g 5 g 105 mg 4 g 0 mg
Hershey’s: Reese’s Sweet & Salty with Peanuts 170 9 g 2.5 g 9 g 180 mg 2 g 0 mg
Kudo’s: Milk Chocolate Chip 120 3.5 g 2 g 11 g 70 mg 1 g 250 mg
Trader Joe’s: Chewy Peanut Crunch 130 2.5 g 0 g 12 g 150 mg 1 g 20 mg
Disney: Chewy Rainbow Chocolate Gems 120 4 g 1.5 g 9 g 105 mg 1 g 20 mg
Cascadian Farm: Organic Chewy Chocolate Chip 140 3 g 1 g 10 g 125 mg 1 g 0 mg
Fiber One: Chewy Oats & Chocolate 140 4 g 1.5 g 10 g 90 mg 9 g 100 mg
Special K: Strawberry 90 1.5 g 1 g 9 g 95 mg 0.5 g 0 mg
Nutri-grain: Strawberry 130 0.5 g 0.5 g 12 g 120 mg 2 g 200 mg

*Nutrition information obtained from www.calorieking.com.

Healthiest: We looked at overall qualities, but you may be focused on a single nutrient such as sugar or fiber. In that case, it’s easy to see how each granola bar fares in nutrient categories compared to its competitor.  Kashi TLC Chewy Trail Mix seems to be the overall best choice with low saturated fat, the least sugar, and a good amount of fiber.  Although its calorie content is on the higher side in comparison to the chart as a whole, it is still a reasonable amount for a snack. Pairing this granola bar with a 1/2 cup of milk would add protein and calcium to make it more nutritious, satisfying and filling.

If you are concerned with sugar content, aim for less than 9 gm per serving (a donut has 12 gm!);  for fiber, go for more than 2 gm per serving (5 gm per serving is considered a high fiber item); sodium a worry?  shoot for under 200 mg per serving.

Unhealthiest: Hershey’s Reeces Sweet & Salty with Peanuts seems to be the least healthy with the highest calorie, fat, and saturated fat content, along with moderate to high levels of sugar…but I bet it tastes good.

What are your criteria for choosing granola bars for your child?

Disclaimer: This is just a small representation of a single flavor from each of many popular brands on the market, not of all bars available.  Nutrient content may change with different flavor options within each brand.  The purpose of this chart is Nutrition Facts label education, and not specific brand recommendations.

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark


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In my last post, you know that an authoritative feeding style is most effective at promoting a healthy weight, self-regulated eating, and a positive attitude and relationship with food in your child. So, how can you become more authoritative and less authoritarian, neglectful, or permissive in your feeding approach?

You may also wonder, “Can parents even change their feeding style?”  Of course!  You can always teach an old dog new tricks…that’s the beauty of evolution.  And we, as parents, are all a masterpiece in the making…right?!

Here are some “tricks of the trade” that change the dynamic around food and feeding which are easy to implement in your home and with your child:

Use the Division of Responsibility (DOR) when feeding your child.  Take on the job of deciding what foods you will serve (hopefully a nice balance of wholesome, healthy options!), where you will serve them (kitchen table, preferably), and when you will serve them.  Let your child decide whether he will eat what you’ve provided, and how much he will eat.

Trust Your Child to eat the right amounts.  Ultimately, you want your child to figure out when they are hungry and when they are full, and the amounts of food they eat should reflect their appetite. Trust is reciprocal;  you want your child to trust food, and you, and therefore you must reciprocate that trust.  It is natural for children to miss the mark on eating:  overeating and under-eating is part of figuring out what works for your body.  Help your child figure out what works for him in a trusting environment.

