Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tips for Healthier Snacking-Kid Style

In my constant quest to find after school snacks, I came up with a few ways that might help you, too!

Give your kids a say. Offer comparable choices, such as regular or frozen yogurt, celery or carrots, whole-grain toast or whole grain crackers, apples or oranges. Better yet, recruit your children's help at the grocery store when you're selecting snacks or in the kitchen when you're assembling snacks.

Designate a snacking zone. Restrict snacking to the kitchen. You'll save your children countless calories from mindless munching in front of the TV.

Make it quick. If your children need to snack on the go, think beyond a bag of potato chips. Offer a handful of almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds, string cheese, yogurt sticks, cereal bars or other drip-free items.

Don't be fooled by labeling gimmicks. Foods marketed as low-fat or fat-free can still be high in calories. Likewise, foods touted as cholesterol-free can still be high in fat, saturated fat and sugar. Check nutrition labels to find out the whole story.

Go for the grain. Whole-grain snacks - such as whole grain pretzels or tortillas and low-sugar, whole-grain cereals can give your children energy with some staying power. I find that Kashi cereals are a super source of fiber and protein!

Out of sight, out of mind. If the cookie jar is full, your children will probably clamor for cookies. But if there is fresh fruit or raw veggies instead, these may seem more appealing. Try putting some fruit in a beautiful bowl in the center of the table for better "grabbing".

Play with your food. Ask your children to make towers out of whole-grain crackers, spell words with pretzel sticks, or make funny faces on a plate using different types of fruit. Use a tablespoon of almond or peanut butter as glue.

Think outside the box. Offer something new, such as fresh pineapple, cranberries, red or yellow peppers, or roasted soy nuts. Slice a whole-wheat pita and serve with hummus.

Mix and Match. Serve baby carrots or other raw veggies with fat-free ranch dressing. Dip graham cracker sticks or fresh fruit in fat-free yogurt. Top celery, apples or bananas with peanut butter.

Revisit breakfast. Many breakfast foods - such as low-sugar, whole-grain cereals and whole-grain toast make great afternoon snacks. Again, Kashi is a good choice!

Use the freezer. Mix mashed bananas and peanut butter, spread between graham crackers and freeze. For a new twist on old time favorites, freeze grapes or peeled bananas, or fill an ice cube tray with juice or pudding.

Have fun. Use a cookie cutter to make shapes out of low-fat cheese slices, whole-grain bread or tortillas. Eat diced fruit with chopsticks. give snacks funny names. try the classic "ants on a log" celery topped with peanut butter and raisins or make up your own.

Sweeten it up. Healthy snacks don't need to be bland. To satisfy your child's sweet tooth, offer frozen yogurt or frozen fruit bars.

Pull out the blender. Use skim milk, fat-free yogurt, ground up flax seeds, a dash of flax oil and fresh fruit to make your own smoothies. Smoothies are a great way to "hide" the good stuff.

Promote independence. Make it easy for older children to help themselves. Keep a selection of ready to eat veggies in the refrigerator. Leave fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter. Store low-sugar, whole-grain cereal in an easily accessible cabinet, and stock fruit packaged in its own juice.

Remember your leftovers. A small serving of last night's casserole might make a great snack.

Drinks count too. Offer your children plenty of water between meals. Liven it up with shaped ice cubes, a crazy straw or a squirt of lemon, cranberry or other fruit juice.

Keep it safe. Make sure your childrens snacks are age appropriate. Never give foods that pose a choking hazard such as nuts, raisins, whole grapes or popcorn to children younger than age 4.

Practice what you preach. Let your children catch you munching raw vegetables or snacking on a bowl of grapes.

Be patient. Your childrens snacking habits may not change overnight. Look for positive changes over weeks or months.

Happy Snacking!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pass on the Ketchup

It's no surprise that ketchup is found in 97 out of every 100 American homes… and each of us eats about three bottles a year. Four tablespoons of ketchup have the nutritional value of a whole ripe, medium tomato. That's the good news!

