Thursday, February 19, 2015

Snack Ideas & Inspiration

Snacks are hard aren't they? Walk into a supermarket and there are aisles filled with snacks for kids, all filled with additives, white flour, chemicals and sugar. The only way to decipher what is healthy and what is not is to check the ingredient list. Best bet is to focus on real foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, etc.

If you love these ideas but are struggling with a picky eater, check out our other posts; food appreciation is learned and reasons toddlers stop eating well. If snacking is out of control and it's effecting their appetite at meals, check out 5 ways to get your kid to stop snacking all day.

We know it's tricky, kids love something then get bored with it shortly after. So here's some snack inspiration for you. What are your favorites?

Ants on a log is an oldie but a goodie! Mix it up by using trail mix instead of raisins.

Smoothies are a refreshing, delicious way to add veggies but also enjoy a fun drink.  Add whatever you want!

Peanut butter and apples or peanut butter and cheese, so good!

Only ingredients in this cereal are puffed wheat and agave. It's hard to find healthy boxed snacks, this is a good one!

Large containers of precut fruit and vegetables. Add plenty of variety, include things you aren't sure your kids will eat. They may just surprise you.

Mini sweet peppers with guacamole. You may think, but my kid doesn't eat peppers- give them the opportunity to acquire the taste when they've got a good appetite. 

Kids love frozen fruit! Keep it frozen for an entertaining bite. This is especially fun in the summer! Also, packing a small container of frozen fruit for school lunch is a nice twist. Or adding frozen fruit to a container of plain yogurt packed for school keeps the yogurt cold until lunch.

Variety is key!

Snack plates are fun, and even work nicely as a breakfast alternative for kids who don't have much of an appetite. 

Bare Apple Chips are delicious! We found a huge bag at Costco that lasted a while. The only ingredient is apples.

Fresh or lightly steamed/microwaved veggies are the perfect snack for when kids need food RIGHT NOW and it's twenty minutes before dinner. Doesn't fill them up and they'll eat their serving of vegetables before they sit down to the table.

One of the best boxed convenience snacks out there. Most of these bars have 2-5 ingredients and they're all REAL FOOD. Perfect for early morning risers who need breakfast now. And of course for mid day snacks on the go.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Simple Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash is a super unique winter squash that is really easy to prepare. After cooking, the flesh of the squash separates into spaghetti-like strands that are fun to prepare and extremely versatile in recipes. This recipe has simple flavors that will work well for kids who might be hesitant to try any kind of squash, even if it looks like pasta. The initial roasting of the squash can be done in advance; just pack the cooked squash in the refrigerator after it cools.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cups of spaghetti squash (about half a squash)
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (we used parsley and chives)
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a fork, poke several holes in the squash and place on a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for about one hour or until you can pierce the squash with little resistance. Remove from the oven and let cool. Cut in half lengthwise then scoop out and discard the seeds. Gently pull the squash flesh away from the skin with a fork.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat and add the squash. Gently soften the squash for a few minutes then turn off the heat, season, and toss with the herbs and cheese.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

When Cooking With Kids is Hard

We all picture parenthood as a series of beautiful bonding moments; making cookies, teaching them how to ride their bike, kissing them goodnight. We never picture the inevitable moments, the impatience, the frustration and the energy needed. We know cooking with our kids makes them more adventurous eaters and creates beautiful childhood memories.  It's easy to say hey, cook with your kids! But making it work can be tricky, frustrating and hard. Why? It comes down to a couple of avoidable factors, here they are…

Lack of planning- not the right meal, not the right time (just getting off of work and dinner needs to be on the table fast), dishes still in the sink and the kitchen needs to be organized first.

Timing isn't right- we want to include our kids but we're tired, overworked, impatient, distracted and multitasking. I just want to get the meal on the table.

Expectations too high- we expect things to go quickly, easily and smoothly only to realize that instructions need to be repeated and rephrased. Spills and errors are a reality and when we are expecting swift easy cooking we set ourselves up for frustration.

So how do we overcome these pitfalls?

When meal planning (are you meal planning?!) schedule certain meals that your kids can help with. Those meals can be strategically planned to include to-do items that are easily executed. Sure you can include your child in any recipe, but planning ahead can set you up for success and prevent some of the pitfalls.

Plan to cook with your kids when you have plenty of time and you are able to relax and slow down. Asking yourself if you are in a good head space for cooking collaboration is vital. Better to tell them you'll cook together another time than to blow a gasket because you needed some space; we've all been there.

Mentally prepare; remind yourself that they are still learning! Spills, mess, confusion, it's all part of the experience. Deep breaths. Acceptance is key. The more you cook together the easier it'll get.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Twin Talk Guest Post

We were recently invited to write a guest post on healthy eating tips for Twin Talk Blog's series, Twin Toddler Boot Camp. Loaded with information and personal stories of raising twins, this site is a phenomenal resource for twin parents and non-twin parents alike. Twin Talk asked us to provide our top suggestions for some of the biggest challenges with toddlers and food, so here's our post.

What are easy and healthy meals I can give my toddlers?

Toddlers can eat anything! No really they can. The best thing you can do for your toddlers is to get them used to everyone regularly eating the same healthy meal together. There are plenty of tiny tots that still have yet to develop all their teeth, so in that case watch the nuts and raw veggies, but otherwise toddlers can chow down on most things, including spices. Avoid packaged foods and meals that claim to be designed for toddlers. These foods create picky eaters with undeveloped palates and bad eating habits. Walk down any conventional supermarket and the baby aisle will point you in this weird packaged food path where baby sausages come from cans and raviolis are toddler sized. The frozen and refrigerated sections also have packages that claim to be healthy and complete toddler meals. Buyers beware! Toddlers are real people, with real food needs. By serving them the same food their parents are eating, they will start to get used to there being one meal at dinnertime which will be a good habit to get into early on. Plus, making multiple meals isn't just one more thing on your to-do list, it also causes other picky eater problems down the line (more on that later). When making meals, go ahead and use your favorite spices, herbs, and seasonings. Have your little ones help you cook! Cooking always leads to tasting and familiarity which breeds confidence. Keep in mind, the table should be a relaxing environment, so try easing stress by making meals ahead and simplifying things as much as possible, meal planning and prep ahead recipes can go a long way here.

