Summer Snack Ideas and Safe Food Tips

By Stephanie Nathanson, registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s

With summertime approaching, it’s time to grab your sunscreen, your beach towel, your picnic basket, and hiking boots and get outdoors! There are countless opportunities for outdoor activities, especially during the summer heat, but packing meals and snacks can be a bit of a puzzler. What can I bring that will keep me satisfied for an action-packed day, without spoiling rotten or getting mushy in my backpack?

Not only should you consider what to pack up for a full day in the sun, but how do you keep foods safe? One important consideration is to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. Most bacteria do not grow rapidly at temperatures below 40 degrees, and above 140 degrees. The temperatures in between are known as “the danger zone” because bacteria multiply quickly and can reach dangerous levels after two hours, or after only one hour if it’s toastier than 90 degrees outside.

When planning a daylong hike or outing, pack enough food for one meal plus snacks. Aim for primarily non-perishable items. To keep cold foods cold, consider freezing a water bottle or juice box to use as an ice pack. After you eat your snack you’ll have a refreshing, cold drink.

snack ideas

Snack and meal ideas for summer days:

  • Peanut butter sandwich with sliced banana and honey
  • Protein/energy bars
  • Beef jerky
  • Individual nut butter packs
  • Canned tuna or chicken – mix with avocado instead of mayonnaise to eliminate the risk of bacterial growth
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Homemade trail mix recipes:
    • Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pecans, raisins
    • Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, dried apricots, dried cranberries
    • Cashews, brazil nuts, dried mango, coconut flakes, banana chips
    • Create your own mix and match of nuts and seeds + dried fruits including: almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, apples, mango, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, goji berries, figs, dates, apricots, pineapple, raisins, banana chips. *Caution with adding chocolate bits as they may melt in the heat.

Weekend camping trips

For longer trips, you will need to pack a cooler filled with ice for meat and other perishable items. An ice block will last longer than cubes, unless you are located near a convenience store to replenish your ice supply each day. Remember to pack a thermometer to ensure cooking temperatures are satisfactory within FDA standards.

  • Cook burgers made of raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to an internal temperature of 160°F
  • Heat hot dogs and any leftover food to 165°F
  • Cook all poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F
  • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F
  • All cold food items should be below 40°

The rule of thumb for day outings and overnight camping trips is to plan ahead. Decide beforehand what you are going to eat and how you are going to prepare it, including the equipment you will need.

  • Bring a cooler if needed, especially for overnight trips.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods.
  • Bring a cold source, such as ice packs or frozen juice boxes, to keep cold foods, such as meat and dairy products, cold.
  • Don’t forget your biodegradable soap for dishwashing.
  • Bring bottled water for drinking and teeth brushing, or check out in advance if you will have access to a filtered water source.

Get important nutrition tips like these sent straight to your inbox

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

Related posts:

  • Spring clean your family’s eating habits
    Spring is not simply a good opportunity for traditional spring cleaning, but also an ideal time to make positive changes to your eating habits.
  • Family-Friendly Healthy Eating on a Budget
    Eating healthy on a budget doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. By following these tips, you can be on your way to a balanced diet and budget! ...
  • Health Benefits of Winter Spices
    As the days get shorter and colder, it’s always comforting to take in the fragrant smell of winter spices. Here are five common winter spices and their surprising health benefits.

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 CookSmarts.com
Ingredients
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.

Directions

  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.

Get important nutrition tips like these sent straight to your inbox

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

Related posts:

  • Spring clean your family’s eating habits
    Spring is not simply a good opportunity for traditional spring cleaning, but also an ideal time to make positive changes to your eating habits.
  • Family-Friendly Healthy Eating on a Budget
    Eating healthy on a budget doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. By following these tips, you can be on your way to a balanced diet and budget! ...
  • Health Benefits of Winter Spices
    As the days get shorter and colder, it’s always comforting to take in the fragrant smell of winter spices. Here are five common winter spices and their surprising health benefits.

 

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

Directions:

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.

Get important nutrition tips like these sent straight to your inbox

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

Related posts:

  • Spring clean your family’s eating habits
    Spring is not simply a good opportunity for traditional spring cleaning, but also an ideal time to make positive changes to your eating habits.
  • Family-Friendly Healthy Eating on a Budget
    Eating healthy on a budget doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. By following these tips, you can be on your way to a balanced diet and budget! ...
  • Health Benefits of Winter Spices
    As the days get shorter and colder, it’s always comforting to take in the fragrant smell of winter spices. Here are five common winter spices and their surprising health benefits.

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

Directions

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.

Related posts:

  • Spring clean your family’s eating habits
    Spring is not simply a good opportunity for traditional spring cleaning, but also an ideal time to make positive changes to your eating habits.
  • Family-Friendly Healthy Eating on a Budget
    Eating healthy on a budget doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. By following these tips, you can be on your way to a balanced diet and budget! ...
  • Health Benefits of Winter Spices
    As the days get shorter and colder, it’s always comforting to take in the fragrant smell of winter spices. Here are five common winter spices and their surprising health benefits.

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:

Persimmon

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.

Pummelo

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

Related posts:

  • Spring clean your family’s eating habits
    Spring is not simply a good opportunity for traditional spring cleaning, but also an ideal time to make positive changes to your eating habits.
  • Family-Friendly Healthy Eating on a Budget
    Eating healthy on a budget doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. By following these tips, you can be on your way to a balanced diet and budget! ...
  • Health Benefits of Winter Spices
    As the days get shorter and colder, it’s always comforting to take in the fragrant smell of winter spices. Here are five common winter spices and their surprising health benefits.