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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Let’s Party!

October 21st, 2013

Let’s party! What’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

jackolantern

For many of us it is getting some yummy food and drinks together for the celebration. Halloween is in just a couple of weeks and this is a time when many of us have far more junk food around for us and our kids than we even want. There are a lot of things we can do to try to make celebrations more about fun with friends and family than junk food.

One place to start is with school celebrations. Many classrooms celebrate every child’s birthday plus all holidays with cupcakes, pizza parties or treat exchanges. This can add up to thirty or more celebrations per school year! With so many celebrations, it often does not even feel like a special occasion anymore.

No one is interested in denying a child a cupcake on their birthday, but it is possible to show kids how to celebrate these occasions without so much unhealthy food. Here are some tips for helping your child’s class have a healthy celebration, but the same tips apply to celebrations and birthday parties at home.

  • Start by talking to the teacher and offering to help organize a party this year or get a group of parents together who are willing to serve as a party-planning committee. You can take it one step further and work on an addition to the school wellness policy related to parties.
  • Make the party about fun, not just food. Think about games, crafts and adventures for the kids to enjoy.
  • Play your way! Hold your party at the playground or create a scavenger hunt for the kids to do so the focus is on active play. Offer a free period when the students choose what they would like to do or the class plays its favorite game together.
  • Choose prizes and favors that are not food-related. These can be crafts or small toys the kids can take home with them.
  • Encourage parents to provide tasty snacks that are also healthy:
    • Apple slices with cinnamon sprinkled on them
    • Vegetables with low-fat dip
    • String cheese or yogurt
    • Trail mix with whole grain cereal and pretzels
    • Whole grain crackers
    • Make-your-own fruit and yogurt parfait cups
    • Water or 100% juice in place of high-sugar beverages like punch or sports drinks

Take-AlongTrailMix

Some Halloween candy is fine and part of the fun of this time of year, but with these tips you can keep the holiday about fun and memories and take the focus off of the junk food.

The tradition in my neighborhood is that a child has to tell a joke when they come to your door trick or treating. Here’s one from last year:

What is a ghost’s favorite pie?

Booberry!

Happy Halloween!

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It’s Not Just School Lunch. It’s Bigger Than That.

October 14th, 2013

school lunch

This year my daughter started kindergarten. And honestly one of my biggest concerns was if she was going to be hungry throughout the day. Going from daycare and preschool to kindergarten is a huge adjustment for various reasons. I was particularly concerned about the change in foods available to her and how much time she would have to eat. The thought of her having fifteen minutes to eat lunch and no snacks was a little scary!

In preparation for her first day, we went shopping for a backpack. She was amazed not only at the selection of back packs, but the selection of the lunch bags. I was pretty shocked myself! Also, the books we read to prepare her for the first day of school all referenced the character bringing a lunch from home. Based on back to school shopping and children’s books, one would think that bringing a lunch from home was the norm. But in reality, approximately 80% of all students enrolled in Iowa schools participate in school meals each day. 1

With that in mind, I wanted her to try school meals for the first week. This would give her the opportunity to learn the process while everyone else did. Every day after school I ask her what she had for lunch. As the weeks have gone by she has been excited to share with me the fruits and vegetables she has chosen and even eaten at school. It’s a simple thing I do each day that often opens up a conversation about her entire day, which I was having a hard time getting her to share.  “I tried zucchini slices today and really liked them!” “Oh, and I was picked the best singer of the day!” It’s fun to see how a simple conversation about school lunch can really lead to a great conversation with a 5 year old! She has expanded the things she will eat at home and I truly believe it is connected to her positive experience with school meals.

National School Lunch Week is this week and is an observance to celebrate the benefits of healthy school lunches! School meals are doing a better job of giving your kids the healthy foods they need. Help your child check out school meals and discover what they like. Here are some tips to help your children eat healthy foods at school and at home:

    • Make time to join your child for lunch in the school cafeteria. It will provide you a first-hand experience of school meals and grow a deeper appreciation for teachers, school staff, and nutrition staff.
    • Explain to your child the options they have each day at school for lunch.
    • When your child gets home from school, ask what he/she ate for lunch.
    • Eat meals at home with your child as much as you can. Let your child see you eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy.
    • Provide some of the new foods offered in the school cafeteria at home.  Some examples include: whole grain foods, spinach, cherry tomatoes, black beans, sweet potatoes, and zucchini slices.
    • Take your child grocery shopping with you and talk to them about where foods come from. Let your children make healthy purchases while at the store.

