Making Family Meals Happen

Was reading this awesome article by Jessica Levinson, an RDN and author of Small Bites blog on How to Make Family Meals Happen. Found her post to be useful and her info-graphics engaging especially for busy families. It would also compliment some of my previous posts on the importance of family meals and fun conversation starters.

I thought I would share. This is the link to the original blog.

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Kitchen Tools that Kids Can Use

A year ago I posted a blog article that listed the tasks children can help with in the kitchen by age. Today I decided to expand upon that idea, highlighting kitchen equipment and tools that kids can use and an easy recipe that kids can do with little to no supervision.

A Blender

This tool is versatile in the kitchen. It can be used to make smoothies, sauces, dips, and for combining ingredients in some recipes. It’s also a tool that kids ages 6-9 can use on their own. For the first time though it might be beneficial to have some supervision.

The two recipes I chose to highlight in today’s blog are dips and smoothies. These two I have found while working at WIC to be something of a fan favorite for kids. If your child is texture sensitive try experimenting with recipes to see if you can change the texture  or even taste. Personally, I like smooth/creamy textures and have an aversion to gritty textures so these two recipes highlight the first two texture combinations.

Green Monster Smoothie

1/2 c. of milk

1/2 c. of ice cubes

1/2 c. of vanilla yogurt

1 large banana

1/2 c. of baby spinach

1.) Add all ingredients in a blender.

2,) Blend on high for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.

3.) Pour into cups and enjoy!

Monster Mash Yogurt Dip

1 c. of greek yogurt

1 c. of baby spinach

1/2 small green pepper

1 medium sized chive

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1.) Put all ingredients into the blender.

2.) Pulse mixture until well blended and smooth

3.) Serve with tortilla chips of veggie sticks

 

Preparing your Family for the Farmer’s Market

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Image courtesy of winnod at freedigitalphotos.net

Now, being prepared to attend a Farmer’s Market is very similar to being prepared to go grocery shopping with your kids. It takes preparation! It takes time! Is it worth it?

Heck yeah, it is. Here’s some tips for getting ready for the Farmer’s Market:

1.) Do some Research

Before stepping foot into a Farmer’s Market it helps to know which market you’ll be attending and what they sell. A city’s website that has posted the event is probably a good place to begin. Apps like Farmstand can help offer this type of information too. There is also government websites like Mass.gov.

2.) Make a shopping list

Just as if you were going to your local grocery store you want to have a general list of what you plan to get. Or what you want to look at. Have your kids decide some of the things that’ll go on the list.

3.) Make Room for Un-expected Purchases

The unexpected happens, so go prepared. You want to be able to have the freedom to buy unexpected purchases that just can’t be passed up.

4.) Bring a re-usable bag

Those cloth bags just sitting in your closet. Now’s a good time to use them. They’re also good for the environment. No plastic bags!

5.) Communicate your Plan of Action (before leaving the car)

If your going with your children and have more than 2 or 3 this is a very important step. Make sure your kids know how the day will go. Sticking together is sometimes the best bet.

6.) Bring a laminated copy of The List

Just like on an ordinary shopping trip let your kids check off the foods on the shopping list.

7.) Designate  “Jobs”

Give each child a “job” to do at the market. This may be as simple as instructing them to help you pick the best tomatoes.

Refer to Kid’s Kitchen: Tips to get you from Store to Fridge for additional shopping tips.

 

 

 

 

5 Ways that Farmer’s Markets Teach Kids about Food

On Monday, the WIC office was packed with only a few hours in between the morning and afternoon groups. It  was our Farmer’s Market Coupon Giveaway Day, All of us were on our feet taking turns between education and crowd control! I was able to share with my clients much of what I’ve been writing about over the past few months especially the benefits to their children.

Through Farmer’s Markets kids learn about food by:

1.) Learning about sustainability/agriculture

Kids will learn where their food comes from and how it’s grown!

2.) Interacting with local farmers

Kids will learn so much from listening to local farmer’s talk about their crops/farms.

3.) Enjoying Seasonal Eating

Kids will learn how the environment effects what food is grown and where.

4.) Identifying different fruits and vegetables

Farmer’s Markets are a classroom where kids will be exposed to a variety of produce, both ones they know and ones they don’t know.

5.) Incorporating fruits and vegetables into family meals

By preparing foods found at Farmer’s Markets kids will learn how the food process works from beginning to end.

The next blog will be about how to prepare for a farmer’s market. Having a game plan is a necessity for large and small families alike, especially ones with small children.

9 Benefits of Farmer’s Markets

One of the best parts of a farmer’s market  is that you get to support locally grown food and your community. By doing so you:

1.)  Shorten the distance between farm and table –  From your farmer’s hands to yours = very simple

There aren’t too many things that beat being able to go down to your local farmer, pick your own produce, and eat it the same day.  (At least, there aren’t too many for a Nutritionist!) First, it’s fresher. Second, it didn’t have to travel half way round the world for you to get it. And third,  you know where it came from.

2.) Decrease environmental pollution

By decreasing travel you decrease air pollution.

3.) Preserve nutrients 

The further a food travels the greater the length of time a food will remain on the shelf, and the more likely the nutrients in that food may be lost.

4.)  May decrease pesticide exposure

This is not always the case because even local farmer’s use some pesticides. The upside, is that fewer may be used and some may be more “natural” than the ones used by larger farms.  You still have to wash your produce though! This leads me to my next benefit.

5.) Get to Know your Farmers

Taking the time to learn about your local farmers means you get to learn what’s being offered in your community, what foods are commonly grown in which regions, and how those foods are being grown. There’s just more transparency.

