Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bring on Summer - Black Bean Burgers

These dishes can definitely be enjoyed all year, but when I think of them, I think of summer....and about pairing them with a nice cold beverage and a side of fruit!

I have gotten a bit adventurous, leaving my comfort zone of chicken, to make these meals. I've looked up countless recipes, and really like playing with ingredients. I'm not going to lie, I usually tweak a recipe because I have to make substitutions with things I already have in my kitchen, as I hate to make a trip to the store for just one or two things with a toddler in tow! So here's what I've come up with from throwing together several recipe ideas.

Hint: Make these ahead of time! Prepare the mix and cook them, then tightly wrap in plastic and freeze, or store (cooked or uncooked) in a baggie for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove at meal time.

Black Bean Burgers
What you need:
3/4 cup unseasoned panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
pinch of kosher salt
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
2 Tbs cilantro, finely chopped
2 eggs
1/4 tsp curry powder (or cumin if you prefer that spice, either works!)
1/4 tsp chili powder
2 cans black beans, drained (no need to rinse, as you rinse some of the good stuff off!)
Fixins of your choice- whole wheat buns, lettuce, tomato, spicy mustard, cheese....

What to do:
1.  Heat about 1 Tbs oil in a pan over medium heat and sautee red onion until soft. Add panko bread crumbs with salt and pepper until toasted. Set aside in a bowl to cool and add cilantro.
2. Whisk together 1 Tbsp oil, 2 eggs, curry and chili powders. Set aside.
3. Mash black beans with a potato masher or fork (or process in a food processor) until mostly smooth.
4. Combine bread crumb mixture with beans, and gradually mix in egg mixture.
5. Form patties, one-inch thick, the diameter of your buns. (Should yield about 4 burgers depending on bun size)
6. Heat about 1 Tbs olive oil in skillet and place patties on medium heat. You don't want to go higher than medium heat because the outside will burn before the patties are heated through the middle.  Cook until outsides brown, covering on low for the last 2-5 minutes to make sure to heat the patties through.
7. Serve warm on toasted whole wheat buns with your choice of burger fixins! Or store in the refrigerator or freezer as above.

I'm planning to serve with some yummy sweet potato fries, followed by a trip out for some frozen yogurt!

Apologies but no excuses...

Well I see it has been quite a long time since I've posted. Somehow, I've managed to keep my family blog up to date, but as my inspirations for feeding my toddler have dwindled in these last challenging months, Fit 2 Be A Mom has suffered. Apologies!!!!  No excuses for letting this go, but a food allergy ER visit, a week at Disney, and the anticipation of our newest (due TODAY!) have made momma a bit preoccupied!

I'm working on two new recipes. One of which I received the "Babe, you hit this one out of the park!" when I served it at dinner last night. Not bad for a 40-weeker. My daughter wanted nothing to do with it, so she got leftover noodles and peas. I'll be posting BOTH recipes today- Fish Tacos and Black Bean Burgers. Unless of course baby #2 wants to grace us with her presence!!

It's good to be back...for now!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Move over cookies and milk!

Make room for Super Peanut Buttery Chocolate Bars!

Sounds super unhealthy, right?!  When I think of a granola bar, I think: Health TRICK!  On the outside, it looks so yummy and so healthy with all of those oats and....umm, oats. That's the healthy part. The rest is typically JUNK!  Don't be fooled, and read your labels.  Not all granola bars are bad, but the ones that look tempting to your child may really be hiding some unwanted ingredients, like artificial stuff.

Get the kids involved in making their very own Granola bars, and likely you'll have a fun activity with a yummy reward at the end.  While we may not be saving a ton of overall calories, you can pronounce everything that's going into your little one's body, and they are getting a healthy dose of fiber.  I had a piece of my reward, and let me tell you, even for this pregnant girl with a bottomless pit for a stomach, a half of a serving was plenty to fill me up!

What you'll need:

Super Peanut Buttery Chocolate Bars:
* 2 1/4 cup rolled oats
* 1/4 cup wheat germ (you can get this at The Fresh Market for under $2/lb!)
* 1/3 cup brown sugar, unpacked
* 1/2 tsp sea salt
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
* 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
* 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
* 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
* 2 eggs
(*Optional ingredients: dried fruits and nuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x9 inch pan with non stick spray. Mix together the oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In another smaller bowl, mix well the rest of the ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until well coated.  Press the mixture into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cool completely in the refrigerator, then cut into 12 bars. Serve immediately or wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for a week's worth of on-the-go snacking!

