Looking to cook more with your little one in the new year? I’ve rounded up my favorites to share with you in my Holiday Gift Guide for your Little Sous Chef!
Not sure what to get your child, grandchild, niece or nephew for christmas this year? Give a gift that keeps giving! Kid-friendly food preparation tools and educational toys are a great idea for getting kids interested in cooking and having fun in the kitchen! Here are a few of my favorite tools that I have used with my son over the past year and have found really helpful.
I got this exact learning tower for my son last year for Christmas and we use it every day! It’s adjustable platform allows your child to reach the counter to help you cook and prepare foods at the right height as they grow. IAnd is a much safer, sturdier option than using a step stool.
This caddy comes with just about any kitchen tool your little one might need to help you in the kitchen. They tools are made smaller than regular adult size tools and have grips on the handle so the tools are less likely to slip from their hands.
This crinkle cutting tool is the perfect first knife for young toddlers. It’s wide enough that they can use to hands to push down and cut fruits and vegetables. Curious Chef Knife Set
These plastic knives are a great cutting tool for older toddlers or kids who have some experience cutting. The blade is duller than a regular knife and it’s serrated edge makes it easier to hold on to food as they cut.
Cookie cutter help turn a boring slice of fruit or cookie dough into a fun and exciting shape Non-Slip Mixing Bowls
No-slip bowls are helpful when your little one is learning to stir and mix to prevent any potential spills that might occur with a regular bowl. I have found the bigger the bowl the better, more area for them to pour in and it helps keep as much food in the bowl as they stir.
Sometimes cooking doesn’t have to include real food! I love these sets by Melissa and Doug to keep in my sons play kitchen. I often bring them out to entertain him while I am finishing up dinner! Melissa & Doug Food Group Set
This food group set is another great gift to give kids to help practice identifying foods and eventually start learning about the different food groups. And also are helpful to keep near the kitchen for entertainment!
What are some of your favorite kitchen tools that you use with your little sous chef?
These Apple Cranberry Muffins make for a fun kid activity and delicious addition to breakfast or snack this holiday season.
These Apple Cranberry Muffins were inspired by another family recipe I found while creating our family cookbook this year. This recipe came from my mom who used to make apple muffins for breakfast on the weekends, frequently! And as you may see if you look back through many of my recipes think Apple Cranberry Mini Pies and Butternut Squash Cranberry Apple Bake and my Naturally Sweet Cranberry Apple Compote, I love apples and cranberries together. Cranberries by themselves are a bit too tart for me and apples by themselves are a bit boring. Put them together you have a less tart, more exciting baked good, side dish or sauce. Agree?!
In this recipe I used half whole wheat flour to add some more fiber and protein, added a bit more spice (because cinnamon and nutmeg are yummers!) and added in the cranberries for a nice burst of color and flavor, and added nutrients like fiber and antioxidants.
This Pumpkin Pie Dessert Hummus made a great kid and adult-friendly dip! Serve it up with some apple slices or cookies for a fun snack or dessert.
Pureed chickpeas make a great bland base for just about any flavor combination, sweet or savory. And I have to admit I am totally on the dessert hummus train and can’t get enough of this Pumpkin Pie Dessert Hummus I made with my son. I was inspired by the ten cans of hummus I had left in my pantry from a recent cooking class that I wanted to use up before we moved. I also had half of a can of pumpkin puree left in the fridge that I needed to use up. Insert pumpkin hummus! I had tried a savory version before but wasn’t sold so instead I played around with a sweet version that would be good for a snack or dessert. The chickpeas provide a great source of fiber and protein to make this treat more filling and satisfying.
The Pumpkin Pie Dessert Hummus pairs great with apple slices, graham crackers, or even these pictured Enjoy Life Snickerdoodles. Anything goes! I love using dips to get my son to try new foods. So if there is a fruit your child is still learning to like you could try serving the dip with both a “new” fruit and a fruit they enjoy. Worst case they eat the fruit they are familiar with, best case they eat the “new” fruit and dip everything in the hummus. You just never know what might be the ticket.
This Butternut Squash Cranberry Apple Bake is a great kid-friendly make ahead side dish for Thanksgiving or holiday get together.
November is upon us and that only means one thing… it’s almost Thanksgiving! One of my favorite holidays and my hubby’s number one favorite. There is not much better than getting to eat a bunch of the best comfort food all in one day!
This year I have made it a goal to get a family cookbook ready by Thanksgiving to give to family for christmas. So I have been collecting a lot of family recipes and recently came across one of my favorite holiday side dishes. A squash and apple bake my grandmother and mom often make for Thanksgiving or Christmas. This dish is both sweet and savory and has a punch of holiday flavor thanks too some added mace. Mace is a spice very similar to nutmeg, but not as commonly used or found in cooking. In this recipe I have swapped in nutmeg, but you can easily use mace if you happen to have some in your spice rack! This dish it’s definitely one of those foods that brings back a lot of childhood holiday memories for me!
