Tips for Getting Your Child to Try New Fruits and Vegetables

By Caitlyn DePasquale, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Spring is upon us and this is the season that we begin to see an influx of fresh produce including fruits, vegetables and herbs in gardens and our local grocery stores. Despite the countless options you make available to your family during this time of year, do you find yourself relentlessly offering your children new fruits and vegetables just to have them turn their noses up time and time again? You aren’t alone. Most children in the U.S. do not meet their daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake, according to the Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

There are numerous ways you can help to increase your children’s willingness to try new fruit and vegetables this spring by allowing them to be active participants in weekly meal planning and daily meal prepping tasks. Include your children in the following task at home.

  1. Commit to Meal Planning – Allow your children to help create your weekly grocery list. Encourage them to add one or two new fruits or vegetables to your list they will be willing to try over the next week. Younger children may enjoy being challenged to choose colorful produce that range the colors of the rainbow while your older children might enjoy searching for new, healthy recipes in your cookbooks or magazines at home.
  2. Grocery Shopping – Be sure to take your children grocery shopping with you. This will provide exposure to new foods and allows an opportunity for discussion about healthy foods and eating. Challenge your children to choose foods on the perimeter of the grocery store, as these are the areas that generally house fresh, whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. Steer away from the more processed, convenience foods and snacks most often found in the center aisles.
  3. Meal Preparation/Cooking – Encourage your children to participate in meal preparation and cooking. Appropriate tasks will depend on age. Delegate tasks such as setting the table, rinsing produce, mixing sauces or measuring ingredients.

These are all small ways to exposure your children to healthy eating and may help to increase interest in trying new fruits and vegetables. If time and space allow, gardening can also be a fun, interactive activity for children. Your children are sure to be more willing to try new fruits and vegetables after watching their food grow from start to finish. April marks National Gardening Month so now is a perfect time to create a family garden. While planting and maintaining a fruit and vegetable garden may seem like an overwhelming task, start small this spring by putting together a fresh herb garden with your children. Use a small pot to plant herbs such as basil, chives, parsley, mint, sage, lavender or rosemary. Fresh herbs are sure to be a fun way to add new flavors to meals and snacks!

Try this flavorful, nutrient packed dip for dipping vegetables. Children of all ages will be sure to enjoy picking the ingredients from their very own herb garden.

Whipped Fresh Herb Cheese Recipe


2 containers (16 ounces each) low-fat cottage cheese
¼ cup fresh chopped chives
¼ cup fresh chopped basil
¼ cup fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Black pepper to taste


  1. Combine the first six ingredients and mix well.
  2. Add black pepper to taste.

Recipe from

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National Nutrition Month 2018: “Go Further with Food” and Reduce Food Waste

By Vanessa Chrisman, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

In America, we live in the land of the plenty. Food costs are low compared to other parts of the world. Despite being the world’s biggest individual exporter of food, about 40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. does not get eaten. The foods most commonly thrown out are fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and seafood. It has been estimated that the average American household throws away over $1,400 worth of uneaten food each year. Much of this wasted food contains healthy nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. So not only are we wasting money, we are wasting nutrients that benefit our health.  Despite this food waste, 41 million people in the U.S. struggle with hunger.

How do we turn this trend around? This year for National Nutrition Month® , the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has tackled this topic and identified that the solution needs to start at home. The first step involves fueling up wisely with food. A nutritious well-planned meal is the perfect start to a busy day of work or school. Eating the right foods will help you “go further.”  Planning and preparing your foods to go further can also help to reduce food waste. Below are some tips on how to reduce food waste in your home.

Keep Foods Fresh:

  • Place foods that spoil quickly within plain sight in the refrigerator or on the counter top
  • Store produce properly
    • Refrigerate these fruits and vegetables:
      • Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, figs, grapes, cut fruit, artichoke, asparagus, green beans, lima beans, beets, broccoli, endive, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, green onions, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, peas, radish, spinach, sprouts, summer squash, sweet corn, fresh herbs (except basil), cut vegetables
    • Ripen on counter first, then place in refrigerator:
      • Avocados, kiwis, nectarines, peaches, plums, plumcots, pears
    • Store only at room temperature:
      • Apples (for less than seven days), banana, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin, mango, oranges, papaya, melons, papaya, persimmon, pineapple, plantain, pomegranates, basil (in water), cucumber, onion, eggplant, garlic, ginger, jicama, pepper, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tomato, winter squash
    • Separate fruits and vegetables that may quicken ripening
      • Tomatoes, bananas, and apples should be stored by themselves
    • Keep fruits and vegetables in separate refrigerator drawers
    • Only wash produce right before using
  • Buy only the amount of fresh food that you will use within three to five days.
  • Buy some perishables in frozen form:
    • Broccoli, green beans, spinach, green peas, corn, sweet potatoes, legumes (like edamame, black eyed peas, pinto beans), berries, peaches, mango

