Monday, December 27, 2010

Butternut Squash

I have had two butternut squashes hanging out in my basement since about August when we got them from the CSA farm we belong to.  I had not done anything with them because I was lacking in inspiration about what to prepare.  However, every time I went downstairs recently I was reminded that I needed to make something with them soon before they started to rot!  My family likes the homemade sweet potato "fries" that I bake in the oven, so I decided to try a similar method for cooking the squash.

First, I peeled the squash and cut it in half.  Once I had scraped out all of the seeds, I sliced it quite thin and then cut the slices in half.  I placed the pieces on a cooking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Then I sprayed it with canola oil cooking spray and sprinkled a little black pepper and salt on it.  I cooked it in a hot oven (450 degrees) for about 25 minutes.  Once I had turned all of the pieces over, it went back in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they were starting to brown on the outside.  The result was wonderful and my family loved it!

As I have mentioned before, butternut squash is jam-packed with nutrients!  Not only is it a great source of beta-carotene;  it is also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, fiber, and folate.

One squash down, one to go...   Do you have any favorite recipes for butternut squash?

Crediting information: Each 1/4 cup of squash is creditable for 1/4 cup of the required 1/2 cup of fruit/vegetable component at any meal for 3-5 year old children.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Soup Night

As I have mentioned before, Monday night is "soup and bread night" at my house.  I always make the soup ahead of time on Sunday, so that all I have to do on Monday is to reheat it and make the loaf of homemade bread that we always have to go with it (plus soup always tastes way better when the flavors are allowed to develop overnight)!  Since I use my breadmaker to make the bread , dinner is a snap on Mondays.

I try to serve a wide variety of soups so that everyone in my family gets to eat their favorite at some point.  This Southwestern Soup is one of my favorites!  The best part about this soup is that you throw everything into a crockpot and let it cook all day.  As a vegetarian, I like the soup just the way it is, or sometimes I throw in some black beans.  Feel free to add cooked, diced chicken if you like too.  We also like to crush unsalted tortilla chips up and sprinkle them on top of this soup.  Enjoy!

Southwestern Soup

1 Tablespoon canola oil
28 oz low sodium vegetable broth (or you could use chicken broth)
16 oz bag frozen corn, thawed
1, 14oz can low sodium diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 can (4oz) chopped green chilies
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (such as Lowry's)
1/2 teaspoon Fiesta lime Mrs. Dash seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for about 7-8 hours.  Stir before serving.  Serve with tortilla chips if desired.

Crediting information (without beans, chicken or chips):
Makes 21 servings creditable for 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable requirement at any meal for 3-5 year old children. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Serving low-sugar cereals can encourage children to eat more fresh fruit!

Do you serve high-sugar cereals to the children in your care?  I have found that sometimes providers believe that children won't accept cereal if it isn't pre-sweetened.  If this is the case for you, a study in the journal Pediatrics may change your mind.  

A recent study shows that children not only accept low-sugar cereals readily, but they are actually more likely to choose a nutritious, well-balanced breakfast if they are served low-sugar cereals.  In the study, the children were divided into 2 groups.  One group was allowed to chose from 3 high-sugar cereal varieties, and the other group was allowed to chose from 3 low-sugar cereals.  Both groups were also offered milk, orange juice, cut-up strawberries and bananas, and small packets of table sugar.  The kids in this study who ate the low-sugar cereal were more likely to add fresh fruit to their bowl of cereal than those eating the high-sugar cereals.  In addition, the kids in the high-sugar cereal group ate nearly twice the amount of sugar as the children in the low-sugar cereal group!  What I found especially interesting about this study is that even though the children were allowed to add some sugar to the low-sugar cereals, they still added less than was found in the higher-sugar varieties.  (In case you are wondering, the low-sugar cereals were Cheerios, Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies and the high-sugar cereals were Froot Loops, Cocoa Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes). 

Some cereals that contain several teaspoons of sugar are indeed creditable on the Child and Adult Care Food Program, but that doesn't mean that they are the best choice for breakfast for kids.  Most children get way to much sugar in their diet and this study shows that serving low-sugar cereals is an easy way to cut out some of the sugar!  To be a creditable cereal on the CACFP, the first ingredient must be a whole grain or whole grain flour, or an enriched grain or flour. You need to read labels carefully though because some of the cereal companies have started putting more whole grains into their cereals, but are still adding a lot of extra sugar too.   Look for cereal varieties that have whole grains and little added sugar, and then take a tip from this study and put out bowls of cut-up fruit for children to add to their bowls!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fire Safety

How long has it been since you have practiced your  emergency and/or fire escape plan?  If you need to practice, or if you want to add some fire safety information to your child care curriculum, check out this free activity book available to child care providers.  It has coloring pages, connect the dots pages, word searches, and lots of other activities to teach children about fire safety.  Go to the U.S. Fire Administration website to request a free copy to be sent to you, or download a copy immediately on their website.