For more information including how to get involved at your school, school lunch myths, healthy snack ideas, visit: http://schoolmeals.educateiowa.gov.

Guest Blogger,

Carrie

1 Iowa School Nutrition Association Annual Child Nutrition Report, March 2013

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It’s Worth a Little Mess

September 30th, 2013

kids in kitchenMy 3 ½ year old son Parker loves to help me in the kitchen. When he realizes I’m cooking, he quickly goes and gets his stool so he can stand and help me. Even though cooking takes longer, and we make more messes, I enjoy spending time with him in the kitchen. He is a picky eater, so when he helps me prepare different foods, he is more likely to try them.

Some tasks that Parker likes to help me with are pouring ingredients in the bowl, stirring ingredients, breaking eggs, putting toppings on homemade pizza, and scooping batter into muffin tins. He likes to have me read him the recipe so we also work on following directions and counting.

There are numerous benefits to having children help in the kitchen. As I mentioned before, it exposes them to new foods and helps them become more willing eaters. Helping in the kitchen also improves children’s fine motor skills, increases their confidence, and gives them an opportunity to work on learning colors, shapes, and counting.

Our new video “How to Include Children in the Kitchen”  has helpful information on how to get children involved in the kitchen, from helping cook to helping unload the dishwasher. Check it out to see how much fun we had cooking with kids along with some tips to get your kids excited about cooking.

Another helpful resource, full of recipes that your children can help you make, is ‘Let’s Cook with Kids’ created by the Northeast Valley Health Corporation WIC Program in California.

How do your children like to help you in the kitchen?

Jodi Signature

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Do it Yourself Meal Kits for Kids

September 9th, 2013

Better Nutrition, Lower Cost, and Less Waste

The commercials for ready-to-go meal kits for kids, make them look like fun and excitement in a box. The reality is a little different. There is no arguing with the fact that these meal kits are convenient, but are you really getting a good value for your money?

Take a look inside the box, not so appetizing. Let’s take a look at what I got for my money.

NEWnutrition facts and ingredients

Ingredients – We’ve all heard that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Take a look at this ingredient list.

Nutrition – Meal kits typically contain far more sodium, saturated fat, and sugar than kids need in a meal. Most include no fruits or vegetables at all. Take a look at this nutrition facts label from a store bought meal kit. The calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium are quite high.

Waste – Imagine the amount of garbage these packages generate in a school cafeteria!

Cost – The average price for meal kits at my store was $2.79. This is actually more expensive than school lunch at most schools and far less nutritious.

sodium chart larger

I decided to challenge myself to come up with some healthy DIY versions of these meal kits that would be easy to prepare and just as fun for kids.

I started with some reusable containers that had dividers like the meal kits’ disposable boxes and an ice pack to keep the food cold. I also set some rules for myself:

  • Create boxes that follow MyPlate guidelines.
  • Use only items that can be packed on Sunday and keep fine until Friday. I’m only packing lunches once!
  • Use only items that require minimal preparation like cutting or chopping.

DIY lunchable

Check out the list below for some foods from each food group that work with my rules.

chart green
My meal kit has much more color, nutrition and appeal than the store bought one and I bought the ingredients for 10 kits like this (assuming two kids with five lunches each) for less than $20.00. That’s less than $2.00 per kit. Assuming kids will purchase milk at school to go with their DIY meal kits; the price is just below the price of the store bought ones.

The National School Lunch Program at your child’s school provides convenient, nutritious meals for a great value, but these ready-to-go DIY meal kits are a good option for kids who prefer to bring their lunch.

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Banana Pudding Parfait

September 3rd, 2013

PERFECT FOR KIDS TO MAKE

Our featured recipe this month is a perfect one to a perfect one to get your kids involved in the kitchen. Kids enjoy helping in the kitchen and are often more willing to eat foods they help prepare. Plan ways the children in your care can help you. Be sure to consider the age of the child. For this recipe kids can:

banana pudding

  • Wash their hands (do this before starting any cooking).
  • Crush the graham crackers up by putting them in a seal-able plastic bag and rolling the side of a glass over them.
  • Peel and cut up the bananas.
  • Measure and pour the milk.
  • Stir the pudding.
  • Layer the pudding, crushed graham crackers, and bananas.
  • And clean up the dishes.

After you make this recipe with your kids, let them experiment with other pudding flavors and fruit.  If they want to take it for lunch or a picnic make it in small plastic containers with lids.  Keep cold with ice packs.

Check out these resource for additional ideas …

Peggy Signature

 

Banana Pudding Parfait

Serving Size: ¾ cup | Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 package (0.8 ounce) sugar-free instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 cups cold nonfat milk
  • Banana Pudding Parfait Label4 graham crackers, crumbled (12 tablespoons or ¾ cup crumbs)
  • 2 bananas, sliced

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl combine pudding mix and 2 cups of milk. Beat until well blended (about 2 minutes) with a wire whisk, rotary beater, or electric mixer at lowest speed.
  2. Let set for 5 minutes.
  3. Set out 6 glasses.
  4. Put about 3 tablespoons of pudding in the bottom of each glass.
  5. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of graham cracker crumbs on the pudding in each cup.
  6. Layer ¼ of the banana slices on crumbs.
  7. Repeat with layers of pudding, graham crackers, and banana slices.
  8. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

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Grocery Shopping with Kids

April 8th, 2013

Shopping with my 3 year-old son, Parker, is always an adventure. One of the stores I shop at has carts that have steering wheels where he sits and another has a ‘car’ attached to the front of the cart that he can sit in. Both of these keep him entertained because he pretends like he is driving. This is nice because it cuts down on the whining and wanting to buy everything. The downside to these carts is that they are big and take up more space going thru the aisles. Sometimes it is worth it though!

In addition to the ‘car’ carts, one of the stores also has little carts that the kids can push. I’m not so sure about this idea as a parent. Let’s just say I’ve held my breath a few times hoping that all of the cans he ran into would not fall. Only a few cans have fallen so far! I’ve also had a few bruises on the back of my legs where he ran into me. I’m usually frantically trying to make sure he doesn’t hit anyone else. Thankfully he hasn’t run into anyone else yet! And lastly, when he is pushing his own cart, and not confined to the child seat in the larger cart, he can grab lots of stuff off the shelves! Funny thing was the other day Parker informed me, “Dad doesn’t let me drive the little cart when I go shopping with him.” Imagine that!

Sometimes I do make it to the store without taking Parker, but that isn’t always possible. And he needs to learn how to act while in a store. In addition, grocery stores can be great places to teach kids. They are a place to learn about good nutrition but kids can also learn about numbers, colors, and shapes.  The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has a great publication on shopping with children. Here are some of the tips they share.

  1. Plan to go to the store with your child when you have plenty of time and the store is not crowded.
  2. Plan shopping trips when your child is not tired or hungry. Or bring a nutritious snack for him to eat during the shopping trip.
  3. Discuss your rules before you enter a store. Remind your child to stay close to you. Also, set ground rules about what is acceptable to put in the cart. Discussing acceptable behavior before going into the store can save a lot of headache later on.
  4. Give your child a job. For example, ask her to help pick out five oranges or three tomatoes. Or let her choose if you get apples or pears. Kids who help pick out fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them. Older children may like to hold onto the grocery list and cross off the items as you put them in the cart.
  5. Set positive limits. When your child does something you do not want him to do, instead of reacting with a negative limit, such as “don’t throw the oranges on the floor,” tell your child what is expected in a positive way, such as “Keep the oranges in the bin.”
  6. Make the shopping trip a learning experience. Keep kids entertained by asking them questions and having them searching for items. Teach toddlers about touch by asking how different items feel, like the skin of an apple or if the milk is warm or cold.  Teach preschoolers about colors by asking them to point out items of different colors like the green peas or the cereal in the yellow box. Have school-age children look at the labels and compare items based on nutrition.

What tips do you have for making grocery shopping trips enjoyable for both kids and parents?


