Archive for the ‘Healthy Meals’ Category

Children mimic your behaviors!

Contrary to popular belief, children hear what you say and see what you do.  Your behaviors and comments can leave a lasting impression.  Even your body image or weight concerns can be passed on to your kids.  Evidence shows that stressing thinness and weight control promotes eating disorders, low self-esteem, decreased body image, and weight bias in children.  Furthermore, eating behaviors linked to a higher risk for obesity are known to develop very early in life.  A 2001 study showed family food environments and attitudes around food and eating affect even preschool-aged kids’ eating behaviors.  You may think youngsters don’t pick up on your drastic dieting or negative comments you make about your body like older children, but they do!

Several studies show that restrictive feeding can impair a child’s ability to regulate their intake, resulting in overeating and weight gain.  Worrying about your own weight can influence your feeding style.  For example, forbidding high calorie foods or sweets in your home can result in your child sneaking food or feeling deprived and overeating when given the opportunity.  Overly controlling or eliminating fun foods simply doesn’t work with kids – balance is key.

Have you ever found yourself saying out loud:

“I have got to lose weight, I am getting so fat”

“I am going to be good and skip lunch today”

“No more desserts for me, I don’t deserve it”

If so, you may want to censor your comments and think before you speak.   Remember, your words could promote your child’s weight gain!

As a parent, you can model  “good for you” behaviors without fixating on weight.  There’s nothing wrong with guiding your child towards adopting healthy habits that will benefit him or her – that’s part of your role!

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to promote a healthy weight for yourself while empowering your child.


  • Be physically active and limit your own sedentary activities
  • Aim to eat when feeling physically hungry
  • Have a neutral view about all foods
  • Stock a range of nutritious foods in your home and choose these options more often
  • Offer balanced family meals as much as you can
  • Choose to talk about yourself and others with respect and appreciation


  • Get caught up in the latest fad diet or encourage your child to diet
  • Skip meals
  • Eliminate all sweets or high calorie foods from your home
  • Use food for rewards or punishments for yourself or for others
  • Eat while standing up or distracted (may lead to eating mindlessly)
  • Emphasize effects of unhealthy eating
  • Focus on anyone’s weight, especially yours or your child’s

Bottom line:  You are your child’s biggest role model – do you want your child viewing and treating their body the way you do?

Contributing Author:  Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN


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In an ongoing quest to communicate with the American public about nutrition, the USDA has released a new symbol of healthy eating—MyPlate.

The New MyPlate for Americans

I’m happy about this new icon because it falls right in line with the way I teach families how to plan healthy meals already. When you look at MyPlate, you can see that the plate is divided into 4 sections (quarters) and each section represents a food group. Add a glass of low-fat milk or a cup of yogurt and you’ve got a balanced meal. How easy is that?

While it appears easy, the truth is, for many families, it’s not. Barriers to actually getting a meal on the table and having everyone sit down together aside, this new food guide for Americans keeps the idea of what a meal should look like simple.

And we like simple.

The new MyPlate guide emphasizes many messages for Americans, but one important (and implied) idea is to include as many food groups at each meal as you can. This is not an encouragement to overeat–it’s a way to do better with balance and variety at meals–you will still need to keep those portions in check.

And you’ll be happy to know the food groups remain essentially the same:

The Food Groups

Although I don’t encourage parents to plate food for their children (I’m in favor of family-style meals–more on that later), having a visual reference such as MyPlate is no doubt a practical tool for families and children. With MyPlate, families may have a better sense of how to balance a meal, how much to serve and where to make up the gaps in nutrition. Even kids can make sense of this new plate!

I can already see art projects on paper plates in the classroom or at home…

MyPlate is based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is designed to help people make healthier and better food choices. It features these messages to help Americans focus and improve upon key behaviors:

Balance Calories

  •  Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

MyPlate has an interactive website also:

Snapshot of the Interactive Tools for MyPlate

I invite you to check out MyPlate and the new interactive tools and let me know what you think. Go ahead, it’s free and you have unlimited access.

While no single message, food or icon will solely change human eating behavior, or produce a healthy human, every step towards positive change is a help.  MyPlate isn’t perfect (what is?), but it’s better.

I’ll still be teaching portion awareness, the 90:10 Rule, balance, variety, good fats vs. not-so-good fats, and of course the new MyPlate principles.

I am curious to know what you think about MyPlate?

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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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In a society that places a high focus on food (both healthy and unhealthy), it’s easy to get mired in the black and white thinking of “good foods, bad foods”. Parents easily fall into this trap while they are in the midst of  “getting food right” for their kids. And boy, does the job of “getting food right” get confusing for everyone!

What if we changed the language we use?  What if we try to label foods in a positive manner, so that kids can grasp what we are trying to teach them without fear and negativity?

