Healthy Meal Prep Tips for Busy Parents

By Elise Harlow, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

When life gets busy, making homemade meals can fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Drive-through or take-out dinners may sound more appealing and time-friendly! While there is nothing wrong with the occasional fast-food meal, by cooking meals at home you can reduce the amount of added fat and sodium, and have control over the types of ingredients going into your family’s food.

To increase the amount of homemade meals you have on hand during busy times, meal planning and meal prepping can be your best friend. This can also be a great way to involve your kids in the kitchen and increase their interest in healthy foods.

Meal planning: this means taking one day out of the week to sit a down with a planner and plan out your meals for the upcoming week. After your meals are planned out, make a grocery list for all the ingredients you will need for the week.

Helpful tip: use leftovers from dinner for lunch the next day. For example, a roasted chicken for dinner can become a chicken salad sandwich for lunch the next day

How to involve your children: Let your children help you in planning meals by letting them choose what is for dinner one night a week. Maybe one day they can choose a meal that they know they like, and one day they get to pick a new food that they would like to try. You can even bring your children along with you to the grocery store to help pick up the ingredients needed for the week. Children tend to be more likely to try new foods when they have some sort of say in what they are eating.

Meal prepping: this means that once a week you pre-cook whatever meals from your meal plan that allow for this. For example,  roasting a chicken on Sunday and using the chicken in dishes for the rest of the week, or making lasagna on Sunday for dinner during the week, or portioning out yogurt and fruit in single-serving containers for easy grab-and-go breakfasts each day of the week.

How to involve your children: assign your children age-appropriate tasks that they can do on their own. Again, this will increase their interest in the food and could make them more likely to try new foods. Some ideas include scrubbing vegetables, counting ingredients, measuring, or mixing ingredients together.

A crock pot or slow-cooker can be your best friend during busy times. The beauty of a crock pot is that you can throw the ingredients in the crock pot in the morning on your way out the door to work and arrive home to a warm, homemade meal for you and your family. Looking for ideas? Below is a recipe for steel cut oats, that could even be cooked overnight, which means waking up to warm cooked breakfast!

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal

Recipe adapted from
2 cups steel cut oats
6 cups water

2 cups milk of any type
2 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 peeled apples
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Optional add ins: flax seed, chia seed, almonds, pecans, shredded coconut, hemp seeds, pepitas, etc.


  1. Spray the slow cooker with cooking oil or brush with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
  2. Put all ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
  3. Top with optional add-ins of your choice.

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3 Easy Ways to Sneak More Veggies in Your Kids’ Diet

By Becca Janda, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Including more vegetables in our diet can have loads of health benefits. They are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and offer more micronutrients per calorie than any other food group. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends getting in 2.5 -3 cups per day. Here are a few creative ways to add more servings of veggies to your weekly routine—you may not even notice they are there!

Cauliflower Rice

Rice is a staple ingredient in American home cooking and countless other ethnic cuisines. A new product you may be seeing in the produce or frozen section of your local grocery store is cauliflower “rice.” It is created from shredding or processing cauliflower into small little “rice-size” pieces that closely resemble white rice using a food processor or even a hand cheese grater. This “rice” can be substituted in place of real rice OR in combination with real rice as a nutritious addition to many of the recipes you currently make at home. Just by swapping out 1 cup of white rice with 1 cup of cauliflower rice you increase the fiber content of your dish from 0.5g to 3g per cup. You’ll also eliminate  100 calories considering just one cup of white rice contains almost 150 calories whereas cauliflower rice has only 33! Cauliflower rice has been making headlines in cooking magazines & health food blogs alike. Just one search on Pinterest will bring up numerous recipe options including cauliflower fried rice, cauliflower pizza crust, even cauliflower hashbrowns—the list goes on. One tip to remember when you start using it in place of rice—the goal is to keep the texture slightly firm to ensure it maintains the mouth-feel of rice. To do this, make sure to add it at the end of cooking, just to warm it up and slightly soften it.

