Cottage cheese goes pretty quickly in our house. It's just a matter of scooping a bowlful out of the container and you've got a ready made snack with little fuss, which can be really handy right after school. It's also mild in flavor, which means it can be paired with some tasty partners.
Cottage cheese is a great snack for the whole family. Here are some of the highlights:
- It's low in calories and low in fat if you purchase the reduced fat varieties. Even if you don't go that route, a 1/2 cup serving of full fat cottage cheese only has 5 g fat.
- In a half cup serving, it has 14 g of protein, making it a high protein snack that will hold your kids over til the next meal.
- It's low in sugar, with only 3g per 1/2 cup serving.
So if you don't have a container of cottage cheese in your fridge, maybe you should put it on the shopping list. Here are some great ways to make it a tasty snack it even more nutritional value:
1. Sprinkle it on: To boost the nutrient content of your cottage cheese, try sprinkling on a some nutrient packed toppings like wheat germ, flax meal or chia seeds.
2. Spice it up: For more flavor add a dash of spice to the top- we like to use cinnamon.
3. Fruit medley: Add berries, peaches, mangoes or dried fruit for a sweet and savory snack with added vitamins.
4. Use it as a stuffer: We love to stuff apricots, figs and cucumbers with cottage cheese for a pretty snack that has the added bonus of an edible bowl.
5. Seasonal fruit butters: Top with apple butter for a hearty Fall snack. Other options are fruit-filled jams that don't have added sugar.
Have you ever tried coconut oil in recipes? A lot of people use this unprocessed fat as an alternative to butter, and it's actually a pretty tasty substitute. It's got a texture similar to shortening, but it's actually not hydrogenated (if you buy the virgin coconut oil form) and has some interesting health benefits.
- Coconut oil is high in saturated fats, like butter. Traditionally saturated fats have been called the bad fats, but like most nutritional news this bad fat mantra is an oversimplification. In the case of coconut oil the majority of these fats are medium chain fatty triglycerides, which don't raise serum cholesterol levels and have heart healthy effects, like olive oil.
- One of the medium chains fats in coconut oil is lauric acid, which has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties when metabolized by the body. This can help support immune system function and is good news for those of us with kiddos in daycare.
- Recently there's been research showing that coconut oil actually boosts metabolism, despite it's high fat content.
- Due to it's anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, coconut oil is thought to be good for the digestive system as it repairs damage to the lining of the gut. In addition it helps with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and minerals like calcium, which is great news for kids with growing bones.
So why not try out this healthy fat with something equally good for the family, like whole grain blueberry muffins. The essence of coconut in them from the coconut oil makes them even more delicious, so much so that your kids won't miss the butter. Enjoy!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Makes: 1 dozen
1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup flax meal (or an additional egg if you don't have flax)
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup raw honey
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup blueberries
unsweetened shredded coconut for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F.
Mix together flour, salt, baking powder and flax meal. Make a well in the center, then set aside.
In a separate bowl combine the rest of the ingredients, except for the blueberries. Pour into a well in your dry ingredients. Add blueberries and stir until just combined, ~ 10 strokes.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter and sprinkle with coconut, if using. Bake for 20 minutes in a lightly greased muffin tin. Cool 5-10 minutes before serving.
My little guy has a sensitive tummy, and one of the big agitators is dairy. But that's a food group that's hard to avoid when you have a toddler with growing bones. Milk and it's resulting diary products are the most concentrated sources of calcium, which is a necessary nutrient for bone growth. Calcium is absorbed in the digestive tract (with the help of vitamin D) and incorporated into growing bone tissue.Fortunately there are a lot of calcium-fortified foods on the market, like alternative milks (think soy and almond) and orange juice. That being said, seeing as I'm a natural-fanatic, I wanted to find some alternatives that are naturally high in calcium. And I figured that while I'm researching it I might as well pass this info along to other parents that have kids with dairy sensitivities.
But even if you don't have kids with diary issues, increasing your calcium food sources with your kids is a great idea because it will aid in better absorption. The human body can only absorb ~500 mg of calcium at a time, so a slow and steady technique will result in more absorption overall. If you feed your kids breakfast that consists of cereal with milk, fortified OJ and a multivitamin then your probably losing out on a lot of that calcium. But if you space it out over the course of the day, then you're more likely to hit your kids calcium quota, which is 500mg for 1-3 year olds, 800mg for 4-8 year olds and 300mg for 9-18 year olds. Dairy-free foods rich in calcium1. Leafy greens- These might be a hard sell with your kids, so you might need to adopt the sneak-it-in-under-the-cheese-on-the-pizza technique. Examples of leafy greens include spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, kale and bok choy.