Dairy: serve with a cup of low fat milk (for those older kiddos)
Grain: whole rolled oats and wheat germ
Vegetable: n/a
Fruit: n/a (unless you add dried fruits)
Protein: natural peanut butter, eggs

When I thought about making granola bars, I was really discouraged by what looked like a tedious process. It actually was fast and easy!  While the nutritional contents of these bars vs a store-bought bar aren't vastly different (25 or so less calories, a gram or 2 less in fat, sugar, carbs), what's in them is.  Check out the ingredients list on the Quaker Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip granola bar (copied straight from their website):
Our ingredients list: Rolled oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, vanillin), peanut butter (peanuts), salt, apples, eggs, expeller pressed grapeseed oil.

So this was my starter kit for making homemade granola bars. I figured, if we don't like the peanut butter and chocolate ones, I'm sure to mess up the almond flaxseed ones.  So off on my next adventure to come up with some yummy, nutrient-packed granola bars for the adults (and some daring kiddos!)

Cherry Dark Chocolate
Almond Flaxseed
Honey Nut 

Any other ideas?  I have all kinds of ingredients from dried cranberries and blueberries to almond butter and sunflower seeds. Time to get creative....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Zucchini Nuggets

Okay, so you won't be fooling your kids by saying they're having nuggets for dinner...they are obviously not chicken. But you may get away with sneaking some more veggies into dinner this way!  I have had some fun and success with my nephews (ages 6 and 4) when I serve sort of a themed meal, for example, the stick meal (carrot sticks, fish sticks, and a fruit kabob).  

Add zucchini nuggets as a side to your next chicken nuggets, and you've got a "nuggets" meal.

Zucchini Nuggets (Makes 4-5 servings of 4-5 pieces each)
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Panko Crumbs
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
1 Egg White
1/4 Cup Flour
2 Medium Zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch coins
Optional: Pizza Sauce (posted on 2/14/12) for dipping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Mix together Panko crumbs, parmesan cheese, pepper, and garlic powder and set bowl aside. Whisk egg white and set bowl aside. Pour 1/4 cup flour into another bowl and set aside. Dip zucchini pieces into flour, then egg white, then coat with crumb mixture and place on prepared baking sheet. Spray tops of nuggets with olive oil, and bake on 450 for about 7-8 minutes. Then, turn nuggets over for another 5 minutes.
*If you want, cut zucchini length wise instead of into "coin" shapes if you're going for "stick" night! Also, these aren't bad cold! Toss a few in the lunch box the next day!

As a nutritionist, I am not too fond of adding calories to a basically "free" food such as zucchini. However, these are packed with zucchini flavor, with a crunchy outside and juicy inside. So, for little mouths whose taste buds are still learning, this is a great way to introduce the flavor of the vegetable without missing out on flavors to which they may have already grown accustomed. There is minimal flour in the coating, and using an egg white instead of the whole egg will only add about 15 calories and 3 grams of protein per serving. Panko bread crumbs are a crunchy alternative to regular bread crumbs, and you are saving about 20-40 calories per serving (depending on brand).

This is a great food to keep in your freezer, too. Just make an extra batch and store in a freezer bag. When you take them out to bake them, just add 3-5 extra minutes. You can get the kids involved as well: Ask them which shape they would like to eat; Have them crack the egg into the bowl (they have to learn sometime!); Set up an assembly line for them so they can do all the dipping. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sweetheart Mini Pizzas

Simple. Quick. Tasty. Sneaking-veggies-into-their-diet. Yes, please!

Here's a go-to meal I love to have ready for my toddler, and it works well for bigger kids (and even us BIGGER kids when we just want something quick)!

It's a twist on the old English Muffin pizzas I ate as a kid.