Veggie-full smoothies

Dark leafy greens are packed full of nutrients crucial to our health and wellbeing. They are high in calcium, iron, potassium, Vitamin A and other phytonutrients which act as antioxidants.[1] Many of us feel stumped on how to include them in our diets: we cook them in soups, eat them in our salads, and some of us avoid them altogether because we don’t like the taste. One delicious way to include them in one more meal of the day is to enjoy them in a smoothie! Next time you’re making yourself a smoothie with blueberries and other fruit, try throwing in a cup of spinach or other mild flavored green. Once blended, you may not even notice it’s there! You can also add shredded carrots to your tropical smoothies: just throw a handful in your blender with some frozen banana, mango, and pineapple. They are delicious and packed with fiber and beta-carotene, which helps maintain healthy skin and boost eye health.

Butternut squash “cheese” sauce

Most of us can admit to craving cheesy comfort-food staples like macaroni and cheese or cheesy baked potatoes at one point or another. Next time the craving hits you, consider using this butternut squash “cheese sauce” recipe to boost your veggie intake while indulging your craving. Butternut squash is a great source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins A & C.  Its beta-carotene content gives it the look of orange cheddar cheese which makes it a perfect vegetable to sneak into those cheese-heavy recipes. The sauce consists of cooked butternut squash pureed with onion, garlic, chicken stock, seasoning and a little bit of butter. When you’re ready to use it in your recipes, heat it up until warm enough to melt cheese into it and add a small amount of milk. Poor it over baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, or bake it into some elbow macaroni pasta. And there you have it, comfort food remodeled with some hidden veggies! See recipe below.

Recipe for butternut squash cheese sauce:

2 ½ cups butternut squash, cubed

½ yellow or white onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 ½ cup chicken stock (or broth)

1 Tbls Butter or olive oil

2 Tbls all-purpose flour

½ cup milk

1 ½ – 2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in pan on medium heat, add onions and cook until translucent. Add butternut squash, garlic, and chicken stock; bring to a boil and cook until squash is softened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully transfer ingredients to standing blender or use an immersion blender to puree ingredients until smooth and creamy. Return to pan and reheat on low-medium. Add milk. Coat the shredded cheese with flour before stirring it into sauce small handfuls at a time until fully melted. Use more milk or chicken stock to get sauce to a desired consistency. Season to taste.

Recipe adapted from All Recipes.

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National Nutrition Month 2017: Put Your Best Fork Forward

By Stephanie Prideaux, Dietetic Technician, Registered

This National Nutrition Month, you can help your family put their best selves forward by creating personalized eating and physical activity styles that let you “put your best fork forward.” Try incorporating the following tips into your family’s habits.

Healthy Eating Style

Eating better does not have to be complicated. It can start with focusing on a variety of your favorite healthful foods and making small changes in what needs improvement. A healthy eating pattern focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, oils, and a variety of protein sources, such as seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, low-fat dairy, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products like tofu. As we increase these foods in our diets, we must decrease certain foods at the same time. Highly processed foods contain shockingly high amounts of sodium. It is also important to reduce foods that contain added saturated fat (such as cheese, meats and other animal products), trans fat (such as fried foods, baked goods, stick margarine, frozen pizzas) and sugar. Reading food labels and asking for nutrition information can help you to quickly identify foods to avoid. Small daily substitutions using healthy ingredients can add up over time to create a major shift in the way you eat.

new nutrition label

One technique to control your healthy eating style is by cooking more often at home. Packaged foods, restaurant foods, and take-home grocery store meals are notoriously high in the nutrients we need to avoid:  sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and added sugar. Experimenting with healthy substitutions at home can not only save money, but will allow you to ensure that all food groups are being represented as you create your personal healthy eating style.