6.) Support the Economy

By buying produce and other goods at a farmer’s market revenue tends to stay in the community thus boosting the economy. Not to mention that for larger farmer’s markets it opens up more job opportunities within the community.

7.) Save Farmland

The more people visit farmer’s markets the greater the demand, and the more likely it is that farmers will continue farming. It’s supply and demand. Very similar to how I might advise a mom that the more she breastfeeds the more milk she has for her baby.

8.) Receive Great Tips for Cooking foods

Don’t know how to use a food you find? No problem. Just ask the farmer. Unlike supermarket chains farmers’ markets have the advantage of one on one advice from your farmer.

9.) Promote Community Partnerships

Some farmers’ markets and farm shares partner with  nutrition programs to help bring fresh fruits and veggies to those on state run programs like WIC and SNAP.  Mass.gov has more information about which farmers’ markets accept WIC/SNAP.

 

The Four W’s of Farmer’s Markets

 

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Image is courtesy of Sira Anamwong at freedigitalphotos.net

It’s Farmer’s Market season at the WIC office! And this means that for the next few months we’ll all be really busy talking with clients about the benefits of farmer’s markets. We also give vouchers for fruits and vegetables for those on WIC and collaborate with Lynn’s local farmer’s market to help our community. It’s a win-win situation for every one involved. This year we’re even giving out seeds to encourage young children to grow their own garden.

What a great way to teach our children about food! So, what are the four W’s of a farmer’s market?

What is a Farmer’s Market?

According to the Farmer’s Market Coalition a farmer’s market is a group of local farmer’s or their representatives who gather in public to sell their produce “directly to consumers”.

It’s also a chance to get to meet your local farmers, talk to them about what they’re offering your community, and meet new people. And all this while shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables for your family. Visiting farmer’s markets are also a great summer activity to do with your children.

Where are they located?

Farmer’s markets can be found in cities and towns all over Massachusetts and the United States. In fact the farmer’s market coalition provides three great resources to locate farmer’s markets in the US. The two that I found most helpful are as follows:

1.) The USDA’s Farmer’s Market Directory

2.) EatWellGuide.org

The USDA’s directory works by entering your zip code and adjusting the mileage you’d like to drive. EatWell allows you to enter your state and what you are searching for. Both give you information about every farmer’s market in the area, links to their websites, and other information.

Another helpful tool I recently found was an app for locating farmer’s markets. The Farmstand is an app that uses your location to find farmer’s market in your area. I was able to down load this app for free on iTunes.

What do they sell?

Farmer’s markets go by the season and the area in which you live. As a result what they sell varies from market to market. Most markets will sell fruits and vegetables, but will also sell milk, eggs, cheese, bread, meats/fish.  Some larger ones will even offer non-food items like flowers, herbs, & local crafts.

When  do they set up shop?

Local farmer’s can set up shop based on the season or all year long. I’ve known some farmer’s markets that are around in the winter months, but these are mostly located inside. The majority of farmer’s markets can be found in the spring, summer, and autumn.

The next blog will feature the 9  benefits of farmer’s markets followed by 5 ways farmer’s markets teach kids about food.

5 Tips for Transforming Kids Favorites into Healthier Alternatives

Working at WIC I talk with lots of parents whose kids often eat foods high in sugar, salt, and fat. Most of these foods are frozen, fast foods like hamburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries, or mac and cheese.  While these are okay on occasion it is not recommended to have on a regular basis. This is because foods high in sugar, salt, and fat can increase weight, make it harder for kids to keep up with classmates, and increase chronic disease like diabetes.

I enjoy talking with parents about ways to transform these fast food favorites into healthier alternatives that both children and parents can agree on. The struggle I, and many other Nutritionists, face though is how to guide parents into behavioral change that is long lasting.

Some struggles parents and caretakers face are finding time to prepare healthy meals while working full time, kids who are picky eaters, and financial struggles that limit the foods that one can buy.

A few days ago I came across an article from the public health practice group affiliated with the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This article summarized a recent survey given to parents about whether or not they believed they were offering their children healthy foods. What saddened me about the article is that only “1 in 3 parents reported feeling like they’re teaching their kids healthy eating habits”.

For these reasons, I decided to share some tips that could help put healthier versions of kids favorites on the table without all the fuss.

1.) Swap out ingredients for healthier ones

For example, if a recipe for Mac & Cheese calls for enriched white pasta use whole wheat instead. Have someone with Celiac’s disease or a wheat sensitivity? Use a whole grain based pasta . Whole wheat & whole grain offer more fiber, nutrients, and iron than enriched or white pasta does.

2.) When you can, prepare ahead of time. 

When making home made chicken nuggets a base bread crumb recipe can be prepared a head of time with the families favorite spices and stored in the cabinet for later use.

3.) Choose lean meats.

Instead of preparing hamburgers with ground beef try ground turkey or canned salmon instead. White meats or fish have less saturated fats than red meats & are a healthier alternative.

4.) Bake instead of fry.

When my clients tell me they fry their plantains I suggest they bake/broil it instead. This tip can be used for a lot of foods that are usually fried such as chicken nuggets, french fries, and hamburgers.

5.) Substitute or Add Vegetables

The other day I came across a Mac & Cheese recipe that incorporated squash! Adding veggies or substituting alternative ones can add fiber, vitamins, and minerals to foods that are traditionally high in calories and low in nutrients. This can also work for picky eaters. Other ideas can be sweet potato fries, kale chips, or baked carrots/parsnip fries.