One day when you are making spaghetti sauce or have a few extra minutes, go ahead and make some pizza sauce to store in the fridge or freezer:

Mix together the following:
1 - 6 oz can tomato paste
6 oz water (just fill the empty paste can)
2 Tablespoons of your favorite Italian seasonings mixed (I use equal parts dried oregano, parsley and basil--add yours to taste)
1 teaspoon sugar

To store in the freezer, just pour into a Ziploc freezer bag and seal out all the air. It should last a few weeks. If you want this just for mini pizzas, store in portioned snack baggies for easier thawing.  You don't want to thaw and refreeze the sauce.  And, I wouldn't store it in the fridge longer than a week.

For the pizzas:

1 Whole Wheat English Muffin
2-3 Tablespoons homemade pizza sauce
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh spinach
1 Tablespoon finely chopped broccoli florets
1/3 cup Low Moisture, Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat the broiler in your oven. Split English muffins and place on cookie sheet. Top with pizza sauce and vegetables, and warm in the oven for a few minutes (2-5 depending on how quickly your oven heated up).  This helps the veggies cook and soak into the sauce.  Then add cheese and broil until cheese is melted.  Yields 1 serving.  Serve with a side of fresh fruit cocktail.

Today I made these pizzas in the shape of a heart in celebration of Valentine's Day. Just use a cookie cutter to cut the English Muffin before you add toppings.  What to do with the leftover bread that I cut off?  That's going in tonight's meatballs....a favorite meal of the hubby's.

Other kid-friendly ideas to improve your pizza:
Finely shredded zucchini
Chopped mushrooms
Fresh sliced tomatoes
Whole wheat mini-bagels
Whole wheat pita bread
Chopped turkey sausage (sweet Italian isn't too spicy for kids, but check sodium content!)

Dairy: 1/3 cup Low Moisture, Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese
Grain: Whole Wheat English Muffin
Vegetable: Pizza Sauce with added veggies
Fruit: 1/2 cup fresh fruit cocktail- blueberries, peaches, grapes
Protein: no meat, but cheese provides a bit of protein

**This meal looks like it would be loaded with sodium. And yes, it is a tad higher than other meals I would typically like to serve. Using the brands I had in my kitchen today, a full serving of this English muffin mini pizza would provide about 400 mg Sodium total because of the cheese and muffin (tomato paste was minimal).  If your child typically snacks on fresh fruits and vegetables instead of crackers or other packaged foods, a little extra sodium at meal time is okay!  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Toddler Cup of All Toddler Cups.....

Whenever I pass an aisle of toddler feeding items, I stop and look. I'm always in the market for new tricks of the trade...

We've been trying to get my daughter, now 15 months, off of the bottle for some time. I quit cold turkey for 3 days, but she just refuses milk in anything other than her bottle. After getting a cup thrown at my face too many times, I gave up and decided to give her more time. But running through Walmart the other day, I saw this new cup by Avent.  There's no sipping device, so they don't have to suck.  They can sip from all around the cup.  There is a lock position for travel, but while she has the cup, she has to be sitting and supervised.  I started with water, which she likes to drink from anything--straw, sippy, bottle, cup.  She learned this new cup in less than a day, and so I did it. I put MILK in it. And she CHUGGED IT!!!!

Thanks for celebrating with me!!  We'll see how long this lasts. But here is the cup if you are interested in trying it out!

And while I have your attention about toddler feeding items, check out these cute things I picked up (also at Walmart!) a few weeks back.  I just had to support my Food Guide Plate!

A portioned and separated plate for the food groups, and a plastic place mat displaying the groups

Veggie Tales--Frozen? Fresh?

For the longest time I loved filling up my grocery cart with fresh fruits and vegetables. I spent more time in the produce section than any other and it just felt good to unload all of those healthy, colorful, leafy, fresh items onto the belt.

And then I had a baby.

Spending the time to find the freshest of the freshest, the least bruised, and the brightest colored produce, (and then bringing it home to watch half of it go bad in my fridge) was agonizing with a child in tow, and didn't really help my efforts to decrease our living expenses while I quit working.  You know you're guilty had the best intentions of preparing that enormous head of cauliflower you picked up, but each night you swear you're going to find a good recipe and cook up that cauliflower TOMORROW! Next thing you know, it's sittin' in your refrigerator drawer, brown as can be.

