Planning for a smaller Thanksgiving this year

By Stephanie Chang, clinical dietitian at CHOC

 Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many of us are thinking about what we’re going to do for Thanksgiving 2020. You might be thinking:

“We won’t be able to have the big family celebration with our extended family.”

“We won’t be able to have a big potluck with our friends.”

“I don’t know how to cook turkey!”

“I usually volunteer to pick up the pumpkin pie and now I’m responsible for the whole dinner?!”

“What am I going to do with a whole ham or whole turkey when I’ve only got four people to feed and two of them are small children?”

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraged to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with just the members of our household. How can you manage creating a special meal on a smaller scale?

There are lots of healthy and delicious options for those of us cooking for a small group. We can choose simple dishes that make it manageable for only one cook to make an entire meal. This year, we may have to forego the five or six side dishes we might be used to having for potluck dinners and instead focus on a few simple and tasty sides to make the meal complete.

The Main Dish

In years past, the whole turkey or the whole ham might have been the star of the meal. However, this year that may be too much for one household. Consider making this year special by choosing a different protein for a smaller group. A whole roasted chicken can be a smaller, manageable protein choice for a family if a whole turkey seems daunting. Chicken is a good source of protein and contains minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.

Roast chicken with rosemary

  • 1 whole chicken, rinsed (about 3 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff with the onion and rosemary. Place chicken in a 9×13-inch baking dish or roasting dish.
  3. Roast for two to two-and-a-half hours, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the chicken.

 Recipes courtesy of

The Side Dishes

 To keep side dishes simple, choose winter vegetables that are in-season and plentiful at the grocery store this time of year. These mostly root vegetables tend to remain fresh for a long time, so if you are not able to use them all on Thanksgiving Day, the uncut ones can be stored for another time. Root vegetables can be washed and cut ahead of time to cut down on time in the kitchen later. If you are short on oven space, roast the vegetables first, then the protein. While the protein is cooling, you can heat the vegetables in the oven while allowing them to brown more for a better roasted flavor. Root vegetables provide fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, beta carotene and folate.

The recipe below is a colorful mixture that provides a variety of tastes and textures. Recipes like these can be easily halved or have items omitted if there is an ingredient that won’t work for your family.

Roasted potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots (about ¾ pound), cut into 1 ½-inch thick circles
  • 1 ½ cups Brussels sprouts (about ½ pound), halved
  • 4 cups red bliss potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1 ½-inch thick slices
  • 3 medium parsnips (about 1 pound), cut into 1 ½-inch thick slices
  • 1 cup sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1 ½-inch thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Grease a baking sheet with extra-virgin olive oil. Place vegetables on baking sheet and add herbs, salt and pepper. Toss well, evenly coating all the vegetables with the seasonings and oil. Add more oil if the vegetables seem dry.
  3. Spread the vegetables evenly on a large baking sheet. Place on middle rack in oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

 Recipe courtesy of Food Network.

To make things easier on Thanksgiving Day, consider preparing cornbread the day before or Thanksgiving morning. Then by dinner time, it will be ready to simply heat and serve! The corn meal in the recipe adds 6 grams of fiber per 1 cup and also provides iron, B vitamins and vitamin A.

Honey cornbread muffins

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ stick butter, melted
  • ¼ cup honey
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
  3. Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.

 Recipe courtesy of Food Network.

Thanksgiving dinner may look a little different this year, but it can still be a special day shared with your household around a delicious and healthy meal.

The benefits of adding chickpeas to your family’s diet

By Laura Clapper, registered dietitian at CHOC 

Incorporating chickpeas – also known as garbanzo beans – a staple ingredient in hummus, into your family’s diet can result in a variety of health benefits.

Health benefits of chickpeas

 Chickpeas have a soft creamy texture and a nutty, buttery taste.  In addition to being filling, they offer many other benefits:

  • Protein and vitamin-packed
  • Low saturated fat
  • Fiber rich
  • Naturally gluten-free
  • Good for gut health
  • Good for blood sugar control

In addition to these health benefits, they are a sustainable crop which requires less water to grow than wheat or rice, have a long storage life, and are a more affordable source of protein than meat.

How to add more chickpeas to your diet

You can add chickpeas to chili, soups, stews, salads, grain bowls and homemade veggie burgers. They can be ground into flours as well.

Chickpea flour is versatile and nutritious and is good for plant-based and gluten-free diets.

Chickpea flour has a fine texture and a mild, nutty, earthy flavor. It is good for both sweet and savory dishes. Try substituting a few tablespoons of chickpea flour in recipes that call for wheat or rice flour.