Fun Foods taste good but need limits.

Enter the concept of FUN FOOD.

FUN FOODS are foods that are yummy (and sometimes irresistible), usually due to their sweet, fatty and/or salty taste.

Examples are birthday cake, cupcakes, cookies, soda, candy, chips and fried foods. FUN FOODS tend to be generous in calories, low in nutrition and naturally alluring (think about those pleasure-seeking taste buds–sweet, salt, and fat).

Parents tell me that FUN FOODS are everywhere, and they fear that FUN FOODS are becoming a mainstay in their kids’ diets. No longer just a treat at birthday parties, FUN FOODS are making regular appearances at school, church, and sporting events. While I am all for fun, too many FUN FOODS can get some kiddos into trouble.

Do you ever feel that FUN FOODS are invading your child’s daily plate?

If you answered ‘yes’, then you (and your kids) need a rule to live by! One that can keep the fun in food without ruining anyone’s health.

Enter the 90:10 RULE, a concept that many families find useful in tapering the influence of FUN FOODS.

It goes like this:

90% of what kids eat during the day is good-for-you, growing food (a balance and variety of foods from the MyPyramid guide: lean protein sources, dairy, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains)— and the other 10% is FUN FOOD.

For most healthy kids, a good rule of thumb is to eat no more than 1-2 FUN FOODS each day. Kids can understand this concept—and the best part– allowing kids to choose which FUN FOOD they will eat. Take a look:

     Sally knows that she will have the opportunity to have donuts after church on Sunday, as well as cake and ice cream at the afternoon birthday party she is attending.  Following the 90:10 Rule, she opts for cake and ice cream at the party and skips the donuts at church.  Good choice, Sally!

     Brent is playing baseball this afternoon and as tradition has it, he grabs a slushy drink.  He passes on the bowl of ice cream later that night, remembering he chose his FUN FOOD earlier that day. Home run, Brent!

The 90:10 RULE encourages kids to make choices and set limits on the amount of less-than-healthy foods they eat. It helps them pause and think through what they will eat during the day, and gives them an opportunity to think ahead and practice decision-making skills with eating.

As parents, we know there are endless options for FUN FOODS throughout the day. Eliminating FUN FOODS all together is a recipe for mutiny. Balancing FUN FOODs with GROWING FOODs is really the key to successful, healthy eating.

And kids need to be able to navigate the world of food.  Among the vast variety of FUN FOODS, the 90:10 RULE is a rule to live by for kids. It allows them to be in charge of choosing the FUN FOOD which is most important to them. And it helps them to set their own limits while learning to balance their eating.

For parents who want to know more about the role they can play in managing their kid’s sweets, check out the advice over at Raise Healthy Eaters.

What guidelines do you use to put a positive twist on managing FUN FOODS?

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Remember the walking taco from those long days of summer ? A clever convenience, designed to eat on the go and a mimic of the taco with a fun twist. The “old” walking taco consists of an individual size bag of Fritos corn chips topped with taco fixings.  This Dinner Bar takes the old concept and gives it a healthy facelift– transforming it into a lean, nutritious Mexican-style favorite you can feel good about feeding your family.  Adding a banana mango smoothie for dessert builds a balanced, simple supper that can be enjoyed anywhere!

Walking Taco Toppings

You will need:


  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey breast
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed


  • 6 individual bags of Sun Chips (original or garden salsa flavor)


  • Shredded lettuce
  • Diced tomato
  • Sliced jalapenos or chopped green pepper
  • Corn

    Yum! Walking Taco To Go!

  • Salsa
  • 1 small onion, chopped


  • 2 small sliced bananas (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups frozen mango chunks


  • Reduced fat (2%) shredded Mexican cheese
  • 2 cups 1% or 2% milk


  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • Diced avocado
  • Reduced fat sour cream (optional)

    Banana Mango Smoothie adds fruit and dairy to the meal.


  • 1 taco seasoning packet
  • ¼ cup water

How to make the walking tacos (serves 6):

Heat oil over medium heat in a large non-stick pan.    Add onions and sautee until clear, about 5 minutes.  Add ground chicken breast to the pan and brown.  Once the meat is cooked, add taco seasoning packet, ¼ cup water, and black beans.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

While the meat/bean mixture is cooking, gently crush each bag of chips.  Once the chips are crushed, cut the bags lengthwise with scissors.  Prepare bowls of the meat/bean mixture, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, corn, shredded cheese, diced avocado, salsa and any other desired toppings.

How to make the banana mango smoothies (serves 6):

Use fresh bananas or sliced bananas that have been frozen (my personal favorite).   Put banana, 2 cups frozen mango and 2 cups milk in a blender and blend until smooth.