2. Broccoli- If your kids are adverse to broccoli, you can try making broccoli dust (this idea comes from the site Flavour Fiesta). Finely shave off the crowns of your broccoli so that you get a fine powder that you can then sprinkle over savory foods.3. Beans- For most kids these are an easier sell. Great sources include soy beans, navy beans, black beans and white beans. You can also try processing them to make a modified hummus dip.4. Nuts- Nuts have so many nutrients in general and are a great snack. A great source of calcium in this group is almonds, but you can also try hazelnuts and walnuts. Try making a trail mix and letting your kids sample it during errands.5. Seafood
- Though not a food that you typically think of as a calcium source, some types of seafood are very high in calcium. Examples include oysters, blue crab, clams and seaweed.6. Molasses: Here's a surprise- a sweetener that has calcium
! Try it out in baked goods for a little more flavor. Specialty types, like blackstrap molasses, have even higher concentrations. 7. Tofu: Easy to sneak into smoothies, tofu is a good source of calcium.8. Seeds: Again, another easy food to sneak in. A great source is sesame seeds (another pitch for hummus) but another good source is sunflower seeds.
In the last few years we've become inundated by omega supplements. I first heard about them when I was pregnant, but nowadays even everyday adults can get omega gummies at the grocery store. But what are omegas, and what's the reasoning behind they're surge in popularity? I wondered the same thing even while I took them while nursing my little girl five years ago, so here's a my personal crash course on omegas and your kiddos.
-Omegas are imperative for proper brain function. Infants that are supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids have improved cognitive abilities.
-There is some evidence that premature infants grew faster when supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids.
-Omega-3 fatty acids have natural anti-inflammatory effects.
-Children with ADHD have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Supplementation can increase attention duration in children under 12.
-Omega-3 supplementation can improve depression symptoms. Most of these studies relate to adults, however there is a small amount of data showing this effect in children with depression.
-Children with a high omega-3 diet were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
-Omega-3 supplementation may reduce airway inflammation, thereby improving asthma symptoms. However this result has not been consistent among all studies, so keep that in mind if your kid suffers from asthma.
Fats are long chains of carbon molecules. In saturated fats, all carbons and other molecules, like hydrogen, are bonded together with a single bond, or a single tie. In unsaturated fats there are double bonds, or two ties, connecting carbon to the next molecule in the chain. In omega-3 fatty acids, the first double bond occurs at the third carbon in the sequence. In omega-6 fatty acids that double bond starts at the sixth carbon in the line.
Omega-3 fatty acids
In the benefits list above most of the studies used omega-3 fatty acids. Despite their numerous healthy benefits, most people are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. Though supplements are readily available, foods like fish and certain types of seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 food sources
Omega-6 fatty acids
It's not as hard to meet the omega-6 fatty acid daily quota. In fact, most people consume 10 times as many omega-6 fats as omega-3 fats. That's because omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils, which are a common cooking ingredient.
With all the health benefits, of omegas, why not go ahead and start adding them to your snack list. Your kids probably won't even notice a handful of flax or chia seeds in their yogurt, but their brains sure will.