I am a huge supporter of pre-planning your meals for one week to avoid such waste in your refrigerator, but I too find myself at the grocery store on occasion without a specific plan in place.  Instead of filling up my cart with fresh vegetables, in this case, I reach for the freezer.

Frozen produce is just as good as, if not better than, fresh!  What?  As a fruit or vegetable ripens, the content of its nutrients changes.  Produce that is chosen for freezer packaging is picked at it's peak ripeness (when nutrient content is at its best). They then blanch the food, which does cause leakage of some of the water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and B vitamins, but flash freezing them then locks in the remaining high content of other nutrients.

Fresh produce, picked at its peak ripeness from your back yard (or bought at the local farmers' market in season), will result in the highest nutrient content available from that fruit or vegetable.  But off-season, we buy produce that's been picked before it is ripened (not reaching its full potential) and then shipped long distances and set in an aisle---all the while losing even more nutritional value.

Not all fruits and veggies are good frozen so we still buy the obvious things like apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, and carrots fresh. They are still a great alternative snack to high calorie items, even if they have lost some nutrients in the winter.

Here's a great list of veggies you can keep in your freezer for easy addition to meals:
*Stir Fry mixes
*Brussel Sprouts
*Lima Beans
*Green Beans

How to cook frozen veggies? Steaming is best, but sometimes in a skillet meal, you can just add them in toward the end and they will thaw and cook without getting mushy.

And you can't go wrong with bags of frozen berries!  Add them to your morning oatmeal or make a quick smoothie by blending with yogurt and a splash of 100% juice.

A word of caution:
Frozen produce is a great alternative to fresh if and only if the bag of frozen produce is just that...a bag of frozen produce. Read the label!  Anything with a sauce, or those 'meal in a bag' deals, has added preservatives, sodium, flavor, and sometimes color enhancers.  Think about it, if the food was picked at its peak ripeness and flash frozen, it actually is the color nature intended it to be!

Canned? I'm not even going there. The canning process leaches nutrients and adds sodium! Use sparingly!

I've mentioned Wildtree before, but my sister just informed me that many of their all natural blends can be tossed with frozen veggies in a Ziplock bag, and stored in the freezer until meal time that week. You can have flavored, healthy veggies as a great addition to pasta, rice, cous cous, quinoa, or just as a tasty side dish. Send me a message if you're interested in learning more about Wildtree, or visit her page:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where's my organic milk?!

While shopping at the commissary yesterday, in desperate need of milk for my house, I came to the dairy section with a screaming child. Nap time. Oh boy, I've done it again. I've lost track of time, picking out the best looking produce, reading all of the labels on my organic meats, scrutinizing over every ingredient in the snacks I've chosen for my nephews who are visiting for a few days. My toddler's had enough, but I haven't even gotten around to her favorites, dairy!  I buy the same things every time so I can rush through this section like it's the back of my hand. At the end of the dairy, as I made my way to my last stop at the breads, I realized I just skipped the milk, a key ingredient to my child's happiness.  I raced back over and thought I was losing my mind. Where in the heck is my organic milk?!

"Due to shortages in production, we will be temporarily out of organic milk," the sign placed smack in the middle of a completely empty refrigerator read.  The entire organic selection, gone!  Who's taking my milk?!  

I was frustrated. Mostly because my kid was screaming, but frustrated too that I would have to make yet ANOTHER stop on the way home, totally negating my efforts to save money by shopping on base. (Sometimes I go a little crazy. Sure we could survive off of one half gallon of the "other" milk until we could get out to another store, but again, I'm crazy).  I did smile a little knowing that the word is out, we need more organic dairy farms to keep up with the demand....the demand to provide healthy options!!

I did a little research and found that the entire east coast is experiencing this shortage, not just my local commissary (as I also found the shortage at Food Lion and Target). The problem is as the demand for organic milk increased toward the end of 2011, so did the cost of the organic feed that farmers buy for their cows. The problem was that the price of the milk stayed the same.  Farmers had to adjust by feeding their cows less, and not buying more cows to keep up.  

So, the next thing we will see is a hike in the price of organic milk (some say up to $1 more per gallon!), and then we will start to see our grocer's refrigerators full of the stuff.  When I did find some, I bought as many as they had. Sorry fellow concerned consumers who are looking for organic milk at the Target at Monticello, I am sure this will all be over soon. I'm hoping before February 26, when my current stock expires.