I decided to re-create my grandmothers recipe a bit by adding in some more holiday flavors like maple and cranberries. End result was delicious! It still kept intake the flavors I remember but with a punch of color and tart bite from the cranberries.
This Butternut Squash Cranberry Apple Bake is also a great way to get kids to try squash and cranberries because its paired with kid-friendly baked apples and has a touch of added sweetness from maple syrup. You can even have your little ones help you by layering the squash, apples and cranberries and mixing together and pouring on the glaze. This dish is great prepared ahead and cooked just before eating. You can also bake it ahead and reheat it in the oven or microwave just before eating. Truth is this dish is way better day 2, than day 1. Over night the apples and squash soak up all the flavors from the glaze and are extra tasty!
Sharing some of my favorite kid and family friendly food finds at FNCE!
It you follow me on social media you may have seen that I recently attended a FNCE, a Food and Nutrition conference in Washington, DC. The conference, best known by dietitians as “FNCE” stands for Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition. It is a three day event where over 10,000 dietitians from all over the world come together to learn from fellow RDs about the most up-to-date research on hot nutrition topics, connect with like-minded dietitians and meet with companies in the food industry to learn about (and try!) their products.
This was my first year going as an actual dietitian. I attended back in 2009 during my senior year in college with some of my classmates. Let’s just say a lot has changed. Nutrition topics are different and food trends have changed! Given my interest in feeding kids and families I focused most of my time at the EXPO connecting with food companies focused on feeding kids and families to learn about their company and how their products could benefit my clients.
One big take away from the EXPO was that many products are focused not only on providing healthier alternatives for families, but providing convenient alternatives! One session I went to on Family Meals noted that the top barriers for families to get dinner on the table is not having enough time and energy to prepare meals. Food companies have picked up on this and are creating more products that are quick to prepare. Another non-profit organization I talked with Family Meals Month is providing families with resources including recipes and meal planning tips to assist families in getting meals on the table.
Convenience, Convenience, Convenience. Consumers struggle with having enough time and energy to prepare meals and are in need of products and resources that make getting a dinner on the table for the family easy! I get it, planning, preparing and cooking meals can be overwhelming but luckily there are more products out there that are helping families with this. Here is a list of a few of the food companies that I met with and enjoyed their products!
Best know for their canned tuna, Starkist is now creating other lean protein products in convenient tear-and-go pouches. Their newest line of Chicken Creations are pouches of cooked chicken mixed with different seasonings and are ready to eat on their own, used as a dip or added to dishes. If you missed, earlier this week I shared more about Chicken Creations and a recipe for Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Naan using their Bold Buffalo pouches.
This is a brand I have loved for over a year now. Kodiak cakes makes a variety of healthy whole grain pancake, waffle and bread mixes. This product is great for families who want to get their kid involved in baking but don’t want to make a huge mess. Just add water or milk to their pancake mix and you have breakfast ready in no time! My son helps me quit regularly to make pancakes and other baked goods using their mixes.
Stonyfield is a dairy company that provides a great line of kid friendly dairy products. I love their squeeze pouches for my son and love that they have a whole milk option now! I also sampled their chocolate yogurt and graham cracker snack packs. Think healthy dunkaroos! Great for adding to kids lunch boxes or as an on-the-go snack.
Another trend that I noticed was that many companies are working to add vegetables to their foods or have created a fun, tasty way to prepare vegetables. Many of the families I work with struggle to get their kids to eat vegetables and luckily food companies are getting creative to solve the problem. You may know my thoughts behind “hiding” vegeteables in food, but many of these products I have listed below are definitely serving a three-fold benefit. They are healthy, quick and easy to prepare, and contain vegetables!
Dr. Praeger’s values getting families together to share nutritious meals. Most of their foods can be found in the freezer section and are made with simple ingredients. The product line I use most with my son is their Littles line where they have created fun shaped finger foods made with different vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale and sweet potato.
Rhythm Superfoods is a company that I knew about before FNCE and use their products regularly with my son. They make dried vegetables sticks/chips made from beets, carrots and kale. My son loves their beet chips and I love that they are a great product to help introduce your child to vegetables. Since they are crunchy like crackers or chips they have a “preferable” texture that kids will enjoy and can serve as a transition food to regular vegetables.
This company makes a cauliflower pizza crust and pre-baked sweet potato for making sweet potato toast. Their products are a fun way to introduce kids who might not typically like cauliflower or sweet potatoes to these foods.