Every New Year, how often do you resolve to drop a few pounds, exercise more, or change your family’s diet? It always starts out good, but by February the pounds are still on and your kids are eating Cheetos for lunch. How about a resolution that is a matter of shopping smarter, not adding more to your hectic schedule? This New Year’s I’m making the jump to organic. I’ve been moving that direction steadily, but 2012 is the year to go whole hog. But for many others, just switching over to organic produce is a great start. Work with what you can maintain given your grocery availabilities and budget. Either way, you’ll be improving your family’s food without having to plan huge meals, pour over cookbooks or scribble out shopping lists on old receipts. You have to buy groceries anyway, so buying organic isn’t adding more to your workload. Simply put, organic does cost more. But you get what you pay for- cheaper foods are full of processed ingredients and conventional produce is laden with pesticide residues. If you have a tight budget check out the dirty dozen, a list of fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide residues and avoid conventional harvests of those items, otherwise keep the rest of produce traditional. There are tons of benefits to organic foods. Here’s a crash course of some of the reasons many people are spending extra money for organic: · Organic produce is pesticide-free. Pesticides can cause low birth weights, birth defects, impaired cognitive development, neurological problems, hormone disruption and certain types of cancers.· Some pesticide residues are absorbed internally in produce, and thus aren’t washed away by even the toughest scrubbing. In addition some pesticides are designed to adhere tightly to the surfaces of fruits and vegetables so that rain doesn’t wash them off, making it hard to get them off of your produce.· Organically labeled animal products must practice humane treatment of animals. That includes that hormones and antibiotics cannot be used on animals. Furthermore these animals must have outdoor access and livestock need to have access to pastureland.· An organic label means that organic food producers must adhere to regulations regarding soil and water use, resulting in more sustainable land use. · Organic foods cannot contain Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs. These are foods that are genetically engineered to be pest-resistant. This technology entered our agricultural system in the 1990’s and has since skyrocketed in our crops; 80% of corn and 93% of soy are genetically modified. There is not any research as to how humans react to these altered foods, despite its widespread use.
So whether it’s whole hog or just small bites, going organic is an easy and attainable resolution.
Happy New Years!Related Reading:
Zinc is a necessary mineral that is found in certain types of seafood, nuts, beans and meats. Fortified foods, like cereal, also have zinc. Despite a variety of foods that contain zinc, kids on a limited "white" diet (consisting primarily of pasta, white flour products and cheese) can have low zinc levels.
Kids that are deficient in zinc can have some serious consequences. Zinc deficiencies in children can result in:
Picky eating habitsChildren with mild zinc deficiencies have palates that are incredibly sensitive. Sometimes these kids are deemed supertasters, however as opposed to having a more acute sense of taste they actually can misperceive odors and tastes as sour or bitter. Zinc supplementation in these kids can result in better eating habits, though a little coaching on the parents end is involved to change deep-set behaviors.Growth retardation
Zinc is necessary for growth, and inhibition of growth is a cardinal sign of a zinc deficiency. Furthermore zinc deficiency can also suppress appetites, thereby causing kids to feel like their constantly not hungry.Impaired immune function and wound healingZinc is necessary for immune function. Just think about all the cold medicines that have zinc to promote getting better faster. In line with the immune system
health a suppressed immune system can't do it's job. That means kids that get sick more and slower healing from cuts and scrapes.
Although you might be giving your child a multivitamin, the amount of zinc in those (particularly in the gummy varieties) are pretty low if your child is already low in this necessary mineral. Furthermore phytates, which are present in whole-grain breads, cereals, legumes, and other foods, bind zinc and can inhibit its absorption Thus, the amount of zinc absorbed from grains and plant foods is lower than that from animal foods. So even if your kids are eating plant sources of zinc they might not be getting all the zinc that's in them.Oddly enough the food with the most zinc... oysters. Now you're probably not going to get your kids to eat those anytime soon, so here's some other snack options:Chicken salad: Use left over rotisserie chicken from last night's dinner.
Just shred the chicken, add a little mayonnaise, salt and pepper and halved grapes. Serve with whole grain crackers of baguette slices.Cashew butter
: Diversify your nut butters with a little cashew butter. This is especially great if you have kids that have peanut allergies. Cashew butter is sold at natural food stores, but you can also make your own in a food processes if you process the nuts for ~10 minutes.Pepitas: With Halloween just behind us you can get pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, from most grocery stores. They are a great snack on their own or can be combined into a trail mix.Hummus: Tasty and a great high protein snack. You can buy it ready made, or make your own. Serve with pita chips, bread or vegetables.Related reading:
I've been stocking up on my childhood nutrition books and want to pass along some of the great information that I have learned. This series is part of my kiddo nutrition tag, so just click on it on the right if you want to learn more.
Salmon dip with flax seed crackers, a great source of essential fats
Ever wondered why some people say some fats are good for you? What are "good fats" and "bad fats"? If you read this blog often, you'll know that I really push giving your kids foods that are high is omegas (a variety of nuts and seeds) and unsaturated fats (avocados), but you might not know what these terms entail.