Plan Ahead:

  • Plan meals based off foods that you already have in your pantry, refrigerator or freezer
  • Use up perishable foods first
  • Find recipes that include the foods already in the house
    • Make a list of additional ingredients needed
    • Practice portion control and consider how many people will be eating when making food
  • Make your shopping list based off the number of meals that will be eaten at home
  • Prepare some meals ahead of time and freeze for later use

Get Creative in the Kitchen:

  • Turn leftovers into other meals: sandwiches, soups, salads, stews, casseroles, burritos, wraps, scrambles
  • Pack some leftovers into a container for lunch the next day
  • Freeze, dehydrate, preserve, and can foods as a way of preserving longer

Practice Good Food Safety:

  • Eat leftovers within three to four days (or freeze and keep for up to three to four months)
  • Remember to date the foods that you freeze
  • Avoid eating or drinking something that you think may have spoiled

Learning how to manage food resources at home will help you and your family “Go Further with Food,” while saving both nutrients and money. The benefits of reducing food waste don’t stop there though.  It also helps to reduce methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint. It conserves energy and resources, as well as prevents pollution. Reducing food waste at home also supports your community by providing donated untouched food to the hungry.

If you would like more information on following a healthy diet and making lifestyle changes, please consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutrition (RDN or RD). They can provide you with easy to follow evidence-based nutrition advice that is personalized to your specific needs.

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7 Health Benefits of Oatmeal

By Jenna Long, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

January is National Oatmeal Month, and there is no better time to explore the health benefits of oatmeal, and fun ways to prepare it as a way to mix up the breakfast options you’re offering to your family. Even though we live in sunny California, the temperature is starting to drop and many of us start are starting to crave warming breakfast options.

Beyond its warming properties, oats are packed with many health benefits:

  1. Naturally Whole Grain. This, therefore, means it contains all three original parts – the bran, germ, and endosperm (refined grains only contain the endosperm). Each part of the grain has valuable health benefits: brain is fiber-rich and keeps you feeling full while preventing constipation, germ is rich in B vitamins and healthy fats, and endosperm is the calorie-rich portion of the grain.
  2. Help lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol which specifically may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  3. Increase satiety – that is to say you’ll feel full longer, which can help with busy work and school days and assist in weight maintenance.
  4. Help control blood sugar due to soluble fiber.
  5. Promote bowel regularity due to their fiber content. Try eating oats in their whole form, or for an extra boost add 1 Tbsp oat bran to hot cereal, applesauce, yogurt or smoothies.
  6. Contain unique polyphenols called acetamides, which have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-itching properties.
  7. Naturally gluten free. However, if you or your child are sensitive to gluten, look for certified gluten-free oats. Oats can become contaminated with gluten as they are growing and processed.

Old fashioned oatmeal, also known as “quick oats” is the most popular type of oat in the US. Steel cut oats require longer cooking time, about 20-30 minutes, but your patience will be rewarded. Steel cut oats create a rich and thick porridge with a nutty texture.

Try these easy to make, nutritious oatmeal recipes: 

Overnight Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oats

Adapted from The Yummy Life


  • 2-3 Apples, cut into ½ inch pieces (~3 cups chopped)
  • 1 ½ cups milk (or non-dairy substitute)
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel cut oats
  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup (optional, or may use other sweetener)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped small)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • Optional garnishes: Chopped walnuts, raisins, additional milk


  • Coat your slowcooker with cooking spray.
  • Add all ingredients (expect optional garnishes) to slow cooker and stir
  • Cook on low for about 7 hours
  • Wake up to a wonderfully smelling home, portion into bowls, add optional garnishes and enjoy!

Tips and fun facts:

  • It is important to not use old fashioned oats because the oatmeal will become overcooked.
  • Maple syrup is a sweetener, but also high in antioxidants.
  • Flaxseeds can be purchased in the bulk bin of your grocery store in small amounts. Be sure to choose ground over whole flax seeds, so your body can utilize its nutrients.
  • This recipe stores well in the refrigerator, which also makes meal prep for the week easy. It also freezes well.

 Oatmeal “Cookie Dough” Smoothie

Adapted from Running with Spoons


  • 1 medium banana, frozen
  • ¼ cup raw old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp chia seeds (optional health boost)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp almond butter
  • ½ cup vanilla almond milk (or other dairy alternative)
  • 1 Tbsp chocolate chips (optional)


  • Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth

Tips and fun facts

  • This is a great recipe for those looking for an on the go breakfast
  • Try adding in ¼-1/2 cup of fresh or frozen fruit
  • Chia seeds, like oats, are rich in fiber. They are also high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and calcium.

