Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making Hand Washing Fun!

I found this article recently about ways to make hand washing fun for kids. There are some links to songs and even a recipe for fun soap. Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cookbooks and Portion Distortion

You are probably aware that restaurants are often guilty of "portion distortion" -serving portions that are much bigger than they used to be and much more food than you should really eat in one sitting! But, did you know that some cookbooks are equally at fault? A recent analysis of cookbooks published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at how recipes have changed over the past 70 years. They specifically looked at The Joy of Cooking cookbook published in 1936 and how the recipes in it compared to the 2006 edition of the cookbook. The study looked at 18 recipes that were present in all seven editions of the cookbook published since 1936 (chicken gumbo, corn chowder, plain omelet, Spanish rice, chicken a la king, goulash, biscuits, blueberry muffins, cornbread, brownies, sugar cookies, rice pudding, tapioca pudding, baked macaroni, waffles, apple pie, chocolate cake, and chili con carne).

The study found that the calories per serving in all of the recipes increased (by two-thirds on average). This was a result of not only the addition of more higher-calorie ingredients such as butter, meat, and sugar, but was also due to larger serving sizes. For example, in the 1997 edition of the cookbook, the basic waffle recipe made 12 six-inch waffles. In 2006, the same ingredients made about six waffles.

What can you do? Remember to be wary of the definition of a "serving" when dining out or preparing a recipe a home. You can often get a better idea of what a serving really is by looking at the calorie content of the "serving" (if it is available). Another strategy for controlling your calorie intake is to concentrate on filling 2/3 of your plate with plant foods (fruits, vegetables and whole grains). The size of dinner plates has grown substantially over the years too. By using smaller plates (9-inch diameter or smaller), you can feel satisfied with an appropriate amount of food at meal time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Home Child Care and Exercise

I recently read an article from the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine about a study of approximately 300 home-based child care providers in Oregon. The study, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091215145044.htm, had some good and "not-so-good" findings.

The study was conducted by Oregon State University's Stewart Trost who is an expert on childhood obesity issues. First the good news: he found that most providers did "pretty well" in regards to serving nutritious foods and teaching children about healthy eating habits. A couple of nutrition concerns he did have included the use of whole milk in children over the age of 2, and the overuse of fruit juice in the menus. Children over the age of 2 do not need the extra saturated fat that comes with a serving of whole milk. Skim and lowfat milk both provide the same nutrients as whole milk but at a lower calorie cost! Juice should be limited to 4 ounces per day and fruit should be served instead so that children get the benefit of healthy fiber.

The "not-so-good: news? 2/3 of the providers reported that they had the tv on most of the day! Also, many providers reported that the children sat for extended periods during the day. Remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours of television per day for children between the ages of 2 and 5, and none for children under the age of 2. You may also recall that it is recommended that toddlers should accumulate at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity every day and at least 60 minutes unstructured physical activity every day. For preschoolers, the recommendations are 60 minutes structured and at least 60 minutes unstructured.

An interesting fact from the study was that the majority of the providers had not received any training in physical activity. While this is not a requirement of the job, it does help to know the developmental skills for each age group of children. Then you can find activities to enhance these skills.

The following website is an excellent resource if you are looking for ideas on how to get your kids moving :http://nccic.acf.hhs.gov/fitsource/ !

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sweet Potato Puffs

I recently tried out a recipe that I found in an old Parents magazine. The recipe was for "Goldfish Puffs". They are made out of sweet potatoes so they end up looking like giant goldfish crackers. I did not have a goldfish cookie cutter so I used a flower cookie cutter. I also just made some "free-form" puffs which were fine too. My children enjoyed these puffs very much! These would be a great addition to any meal, or a great nutrient-rich part of snack!

Sweet Potato Puffs (adapted from Parents magazine recipe)

You will need:
1 large sweet potato
1/4 cup skim milk
3 Tablespoons instant potato flakes (not granules)
1/2 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Poke holes in the sweet potato. Microwave the sweet potato for 9 minutes or until cooked through. Cut in half; let cool.
3. Scrape the sweet potato into a bowl. Add milk, potato flakes, brown sugar and salt. Whip with an electric mixer until smooth.
4. In another bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
5. Fold egg whites into potato mixture.
6. Coat a baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray.
7. If using a cookie cutter, spray the cutter with cooking spray. Place the cutter on the baking sheet, and fill with potato mixture.
8. Lift the cookie cutter up to create the fish.
(If not using cookie cutter, drop mixture by Tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet. Flatten slightly into circle shapes.)
9. Repeat with remaining potato mixture.
10. Bake 15 minutes or until puffed. Serve immediately if possible. (If you don't the puffs will deflate a little but still taste great!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Breakfast in a cup

Looking for a quick breakfast or snack that won't involve making a big mess in the kitchen? I recently tried out (and adapted slightly) a recipe for "scrambled eggs in a mug" that I found on the Iowa State University Extension page. It was indeed quick and easy and would be a great part of a nutrient-rich snack, or part of breakfast for a child!

Scrambled Eggs in a Mug

You will need:
1 egg and 1 egg white
1 Tablespoon skim milk
1-2 Tablespoons salsa (optional)
1 Tablespoon lowfat shredded cheese (optional)

Spray the inside of a microwave-safe mug with non-stick cooking spray.
Pour the egg, egg white and milk into the mug. Beat well.
Cover with waxed paper and microwave on full power for 45 seconds.
Stir. Cook 30 seconds more.
Stir in salsa and cheese if using.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Don't Get Caught Up in the Berry Hype

Chances are you have heard about goji berries and acai berries. These two little berries have been touted as the greatest of the"superfoods" everywhere from the internet to magazines and radio ads. They have been associated with claims about improved digestion, weight loss, improved immune function, improved eyesight, and longevity. But are they really as "super" as they seem? Maybe not.