Ditch the Plate Method and opt for family-style meals. Serving meals family-style simply means placing food items on platters or in bowls. Passing food around the table, aka “Walton-style” allows your child to refuse food or take an amount that is right for him.  Plating foods for your child takes control away from him, and makes you the regulator of what and how much is eaten.  This may sabotage your child’s ability to learn self-regulation, a necessary tool for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

Provide Don’t Deprive It’s the appearance of “yes” within the context of structure.  Parents who take on a “provider mentality”, take the job of feeding seriously.  Just like the “bread winner”, the parent feeder is the “bread giver”.  A serious provider will have well-planned meals, a kitchen that is adequately stocked with “growing foods” (foods that support healthy growth in your child), and will prioritize family mealtime.  When you are timely with meals and snacks, your child will likely have a predictable hunger pattern.  When you stock the kitchen with foods that contribute nutrition to your child’s diet, it’s easy to say “yes” when he is hungry and asks for food.  Don’t make the mistake of being a “depriver”; research shows that restricting or controlling food intake is associated with overeating and weight gain in children.  Confusing?  Remember the adage, “you want what you cannot have”; the same holds true with children and food.

Preparation x 3 The key to success is preparation, preparation, preparation. Plan the menu, gather the food, and make it!  But, don’t fall prey to being a short-order cook; set the menu and stick to it. 

Quiet the Comments about Food and Eating Performance  Children don’t need to be pressured about eating or not eating…and the more you lay it on, the more self-conscious and bad your child feels, which may trigger overeating or not eating at all.

Choice not Ultimatums Remember the guideline for toddlers? Give 2 choices. Funny thing, it works for older kids too. “Would you like an apple with peanut butter, or crackers with peanut butter for your after-school snack?” Giving choices, but not too many, allows your child to make good decisions about food and feel in control of their body and their eating.

Keep the Pleasantries  What are meal times like in your home?  Do your children argue, insult and put one another down, or throw temper tantrums at the meal table?  Do the parents get frustrated, shout, punish, or give the silent treatment? Meal times should be pleasant, supportive, and engaging. Manners should be taught and used. Keeping a positive attitude and reasonable expectations around mealtime manners, conversation, and interactions among family members will go a long way toward creating a mealtime environment in which your child wants to be a part.

Just a little movement TOWARD authoritative feeding can make a big DIFFERENCE in your child’s attitudes and actions about food and eating.  Try one “trick” and let me know how it goes!

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Feeding is arguably one of the most time-consuming and grueling jobs of parenthood.  Often thankless, and plagued with parental insecurity and low confidence, parents struggle and muddle through the process of feeding their children. Here is a sobering statistic:  throughout an 18 year childhood, a parent will feed their child over 28,000 times (assuming age-appropriate meals and snacks). The effort to feed a child can be overwhelming…planning, procuring, preparing, serving, and cleaning up.

Parent feeding styles, and their impact, warrant attention, particularly when you look at the magnitude of feeding interactions throughout a child’s life.

Researchers suggest that feeding styles, or the attitudes and actions a parent uses in the process of feeding their child, closely mirror parenting styles.  Did you know that each parent has a style of their own when it comes to feeding?  And while one style is generally used most of the time, all the parenting styles can overlap and mingle.

Our feeding styles also tend to mimic our own experiences as a child;  they are deeply ingrained, and our “go to” method for feeding our own children.  In other words, parent feeding styles reflect childhood experiences with food and eating.  In the current climate of childhood obesity, it is sobering to think about the feeding styles that our current generation of children may be using with their future offspring.

There are four parenting styles and as an extension of this, feeding styles (be sure to read to the bottom!):

Authoritarian, also known as “parent-centered” parenting.  In the realm of feeding, this style is associated with “The Clean Your Plate Club”, where rules about eating predominate, from trying foods to completing a meal. Dessert is contingent upon eating dinner.  Parents plate the food for their children.  Eating is directed by the parent, rather than self-directed by the child.  A child’s true feelings and subsequent actions about food and eating may be hidden, while potential animosity and compensatory behaviors build around eating.  Weight problems, both underweight and overweight, are correlated with this parenting style.

Permissive, also known as “The ‘Yes’ Parent”.  A parent with this parenting style feeds their child in a similar fashion: even though “no” or limitations may be the first response, “yes” ultimately reigns.  The classic example of this is the mother who is attempting to manage the vocal child in the grocery store who wants candy at the checkout stand.  He begs and begs, hearing, “no, no, no…well….okay, I guess so.”  Children of permissive feeders may become overweight, as research shows that the limits on calorie-dense foods may be unlimited.