Farmwise Foods take iconic kid-friendly foods and bump up the nutrition by making them with vegetables. Their product line includes Veggie Tots, Veggie Fries, Veggie Onions and soon Chicken Veggie Tenders. I have made the Broccoli Sweet Potato Tots for my son and really enjoyed the flavor and texture. I got to same their Veggie Onions and Chicken Veggie Tenders at FNCE and was equally impressed!
Think muffins with added vegetables ( like carrots and zucchini). I sampled the blueberry muffin and was definitely impressed. I couldn’t taste or see the vegetables. They also make a line of veggies bites, veggie cakes and frittatas. All of which make preparing a veggie packed family meal easy!
This Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Naan is packed with flavor and takes only 15 minutes to prepare and cook, thanks to StarKist’s NEW Chicken Creations pouches.
While at FNCE I had the chance to meet with StarKist’s very own dietitian, Laura Ali and learn about StarKist new Chicken Creations pouches. StarKist has been on a mission to make eating lean protein easy and delicious. Back in May of this year they added chicken to their like of lean protein pouches and can be found in the grocery store next to their tuna and salmon pouches and cans. The best part about these packages is that they are ready-to-eat on their own or to add to a meal. Each of their four pouches comes with it’s own unique flavor including their Chicken Salad, Zesty Lemon Pepper, Ginger Soy and my favorite BOLD Buffalo Chicken. You can easily pack the pouches in your lunch box to add to a salad, sandwich or use as a dip. They are even great for snacking on-the-go and keep well in your purse or desk drawer, no refrigeration required!
The BOLD Buffalo Style is my favorite, because the flavor is just that, BOLD! I first had it with veggie sticks and pretzels for a quick afternoon snack and loved it just as it was. But knew it would work great as an addition to a meal or even appetizer.
This Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Naan is quick and easy to make, and is packed with flavor and lean protein! Simply top a pre-made Naan or small pizza dough with cheese (I used a mix of cheddar, mozzarella and gorgonzola) and a package of the StarKist Chicken Creation BOLD Buffalo Style and you have dinner ready for your family in only 15 minutes. You can even make it is a last-minute lunch or serve it up as an appetizer at your next party. The options are endless! Having the chicken pre-cooked and seasoned helps cut back a lot of preparation time. And it’s simplicity allows you to get the kids involved for a fun activity.
I served my Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Naan with raw carrots and celery (because, best combo ever!) but you could also make a quick salad or serve with whatever raw vegetables you have on hand.
Reasons Why Your Child Might Be Sneaking Foods and 4 Actionable Steps You Can Take to Help!
One of the most common reasons why children might be sneaking foods or refusing to eat foods is due to how food is being controlled at home. This could either be through food restriction or pressure to eat certain foods. Food restriction is when the type of food, portion size of food or calorie content of food is restricted. While food pressure is when children are encouraged or bribed to eat a certain food or eat foods in a certain order ( i.e fruits and vegetables before other foods). Research shows that restriction leads to overconsumption of foods, especially when the child is out of their parents’ “control”. While pressure often leads to under consumption of those foods.
Parents often restrict or pressure children to eat certain foods out of fear. Fear that their child is eating “too much”, not eating the right type or amount of food, may be gaining weight, or might be overweight. Often parents don’t even realize they are doing it or may think they are doing what is right and don’t know another way. If this sounds like something that may be going on at home, it’s okay! You are not alone.
The goal is to share the responsibility of feeding with our children. It’s our job as parents to provide reliable, consistent meals and snacks and a variety of foods. It’s our children’s job to choose whether to eat what’s served and how much. When children are able to control the “whether” and “how much” to eat, they are able to listen to their body cues and are better able to regulate their calories and nutrient needs.
So how can you divide the responsibility of feeding to ensure your child eats a variety of foods and stops sneaking foods?
1. Set a meal and snack schedule that includes at least three meals and two snacks. If children know they are going to be fed in a few hours they will eat as much as is satisfying.
2. Offer a variety of foods at meals and snacks. At meals plan to offer four to five foods from different food groups. a source of carbohydrate, protein, fat and fiber. And at snacks time offer two to three foods from different food groups.
3. Offer foods they are sneaking or eating in large portions more consistently at a set meal or snack time. They may eat a larger portion at first but overtime these portions will normalize.
4. Let your child be in control of whether they eat what’s offered and how much. Avoid pressuring or bribing them to eat certain foods or putting limits on how much they eat. If they finish a portion of a certain food and want more its okay to give more (given there is more). If they don’t touch something on their plate, remind yourself that it’s okay. Continue to offer that food at future meals or snacks, switching up how it’s prepared and offered.