Hi! I’m Kristen, Mom of a toddler, and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist living in Georgia. I’m the founder of this blog, 360 Family Nutrition – a family focused blog designed to encourage healthy eating habits within the entire family, including the youngest of eaters. Throughout this blog you will find simple recipes to serve up your family, nutrition tips to encourage a healthy..
For a healthier snack, this Valentine’s holiday serve this festive Healthy Valentines Day Popcorn Snack mix.
Do you enjoy festive heart-themed foods throughout the month of February? It excites my family to have some heart themed foods in the pantry to help celebrate Valentine’s Day. Currently, in our pantry, we have veggie heart chips, heart-shaped pasta, heart-shaped pretzels, heart gummy snacks, and heart fruit pouches. Okay, so we might be overly prepared for Valentine’s Day.
Because I get so excited about Valentine’s Day themed foods, the past two years I have signed up to host my son’s Valentine’s Day party at school. Since I don’t want to overload the kids with sugar and still offer them a festive option I served this Healthy Valentines Day popcorn snack mix at last years party. I plan to do the same this year.
The Healthy Valentine’s Day popcorn snack mix is made from Veggie heart chips, popcorn, freeze-dried strawberries, and chocolate cookie crisps. You could definitely get creative with what you add to the mix. Chex cereal, valentine themed pretzels, or other dark chocolate candies are a few other options. Below is another snack mix I also made last year around Valentine’s Day that contained a little more sugar due to the marshmallows and M&M candies included.
Here are some pictures from last year’s school Valentine’s Day party. In addition to the Healthy Valentine’s Day Popcorn Snack Mix, we also served heart cookies, heart-shaped cheese, and applesauce pouches. For an activity we had the children decorate heart wands. I will post pictures from this year’s Valentine’s Day party soon!
These simple Valentine Chocolate Pretzel Rings are a festive snack your kiddos can help make for upcoming Valentine parties
It was cold and rainy throughout the month of January, so finding indoor activities for my oldest son was important. Right after Christmas, I purchased a few bags of pretzel rings from Aldi in hopes of using them for a special project with my son. I kept telling my him we would use them for a special project, but in my mind wasn’t quite sure exactly what the special project would be. And then one day my husband came home with a gigantic bag of Hershey Kisses his mother had given him. I knew instantly the special project would include the pretzel rings and Hershey kisses.
These simple Valentine Pretzel Rings only require a few ingredients- pretzels, chocolate to fill rings, and candied chocolate (or heart candy) for the topping. I used two types of chocolates to fill the pretzel rings, both milk chocolate Hershey Kisses and dark chocolate Dove hearts. A variety of toppings were used for these Valentine Pretzel Rings such as Valentine M&M’s, heart candies, and heart marshmallows. The variety of combinations with the different chocolate bases and varying toppings can be a lot of fun. You can get incredibly creative with your combinations!
A highlight of the recipe – it only takes a few minutes to prepare. One of the most time-consuming steps to make the Valentine Pretzel rings is unwrapping the chocolate pieces. Once you place the chocolate inside the pretzel ring, you will only need to bake the rings for about 2-3 minutes. Note – Be careful not to overcook, or the milk chocolate will burn. After the chocolate melted you can quickly place the additional toppings.
My son had a blast making these festive Valentine snacks. He has actually helped me prepare several batches over the past few weeks. One of his main tasks was to unwrap the chocolate pieces. But he also enjoyed filling the pretzel rings with the chocolate and placing the topping pieces on the melted chocolate.
I took the Valentine Pretzel Rings to a recent girls night, and they were a huge hit. My friends’ feedback was they enjoyed the perfect combination of sweet and salty. Several of my friends left the girls night with plans to make the Valentines Pretzel Rings the following weekend with their kiddos.
Loving Your Body During Pregnancy can be challenging for many women – in today’s post I share some tips I found helpful for body kindness during pregnancy.
I wrote this blog post several months ago at 38 weeks pregnant.