Like many other fruits, goji berries are a rich source of vitamin C, carotenoids, and other antioxidants. In animal and test tube studies, goji berries have been shown to have antioxidant, and immune-enhancing properties. However, research involving actual humans and goji berry consumption has been very sparse and poorly executed. The acai berry research is equally inconclusive. Most of the studies on acai have also been done in test tubes and on animals.

Despite the lack of evidence for the all of the claims for these two berries, there is no doubt that berries in general (blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.) are a healthy addition to your diet. They are naturally high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium, and manganese. While there is not much harm in eating the goji or acai berries if you like the taste of them (except that they are VERY expensive), it is important to remember that variety is a key to good nutrition. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, instead of relying solely on one type of berry's contributions, will provide you with the healthy plant fiber; vitamins; minerals and antioxidants that you need. In fact, research has shown that the "synergistic" effect of eating many different kinds of fruits and vegetables every day (and not "putting all of your eggs in one berry" so to speak) is very valuable indeed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Food Safety Widget

Are you interested in keeping up with the latest food recalls? We have installed a brand new "widget" on this blog (under the monthly picture at the top right section of the blog) so that you may see the lastest recalls. The widget has just been launched by the government and is linked to http://www.foodsafety.gov/ (which has all of the most up-to-date recall information). You will also find that the widget has a "tips" section where you can access tips for food safety. We will still be posting important recall information on our website under the recall section.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Are you making this common cooking mistake?

Did you know that the method you use to cook your food can affect how many of the original nutrients are in the final product? Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B vitamins, deteriorate when they are exposed to light or cooked in water or acid. Recent research has shown that these cooking methods can decrease other antioxidants found in vegetables as well. So, boiling your vegetables in a big pot of water is not a good idea. Try steaming, stir-frying, sauteeing, microwaving, or grilling them instead. For maximum nutrient preservation it is also important to avoid overcooking your vegetables. Not only do veggies taste better when they are crisp-tender, they are better for you.

Potatoes are one good example of how food preparation can change a food's nutrients. A medium baked potato contains about 17 milligrams of vitamin C (approximately 23% of an adult woman's daily needs) and about 160 calories. If you peel the potato and boil it to make mashed potatoes, much of the vitamin C and potassium will be lost in the water. If you eat your potato in the form of french fries instead; the potato will likely be peeled, cut and fried. This will destroy many of the nutrients and you would have to eat about 1,600 calories worth of fries to get that same 17 milligrams of vitamin C (not to mention all of the extra fat and sodium found in the french-fried potatoes).

Here is another interesting vitamin fact that you may not know. Do you know why milk is sold most often in cartons and opaque plastic jugs? The answer is that riboflavin, a necessary B vitamin, is destroyed by light. Milk is an important source of riboflavin in the typical American's diet along with enriched grains, whole grains, poultry, fish and some vegetables.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lovely lentils

What's not to like about lentils? Lentils offer the same benefits that dried beans do (they are inexpensive, full of nutrients and fiber, and rich in phytochemicals), but lentils are easier to cook than dried beans since they require no soaking before cooking. In addition, many people find that lentils are less likely to cause gas during digestion.

What's in them? Just 1/2 cup of lentils provides nearly as much fiber as two cups of cooked oatmeal. The fiber in lentils is the soluble kind which can help lower blood cholesterol. Lentils are also rich in iron, protein, folate, magnesium and potassium. Lentils are considered a "nutrient-rich" food because they offer many nutrients yet lentils are low in calories.

Which ones should you choose? There are different types of lentils you can use depending on what type of recipe you are making. Brown and green lentils hold their shape after being cooked so they are ideal to use in salads, side dishes and entrees. Red lentils are often used in soups because they break down and become soft and act as a thickening agent. You can find lentils among the bags of beans at your local grocery store. You will usually find more varieties of lentils at health food stores where they are often found in the bulk section.

Here is my kids' favorite lentil soup recipe. As with all soups, this tastes best if you can make it the day before serving it and let the flavor develop in the refrigerator overnight.

Lentil Stew

2 medium carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons canola oil
3 cups water
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can (14.5 oz) vegetable broth
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes with no added salt, undrained
1 (4oz) can chopped green chilies

In a Dutch oven, cook the carrots, celery, onion and garlic in the canola oil until the veggies are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the water, potatoes, broth, lentils, salt, cumin,, and cayenne pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and chilies. Heat through.

Makes 28 servings. Each serving creditable for 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable component for 3-5 year old children at lunch or supper.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Winter squash

Fall is the perfect time to start cooking up some winter squash! Since squash is currently in season you will find the greatest variety, best price, and freshest product right now. Winter squash comes in many different sizes and shapes, but most varieties are a great source of beta-carotene. You will also find a quite a few other nutrients contained in the flesh of these delicious vegetables. For example, butternut squash is also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, fiber, and folate.

Squash is most commonly split in half and baked; but it can be used in soups, stews, sauces and breads. Here is a quick and tasty "souffle" recipe using squash.

Butternut Squash Souffle

2 cups cooked, mashed squash
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the squash, butter and oil. Mix well. Blend in the sugar, milk, salt and cinnamon. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat well. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 1 1/2 quart dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until set.

Makes 8 servings. Each serving creditable for 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable component at lunch or supper for 3-5 year old children.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Web resources for home child care providers

I wanted to let you know about a couple of websites that you might find useful in your child care business. The first website is a learn-to-read website that helps teach children to read while having fun. At http://www.starfall.com/ you will find reading games, books, and activities for many different age groups. In addition, they have reading resources available for purchase in their online store. The second website is: http://fitbyfun.com/index where you can find fun workouts to download. These workouts involve easy moves done by animated characters and are perfect when the weather doesn't allow for outside exercise. One more website that you might find helpful is Playnormus: http://www.playnormous.com/game_foodfury.cfm. At this website you can find online games such as "lunch crunch", "food fury", and "bubble trouble" for kids to play and learn as well as some ideas for teaching children about "go, slow and whoa" foods.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Helping kids build stronger bones

You probably know that the calcium in milk is vital for helping kids build strong bones; but did you know that a child's vitamin D, salt, and soda intake can make a difference too?

