Did you know that Americans waste an estimated 40% of edible food (source: Natural Resources Defense Council
)? That's a lot of food simply tossed out or washed down the disposal. And with recent droughts in the Midwest and increasing oil prices you're grocery budget will probably get tighter in the next few months. So what are the top tossed out foods? Here's a list that was compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with some ideas for using them up so that you can stretch your groceries just a little farther.1. Fruits and Vegetables: 52% lost
Half of all fruits and vegetables are tossed out after they are past their prime. Bruised strawberries and gooey green beans = a trip to the landfill. To make them last longer flash freeze your produce if you bought more than you can eat by simply freezing separate pieces on a baking sheet overnight, then placing a cup or two into storage bags. You can also juice lots of fruits and vegetables that are just starting to pass their prime
, and while you're at it this is also a great way to sneak some veggies into your kiddos bellies.And here's a pampered Mom tip: one of my favorite ways to use up old produce that is past the point of eating is by making my own spa masks. Great bases include strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and avocado. Simply mash a tablespoon or two of your overdone fruits with a little bit of honey and rolled oats and it's a spa day. I leave my mask on for 10-20 minutes while the kids and I put cucumbers over our eyes and chat it up.Finally a great way to reuse really overdone fruits and vegetables is to compost them. Composting is incredible easy and doesn't have to be expensive, and in a matter of months (especially if you jump start the process with composting enzyme) you'll have rich soil to rejuvenate your yard or start a garden.
And you always have a science project in your backyard to teach your kids with.2. Seafood: 50% lostYet again, only half of what is harvested is actually eaten.
Given the over harvested state of our oceans and the environmental effects of seafood farming, it's hard to believe so little is actually eaten.
One of my favorite ways to incorporate seafood, and thus some lean protein, into my kids snacks is with hummus
or yogurt dips. Simply combine cooked fish in with yogurt, tahini, white beans and add lemon juice in a food processor and puree til smooth, then serve with crackers or sliced veggies.Another, cook-free way to use up uncooked salmon that is
in your fridge is to simply cure bite size pieces in salt, pepper and raw sugar in your fridge. Within an hour or two you have a great snack that your kiddos can munch on without much work.3. Grain products: 38% lostOne of the beauties about bread is that you can freeze it until you're ready to use it. Another great way to use up both stale breads and cooked rice is with bread pudding and rice pudding, respectively. Another one of our favorites are French toast mini's.
Grains like oats
also make for really tasty granola. All you need is oil, honey, chopped nuts and dried fruit and you have a tasty breakfast or yogurt topper that's really easy to make.4. Meat: 22% lostToo often you plan out your week's worth of dinners and then life gets in the way; soccer practice
, a late night at work or swim class interferes with your dinner. Or those cold cuts you got for sandwiches gets forgotten in the fridge and looks like it might be growing a new type of penicillin.For us the best way to conserve our meat is to freeze it
and only defrost the night before when I'm sure that I can make it. As for cold cuts they make for an excellent snack just by rolling them with sliced cheese and serving with grapes. You can also finely chop it and toss with peas for a fun nutritious salad
.5. Milk: 20% lostUnfortunately the big culprit here are school lunches- many time kids toss milk cartons that haven't even been opened. But in addition we also toss out that last bit of milk in the container, let our kids milk glasses sit out too long, or don't finish our coffee. According to the USDA, we toss 1/3 cup per day per person. That ends up being milk from 800,000 cows. And once milk spoils, there isn't a lot of recourse.
So in this case a little conscientious discussion with the kiddos is needed, and smaller portion sizes. Related Reading:
One of my favorite small towns in Northern Arizona is a little jewel called Pine. The two best things in pine: Hawaiian ice cream (what!) and local honey. Seeing as this is a healthy blog, I'll focus on the latter. The Honey Stand
sells honeys of all different varieties and potencies. I like the lighter tasting ones, my husband goes for the hardy and and heavy varieties. My kids like their fruit butters (sugar-free, after all why does fruit need more sugar?) and we all leave happy with our purchases.For those of you that follow my sweeter posts, you'll notice that I use honey as my go-to sweetener. It's a great alternative to processed sugar and has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It also has antioxidants and is a great remedy for a coughing child (over one years old, of course).
There have been several times that I have mixed it with a little hot water and lemon juice for a natural cough medicine for my daughter, just like my Dad did when I was a kid.Something new that I recently learned is that honey can also help people acclimate to local allergens.
That's because local honey contains local pollens in small doses, which helps immune systems adapt. This pollen is also what gives honey it's nutritional properties. That's why recent analysis of honey samples from large food suppliers is so disconcerting.