Balance is also key when talking about style. We do not want to underdo it or go completely over the top. The same goes with our healthy eating style. In order to feel good, look good, and be ready to take on challenges, we must make sure to eat enough to meet our needs but not so much that we place ourselves at risk for chronic disease. This balance refers to both our total food intake for the day as well as the proportions of each food group on our meal plates. The MyPlate model shows a great visual way to balance our food groups:  fruits/vegetables are half the plate, protein is a quarter of the plate, and complex carbohydrates make up the last quarter.


The MyPlate model shows a great visual way to balance our food groups.A simple way to personalize and monitor your total intake is to eat intuitively. Drink plenty of water, eat slowly, and listen to your body throughout the day. Respond to hunger with water, healthy snacks and balanced meals. When you begin to feel full, respect that too and stop eating. For more guidance, the MyPlate website’s SuperTracker tool can help you plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity.

Physical Activity Style

Exercise that is custom-tailored to your preferences and abilities is a key component of your health style. Being physically active most days of the week carries benefits for your entire body and future health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that regular physical activity improves your mental health and mood, strengthens your muscles and bones, and increases your chances of living longer. Regular exercise reduces the risk of many chronic diseases and can help you meet any weight goals you might have.

To cash in on these benefits, federal guidelines of the Healthy People 2020 program recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity. That can sound like a lot, but broken up over five days per week, that would be only 15 to 30 minutes per day of vigorous to moderate-intensity exercise. If gyms are not your style, personalize your physical activity by turning up the intensity of activities you already love. This could be dancing, walking, bicycling, gardening, hiking and more. Jumping in to play along with children is a fun way to meet your goals while building fond memories.

Children and adolescents need even greater amounts of physical activity. The CDC recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day that offers a variety of aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities. Young people should have their own unique health style that is enjoyable, age-appropriate, and offers a variety of options. Learn how to keep kids active when school is out of session.

Dietitians: Your Health Style Consultant

Teaming up with your primary care physician to meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can be a great way to set and meet health goals. RDNs can provide reliable, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences, and health-related needs.

This March, let us celebrate National Nutrition Month by taking hold of the tools each one of us has to improve health now and into the future by creating healthy eating habits and engaging in regular exercise. Creating your personal eating and physical activity styles will help you “put your best fork forward” this month and for the years to come.

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How to Keep your Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

By Alexia Hall, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

At CHOC, we view nutrition as a cornerstone of health, healing and well-being. In response to a staggering number of overweight children in our community, we’ve implemented a new nutrition philosophy. It includes reducing added sugars, reducing pre-packaged items, increasing freshly prepared items, and providing a greater variety of fruits and vegetables.

We know that many families in our community have made New Year’s resolutions to make health a priority- and we want to support you! It’s easy to make resolutions each year and plan to kick start the year on a healthy note, but it can be hard to stick to them even if you have the best intentions.

How can you become successful and follow through on your goals?  Try these 4 essential tips to follow through on your own resolutions:

  1. Simplify your goals
  2. Manage your thoughts
  3. Manage your environment
  4. Manage your biology
  1. Simplify Your Goals:

Simplify and fine-tune your goals. Choose one or two things to focus on and add others as you master each one. For example, instead of a broad goal such as “I will increase my family’s vegetable intake,” be more specific by stating “I will start by offering 2 one-half cup servings of vegetables every day for 30 days.”  Put your planning skills to work by writing down a list of vegetables you like and placing two on your planner every day. Follow up by putting those on your grocery list. If you don’t succeed, analyze why. Maybe time or taste is an issue. If so, take advantage of the pre-cut items in the grocery store. Maybe you don’t like the taste. Try new seasonings, recipes and ideas. Never give up and seek daily positive inspiration along the way.

  1. Manage Your Thoughts:

To impact the way you think, you must manage what you hear and read. Remind your children that proper nutrition is essential to fuel their growing bodies. It can be as simple as choosing to read the Facebook posts on healthy items and skimming by the ones that are not. Pay attention to the messages that are going on around you and your children, focusing on the ones that will help you fulfill your goals.