Mindful Eating

I love reading about mindful eating and find it fascinating that our environment can influence how much we eat.  I really like all of the research that Brian Wansink  has done, and continues to do, on this subject at Cornell University and through his Smarter Lunchrooms program.  It is very interesting, I think, that just about all of the people who have been involved in his research studies are convinced before the study that the environment has no effect on their eating habits.  Dr. Wansink has found the opposite to be true for the majority of people.  He has found that you really can influence how much someone eats by giving them a different size plate, by giving food a more descriptive name, or even by serving a brownie on a napkin instead of a plate. 

So, I read with interest this new article about how imagination can trick the brain into eating less.  Contrary to popular wisdom that if you crave a certain food for a long period of time you will eat more of it, the participants in this study actually ate less of a food after repeatedly imagining eating the food before they actually ate it.

And finally, today on the Fooducate blog, an interesting article on how being aware of the number of times you chew your food can help you eat less.  Taking a moment to slow down and savor our food can be an easy way to have a more enjoyable and satisfying meal.  

If you are interested in mindful eating, be sure to check out Dr. Wansink's websites (by using the links above) or go to your local library and check out his book Mindless Eating.  It is quite a compelling read if you are curious about how changing your meal environment can help you eat less.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

More cranberry recipes!

Since fresh cranberries are abundant in the store right now, I would like to share another of my family's favorite recipes using fresh cranberries.  This bread is very delicious and makes a great snack!

Cranberry Nut Bread
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
2 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or 3 mini loaf pans.

Mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl.  In another bowl stir together the orange juice, orange peel, canola oil and egg.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until blended.  Stir in the cranberries and nuts.  Spread evenly in loaf pan(s).

Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 25 minutes for mini loaf pans).  Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.  Remove from pan; cool completely.

Crediting information: Makes 34 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate for 3-5 year old children at any meal or snack.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Helpful Holiday Links

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension website has compliled a bunch of their holiday food and nutrition tips in one place to make it very easy to find what you are looking for fast!  Visit their holiday links page and you can find information about topics such as preparing foods ahead of time, ingredient substitutions and cooking terms, food safety, sending food gifts to the military, holiday weight management tips (with a great video by Brian Wansink), and a Kid's Corner section that has some great games and websites to keep the kids busy.  Check out it out to get quick answers for all of your holiday food and nutrition questions!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Safety

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Envrionment issued a press release today about Christmas trees that also contains some great reminders about safety during the holidays.  Sometimes we forget about all of the potential hazards that holiday decorations can contain.  Take a minute and read through their press release and make sure that your child care home does not contain any of the hazards that they warn about so that you can have a healthy and happy holiday season!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quick Snack

I am so glad that clementines are showing up again!  I look forward to having them as a snack this time of year, and I always remember that they start appearing around Thanksgiving time because we have them with our breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.  So, I went and checked out the "California Cuties" website to do a little research, and found out that like most citrus crops they are in season from November- April.  I also learned that "Cuties" are actually two different types of mandarin oranges.  I love them because of their size and the fact that they are easy to peel.  Their smaller size and lack of seeds to spit out make them a hit with my kids too.   

What's so great about Cuties?  2 Cuties have only 80 calories but supply 4 grams of fiber (14% of daily needs), 11% of daily potassium needs, 290% (!) of daily vitamin C needs, and are a good source of many other nutrients such as thiamin, niacin, folate and vitamin B6.  They are truly a nutrient-rich food and are so tasty.  Consider serving them for snack before they disappear again in the spring!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Fresh cranberries are back in the stores, just in time for Thanksgiving.  I hadn't seen them and I was starting to get worried a couple of weeks ago.  Fortunately, I spotted some at my local grocery store the week before Thanksgiving!  I start craving fresh cranberries this time of year.  Fresh cranberry waldorf salad (see recipe below) is one of my favorite side dishes at the Thanksgiving table.  It only takes 1 1/2 cups of cranberries to make this salad, so I use the rest of the bag to make another fall favorite of mine, cranberry walnut bread!