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Healthy Snacks for Kids Don’t Have to Cost More

March 18th, 2013

I am not against my children having cupcakes for a friend’s birthday or candy here and there…it’s all about teaching balance. However, I do feel that I have to be stricter about the snacks that I provide for them at home, just due to the fact of all the kinds of snacks they are exposed to when they are away from home. In addition, I have discovered the snacks that I have at home really have an impact on what they eat at mealtime. If they know that there are chips in the cupboard waiting for them after dinner, why would they want to eat their dinner? When it’s your family’s turn to bring snacks to school or activities opt for healthier options. You, along with the other adults, might be surprised at the children’s reaction.

But does healthier mean more money? Not necessarily! It’s all about being a smart and creative shopper. Here are some examples for classroom snacks:

Classroom Snacks – 24 children

Option A
(recently brought by a parent at my daughter’s preschool):

  • Fruit snacks (24 count): $3.98
  • Mini powdered donuts (10.5 oz): $2.19 x 2 = $4.38
  • Juice boxes $4.77

Total: $13.13

Option B: Mix Your Own Trail Mix

  • Raisins or Craisins: $2.50
  • Pretzel sticks: $1.99
  • Whole grain fish crackers (11 oz): $3.49
  • Chocolate whole grain cereal: $2.50
  • Resealable Sandwich Bags: $1.00
  • Cups for Water: $1.50

Total: $12.98

Your Child’s Birthday Classroom Party – 24 children

Option A

  • Store made cupcakes: $18.99
  • Hi-C juice boxes: $5.00

Total: $23.99

Option B
(I have tried this with my daughter’s class, it was a hit!):

  • Low-fat vanilla yogurt (32 ounce container): $3.26 x 3: $ 9.78
  • Fruity Cheerios for bottom of cup and topping (1 box): $2.50
  • Bananas (1/2 per child): $2.65 ($0.59/lb)
  • Party cups (your child’s choice!): $4.99
  • Spoons: $1.00

Total: $20.92

Other ideas to get the most nutritional “bang for your buck:”

Yogurt tubes: $7.03

16 pack: $4.54 + 8 pack: $2.54

vs. Pudding cups: $8.72

6 pack: $2.18

Baby carrots: $5.00

2 lb bag: $2.50 x 2

vs. Small bags of chips: $7.99
String cheese: $7.18

12 pack: $3.59 x 2

vs. Crackers and cheese spread packs: $8.78

15 pack: $5.49

Clementines: $5.97

(5 lb bag)

vs. Capri Sun Coolers: $6.00

10 pack: $2.50

Boxes of raisins $5.28
6 pack: $1.32 x 4
vs. Fruit Roll-Ups: $6.45

10 pack: $2.68

What do you bring when it’s your turn? Please pass along your ideas…

Additional Resources

Guest Blogger, Carrie Scheidel

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It’s Not Just a Piece of Candy

March 11th, 2013

As a mother of a 2 and 4 year-old, I am quickly learning about how snacks are an integral part of growing up. It seems that snacks are not only available to children for nutrition, but are a necessity for social gatherings and fun.

We recently signed up our 4-year-old daughter for dance class. At the end of her first class she had the biggest smile on her face and I could tell she had fun. Then the teacher said, “Wait –everyone gets a piece of candy for doing such a great job!” A piece of candy for dancing? She got two tootsie rolls and since my younger daughter was with, I told her that she had to give one to her. This resulted in her crying all the way home over candy, when we could have been talking about much fun she had at dance. The teacher may have thought that candy added excitement to her class, but it really took away from the fact that the girls just had a great time dancing!

I realize some may say it’s just a piece of candy. However, it’s not just a piece of candy. Children are being exposed to treats all the time: snacks provided at preschool by parents, lollipops at the local bank, sports drinks after soccer, candy at daycare for behavioral rewards, classroom parties, ice cream parties for reaching a class goal, free samples at the grocery store, and the list goes on and on. And this is on top of the treats that parents provide at home.

It has gotten to the point that snacks are considered treats. And it’s hard not to think this way. Treats tend to be provided with much more excitement and star appeal. Have you looked at the “snack food” aisle at a grocery store lately? There are not very many healthy options. Have you seen the different kinds of fruit snacks (a.k.a. glorified gummy bears)? They take up a good portion of the aisle and almost every cartoon character has its own box! And the number of Pop Tart flavors available is breathtaking.

Children need snacks throughout the day; this goes for adults too! However, it’s all about the kinds of snacks that we consume and provide for our children. When thinking of what snacks to have available, think of what you would serve during a meal, as snacks should be just as nutritious, just in smaller portions. It really comes down to the food groups: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Take the guesswork out of what snacks to have around and you will be surprised at the choices your children make when you make choosing healthy foods the easy choice.

