Archive for May, 2011

It is hard to beat good homemade macaroni and cheese, but store bought mac n’ cheese can be a real family-pleaser and time saver.

Macaroni and Cheese--A Kid Favorite!

These days, there are countless macaroni and cheese products.   Frozen, refrigerated, or boxed varieties can be microwaved, baked, or prepared on a stovetop.  There is a lot to choose from!  This Consumer Corner post features information about my favorite mac and cheese brands.  Clearly, I have not tried every macaroni and cheese product available, so I am keeping it simple by narrowing down my top picks into two categories of boxed macaroni and cheese:  best traditional and best whole wheat.  I investigated several popular brands like Kraft’s traditional macaroni and cheese and Velveeta shells and cheese.  Taste, texture, calorie, fat and sodium content, and artificial additives and preservatives were all considered when choosing my top picks.

Best Traditional:  Trader Joe’s Macaroni and Cheese-Wisconsin Cheddar

This brand does not require adding butter or margarine, so the fat and calorie content is half of most traditional brands.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to sacrifice taste!  This pasta has a delicious, tangy, cheddar cheesy flavor.  Kids will appreciate the fun, classic tube shaped pasta.  Parents can feel good about serving this product as it contains no preservatives and the orange-yellow color comes from annatto seed, not artificial food coloring.  Unfortunately, this mac is only available in Trader Joe’s stores.  Click here to find a location near you.

Nutrition Facts: (2.5 oz/1 cup prepared with 2% milk) about 3 servings per box

  • Calories- 270
  • Total Fat- 4g
  • Saturated Fat- 2g
  • Trans Fat- 0g
  • Sodium- 500 mg
  • Carb- 47 g
  • Fiber- 2 g
  • Sugars- 3 g
  • Protein- 10 g

Best Whole Wheat:  Annie’s Homegrown Organic Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar

Similar to my traditional favorite, this brand does not require adding butter or margarine.   This white cheddar variety has a sharp taste, and the shells have a firmer bite than most shells and cheese varieties.  This Annie’s product is made with certified organic whole wheat pasta and certified organic white cheddar cheese.  It is an excellent source of fiber, and is made with 100% whole grain, containing 48 grams per serving!  See Whole Wheat, White Wheat, What?  for more information about whole grains.   You can find Annie’s Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar at grocery and natural food stores nationwide.

Nutrition Facts: (2.5 oz/1 cup prepared with 2% milk) about 2.5 servings per box

  • Calories- 260
  • Total Fat- 5g
  • Saturated Fat- 2g
  • Trans Fat- 0g
  • Sodium- 580mg
  • Carb- 44 g
  • Fiber- 5 g
  • Sugars- 7 g
  • Protein- 10 g

Adding vegetables like tomatoes, peas, and broccoli to mac and cheese is an easy way to boost the nutritional value of any meal.   Incorporating vegetables is an effective approach for introducing new or unaccepted foods to younger children that already love mac and cheese.  Get creative!  For inspiration, check out these recipes from Annie’s that feature adding vegetables to many of their pasta products.

What are your preferred macaroni and cheeses?

Disclaimer: Just The Right Byte provided an objective and independent review of these products; no affiliations or support was obtained from any grocer or food marketer.

Contributing Author:  Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN


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I hope many of your were able to attend the Eat, Play, Love: Raise Healthy Eaters webinar today!  If not, here is the link–I think you’ll find it informative and enlightening.

This is the second piece to our Your Child’s Development series and today we are focusing on the infant.

The first year of life is an exciting time for all parents. Whether you are having your first child or your fourth, a new baby is a much anticipated and welcomed event for parents.

Infancy can also be riddled with uncertainty, questions, and sleepless nights. During a year of rapid growth and constant change, staying on top of what is going on with your baby can be challenging. Not only are the obvious physical changes of weight gain and overall growth occurring, but so are the subtle developmental changes that are just as important.

Achieve attachment through feeding.

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development informs us that during infancy, the baby’s main task is to form an attachment with his caregiver. Basic trust is established and the infant understands that his parents are dependable and the world can be a safe place. The foundation of hope, confidence and trust–essential for future relationships– develops at this very young age.

Attachment should be one of our primary goals as parents and feeding your baby is an excellent way of setting this in motion. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, you can successfully achieve a healthy connection. If you want to know more about attachment theory, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a comprehensive document.

Here are ways you can connect and enhance attachment with your baby through feeding:

  • Mimic your baby’s sounds and actions.
  • Hold, touch, tickle (gently), and look at your baby.
  • Focus on your baby when you feed him—fully engage in the moment and show your complete attention.
  • Respond to hunger–baby demonstrates this by crying, rooting, and/or sucking on hands and fingers. Remember: the younger the infant, the more frequently hunger will strike. A newborn can be hungry every 1.5-2 hours and an older infant every 3-4 hours.
  • Recognize fullness–a baby who pulls away from the breast or bottle, turns their head away when a spoon is offered, or shakes his head “no” are all potential signs of fullness.