Your internal messages may be even more important that the messages around you. Telling yourself positive thoughts, such as you are beautiful, smart, kind, and are worth it, will help you to be successful. There are even new apps that will text daily positive thoughts – surround yourself with them!

  1. Manage Your Environment:

Enlist the help of those around you. Explain what you are doing and ask that your family and friends join with you. Realize that what may work for one family member, may not work for another and be flexible. Clear your home of the food that will trip you up and fill the refrigerator with fresh whole food that is convenient and ready-to-go. Plan your meals, snacks and lunches in advance.  It is also very important to plan out your day for success. Here are some examples:

  • Think about time crunches in your day that can create opportunities to break your resolve. For example, if you find yourself exhausted and grumpy once arriving home from a full day of work, you will likely find it difficult to summon energy to cook a healthy dinner. Planning a light snack such as almonds for the car ride home can go a long way in strengthening that resolve.
  • If you are trying to build a workout into a day with the kids, plan a beach or park outing and bring the Frisbee or a ball.
  • Make shopping for healthy food part of a fun family weekend by visiting farmers markets or fun food destinations such as apple picking or fruit farms.
  • Proper amounts of rest and fun are critical to good decision making, so aim to be kind to yourself first.
  1. Manage Your Biology:

Eating unhealthy food creates more craving for unhealthy food, a cycle that is difficult to break. Scientists have been uncovering information for some time that shows sugar is addictive. Eating large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables along with a low sugar diet and healthy plant based fats can create a healthy bowel environment. New evidence is showing that a healthy set of gut bacteria can positively affect your emotions, further controlling the choices you make. A person who feels physically and mentally well is more apt to make positive lifestyle choices.

Studies show it can take at least 30 days to instill a change in habit, so hang in there even if it is challenging to keep your resolution.  The benefits will come and it will get easier!  Give your family the best physical and mental environment by eating foods that will give you a sense of well-being and increased energy to stick firm to your health resolutions.

If you have any concerns related to your child’s nutritional intake or eating habits, speak to your child’s pediatrician. They may refer you to a pediatric nutrition expert for further consultation.

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CHOC’s Fresh Take on Nutrition Provides Healthier Options to Patients, Staff and Visitors

By Caroline Steele, registered dietitian and director of clinical nutrition and lactation services at CHOC Children’s

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three children in the United States are obese. Obesity rates in children have quadrupled and rates in teens have tripled since the 1980s. In California, 38 percent of children are overweight or obese and in Orange County alone this translates to 830,000 children and teens.

Because of these trends, healthcare experts have looked for ways to help families with lifestyle and behavior changes, including nutrition choices, to improve health. To help improve trends in our own community, CHOC Children’s is pleased to launch a new formal food and nutrition philosophy.

Our Philosophy

CHOC Children’s embraces nutrition as a cornerstone of health, healing and well-being. We believe that food can be therapeutic and that real people need real food. Choosing from a plentiful variety of fresh, wholesome foods will strengthen a healthy lifestyle. Healthy eating can be tasty and flavorful with just a little creativity!

choc food philosophy
To help improve trends in our own community, CHOC Children’s is pleased to launch a new formal food and nutrition philosophy.

CHOC is more than a place to receive excellent care and more than a restaurant. We are a resource of health and nutrition information—not only for our patients, but for their families, our staff, visitors to our campus, and our community. We are committed to being a role model and setting an example of optimal nutrition at every opportunity within our organization.

We understand that embracing a food and nutrition philosophy is more than just changing the foods we serve. We support our philosophy by:

  • Promoting food quality, balance, lifestyle changes and mindful eating rather than fad diets.
  • Using portion sizes, product placement and presentation, pricing and education to promote better choices.
  • Understanding individual unique needs and that an individual’s eating pattern, nutrient needs, and food group amounts will vary based on age, weight, height, activity level and medical needs.