Neglectful parenting, when aligned with feeding, often produces the ill-prepared parent: irregular shopping, empty cabinets and refrigerators, and no plan for meals. Food and eating may lack importance for the parent, and that may transcend to feeding their child.  Children who experience this feeding style may feel insecure about food and eating, and unsure about when they will have their next meal, if they will like it, and if it will be enough.  These children may become overly focused on food and frequently question the details around mealtime.

Authoritative, or the “Love with Limits” parenting style, promotes independent thinking and self-regulation within the child, but also sets boundaries within which the child is expected to operate. The authoritative feeder determines the details around the meal (what will be served, when it will happen, and where it will be served), but allows the child to decide if they will eat what is prepared, and how much they will eat.  Trust and boundaries are the basis of this parent feeding style.  Children who have authoritative parents in the home tend to be leaner, good at self-regulating their food consumption, and feel secure with food and eating.  The most current research advocates this style of parenting/feeding as an effective childhood obesity prevention approach.

So, mom and dad, what’s your feeding style and how is it affecting your child?

Stay tuned for How You Can Become an Authoritative Feeder….

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Vegetables take the show this month with a classic pasta primavera (pasta and vegetables).  If you have been following the Vitamin series, you’ll realize this dish supplies many of the important nutrients your child needs. We showcase this dish with a crowd-pleasing light alfredo-tomato sauce.  Pour it over the pasta and vegetables, dip the veggies in the sauce, or seperate the two and have a traditional pasta with sauce and veggies on the side. The combinations are many, and up to your children, as the Dinner Bar allows your child to mix, match, and create their own dinner.

You will need:


  • (See dairy)
  • Chopped walnuts, optional


  • Whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour


  • Marinara sauce, jarred
  • Squash
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


  • ¾ c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping
  • 1 c. cold low-fat milk (1%)
  • ½ c. evaporated nonfat milk


  • Olive oil (EVOO)
  • Margarine


  • Gala or Fuji apples, small (plan on about 1 per person)
  • 1/2 c. 100% apple juice
  • Raisins, optional


  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

To Make the Apples:

Remove the core from the center of the apples.  Spray a microwave safe baking dish, just big enough for all the apples, with cooking spray.  Arrange apples upright along the bottom.  Place ½ tbsp.  margarine inside each apple.  Pour ½ c. apple juice and ¼ c. water in the bottom of the pan.  Drizzle each apple lightly with honey, and sprinkle with ½ tsp. cinnamon and ¼ tsp. nutmeg.  If desired, add raisins to the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; pierce with a fork. Microwave for about 4-8 minutes, depending on the number of apples.  They should be tender when pierced with a knife.  You can also add a small bowl of chopped walnuts to your dinner bar to top off the dessert.

To Make the Pasta Primavera:

Cut the vegetables into 1-2” bite-size pieces.  Place each into separate large plastic baggies, along with 1/2 tbsp. EVOO and salt and pepper, to taste.  Make sure the bag is sealed tightly.  Shake the bags to coat the veggies; pierce with a fork to allow steam to escape.  Microwave each on high for 3-5 minutes, or until just tender.  Let stand for two minutes.  Be careful when opening the hot bags, as steam can cause burns.

Prepare the pasta according to package directions.

To Make the Alfredo sauce:  (adapted from Ellie Krieger, www.foodnetwork.com)

Whisk the flour and low-fat milk in a bowl. Place the garlic and 1 tbsp. EVOO in the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, 30 seconds. Add the flour-milk mixture and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the evaporated milk, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the grated parmesan cheese; stir to melt, 1 minute.

Add the jar of marinara to the prepared Alfredo sauce, stir, and heat through.

Place pasta, sauce, and the individual veggies in separate bowls, along with the apples and nuts, on your dinner bar.  And let the dinner begin!

Note: You may use fresh vegetables in microwavable bags from the produce section.  If you don’t have a corer for the apples, simply slice the apples and layer the ingredients in the dish.

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