I have been trying to put my words together for a post on Loving Your Body During Pregnancy for months now. I recently posted this photo of me about 38 weeks pregnant on Instagram and mentioned how it can be difficult to find body kindness during pregnancy. I was blown away by the supportive comments I received on the post.
Some women truly enjoy the experience of being pregnant. I would not consider myself one of those women. I just try to get through pregnancy knowing the prize that awaits at the end. During my first pregnancy, I was somewhat indifferent about the physical changes that accompanied my pregnancy. I felt comfortable physically and mentally with my body throughout the pregnancy.
The changes my body has undergone this pregnancy have felt much different. My feet are more swollen, I have more aches and pains, I developed a baby bump sooner, and overall gained more weight. I have never struggled with negative body thoughts, but all these bodily changes during pregnancy have certainly made me less secure about my body.
Being pregnant can make you feel like your body is constantly “on display”. For some reason, people feel its an appropriate time to make comments about your body. At 38 weeks pregnant, I get a variety of comments ranging from “you look great” to “you must be due any day now”. But the comments started early on during the pregnancy. Most people offer positive and congratulatory comments, but others offer an uninvited assessment of how far along in your pregnancy you appear. I have been rather surprised by the number of comments I received this pregnancy
Between the raging hormones, physical body changes, and comments made about your growing bump (or swelling legs) loving your body during pregnancy can certainly be a challenge. I know it has been for me during my current pregnancy. If you are like me (and many other mammas out there) and struggling with body kindness during pregnancy, here are five tips I found to be helpful.
Tips for Loving your Body During Pregnancy:
Applaud yourself – Remember you are growing another human! Pregnancy is a pretty amazing thing most women’s bodies are able to experience. Acknowledge this special season of your life and enjoy it while you can. I often remind myself that there are women who struggle with infertility and would be ecstatic to have this experience.
Stop comparing yourself – In the age of social media its hard not to compare how your pregnant body looks compared to other people. Several times throughout this pregnancy I have found myself making comparisons to other pregnant women, wondering why they had a smaller bump, didn’t have swollen feet or could do more physical activity than I could. When I find myself comparing my body with others I remind myself that this is only a season of my life, and pregnancy looks and feels different for every single woman.
Practice plenty of self-care – Pregnancy is a time to love on yourself and body. Make sure to take time to check in with yourself and assess what would help make you feel love and confidence. Eat ample foods that nourish your body, find activities that help you relax, or surround yourself with people who offer positive energy.
Participate mindful movement – Pregnant or not, participating in physical activity can help relieve stress and make you feel empowered. Physical activity can help decrease some common discomforts associated with pregnancy such as backaches, fatigue, and leg swelling. Rather than participate in strenuous exercise, try to do physical activity you don’t find a chore and enjoy such as walking with a friend, dancing slowly, or swimming.
Wear clothes that make you feel confident – I know it sounds a little materialistic to mention clothing, but feeling comfortable and confident in your clothing can go a long way. Consider purchasing a few clothing items that excite you and help you to feel comfortable in your pregnant body. If you don’t want to spend too much money consider a clothing resale store or check out discount retailers such as Walmart.
There will definitely be a “loving your body after pregnancy” post coming soon!
Do you remember your favorite snack as a toddler? I don’t remember much from my early childhood, but I do happen to remember my favorite snack. I attended a daycare during my toddler years and I remember being served graham crackers with icing. A simple snack that probably wouldn’t be allowed in most daycare centers today due to the high sugar content.
The snack is incredibly easy to make – it is graham cracker squares topped with a basic glaze icing. The icing is made by mixing powdered sugar and water (or milk). When I had it as a child it never included any type of topping.
I decided to give the graham cracker with icing recipe (snack) a healthier makeover by including a few more nutritionally dense ingredients. I added plain Greek yogurt to the icing to help reduce the amount of added sugar and add a bit of protein. The Greek yogurt also helped to give the icing a creamier flavor (with a hint of cheesecake flavor). I wouldn’t recommend using fat-free Greek yogurt as it will result in a thinner icing. Try using whole fat or only partially reduced-fat Greek yogurt.