Taking Action:

On our Orange campus, we are increasing the range and availability of healthy food and drink options, while reducing the number and amount of unhealthy options in our cafeterias, vending machines, and on our patient menus. We will provide more freshly made items and reduce processed and pre-packaged foods for an emphasis on quality and taste as well as health. Our goal is to make it easier and tastier to make the healthy choice!

choc food philosophy
CHOC is more than a place to receive excellent care. We are a resource of health and nutrition information for our patients, their families, our staff, visitors, and our community.

Our new farmers’ market will allow staff, families, and visitors the opportunity to take fresh produce and other items home to their families.

We are excited to embrace these changes and help those in our community find delicious ways to improve health by providing information and helpful hints as well as showing examples with the food we offer. Savor the flavor of healthy eating and join us on our journey to a fitter future!

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Tis the Season for Healthy Holiday Eating

By Lindsay Rypkema, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

The holidays are a time filled with family, friends and food. It is important for parents to model good eating habits as well as provide healthful meals and snacks in a season often filled with overindulgence. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to forgo all the holiday goodies your family loves, but small modifications can make a big impact. Below are some tips for healthy holiday eating.

  • Snack before you go: Never attend a holiday party hungry! To avoid overeating, consume a light snack at home such as vegetables and hummus or Greek yogurt and fruit. Protein and fiber will keep you full longer.
  • Prepare balanced meals: Choose one item from every food group. Limit the dessert options and always have fresh fruit and vegetables available.
  • Limit sugary drinks: Instead of cider, juice and soda, try infusing water with seasonal fresh fruit such as pomegranate, cranberries or blood orange. Wash fruit, slice and add to water pitcher. You can also use cookie cutters to make holiday shapes.
  • Limit sugar in baking: Baking is a fun holiday tradition but can result in excess calorie and sugar intake. Decrease sugar by 50 percent and add other spices such as vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg for added flavor. Try replacing the recommended oil with unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana in a 1:1 ratio to decrease calories. This works well in cakes, muffins and breads.
  • Try making a visual and healthy treat: Healthy snacks and desserts don’t have to be boring. For example, you can make a candy cane out of banana and strawberries. Pinterest has some great ideas to make a Santa out of strawberries or a Grinch out of grapes.
  • Get a jump start on your family’s resolutions: Don’t wait until the New Year to increase physical activity. Take a walk or play flag football after your holiday meal. Exercise is an important part of healthy living.
  • Consider simple swaps: Side dishes such as mashed potatoes and stuffing are often a family favorite but can be very high in calories and tempting to overeat. Try offering quinoa in place of stuffing for a healthy, high protein option. Consider using plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream for added protein. You can also make mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. Try this easy recipe this season:

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

2 head cauliflower, cut into florets

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2  tablespoons reduced – fat cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

*Salt and pepper to taste


Steam or boil cauliflower until tender. Mix olive oil, Parmesan, cream cheese, & garlic powder in bowl. Use food processor to blend cauliflower on high. Slowly add your oil/cheese mixture until completely blended. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Feeding your Family Seasonal Vegetables

By Carol Peng, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Winter weight gain is a common problem for many Americans during festive holidays. Instead of trying to lose the extra pounds later in the New Year, it’s a good idea to be mindful now about food choices and consider healthy alternatives in place of some sweets and desserts. Buying fresh produce when it’s in season is an easy and cost-effective way to give your family the nutrients they need.

Consider introducing one of these seasonal fruits or vegetables in to your family’s menu:


Originating from Asia, persimmons are known for their glossy surfaces and deliciously brightly orange and red colors. They are an excellent source of vitamin A (for good vision), vitamin C (to boost the immune system) and fiber (to aid the digestive system). Buy firmer persimmons and allow them to ripen at room temperature. You may peel the skin before enjoying them as snacks or flavorful additions to salads. Be sure to eat the ripe fruit as soon as possible because overripe persimmons quickly turn to a mushy texture. Fuyu persimmons look similar to flattened tomatoes and have a crispier texture. Hachiyas persimmons are acorn-shaped and taste softer and juicer.