This brings me to a very valid concern that people ask me all the time: "Why is it so expensive to eat healthy?"  Many people say cost is a big factor when choosing foods for their family. We are very much a reactive society vs a preventative one, and one that needs instant gratification.  Today I may see that I am only spending $5 on a full and satisfying meal that's ready instantly, but if I continue to do that, I will see thousands of dollars in health care costs down the line.  Eating healthy, and spending the little extra money and effort to do so, pays off over time.  I'll be posting shortly how to stretch a buck with healthy snacks and meals. Stay tuned friends!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2 Be Organic, or Not 2 Be....

That is the question of this century!


Here are my 2 cents....

To live a 100% organic life, including all household products and foods, is near impossible. Not impossible, but nearly. You have to be very disciplined, simple, and actually, rich.

When it comes to the foods you put in your body, and your child's, you want to consider a few things when choosing between organic and non-organic products. The FDA still does not regulate labeling as well as it could for the everyday consumer, so be smart when reading labels and choosing foods. The USDA has very specific guidelines on what Organic actually means.

If a food is labeled organic it means that 95% of that food is the following (if it says 100% Organic, then all of the food is the following):
Animals are not given antibiotics or growth hormones, and produce is grown without the use of conventional pesticides, fertilizers made of synthetic ingredients, bioengineering or ionizing radiation.

So, 2 Be Organic:
-Any fruits or vegetables that you are going to serve WITH the skin on (think about the pesticides on the outside of the skin)
-Milk, Eggs*, and Meats (think of the hormones given to the animal producing, plus the pesticides on the feed that they give these animals!)

Organic eating can get pricey, so choose your battles! I don't always buy organic fruits and veggies because my daughter can't chew the skins yet anyway, so I spend the extra on the milk, eggs, and some of the meats. It is a process, but you can always start somewhere!

*Another note about eggs:  Cage free. It is not a perfect system, but it's better than caged. The more I research my food, the more I want to either go vegan or start my own cruelty-free farm......ugghhh. Neither are going to happen, so you will hear me say frequently, choose your battles!

Wildtree Veggie Mac n' Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese, the king of kid food.  It's quick, easy, creamy, and cheesey. And you KNOW your kid will eat it.  The problem is, if you check the food label of the traditional box mac and cheese, you'll find lots of unwanted ingredients and unnecessary sodium (580 mg per cup to be exact!).  But making this favorite food from scratch can be time consuming, so I have a great alternative to both dilemmas!

My sister and her friend introduced me to a great company called Wildtree.  I have a plan for further introducing Wildtree to you, but first I just want to give you a "taste." They are a company that specializes in all natural food products and healthy grapeseed oils. They offer solutions for the question, "What's for dinner?"  When my pantry is stocked with a variety of Wildtree products, I can go in at 5pm with that very question and always come out with a great dinner by 6pm.

So here's your first taste:  Wildtree Kids Cheez Blend

What's so great about it?
Here's the comparison between this mac n' cheese (made with whole grain pasta and skim milk) vs Kraft (per serving):

                             Wildtree              Kraft
Calories                    264                     400
Fat                            6g                      3.5g
Sodium                     149mg                 580mg
Carbohydrate            39g                      47g
Protein                     14g                      10g
Cost                         $0.67                   $0.18      
**These are ESTIMATES based on the published labels and serving sizes provided for each of the foods!

Now let's look at the ingredients:

Wildtree: Cheddar Cheese Powder made from pasteurized milk, salt, cheese culture and enzymes, lactic acid and natural flavors, plus buttermilk powder. When made with whole grain pasta, the pasta is made from things like semolina, grain and legume flour blend (like lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, barley, spelt, oats), egg whites, durum flour, and some additives at the bottom of the list: niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflain, folic acid.

Kraft: Copied straight from their website...

The difference?  A meal full of whole food ingredients vs a meal full of food additives--some made from food, some NOT. It's worth the extra 50 cents a serving to give my daughter whole ingredients!

There's lots you can do to Wildtree Kids Cheez Blend. Try adding some of these to boost your child's veggie intake!