Building healthy bones is very important for young children! Up until the age of about 30, the human body builds healthy bone (if a "bone-building" diet is followed). After this age, it is not possible to increase one's bone density. It is therefore key for children to build a healthy skeleton while they are young. Building very dense bones when you are young ensures a greater reserve of bone so that as age-associated degradation occurs, the chances of developing osteoporosis are decreased. In addition, strong and healthy bones are less likely to break.

Just what is included in a "bone-building" diet?

Calcium- our bodies need calcium to build healthy teeth and bones. Calcium can be found in milk and dairy products as well as in foods such as fortified orange juice, tofu and leafy greens.

Potassium- potassium-rich fruits and vegetables can help make bones stronger. Serve bananas, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, oranges, potatoes, leafy greens and other potassium-rich foods every day.

Vitamin D- vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and is therefore vital for building bone. Unfortunately, most kids do not get enough vitamin D. Our bodies can make vitamin D from the sun shining on our skin. However, in the winter here in Colorado we are too far north to get enough direct sunlight for this to happen. Make sure to include food sources of vitamin D such as fortified milk, eggs, fish, and mushrooms. If you are relying on yogurt to get your vitamin D, be sure and check the label. Many brands of yogurt are not made with fortified milk and do not contain vitamin D.

Sodium- too much sodium in the diet can cause calcium to be leached out of our bones and excreted in the urine. Most kids eat way too much salt in a day so this can be a big problem. Remember, most of the sodium in an average child's diet comes from processed foods. Cut down on processed foods by serving more fresh, whole foods and take the salt shaker off of the table.

Soda- not only does soda hurt a child's diet by replacing milk at mealtime, it also contains phosphoric acid. It is thought that phosphoric acid can cause calcium to be leached out of bones.

And finally, not a diet recommendation but still very important:

Exercise- children need "weight-bearing" exercise to build healthy bone. Weight-bearing exercise is any exercise that involves making your body work against gravity. Examples include walking, hiking, running, and all activities that involve these skills such as playing tag.

Don't forget your own diet! It is important for adults to follow these dietary and exercise tips too. Did you know that approximately 10 million Americans older than 50 years old have osteoporosis and an additional 34 million are at risk? You can keep your bones healthy and strong for a longer period of time by taking these tips to heart.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cranberry time

It's cranberry season! I always look forward to seeing the bags of fresh cranberries show up in the supermarket produce section this time of year because I love making cranberry-nut bread! Cranberries are not only delicious, but they are nutritious too. Cranberries are probably best known for their role in the prevention of urinary tract infections (due to their antibacterial properties), but they are bursting with other nutrients as well. They are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and vitamin K. Cranberries are also full of antioxidant phytochemicals which are thought to help with the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease.

Cranberries are usually only available in the store from October through December, so be sure to buy some soon. Fortunately, they do freeze well and can be stored in the freezer for use later on in the year.

Here is one of my kid's favorite cranberry recipes, the creamy yogurt adds a nice sweetness to downplay the tartness of the berries.

Cranberry Waldorf Salad

Makes 16 servings. Each serving is creditable for 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable component at lunch or supper for 3-5 year old children.

You will need:
1 1/2 cups chopped cranberries
1 cup chopped red apple (leave the peel on)
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1/2 cup raisins*
1/4 cup chopped walnuts*
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
8 ounces lowfat vanilla yogurt

1. Combine all ingredients, toss to coat.
2. Cover and chill 2 hours. Stir before serving.

*can be a choking hazard.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Whole fruit vs juice

You may be aware that the CACFP (and the American Academy of Pediatrics) encourages limiting juice to one serving per day for children. I get many people asking me why this is the case. The main reason is that fruit contains healthy fiber that is not found in juice. This healthy fiber is one reason why fruit is more filling and keeps a child fuller longer. Also, calories from liquids don't curb your appetite like calories from solid foods, so it is easy to eat more calories than you need by "drinking" them. In addition, most children (and adults) do not get enough fiber every day and serving fruit instead of juice is a great way to get more.

Need more convincing? Plants put a lot of potent natural compounds into the outer layer of their fruit. This is meant to protect the plant's seeds from predators and from the environment. The bonus for us is that these natural compounds are good for our bodies. The phytochemicals and antioxidants found in fruits are thought to decrease our risk of certain chronic diseases. When fruit is processed into juice, many of these antioxidants are destroyed. There is also further loss when the juice is stored for long periods of time.

1 cup orange juice - 110 calories, 0 g fiber, 137% vitamin C req. for the day
1 large orange- 85 calories, 4 g fiber, 163% vitamin C req. for the day

It all adds up, fruit is the wiser choice for better nutrition!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Healthy Diet Can Help Play An Important Role In Controlling Asthma Symptoms

Several studies over the last couple of years have shown that following a "Mediterranean" diet may protect against respiratory allergies and asthma in children. You may be aware that over the past 20 years, childhood allergy and asthma rates have greatly increased in many countries, including the U.S. In Crete, however, children continue to have low rates of both of these conditions. Researchers believe that the food these children eat is the reason. Children in Crete eat many more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables than typical children in the U.S. In particular, researchers found that apples, oranges, fresh tomatoes and grapes had a protective effect against wheezing and allergic rhinitis.

Individual foods or food groups that contributed to the protective effect of the Mediterranean diet included fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and cereals. Foods that had a detrimental effect on asthma symptoms included red meat, margarine, and junk food.

Bottom line: Feeding all children a Mediterranean diet is a great idea even if they don't suffer from asthma or respiratory allergies. The Mediterranean diet (see picture above) focuses on a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, healthy fats such as olive oil, and small amounts of fish. Moderate amounts of milk, yogurt and cheese are also included on the Mediterranean diet (obviously you would leave out the wine recommendation when feeding children). Eating a Mediterranean diet has been shown to be protective and decrease risk for many other conditions such as hypertension, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mother (nature) knows best!