Toppings are also another fun addition to this snack (and way to add nutrition). For this recipe I included dried strawberries, but the options are limitless for topping choices. You could include other dried fruits, chocolate pieces, nuts, sprinkles etc.
This snack should not be made in advance. The graham crackers got a bit soggy about an hour after the icing was spread on them.
2018 has come and gone, but not without some major life changes. Honestly, at the start of last year I had no idea what the year would bring, but within a few months, I learned our family was expanding. While many exciting things happened throughout the year, without a doubt the birth of Baby B was the most exciting.
We welcomed this cutie in late fall, so I decided to take the rest of the year off on “maternity leave”.
Here are a few other highlights from the year:
1)Interview at CNN on “healthy lunchbox ideas”.
Going to the CNN studios to do an interview was on my bucket list, but not sure I had visioned doing it at 30 weeks pregnant. Perhaps it wasn’t my finest television interview, but regardless it was an exciting experience.
2) Interview for New York Post on “Carnivore Diet”
I chatted with the New York Post to discuss the latest fad diet, Carnivore Diet. Another fun interview in 2018! (Link to interview here).
3) Recipe featured on NBC News Better – “8 Creative Apple Recipes”
I was honored to have my Spiralized Apple Peanut Butter Salad featured on NBC News Better. (Link to article here).
1)Three Ingredient Baked Veggie Donut
Yep, I did it – I added veggies to a baked chocolate donut recipe and it was absolutely delicious! (Link to recipe here).
2) Small Batch Lower Sugar Blueberry Basil Jam
I explored something new (to me) in 2018 by learning how to make my own jam. This super flavorful Lower Sugar Blueberry Basil Jam is delicious and contains a lesser amount of sugar compared to most jam recipes. (Link to recipe here).
3) Rainbow Veggie Pita Flatbread
One of my favorite types of recipes to include on the blog are food art and creative offerings for healthy eats. This vibrant colored flatbread is sure to entice the pickiest of eaters to eat a few more veggies. (Link to recipe here).
1)Trip to the Beach
In June we headed to a beach off of the cost of Georgia. It was during this trip we announced we were expecting a baby boy!
2) Trip to NYC
In August we visited New York City for a mini “baby moon” and ate our way through the city. Its a tradition to make a trip to NYC before a baby comes.
3) Skiing in Colorado
Only a few days before we found out were expecting little man, we made a trip out west to ski in Colorado. We had an amazing time skiing during the day and enjoying spiked hot chocolate at night.
We also made several trips to my home state of Oklahoma and Tampa, Florida.
A FEW OTHER HIGHLIGHTS…
Popular post with printable Valentines cards (click here for post)
Visit with Santa
A favorite picture of mine – at a bookstore in Oklahoma
This Carrot Hummus Jack O’Lantern English Muffin is a festive balanced meal or snack option to offer your whole family this Halloween season!
If you have followed my blog or social media accounts for any time, you know that one of my favorite type of blog posts to create are festive and creative snack offerings. I find such fulfillment in creating creative snack offerings that will hopefully excite your little ones about nutrition-packed foods such as fruits and vegetables. Specifically, I really enjoy coming up with festive ideas for Halloween and Christmas! Check out some of my other holiday-themed posts here.
Today I was actually working on updating photos for this Carrot Peanut Butter Pumpkin snack, a recipe I created more than five years ago when I came up with the idea for this Carrot Hummus Jack O’Lantern English Muffin recipe. Both recipes are actually quite similar, but given one of the main ingredients is hummus (instead of peanut butter) I decided it was worth a new post. Why didn’t I think of the carrot + hummus combo five years ago?!
This Carrot Hummus Jack O’Lantern English Muffin recipe can be served as part of a meal or a snack. As with most of my food art recipes, the creation of this English Muffin recipe is an excellent way to get the kiddos involved in the kitchen. Some children may be able to assemble the entire Jack O’Lantern English Muffin. While younger children could help out with one or two aspects of the assembly process such as spread the hummus, add the carrots, or place the raisins.