Pummelos are the largest members in size of the citrus family. With pale green or yellow skin and thick yet soft white rind, these fruits contain juicy pulps that vary from pale yellow to pink or red. Choose firm and heavy pummelos. They can be refrigerated for up to one week. Pummelos taste like their cousin grapefruits, but sweeter and milder, and they are an excellent source of vitamin C, folate (to help prevent birth defects) and fiber.

Sweet Potato or Yam

Many varieties of sweet potatoes are homegrown in the US. The skin color can range from white to yellow, red, purple, or brown, with the inside ranging in color from white to yellow and orange. The ones with soft orange texture inside are often labeled as yams. However, yams are mainly grown in West Africa and Asia, soo unless you are shopping at an international market, you are most likely buying sweet potatoes. They can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 3-5 weeks. They are fat free, cholesterol free and are good source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium (which is good for heart health and enhancing muscle strength).

Winter Squash

The most common varieties of winter squash include acorn squash, butternut squash, hubbard squash, spaghetti squash, turban squash, and pumpkin. They come in different shapes, sizes and colors, but all have a hard, thick shell and seeds. The deep yellow to orange flesh is firmer compared to summer squash, therefore requires longer cooking time. Choose winter squash that are heavy for their size. There are many healthy cooking methods to prepare winter squash such as baking, steaming, simmered, or mashed. They can be kept in a cool dark place for a month. They have high levels of vitamin A, C, niacin (important for heart health) and fiber.

Try this recipe as a way to incorporate seasonal squash into your family’s dinner rotation:

Spicy Spaghetti Squash with Black Beans (for 4 servings)

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn, frozen or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Arrange squash in a large baking dish, cut-sides down. Pour 1/2 cup water into the dish and bake until just tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Rake with a fork to remove flesh in strands, leaving the shell intact for stuffing.

For the filling, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeño and bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes or until soft. Add beans, corn and chili powder; cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute longer. Add cooked squash, cilantro, lime juice and salt, cook 1 minute until heated through.

Fill squash halves with filling, mounding mixture in the center.

Per serving: 160 calories (30 from fat), 3.5g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 330mg sodium, 29g carbohydrates, (7 g dietary fiber, 5g sugar), 6g protein

Recipe source: Whole Foods Market

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Are Your Kids Eating Too Much Sugar?

By Kristen Miller, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

New recommendations from the American Heart Association state that children ages two to 18 should have less than 25 grams of added sugars per day and drink no more than one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage per week. But what does 25 grams of added sugars look like?

kids eating too much sugar

Know the Difference: Natural vs. Added sugars

Naturally occurring sugars such as those found in whole pieces of fruit, some vegetables (i.e. corn), or plain dairy products are not added sugars and play an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. So keep eating those apples, berries, peaches and oranges! Whole pieces of fruit provide fiber that helps to evenly distribute blood sugars compared to the “sugar high” (quick spike in blood sugar) that can occur when drinking sweetened beverages or eating candy.

Added sugars include any syrups or sweeteners added to a food and are most commonly found in processed, packaged foods, resulting in an increase in calories without contributing essential nutrients. Consuming large amounts of added sugars may make it difficult for children to meet their nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits. Consuming large amounts of added sugars put children at higher risk for obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, diabetes and dental cavities.

Most Common Sources of Sugar

In a child’s diet, the most common sources of added sugars are soda, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, and desserts. Most sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and flavored milks have 20-35 grams of sugar per serving!

With Halloween approaching, make sure to be mindful of all of the added sugars in candy! A mere 10 pieces of candy corn has a whopping 16 grams of added sugars!  Some other common candies and their hidden added sugars include:

  • 5 chocolate kisses = 13 grams of added sugar
  • 10 gummy bears = 13 grams of added sugar
  • 2 classic sized peanut butter cups = 21 grams of added sugar
  • 2 vines of licorice = 16 grams of added sugar

According to the 2012 US Census Bureau, the average American consumes 24 pounds of candy in a year- That’s a lot of added sugars!