The benefits of breastmilk are well known, but it never ceases to amaze me the new advantages to breastfeeding that are being discovered every day! A new study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience 1 shows that breastmilk changes quite markedly throughout the course of a day to meet a baby's needs (something that formula cannot do). This study found that the levels of certain nucleotides (adenosine, guanosine, and uridine) varied throughout a 24 hour period and peaked in the breastmilk that was produced during the evening (8 pm to 8 am). These nucleotides are thought to promote restfulness and to help induce sleep in babies. Therefore, the increased levels of these nucleotides in the evening milk could play a role in helping babies relax and sleep. The researchers noted that this would mean that expressed breast milk should be fed to the baby at around the same time of day that it was expressed because "it has day-specific ingredients that stimulate activity in the infant, and other night-time components that help the baby to rest". Fascinating!

1 Sánchez et al. The possible role of human milk nucleotides as sleep inducers. Nutritional Neuroscience, 2009; 12 (1): 2 DOI: 10.1179/147683009X388922

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Are you getting enough grains?

Maybe not. A new survey* shows that only 4% of Americans eat the recommended six daily servings of grains. This poll found that the average daily grain intake among adults is 3.2 servings, a far cry from the six recommended servings. In addition, this survey found that Americans are also not making "half of their grains whole" as advised by MyPyramid. According to the poll, only 11% of total grain consumption consists of whole grains. What are we missing out on when we don't eat enough grains? Grains (especially whole grains) are a great source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, B vitamins, and minerals such as iron and magnesium.

Are you wondering just how to get six servings of grains in your daily diet? The Grain Foods Council recently launched a "Daily 6" campaign to encourage healthy grain consumption. The group states that eating enough grains is "as easy as having cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and a cup of pasta with dinner." This is a great way to look at it, and if you make your sandwich on whole wheat bread, and choose either a whole grain cereal or whole grain pasta, you have even succeeded in making half of your grains whole! One serving of grain is one slice of bread, 1 cup of ready to eat cereal, or 1/2 cup of cooked pasta, rice or hot cereal.

Looking for whole grain recipes? Here are a few resources:






*The Harris Interactive poll of 2,106 US adults.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Great suggestions!

We have been getting quite a few wonderful suggestions from our providers about how they add variety to their meals and how they keep their menus exciting for their children. We included some of these suggestions in our latest monitoring unit but we wanted to post some more here because there were so many we didn't have room for. It has made me smile to read about all of the ways our providers are making their mealtimes fun!

Here are some more suggestions:

  • Call hamburgers and sloppy joes "crabby patties".
  • Squeeze happy faces with ketchup on the children's plates.
  • Use dinner roll dough to make "roll animals" such as turtles.
  • Make a "waffle pizza". Spread spaghetti sauce on the waffle and have children put ingredients in each waffle hole (chunks of ham, chicken, cheese, grape tomatoes, pepper, pineapple).
  • Put chopped grapes and finely diced celery into chicken salad for a crunchy texture.
  • Serve an all finger food meal-no forks or knives needed!
  • Stir cereal into yogurt for extra crunch.
  • Serve a variety of shapes on the plate- circle, triangle, rectangle.
  • Serve the "smiley face" potatoes that can be found in the store with the frozen french fries.
  • Color the food to match a holiday (Valentine's day, St. Patrick's day, etc.)

These helpful suggestions just keep coming in so I will post more as I get them. If you are a Wildwood provider who sent a suggestion in, thank you!

Friday, September 11, 2009

More free resources

Here are a few more free resources that would be great for home child care providers:

You can get a free Beech-Nut baby food starter kit and coupons if you sign up for their eNewsletter: http://www.beechnut.com/solidfood/index.asp?sourceID=81.

If you are exploring ways help the environment, the EPA has a free book that would be a great addition to your lesson plans. You can order a free copy of The Magic School Bus Gets Cleaned up by calling 1-800-490-9198 and asking for item # EPA420-K-07-001 (limit one book per household). For more information, their website is: http://www.epa.gov/OMS/schoolbus/outreach.htm#order_pubs.

If you know of any more free resources, feel free to share them!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Try something new!

Have you ever thought of substituting spaghetti squash for your regular pasta when serving spaghetti? Spaghetti squash is a type of winter squash. After cooking, you can scrape noodle-like strands from the flesh that look just like spaghetti. I was recently asked how spaghetti squash comapares nutritionally to regular pasta so I thought that I would share with you what I found.

Spaghetti squash is lower in calories than regular wheat pasta. The squash has 42 calories per cup vs. the 220 calories per cup in spaghetti. It also provides beta-carotene (vitamin A) and three times the potassium of pasta. On the other hand, the pasta has more iron and protein than the squash. If you choose a whole-wheat pasta, you will get more fiber in the pasta than in the squash.

Bottom line: if you are looking for a fun way to serve a new vegetable, serve the squash! It is a nutrient-rich food and a fun way to serve an orange vegetable. (The squash is creditable as a vegetable, not a bread. So if you choose the squash, serve another bread at the meal) If you choose to serve the regular pasta, serve a whole-wheat version for a nutrient-rich choice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Too many cucumbers?

It seems like it has been a great year for cucumbers! They are plentiful in gardens and farmer's markets right now. Cucumbers are delicious sliced and eaten raw, by themselves or in a sandwich with lowfat cream cheese. If you looking for another way to serve those cukes, here is a great recipe to use.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

you will need:
9 cups thinly sliced cucumbers (peeled or not)
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 drops Tabasco sauce

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients and stir well. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour over cuke mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Free Fit for Kids DVD

I just received some information about a free DVD that is being offered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Max's Magical Delivery: Fit for Kids is an interactive DVD that is targeted to children ages 5-9 and their parents. It was developed to help children eat more nutritious foods and to be more physically active. You can order it by calling 1-800-358-9295 and asking for product #04-0088-DVD) or by following this link to an electronic order form: http://www.ahrq.gov/child/dvdobesity.htm.

