Sarah Remmer is a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist. She believes that the way we feed our babies, toddlers and children now will affect their relationship with food and overall health for the rest of their lives. Subscribe us to get articles on child nutrition, picky eating, family nutrition, nutrition for breastfeeding and healthy weight loss for moms.
This post was written in partnership with my friends at Made with Local. As always, all opinions are my own!
The holidays are fast approaching, and a big part of the fun is…you guessed it—treats!!! Some of our all-time favourite Christmas treats are things like Nanaimo bars, homemade chocolate truffles and gingerbread cookies, YUM.
But when the season of treat-eating starts at the beginning of December—because you know it does—that means a lot of extra sugar, saturated fat and empty calories filling our bellies (and our little ones’ bellies), which can displace other nutrient dense choices.
Hey—I’m all about celebrating with yummy food, trust me! But sometimes the sugar-fest that is Christmas can get a little out of control.
So this year, along with our traditional favourite family treats, we’re making some healthy holiday gingerbread men (or women) that are perfect for snacks, treats, and even holiday gifts. And the best part is that the whole family can enjoy them—even your little ones—because they pack in a lot of nutrition, and minimal added sugar.
We’re using our favourite mix—the Real Food Bar Mix by Made with Local—that contains nutrient-dense oats, dried fruit and seeds, and then adding some a few nutritious ingredients and then maybe doing a little bit of decorating afterwards for fun. I have to admit, I let the decorating get a bit out of control (as you’ll see in the video below), and although it sort of defeated the purpose of the low sugar cookies, it was pretty fun. For your toddlers, I would keep the icing and sprinkles to a minimum
Make sure you watch until the end to learn how to win your own case of Real Food Bar Mix to make these delicious and nutritious cookies.
Preheat your oven to 325F and grease a cookie sheet.
Combine (list all ingredients) in a large bowl and mix with a handmixer or by hand. Spread mixture onto wax or parchment paper so it’s about ½ inch thick. On a hard surface (like a cookie sheet), place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Remove the cookie batter from the freezer, and – with a small gingerbread man cookie cutter, cut out your cookies, place them each on a greased cookie sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Allow to cool and then let your kids help you decorate!
Serve them with a glass of milk as a snack, as a treat after a meal, or give them as gifts!
To win enter to win a case Real Food Bar Mix for your family, leave a comment below about how you’re planning to control the holiday sugar fest in your house! Contest closes December 5th. Or if you simply want to order some mix now, you can visit Made with Local’s Website now and use the code Sarah20 to get 20% your first order!
This post was written by my friend and colleague Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD of Real Mom Nutrition. I’m thrilled to help spread the word about her new book The 101 Healthiest Foods for Kids. And ooh boy do I agree with her list below!
There are foods we know are healthy for our kids, like spinach and quinoa. There are foods we consider occasional fun foods, like cupcakes and Cool Ranch Doritos. And then there are a whole bunch of foods in that middle gray area: packaged stuff that’s often billed as wholesome and nutritious—but may be more hype than healthy. Here are ten to consider:
Even 100 percent fruit juice should be limited (here are the latest guidelines). That’s because juice provides a lot of extra (natural) sugar without the fiber of the whole fruit. Sipping on juice all day also ups the risk for cavities—and may fill little bellies and dull hunger for meals. Many brands boast “100% vitamin c” on labels, but it just isn’t hard for most kids to get enough C each day (about three medium strawberries does the trick for young kids!).
These can certainly be brimming with wholesome ingredients like nuts and oats, but just be cautious. Some are also loaded with sugar—and even if the sugar grams seem reasonable on the label, check the serving size (serving sizes for some granolas are a tiny quarter-cup!).
Gummy Fruit Snacks:
Some parents mistakenly believe these are a “better for you snack” because they’re often labeled “made with real fruit”. But that fruit might be fruit juice concentrate, which is essentially a form of added sugar. Most are made with very little (if any) actual fruit, and some contain synthetic food dyes and oils. They’re fine for an occasional treat, but they’re truly more like candy than a nutritious snack.
These seem great in theory, but some of them are just potato chips with food coloring added. Veggie chips can be a bridge food for fresh vegetables for some very reluctant eaters, so if you’re buying them, choose a veggie chip that lists a vegetable as the first ingredient (not potato flour).