The Palynology (the science of studying palynomorphs, such as pollen) Research Laboratory at Texas A&M analyzed 60 honey samples from 10 states and the District of Columbia. Here's what they found:
- 76 percent of samples bought at chain groceries had all the pollen removed.
- 100 percent of the honey sampled from chain drugstores had no pollen.
- 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores had the pollen filtered out.
- 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions had the pollen removed.
- Samples bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores had the full, anticipated amount of pollen
Without the pollen, health benefits of consuming honey are removed.
However this lack of pollen at large chain stores also has potential adverse health effects.Pollen residues help trace the origin of honeys. Without those residues that means the location that honey was produced is unknown. This untraceable nature of these honeys makes safety assurance difficult
. These honeys could have come all the way from China and have potential contaminants like heavy metals.
Bottom line: if you want your family to avoid potential contaminants from untraceable honey and get the health benefits of using a natural sweetener, then buy your honey locally. That will probably mean a trip to the Farmer's Market, which is always a great family activity if you ask me. 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!
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.
I am a big believer in snacking. It all started when I was pregnant with my little girl I've continued to keep up that eating style and found it really works for both of my kiddos. Less mood swings and tantrums equals a happier family overall and it helps me get them to eat more food groups over the course of the day.
But I know that not everyone is as mad about snacking as I am. Some people think that it takes away from eating balanced meals and adds a lot of uncounted calories to a diet. True, if you let your kid eat right before lunch or dinner then you might run into that problem, especially if they're eat a lot. But you can control that by having snacks and hour or two after meals so that they don't run into the next one. You should also limit snacks to 100-200 calories and make sure that they have protein and fiber so that they make your kids feel full with less food and they are satisfied a little longer.
I recently read an article by Dr. Bill Sears about why snacking is so great for your kids. I actually read some new stuff that I hadn't considered before and it helped me think about why this website is so important for your family. So here's some reasons why snacking is so good for kids. I also hope that it makes your feel inspired to check out some recipes while you're here, so that you can make sure those snacks have less processed ingredients and are healthy.
Stomach size: Kids tummies are the size of their fists. Thus getting all their calories (and food groups) during three large meals just isn't possible with that small of a space to pack food into. Snacking makes it so that they meet their caloric and nutritional needs.
Snacking helps with concentration: Snacking promotes steady blood sugar levels, which in turn means that the brain is fed a steady supply of food. That results in better concentration on learning tasks and less moodiness due to low blood sugar.
Snacking promotes a healthy gut: When too large of meals are ingested then a portion of that food stays relatively undigested in the gut. End result: indigestion and potentially constipation. Talk about an unhappy kid...
Snacking actually promotes healthier body frames: Steady eating results in stable insulin levels. Insulin signals the body to store energy reserves (i.e. sugars and fats), so when insulin levels are high, like after gorging on a big meals, then sugars and fats get stored in the body. So keeping insulin levels steady means that less reserves will be stored.
So the next time you're going out or just hanging out around the house, don't forget the snacks. It's good for your kids and will make you a happier parent.
Note- this post originally appeared in Super Healthy Kids.
Summer is here and that means it’s time to pack up the car for a road trip. But before you hit the road, make sure that you packed plenty of snacks (and wipes) for the kids. Otherwise you’ll probably end up with junk food that you paid too much for at a gas station. So save yourself Cheetos cheese stains on the seats with some of these healthy, portable options that don’t need to be kept cold. Fruit
Apples and oranges are the usual standbys since they are hardy and don’t bruise easily, but don’t stop there. Try bagging blueberries into single servings. I use disposable coffee cups from hotels for this purpose. Other great alternatives are traditionally dried fruits or freeze dried fruits, which still give your kids health benefits without all the mess. Trail mix
Pick up some at the store or make your own with dried berries, nuts and seeds. Avoid mixes with chocolate chips since those might melt in a toasty car and may also get “preferential snacking treatment” from your kids. Whole grain crackers
Sometimes your kids need some carbohydrates to make their stomachs feel full immediately so you can make it to the next town for lunch. Whole grain crackers are a great, healthy snack that will buy you a little more mileage.
I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes a little crunch makes snacks more enjoyable. Carrots are about as crunchy as it gets, and ridiculously good for your kids.
Keep in mind with this one that not all fruit snacks are created equal. Make sure that your fruit snacks don’t have tons of sweeteners or artificial colorings. That being said there are multiple brands on the market that are sweetened and colored with fruit juice and relatively mess free.
