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How Much Should My Child be Eating?

How much should my child be eating? This is a question that every parent asks themselves. Unfortunately, the answer is not simple. The answer depends on the age of the child, whether or not they are going through a growth spurt, the health status of the child, and other factors that we do not even understand.

When I am concerned about how well my children are eating, I go to sources I trust. First and foremost is their physician. She has followed them since they were born, so she knows them, she has tracked their growth, she has documented their health concerns over the years, and we trust her. If you have major concerns about your child’s growth or eating habits, go to a trusted health care provider first.

If you are simply curious about how much your child needs to be eating or if you want to make sure your child is on track, I have two other sources you can trust.

First is the Ellyn Satter Institute. On this website, you will find many resources on how to feed your child and how to make mealtime enjoyable for everyone in the family. There are even suggestions for children who are picky eaters. At our home, we follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding and it has worked for us.

Second is Choose MyPlate. On this website, you will find many resources on what and how much to feed your child. This website focuses on choosing a variety of foods from the five food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. A general guideline that I try to follow is choose foods from three food groups at breakfast, four food groups at lunch and supper, and one or two food groups at snack times. On this website, you can check out each food group for a suggested amount that your child needs from that group each day. You can also find this information on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website in the Aisle by Aisle section.

Feeding children can be a challenge, but remember you are not alone. There are good resources out there to help you.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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I don’t like that!

‘I don’t like that’ is heard more often than I’d like in my kitchen! Often my children tell me they don’t like what I’ve made for supper, even before they’ve tried it. It’s normal for young children to prefer foods they are familiar with and to have periods of time where they may only want to eat 1 or 2 different foods. However, there are ways you can help your child try new foods.

  1. Offer choices. Instead of asking, ‘Do you want broccoli for supper?” ask “Would you like broccoli or cauliflower for supper?”
  2. Name a food your child helps make. Make a big deal of serving “Paige’s Sweet Potatoes” or “Kenny’s Super Salad” for supper.
  3. Offer only one new food at a time. Serve something that you know your child likes along with the new food.
  4. Offer small portions of new foods. Let your child try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. Give them a small taste at first and be patient with them. The first few times the child might just smell the food, than they might lick the food. This helps the child become more familiar with the food. It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.
  5. Be a good role model. Try new foods yourself. Describe their taste, texture, and smell to your child.

To help children develop positive eating habits, offer the same foods for the whole family. It is okay for your child to eat more at some meals and less at others. Lastly, make eating family meals together fun. If meals are time for family arguments, your child may learn unhealthy attitudes towards food. Talk about fun activities family members did during the day. Or use our Mealtime Conversation Cards to get the conversation going.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Learn from our Mistakes

Most cooks have tried a recipe that did not turn out how they planned. Sometimes it’s a cake that collapses on the counter, other times it’s a roast that ended up raw in the middle. The best thing to do when this happens is to try to learn from the mistake, so it does not happen again. We have rounded up a few common mistakes people make with slow cookers to try to help you avoid them in your kitchen.

  1. Be sure your slow cooker is working properly. It is critical that your slow cooker get to the right temperature to avoid problems with food safety. If you’re like me, you may have your grandmother’s old slow cooker. The good news is – you can test it. Just fill your slow cooker halfway with water and turn it on. It needs to heat to at least 170 degrees within two hours. You can test it with a food thermometer. If after two hours, the water is cooler than 170 degrees, your slow cooker is likely not heating your food fast enough and should not be used.
  2. Prep ahead the smart way. It is helpful to prep ingredients ahead so you can drop them into your slow cooker in the morning. However, do not mix raw meat and other ingredients together in advance. The safest approach is to keep meat separate from other ingredients until you are ready to cook.
  3. Cook foods to their usual safe temperatures. This helpful guide shows safe temperatures for meat, poultry, casseroles and more. You can measure temperatures using a food thermometer. Once foods reach a safe temperature, you can hold them in the slow cooker at or above 140 degrees.

Follow these simple tips to make safe and tasty meals in your slow cooker. Happy slow cooking from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Keeping Food Safe in a Slow Cooker

Slow cooker vegetarian chiliWe often get request for recipes that can be made in a slow cooker. It’s not surprising since you can add the ingredients to the slow cooker, turn it on, and then go about your day while the food cooks. No need to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when you have other things you need to do! Here are some tips to keep food safe when using a slow cooker.

  1. Cook foods using the low or high heat setting. If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe. However, it’s safe to cook foods on low the entire time. Do not use the warm setting to cook food. It is designed to keep cooked food hot.
  2. Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. If frozen pieces are used, they will not reach 140°F quick enough and could possibly result in a foodborne illness. If possible, cut the meat into small chunks. The temperature danger zone is between 40°F and 140°. If food is in this temperature zone for more than 2 hours, harmful bacteria may grow to unsafe levels.
  3. Place vegetables on the bottom and near the sides of the slow cooker. Vegetables cook the slowest, so you want them near the heat.
  4. Keep the lid in place. Each time the lid is raised, the internal temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees and the cooking process is slowed by 30 minutes.
  5. Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate. Do not leave cooked food to cool down in the slow cooker.
  6. Reheat food on the stove top or microwave and transfer to a slow cooker to keep warm (140°F or above). Do not reheat food or leftovers in a slow cooker.

For additional information on slow cookers and food safety, visit:

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/appliances-and-thermometers/slow-cookers-and-food-safety/ct_index

http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/safe-meals/slow-cooker-safety/

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Slow Cooker Black Eyed Pea Soup

Slow cooker black eyed pea soupMy family has never had any New Year food traditions. I have been reading up on some New Year food traditions from around the world and everything I read sounded so good that I am thinking I need to start one of these traditions with my family.

