I’ve had people tell me they gained weight because they ate what they were feeding their children. What exactly are these people feeding their children?
The answer lurks in the children’s menu options at most restaurants. Typical fare includes a burger, grilled cheese, chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, or a hot dog. Does anyone else find this mix of brown, beige, orange and yellow food a bit boring and processed? Sure, they can each have a (small) place in a child’s food repertoire, but they hardly represent a balanced diet.
I’ve never dealt with a picky eater, food allergies, or a two-year-old going through a phase where she won’t eat anything but bananas. I’m not judging; I’m just putting it out there that parents play a large role in shaping a child’s food habits. It’s important not to project our own likes/dislikes on to them when making selections, or to assume they won’t enjoy vegetables like they will fruit.
Somehow, we’ve been programmed to think babies can only be served bland food, and they will only want sweet options. In reality, they often want whatever we’re having, so be a good role model, or fake it to make it.
When you go to the store, select a variety of options recognizing that babies are developing their palates from a blank slate. When you go out, ask for a side of something healthy, rather than ordering your little one something from the limited children’s menu. If you need something steamed longer so it’s softer or prepared without seasoning, just ask. Most restaurants are very accommodating.
I know I can order an adult entrée that includes salmon and potatoes, request a side of avocado, and share that with my son. It’s exciting for him because he gets to share with mommy, and I know he’s getting lots of good nutrition from it. Nutrition is a fun way to learn colors, too, seeing as how we should all eat a rainbow.
My 9-month-old has already enjoyed all of the following foods, and I’m sure I’m leaving some out:
- Greek Yogurt
- Sweet potato
- Butternut squash
- Beans of many kinds
- Cottage Cheese
- Coconut Milk
- Green Beans
- Chia seeds
- Almond butter
I hope you read this as me suggesting fun options and ways to make food fun for your child. As I’ve said before, I consider myself very knowledgeable and able to advise on nutritional habits, but I’ve only got nine months in the saddle as a parent.
My son isn’t going to eat only perfect, healthy options all the time, but I want to teach him healthy food is just as fun as less healthy options, and there’s a necessary balance.
I’m always looking for new recipes to offer him, so please share your own fun family food options!
With all the buzz about going gluten-free, clients are always asking me if they should cut it out of their diets. I’m not a doctor or an expert on the effects of gluten, but I’ll share my answer in hopes that it can help those of you wondering the same thing.
What is gluten?
Gluten is the protein content in wheat. For a visual, it’s what makes dough gooey and stretchy.
Why do some people need to avoid it?
Celiac disease is the true, diagnosed intolerance to gluten. Anyone with celiac disease has to cut out gluten because it attacks their bodies.
There is a large amount of research suggesting harmful effects of gluten on the body, both mentally and physically; however, just as not everyone is allergic to peanuts, not everyone responds negatively to gluten.
Think of gluten as you think of dairy. There are reasons some people should not have dairy, and the reasons differ in severity. Some people will have a life-threatening allergic reaction, some are lactose intolerant so their stomachs will be upset by it, and some people have problem skin due to dairy. Then, there’s the whole slew of people who can eat all the dairy they want with no ill effects.
How do I know if I need to cut it out?
Assess how you feel eating your current diet that contains gluten. If you feel well, have energy, don’t experience digestion issues and can concentrate easily, you’re doing fine and should keep up whatever you’re doing. If you can’t tick all those boxes, do a trial removal and see if any of them fall into place.
Things to consider:
Going gluten-free is not a fad diet to get you skinny, and gluten-free foods aren’t magically free of fat and calories; only gluten.
As with anything, too much of a something is not good, but if you don’t experience any ill effects, removal of it entirely isn’t necessary either.
Do your research, but also do a self-check. If you don’t have a negative response to gluten, eat it in moderation, just like everything else.
Pie for dinner? Heck, yeah! We’re all adults here, which means we can make rash meal decisions, such as deciding to have a milkshake for dinner. (Yep, I’ve done it.)
Honestly though, this is not that kind of pie. The crust only makes you think you’re cheating.
When I made this for dinner last night, it was definitely a last-minute, what do we have to make a meal, kind of dish, but it turned out delicious. I used a leftover half of a cooked spaghetti squash, which was great because it cut down on cooking time, and the squash was already cooled so I didn’t have to worry about it cooking the egg prematurely. In case you’re wondering, I used the other half of the squash with an artichoke and lemon sauce from Williams Sonoma the previous night.