-Sweet corn
-Broccoli florets
-Diced carrots
Frozen vegetables are great for this. Just take out the amount you want and keep the rest in the freezer. No need to thaw separately, just heat with the pasta!

For more information about Wildtree:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Baby Berry Parfait

Yogurt. What a lifesaver for me.  I am a nutritionist who does NOT drink milk. Can't stand it. I've tried whole, 2%, 1%, skim, Almond milk, Lactaid milk, you name it. I can tolerate it in my cereal and use it in cooking, but the thought of sitting down with a glass of milk makes me gag. I didn't really care about this until I started to care about my nutrition in my early twenties.

Since I'm not a fan of milk, I'm not a fan of anything that tastes like it. So to the shelves I went, searching for the best tasting, non-milky yogurt. Read: sugary, fruity, yogurt blends.  My tastes and priorities are adjusting, and allowing me to try healthier versions (though I almost gagged when I heard Kelly Rippa talking about how she eats Plain, Non-Fat, Greek Yogurt with no toppings). No wonder she's a feather.

To save my daughter from this taste aversion, I started her on Greek yogurt from the beginning. Occasionally she will have the standard YoBaby organic, but today I'd like to share one of her favorite yogurt mini-meals.  I like to double the recipe and share this treat with her!

Baby Berry Parfait

4 oz Vanilla Greek Yogurt (Vanilla is less bitter than Plain, but if you want to try Plain, more power to ya!)
3 Tbs berries of your choice (I use frozen blueberries, raspberries, and finely chopped strawberries)
1 Tbs crushed Kashi Honey Sunshine cereal (or any favorite whole grain cereal)

Stir berries into yogurt (crushing them to really spread the juices). Layer fruited yogurt and cereal, and top with extra bite size berries.

Dairy: 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
Grain: N/A (small amount in crushed cereal)
Vegetable: N/A
Fruit: Berries
Protein: Greek Yogurt (double benefits!)

*To save time, make about 3 cups of berried yogurt, and store in airtight container in the fridge. You will have the convenience of store-bought fruited yogurt without all the sugar.  Letting the crushed berries sit in the yogurt in the fridge really sets the flavors.

The difference between regular and Greek yogurt is plain and simple:  Greek yogurt has more protein, and less sugar.  This is important to me since my daughter isn't a huge meat eater. I'm always looking for ways to bump up her protein intake.  Using plain or vanilla is best, and add your own fruits for a fresh treat!

One day Kelly, I might be able to stomach the plain yogurt. But until then, I'll use this treat as a way to get in some antioxidants and Vitamin C!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Toddler Mini-Meals: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Feeding a toddler 5-6 times a day is exhausting. What to give her? Will she like it? How messy will it be? Is she going to choke? Is it good for her? How long is this meal going to take, from preparation to clean-up?! There's a million things that go through my head each time my daughter sits in the chair to eat. So, I feel your pain if you too are feeding a toddler.

I learned some time-saving tricks early in my daughter's life of eating solids.  I can count on one hand how many baby jar foods she ate.  At first, I literally SLAVED in the kitchen coming up with wholesome "baby" foods for her, steaming and grinding foods a few times a week.  Then I got into batch cooking.  I spent one morning a week preparing ground foods and froze them. At meal time, I popped them out of the container, thawed them in the microwave, and served immediately.

Now that my daughter is eating finger foods and has a few teeth, I still want to save time but can't always give her raw fruits and vegetables straight out of the fridge. I find myself skipping the raw fruits and veggies that are too hard for her!  A fruit I don't want to skip is an apple, so I will steam a bunch, peel, and chop them into bite sized pieces. Store in an airtight container in the fridge, and I have a week's worth of a quick go-to fruit that's already prepared.

And here's one meal my daughter LOVES with these apples:

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

2 apples (sweet ones work best!)
1/2 cup prepared oatmeal (see description below for 2 good toddler choices)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Cut apples in 1 inch pieces, and steam until soft (about 4-6 minutes).  Prepare 1/2 cup oatmeal* with whole or breast milk.  When apples are soft, let them cool a few minutes, peel, and chop into bite sized pieces. Mix together 1/2 cup apples, oatmeal, and cinnamon, and serve with a cup of milk. You will have another 3/4 - 1 cup apples to save for another meal. Use within 3-4 days.