If I am going to start a New Year food tradition with my family this year, it is going to have to be simple. So, I think black eyed peas are going to be the new tradition for us. January’s recipe – Slow Cooker Black Eyed Pea Soup – is one of the easiest and tastiest recipes I have ever made. All you need to do is cut up the vegetables, dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it on low, and wait patiently.

Black eyed peas served with greens and cornbread is a New Year food tradition from Southeastern America. Many eat this meal in hopes of good luck and prosperity in the new year. This soup pairs well with cornbread and a side of greens can easily be added for those who want to stick closely with this tradition. Try out this black eyed pea recipe for your New Year meal. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Ramen Noodle Skillet

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Ramen Noodle Skillet recipe is always a winner at my house. My husband loves it, my children devour it, and even the grandmas and grandpas enjoy it when they come to visit. Ramen noodles are an inexpensive and easy meal, but they do not keep you full for long. Our Ramen Noodle Skillet adds vegetables and meat to give those noodles staying power.

I would enjoy telling you how to make this dish, but I don’t need to. We now have a short Ramen Noodle Skillet video that will show you all you need to know about this delicious recipe. Take a minute to watch our new video and then add the recipe to your menu for this week. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Kiwi

My family loves kiwi fruit. One of my favorite stories of my oldest son involves kiwi fruit. One night, my husband had washed two kiwis and set them on a paper towel to air dry. He intended to put them in his lunch the next morning before he headed to work, but he forgot. At lunch that day, I peeled and cut up the kiwis and shared them with my son who was two years old at the time. I told him that these were daddy’s kiwis and, since he forgot them, we were going to eat them. He thought it was so funny that we were eating “daddy’s tiwis”. That night when my husband returned home, my son started laughing so hard that he could hardly speak. Finally, we heard him say, “we ate your tiwis daddy!”.

Each time I eat a kiwi, I think of my two year old son mispronouncing the word kiwi. For a long time, I wondered if I was eating kiwi the right way. I just did not know the best way to get at them. As it turns out, there really is no right or wrong way to eat a kiwi – you can eat the whole thing, you can cut it in half and scoop out the inside, or you can peel it. If you would like to use kiwi slices to decorate a fruit pizza or kiwi dices to put in a fruit salad (or feed a hungry two year old), peeling the kiwi is the way to go. We have a new video that shows the quickest and easiest way to peel a kiwi – the spoon method.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Baked Oatmeal Muffins

baked-oatmeal-muffins-webA few years ago I wrote about a baked oatmeal recipe my husband’s grandmother had shared with me. That year it made an excellent holiday breakfast for our family. That recipe has made its way to our table many times and in many different ways since then. After a lot of trial and error, we now have our December recipe of the month for this year – Baked Oatmeal Muffins.

This recipe is just as delicious, nutritious, and satisfying as the original. However, we made a few changes. First, the oatmeal mixture is baked in muffin tins. This makes leftovers easy to freeze and re-heat for busy mornings. Next, we saved back some of the cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top of the baked oatmeal muffins. This ensures that the delicious cinnamon sugar flavor hits your taste buds first. Last, we cut back on the amount of some ingredients which helps avoid food waste.

You can bake these today and put them in the freezer. When you find yourself in the middle of a busy holiday morning, just pull them out of the freezer, re-heat in the microwave, and serve for a perfect breakfast. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Featured Video – Scrambled Egg Muffins

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team is very excited to share some new resources with you. This week, we are unveiling the first in a series of short, new videos that teach basic recipes and cooking skills. We hope you love them as much as we do!

This week’s featured videos is for Scrambled Egg Muffins. These are delicious for a weekend breakfast for company or a make-ahead breakfast to eat throughout the week. Each serving has vegetables and protein to get your day started right. In addition, in our part of the country, this recipe costs just $0.59 per serving!

Check out our new video and get the recipe for Scrambled Egg Muffins from our website.

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Fresh, canned or frozen veggies?

Vegetables steamedAs a dietitian I’m often asked which is better, fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables? My response is they all have benefits and can all fit into a healthy eating plan.

You want to buy fresh vegetables when they are in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor. However, when not in season, frozen or canned versions are often a smarter buy. For example, buy fresh sweet corn in the summer but frozen or canned corn during other months.

Commercially frozen vegetables are frozen within hours of picking. Therefore, their flavor is retained and nutrient loss is reduced. Buy plain frozen vegetables instead of those with special sauces or seasonings, which can add calories, fat and sodium, as well as cost.

Canned vegetables tend to be the least expensive. And if you don’t end up using them, they won’t go bad quickly. When buying canned vegetables, buy those that have reduced or no sodium. Or drain and rinse regular canned vegetables to reduce the sodium.

When deciding whether to buy fresh, canned or frozen vegetables, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Which kind of vegetable is most appropriate for your needs? If you are making a soup or stew, canned tomatoes might make more sense than fresh.
  2. How much waste is there? If you are buying fresh carrots or broccoli, consider that you’ll pay for the entire weight, but you’ll throw away the stems/peels. You’ll need to have a plan to eat fresh vegetables before they spoil while frozen and canned vegetables can be stored for longer periods of time.
  3. How much time will it save overall? Don’t just consider the cooking time but preparation and clean up as well. If your schedule for the week is busy, you might decide to use frozen or canned vegetables if they will save you time.
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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