My husband returned from a trip yesterday and I originally thought we would eat out, but we were both tired from golf, travel and pregnancy (respectively), so I decided to scrounge around the kitchen so we could relax at home. My pie pans haven’t arrived yet from our last duty station, but a cake pan worked just fine. Suffice it to say, this dish is easy, can be made last-minute, and can be built from a wide variety of ingredients. As long as you have two refrigerated pie crusts, one egg, some cheese, and a small selection of vegetables, you can create this pie.
Just as I did, get playful with this meal and use what you have. Maybe you have different kinds of meat, vegetables or cheeses on hand. Perhaps you want to make it vegetarian. As long as you use some cheese and an egg for binding, and make sure to drain excess grease and liquid (avoid a soggy crust) before building your pie, you can make it your own.
This is one of those recipes that looks and tastes impressive, but is as easy as making a casserole. It’s also a great way to sneak in a boatload of veggies. I did not add salt and pepper. It simply didn’t require it.
To really dress up the plate, you could serve a mixed green salad on the side. It would be lovely for a brunch, lunch or dinner.
- 2 refrigerated pie crusts (bring to room temp before unfolding)
- 2 slices of bacon (chopped)
- 1 chicken sausage (chopped) (I used one with feta and spinach in it)
- 1 can of tomatoes with basil, garlic, oregano, no salt added (drained)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cooked spaghetti squash (cool and de-seeded)
- 1/2 cup sliced zucchini
- 1/2 cup sliced/chopped sweet onion
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar
- 1/2 cup grated/shredded parmesan
- 1 egg
Preheat oven to 350F.
Set out pie crusts to bring to room temperature. Do not grease pie pan.
Cook meat in a skillet. Add tomatoes, fennel seed and red pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain excess grease and liquid. Let cool a bit so it won’t cook the egg when mixed in.
In a medium bowl, combine squash (I used a fork and knife cross-cut to help the spaghetti mix more easily), zucchini, onion, cheese and egg. Add in meat and tomato mixture. Pour mixture into first pie crust, press, top with second crust, cut slits in top, bake at 350F for 50 minutes.
Apple coleslaw is great because it adds a bit of crisp and sweetness to your average cabbage salad. My husband doesn’t like mayonnaise, and he enjoys this dish, but you can adjust the ration of mayo to mustard further depending on your own tastes. I just played around with the ingredients until I got the thumbs up from the hubs.
Light mayonnaise, and the use of mustard in place of some of the typical amount (most coleslaw calls for a cup of mayo), cuts down on the fat in this coleslaw recipe. You could also try using a little mayo mixed with greek yogurt to further adjust, but still keep the flavor that mayo brings to the table.
If you don’t have a sprayer to use with your lemon juice, just toss the apples with some lemon juice as you cut them so they don’t brown.
The response I received at the gathering I took this to was largely from people who don’t typically enjoy coleslaw, but enjoyed this variation.
If you ask me, adding in apples is always a bonus!
This was for a large crowd at a BBQ, so you could definitely cut it down.
- 4 apples ( I used 2 Granny Smith, 1 Golden Delicious, and 1 Red)
- Lemon juice (just enough to spritz the apples to keep them from browning)
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped
- 2 stalks of green onion/scallion, chopped
- 1/8 cup of red onion, chopped
- 1 bag of craisins
- 1.5 bags chopped cabbage with carrots
- 2/3 cup of light mayo
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup of honey
- s&p to taste
Julienne apples and spritz with lemon juice. Put apples in a bowl with other chopped ingredients and half of cabbage. Mix liquid ingredients and add to bowl. As you mix, add in the remaining cabbage. Salt and pepper to taste.
When we were living in Italy, the three ingredients I missed the most were kale, sweet onion, and spaghetti squash. For all the fabulous ingredients I enjoyed there, these three were simply unavailable.
- Kale is fabulous because it holds up better than spinach when cooked, and… you can make healthy chips with it. I’ve never seen my husband so excited about eating greens as when I make kale chips.
