We love the versatility of nuts! There are so many different ways to cook with nuts, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan, nuts are an excellent way to get protein into your diet. Nuts can be added to salads instead of croutons, used as a breading for chicken instead of breadcrumbs… the possibilities are endless. We love this recipe for Energy Nut Balls because they are a fun way to snack with nuts.
Nuts are an April Foods of the Month. Nuts include things like peanuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, and pistachios. This Energy Nut Balls recipe uses peanuts, but you can get creative and add others if you wish. However, remember that when cooking with or eating nuts, moderation is key. Because they are high in fat, enjoy nuts as a treat vs. a regular snack. One serving size of nuts its usually about 1/4 of a cup. Expect to find about 180 calories and 15 grams of (good!) fat in this same serving. The great news is that the fat in nuts is the healthy, heart friendly kind (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat).
For this Energy Nut Balls recipe, keep this serving size suggestion in mind. Limit yourself to one of these energy balls per day to keep you feeling full while also providing your body with good nutrition.
Fava beans are a type of fresh bean, which is an April Foods of the Month. Fava beans are also one incredibly healthy food! Most times, people bypass them at the grocery store because they don’t know how to use them. In Italy, this Fava Bean Pasta recipe is a popular lunch option since it is simple and easy to make. And, anytime you mix vegetables with noodles and cheese, you get a kid-friendly dish!
Fava beans are close relatives of legumes like black beans and split peas. Unlike other dried beans and peas, you will most likely find fava beans in the frozen vegetable section of the grocery store, along with green beans, lima beans and edamame. To prepare them, simply boil on the stovetop, like you would with green beans (another type of fresh bean).
This Fava Bean Pasta dish is a nutritious lunch or light dinner option. Fava beans are full of folate, which is an important nutrient to keep the cells in our body working. Fava beans are also a good source of fiber, iron and manganese. We recommend serving this Fava Bean Pasta dish with a nice serving of freshly grated cheese for some added calcium. Enjoy!
Not all nachos are cheesy, greasy, and full of junk. Try making nachos with apple slices instead to get a serving of fruit, fiber and natural sugar. The result are these Nutty Apple Nachos. They are a perfect party dessert that is healthy too!
These Nutty Apple Nachos are the perfect combination of nutritious and indulgent. We chose walnuts to crumble on top of our nachos base because they are high in magnesium, protein and good fats. Walnuts also help to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Next, we add all natural peanut butter for more protein, and a drizzle of melted dark chocolate so the nachos feel a little more like dessert. Look for dark chocolate that is 70% or more cacao. A higher cacao concentration means more fiber, iron, potassium and zinc. Who knew that a little bit of chocolate could be good for the body?
Try these Nutty Apple Nachos and you will not be disappointed. They are the perfect combination of sweet and salty. They are also full of nutrition!
Have you ever eaten hummus? Hummus is a traditional dish from the Middle East/North Africa that is made with chickpeas. It’s the perfect creamy dip for crackers and vegetables. In fact, over 15 million Americans say that they eat hummus, so you are in good company if you have tried hummus before. If not, you can definitely find this tasty snack in your local grocery store and in restaurants. Hummus can be purchased in those places, but it can also be made at home. We love this recipe for Homemade Edamame Hummus.
If you’ve had hummus on your radar for quite some time, you’ve probably begun to see all the different variations at your grocery store. There’s hummus made with black beans, white beans, and… edamame! Edamame is a type of fresh bean that is also an April Foods of the Month. It’s also a perfect base for this Homemade Edamame Hummus recipe.
Boil the edamame in water for 4 to 5 minutes, or microwave in a microwave safe dish for 2 to 3 minutes.
In a food processor, blend together the edamame, tahini/peanut butter, water, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, and cumin until smooth. Drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix until combined.
Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the parsley and drizzle with remaining oil and garnish with extra parsley and full edamame beans.
Serve with carrots, celery, cucumbers, olive and crackers.
This quick and easy Chickpea Celery Dip recipe is a delicious plant-based snack. Enjoy this dip, which only takes a few minutes to eat, after school or after lunch. Usually, we think of celery as something that you use for dipping, but in this recipe, the celery is in the dip! Celery is also a stem vegetable, which is a March Foods of the Month.
We love that this Chickpea Celery Dip recipe is full of nutritious ingredients like chickpeas, celery, herbs and Greek yogurt. Chickpeas are packed with fiber, protein, and other important nutrients like magnesium, and iron. Celery is naturally very low in calories and provides some fiber too. Impress your friends with this dip recipes. It’s a fun way to put a stem vegetable in a dip. Serve with whole grain crackers, pretzels or pita chips.