Get Ready for the Flu

We know that the H1N1 flu will probably rear its ugly head again this fall as children go back to school and share germs. The Colorado Department of Health has recently posted some guidance for schools and some of the information is worth noting for home child care providers. You can find the flu website at: http://www.flu.gov/. At that website you can find valuable information about stopping the spread of the flu and an article about caring for those with the flu: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance_homecare.htm.

When I took my son to the pediatrician last week, he said that there will likely be two flu shots offered this fall, one for H1N1 and one for the seasonal flu. I am just hoping that the flu season will turn out to be less of an epidemic than predicted!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Vitamin D and Kids

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics finding that 7 in 10 kids have insufficient vitamin D levels is causing quite a stir. Previous studies had shown that many kids are vitamin D deficient, but this is the first one to show the magnitude of the problem. Low vitamin D levels in children can cause a higher risk of bone problems (vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium), high blood pressure, and other problems.

There are a couple of reasons for the vast number of children not getting enough D. Children are spending more time inside and not getting the sunshine they need to produce vitamin D naturally in their bodies. In addition, milk is often replaced by soda or juice at mealtime, leading to less vitamin D in the diet. The use of sunscreen may also be a factor. It is still appropriate to put sunscreen on your children, but a couple of times a week you need to allow children to get about 15 minutes of sunshine on their arms, legs or back before applying the sunscreen.

For more information : http://cbs4denver.com/health/vitamin.d.kids.2.1113447.html

Friday, July 31, 2009

Kids and TV

We all know that children should not be allowed to watch too much television. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television for children under the age of 2, and recommends that older children be limited to 1-2 hours of "screen time" per day (that includes computer games, video watching and internet usage). But, it is also important to limit eating while watching tv. There have been many studies done showing that eating while watching tv leads to overeating! When people eat "mindlessly" while gazing at the tv, instead of being "mindful" while they are eating, they often don't realize how much they are eating. This can lead to eating much more food than they had planned to eat-suddenly the whole chip bag is empty! Also, most food eaten while watching tv tends to be nutrient-poor food such as that bag of chips, or cookies.

A recent study: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/business/media/20drill.html?_r=2 shows that watching food advertisments while eating in front of the tve can spur children to eat even more.

Bottom line: Don't allow children or yourself to eat while watching tv. Teach children about "mindful" eating. For example, take time to savor and enjoy your food. While eating with your children, talk about the juiciness of the oranges, the nice cold milk, or whatever else you are enjoying about your meal.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Benefits of Barley

If you have been anywhere near the cereal aisle of your local store lately, you are probably aware that eating oats can help lower your cholesterol. The Quaker Oats company and Cheerios have made this a big part of their marketing campaigns ("Cheerios can reduce your cholesterol" shouts out at you from the Cheerios box. "Unleash the power of the oat" says the Quaker Oats box.) But, something you might not know, is that barley contains the same cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber that oats do (beta-glucan). Recent studies have shown that people who regularly eat barley have the same reductions in LDL ("bad") cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol that oat eaters do.

Barley is a little different than most whole grains because barley contains fiber throughout its entire kernel. (The fiber in most other whole grains is concentrated in the outer bran layer of the grain). So even the processed varieties of barley retain some of the healthy fiber found in whole barley.

Many different forms of barley can be found on your supermarket's shelves. These include whole, pearled, flakes,"quick", grits, and flour. Pearled barley is the most common type of barley. It goes through a "pearling" process in which the hull and bran parts of the grain are removed. Some of the nutrients are lost in the process, but it cooks faster. Whole barley (sometimes called "hulled" or "hull-less" barley) has had the inedible hull removed but retains many more nutrients than pearled barley. The downside is, of course, that it takes much longer to cook.

How to use it?
Barley is a great addition to soups and stews, or it can be used instead of rice in a side dish.
My favorite time saving tip is to cook a big batch of barley and freeze it. It can then be added to soups or casseroles as needed.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Save the Date-Fall Wildwood Conference

Wildwood will be presenting our fall conference on September 26, 2009. We are excited to announce that we will be partnering with Children's Hospital, and the conference will be at their new hospital location (Colfax and I-225). The conference will be from 7:30-4:30 and the registration cost is $30. For your registration fee, you can enjoy a light breakfast and lunch, plus 7 hours of continuing education credits. I will be presenting a nutrition workshop, plus we have many other great speakers and activities. I will be posting more information soon about how to register.
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Food Safety

On Monday night we had quite a storm in the Denver area! Lots of hail and damaging winds and widespread power outages in some areas. I have been receiving some calls today from people whose power is just now back on and they are wondering if the food in their refrigerator is safe to eat. Here is a great resource about keeping food safe during a power outage:

Remember though, "When in doubt, throw it out". It can be financially painful to have to throw out all of the food in your refrigerator, but getting food poisoning and the ensuing medical bills is worse.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The "Unnatural" Truth

True or false: The word "natural" on a food label means that the food contains only healthy ingredients.

You may be surprised to learn that the answer is false! Food companies can use the word "natural" on any food label, regardless of the ingredients contained in the food. Unlike the term "organic", "natural" is not regulated by the USDA. (The one exception to this is meat and poultry. "Natural" meat and poultry must be free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives and other such ingredients. However, the term does not refer to how the meat was raised.)

I was disappointed to read that the nation's largest organic dairy company, Dean's (Horizon Dairy), has chosen to exploit the fact that most people do not know that there is a difference between "natural" and "organic". Dean's is launching a new "natural" line of products that will be less expensive than their organic products because they won't be organic. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-natural11-2009jul11,0,6783490.story

What does the organic seal on a food label mean? Foods bearing the organic label must meet or exceed standards set in 2002's National Organic Program. They are grown without synthetic pesticides, bio engineered genes, and fertilizers made with petroleum or sewage sludge. Organic foods must also be grown using tactics that promote biodiversity and renewable resources. Livestock labeled "organic" must have access to the outdoors and cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones.