Fats are a complicated business, and all too often fats are all pegged as bad because of their very name. Think about fat and you'll normally think about love handles, cellulite and double chins. Who wants those? But in fact fats are necessary for a lot of your bodies healthy functioning. These fats, which are an integral part of our bodies, are deemed essential fats. Essential means that they are fats that your body cannot make on it's own, but instead relies on dietary sources.
There are two great examples of how essential fats are of great benefit: your brain consists of 60% fat, 25% of which are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Secondly the membranes that surround your cells are full of essential fats, which help make the membrane fluid-like, flexible and semipermeable (meaning that not just any thing can come in).If your kids aren't getting enough fats then their bodies will make do with what they do get, even if that fats from french fries
and milkshakes. The end result is sub-optimal intellectual performance and potential issues at the cellular level. In worse case scenarios a condition called "chicken skin" results. This is where skin is covered with small bumps, particularly on the backs of the arms.There are a lot of different types of fats, so here's a cursory list of the main ones:Saturated FatsThese fats are called saturated
due to their chemical structure. All the bonds in saturated fats are single bonds, such that all molecules are bonded with one bond. These are typically deemed the bad fats, though researchers have pointed out some benefits to eating saturated fats in moderation. Examples include cell membrane function and immune system enhancement, which make the whole good an bad fats mantra more complicated. These fats are typically found in animal products, like dairy.Unsaturated fatsUnlike saturated fats, unsaturated fats have at least one double bond in them. The number of double bonds results in different designations. Monounsaturated fats have one double bond, hence the mono (one) designation. Polyunsaturated fats
have more than one double bond, hence the poly name. These are typically considered the good fats. Thse fats are common in nuts, seeds and salad oils.Trans fatsThese are fats that are chemically altered. They start off as oils, then are treated (deemed hydrogenated, meaning that hydrogens are added)
so that they become solidified. They are considered highly unhealthy and are best avoided. They are usually found in store baked goods because they make cookies and other tasty sweets stay fresh tasting for an unnaturally long amount of time. Because of a strong public and regulatory backlash, trans fats are not as widely available as they once were.Interesterified fatsThese fats are now the next trans fat. Essentially they are chemically altered oils that prolong shelf life
. Not much is known about how they affect human health, and frighteningly they do not need to be included on the ingredients list. So if you see a product with a really long shelf life, be suspicious because it might have interesterified fats.OmegasThese are the golden child of the fats.
These are essential fats that must be obtained through diet. Of the omegas there are two types: omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in salmon, seeds and some nuts. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in oils, like safflower oil. Omegas can really be lacking in children's diets unless you make a conscious effort to provide a variety of omega 3 rich foods in their diets. Omega 6 fatty acids are usually a part of all of our diets since we all consume a lot of oils regularly.So after that crash course in fats, here are some ways to get great, healthy fats into your kids diets:-Add avocados, which are high in unsaturated fats, to your kids snacks. For something different, try green eggs
with omega infused eggs- Sprinkle in flax and chia seeds into your kids foods. These are both high in omega 3 fatty acids. Combine with cinnamon and wheat germ for an easy spice mix.- Add nuts, such as walnuts which are high in omega 3 fatty acids, to your kids diets.- Stock up on edamame, another source of essential fatty acids. For a salad mix, add in additional beans for three bean salad.- Make salmon dip. You can keep it simple with some canned salmon
and low-fat mayo, or make salmon hummus
. Serve with flax seed crackers (available at natural food stores) for added omegas.- Add wheat germ to the tops of cereal, sneak it into pancakes or on top of cottage cheese.Enjoy!
Here's a little mix that you can throw together in an empty spice jar and throw into your kids yogurt, cottage cheese, PB and J's, toast, cereal, oatmeal, fruit salad... the list goes on. And it's just a matter of mixing it up, storing it in the fridge, and just experimenting a little.
What makes this mix so special is it is one of the most nutritious things that you can sneak into your kids tummies. In fact this mix is so full of goodness that you can probably skip your kiddos multivitamin if you can sneak some of this in their snacks. Here are the components and their respective nutritional components so you can judge for yourself:
Wheat germ is the heart of the wheat berry and has a ton of nutrition is scant amount of product. It has fiber, folic acid, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc vitamin E and thiamin. It also has a mild flavor and is easy to hide in foods.