Baked Parmesan Asparagus with Breadcrumbs: A nutritious side dish…
Asparagus is a type of stem vegetable, which is a Foods of the Month in March. Stem vegetables are vegetables that are the stem of a plant, rather than the root or the leaves. Other stem vegetables include celery, rhubarb and fennel. Asparagus can be eaten in a variety of ways, but we love this recipe for Baked Parmesan Asparagus with Breadcrumbs. The cheese and the whole wheat breadcrumbs make it extra tasty!
Stem vegetables like asparagus are perfect for springtime meals, since this is when they are in season. Take advantage of asparagus in these months by making this recipe. By itself, asparagus is a healthy choice. One cup of cooked asparagus has only 27 calories, and provides a good source of iron, Vitamin A and fiber. It’s also a naturally fat free food (like most vegetables), so you can feel good about eating this Baked Parmesan Asparagus with Breadcrumbs recipe. Add some good fats from the extra virgin olive oil and some whole grains from the breadcrumbs and we give asparagus even more of a nutritional boost! We suggest serving this dish with fish, another March Foods of the Month, or chicken for a healthy and complete dinner.
According to the parent website www.pbs.org/parents/food-and-fitness sponsored by the Public Broadcasting System, as well as various other on-line resources, there are some simple guidelines for parents to follow to encourage their kids to eat healthy foods:
1.Get them involved.
Don’t just take your kids along with you to the grocery store; actively involve them on the front end in meal planning. Let them help plan a menu and choose a recipe to follow so that they are participants in the meal preparation process. Have them take inventory of what is in your pantry or refrigerator so they know what ingredients are already on hand – then let them make a shopping list. If they are too young for that, let them help you decide what cheese or fruit to buy or help you make a simple, no-cook recipe like a fruit parfait with yogurt for a healthy dessert. Kids, like adults, like choices!
2.Go to the source.
Don’t limit your grocery shopping to the local supermarket. Take your family to a farmer’s market or to visit a dairy farm. Pick berries together during the summer for a homemade dessert your child can serve to his or her friends on a Saturday play date.Plant a garden – tomatoes and cucumbers are “no fail” choices your child can plant and watch grow. Teaching kids where their food comes from helps make them more environmentally aware as well.
3.Make healthy snacks available.
Your children will eat what you provide for them. If you buy healthy snacks rather than those with unhealthy fat and a high-sugar content, that is what they will learn to like.Putting those nutritious snacks on shelves where they can easily access them and keeping healthy choices available for trips in the car are also strategies that make healthy eating easier. Good choices are peanut butter, low-sugar applesauce, any kind of fresh or dried fruit, sliced vegetables, whole grain crackers, nuts and bottled water. And don’t forget the importance of drinking lots of liquids. Your child doesn’t have to just eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, he can also drink them. Smoothies and mixed fruit drinks can be a fun way to introduce new fruits and serve as a healthy snack between meals.
4.Don’t give up when introducing new foods.
Studies show that most children may need between 5 and 10 exposures to a new food before being willing to try it. If you plan family-friendly meals and let your child pick and choose from what is on the table, your chances for success will improve. Try to include a variety of options – some foods your child really likes as well as some new foods to try. Remember to be a role model for your child and sample some of everything and your child will learn to do so as well. And, remember – don’t give up the first time your child rejects something!
5.Be a role model and teach healthy eating habits early
Studies have shown that children’s food tastes are highly correlated with foods that their mothers liked or disliked. If you order a healthy salad and drink water, even if it is at a fast food restaurant, your child is more likely to do the same. In a health study published in 2004 by Oxford Academic, researchers found that “a positive parental role model may be a better method for improving a child’s diet than attempts at dietary control.” In other words, rather than telling your child “no” relative to his or her food choices, model positive food choices yourself.
Use meal and snack times as teachable moments to help even the youngest children make wise food choices. Remember that as a parent, you are the #1 teacher of your child.Much of what you teach them is transmitted through your actions more than your words. The choices we make for ourselves as adults, and what we model for our children, create lasting impressions that stay with your child way into their own adulthood. Stressing the importance of healthy eating habits for your family and for yourself encourages lifelong patterns from which both you and your children will benefit!
For those of you who are in a time crunch when it’s dinnertime, we have the perfect recipe for you! This Easy Baked Salmon and Veggies recipe only takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and bakes in the oven for another 25 minutes. It’s a wholesome meal that you can have on the table in exactly 30 minutes.
This dish is totally packed with nutrition too. The salmon is full of omega 3 fatty acids which help brain development and keep your skin healthy. Pick two types of vegetables – we chose broccoli and cherry tomatoes but you can use whatever you have on hand. The vegetables ensure that you are getting a healthy dose of Vitamins and minerals to keep your bodies running smoothly. Also, don’t forget the serving of protein that comes along with the salmon. It’s really a filling and delicious meal!
For those of you who want to add a bit more bulk to this meal, know that you can serve it over pasta or whole grain brown rice as well. Simply prepare the pasta or rice while the the salmon and vegetables bake in the oven. It will make the protein and vegetables last a bit longer and will help you feel fuller longer by adding more fiber to this perfect meal.
We all know the importance of protein to maintain and repair the body, but many new parents worry that their baby or toddler may not be getting enough protein in their early, formative years. Because protein is essential to growth and development, it is critical that little ones get enough of this vital nutrient because they are growing so rapidly. In fact, babies and toddlers need more protein per pound of body weight than older children or even adults.
What exactly is protein and why is it so important? Protein, along with carbohydrates and fats, are three essential nutrients found in food that all of us need. We get protein from certain foods that our bodies then digest into small compounds called amino acids. There are many amino acids but humans use only 22 of them to grow and maintain our bones, muscles, blood, skin, hair and organs. Of the 22 amino acids we humans must have, our bodies can make 13 of them. We have to get the other 9 – called essential amino acids – from protein-rich foods, such as meat, eggs, dairy products and beans.
So what do babies do to get their protein? The good news is that breast milk or formula supplies all the calories and protein a baby needs until they are 4 to 6 months old. Before that time, a baby’s digestive system simply isn’t ready for more than a liquid diet. After 6 months, however, protein-rich solid foods should gradually be introduced to supplement the mother’s breast milk or formula. It is important that babies get protein every day because the body doesn’t store protein the way it stores fat and carbohydrates.
Protein is important for infants because the body weight of a baby doubles by age 6 months – and scientists estimate that about 10 percent of a young child’s energy comes from protein. Skimping on protein can slow down a baby’s growth and development, make them susceptible to illness, retard the development of the heart and lungs and gradually sap the energy that they need to grow into healthy children and adults.
The Ohio State University Extension Service recommends feeding infants strained or chopped meats and mashed beans at 6 to 8 months and mashed egg yolks, cottage cheese and yogurt at 8 to 10 months. At 10 to 12 months, babies can eat the same protein-rich foods the rest of the family eats, though the foods should be soft and cut into small pieces. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends starting your child on solids between 4 and 6 months and to look for some of these developments as signs of “readiness”:
Can sit upright and hold up his head
Is curious, looking at everything around him
Has mastered tongue movement
Seems hungry after getting a full day’s portion of milk (eight to 10 breast feedings or about 32 ounces of formula)
As your child grows, it is also important that your toddler gets plenty of protein. Once your child is up and walking, protein is needed to power muscles, and brain cells require sufficient protein to learn speech and language skills. Healthy 1- to 3-year-olds need 0.55 grams of protein per pound daily, which means the average 29-pound toddler should get 16 grams of protein each day, according to the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor University.
Here are some good sources of protein for your child:
Egg yolks can be mashed and given to a baby as part of a healthy diet. Egg yolks mixed into rice or pasta or served with toast can provide an easy snack or main course. Avoid egg whites until after the first birthday, says Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and consult your pediatrician if members of your family have egg allergies before introducing eggs into your child’s diet.
Broiled, baked or grilled chicken that is diced very small is a good source of protein for babies.
Chicken can be tossed with chopped pasta or served plain alongside some steamed vegetables. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta recommends chicken cooked at home over the jarred variety because it does not contain any fillers.
Protein is abundant in dairy foods, such as cow’s milk, yogurt and cheese. A baby should be 8 months old before cheese is introduced and dairy should be avoided altogether if an allergy is suspected.
High protein infant cereal helps meet protein needs for babies too young for chunky solid foods.
The cereal should be mixed with breastmilk or formula. Pureed baby fruits or vegetables can also be stirred into the cereal to improve the taste and boost its nutritional value.
It used to be that getting your child to drink milk every day was a “no brainer” in terms of what we believed were the long-term health benefits. Conventional wisdom maintained that every growing child needed calcium to build strong bones and teeth, and so parents worked hard to include multiple glasses of milk in their child’s daily diet. Those children were served primarily whole cow’s milk, of course, because that was what was available.
In the last few years, our milk choices have expanded exponentially. We now want more overall choices in our diets and are more concerned and knowledgeable about what is good for us. Many parents are also aware that dairy allergies are on the rise in America, and the conventional wisdom regarding the positive attributes of milk products is being challenged by major studies. In fact, researchers who once maintained that dairy milk was the healthiest food in the world are even exploring the possible association between dairy milk and several types of cancer.