Dairy: 1 cup milk to drink, and milk used to prepare oatmeal
Grain: Whole oatmeal
Vegetable: N/A
Fruit: Steamed Apples
Protein: (oatmeal provides 2-5 grams!)

*Here are my choices for oatmeal:
 The Gerber brand is sort of like formula, and has iron, DHA, and probiotics.  I like the iron because my daughter isn't a huge fan of meat.  If I do not have this, I use 100% Natural Rolled Oats-- to make it easier on her tummy, I like to grind the oatmeal into a coarse powder before preparing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Toddler Mini-Meals: Cucumber & Cream Cheese

My first reader request: New ideas for toddler snacks!

Toddler snacking is quite different from adult snacking. A "snack" to us seems to be a feed-my-hunger, tide-me-over-until-the-next-meal type of quick fix.  For a toddler, a snack should be treated like a mini-meal, and her meals should also be treated like a mini-meal.  My daughter eats the same volume and variety of foods each time she sits at the table. I look at them like mini-meals so that it is easier for me to avoid the "snack" trap---that is, highly processed, quick finger foods that come in a nice convenient package (high carb, low nutrient). Even when the packaging looks "wholesome" and "natural," reading the label will alarm you to some unwanted ingredients.  This doesn't mean  you have to be a slave in your kitchen. It just means you should do some research at the grocery store, and "choose your battles."  You can't always avoid unwanted ingredients, but strive to for the majority of your child's intake.

Here are a few alarms that go off on the ingredients list:
Partially Hydrogenated Oils: Read, "Trans Fats"
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Artificial Sweeteners
Enriched Bleached Flour

As a general rule, I look for whole grain, natural substances, not artificial additives in the first 5 ingredients on the list.

Don't be fooled. As I'm writing this and trying to get out the door for some good ol' bounce house toddler fun, my daughter is eating a handful of cheerios, a fruit cup, and a cheese stick.  Sometimes the quick fix is the way to go.

Try this light but filling and nutritious mini-meal:

Cucumber & Cream Cheese Sandwich
2 slices Pepperidge Farm Very Thin whole wheat bread (easy for toddlers' little mouths)
1 Tbs plain cream cheese (1/3 less fat)
2 Tbs chopped Cucumber (Cut about 1 1/2 - 2 inches off your cuc)

Peel, then chop the cucumber into smaller than bite size pieces.* Spread cream cheese evenly on one side of each piece of bread, then layer the cucumber pieces in sandwich, and cut into fun shapes or sizes your child can pick up.  Serve with a side of fruit (quartered or halved grapes go well with this light meal) and water or milk to drink.

*Cucumber is the FIRST food my daughter 'choked' on. If this is your child's first experience, try giving it to her plain, or chop finely to put into the sandwich.  You know your toddler's chewing experience and level.  Please make your best judgment and always ALWAYS supervise your toddler when she is eating. If a recipe calls for bite size pieces, it is a good rule of thumb to cut it into a shape and size that does NOT match a child's esophagus. (Examples: quartered grapes, hot dog sliced length-wise)

Meal Stats: This is how I will present the nutritional benefits of the meal. I do not count calories/fat/sugar, not for myself and especially not for my child. Instead I like to choose whole foods as much as possible, and use the Choose My Plate guideline found at  Maybe eventually I can come up with a symbol/chart for quicker reporting.....

Dairy: Cream Cheese
Grain: Whole Wheat Bread
Vegetable: Cucumber
Fruit: Grapes
Protein: N/A (Cream Cheese provides 1g)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Think outside the box

My daughter has been sick. Six days of fever, crying, sleepless nights, and of course, poor appetite.  She was already becoming a picky eater, and I was running out of ideas!  When she got sick, I thought, "Great, another speed bump on the road to feeding a toddler."  Today has been no exception, UNTIL NOW!

Her lunch:  a spinach, egg, turkey and cheese scramble, followed by 3/4 banana. Yes, you read correctly. My one year old just ate spinach. Not a drop on the floor.