Whole grain cereal
Cereal makes for a great snack that won’t make a mess when served dry. Pack individual servings of cereals that aren’t high in sugar so your kids don’t get stir crazy from all the sweeteners. Rice cakes
Rice cakes are mess free and come in a variety of flavors if you kids don’t like them plain. I usually put peanut butter or almond butter on them so my kids get a little protein too, but that may not be feasible for your kids in the car, depending on age and rambunctious nature. Pita chips
Pita chips are a great way to satisfy a chip craving without all the fat. They have also become popular enough that you can find them at lots of grocery stores. Jerky
Depending on the age of your kids sometimes a little meat is a great snack. An added bonus is that jerky has a lot of protein so your kids will feel fuller from it longer. You can find a variety of jerky nowadays, ranging from buffalo jerky to turkey jerky. Cherry tomatoes
These are fun to eat and relatively hardy when it comes to getting crushed.
After a lot of anticipation the USDA finally released their new take on eating a balanced diet. After taking the heat on the difficulty of understanding the food pyramid (who needs math, after all) the pyramid has now been converted into a numberless pie chart. Forget the confusing measurements and busy icons, the chart has been ultra-simplified. It's basic, colorful and amazing that someone didn't come up with it sooner. The dairy industry is happy, fruit and vegetable businesses are happy, who knows what the grains folks think and the only ones that were really shafted were the meat people.
In celebration of this event I've collected some comments I heard throughout the day when I showed off the new plate. Feel free to comment with some of your own, if you feel so inspired.
- Where's the "only sometimes" group?
- What, no spoon?
- I want a cake and butter plate on there.
- When did they separate fruits and vegetables?
- Why are the veggies so big?
- Is that what we're paying them for..
- No more water!
- Yay purple! (that was my daughter)
- Looks like vegetable snacks are on the horizon... (that was me)
Here's some good news for parents having to battle cartoon characters on the fronts of sugary cereals or salty snacks- the federal government is setting up voluntary guidelines that eliminates marketing sugary, salty foods to children. That means Toucan Sam and Chester the Cheetah would have to pack their bags and find a home elsewhere. And for parents, losing these identifiable characters on the fronts of unhealthy snacks means one less battle in the grocery store. Now if we could just do something about the candy in the checkout lane...Chester and Sam won't be out of work for long. In addition to removing such icons from unhealthy foods, the regulations push for using much marketing strategies with healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables.
Now for my anecdotal evidence to back up this maneuver- at Trader Joe's they have a monkey figurine hanging above the bananas, and my kids are really attracted to it. So by my little sample group (an n of 2, certainly not up to publishing quality but it makes me happy) I know that such campaigns can be successful.Research shows that fast food and soda advertising marketed towards kids increases consumption of those products. So these guidelines could have some real practical effects on kids diets. Just to note, some of the worst cereals, as compiled by the British based Consumers Association, marketed towards children include Cookie Crisp, Golden Grahams, Coco pops
. I always thought the little crooks on Cookie Crisp were kind of cute, but they are more insidious than I realizedI think that it's great that this collaboration between industry and government is taking place, though the voluntary nature of these regulations does make me wonder how effective it will be.
But regardless our kids could use less sugar and salt in their diets, so any step in that direction is a positive one.
Childhood obesity has tripled
in the the last 30 years
. There is a whole host of potential reasons
, yet the solutions to this epidemic are meager in proportion. And that's what makes research by Cornell professor Brian Wansink, PhD, so interesting. Dr. Wansink studies human eating behavior and has a very interesting approach to helping kids make better food choices: trickery.Traditional approaches to getting kids to eat healthier, like forcing them to eat their vegetables, can lead to resistance. As any parent knows, children don't like doing that disrupts their independence. So by manipulating their environment (or behavioral engineering, as Wansink calls it)
you can present healthier choices while making them think that they came up with it on their own accord. Here's an example that Wansink offers: if you want your kids to eat carrots, don't simply tell them to eat their carrots. Instead offer them carrots or celery, and then when they choose carrots they'll think they came up with it themselves. Another interesting approach is swapping out your plain fruit bowl for a more decorative one. More attractive dishware is more appealing, as shown in public schools in Plattsburgh, New York. When fruit was moved to the end of the food line and served in more attractive bowls, fruit sales increased four fold.Here's a list of the things that will make your kids make better choices in the foods that they choose:1. Placement
- by placing healthy foods at the end of a cafeteria line, sales of fruit can increase up to 70%.2. Marketing
: Change the name of your vegetable of fruit to make it more appealing. A great example comes from the blog Super Healthy Kids
, in which Amy suggested calling avocados alligator pears to make them more attractive.3. Convenience:
Keeping that fruit bowl within kids reach, in the center of the table for example, will make them more likely to opt for fruit for a snack.4. Visual cues:
By keeping healthy foods more visible, kids are more likely to select them. Likewise, keeping high-fat and high empty calorie foods out of sight, they are less likely to attract your children's attention.Hopefully these simple strategies will help making your kids diets healthier, without adding any conflict to the dinner table.