Some tips:
  • Make snacks available to them at their level. Is your fruit bowl on the top of your counter?  Younger children cannot see the bowl, let alone reach it to make it a selection.
  • Have a plastic bin in your fridge towards the bottom full of snacks that are ready to eat, such as cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, reusable drinking containers filled with milk or water, sliced apples, oranges (cut in “smiles”), fruit cups, small bags of baby carrots, cooked noodles, small sandwiches, etc.
  • Choose whole-grain items. There are more and more of these available each week, it seems.
  • Move less healthy snack options to a higher shelf so they are less tempting and eventually just remove them from your home and save them for road trips or special occasions.
  • Avoid pre-portioned snacks, as you are often paying for the packaging (not additional food). You can portion out servings at home in resealable snack bags that your children can decorate with stickers to get them involved in the process.
  • Take your children with you to the grocery store. By allowing them to a part of the selection process within certain parameters it provides them ownership for the snacks that are available at home.
Additional Resources

How do you handle snacks at your house? Do you have ideas to share?

Guest Blogger, Carrie Scheidel

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What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag.

October 29th, 2012

A few weeks ago I invited myself to lunch at three different middle schools in Central Iowa.  My “hosts” were  two of my nieces and a friend’s son.  I learned a lot about the changes to school lunches during those visits. I also had a chance to observe some of what I call ‘sack lunches’, although hardly anybody uses paper bags anymore.

The majority of the sack lunches were not very healthy.  Most of them included some sort of bread (rarely whole grain), some protein food, crackers, chips, cookies, and fruit drink or fruit.  Vegetables were rarely included.  I wish I would have taken more pictures, but I was so busy taking pictures of the school lunch trays that I didn’t get any of the sack lunches.  I did find a couple of images on the internet that are very close to what I observed.

Photo courtesy of  www.wastefreelunches.org

I think some suggestions on lunches to take to school plus packing lunches the night before might improve the quality.

My colleagues, Ruth Litchfield and Cathy Strohbehn, collaborated on two new publications about lunches to go.  Whether you are packing lunches for yourself to take to work or for your children, these are free and worth a look.  Both can be ordered or downloaded from the ISU Extension and Outreach Online store.

The one page abbreviated version is called MyPlate Lunch Bag Ideas. In this publication, you will find great menu ideas to pack your child’s lunch bag with MyPlate healthy foods. You’ll find kid-friendly foods for fruits, veggies, protein, grains, and dairy.  You will also find preparation and packing tips to keep foods at a safe temperature.

The longer, more detailed version is What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag.  It will give you ideas and know how for packing healthy lunches your child will want to eat. It contains tips for preparing and packing food safely as well as menu tips for lunch bag meals. It also includes research data on best methods to keep foods at safe temperatures.

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Attention Parents … School Lunch is changing!

August 27th, 2012

For the first time in 15 years there are major changes in school lunches that will result in healthier meals for kids. What’s changing? The new school meals will contain more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; low-fat or non-fat milk; and less sodium and fat. The meals will also be “right sized”– portion sizes will be based on a student’s age.the school day just got healthier

The most economical meal at school is the full meal, also called the reimbursable meal. A reimbursable meal includes at least three of the five components (meat or meat alternate, fluid milk, grains, fruits, and vegetables). One of the components must be a fruit or vegetable for the meal to count as a full meal and qualify the school to get some of the costs for the meal reimbursed.

High schools and an increasing number of middle and elementary schools have “Offer versus Serve”. This helps reduce waste by not making students take food that they don’t like or won’t eat and also provides more choices. However, students will now be required to have 1/2 cup of fruit or vegetable on their tray for it to count as a full meal. If the tray doesn’t have the fruit or vegetable component, students will be charged separately for each item on their tray (called ala carte) which is much more expensive.

Parents need to discuss lunch choices with their child so the bill for student meals isn’t a surprise….or even better go to school and eat with your kids.

Schools are doing their part by offering healthier foods. Now, we need to support the effort by encouraging children to give the healthier meals a try. Here are some new resources to help educate parents and kids on the meal changes:

What are your thoughts on these changes?

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