But what if I just need to give them a quick snack while I tend to nearby tasks; what foods can they safely feed themselves?

Your best bet in these situations are soft finger foods, such as meatballs, dark meat chicken, beans, quinoa pasta, fruits and veggies, soft tofu, grilled, roasted or steamed veggies, or eggs. Plates with compartments are great because they remind us busy parents to give plenty of healthy variety. Seasonal produce is cheapest and often the best tasting, but frozen fruits and veggies are an easy inexpensive alternative.

Why are my toddlers refusing food that s/he used to eat?

Keep track of what your family’s eating habits have been lately, especially considering the recent holidays. Initially were you careful with the food you gave your toddlers but now are they given more/too many choices? Have you suddenly started short order cooking, making meals you know your toddlers will eat instead of risking refusal at the table? Have you been on vacation or had long-term guests stay? After the holidays and all that glorious fare it's hard to go back to eating a healthier whole foods diet. But keep in mind, parents are in charge of what our kids are served and our kids are in charge of how much they eat. Avoid short order cooking or loading up their plates with foods that they are uncomfortable with. Are they coming to dinner hungry or have they had too many snacks or snacks too recently? What are they eating for snacks? Is it processed?

When toddlers stop eating meals you have to become a detective to figure out why. Look at the set up in the home, the food schedule and track what foods are kept in the house and eaten between meals. Is your child offered a snack after the meal even if they didn't eat the food that was offered at dinner? Do they know that they will still get food, something they actually prefer if they refuse food? If this is the case, go back to a more rigid (for lack of a better word) schedule but maintain an upbeat approach. "You don't want the herbs on your chicken? Ohh I see. You know what, that’s where all the amazing flavor comes from. Let's try an herb together and see what it tastes like…" Exploring the meal together can help them focus their attention away from distractions such as their cravings for other foods. If they still ask you for a different item, gently remind them that everyone is eating chicken for dinner. If they still refuse to eat their meal, most likely they are either still full from an earlier snack or they are just not hungry enough to be willing to try something that they don’t crave. Give it a few moments to observe, without talking. They might come around on their own. If they have refused a substantial amount of their meal and you know they'll be hungry again before bed, wrap their plate up and keep it in the fridge. If they get hungry a little while later, you can take it out and serve it to them again. By serving them the same meal again, they will learn that refusing food and holding out does not mean that they can eat whatever they want later.

Be sure to rotate recipes so that meals are familiar but not constantly being repeated. It is normal for everyone to not want to eat things that they used to like, and with time then go back to it. Teething in toddlerhood can often contribute to changes in eating, so just keep offering healthy foods and avoid pitfalls. Making meals that are loaded with nutrient dense foods your kids like with a side of the refused foods also sets them up for success. Serve smaller portions of the food that they now refuse, sometimes the size of the portion can be off putting or overwhelming. As long as you continue to offer healthy options, that’s all that matters.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blueberries for Sal

It's chilly outside and there's nothing better than letting a book transport us to somewhere warm and sunny. We love pairing books with food, it's the ultimate experience for kids to learn with all their senses. Is it too soon to select Blueberries for Sal for a book pairing? Should we wait until summer? We think not! We are pairing this book with some delicious blueberry pancakes. We have also included links below to more great blueberry recipes and educational activities.

Blueberries for Sal is about a little toddler and mom who go picking blueberries to can for winter, and a bear with her cub who are eating berries before winter. Little Sal can't help but eat all the berries she collects. Accidentally wandering off, both toddler and cub end up following the wrong mother up blueberry hill. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is pure joy.

Fresh, local blueberries are out of season in the winter, so we use organic frozen wild blueberries in recipes. Using frozen produce in recipes is a great opportunity to talk to your kids about the seasons and how fresh fruit can be picked and frozen right away so we can have it through winter. Just like Sal's mom is picking berries to can for the winter.

There are so many great recipes to be made with frozen blueberries. Here are a couple delicious suggestions:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes from Sally's Baking Addiction - we added the blueberries, they aren't part of the original recipe but are easily added to the batter.

100 Days of Real Food Blueberry Muffins - the trick to adding frozen blueberries to a 'fresh' blueberry recipe is to give them a quick rinse to take any frost burn off, then they're good to go.

Blueberry Cornbread from Spicy Southern Kitchen - how good does this look?!

We added defrosted blueberries to these Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes from So delicious!

Blueberries for Sal Scholastic Lesson Plan

Blueberries for Sal Preschool Lesson Plan - Looks like so much fun!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Make Leftovers Fun and Tempting

We love instagram, there are so many amazing people with fantastic ideas. This one came straight from one of our favorite moms @glutenfreegoodlife who said that she puts leftovers in muffin tins to make it fun and enticing for the kids. She calls in "muffin cup mania" ha! GENIUS. We had to give it a try and well, apparently kids love to eat out of muffin tins, who knew! This is especially great idea for after the holidays when you've got tons of odds and ends lying around. Although around here, mid week tends to look like that too.

Here are some of our favorite recipes that make the delicious leftovers…

Cuban Roasted Pork

Pot Roast

Roasted Root Veggies

Picadillo (Cuban style ground meat with seasonings over rice)