Place serving bowls and the bags of chips on your “dinner bar” and let your family choose their toppings.  Once all of the walking tacos have been assembled, pour the smoothies and enjoy this meal wherever you like!

Tip:  Use disposable bowls, spoons, and cups for effortless clean up.

Let us know if your kiddos like these–you may even use this idea for picnics, a day at the pool or a quick lunch!

Contributing Author: Katherine Fowler, MS, RD

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Preparing Shamrock Crispy French Toast with Green Fruit is a simple way to add a St. Patrick’s Day touch to your breakfast table and Eat Right with Color, this year’s National Nutrition Month theme.  No green food coloring is required, so you can serve this guilt-free and clean up is a cinch!  Kicking off the St. Patrick’s Day festivities with this wholesome and enjoyable breakfast will get your entire family in the Irish spirit!

You will need:

  • 6 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat or skim milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Cooking spray
  • Shamrock cookie cutter (optional)
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Sliced Granny Smith apples
  • Sliced kiwi
  • Green grapes
  • Sliced honeydew melon

How to prepare the fruit:

Slice or purchase pre-sliced Granny Smith apples and combine with sliced kiwi, green grapes, and honeydew melon.  Prepare as much fruit as you think your family will eat!

How to make the French toast (this recipe serves three):

Beat the eggs. Add milk, sugar, and cinnamon and mix together. If you have a shamrock-shaped or other festive cookie cutter, you can cut its shape onto each slice of bread.  If you want to involve your kids in the fun, ask them to help with cutting the shapes.  Use a fork to dip each slice of bread into the mixture one at a time. Dip each long enough to soak well, but not too long.  You don’t want the bread to break apart.

Spray a hot griddle or skillet with cooking spray (in lieu of cooking spray, you may use oil or butter); heat over a medium-hot burner.  Cook bread for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Use a spatula to gently press down so your French toast is crispy and golden in the center.

Top the French toast with a desirable amount of pure maple syrup and serve with side of green fruit and milk to drink.  Top o’ the morning to ya!

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This Dinner Bar features a quick stress-free meal that will be fun for the whole family.  If you have never tried a pizzadilla, you are in for a treat!  As its name suggests, it is simply a marriage of pizza and quesadilla which is especially easy to make and delicious.  Merging these two ordinary items creates an enticing vegetable-packed supper your kids will be begging for again and again.

You will need:


  • Turkey pepperoni slices
  • Roasted shredded chicken (optional)


  • Burrito-size (10-inch) whole wheat tortillas (1 per person)


  • Jarred marinara sauce
  • Chopped green pepper
  • Sliced mushrooms (no salt added, canned or fresh)
  • Chopped onions


  • Sliced apple
  • Sliced banana
  • Sliced strawberries


  • Shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup skim milk


  • (See others)


  • 1/2 can Sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 oz. Dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • Olive oil or non-stick cooking spray
  • Wood skewers or popsicle sticks

How to prepare the fruit:

Slice desired amount of apple, banana and strawberries.  Purchase sliced apples in a bag, or use an apple slicer for quick cutting.  Arrange sliced fruit on a large plate or in separate bowls and set out alongside wood skewers or popsicle sticks.  Use the skewers to spear the fruit and dip!

Tip:  Any leftover fruit can be combined to create a fruit salad that can be enjoyed later.

How to prepare the chocolate fondue: (adapted from www.lifemojo.com )

Break chocolate squares into small pieces and drop in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  Combine skim milk and condensed milk in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove the mixture from heat and pour it over the chocolate. Once the chocolate has melted, whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla extract.  Pour the chocolate in a fondue pot if you have one.  If not, pour into a microwave-safe bowl.

Tip:  Reheat the sauce in the microwave if it becomes too thick.

How to make pizzadillas:

Place a tortilla on a large plate or cutting board and spread with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  Add a thin layer of cheese on half of the tortilla.  Layer chosen pizza toppings on top of the cheese.  Top off with another thin layer of cheese and fold the tortilla in half.  Brush the top of the tortilla with olive oil (or spray with cooking spray) and invert onto a non-stick skillet on low heat or a Panini grill with the sprayed side down.  Brush the other side of the tortilla with olive oil (or spray with cooking spray).  If using a non-stick skillet, flip the pizzadilla when the cheese is melted and the bottom is crisp.  Once the other side is crisp, remove from the pan.  Slice the finished product with a pizza cutter.  Place remaining marinara sauce in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave.  Pour marinara sauce in small bowls or ramekins  and use for dipping.

Tip:  Wrap any leftover pizzadillas and pack in lunches for the following day!


Contributing Author: Katherine Fowler, MS, RD

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