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.