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

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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.

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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

Get important nutrition tips like these sent straight to your inbox

Kids Health, delivered monthly, offers “healthful” information for parents.

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Tips for supporting your immune system through nutrition

By Rebecca Janda, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

While practicing good hand hygiene and following guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the best ways to prevent the spread of infectious disease, nutrition plays an important role in optimizing immune health. Here are a few ways you can support your immune system through nutrition

Maintain sufficient protein and calorie intake

Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of immune cells and are essential to their function. Amino acids are also required for cellular repair and recovery, which makes them extra important during active infections. Try to include a source of protein in each meal. Choose whole food sources such as eggs, beans, lean meats, poultry, yogurt, nuts and seeds that provide added vitamins and minerals in addition to their protein content.

Immune cells require fuel, or calories, to function optimally. Maintaining adequate calorie intake is crucial to keeping cells functioning at their best. Large calorie deficits can weaken the immune system. Making healthy swaps that naturally reduce calories by a small amount, such as choosing a piece of fruit instead a bag of chips, can have added nutritional benefits, but large calorie reductions should be avoided.

Incorporate 1-2 servings per meal of fruits and vegetables, preferably in whole food form

  • Vitamin C — In just about every fruit and vegetable you can find at least a small amount of vitamin C. This nutrient acts as a very important antioxidant and stimulates the production of certain immune cells. While citrus fruits are known to be good sources, it may surprise you that strawberries, red bell peppers and kiwis contain more vitamin C per serving than citrus! The vitamin C content of food is reduced dramatically with time, processing and exposure to oxygen – meaning a fresh whole orange is a much better source of vitamin C than a glass of orange juice.
  • Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene) — Fruits and vegetables are also very good sources of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Vitamin A plays a critical role in enhancing immune function by stimulating and regulating immune cells. Orange sweet potatoes contain the largest amount of beta-carotene per serving, but pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe and many other orange and even green fruits and veggies are also great sources of this immune-boosting vitamin.
  • Other nutrients — Lycopene found in guavas and tomatoes help increase immune activities. Anthocyanins found in berries, red cabbage, and pomegranates have immune regulating properties.

Add more seafood to your menu

Zinc is a mineral that has anti-viral properties and is essential to wound healing. The best source of zinc is in seafood, especially oysters. Zinc is also found to a lesser extent in lean meats, poultry, beans, whole grains, dairy products and enriched cereals if seafood is not for you. Try to incorporate a serving of seafood several times per week, or daily if you are getting your zinc from non-seafood sources.

Always try to obtain nutrients from their food sources rather than supplements. Whole foods are safer and contain added benefits in addition to their nutritional properties.

Get important nutrition tips like these sent straight to your inbox

Kids Health, delivered monthly, offers “healthful” information for parents.

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Recipes to make with kids during quarantine

By Kristin Cheng, registered dietitian at CHOC 

Current shelter-in-place orders have changed so much about our day-to-day lives, including how we navigate cooking. Many families are eating at home more often, making shorter grocery trips, and finding more creative ways to utilize limited ingredients. This extra time with kids at home can serve as a great opportunity to involve your little ones with hands-on cooking and meal prep.

Get out your chef hats! Here are some of our favorite kid-friendly recipes to transform your quarantine days into a fun family activity —with a delicious treat as a bonus:

No-bake frozen yogurt berry granola treats



  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups granola
  • 2 ½ cups Greek yogurt, any flavor
  • ½ cup berries or dark chocolate chunks for garnish
  • Mint for garnish, optional


  1. Heat peanut butter and honey in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until melted.
  2. Pour into a medium sized bowl and stir to combine with granola.
  3. Divide mixture evenly into 12 lined muffin cups. Press firmly to the bottom.
  4. Top each cup with yogurt, divided evenly.
  5. Garnish with toppings of choice.
  6. Cover tightly with foil and freeze for at least two hours.
  7. Keep frozen and thaw for a few minutes before eating.