Don’t be afraid to serve this at your kiddos next Halloween party for a healthier option! It allows you to provide a nutrition-packed option and help balance all the candy and sweet treats they will likely be offered. All the parents will be thankful!
I would love to hear what festive foods you like to serve your kiddos!
Your Family’s Dietitian,
Carrot Hummus Jack O'Lantern English Muffin
1/2 English muffin
2-3 teaspoon hummus
1 tablespoon shredded carrots
1 piece apple or green pepper (for stem)
Spread hummus evenly on English muffin
Top with shredded carrots, press shredded carrots into English muffin so they will stick better
Place raisins on top of shredded carrots to form the jack o’lantern (place for eyes, nose, mouth). Place apple or green pepper on top of English muffin to form stem.
These Freezer Friendly Simple Breakfast Quesadillas are a delicious option to have on hand for busy mornings! The protein-rich quesadillas are stuffed with three simple breakfast ingredients – eggs, bacon, and cheese.
I have to admit, my breakfast choices have lacked variety lately. I eat almost the same thing on a daily basis. During the week my son eats breakfast at school, so I am only making breakfast for myself and less motivated to be creative. I typically prepare an egg in the microwave, sprouted grain toast or whole grain waffle, and a banana. Sounds so exciting right?!
On the weekends we typically eat breakfast as a family, so I am more likely to be a little more creative and add variety to my breakfast choices. We almost always prepare scrambled eggs, but the rest of the breakfast does vary. Some type of fruit (usually cut up) is nearly always involved. Bacon is sometimes included. And we typically include some type of starch focused food such as whole grain waffles (sometimes homemade and sometimes frozen), pastries, oatmeal bake, whole grain toast, etc.
Something I have made from time to time for weekend breakfasts is simple breakfast quesadillas. They are made with a few simple ingredients – tortillas, scrambled, eggs, bacon, and cheese, and are always a hit with my family. Even my toddler, who rarely eats combined foods, is a huge fan. On the rare occasion when I do have leftovers, I will store the quesadillas in the refrigerator. The next morning I will heat the leftover quesadillas in the toaster for a delicious and quick breakfast option.
Recently I saw a food other food bloggers post recipes that included freezing egg-based recipes to be enjoyed later. This post sparked the idea for the creation of Freezer Friendly Simple Breakfast Quesadillas! Instead of refrigerating the leftover quesadillas I decided to give freezing a try. It worked like a charm!
To make the freezer friendly version of Simple Breakfast Quesadillas prepare the eggs and bacon as usual, but then instead of cooking the quesadillas stuff the tortillas and place them flat (like on a cookie sheet) in the freezer for a few hours. After the quesadillas have been in freezer a few hours, you can remove from freezer and cut into smaller pieces and wrap each quesadilla in plastic wrap. They can be kept in freezer for one to two months. Such a yummy breakfast to have on hand!
Your Family’s Dietitian,
Freezer Friendly Simple Breakfast Quesadillas
10 medium flour tortillas
7-8 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
10 strips bacon
salt & pepper to taste
non-stick cooking spray
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and salt
Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium. Add eggs and cook, stirring over a medium heat until eggs are fluffy and set. Set eggs aside in a bowl
While eggs are cooking, cook bacon per package directions (aim for a crunchy and well-cooked bacon for best results)
Fold each tortilla in half and then open back up. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of cheese on one side of the tortilla, crumble one slice of bacon and sprinkle over cheese, spoon about 1/10 of eggs on top, sprinkle with another 1 teaspoon of cheese, close the tortilla; repeat for remaining tortillas
If planning to freeze, place each filled tortilla in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place in freezer and let freeze for about 1-2 hours. Remove from freezer and using a knife or pizza cutter, cut each quesadilla in half to make two quesadillas. Wrap each quesadilla in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer
If plan to enjoy quesadillas immediately, heat a medium skillet to medium heat and cook quesadilla about 3-4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
*To reheat frozen quesadillas, place quesadillas in a toaster oven and toast on medium or until center is cooked through. Can also microwave (for a less crunchy result) for about 45 seconds.