Healthy Homemade Granola


  • 5 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup honey*
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil


  • Preheat oven to 350 °F
  • Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients in separate bowls, then combine.
  • Spread out thin on a large baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until just golden

Tips and fun facts:

  • *Reminder: Do not introduce honey until your baby’s 1st birthday and speaking with your doctor
  • Adding granola and fruit to your yogurt can make a great well-balanced breakfast, but may store bought granolas are high in both sugar and fat. Making your own granola is easy, saves money and all in all allows you to control the amount of sugar and fat – plus you can experiment with fun combinations of dried fruit and nuts.
  • In addition try adding chia seeds to your granola after it has been cooked for a health boost.
  • Some of our other favorite things to add to granola also include: ground flax seed, dried blueberries, chopped pistachios, ground ginger, unsweetened coconut.

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7 Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays

By Katherine Bennett, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

The holiday season is full of festive events, good food and cherished memories. However, it can also be a time for more stress, unhealthy eating and getting sick. Check out the seven tips for staying healthy during the holidays below.

  1. Keep moving! Although days are shorter and your schedule may be full, try to devote time to being active. Take a short walk while on break at work, do a free yoga video after your morning coffee, or ride your bike to grocery store to pick up that one forgotten item. Playing hide-and-go seek, building a fort, or having a jump rope contest are easy and fun ways to help the whole family stay active. Research shows being active can strengthen your immune system, decrease stress, and help keep unwanted weight off.
  2. Focus on fun, not food and drinks. Swap out the usual cookie baking tradition or gingerbread house decorating and establish a nonfood based holiday tradition like making homemade ornaments or volunteering.
  3. Get enough sleep. Being tired can lead to increased stress, low energy and making unhealthy eating and drinking decisions. Don’t overbook yourself with holiday events and try to stick to a regular bedtime every night.
  4. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. Skipping meals can lead to you making unhealthy choices and overeating at a later meal. If your schedule is busy, plan ahead and pack a snack so you don’t have an excuse.
  5. Drink water. Colder weather and indulging in holiday party drinks can make us forget we still need to drink water. Bring a water bottle with you wherever you go to help remind you to stay hydrated.
  6. Try healthier holiday favorites. Try to change recipes or ingredients for your favorite holiday dishes to make them healthier. Check out CHOC’s recipe box filled with healthy recipes.
  7. Don’t forget your fruits and vegetables. Just because there are more sweet treats, comfort foods and fun holiday drinks, don’t forget about the fruits and vegetables. They are low calorie and good sources of vitamins and minerals that can help keep your immune system strong.

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Healthy Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

By Kelsey Childs, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to come together and celebrate over a delicious meal. While most look forward to sitting down at the table to begin the feast, few enjoy getting up from the table feeling overly stuffed. Estimates from the Calorie Control Council suggest a traditional Thanksgiving meal may contain as many as 3,000 calories, and once appetizers and beverages are included, the total can climb to a whopping 4,500 calories!

This Thanksgiving, use whole food ingredients in place of processed products to boost the nutrient content of your dishes and lighten the calorie load. Swapping full fat dairy products with reduced fat versions can further cut back on calories without impacting flavor. Check out the healthy Thanksgiving recipe ideas below to see if one of these delicious dishes might have a place at your table this year.

Roasted Green Beans with Cranberries

Instead of relying on canned soups to flavor traditional green bean casseroles, try this recipe made from whole food ingredients. Cranberries, garlic, lemon, and balsamic vinegar combine to pair perfectly with roasted turkey.


  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, stem ends trimmed
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, from one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, from one lemon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (toasted if desired, see note)


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil.
  2. toss  green beans with garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar directly on the prepared baking sheet. Roast the beans for 15 minutes, then stir with a spatula to promote even cooking. Continue roasting until the beans are tender, slightly browned and just starting to shrivel, about 10 minutes more. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, cranberries and walnuts and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more lemon juice if desired.
  3. Note: to toast the walnuts, bake them on a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Recipe source: Once Upon a Chef

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Use a combination of reduced fat milk and sour cream as mashed potato mixers to yield a creamy product without the need for large amounts of butter or cream.

  • 2 lbs. (4 medium) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped


  1. Put potatoes and garlic in large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil.
  2. Drain and return potatoes and garlic to pan. Add remaining ingredients. Mash until smooth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe adapted from Skinny Taste.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon

Instead of smothering sweet potatoes in butter and brown sugar, try roasting your potatoes. The natural flavor of the sweet potatoes is complemented by the simple coating of olive oil, honey and cinnamon.


  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2  teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Lay the sweet potatoes out in a single layer on a roasting tray. Drizzle the oil, honey, cinnamon, salt and pepper over the potatoes.  Roast for 25-45 minutes in the oven, or until tender.

Recipe source: Food Network

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