Chickpeas can be purchased canned or raw. If you choose to cook your own, you can soak them in plenty of water overnight followed by simmering for two hours on the stove. Or, you can place one cup raw, un-soaked chickpeas with 4 cups water in a pressure cooker to cook for about 40 minutes.

How to make your own hummus

Hummus is a delicious dip made from chickpeas. It is best paired with crackers, pita bread or vegetables such as celery, carrots, cucumbers and sweet peppers. Hummus can be purchased in the market or easily whipped together at home using the recipe below.

Quick and Easy Hummus

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 can (about 15oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini or sesame paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Enjoy as a dip or spread onto sandwiches or wraps.

Leftover hummus may be covered and refrigerated up to one week.

Roasted Chickpeas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line 15”x10”x1” baking sheet with foil. Drain and rinse two cans of chickpeas. Spread in a single layer over foil. Remove any loose skins. Bake until crunchy about 40-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Immediately toss hot chickpeas with oil and spice mixture. Cool completely.

Spice mixtures

  • Rosemary sea salt — Whisk two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, one tablespoon minced fresh rosemary and half a teaspoon of sea salt.
  • Orange curry — whisk two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, one teaspoon grated orange zest and one tablespoon curry powder.
  • Lemon pepper — whisk two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, one teaspoon grated lemon zest, and two teaspoons freshly cracked pepper.

Source: Taste of

How to get kids involved in the kitchen: Tips for parents

By Lindsay Rypkema, clinical dietitian at CHOC

School is back in session, and although for most this means in-home learning for the time being, there is no better time to get your kids involved in the kitchen, as recipes nicely tie into reading and math lessons. Take out all your measuring cups and spoons to teach them how to read the numbers and the meaning of different measurements such as ounces, tablespoon, teaspoon and cup. Have your child calculate what the measurements would be if the recipe was doubled or cut in half.

Here are a few simple, family-friendly recipes that will help get kids involved in the kitchen.

Berry-licious smoothie bowl

These smoothie bowls can provide a lot of good nutrients including antioxidants, vitamins, fiber and protein, depending on ingredients included. Greek yogurt is a good choice as a base because it is high in protein. This recipe calls for almond milk, but you can use whatever type of milk your family currently consumes.


  • Ice, for thickening
  • 1 cup frozen berries
  • ½ medium banana, frozen
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt

*Consider the following as additional toppings: chia seed, ground flaxseed, fresh fruit, chopped nuts, shredded coconut


  1. Blend the berries, banana, milk and yogurt. Add ice to thicken as needed.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and add toppings of choice.

Recipe courtesy of Food Network

Frozen Berry and Spinach Ice Pops

The weather is still hot, so check out this twist on the standard popsicle using healthier ingredients. These smoothie-like popsicles are packed with antioxidants and are a good way to sneak in some extra spinach for picky eaters. Keep in mind you can blend spinach into most smoothie-type recipes without changing the taste, and avocado can be used to make them creamier.


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen cherries
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons honey


  1. Blend milk, blueberries, cherries, yogurt, spinach and honey in a blender until smooth; pour into ice pop molds.
  2. Freeze until solid, at least two hours.

Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes

Alphabet pizza

Pizza is a favorite of many children, so this is a good way to get your child involved in the kitchen. This recipe calls for alphabet cookie cutters which is a fun way for younger children to practice their letters. If you don’t have alphabet cookie cutters, use whatever shapes you currently have available in your home. Provide a wide variety of vegetable toppings such as bell pepper, tomato, mushrooms, onions and spinach for added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Look for meats that are minimally processed and have fewer additives such as nitrates.


  • Premade pizza crust
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ cups pizza sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup mini pepperoni

*Recommend additional vegetable toppings as mentioned above


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush olive oil all over.
  2. Using letter cookie cutters, cut out desired letters. Spread a spoonful of sauce onto each piece and top with cheese and mini pepperoni. Bake until cheese has melted and dough is golden.

Recipe courtesy of Delish

Breastfeeding during COVID-19

We understand how stressful it can be to navigate life as a new parent. With the added anxiety brought on by COVID-19, we want to share trusted information to breastfeeding mothers who are COVID-19 positive or suspected positive, on whether their milk is still safe and beneficial for their baby.

COVID-19 is a new disease and researchers are still studying how the disease spreads. However, breast milk remains the best source of nutrition for most infants.

Current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control states that a mother who has been confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 should take all precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant. These steps include:

  • Washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before touching the infant, pumping equipment or feeding supplies.
  • Wear a face mask when breastfeeding, pumping or handling the baby.
  • If using a breast pump, washing hands before touching the pump and following CDC recommendations for cleaning the pump after each use.
  • Follow current CDC guidelines for proper breastmilk handling and storage.
  • If bottle feeding pumped breast milk, have someone who is well feed the baby, if possible.

