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!