The not so good news: most popular brands of ketchup contain unwanted chemical additives. The same holds true for many mustard and relish brands.

Because of this, I'm encouraging everyone to READ LABELS!!

Many people unwittingly choose these condiments, not realizing the hidden dangers "in the bottle". Rather than canning the condiments, make an educated effort to choose the brands that are chemical-free. It will get you one step closer to preventing chronic disease.

According to eBrandAid.com,

The Good News: Condiments can be nutritional powerhouses. Ketchup is loaded with cancer-fighting lycopene; mustard seeds contain plentiful amounts of healing phytonutrients; and relish is a probiotic that improves your immune system by restoring beneficial bacteria!

The Bad News: Most brand name condiments contain junk ingredients – these harmful additives often outweigh or negate the health benefits!

Here are some of the not-so-healthy imposters:

Seeing is believing, so take a look at these well-known varieties.
NOTE: I’ve bolded the chemical additives so that you can easily spot them.

Hunt's Ketchup
(Serving size 1 tbsp, 15 calories, 180mg sodium, 0g sugar)

Ingredients: Tomato Concentrate Made from Vine Ripened Tomatoes, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Onion Powder, Natural Flavors, Garlic Powder.

Grey Poupon Mustard Savory Honey
(Serving Size 1 tsp, 10 calories, 5mg sodium, 0g sugar)

Ingredients: Mustard Seed, Water, Apple Cider Vinegar, Vinegar, Brown Sugar, Honey, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid, Spice, Sugar, Turmeric, Caramel Color, Paprika.

Vlasic Relish Sweet
(serving size 1 tbsp, 15 calories, 140mg sodium, 4g sugar)

Ingredients: Cucumbers, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Distilled Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Spice, Xanthan Gum, Dehydrated Peppers, Alum, Natural Flavors, Polysorbate 80 And Yellow 5.

The Big Three condiments are founded on all-natural ingredients like tomatoes, mustard seeds and pickles. When you see all kinds of chemical additives you can be certain these varieties have been highly processed. This means most of the nutrition has been replaced by cheap chemical taste-a-likes needed to boost flavor.

Bypass the regular condiment aisle and go directly to the “healthy food” section of your local grocery store. This is where most of the healthy brands hang out. (Note: Mustard is the exception. You’ll find the healthy brands in both the regular and healthy food sections.)

Look for the all-natural organic varieties. They may cost a few more pennies but the health benefits make them priceless. Our kids are the major consumers of ketchup, mustard and relish; buying the healthier brands curbs their intake of food additives!
Avoid label claims like “reduced sugar,” “low sugar,” or “low carb!” These are often code words for added artificial sweeteners.
Always avoid the junk ingredients high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, yellow dye #5, polysorbate 80, and sucralose.

Here are a few brands that are free and clear of unwanted ingredients:

Annie's Naturals Ketchup, Organic
Countrys Delight Tomato Ketchup
Woodstock Farms Organics Tomato Ketchup
Muir Glen Organic Ketchup
Full Circle 100% Organic Tomato Ketchup

Maille Mustard Dijon Original
Grey Poupon Mustard Country Dijon
Grey Poupon Mustard Harvest Ground
Gulden's Mustard Spicy Brown
Boar's Head Delicatessen Style Mustard
Boar's Head Honey Mustard All Natural Squeeze
Full Circle Organic Spicy Brown Mustard
Full Circle Organic Yellow Mustard
Woodstock Farms Organics Mustard Yellow
Mustard Girl Mustard Stoneground Deli All Natural
Mustard Girl Mustard Sweet n' Fancy Yellow All Natural

Cascadian Farms Sweet Relish
Full Circle Organic Sweet Relish
Bubbie's of San Francisco Pure Kosher Dill Pickle Relish
(available online at http://www.deliciousorganics.com/)

REMEMBER when you're armed with knowledge, you're in control at the grocery store!

*Thanks to eBrandAid.com for the helpful information!