Bars can be an easy convenience food when you’re on the go, but a lot of bars pack serious sugar. Serve whole foods most often at snacks and save bars as an in-a-pinch solution.
Breads labeled as “wheat bread” are typically made with enriched white flour, which means some of the healthy grain components were stripped off during processing. What’s even trickier: “Wheat bread” is sometimes colored with molasses to give it the appearance of whole wheat bread. Always look for “whole wheat” as the first ingredient to get the real deal.
Here’s another sneaky bread label. Just because a bread is contains multiple grains doesn’t mean that any of them are actually whole grain. Check labels for the word “whole” in the first ingredient.
Yes, it’s calorie-free–and for people with diabetes, switching from regular soda to diet can help blood sugar control if they don’t want to give up soda. But some research suggests worrisome side effects, including a higher BMI and boosted risk for metabolic syndrome. If your kids like some fizz, try seltzer with a small splash of juice.
Most people get enough protein, and kids’ protein needs aren’t high enough to warrant regular protein shakes (here are age-by-age visuals of just how much kids need every day). Some are even marketed as a solution for picky eating.
Fro-Yo is fun for sure, but the frozen stuff doesn’t have the probiotic power that the regular kind does. And besides, kids are mostly in it for the toppings anyway, amiright?
Bottom line: I always recommend reading the ingredient list and Nutrition Facts Panel to see what’s really inside instead of relying on label claims, which are more marketing than anything else.
For the very best whole foods to fuel your kids’ bodies and brains, check out my new book The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids. It features profiles of 101 healthy whole foods, answers to your most common questions about feeding kids, and 26 simple recipes you can make with your kids.
DIETITIAN CREATED SLOW COOKER RECIPES FOR QUICK AND NUTRITIOUS MEALS
I love my slow cooker, especially in the fall months when the weather gets cooler and school (for the kiddos) and work (for me) are both busy! As a busy working mom of three kids (who is now solo parenting), life can be hectic to say the least. We’ve all felt overwhelmed with the daily duties that come along with parenting–especially now that school and activities are in full swing. Just when one meal is prepared, served and cleaned up, it feels like the next one is about to start!
Enter the slow cooker.
Being able to throw all the ingredients into one pot, hit a switch, and in a few hours return to find a delicious home cooked meal is a real life (and sanity) saver. I know I am always looking for new slow cooker recipes, so I thought I would share a few recipes created by my dietitian peers that are both delicious and nutritious!
DIETITIAN-APPROVED RECIPES TO HELP TACKLE TURKEY LEFTOVERS
I love the colours and the flavours of fall. I have already stocked my freezer with delicious pumpkin flavoured waffles and muffins. To me fall is a crisp day wrapped in a warm scarf with the smell of pumpkin and cinnamon in the air. Fall also means that it’s almost turkey time! Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. The gathering of friends and family around a delicious (and nutritious) Thanksgiving meal is something I look forward to every year. The only trouble with preparing a Thanksgiving feast is managing leftovers. I always overestimate the size of a turkey required to serve my family and guests. I think this is because I want to make sure there is enough to go around while also ensuring that I can make a classic hot turkey sandwich the next day. Yum! But enviably, I end up with tonnes of turkey leftovers. So, in the spirit of giving I asked a few of my dietitian friends to share their delicious turkey leftover recipes. Here they are!
This post was written in partnership with my friends at Baby Gourmet. As always, all opinions are my own!
Introducing your baby to solids is a fun and exciting time, but it can also be a bit confusing and and anxiety-provoking, especially when you have a million different opinions and LOTS of advice coming at you from all different directions. The truth is, starting solids isn’t a black or white process. You can tailor it to your own comfort level, your lifestyle and your baby. There’s no RIGHT way.
But, there are certain things that you should know before starting, and one of those is that infant feeding guidelines have changed over the past few years. So just because your friend introduced her baby to infant rice cereal first five years ago, doesn’t mean that this the best or only way. In fact, the newest guidelines suggest introducing a variety of textures and flavours, right from six months of age! So here are a few of the most common starting solids questions and answers to help you get started (and watch the video below!):
What Your Need to Know About Starting Your Baby on Solids - YouTube
1. What order should I introduce foods to my baby?
There’s no right order to introduce foods anymore–most foods are fair game (besides a foods like honey, choking hazards and undercooked meat, fish, or eggs, and high mercury fish), BUT it’s very important to introduce iron-rich foods like like deboned salmon, meat, well-cooked eggs, beans and lentils right away. The reason for this is that baby’s iron stores that were built up in the womb are depleted by about six months, so they need iron from food. It’s recommended that babies are offered iron-rich foods at least twice a day, but other nutritious foods like veggies, fruits, yogurt, cheese, nut butters, small seeds like chia and hemp and whole grains can also be introduced around that six month period too.