The bottom line is: "organic" is regulated and means something. "Natural" can be slapped on any label and is usually just marketing mumbo-jumbo. I personally think that it is too bad that food companies are taking advantage of the reputation built by organic farmers over the years by confusing the public with their "natural" claims.

What's a consumer to do? I like to recommend that people ignore all of the "healthy", "natural" and other words on the front of food labels and go straight to the ingredient list. Look for foods with ingredients that you can recognize and pronounce. The fewer ingredients a product has, the better. Products with an extra long list of ingredients usually have a bunch of preservatives and additives that you don't really want. Finally, get rid of the belief that anything labeled "organic" or "natural" is automatically a great choice. Potato chips and other snack foods should not make up the bulk of your diet, even if they are organic. Remember, most of the healthiest foods do not even require a food label (apples, carrots, strawberries, etc.) because they are not packaged.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quick Pizza Dough

I recently came across an article online listing 20 "worthless" items most people have laying around their house. These items were considered worthless because they were things that people buy and then never use. I was not surprised to see bread machines right up there with waffle irons on the list. I know that a lot of people buy a bread machine and then never use it for whatever reason. This is unfortunate because a bread machine can actually produce some great results and can save you a lot of time. I use mine all of the time to make bread for our "bread and soup" night during the winter, and to make pizza dough, and dough for rolls. I even make my own hamburger buns because I prefer whole wheat buns (which used to be impossible to find). Even though it is now much easier to purchase whole wheat buns, I still make my own because of the cost savings (whole wheat buns are expensive!)

I would like to share with you a recipe for pizza dough that I use frequently. It is made the day before you need it and stored in the refrigerator. I have found this really improves the texture, makes it easier to roll out, and it tastes more like delivery pizza dough. It also makes meal preparation easier since you make it ahead of time. My family loves this pizza dough!

Bread Machine Pizza Dough
3/4 cup warm (not hot) water
1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup and stir until the yeast and sugar dissolve. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes or until it starts to foam. Place the flour, salt and olive oil in the bread machine pan. Pour the yeast mixture into the bread pan on top of the flour mixture. Set the bread machine for "dough" setting. When the dough cycle is complete, put the dough into a greased bowl and cover. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Take dough out about 1 hour before you are ready to make pizza.

You can substitute whole wheat flour for some of the bread flour. I have had good success using the "white" whole wheat flour.

Picture by Pizza Review

Monday, July 6, 2009

Green Giants!

Rain! We have had more than our share this spring and summer, and it has brought an abundance of leafy greens to Colorado stores and farmers markets. Lettuces, kale, beet greens, spinach, and other greens are plentiful and inexpensive right now.

Greens are worth seeking out because they are a nutrition "bargain"! By "bargain" I mean that they are packed with nutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals but have very few calories. Hidden in their beautiful green leaves are vitamins A,C, and K; potassium; folic acid; iron; calcium and magnesium. Their vibrant green color also alerts us to the fact that they are full of antioxidants with cancer-fighting abilities. Two of these antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthine, are thought to help protect our eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness in older adults).

Most children do not get enough vegetables in their diets, and they are woefully lacking in the leafy green variety. We know that the most commonly eaten vegetable in the U.S. is the potato, not spinach. I read an article in the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter a few years ago stating that the reason most Americans don't eat very many greens is that they don't know how to cook and serve them, often steaming them up and then adding a pat of butter as an afterthought. They had a quote from a researcher at Greece's Medical School in Athens saying that the reason Greeks and other peoples of the Mediterranean eat more leafy greens, is that they make them taste good by sauteing them in olive oil or stir-frying them. Their point was, spend a few extra calories to make vegetables taste good so that you will actually eat them and get all the benefits of their nutrients. I think this is especially important when preparing vegetables for young children. There is really no point in making them if the children won't eat them.

Steaming greens and then adding some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon is often all you need to make them taste better. You can also use red and green leaf lettuce or romaine in your tossed salads if your children like those. Spinach is very mild and children will often accept chopped spinach if it is added to dishes such as omelets or casseroles.

Here are a few of the recipes included in that Tufts newsletter that I have served successfully to my own children:

Toasted Walnut Topping
Toast 3 Tablespoons of chopped walnuts* and 1 Tablespoon of minced onion in 1 teaspoon of butter in a small skillet, stirring over medium heat until fragrant and light golden, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Toss with 2 cups cooked green beans, broccoli, spinach or Swiss chard.
*Note: nuts can be a choking hazard for children under 4.

Spicy Peanut Sauce
Combine 1/4 cup natural peanut butter and 2 Tablespoons boiling water and stir until smooth. Stir in 1 Tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 clove minced garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional). Spoon over 2 cups cooked green beans, broccoli, bok choy, or cabbage.

What are your favorite ways to serve leafy greens to your children? If you have a recipe tip please feel free to share in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you!

photo by tiffanywashko

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Beautiful berries!

I eagerly await this time of year because there are so many fruits that are in season. The wonderful thing about produce is that fruits and vegetables that are in season not only taste better but are more nutritious and also less expensive! I am especially thrilled by all of the berries that are currently flooding the supermarket produce section. Berries are my absolute favorite so I have been stocking up on the blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries that are so fresh and wonderful right now.

Not only do berries taste great, they are nutrition powerhouses! Blueberries are full of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese. In addition, berries are brimming with antioxidants.

Serve berries for a snack by themselves or mixed with yogurt. They are also wonderful in smoothies. Here is one of my kids' favorite blueberry muffin recipes. It originally came from the Good Housekeeping Children's Cookbook, but we have adapted it some. Check out the recipe section of the Wildwood website (the link is below) for a raspberry muffin recipe that is equally delicious!

Blueberry Corn Muffins

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not thaw)
1 cup all-purpose, enriched flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup oil (canola or other vegetable oil)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place a cupcake liner in each of 12 muffin cups or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon, stir until well combined.

Combine the egg, buttermilk and oil in a separate bowl. With a fork, beat the buttermilk mixture until well combined.

Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened. Do not mix too much, it should be lumpy. Fold in the blueberries.

Fill the muffin cups with batter.

Bake for about 18 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes 12 muffins. Each muffin creditable for 3 servings bread/bread alternate for 1-5 year old children at any meal.

Get your berries soon! They will be out of season before you know it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hungry Monkey

I don't know about you, but I like hearing about other people's experiences and challenges when feeding young children. The child care providers on our program have shared with me many stories of both their "picky" and more venturesome eaters. These stories have run the gamut from the predictable to the downright astounding!

If you enjoy this type of story, I would highly recommend a book that I just read, Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton. Mr. Amster-Burton is a Seattle food critic who is determined to raise his daughter to enjoy all types of food. He describes the story as "a food-loving father's quest to raise an adventerous eater". This book is full of funny stories about his quest, witty comments, and some great recipes (he even suggests which parts of each recipe the kids can help with). You will also find some perfect examples of why it is a good idea to invite your kids into the kitchen with you.

While I didn't agree with all of the author's "kid-feeding" methods, I did appreciate his inclusion of the wisdom of Ellyn Satter (division of responsibility) in his discussion. In my own personal experience, I have found her advice key to raising my children to be the non-picky/adventerous eaters that they are today.

A great book!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who needs sleep?

Recently when I doing some research for our upcoming workshop on diabetes, I found some additional information about children and sleep. I was aware that many children do not get enough sleep (it seems that in our constantly "on-the-go" society, sleep often gets put on the back burner and is a low priority). But what really surprised me was all the physical results that take place in the body when you don't get enough sleep!

Here are some of the highlights:
A good night's sleep is necessary for healthy brain functioning. It also helps children to heal and grow. The amount of sleep a child gets also affects their moods, behavior, and ability to learn. Sleep deprived children may become grumpy, cry easily, and be more accident-prone.

The most surprising studies are the ones which have linked the risk of obesity with not getting enough sleep. Getting too little sleep is thought to contribute to obesity by increasing caloric intake due to hormonal secretion. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to the development of pre-diabetes. I am sure you are aware of the current obesity epidemic among our children. Making sure they get enough sleep is another way we can help them maintain a healthy weight.

How much sleep do kids need? Often, adults make the mistake of thinking that their children need the same amount of sleep as they do. They don't realize how much sleep young children need to be healthy. Doctors and other experts have recommended the following amounts of sleep for young children:

Newborns 11-18 hours
Infants 14-15 hours
Toddlers 12-14 hours
Preschoolers 11-13 hours
School-Age 10-11 hours

Here are some tips for good sleep "hygiene":

1) Establish a regular bedtime routine
2) About one hour before bed: Engage in relaxing, non-alerting activity (such as reading-avoid the tv and computer). Don't drink or eat too much close to bedtime.
3) Make the sleep environment conducive to sleep: cooler temperatures, dark, and quiet.
4) Watch out for caffeine in soft drinks (or other drinks). Caffeine should not be a part of children's diets and can interfere with sleep.

Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Do your part by helping children establish good sleep practices!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Don't forget the white!

You are probably aware that you should be eating (and serving to the children in your care) a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Striving for a "rainbow" of produce on your plate every day is a very good goal. But what about that often forgotten group of the "rainbow", the white group? The white group of fruits and vegetables is frequently overlooked because many people believe that if produce is not "bright", it has no significant nutritional value. This is simply not true. It's a fact that brightly colored fruits and vegetables are full of beneficial nutrients, just don't underestimate the nutritional value of the white, tan, and brown group! These fruits and vegetables are full of powerful phytochemicals and are packed with disease fighting nutrients. (Not to mention the fact that they are pretty tasty too)!

Tip: Eat a variety of produce from this group which includes:
onions, garlic, cauliflower, jicama, parsnips, mushrooms, potatoes, turnips, kohlrabi, bananas, white nectarines, white peaches, brown pears, brown lentils, soybeans, and white beans.

I recently received some turnips as part of my weekly share from the CSA farm where I have a membership. I will have to admit that turnips are not one of my favorite vegetables (love the greens, just not the turnip part). But, I believe that the reason for this was that I had not discovered the right recipe for turnips yet. I went in search of a turnip recipe and found one that really loved! I wanted to share it with you in case you too are a reluctant turnip eater. I hope that you try this recipe soon, (my kids loved it too).
Note: You could probably leave the pepper out if you have kids who do not like it.

Honey-Peppered Turnips
1 Tablespoon butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons honey
1 bunch turnips, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (peel if large)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

Melt the butter with the honey in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the turnips and pepper. Cook, covered, until tender, about 12 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve warm.

Each 1/4 cup serving is creditable for 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable component at lunch or supper.

Tip: Turnips are a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, folate, potassium and copper. They are a very good source of fiber, vitamin c, and manganese.

If you are interested in learning more about eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day, or teaching your kids about this, please see the link below. You will find activity sheets and lesson plans from the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cooking with millet-not just for the birds!

Millet is a whole grain used widely in India and Africa, but in the United States it is most commonly served to the birds! What are we missing out on? Millet is not only high in both B vitamins and fiber, but is also gluten-free so it can be enjoyed by those with celiac disease. A highly versatile grain, millet can be used in a pilaf as you would use rice, but when it is cooked with a larger amount of water it becomes creamier with a consistency much like mashed potatoes.

These savory millet patties are from an Eating Well recipe that I slightly adapted. I loved them as is, and enjoyed the slight lemony taste. My kids preferred dipping them in ketchup!

Note: The recipe stated that you could prepare the cakes and shape them into patties ahead of time (through step 4) and then cook them when you needed them. I prepared them ahead of time through step 5 and placed them in the refrigerator. Come dinnertime, it was easy to simply microwave them until they were hot.