Recipe courtesy of Tasty.

Mini egg frittatas



  • 8 large eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup fillings of choice: finely chopped or sliced ham, chicken, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, spinach, olives, parsley, tomato


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Spray two muffin tins with nonstick spray.
  3. Whisk eggs, milk, black pepper, and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Stir in cheese and desired fillings.
  5. Pour mixture into each muffin tin to about ¾ full. This will allow some room for the egg to puff up.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the egg puffs up.
  7. Use a rubber spatula to remove the muffin cups from the tin.

Recipe adapted from Food Network.

DIY pizza



Pizza dough:

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (120°-130°F)
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus some extra for rolling dough
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

You can also use any premade 12” pizza crust, pita bread or naan bread as a crust substitute.


  • ⅓ cup tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups toppings of choice: mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, onion, olives, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, pineapple, pepperoni, chicken, ham, basil, garlic, artichokes, etc.


  1. Add yeast and water to a large mixing bowl. Stir once to activate yeast and let it sit for five minutes.
  2. Add flour, salt and olive oil. Mix until a dough is formed and knead on a floured surface for two minutes.
  3. Place in a greased bowl and turn to fully coat in oil. Cover and let it rise for 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F as you wait for the dough to rise.
  5. After 20 minutes, place the dough on a flat surface and roll into a 12” circle. Place on a 12” greased pizza pan.
  6. Spread tomato sauce evenly on the crust.
  7. Sprinkle cheese evenly atop the tomato sauce.
  8. Add desired toppings.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling or turning brown and the crust is starting to crisp.

Recipe adapted from Food.

Spring rolls



  • 2 oz. rice vermicelli
  • 8 rice wrappers (8.5” diameter)
  • 8 large cooked shrimps – peeled, deveined and cut in half or 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
  • ½ cup raw carrots, chopped
  • 1 ⅓ tablespoons fresh Thai basil, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 lettuce leaves, chopped

Fish sauce:

  • 4 teaspoons fish sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • ½ teaspoons garlic chili sauce, optional

Hoisin peanut sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fine chopped peanuts


  1. Boil water in a medium saucepan. Boil rice vermicelli for three to five minutes or until al dente and drain.
  2. Fill a large 10” plate with a thin layer of water. Dip both sides of the rice wrapper for one second on each side to soften. Lay wrapper flat on another clean plate.
  3. In a row across the center, place two shrimp halves (or shredded chicken), a handful of rice vermicelli, carrots, basil, mint, cilantro and lettuce. With the row laying horizontally, fold the bottom side inward, followed by the left and right sides. Slowly roll the wrap upward to seal completely.
  4. Mix sauce ingredients in two separate small bowls.
  5. Dip wraps into sauce and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.

Zucchini fries




  • 2 zucchinis, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs


  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Cut zucchini into 3-inch pieces.
  3. In a large bowl combine panko breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic powder, basil, salt and pepper.
  4. Whisk eggs in a shallow bowl.
  5. Dip zucchini in eggs, coating evenly, and then toss in bread crumb mixture.
  6. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway.
  8. While fries are baking, combine all dip ingredients in a small bowl and set aside in the refrigerator.
  9. Dip and enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Taste.

Berry banana smoothie



  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1 frozen ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup milk, or dairy-free alternative
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey optional

Note: if using fresh fruit, add ice


  1. Add all ingredients into the blender and puree until smooth. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Food Network.

Rainbow fruit kabobs


  1. Cut an assortment of fruits. Some examples include pineapples, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, watermelon, apples, tangerines, honeydew, cantaloupe, kiwi and bananas.
  2. Arrange fruit on skewer sticks.

Bugs on a log



  • Celery stalks, cut into 3” pieces
  • Spread: peanut butter, Greek yogurt, or hummus
  • Toppings or “bugs” — raisins, cranberries, blueberries, peas, black beans or diced peppers


  1. Place desired spread along the groove of celery stalk.
  2. Top it off with “bugs” of choice.
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