Chia seeds are native to South America. They pack more omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant source. For kids that are lactose intolerant or just adverse to dairy, chia seeds have 6 times more calcium than milk. They also are packed full of protein, fiber, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and manganese. They also contain a variety of amino acids, which your body uses to make proteins. Like wheat germ chia seeds are also mild in flavor.
Flax seeds have a nutty flavor, particularly if you buy roasted flax. They have tons of omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, lignins, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, thiamin (among other B vitamins) manganese, calcium, iron and zinc.
So this one is purely for taste so that you can trick your kids taste buds. After all, who doesn't love cinnamon?
So go ahead and try this mix out so you can start your kids off on the right foot, without them even knowing it. For one spice jar, here's what you'll need:
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Mix together and store in the fridge to keep the seeds lasting longer. For long term storage, store in the freezer.
Have you ever wondered why cheddar cheese is yellow? After all it's not like milk is yellow. And if you ever look at the ingredients list you'll notice that cheddar has something called annato, which seems pretty exotic compared to the other ingredients. So here's the history behind why cheddar cheese is dyed.Back in the day, when milk was made by cows traversing the pastures, the actual color of milk varied.
During the Spring, when resources were aplenty, the milk was a creamier color due to the higher nutrient and caloric content that went into making it. Thus a cream color cheese resulted, as opposed to the pasty white varieties of Winter. Eventually the villagers came to reason that increased coloration meant better cheese. So in the true nature of capitalism cheese makers learned that color meant higher demand, and started dying their cheeses.Then, in the go big or go home mindset, cheese makers began to dye cheese
s bright orange. It was exciting to get such a vibrant food, and eventually bright orange became the norm for yellow cheeses, like cheddar. As for the dye of choice among cheese makers, typically annato is the prime choice.
Derived from the outer coat of the achiote seed, which is indigenous to Latin America, it is orange in color and used to dye various products. Since it is derived from a natural product it is considered a natural dye. However it has been tied to food allergies in some people.So you might be wondering why cheddar cheese is dyed, despite the lack of taste difference and the fact that it might be allergenic to some people. Want to learn more about common food additives? Unfortunately I think that's enough for tonight, but tomorrow I'll post a list of some common additives and some of the information behind their use.
Stay tuned...Related reading: Reading ingredients lists Natural versus processed foods How about some bugs with that yogurt?
I've been looking though a lot of green blogs lately and have learned a lot about living a greener life. As you can already probably guess from the content of this site we already are a pretty green family. We compost, grow vegetable and citrus, have chickens that lay the most delicious eggs while eating our scraps and making terrific fertilizer for our garden, hang our laundry on the clothesline and produce just 1-2 garbage bags a week. To top it off
I even keep rotisserie chicken carcasses and chicken stock supplies in my freezer for one of those laid back Sundays (yeah right!) when I get a little time to cook. And I'm not quite sure when the last time I had a shower without a kid in there with me, though that's more a keeping-the-toddler-from-hurting-himself as opposed to a green maneuver.But that being said there is always room for improvement. So in the hopes of helping everyone become little more verdant of a family here are some ways to make your family snacks a little greener. Sure it's just snacks, but all those little green things can really add up to something big environmentally. Let me know if you have any other suggestions for making your kids snacks a little greener. I hope that you all get some good ideas!
5 ways to green up your snacks1. Use reusable containers
: Pack your snacks in reusable containers and lunch bags. You can even step this up by using clean, left over food containers. I especially like yogurt, butter and small glass jars for this purpose. Just don't microwave or put these containers into the dishwasher because they aren't heat tolerant plastics.2. Buy organic snacks
: Organic foods
are better for both your family and the Earth. But if you can't afford to buy organic all the time, check out the dirty dozen
and clean 15
, which let's you know when it's important to buy organic or if it's OK get conventional produce.3. Buy local snacks:
Shop at your local farmers market
for foods that are produced a little closer to home. Not only will you be helping out the local economy, you'll be purchasing food with a lower carbon footprint and getting some great natural snacks and produce4. Cut down on packaging:
Individually wrapped snacks create a lot of packaging waste. Check out the bulk bins and get foods like trail mix and dried fruit in bulk. When you are ready to use them as snacks, pack individual servings into your reusable containers.5. Shop with reusable bags
: Use reusable canvas bags when buying your groceries. After you unpack them, make sure that you put them back in the car so that they are ready and handy for the next shopping trip.