To make kale chips, rinse kale and tear leaves into chip size pieces. Toss with 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large ziploc or other container and spread into one layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt, bake at 350F for 10 minutes, turn off the oven and leave in for another 5 minutes, remove and let sit for 5 minutes. They should come out crispy and delicious.
- I grew up in Georgia and was spoiled by our endless supply of sweet onions from Vidalia. For those of you who don’t know, Vidalia is in Georgia. If it’s sweet, it comes from Georgia. Trust me. In Hawaii, they have sweet “Maui” onions, and they taste like home. I love throwing these on the grill, or using them in soups, salads, etc. to add a natural sweetness.
- Spaghetti squash is nature’s answer to low-carb diets. How fabulous that God made a vegetable that acts just like spaghetti! You can find it in the produce section along with other squash varieties. It looks like a yellow, oval melon.
To cook spaghetti squash, pierce it like you would a potato for baking, place in an oven-safe, rimmed pan or casserole dish, and bake at 375F for one hour. When you remove it, it should feel soft. Slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, then scrape the insides with a fork. Everything but the skin will come apart like actual spaghetti. Use/top it with anything you would normally serve over pasta, or season with a little butter/oil and salt as you would a squash.
For all the healthy promises on the packaging of protein and granola bars, most of them are barely healthier than candy bars. They may be great snack options for professional athletes, but most of us aren’t going to burn enough fuel in a day to use up everything they’re packing.
Protein is good for you, as is oatmeal – the basis of granola; however, once you’ve baked them with tons of sugar, fat and chocolate, you may as well have just grabbed a Snickers bar. The fit person on the front of the box probably doesn’t actually eat the bars.
It’s just that protein and granola bars are so easy to grab and eat on the run, right? It’s exceptionally uncool of manufacturers to fake us out and load them with stuff we don’t need.
Thankfully, it’s really easy to make bars at home that have exactly what you want in them, and nothing else.
Homemade protein and granola bars
- 1/2 cup nut butter (natural almond or peanut butter with no salt added)
- 1/2 cup natural applesauce (no sugar added)
- 1 Tbsp of coconut or olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt (for minerals)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup organic agave nectar
- 1/3 cut wheat germ
- 1 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup vanilla protein powder (I’m sure chocolate would be good, too.)
Optional ingredients: 1/4 cup coconut, 1/3 cup dried fruit
Combine all ingredients and press into greased (you can also line with parchment for easy removal without the spray oil) baking pan or glass casserole dish and bake for 35 minutes at 350. Cut while warm, let cool to harden. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s a treat you don’t have to feel so guilty about. My husband had this last night and was convinced it was normal, rich, chocolate mousse.
Normal chocolate mousse lists heavy whipping cream and butter as the heavyweights in its list of ingredients and takes almost two hours to make.
My healthy chocolate mousse only needs four ingredients (none of which is butter or cream) and is ready for you in less than 30 minutes. Now is the time when Charlie Sheen or that crazy bananas chick on the Bachelor (which one, right?) would say, “winning.”
Healthy Chocolate Mousse
- 3/4 cup of semi-sweet morsels
- 1/4 cup of skim milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 package/12 oz of soft, silken tofu (drained)
Melt your morsels in the microwave (about 1.5-2 mins) or a double-boiler. It’s okay if they aren’t all completely melted. Stirring it a bit will ensure they’re all ready to process. Process all ingredients until smooth. Chill for 15 minutes.
I serve this mousse with berries on top, but you can use anything or nothing on top. It’s delicious either way!
Don’t like tofu? No problem. You won’t even know it’s in there by the rich, delicious taste of it.
Sweet potato, carrot, coconut and chicken soup not only tastes amazing, it’s a cancer-fighting machine.
For those of you on a diet with concerns about the ingredient list, allow me to dispel some myths (italicized, and best read in a valley-girl accent).
Oh, I don’t eat potatoes, they have carbs, and carbs will make me fat.
Not all carbs are created equal. If you over-consume processed carbohydrates, you will not see the results you are hoping for in your body; however, whole potatoes are unprocessed, extremely nutrient-dense, and sweet potatoes, in particular, rank the lowest on the glycemic index.
Sweet potatoes are nutritional rockstars, and they’re a potato you should say yes to – assuming you aren’t coating them in butter, marshmallows, or any other ingredient that turns them into candy. That’s like adding a candy bar to your oatmeal.