The days when “milk was milk” appear to be over. Now there is a bewildering array of choices that confront parents in the grocery store. Let’s just start with the recent variations in cow’s milk available to any shopper.A parent can now buy skim (1% or 2%), full fat, homogenized, organic, calcium-enriched and even lactose free milk from dairy cows. Regardless of your choice, remember that cow’s milk isn’t digested well by babies under 12 months, and it lacks essential nutrients supplied by breast milk and formula.So hold off on introducing it until your baby’s at least a year old.
But there are also many other milk choices now. One can buy milk from goats or sheep or drink milk made from almonds, rice, coconut, soy, hemp or flax. There is milk made from oats, cashews and even peas. And, if you add various flavorings or fortified elements to the mix, there are even more choices. It is confusing, to say the least. Here’s a summary of some of the most common ones available and some of the pros and cons of each to help you make sense of all the choices to be made in order to give your child the calcium and Vitamin D he or she needs.
Cow’s milk (our dietary standby) is routinely pasteurized to kill potentially harmful bacteria. That milk will likely then be homogenized, a process in which the fat particles are mechanically broken down so they don’t separate, or it may be available non-homogenized, which results in an old-fashioned layer of rich cream on top.
If cow’s milk remains your dairy drink of choice, it is now generally recommended that you choose whole milk rather than reduced fat options as the research is mixed as to the perceived benefits of low-fat milk unless children are overweight. Natural fats have been proven to be healthy and actually help to curb appetite so whole milk is a healthy option. Try to buy organic milk that comes from grass-fed cows who have not been fed synthetic hormones to increase their milk production or antibiotics to fight the diseases that come from being fed corn while standing around in feed lots. There is a direct connection between what a cow is fed and the quality of the milk produced.
Other Sources of Dairy-Based Milk
Some parents may choose to have their child drink sheep or goat’s milk as an alternative form of dairy. Because of the different protein and fat structures in goat or sheep’s milk, some people can tolerate them better than milk from cows. One drawback, however, may be the taste – these alternatives are stronger flavored than cow’s milk so your child may not like the taste. These milks are also generally more expensive and less easily found, especially when eating out, so those are also considerations.
If your child experiences symptoms such as loose stools, stomach cramping and gas, especially after eating foods containing dairy products, he or she may have problems digesting lactose, the main sugar in milk and milk products. If a doctor has found your child to be lactose intolerant, then you need to find a dairy milk alternative. Since lactose is present in ALL animal-sourced milks, sheep or goat’s milk is not an option.
One healthy alternative is to serve your child soy milk, a highly-nutritional beverage made from an extraction of soybeans, water, sweetener (usually), oil, thickeners and some added vitamins and minerals. One controversy associated with soy, however, is that it contains phytoestrogens, plant-based estrogens that mimic the female sex hormone estrogen. Research has been mixed as to the potential risks or benefits of soymilk due to the presence of these estrogens. Soymilk is also relatively low in protein and most of its nutrients come by way of fortifying additives. So, if you go soy, look for non-GMO varieties and add additional protein elsewhere in your child’s diet.
Serving your child milk that comes from almond or rice can also provide a nutritional option. Almond milk – or other “nut” milks like those made with macadamias or cashews – has a light nutty flavor as a result of mixing roasted blended nuts with water so children usually like it. Rice milk is the blandest in flavor of all the milks, which is to some people’s preference. Using it in a smoothie makes it an instant favorite.
Rice milk, made from one of the world’s most common and frequently cultivated grains, is typically found at a cheaper price point than other dairy-free milks. Naturally low in protein, however, both almond and rice milk typically must have other nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D added. Coconut milk presents the same dilemma. In general, these plant-based milks are low in protein and calcium and have to be fortified in order for your child to get the nutrients he/she needs. And, as when you rely on soymilk, it is a good idea to add additional protein elsewhere in your child’s diet.
Hemp milk is a lesser-known option. Its rich Omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, its low allergen risk, and its taste and texture make it an appealing alternative to dairy. Hemp milk is made by grinding and soaking hemp seeds in water. It has less protein than cow’s milk and can be hard to find as well as expensive.There is none of the active ingredient found in marijuana leaves, by the way.
Flax milk is rich in a group of Omega-3 fatty acids which have been consistently shown in studies to help offset the effects of inflammation on the body. Flax milk has just as much calcium in it as regular milk, making it a sensible option for people who wish to maintain healthy, adequate levels of calcium.And best of all, it is actually quite creamy and delicious and blends well with smoothies.
Milk is Essential, No Matter Its Form
Whatever your choices for your child, milk is still essential. Even though recent research has produced mixed results, there is still widespread agreement about the importance of some form of milk in every child’s diet. Strong bones are the results of genetics, physical activity and calcium. Since milk is the number one source of calcium, it is essential for your child. And almost all types of milk – whether dairy-based or plant-based-are fortified with other essential nutrients, making milk a mainstay of a healthy diet for your child.