It’s also now even encouraged to introduce those high allergenic foods like peanut butter, fish, and eggs from six months too! In fact, there’s some promising research to show that this could actually decrease the risk of developing a food allergy. I always recommend to introduce one highly allergenic food at a time, to see if baby reacts at all and decipher what it could be from. If you’re nervous about this, or if there’s a really strong family history of food allergies, you can always test these foods out in the doctors office instead of at home.
2. Should I do “baby-led weaning”?
One of the most exciting changes to infant feeding guidelines over the past few years is that parents can now start introducing lumpier textures—and even soft finger foods–right from the start. This means that your baby can eat foods that the rest of your family is eating, and be included in family meals right at six months of age. In fact, some of you might have (or are planning to) introduce solids using the “baby-led weaning” approach, which is fantastic. This means that your baby self-feeds with safe, soft finger foods right from day one. There are many potential benefits to this approach, such as:
gives your baby full control of their appetite (they can learn self-regulation)
Regardless of which texture you start with, it’s important to let your baby lead. This means, either allowing her to self-feed and eat how much she wants (without coaxing her to eat more or taking food away when she’s not done), or paying close attention to her cues while spoon-feeding. Your baby will let you know when she’s done eating by swatting at the spoon, turning her head away, zipping her lips tightly, spitting food out, throwing food, whining or crying. Don’t make her eat more than she wants. Kids will eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. Honouring those instincts may help them avoid overeating now and down the road.
To keep up with current recommendations of introducing varied textures early, Baby Gourmet is the first baby food company to come up with a lineup of lumpier purees in convenient pouches (with a larger spout for bigger food pieces). They’ve included nutrient-rich foods like salmon (which is loaded full of brain and eye-boosting Omega-3 fats), and sophisticated tastes like mild coconut curry Chicken.
There are so many reasons I love these as a dietitian and mom:
They’re convenient and shelf-stable (until the seal is broken that is)
They’re made with high quality, nutritious and organic ingredients
They’re high in protein and contain iron and other important nutrients such as Omega-3
They allow babies to experience more advanced textures and flavours, early on which increases the chances that they’ll have a wide palate later.
3. Is it ok to feed baby store-bought foods?
Now, we know that we should be striving to feed our babies (and the rest of the family) whole, unprocessed foods most of the time–things like meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. This is a no-brainer. But we also all know (even me–the pediatric dietitian), that it is not always realistic to make everything from scratch 100% of the time, and that convenient packaged baby food comes in handy when life gets busy or you’re on the go. So, that’s when these nutritious, whole-food-based pouches come in really handy. It’s best to compare ingredients’ lists when choosing store-bought baby food, making sure that the company is using real food ingredients that you can recognize. Not a long list of ingredients that sound more like chemicals (this means more processing, additives and preservatives). Personally, I also prefer finding a company that uses local organic ingredients if I can (such as Baby Gourmet).
Don’t be afraid to “think outside the rice cereal box” when introducing solids – by 12 months, your baby should be used to eating a variety of different foods, with the rest of the family!
This post was written in partnership with my friends at Egg Farmers of Canada (and EggCentricTV!). As always, opinions are all my own.
It’s that time again… back to school! And because our little ones have small tummies and big nutrition requirements, we need to make sure they start their day off right – with a good breakfast!
What’s most important when it comes to breakfast is “staying power” – a breakfast with staying power is one that will keep your kids fuller longer, and keep their bodies and brains energized and fuelled for school. What’s also SUPER important (and I speak for myself), is that it’s quick and easy to prepare. And a bonus? If you can make it in bulk and freeze it.
Eggs are the perfect school-day breakfast food because they’re packed full of protein (which means they have staying power!), and vitamins and minerals. My kids and I are going to show you how to make our three favourite school breakfast recipes – all of which you can make ahead and freeze for busy mornings. And for those little ones with allergies and intolerances, we’ve made these all gluten and dairy free! Psst—these also make for great additions to lunch kits too!