I heard carrots are like sugar sticks with orange food coloring.
Carrots get a bad rap because they’re a starchy vegetable. Do they have carbohydrates and sugars, yes, but they are all natural, and hold a lot of awesome nutritional wealth that is absolutely worth it in the right portion sizes. The energy boost and fat-fighting properties of carrots cancel out the carbohydrates.
Horses are smart to go for these orange sticks, and you should follow suit. You’ll get vitamins A, K, C, and B6, beta-carotene (for healthy eyes, and cancer fighting power), potassium (fight off the muscle cramps you’ve been experiencing in your workouts), calcium, and more. Besides, natural sugars don’t act the same in your body as refined sugar, and Mother Nature uses more reasonable amounts per serving size than candy companies.
Coconut milk has fat, so I can’t have that either. No fat. No carbs. No sugar.
The fat in coconut milk is not the same as the fat in your french fries.
Although it should still be enjoyed in moderation, the fat in coconut milk is actually good for you. It helps your skin stay elastic. Coconut milk is also high in phosphorus, iron, magnesium, fiber, zinc, potassium and vitamin C.
The bottom line: You should eat all “real” food in moderation. Don’t eat something that’s processed simply because it claims to have less fat or carbohydrates. If your body can’t easily recognize an ingredient, it doesn’t know how to use it, and it will get pushed to the side to live in your problem areas and cause your body to run less efficiently. Choose unprocessed food, and eat the appropriate portion size.
- If you’re a vegetarian, this soup is great without the chicken, too.
- You can skip a cooking step by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken.
- If you like a little kick, add a bit of cayenne with the other spices. You’ll feel nice and toasty after a bowl of this goodness.
Sweet potato, carrot, coconut and chicken soup
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil or real butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
- 1 cup chicken/vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed or not from concentrate)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 pkg (about 6) chicken tenderloins, cut into chunks
- Arugula for garnish (A green that serves as your pepper!)
Cook chicken in olive oil and set to the side.
Saute onion in 1 Tbsp coconut oil/butter over medium heat until soft. Add carrots, potato, and second Tbsp coconut oil/butter. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add orange juice, salt, spices, and half of the chicken broth, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until potatoes and carrots begin to soften (about 8 minutes), then process until you reach desired smoothness. Add processed soup back to pot and add remaining broth and coconut milk. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add chicken to soup and heat through. Serve topped with arugula. Enjoy!
Are you a good wich, or a bad wich?
With all the sandwich shops out there ready to build your dream hoagie, it’s hard to know when you’re making wise nutritional choices. One way to save money and guarantee you’re sandwiching nutritional choices from crust to crust, is to make your own at home, but turkey and cheese with mustard can get boring pretty quickly.
Here are a few heathy options (they’re also vegetarian), that will help you get protein, whole grains, and even fruit in between two slices without missing a single bit of the flavor you get from fancy breads and sauces at shops.
I use Ezekiel bread for all of these. Always pick whole grain breads, and steer clear of those made using refined flour and sugar. Not all bread is created equal. The right decision can make or break your diet, and how your clothes fit.
Healthy Cucumber Sandwiches - Laughing Cow cheese replaces cream cheese for a healthy swap.
- 2 slices of Ezekiel bread, toasted
- Half a cucumber, sliced
- Half a tomato, sliced
- 2 wedges of Laughing Cow cheese
- Red wine vinegar
Spread one wedge of cheese on each slice of bread. Sprinkle tomatoes and cucumbers with vinegar, salt and pepper. Layer veggies on one piece of bread and top with basil. Put the top piece of toast on and enjoy!
Peanut Butter and Berries - The berries add sweetness without using jelly, so you skip the added sugar.
- Fresh or frozen berries of your choice
- Natural (no salt added) peanut butter
- 2 slices of Ezekiel bread, toasted
Spread peanut butter on one piece of toast, add berries, press, slice and enjoy.
Grilled Apple and Cheese – Do not butter the slices. The cheese and apple will add all the flavor you need.
- 2 slices of Ezekiel bread
- Half an apple, sliced
- One piece of sliced cheddar
Place one slice of bread on a sandwich grill, top with sliced apple and cheese, top with second slice, grill until cheese is melted.