Reading Food Labels

Added sugars can sometimes be difficult to identify. Look for these items in the ingredient list to determine if the food has added sugars: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose, and turbiado sugar.

Keep your eyes out for the new food label coming out by July 2018. An ‘added sugars’ row will now be included on the label. Identifying added sugars will be much easier!

Tips for Limiting Added Sugars in the Diet

  • Choose water instead of sugary beverages. If you like flavored beverages, try adding lemon, cucumber & mint, or berries to your water for an infused flavor.
  • Choose club soda or seltzer water for a carbonated drink instead of a regular soda.
  • Choose fruit as a dessert instead of cakes, pies, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, or candy. The United State Department of Agriculture offers information on when certain fruits and vegetables are in season.
  • Choose plain dairy products instead of flavored milk or dairy such as chocolate milk or sweetened yogurts. Add some fresh fruit to plain yogurt for natural sweetness.

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Melon Mania!

By Stephanie Prideaux, Dietetic Technician, Registered

Children are mostly back in school, the fair has packed up its things, and summer, I’m afraid, is coming to a close. Although we might not have all the free time or outdoor movies in the park, we can hold on to summer through many of our favorite foods that are still in season. Melons, the snack I brought to almost every single gathering this year, are in season through as late as November, depending on the variety. Seasonal fruit means budget-friendly prices. Use this opportunity to sample melons you may have never heard of, such as canary melon or Santa Claus melon (also known as piel de sapo).

Melons are one of the ultimate warm weather snacks for their juiciness and refreshing mildly sweet flavor. In fact, melons like watermelon and honeydew are made of about 90 percent water. Their natural sweetness is a great substitute for sugary desserts or sugary beverages. Melons can even be transformed into delicious drinks with little to no added sugar, such as in the style of aguas frescas. Healthy frozen desserts such as snow cones or popsicles can be made from melons, such as in the recipe below. When in a pinch for time, skewered melon chunks are an easy option that kids love—and it’s a great way to taste test new types of melon.

You don’t have to be a culinary artist to transform melons into amazing things. With a little experimentation, or a recipe like the one below, melons can be used in ways that may not commonly come to mind. Never underestimate the deliciousness of any fruit with some lemon juice and chili powder. Melons can even be made into salsas and soups, or grilled or pickled.. Their mild but distinct flavor allows them to be served with fish, chicken, in tacos, as a dip, or in countless other ways.

Adding melon to main dishes is a unique and colorful way to pack in extra nutritional value, too. Melons are notorious for being great sources of vitamin C, which is perfect for children. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects their growing bodies against damage from the sun, air pollution, cigarette smoke and more. . This vitamin is also used to make collagen, which can help heal wounds from playtime cuts and scrapes. Iron deficiency is a common condition affecting children, but vitamin C can combat this by increasing the amount of iron their bodies absorb when eaten at the same time as meat, fish, poultry, beans, lentils, spinach, peas, nuts or raisins.

Melons are also good sources of dietary fiber, which prevents constipation and promotes heart health. Cantaloupe and watermelon, with their bright red and orange colors, are also good sources of vitamin A. This vitamin plays key roles in normal vision, immunity, future reproduction, as well as normal organ function. Potassium, essential for brain and nerve function, muscle growth and function, in addition to water balance, can also be easily found in cantaloupes. The list goes on and on. All melons are well-rounded and scrumptious sources of nutrients essential for growth, energy, normal function.


Melons are nutrition powerhouses, but improperly handled food can spoil the fun. Remember, melons grow in the ground sitting on dirt. This is why melons should always be washed and scrubbed prior to slicing into it. If not, we risk moving any illness-causing bacteria from the outside of the melon to the inside. Be sure to wash your hands and never use an unwashed knife or cutting board–especially if it was used for meat. Once cut, keep melon cold or else discard after two hours of being at room.