The miracle recipe:
1 handful of spinach leaves, sauteed over medium heat until wilted, then chopped
1/2 slice of low sodium, thick cut deli turkey, torn into bite size pieces
1 whole egg*, scrambled with about a tablespoon of whole milk
1/2 slice of white American deli cut cheese (her favorite)

Scramble over medium heat until egg is cooked, and it's magic, you have a protein packed, colorful little meal for one. That's a ONE year old.

Why "think outside the box?"  My box lately has been this:
Eggs are for breakfast....
And, my kid won't eat any vegetables besides the peas I make her every day.

I tried something new and for once it paid off!  She's a toddler, so who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Here are some of my rules about feeding a toddler:

-Always offer the healthiest, and newest to her palate, foods FIRST when she is hungriest.
-Always re-offer these new foods every day (or a few times a week) for at least 2 weeks. Then, give her a break, try something different, and re-introduce in another week or two. Just because she won't eat it now, doesn't mean she won't try it later.
-Make her plate, or her high chair/booster tray, look like the Food Guide Plate as often as you can ( That is, include a small serving of protein, fruit, vegetable, and whole grain for most meals.
-Offer 5-6 small meals daily, and avoid the traps of the "snack" foods. Their bodies are on the move and they need the constant introduction of energy from healthy nutrients throughout the day.
-Offer water, not juice. Fruits are an EXCELLENT source of energy, as well as vitamins and minerals. Fruit juices are NOT. Kick the habit now before the sugar obsession takes over and your child is facing weight problems and rotting teeth.

*Please talk with your doctor before introducing eggs in your baby's diet. Eggs are on the list of potential allergens, so avoid introducing them prior to your doctor's instruction. I did so at 9 months, very slowly, but your doctor may advise you to wait until 1 year, or even 2. This can be a serious and life-threatening condition, so heed your doctor's advice!

Let's get started....

First I want to commend you for being an awesome parent.  You are here, you did an online search for healthier alternatives to the meals you may be feeding your children right now, so your intentions are to find some healthy ways to raise your children. Kudos!

Now let's take this motivation and start making some changes!!!!

1. Identify the problem, and its causes.
2. Establish a list of solutions.
3. Implement ONE solution weekly. If you fail one week, that's ok, start over the next.
4. Write a calendar of your solutions so that you can stay on track. Check them off as you go, you will feel accomplished!

Please do not make a New Year's resolution that includes 10 new things you will do, starting NOW.  It takes a lot of dedication, support, motivation and resources to implement a change in your life.  Take the time to turn one new change into a habit. If you want to introduce a new goal monthly, great! You are on your way to a better lifestyle.


1. Identify the problem.  I don't get enough exercise. Why? Because I work full time, my kids have after school activities that I attend nightly, and frankly I'm exhausted.
2. Establish a list of solutions.
  -Take a quick morning walk before the kids get up.
  -Involve the family in a group exercise on the weekends.
  -Take the stairs at work.
  -Park the car far away from entrances to work or businesses I visit to get in extra steps.
  -Bring a light set of dumbells to work and do quick, 3 minute mini exercises between meetings.
3. Implement ONE solution weekly.
4. Write a calendar of your solutions.
Week 1- I will start with the easiest one: Park my car furthest from the entrance.
Week 2- I will try taking the stairs at work, which means I may need to allow myself more travel time!
Week 3-I will try taking a walk one morning before the kids get up. This means I should have their lunches packed the night before!

The main idea here is to set yourself up for SUCCESS!  Don't write your list of resolutions on a post-it and stick it on the fridge. It will be a daily reminder of what you haven't started. Instead, make a plan, write it down, and follow it.

This just gave me the inspiration to create a list of common road blocks to health, and propose some real, life-changing solutions here on the blog. Please, leave comments of some of your road blocks and I'd love to help!


Welcome to my new adventure. We got this project started months ago, but life happened and here I am ready to start fresh in 2012!  I have a newfound inspiration for creating tasty healthy meals in my own home: I now feed a toddler no less than 6 times a day!  So, I am on a mission to continue looking for healthy options and will relay all of my findings and tips to you, via this blog.  If you find something on here useful, let me know!  As well, if you have alternative suggestions to what I post, let me know! The comments section is open and I am all ears!

Happy living!