“Although there’s limited research available on whether COVID-19 is transmitted via breastmilk, studies on similar viruses did not find the virus in the milk,” said Dr. Reshmi Basu, a CHOC pediatrician. “A mother’s milk does contain specially made antibodies, produced by the mother’s body to protect her and her child from various viruses. These antibodies are transferred in breastmilk.”

Cindy Baker-Fox, registered nurse and certified lactation consultant at CHOC, explains how these antibodies make breastmilk a good source of nutrition for infants.

“Lifesaving antibodies in breastmilk protect babies from many illnesses and are one of the many unique properties found in human breast milk, making it not only a good source of nutrition but also valuable medicine for newborns and infants.”

If you have specific questions about breastfeeding and your baby, contact your pediatrician.

This article was updated August 5, 2020.

Comfort baking with a healthier twist

By Elise Harlow, clinical dietitian at CHOC

With more free time on our hands this summer than most, many of us have turned to baking to provide some comforting treats for ourselves and our families. Baking at home is not only a great way to experiment with new recipes, but also a good time to get the kids in the kitchen. Having your kids bake with you in age appropriate ways can help them learn to cook, get familiar with new foods and maybe even practice some math and reading skills by helping follow a recipe. Most comforting treats do a lot to satisfy our soul but little to satisfy our nutrient needs. Here’s some recipes for comforting treats with a twist so we can feel both satisfied and nourished!

Whole wheat banana bread muffins

This banana bread muffin recipe uses mostly whole wheat flour with a small amount of white flour. By using whole wheat flour, you get an added fiber boost!

Yields: 12 muffins


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups mashed very ripe banana (about 3 large bananas)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, optional


  1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk together the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Whisk together the coconut oil, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and egg whites in a separate medium bowl until well combined. Stir in the mashed banana. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined. Stir in the chopped walnuts if using.
  3. Fill the lined muffin cups about three-quarters of the way with the batter (a generous 1/4 cup in each; see Cook’s Note). Bake on the center rack until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Cook’s Note – when measuring flour, spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods. A cookie or ice cream scoop makes it easier to portion the batter.

Recipe courtesy of Food Network

Vegan banana bread

For those of us running low on butter and eggs, this vegan banana bread recipe is for you!

Yield: 1 loaf (8 servings)


  • 1 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 ¼ cup)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup plain soy-milk yogurt (Note: if you do not need this recipe to be 100% vegan, you can use regular plain yogurt)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and two long sides of a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on each long side, and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk the bananas, sugar, yogurt, oil and vanilla together in another medium bowl. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until the batter just comes together (it’s OK if there are lumps). Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes; tent the loaf with foil if it is browning too quickly. Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then lift it from the pan by the parchment overhangs and cool completely on the rack. Store the loaf in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Recipe courtesy of Food Network

Blueberry pancakes

These pancakes use oatmeal instead of flour for extra fiber and protein, and the blueberries add some e extra vitamin C.

Yield: 4 servings


  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • ½ cup blueberry


  1. Mash bananas in a large bowl until smooth. Mix in eggs and vanilla until well combined, then mix in oats. Fold in blueberries carefully.
  2. Heat a skillet to medium and add in a scoop of the pancake batter. Smooth out to form an even layer. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until you start to see bubbles releasing from the top of the batter. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Garnish your pancakes with your favorite toppings! (We used Greek yogurt, granola, fresh blueberries and maple syrup.

Recipe courtesy of Tasty

White bean chocolate chip cookies

Don’t let the beans in this recipe scare you! By using these mild tasting beans, there is less butter and more fiber and protein than regular chocolate chip cookies.

Yield: about 2 ½ dozen cookies


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, beat together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Meanwhile, put the beans in a food processor; add the maple syrup and puree until very smooth.
  3. Add the bean mixture to the creamed butter in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium speed until completely smooth, stopping and scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula several times, about three to four minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions; add the vanilla and mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled; it will smooth out when you add the dry ingredients.
  4. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda and salt together into a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chocolate chips. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto the prepared pans, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies begin to turn golden around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes; do not overbake. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes on the pan before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe courtesy of Food Network


This brownie recipe uses less butter than standard recipes. The secret is the applesauce, which you would never guess is in there and provides extra vitamin C and fiber!

Yield: 16 brownies


  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup applesauce


  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 tablespoon sugar


  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and cinnamon; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in applesauce. Pour into an 8-in. square baking pan coated with cooking spray.
  2. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares.

Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home