Happy Holidays – Let the (Healthy) Feasting Begin!

By CHOC Children’s clinical nutritionists,  Katherine Phillips, MPH, RD, Rima Kandalaft, MS, RD, CSP and Caroline Steele, MS, RD, CSP, IBCLC.

Tis the season for spending time with family and friends, making memories, attending fabulous holiday parties…and for trying new foods! Yes, that’s right! Why not treat you and your loved ones (and your taste buds) to a food you have never tried. December is the perfect time to try something new and perhaps it will become a new holiday tradition. And what better way to decorate with red and green than by adding a variety of rich-colored fruits and vegetables to your holiday table?

Here are a few suggestions for some new and exciting foods to add to your holiday feast:

Chia Seeds: Originating in South America, chia was a staple in the diets of ancient Mayans and Aztecs. The tiny seeds of the chia plant can be eaten right out of the bag, sprinkled on hot cereal and used in baking. Similar to flaxseed, they are a high quality source of Omega 3 and fiber. And yes, that Chia pet you bought people for Christmas in the 1990s, was the same chia seed you can now add to your pantry! Check out the following website for some chia seed recipes: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/article/chia-seeds/

Quinoa (Keen-wah): Quinoa is a grain-like crop that originated in the Andean Region of South America where it was domesticated for human consumption approximately 4,000 years ago. Quinoa is cooked similar to couscous and rice, but unlike these grains, quinoa contains essential amino acids and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus and iron.  Vegetables and seasonings can be added to quinoa to make a wide range of tasty dishes. Quinoa can also serve as a high-protein breakfast food when mixing with honey, berries, or almonds. Check out the following website for cooking with quinoa ideas: http://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/cooking-with-quinoa-00412000073996/

Pomegranate: Although native to the Middle East region, pomegranate is also grown in many places around the world such as the Mediterranean, Africa, and even here in California. The pomegranate is about the size of a grapefruit and when open, contains small red edible seeds called arils, which deliver a sweet, slightly tangy taste. Pomegranate seeds are high in antioxidants, Vitamin C, potassium, fiber and low in calories. Sprinkle them on your salad, add them to your cranberry sauce, or mix them into a morning breakfast shake.  Check out the following website for more recipe ideas: www.pomegranates.org

Edamame (e-da-ma-me): Edamame is a fancy name for young soy beans steamed in their pod. Popular in its native Asian cuisine, the little green lima bean-looking beans are packed with protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C and iron. Edamame can be eaten alone (boiled or steamed with a touch of sea salt) or added to a variety of dishes for extra nutrition. Check out the following website for ways to add this fun healthy bean to your diet: http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/edamame-the-mod-pod-00400000002233/

Consider trying these new recipes to get your red and green!

Holiday Cranberry-Kale Salad: 
½ cup  dried cranberries
8 cups  chopped kale
1 cup  cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted

PLACE cranberries in small bowl. Add enough boiling water to cover cranberries; let stand 10 min. or until softened.
DRAIN cranberries; place in large bowl. Add kale and tomatoes; mix lightly.
WHISK dressing, sugar and mustard. Add to salad; toss to coat.
TOP with nuts.
Makes 8 (1 cup) servings.  110 Calories, 5 g fat, and 2 g fiber per serving

Pomegranate, Green Bean, and Jicama Salad:
2 pomegranates
1 medium jicama
1 pound green bean, trimmed
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Roll one of the pomegranates, without cutting, on a work surface to burst interior seeds. When “popping” has stopped, carefully pierce fruit with a knife or ice pick and squeeze out juice. You need 1/4 cup. Peel and cut jicama into 1/4 inch-thick slices. Stack slices, 2 or 3 at a time, and cut into 1/4 inch-thick sticks. In a bowl, toss jicama with pomegranate juice. Cover and chill, tossing occasionally, 30 minutes to allow jicama to absorb some of the juice. Cut remaining pomegranate into sections, cutting from top to bottom. In a large bowl half filled with water, roll out the seeds with your fingers. Discard skin and membranes and strain.

Cook green beans in boiling salted water for two minutes, until just tender but still crisp. Transfer beans with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain beans in a colander.

Add beans, pomegranate seeds, parsley, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to jicama mixture. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with walnuts and serve.

Per Serving: 200 calories, 6g total fat, 12 g fiber

Consider making this holiday season a time to both enjoy some of your old favorites and start incorporating new items.  You never know what new food will be tomorrow’s “old favorite!”

Seasons Greetings and Seasons Eatings!

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July is National Blueberry Month

By Joanne DeMarchi, MS, RD, IBCLC, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Summer is the height of berry season, and no berry says summer more than the blueberry. Blueberries contain dietary fiber, vitamins A and C and are one of the most antioxidant rich foods in the world.  Here is the scoop on blueberries.

High fiber foods benefit digestive and heart health. 1 cup of blueberries provides 3.6 grams of fiber.  Add that to a cup of oatmeal or other whole grain cereal and your meal will provide almost 20% of your fiber goal for the day.

Vitamin C
One serving of blueberries (about 1 cup) provides 25% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the most common antioxidants and contributes to healthy gums, absorption of iron and healthy capillaries, formation of collagen and a healthy immune system.

Antioxidant activity
Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals — unstable molecules linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Substances in blueberries called polyphenols, specifically the anthocyanins that give the fruit its blue hue, are the major contributors to antioxidant activity.

If you are traveling this summer, why not find a farm to go blueberry picking.  Six states account for more than 90 percent of the crop: Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, North Carolina, Georgia and Washington.  Use this website to find blueberry farms in these and other US states where you can pick your own. http://www.nabcblues.org/index.html

Once you’ve picked your berries pour them over cereal or yogurt, add them to fruit or green salads for a delicious, healthful taste of summer.  Keep blueberries in your diet during the rest of the year by trying this frozen blueberry smoothie recipe.  It makes a great grab and go breakfast treat.

Frozen Blueberry Smoothie recipe

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  •  2-3 ice cubes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth or to desired consistency then serve.


  • Calories: 243
  • Total Fat: 2.9g
  •  Total Carbohydrates: 43.8g
  • Fiber: 1.8g
  •  Sugars: 40.7g
  • Protein: 11.8g

To learn more about Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services at CHOC, please visit http://www.choc.org/services/index.cfm?id=P00321.

March Is National Nutrition Month

Are you frustrated because your kids aren’t eating more fruits and vegetables? “Just keep trying,” recommends Sue Freck, R.D., a CHOC registered dietitian. You may have to serve a new food as often as 10 times before your child will show any interest in it!

Freck says pleasurable associations with shopping, food preparation and family meals help children develop healthy dietary habits for life.

National Nutrition Month in March, is a great time for reinforcing healthy eating habits. To help get your kids started, here are a few yummy, healthy snacks recommended by the American Dietetic Association.

  • Mix together ready-to-eat cereal, dried fruit and nuts in a sandwich bag for an on-the-go snack.
  • Top low-fat vanilla yogurt with crunchy granola and sprinkle with blueberries.
  • Blend low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana for thirty seconds for a delicious smoothie.
  • Make a mini-sandwich with tuna or egg salad on a dinner roll.
  • Toss dried cranberries and chopped walnuts in instant oatmeal.
  • Sandwich cut-outs: Make a sandwich on a whole grain bread. Cut out your favorite shape using a big cookie cutter.
  • Toast a whole grain waffle and top with low-fat yogurt and sliced peaches.
  • Stuff a whole grain pita pocket with ricotta cheese and Granny Smith apple slices. Add a dash of cinnamon.
  • Spread peanut butter on apple slices.

For more nutrition tips from our CHOC expert, click here: