Sorry, no snack recipes tonight, but I do have a lot of information about childhood obesity that I want to share with everyone. As many of you know, particularly if you've read my home page, 1 in 3 children is obese. This epidemic has gotten so out of control that our children are expected to have shorter lifespans than our generation, which is the first time such an event has occurred since this data has been recorded. But why is this happening- do we blame portion sizes, computer games, food additives? Here's a synopsis from scientific literature about some factors that have been correlated with this epidemic.
First off there has been a lot of hype in the scientific community about an adenovirus, a virus that causes colds, and obesity. Recently a new study came out that ties this cold bug to obesity in children. Children that have antibodies to adenovirus-36 (a specific strain of adenovirus) are more like to be overweight or obese. Furthermore the prevalence of this virus has increased alongside the rise in obesity, meaning that both have increased steadily since the 1970's.
Even though researchers are working on an adenovirus-36 vaccine, it's merely one of several factors that are correlated with the rise in obesity. Some others include:
1. Chemical exposure: Chemicals deemed endocrine disruptors (meaning that they mimic our own hormones and thus throw off our bodies natural balance) have been correlated with obesity. The big scapegoat has been bisphenol A (i.e. BPA) which is commonly found in hard, clear plastics. This chemical acts as an estrogen mimic and, though our own stores of estrogen are typically beneficial, there can always be too much of a good thing. Other common ones include parabens (found in lotions and shampoos) and phthalates (found in many different types of plastics).
2. Climate controlled environments: An air conditioned room keeps your family comfortable. But when you don't have this climate control, your body has to work to cool itself down. And as your body works calories are utilized as you sweat. The same thing applies to when you are cold; your body shivers to warm you up and is again utilizing energy. The rise of climate controlled environments is also correlated with increases in obesity.
3. Sleep reduction: your kids really do need their beauty sleep, no matter how much they fight you on it. Sleep deprivation in both adults and children results in alteration in metabolic hormones that control hunger and satiation. Leptin, a hormone that tells you that you are full, decreases and ghrelin, a hormone that makes you hungry, increases when sleep is reduced.
4. High fructose corn syrup: This sweetener made it's debut in the late 1970's and started becoming a part of our diet in the 1980's. As it has increased in our foods, so has obesity. Your body does a poor job of utilizing fructose (a type of sugar) and has a tendency of storing it in the body.
So many of these factors are out of you hands, and this hefty list also shows that there is no smoking gun in the rise of childhood obesity. So what can you do to keep your kids healthy? Obviously you can't keep your kids from getting colds, that's just part of life And I highly doubt anyone out here in the desert is going to be chucking out their A/C anytime soon. But there are things that you can do to limit your kids exposure to some of these factors.
First off, feed them healthy, natural foods. Behavioral research shows that if you start small (e.g. having an apple as opposed to potato chips for a snack), than people are more likely to maintain healthier lifestyle choices. So why not start with the basics and begin with your kids snacks, then move on from there? Fresh fruits and vegetables are not only portable snacks but also are linked with numerous health benefits. Second, pack their snacks and lunches in containers that are free of endocrine disruptors. That's not as challenging as one might think, there is a whole field of products out there geared toward this purpose. Finally, make sure your kids get enough sleep, even if it means you have to change your routine around. Hopefully all of these actions together will make them healthier overall, making them less likely to get sick.
My little girl loves purple. Everything has to be purple; her clothes, her bike, even her toothbrush. So the other day when we were at Target and she saw a purple silicone muffin tray, she went crazy. She had to have it, and since it was in the dollar bin I indulged her. Ever since then she's been carrying it around and talking to it like it's a baby doll. Now that looks a little strange, so I think that it's time to put her new toy to some utility. Since she loves purple, I figured a purple snack would make morphing her new doll into a piece of cookware more exciting, and therefore make it easier for her to part with her baby.
So what makes these muffins purple? Pieces of blackberries (with bonus vitamin A. C, fiber and anti-oxidants) and a dollop of berry preserves to top it off. The blackberries are crushed, which helps keep these muffins moist. That can be a challenge when you're working with whole wheat flour, but with the help of milk and yogurt these muffins don't have the dry, gritty taste you sometimes get from whole wheat baked goods. And these muffins are all wheat flour, no white flour and no refined sugar, so they're a great whole grain snack. You'll just have to trust me that these muffins are great, we (and that includes the baby) immediately ate two apiece, and then my daughter asked me to pack one in her lunch. If that's not a ringing endorsement for a kid's snack, then I don't know what is.
Now I wouldn't give away something that I don't love so I used Crofter's Superfruit Spread, the European variety, for the preserve topping. It was delicious. Enjoy!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
Preheat oven to 400F.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whisk these dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup (omit extra tablespoons if berries are sweet)
1/4 vegetable oil
1/2 cup yogurt (low fat OK)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup crushed blackberries
Mix these wet ingredients together. Then add them to your dry ingredients and mix until everything is wet, but the batter is still lumpy. Fill muffin cups until they are 2/3 full. Then add:
1 teaspoon berry preserves
To each cup. Cook for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Creamy fruit sauce
I love a snack that's already made. There's not chopping, cooking or frankly excess dishes involved. That's why I absolutely love fruit sauces. It's equally appealing to my baby and my four year old, and I might as well admit that I eat it too. The most common one is apple sauce, but you can diversify with apple/fruit combos or with a mixed fruit sauce. One great example is Santa Cruz organic tropical fruit sauce
, but if you don' have a natural food market nearby I also like apple-berry sauces.Fruit sauces are great on their own, but if you want to go the extra mile here's a few simple (and still relatively dish-free) ways to add a little more vitamins, while cutting the sugar, to your kids snacks:Fruit sauce cereal
: this is for babies and toddlers, but just mix in their baby cereal into the fruit sauce for an easy lunch.Creamy fruit sauce: simply mix equal parts fruit sauce and plain yogurt for a creamy, less sweet treat
that has a little more protein to hold your kids overCheesy fruit sauce: once again it's just equal parts cottage cheese and fruit sauce and viola, now you have sweet and savory mixed together in a satisfying balance.Crackers and fruit: add a dollop of fruit sauce on top of a whole wheat cracker
, then top with another cracker and you have a mini-sandwich.It's already made, it's easy and your kids are sure to like it. Now if that's not simple, then I don't know what is. Happy snacking!
A good friend once told me that she ate peanut butter bananas after her workout. I tried it out and I have been hooked ever since. And since being a 4 year old is a perpetual workout, my little girl is also a huge fan. As usual two great food groups are combined to make a high protein, tastes-like-you're-eating-dessert snack. Organic bananas are worth the investment if your kids eat a lot of them. They are widely available and not as expensive as other organic produce (around here they're usually $0.88/lb). Bananas are highly prone to parasites, so non-organic
varieties are inundated with pesticides to keep them from infection. These parasitic infections can be devastating- the species that your grandparents enjoyed is a different variety from today because that earlier rendition was completely wiped out by a parasite. Organic bananas are grown at higher elevations, where conditions are not conducive to parasites so pesticides are not necessary.I also prefer buying organic peanut butter. It isn't as heavy on the sugar as non-organic varieties and. once again peanuts are heavily treated with pesticides. In fact they are one of the highest sprayed crops in the U.S. and the fact that they are a legume increases they're exposure to these pesticides since they are in close contact with the soil. Even though peanuts are in a shell, their shell is very porous and does not block the pesticide contact.
Now I know that it can take a little getting used to since organic peanut butter isn't as sweet as regular, but after a little while your kids won't even notice. I helped break my family in by adding a little honey when I spread it on bread so they didn't notice. My favorite brands is Maranatha
, but it is more costly so when the budget is tight I just get Costco's brand.Alright, I guess that's enough preaching so here's a fun, quick recipe for banana PB wheels. If your kids are allergic to peanut butter, sunflower butter is an equally tasty alternative.Banana PB wheelsPrep time: 2 minutes Serves
: 2-31 bananapeanut butterfinely chopped nuts (any type works)Slice your banana in 1/4 inch slices
. Ad a dollop of peanut butter to half of the slices, then top them with the remaining banana slices. Put the chopped nuts onto a plate, then roll your banana wheels in the nut crumbs. I hope your kiddos like this quick and pretty little snack.
My Dad is the king of making salsa. In fact he loves it so much he makes it for breakfast. What I love about his salsa is that he doesn't always use traditional ingredients; sometimes you'll get a mini bell pepper batch, or apples, or even cucumber if he's feeling really festive. The store bought stuff just can't hold a candle to freshly chopped, chunky salsa. And there's nothing like fresh salsa on eggs or potatoes, it's a real energizer.
So in homage to my Dad here's a fun, versatile little recipe for the middle of Winter. It's a salsa that you can eat with chips, crackers, as a topping on yogurt or oatmeal, and the list goes on. Even though it's a salsa it's not spicy since most small kids just won't go for spicy food. Now that would make my dad, who loves a lot of spice in his salsa, cringe but my little girl always reiterates how she doesn't like spicy food. However if she's going to make it in this chili-loving family she'll have to learn, but in the meantime I keep things mild.
This recipe has fruits that you can easily find in the Winter, but you can always substitute fruits you have around the house. Try to use fruits that hold up well, pears or berries will probably turn to mush and make your salsa more of a sauce.
I've included a recipe for baked cinnamon chips to go along with the salsa, but use what your kids are most likely to eat. I hope that your Family enjoys this recipe!
Winter Fruit Salsa with baked cinnamon chips
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 12-15 minutes
1 apple, chopped
1 apricot, chopped
1 cup chopped honeydew
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I prefer fresh)
1 teaspoon chopped mint
Pre-heat the oven to 300F. Combine all of the above ingredients in a small bowl.
For the chips, do the following:
4 corn tortillas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Cut the corn tortillas in half, then in half again so that you have the tortillas quartered into triangular pieces. Arrange the triangles onto a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with your hands to fully coat the pieces. Then sprinkle on cinnamon. Using your fingers, add brown sugar granules to each chip. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until bubbly and crisp.
The BRAT foods
It's been a few days since my last post, not for lack of ideas but for a current plague upon our house. My kids have been coughing, puking and unhappy (obviously) all weekend. That means that we adults have also been unhappy, after multiple middle of the night wake up calls, some of which have involved stripping beds and changing clothes. My Mom even got in on the action one day, lucky her.
So in these sleep deprived times, it really helps to approach your kids symptoms with a few healing snacks. Enter my favorite acronym for sore kid bellies. The BRAT (horrible name, great combo) foods.
These are the pediatrician recommended food for kids that are suffering from gastrointestinal malaise. Even better, they're pretty much already snack foods. Well OK, rice only fits into this category if you have a Tupperware already cooked in your fridge, as I currently do, but the other foods are snacks ready to go. And when your kids have a bellyache, they're not going to sit around patiently while you cook up tapioca pudding. Peel a banana, definitely workable, make your own sparkling water, probably not.
In the case of my kids their woes are the result of ingesting lots of nasal drainage. I wish kids could blow their noses more efficiently. Their symptoms are the result of inflammation, your bodies response to infections. However if this was solely a stomach bug, I'd also throw in a Y for yogurt, hence the BRAT-Y title of this post. You know how that lazy Y is a vowel only sometimes? It's the same for healing tummies. When congestion is part of the picture, dairy products can increase mucous. Dairy has a protein called casein which can promote mucous formation and increase the thickness of mucous that already stuffing up your kids noses. However if congestion isn't a part of your kids symptoms, then yogurt, with it's beneficial probiotics, can really help improve their symptoms.
I hope that everyone out there is staying healthy this Winter. If not, then don't forget those BRAT-Y foods, they're ready made snacks that will get your kids onto the healing path.
Note:Ilana had to chow down a popsicle for me so that we could make this snack. Now that's commitment.
I am a devout lover of patterns, hence the whole scientist thing. So I decided to make a snack that not only is tasty, but also geometrical to satisfy the nerd in me. That and I hope this makes aspiring nerds out there excited too.
As usual, I combined food groups here, namely fruit and dairy. Honeydew is a melon, and all melons are notorious for being chalked full of vitamins and minerals. Specifically honeydew have vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium and copper. They are similar nutritionally to squash, but more appeasing to the discerning kid palate. Add in chunks of cheddar cheese, which has calcium, protein and phosphorous and you have a snack that is bursting with nutrients. Oh yeah, and they also look fun and are easy to make.
My little girl was so excited about this snack it was hard to get a picture of it. I didn't have a single picture without a hand in it, and only got a a couple of pics before she bit off half of it. OK, I think that's enough bragging about this creation.