3 Easy Make-Ahead Breakfasts for Busy Weekday Mornings - YouTube
Recipe #1: Easy Egg Bites Two Ways
1 dozen eggs, whisked
salt and pepper to taste
For savory: green onions, baby tomatoes, peppers (all diced)
For sweet: Blueberries, cinnamon sugar, shredded coconut
Non-stick cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray your muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray
Let your kids fill each cup with either savory or sweet ingredients (about 1/3 full), and then fill with egg mixture (3/4 full).
Place muffin pan on top of a baking sheet with water in it. Place in the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven when done (slightly golden brown on top), and gently take the egg cups out of the pan to cool.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge, or wrap each individually in plastic wrap and store in a freezer safe air tight bag for longer term freezer storage. Unwrap and reheat in the microwave for about 30 seconds or in a toaster oven for busy mornings.
2) 3-Ingredient Flourless Banana Pancakes:
8 eggs, whisked
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp coconut oil (and maybe a little more for each batch)
Combine bananas, eggs and cinnamon and whisk well with a fork
Melt coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat
With a ladle, gently and carefully put about 1/3 cup of mixture into the pan to form “pancakes” (it will be a liquidy mixture), when the pancakes are golden brown, gently and quickly flip them with a spatula (it takes a few times to perfect this because they are very delicate!). Once golden brown on the other side, remove from pan and allow to cool. Serve with yogurt and favourite fruit.
To freeze, when completely cooled, wrap pancakes individually in plastic wrap, then place in a freezer-safe bag and place into freezer. Re-heat in the oven, the microwave or in a toaster on busy mornings.
3) Gluten-Free Baked Breakfast Taquitos
12 eggs, whisked
2 tbsp pesto
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
Big handful of fresh spinach, chopped finely
12 small gluten-free tortillas
6 chicken or turkey breakfast sausages, sliced in half lengthwise
Preheat oven to 425-450 F (depending on how hot your oven is)
In a medium bowl, combine eggs and pesto. Whisk well and set aside.
In a skillet pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add peppers and spinach to the pan and cook until spinach is wilted (tender cooked). Remove veggies from the pan and place them in a bowl set aside. Pour egg mixture into the pan and cook (like scrambled eggs).
Set out the 12 gluten-free tortillas, and place 2-3 tbsp egg mixture and 1-2 tbsp veggie mixture in the middle, and top with a sliced breakfast sausage and roll up. Place fold side down on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with olive oil and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Flip them and bake for another 5 minutes. *hint: place the stack of tortillas in damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds to soften them before making the taquitos if you’re using corn tortillas.
Enjoy with salsa or on the go!
Freeze baked taquitos in a single layer on the baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag for longer term storage. To reheat, bake at 450ºF for 8 minutes.
If you want to see my kids and I making all 3 recipes (and get LOTS more easy back to school recipes too), simply download the EggcentricTV App, visit the Back to School Ideas Channel and watch my full length recipe video featuring these 3 recipes.
This post was written in partnership with some of my fave companies and brands: Made with Local, Mann’s Vegetables, Manitoba Hemp, and Baby Gourmet. As always, all opinions are my own!
It’s that time – back to school! And many parents find that school lunch packing is the most daunting of back-to-school tasks…making sure that your kids have school-safe, well balanced, appealing lunches five days a week can be challenging — I can attest!
Having 3 kids myself, I know first-hand how much work packing lunches is, but over the years I’ve found some products and tools that make this whole process a lot easier and less stressful. Pinterest-y, stunning, time-consuming lunches just aren’t a reality for me, so I do my best to always use my “rule of five” (2 protein-rich choices, a fruit, a veggie, and a whole grain), and offer lots of variety (and encourage other parents to do the same). But, I definitely have my go-to staples that make the process simpler and appeal to my kids too. Here they are!
What parent doesn’t love nutritious, shelf stable snacks that fit perfectly in lunch kits? I love Baby Gourmet products for this reason – their school safe, shelf stable, and full of nutrition. Their two products that make for perfect school lunch additions are “Shakers”, which contains organic, whole milk lightly sweetened and full of protein, 24+ vitamins and minerals and even a little bit of pumpkin! These provide one serving of milk and come in convenient shelf-stable containers with easy-to-drink spouts. And you know those little fruit and veggie packs that you LOVED giving your babies and toddlers? Baby Gourmet has come out with “Squoosh”, which is a big kid-friendly version of the much-loved pouches. No added sugar or weird ingredients!