You are probably aware of the fact that cranberries can play a role in the prevention of urinary tract infections (this is due to their high antibacterial properties).  However, cranberries are also a great source of vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and vitamin K.  As an extra bonus, cranberries are chock-full of antioxidants which may help prevent heart disease, stroke and some types of cancers.

Since fresh cranberries are only available for a short time at the grocery store, I always buy extra and put some in the freezer.  They come in handy in the spring when I want to make more cranberry-walnut bread!

Cranberry Waldorf Salad
This salad is fruity and creamy and my kids love it too!

You will need:
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
1 cup chopped red apple
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.

Crediting information: 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.
*Nuts can be choking hazard for children under the age of 4

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Provider Resources

Do you have bulletin boards or posters in your child care home?  If you do, you may be interested in the TEAM Nutrition website.  I love this website because it has links to all sorts of resources.  You can find posters to download, or ideas for bulletin board lessons.  The are many topics to choose from incuding general nutrition, hand washing, and even whole grains.  It is worth a visit anytime you need ideas or inspiration!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Variety Still the Spice of Life!

You might have noticed that some of my favorite words as a nutritionist are the words "variety" and "moderation".  That is, the healthiest diet is one that includes a variety of foods in moderation since this gives us the best chance to get all of the nutrients that we need.  A large recent study offers more proof that variety is indeed a vital part of a healthy diet.  The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, used data from about half a million people living in Europe.  The participants in the study were divided into groups depending on how many of 14 different fruits and 26 different vegetables they ate over a two-week period.  When the study was completed 9 years later, the smokers who ate the greatest variety of vegetables had a 27 percent reduced risk of lung cancer compared to those who consumed the least variety. 

So, variety in our diet not only keeps us from getting bored, it is likely the most nutritious way to eat too.  Do you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every week, or do you find yourself buying and eating the same ones over and over again?  If you answered yes, why not vow to try something new the next time you are at the grocery store.  A great way to do this is to buy fruits and vegetables in season.  They are usually less expensive that way, and they are at the peak of their taste too.  Follow the seasons to ensure that you get a variety of produce all year 'round!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Food allergy app

If you have an iPhone and would like some help decoding food labels, this app is for you!  The "FoodEssentials Scanner" app allows you to scan items at the store with your iPhone and gives you easy-to-understand information about that product's nutrients and ingredients.  This app can be especially helpful for people food shopping for a child or family member who has food allergies because the app can alert you to the fact that the product contains peanuts, gluten and other allergens. 

Get the app at ($2).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holiday Tips for Grandparents

Many people will be traveling to their relatives' homes for the upcoming holidays.  While it is wonderful to see our friends and families during the holiday season, a lot of stress can be caused by the changing of our childrens' eating habits while they are there.  I remember when I was little, we used to go to my grandparent's house for Christmas.  We were rarely allowed to have soda except at their house, so it was a real treat for us to have it at Christmas.  Fortunately, my grandparents also had a lot of healthy food around for us to eat too and they never "pushed" us to eat certain foods or more food in general!   However, that is often not the case, and some families and family members may have different opinions about what your children should be eating.

I found this post on the Fooducate blog to be helpful, and it could easily be passed on to any friends or family members if you are concerned about this problem in your family!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cream Soup Mix

I recently found a recipe from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website that I wanted to share with you.  This website is a great resource for saving money on healthy foods.  I love finding recipes that substitute for canned and processed foods which I can use to "make my own".  Most processed foods contain way too much sodium and/or sugar and preservatives for my liking.  I rarely use canned soup, but I do have a potato casserole recipe that my family loves that calls for a can of cream of celery soup.  I used this dry cream soup mix in place of the canned soup and it worked like a charm.  This version is lower in fat, sodium, and has no preservatives.  I also love the fact that the homemade version costs at least 50% less than the canned! 

Here is the recipe:
(Note: I didn't have dried thyme leaves so I substituted 1/2 teaspoon of ground thyme which I found to be too much.  The thyme flavor was rather prominent.  Next time I will be sure to add the leaves!)