Honeydew cheddar triangle kabobs
Prep time: 5 minutes
6 approximately 1" cubes of honeydew
6 approximately 1" cubes of cheddar cheese
4 popsicle sticks
Cut your honeydew and cheese cubes in half cross ways, so that you have isolateral triangles,
Match your honeydew and cheddar triangles together to reform a square.
Spear 3 of these squares onto a popsicle stick, starting at the pointed end of the square. Repeat with the remaining popsicle sticks. Enjoy!
With hungry kids timing is of the essence. You have got to get a snack on the table before a hypoglycemic meltdown, or face the confrontational consequences. I can tell my little girl is hungry before she even opens her mouth by the sour expression on her face. Then she completely loses it over something so trivial, I have to keep from laughing. I know, that's quality parenting, but it's either I laugh or I cry from the complete irrationality of a "hangry" (hungry meets angry) tantrum.
So here's a quick snack that I whipped together in about 2 minutes today. It incorporates several food groups and it involves dipping, which seems to be the eating style of choice for many kids. I hope that your kids like it, and that it placates one of those hangry moments.
Yogurt almond dipping sauce with apple straws
Prep time: 2 minutes
Serves: 2-4 depending on how hungry everyone is
Cut apples into 1/2 inch slices Then cut the slices into straws by cutting the slices into thin pieces.
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (low-fat OK)
1/2 cup almonds
Process nuts in a food processor until they form a powder. Then add yogurt and process until combined. Serve with the apple straws so that kids can dip their straws into the yogurt sauce like french fries in ketchup.
So after my post about the 10 best foods I decided to revisit Wasa crackers
. I've bought them before, but it was during Liam's first few months and though I remember we polished off the box, that's about all that I recall. What can I say, sleep deprivation is a real brain drain.Wasa crackers are rye crackers that have a lot of fiber while also being low calorie. They also have negligible sugar and pretty wholesome ingredients. With regards to actual taste they are incredibly light, porous and crunchy. We had them with hummus, and even though I make a mean hummus, the crackers in and of themselves were a big hit. Then for the wild card test. I pulled out a cracker and gave it to my toothless eight month old. He conducted the "bang it against the tray" test a few times. Satisfied with this preliminary data he then went in for a taste. Success- he loved it and ate three more over the course of the day. So not only are these crackers good for you, appealing to adults and kids alike, they are also baby approved. Now that's a versatile snack.
I recently got a request for a lower calorie pudding. This request was hatched out of a love for egg pudding, a truly decadent dessert that starts with 8 egg yolks. Trust me, it is tasty but it is by no means healthy. Now I love eggs, they're full of protein and versatile, but 8 yolks packs pretty powerful cholesterol punch.
So now I' have pudding on the brain. It's a great snack and kids absolutely love it. In particular I thought that rice pudding is a great alternative to egg pudding. Rice pudding is a healthy dessert, and is a great way to get rid of leftover rice. And, because this website is all about making your kids snacks just a little more healthy, here's a recipe for brown rice pudding. Brown rice has three times more fiber than white rice. White rice is is white because it has its outer bran covering removed. When that bran layer is removed, so are the vitamins and minerals with it. Those nutrients include B vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese and selenium. So if you want to improve your kids diets, simply switch from white rice to brown. Here's your first opportunity.
Because if it's higher fiber content brown rice takes a longer to cook and does not fall apart like white rice does in pudding. Thus you will need a blender (an immersion blender is even better) to make this pudding creamy. I added in a touch of orange at the end, but you can leave it out to make the traditional version.
Orange Brown Rice Pudding
Cook time: 30 minutes
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
Bring contents to a simmer in a medium sauce pan. Then add:
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Return to a simmer, then cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the pudding is thickened. Turn off the heat and add:
1 tablespoon vanilla
Use either an immersion blender or take 3/4 of the pudding and put into a blender. Add:
1 teaspoon orange rind
1/2 cup orange juice
Blend until creamy. Return to the sauce pan with the remaining pudding. Serve, warm or at room temp. If desired, sprinkle with raisins (I prefer golden raisins) before serving.
I hope that you enjoy this whole grain alternative. It's not egg pudding, but then again your kids will get more from it then a belly ache. Happy snacking!
2 cups cooked brown rice