One of the biggest challenges of packing lunches for many parents is not being able to pack nuts (or nut butters). It’s amazing the panic that sets in when PB and J is no longer an option. Relax.
Breathe. It’s ok.
Luckily, seeds are a great school-safe alternative to nuts and nut butters, and are super versatile and nutritious too! My favourite seeds are hemp hearts—they’re truly a super plant! Not only are they rich in plant-based protein (with all 10 amino acids!), healthy omega-3 rich fats, fibre, iron, zinc and phosphorous, but they’re also super versatile and easy to incorporate into school lunches. My favourite is packing apple or pear slices, Greek yogurt for dip and a little container of hemp hearts sprinkle on top. They’re also great in a trail mix, on top of yogurt, on top of a salad or simply on their own! Manitoba Harvest is my go-to brand, because along with their regular and organic hemp hearts, they also have hemp heart “toppers” which are hemp hearts with a bit of flavor and fun! They also carry hemp heart “bites” which make for a tasty and nutritious school-safe snack too!
String-less sugar snap peas:
We all know that veggies can be a tough sell for kids – and what tends to be the one food that comes back uneaten? You guessed it – veggies. But you know which veggie never comes back uneaten? Sugar snap peas. Their crisp “snap” and crunch, and natural sweetness make sugar snap peas the best and most nutritious snack for school lunches. And kids LOVE them! As a bonus, Mann’s string-less sugar snap peas are pre-washed and ready to eat! They’re full of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals and are best on their own or with a yummy dip like hummus!
Oh, and for those older kids who like hot meals for lunch (or busy parents who want something nutritious and easy!), you’ve got to try Mann’s new Nourish Bowls – they’ve just launched two new additions – Fresh Veggie Noodles Tomato Bolognese with vegan sausage and Fresh Veggie Noodles Basil Pesto with vegan Chick’n. Both feature plant-based protein, as well as kohlrabi noodles that cook, taste and twirl like real pasta! Best part? You microwave and eat right out of the package!
Nutritious, school-safe bars:
It’s not easy to find a nutritious school-safe bar that I approve of as a dietitian. When I first tried Made with Local’s “Real Food Bars”, I was amazed at how delicious they were, and even more amazed at how nutritious and simple their ingredient list was! There’s nothing fake or unhealthy about these bars – they’re wholesome, locally produced and really really nutritious! Bonus – my kids LOVE them! As a school-safe option, they’ve created the “Real Food Bar Mix” which contains everything you need for a healthy homemade granola bar, including oats, seeds, and dried fruit. Just add your favourite seed butter, and some honey to this mix and voila – you’ve got your child’s new favourite lunchbox snack! What I love about this company too because every bag of real food bar mix is made by a local social enterprise they’ve partnered with, that supports and employs people with disabilities Every bag of their Real Food Bar Mix is produced at organizations that support & employ people living with disabilities.
I have a slight obsession with lunch kits/boxes. And I have certain criteria that I can’t compromise on, such as:
Compact-ability (is that a word? If not, I just made it up): It needs to be compact and not take up too much room in my child’s backpack, but have enough room that I can pack a balanced lunch with lots of variety.
Leak proof and insulated: this is a must!
Room for an ice pack: Because… food safety.
Easy to wash: Every parent agrees.
Easy to open and close (for kids)
The two brands that I love the most (and keep going back to year after year) are Bentology and Yumbox. I find Bentology is best for everyday use because there’s lots of room for an entire balanced lunch, plus snacks, and there’s easy to open containers that fit into the main box (of various sizes). They also have patterned insulated lunch kits that zip up and hold the Bentology box and ice packs too. Both the kit and the box (and the containers) are easy to clean too! Bentology also has thermoses that can hold hot foods (my kids love leftover soup or pasta in their thermos).
Yumbox is my second favourite – they’re smaller insulated kits that have compartments perfect for a bento-style lunch or snack. I find that I can’t fit an entire lunch in these – there a bit too small, but they’re great for a kindergarten or preschool snack, or for most of the packed lunch. I love how compact, easy-to-clean and cute they are. And no spills or leaks!
Looking for more back to school help?! I’ve got you covered!