Read about why we decided to delay the introduction of added sugar until after my son turned two years old!
If you follow my blog or Instagram account, you know that I have a HUGE sweet tooth and definitely am not afraid to enjoy sweets in moderated amounts. On my Instagram account, it’s not uncommon to see a photo of a donut or on the blog posts such as this one, “Following My Sweet Cravings through NYC.” While my family doesn’t have quite the sweet tooth I do, they also occasionally enjoy sugar-sweetened foods.
I have struggled with craving sugar-sweetened foods for as long as I can remember. I have gone through periods of my life when I ate less sugar-sweetened foods and drank less sugar-sweetened beverages. Over the past decade, the desire for sugar-sweetened beverages has diminished, but the cravings for cookies, candies, and ice cream have always remained. One thing I have learned from personal experiences and through providing nutrition counseling to clients is that completely depriving yourself of any food often leads to overindulging at some point, which can then lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.
When my son was born, one of my goals for him was to create a solid nutrition foundation and a healthy relationship with food. I breastfed him until he was 14 months ago, exposed him to the top 8 allergens before he reached ten months, offered ample fruits and vegetables, AND delayed offering him sugar until after the age of 2. My biggest motivation for delaying exposure to added sugar was taste preference. I was hoping if I didn’t expose him to sugar until he better developed his taste preferences, he would be less likely to struggle with the sweet cravings that I have always had.
Reducing my son’s taste preference for sugar was not the only motivator for delaying adding sugar until after the age of 2. Sadly for many children, sugar-sweetened foods replace other nutrient-dense foods. A majority of sugar-sweetened foods offer little to no nutrition value. I wanted to expose my son to a variety of nutrient-dense foods and flavors, in hopes he wouldn’t develop picky eating habits. Additionally, several studies suggest exposing children to added sugar at a younger age, increases the incidence of cavities.
Not offering my toddler any food or beverages with added sugar was not always easy. Family members (especially the Grandparents) wanted to offer him various sweetened foods and beverages such as candy, cake, and juice. On occasion, juice was offered at his school. Other children had birthday celebrations at school, which involved cake and cupcakes. If I was present I kindly explained that we were delaying the introduction to sugar, but knew there were times it was hard to control.
For his first birthday, I still wanted to offer him a smash cake but wasn’t quite ready to expose him to all the added sugar that is typically used to make most cakes (and icing). So I committed to creating a healthier smash cake recipe. After experimenting with several recipes, I came up with this healthier smash cake recipe creation to offer him. He didn’t end up eating any of it and screamed the whole time, but I think that’s part of the fun of a smash cake. Or maybe the dense whole grain cake topped with Greek yogurt icing was just not his thing?!
Of course, there is irony to my healthier smash cake creation. On my son’s birthday, I arrived at daycare to find out the mother of another boy who happened to share the same birthday brought the class mini cupcakes topped with a mountain of sugar-sweetened icing. My initial reaction was that of anger and panic! I politely spoke to the teacher and asked if she could not offer my son a cupcake. She looked at me like I had two heads – I was asking her not to offer my son a cupcake on his own birthday. I explained the rationale and she asked if she could at least offer him a cupcake without the icing. I agreed but asked this didn’t become a regular thing.
I have to be clear on one thing – I never had ANY intentions of restricting his sugar intake after his 2ndbirthday. I just hoped that by delaying exposure he would develop a taste preference for more nutrition dense foods. Around his second birthday, I started gradually offering him small amounts of sugar-sweetened foods such as a bite of ice cream or a cookie. I also knew that he was starting to get offered sugar-sweetened foods more and more outside the house, and I could no longer avoid these offerings.