You need to be good at reading both the hunger and fullness signs so that you can help your baby maintain his natural hunger-fullness cycle (which he was born with and which helps him eat just the right amounts of food). Let your baby take the lead on how much he eats–but be watchful and attentive to his signals. Overfeeding or underfeeding your baby can happen when you don’t understand or accurately read your baby’s signs.

What is the opposite of attachment? 

Detachment.  The reality of our modern world is that parents are very busy and they look for quick and convenient ways to achieve the mundane day-to-day tasks (me included). Sometimes parents streamline their chores by multi-tasking–and multi-tasking can invade the kitchen and feeding kids.

Our modern world also promotes early independence. ‘No-hands’ bottle feeders, cup holders in the car seat, packaged food products that young ones can eat while they multi-task (play) are maxing on convenience but potentially undermining the parent-child bond.

Don’t get me wrong–I am a busy mom too and am all for simplicity–but not at the expense of a strong trusting bond with my child. I wouldn’t be inclined to gamble or risk it.

Remember how many times we have to connect and form this strong bond with our child?  Over 28,000 times. Lots of opportunity to make it or break it. And when it comes to feeding your baby, creating a strong attachment is key to a healthy, happy and nourished child.

How do you bond with your baby?  And what gets in the way?

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We are rounding out this series with Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitaminthat plays a starring role in blood clotting. Clotting is important—it helps bleeding stop. In fact, Vitamin K is responsible for producing 4 of the 13 proteins required for blood clotting.

Dark green, leafy vegetables are a good source of Vitamin K

Vitamin K also helps make other proteins in the body that are important for blood, bone and kidney health. Research indicates that low levels of Vitamin K in the blood are associated with low bone density in adults. Since childhood is the “bone building” period of life, it makes sense to pay attention to Vitamin K.

Additionally, like Vitamin D, our bodies can produce Vitamin K on its own. Vitamin K is made from certain bacteria in your intestines. Prolonged or frequent use of antibiotics may destroy the bacteria-producing Vitamin K in the gut, so we also rely on food sources to assure adequate intake of Vitamin K.

How much do kids need?

Why do babies get an injection of Vitamin K at birth? Vitamin K is poorly transported across the placenta, so babies are at increased risk for Vitamin K deficiency and excessive bleeding.

The levels for optimal Vitamin K intake are set as Adequate Intakes (AI). No adverse effects have been reported for intakes above the AI, and there is no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) established, however, avoiding excessive intake of Vitamin K (ie, from supplements) is advised.

Adequate Intakes for Children:

0-6 months: 2.0 micrograms/day

7-12 months: 2.5 micrograms/day

1-3 years: 30 micrograms/day

4-8 years: 55 micrograms/day

Boys & Girls, 9-13 years: 60 micrograms/day

Boys & Girls, 14-18 years: 75 micrograms/day

Adapted from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes

Where can we find Vitamin K in food?

Collards, spinach and dark salad greens are the highest sources, with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and bib lettuce containing moderate amounts of Vitamin K. Plant oils (soybean, canola, olive, corn) and margarine are good sources as well. Wow, can you imagine sautéing collard greens or spinach in canola oil—a Vitamin K power-punch!

What if you don’t get enough?

Vitamin K deficiency is extremely rare in the generally healthy population; those who are deficient tend to have problems with gastro-intestinal function or have taken medications known to interfere with Vitamin K metabolism.

The Take-Away Message:

  • It is unlikely that healthy children will experience a deficiency of Vitamin K.
  • A varied diet including green leafy vegetables and plant oils are your best bet for maintaining normal clotting, bone health and Vitamin K status in your child.
  • Do you need extra Vitamin K from a supplement? Probably not.
  • If used, will a multivitamin supplement be excessive in Vitamin K? Probably not.

Thanks for reading our Alphabet Soup series!

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I wrote this post as a participant in the Eat, Play, Love blog carnival hosted by Meals Matter and Dairy Council of California to share ideas on positive and fun ways to teach children healthy eating habits. A list of other registered dietitians and moms who are participating in the carnival will be listed at the bottom of this post or can be found on Meals Matter.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

One of the ways you demonstrate love for your child is through feeding and the relationship that develops at the meal table. This feeding relationship grows over time, and is directly influenced by the ups and downs between you and your child at the meal table (or wherever you feed your child).

Feeding children is often layered with multi-tasking. These distractions can interfere with connecting at the meal table.  Yet, connecting, and the feeding relationship, is a necessary piece of good parenting and raising healthy kids.

What many parents don’t know is that feeding your child is full of opportunity for connection! It is estimated that there are over 28,000 opportunities to connect with your child through feeding.