Savory Millet Patties-adapted from Eating Well Magazine

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup millet
1 clove garlic, minced
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (such as sea salt)
1/3 cup coarsely shredded zucchini
1/3 cup coarsely shredded carrot
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (finely grated)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1) Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 2-4 minutes. Stir in millet and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2) Add water and salt and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, for 20 minutes. Stir in zucchini, carrot, Parmesan, thyme, lemon zest, and pepper.

3) Cook, uncovered, maintaining a simmer and stirring often to keep the millet from sticking, until the mixture is soft, very thick and the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let stand covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and let stand, stirring once or twice, until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes.

4) With dampened hands, shape the millet mixture into 14 cakes or patties( each about 3 inches in diameter).

5) Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add 4 millet cakes and cook until the bottoms are browned, 3-5 minutes. Carefully turn the cakes with a wide spatula and cook until the other side is browned, 3-5 minutes more. Coat the pan with cooking spray again and cook the remaining cakes in batches, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning.

Makes 14 patties. Each patty is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate serving for 3-5 year old children at any meal or snack.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Still confused about whole grains?

A recent news article from ScienceDaily caught my eye today. It reports than many school food service workers are confused about how to identify whole grains and also lack the resources for obtaining whole grain products to serve to school children. I think that this is also true of your average American, since as a rule, Americans are still not getting as many servings of whole grains in a day as they should.

As you may know, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines encourage us to "make half of our grains whole". In other words, half of the bread or grain servings a child is eating in a day should be whole grains. Unfortunately, we know that the average American child only gets about one serving of whole grains in a day. This is unfortunate because they are missing out in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber found in whole grains.

Do you know how to identify whole grains in the store to serve to the children in your care?
There are a couple of easy steps that you can follow to make sure you are buying nutritious whole grains for your kids. First of all, when food shopping, you can look for the whole grain "stamp". This stamp was developed by the Whole Grains Council, and products that have the stamp on their label must contain at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving (equal 1/2 of 1 of your whole grain servings for the day). So, eating 6 servings of one of these products would equal 3 total servings of whole grain. There are also variations of the stamp (such as the picture below on the right) that indicate a product contains more than 8 grams per serving and that will be indicated on the stamp. Keep in mind that food manufacturers must pay to have this stamp placed on their product. Products that don't have the stamp can still be whole grain.

No stamp? The next best way to determine if a product contains whole grains is to check out the ingredient list. Remember, ingredients are listed with the most predominant ingredient first. So make sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain! For example, look for a bread label that has whole wheat flour as the first ingredient. "Wheat" flour is essentially white flour and is not the same thing. The word "whole" should precede the name of the grain.

Finally, consider cooking up your own whole grains. You can buy grains at the store such as quinoa, teff, amaranth, brown rice, millet, or barley and cook them (it's even cheaper to buy them in bulk at stores such as Whole Foods or Sunflower). By doing this you will know for sure you are getting the whole grain and nothing has been removed!

If you missed our whole grain workshop last year, check out the recipe section on our website (www.wildwoodonline.org) for some of our favorite whole grain recipes.

Food for thought-book recommendation

Daphne Miller, MD, was inspired by her patients to find out why indigenous populations around the world live healthier lives. I recently read her book "The Jungle Effect" and found it full of hopeful stories from around the world.

Dr. Miller's original inspiration for this book came in the form of a patient named Angela. Angela came to Dr. Miller's office overweight, with elevated blood pressure, and pain in her knees. A review of her health history revealed a history of being overweight and fatigued since childhood. The only time Angela recalled feeling good was when she went to live with her father's relatives in the rain forest, in a community that lived and ate the indigenous foods of their ancestors (fish soup, taro, beans, and fruit). Coincidentally, 6 months after meeting Angela, Dr. Miller was volunteering in a small village in the Amazon basin located very close to Angela's father's family home. She noticed that the elders in the village did not suffer from the chronic diseases that older people in the US suffer from such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. She thought that perhaps their diet had something to do with their good health and so collected some of their traditional recipes. She passed these recipes on to Angela who started eating the diet she knew from childhood. Angela lost weight and felt less tired.

Dr. Miller was thus inspired to explore other indigenous diets around the world and she found that they were associated with what she called "cold spots". Dr. Miller defines cold spots as "places or communities where there is an unusually low number of people suffering from a particular disease". Dr. Miller traveled to Crete, a cold spot for heart disease; Cameroon, a cold spot for colon cancer; Okinawa, a cold spot for breast and prostate cancers; Iceland, a cold spot for depression; and Copper Canyon Mexico, a cold spot for diabetes.

While each of these populations were cold spots for very different diseases, Dr. Miller found some commonalities in the indigenous diets that these populations of people were eating. She composed a list of nine key components that the diets shared:
1) Foods that are local, fresh, and in season.
2) Food cultivation techniques and recipes passed down through the ages.
3) Food traditions that include communal eating and eating for satiety rather than fullness (for example, the Okinawans only eat until they are 80% full).
4) Sugar that comes from natural foods: honey, fruits, vegetables.
5) Salt from natural unprocessed sources such as fish, sea greens and vegetables.
6) Naturally raised meat an dairy seen as a precious commodity (eaten in very small amounts as a condiment).
7) Nonmeat fats from whole nuts, seeds, grains, and fatty fruits; minimally processed oils such as olive, palm fruit, or coconut oil.
8) Fermented and pickled foods such as sauerkraut or yogurt.
9) Healing spices.

Dr. Miller also includes some of the indigenous diet recipes which she collected during her travels so that readers can try cooking them at home.

This is a great book which I highly recommend reading. I found it to be very inspiring and full of great ideas about how we can bring the wisdom of indigenous diets to our own meals. The key components of indigenous diets that Dr. Miller found are completely in sync with the latest nutrition research on what makes a healthy diet. This book shows why we really need to become less of a "packaged" food society and start looking for ways to eat the way our ancestors did (more local, whole foods). As Dr. Miller points out, I believe this holds the key to beating out current obesity epidemic, the skyrocketing diabetes rates, and will help us become a nation with less chronic disease. I know that this encourages me to continue to try and eat more "indigenously" every day!