As a Registered Dietitian, I knew restriction and avoidance of any food group for the long haul wouldn’t help create a healthy relationship for his future eating habits. Avoiding or restricting food groups can lead to overindulging and unhealthy thoughts about food. I never wanted him to feel guilt or shame for eating any type of food. So avoiding the introduction of sugar until the age of two allowed enough time for his taste preferences to develop but it was time to teach balance.
Two years later I still strongly stick with my decision to delay the introduction of added sugar to my toddler’s diet. Currently, my son does enjoy foods with added sugar (and sometimes beverages with added sugar) several times throughout the week. However, he is not asking for sugar-sweetened foods or beverages incessantly. Yes, he will definitely ask for sweetened foods when there is an environmental cue such as a package of cookies sitting on the counter or after observing someone else eating something, but rarely asks for them on his own.
Our family will often go out for ice cream on Fridays or enjoy donuts on the weekends – it’s common for him not to finish moderated servings offered to him. Once he feels satisfied he stops. He knows because this is not a restricted food he will be offered it again and doesn’t feel the need to overindulge.
Now did my delay in added sugar lead to non-picky eating habits? Perhaps not. Despite my efforts to introduce a variety of food groups and ample fruits and veggies during his first two years of life, we still have a relatively picky eater on our hands. Vegetables are still a huge struggle despite continual exposure. Perhaps I will share more about this in a future blog post?
Many organizations offer recommendations and guidance for feeding children. However, the decision of what you feed your child is still a personal one and should be based on what works best for your family. Delaying added sugar in my son’s diet did work well for our family, and he was able to maximize the nutrition-packed foods he was exposed to the first 2 years of life. If you decide not to delay the introduction of sugar-sweetened foods I highly encourage you to keep portions extremely small and not make it a regular habit. I certainly understand with multiple children in the house it becomes more difficult. To help with delaying added sugars in your children’s’ diet check out Strong 4 Life’s guide of simple swaps to avoid added sugar.
These Apple Spice Oatmeal Cookies are a healthier cookie option packed with oats and apples to enjoy this fall season!
*Recipe and pictures updated 9/18
Its September, which means I am in full swing making apple recipes like this Apple Spice Oatmeal Cookie Recipe! Just wait for pumpkin season! The pumpkin recipes are next I promise.
I took my favorite healthier oatmeal cookie recipe and tried to “spice” it up with apple flavorings. It was not so difficult given the cookies already had a hint of apple flavor from the applesauce (used for partial butter replacement) so I thought the added fruit and spices would further compliment the flavors.
What makes this Apple Spice Oatmeal Cookie recipe healthier than other cookie recipes? I did substitute some of the fat (butter) with applesauce and also lowered the sugar content a bit. Additionally, its packed with oats, which offer greater satiety and if eaten on a regular basis may help improve blood cholesterol levels and promote bowel regularity. These substitutions do not compromise the flavor bit, however, they do change the texture just a tad. Substituting recipes with applesauce and using less sugar typically results in a more fluffy, cake-like consistency. Not to worry my family still very much approves of this recipe! If you want a flatter and more chewy cookie skip the applesauce and replace with equal amounts of butter.
On another note, this was my first time trying cookies on a silicone mat using a cookie scoop. I am addicted and highly recommend investing in both if you don’t already have them in your kitchen. Both allow for an easier (and less messy) cookie making process!
I am going to leave you with some pictures from the original post for Apple Spice Oatmeal Cookies!
Your Family’s Dietitian,
Healthier Apple Spice Oatmeal Cookies
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar (or 8 packets Splenda)
1 large egg
4 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
4 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 uncooked oats (plain)
1/2 cup finely chopped apples
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit; lightly spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray or line cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat
In a small mixing bowl combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt)
In a large mixing bowl whisk together butter, applesauce, and both sugars; add egg and vanilla and mix well; pour the dry ingredients into this mixture and combine well
Mix in oats and apples
Drop rounded cookie dough (tablespoon vs small cookie scoop) onto cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 minutes (or until cookies no longer gooey in the center).