Let me state that again.

There are over 28,000 opportunities to create a positive relationship around food and eating with your child.

With so many opportunities, the potential for successful feeding and eating is a no-brainer. But the reality is that family meals aren’t always touchy-feely and nurturing. They can be laden with ineffective feeding styles that promote negative eating habits and negative feelings. Or, they can be loaded with parenting practices like rewarding, pressuring or restricting that backfire, resulting in exactly what you don’t want–more pickiness, over- or under-eating, strained interactions and maybe even weight problems.

Where it all begins…

Eye contact is an important way of connecting with your child.

The feeding relationship begins the moment you first feed your baby. Whether you choose to breast or bottle feed, connection is underway. It is important that you hold and look at your baby. This is how the attachment between parent and child begins (more on attachment in our Development Series).

While you don’t hold your toddler, school-age child or teen when you feed them, your eye contact, conversation, presence, and attention all support the attachment that was started in infancy.

It’s important to keep this connection going, especially as your child gets older and you compete against the world of outside influences.

Let me count the ways…to strengthen the feeding relationship

Be engaged: Sit down with your child and pay attention to them. For tips on mealtime conversation starters, click here. Don’t make the mistake of multi-tasking while feeding your child. As tempting as it is, it distracts you from connecting with your child. Remember, meals are only 20-30 minutes of your time–your child is worth it!

Reciprocate: Feeding is a reciprocal relationship–you react to what your child is doing (whether it is good or bad behavior) and your child reacts to your behavior. Remember, you are the leader and your child will follow you. Keep mealtime positive and you are likely to get a pleasant response in return.

Trust intuition:  It’s important to listen to your child’s hunger and fullness cues, and respond in ways that honor those cues. Kids don’t always get the hunger/fullness thing right–sometimes they are right, and sometimes they mis-fire. They are figuring it out and need your help doing so.

Make sure you give your child feedback when they are right and when they miss the boat: “Boy, you sure know how listen to your body!” AND “Don’t worry, we’ll get this right next time…maybe if you eat a little bit more at lunch, this won’t happen again. What do you think?” In the long run, these are important lessons to be learned, for both you and your child.

Be reliable: Get those meals and snacks on the table–regularly. The more reliable you are with meals, the calmer and more secure your child may be with food and eating, at every age.

What’s Your Message?  Remember that you send messages to your child at the meal table: You are important to me. I care about you. I care about your health. AND Your hunger can wait. Something else (the dishes, the phone…) is more important.

Feeding your child is just one way to develop a strong, trusting bond and connection. You’ve got thousands of opportunities! Messing up a few of these interactions isn’t going to do irreversible damage–just make sure you tip the balance towards positive interactions and intentional connections at the meal table. Both you and your child will reap the benefits for a lifetime!

Join us for a free webinar: Eat, Play, Love: Raising Healthy Eaters on May 18!

Don’t stop here! Join the carnival and read other Eat, Play, Love blogs from dietitians and moms offering the best advice on raising healthy eaters. And if you don’t get enough today, for more positive, realistic and actionable advice from registered dietitian moms, register for the free, live webinar Eat, Play, Love: Raising Healthy Eaters on Wednesday, May 18.

The Best-Kept Secret for Raising Healthy Eaters, Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD
Feeding is Love, Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN
5 Quick Ways to Prepare Veggies with Maximum Flavor, Dayle Hayes, MS, RD
The Art of Dinnertime, Elana Natker, MS, RD
Children Don’t Need a Short Order Cook, Christy Slaughter
Cut to the Point – My Foodie Rules, Glenda Gourley
Eat, Play, Love – A Challenge for Families, Alysa Bajenaru, RD
Eat, Play, Love ~ Raising Healthy Eaters, Kia Robertson
Get Kids Cooking, Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN
Kid-Friendly Kitchen Gear Gets Them Cooking, Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD
Kids that Can Cook Make Better Food Choices, Glenda Gourley
Making Mealtime Fun, Nicole Guierin, RD
My Top Ten Tips for Raising Lifelong Healthy Eaters, EA Stewart, RD
My No Junk Food Journey – Want to Come Along?, Kristine Lockwood
My Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters: Eat Like the French, Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD
Playing with Dough and the Edible Gift of Thyme, Robin Plotkin, RD, LD
Picky Eaters Will Eat Vegetables, Theresa Grisanti, MA
Putting the Ease in Healthy Family Eating, Connie Evers, MS, RD, LD
Raising a Healthy Eater, Danielle Omar, MS, RD
Raising Healthy Eaters Blog Carnival & Chat Roundup, Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
Soccer Mom Soapbox, Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
Teenagers Can Be Trying But Don’t Give Up, Diane Welland MS, RD
What My Kids Taught Me About Eating Mindfully, Michelle May, MD

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