Honeydew Avocado Salsa

zest of one lime

2 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp olive oil

2 ½ cups honeydew melon, diced

avocado, diced

salt and pepper, to taste

Simply toss ingredients together and enjoy!

Variations:  toss diced melon and/or any other fruit with lime juice, green onions, chiles and herbs for versatility.

Minted Watermelon Popsicles

4 cups seedless watermelon, diced

2 tbsp sugar

¼ cup mint leaves, minced

2 tsp    lemon zest, finely grated

pinch of salt

Puree watermelon with sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients and pour into ice cube trays or popsicle molds. Freeze until hard, about three hours, inserting popsicle sticks halfway through freezing.

Variations:  cantaloupe with lemon juice; honeydew with lemon juice and cinnamon; watermelon with lime juice and cayenne

Recipe Sources:  Food & Wine

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Healthy Eating Tips for the School Year

It’s time to head back to school, and with that comes a fresh opportunity to establish new habits with children and teens. As your family falls into a routine around the school day, be sure to incorporate healthy eating into the mix to ensure everyone has a strong year.

Tips for School-Age Children (Ages 6-12)

School-age children need healthy foods and nutritious snacks to fuel their busy bodies. They have a consistent but slow rate of growth, requiring them to eat four to five times a day (including snacks). Eating healthy after-school snacks is important, as these snacks may contribute up to one-third of the total calorie intake for the day. Remember that school-age children may also be eating more foods outside of the home.

Many food habits, likes and dislikes are established during this time. This makes it a perfect time to experiment with new foods, as school-age children are often willing to eat a wider variety of foods than their younger siblings.

Follow these seven tips to ensure good nutrition habits for school-age children:

  1. Always serve breakfast, even if it has to be “on the run.” Some ideas for a quick, healthy breakfast include fruit, milk, bagel, cheese toast, cereal, peanut butter sandwich and fruit smoothies.
  2. Take advantage of big appetites after school by serving healthy snacks, such as fruit, vegetables and dip, yogurt, turkey or chicken sandwich, cheese and crackers, or milk and cereal.
  3. Make healthy foods easily accessible.
  4. Allow children to help with meal planning and preparation.
  5. Serve meals at the table, instead of in front of the television, to avoid distractions.
  6. Fill half of the plate with colorful fruits and vegetables.
  7. Provide calorie-free beverages (water) throughout the day, to avoid filling up on non-nutritive calories.

healthy eating tips

 Tips for Adolescents and Teens (Age 13 and Up)

During adolescence, children become more independent and make many food decisions on their own. Many adolescents experience a growth spurt and an increase in appetite, and they need healthy foods to meet their growth needs. Adolescents tend to eat more meals away from home than younger children. They are also heavily influenced by their peers.

Discuss these nine healthy eating tips with your adolescent to ensure he or she is following a healthy eating plan:

  1. Have several nutritious snack foods readily available. Oftentimes, teenagers will eat whatever is convenient.
  2. If there are foods that you do not want your teens to eat, avoid bringing them into the home.
  3. Drink water. Try to avoid drinks that are high in sugar. Fruit juice can have a lot of calories, so limit your adolescent’s intake. Whole fruit is always a better choice.
  4. When cooking for your adolescent, try to bake or broil instead of fry.
  5. Make sure your adolescent watches (and decreases, if necessary) his or her sugar intake.
  6. Eat more chicken and fish. Limit red meat intake, and choose lean cuts when possible.
  7. Arrange for teens to find out about nutrition for themselves by providing teen-oriented magazines or books with food articles and by encouraging them and supporting their interest in health, cooking or nutrition.
  8. Take their suggestions, when possible, regarding foods to prepare at home.
  9. Experiment with foods outside your own culture.

Get more tips for establishing healthy eating habits with kids.

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