Dry Cream Soup Mix
(Equal to 7 cans cream soup)

2 cups instant nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup sodium-free dry chicken or vegetable bouillon
2 Tablespoons dried minced onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and store in an air tight container.
To use as a substitute for 1 can condensed soup:
       Mix 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 1/4 cups water.
Stovetop: cook and stir with whisk until thickened.
Microwave: using a large microwave safe bowl; cook on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring with whisk every 30 seconds until thick.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Snow Snacks

The arrival of our first snow on Tuesday got me thinking about some "snow snacks" that I used to serve when I was a child care provider.  The kids in my care would get so excited about the first snow that we used to commemorate the occasion by making some tasty snacks!  One of their favorites was snowflake tortillas.  I gave them each a tortilla which they folded up as you would fold a piece of paper to make a paper snowflake, (usually in half and then in half again, being careful not to break the tortilla).  They then would take turns using the kitchen scissors to cut shapes on the folds of the tortilla.  After removing the cut-away pieces, they could then unfold their tortilla "snowflake".  After brushing the tortilla with a little butter, and sprinkling on a little cinnamon-sugar (or using shredded white cheese such as Monterey Jack or mozzarella instead), we would toast the snowflakes in the oven.  Sometimes we even decorated the snowflakes with mandarin oranges or berries after they had been toasted.

Another favorite "snow snack" was "trees in the snow".  We would arrange small stalks of broccoli in a bowl of cottage cheese and drizzle it with a little Italian dressing. 

What about you?  Do you have any special way of celebrating the first snow?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moldy Food and Food Safety

Have you ever wondered if a food with mold on it is safe to eat?   For instance, is it okay to eat that cheddar cheese if you cut the mold off of it?  We all hate wasting food, but some foods can be dangerous to eat if they are moldy and are best thrown away.  I found a great fact sheet from the USDA that can help you decide if you can safely eat a moldy food or if you should toss it.  Most foods should be discarded, but I was surprised at a couple that can be saved once the mold is cut away!  And in case you are curious, hard cheeses can indeed be eaten if you cut off the portion one inch around the mold.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Too Much Halloween Candy?

If you still have Halloween candy hanging around, or have just decided that your kids have had enough, why not do something creative with the rest?  Visit the website and use your leftover candy to learn about science.  Kids can learn lessons about density, color separation, or even test candy for acid ingredients that make it sour.
 Fun with food!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Recipe On Our Website

Have you checked out the recipe section of our website yet?  Just go to the top of the website home page and go to the "Food Program" bar.  At the bottom of the drop-down menu you will see "Try Our Recipes".  If you click on that, you will find our recipe section.  I just added a new recipe today that was sent in by a Wildwood provider.  If you have a creditable recipe that you would like to share with us, we would love to have it!  You can mail it in with your claim, or submit it on the "contact us" section of the website.  

In the meantime, enjoy Charlotte's recipe, it's a keeper!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Seeds

Are you going to be carving a pumpkin or two for Halloween?  If so, don't forget to save the seeds and toast them up for a healthy snack!  Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, zinc, copper, protein, and fiber! 

Here is a recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds:
Spread 2 cups of rinsed pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Cook for about 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven, stirring once during the cooking time.  Take out and salt lightly, or toss with 1 Tablespoon of melted butter and seasonings (try 1 1/2 T. brown sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, or grated Parmesan and black pepper).  Turn the oven up to 375 degrees and return the seeds to the oven for 7-10 minutes or until they are toasty.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Food and Your Immune System

This time of year, when the cold and flu season starts up, many people start thinking about their immune system (and that of their children).  I don't know about you, but I would love to breeze right through winter without a single bout of cold or flu.  I also remember that it was about this time last year that Kellogg's got in trouble for touting Cocoa Krispies as helping to boost immunity in children.  While spraying sugary cereal with a bunch of anti-oxidant vitamins, and claiming it will help children fight off germs is ludicrous in my opinion, it does bring up a good point.  Can what we eat affect our immune system? 

There are several nutrients that have been shown to have potential in helping immune function.  These include vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and vitamin D.  There is also some evidence that even probiotics can help our immune system by increasing the beneficial bacteria in the gut.  However, that is not to say that taking large supplements of any or all of these nutrients will help keep us healthy.  In fact, you may remember the study they did on smokers where supplements of anti-oxidant vitamins actually increased the rate of lung cancers in the group.  Taking supplements of certain vitamins by themselves may do more harm than good in some instance and for some people.  We also know that being deficient in certain nutrients can have a detrimental effect on our immune function.

So, you may be wondering what dietary measures we can take to help our immune system?  Once again, the answer seems to be to eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods.  Take a look at your diet and make sure you are consuming foods that contain vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and vitamin D naturally.   Foods trump supplements because they contain many nutrients that work together in a beneficial synergistic manner (which supplements of one or more nutrients by themselves cannot match).  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's Apple Time!

We are so fortunate to be able to find good apples year-round in most places in this country.  But in the fall we are even luckier because apples at their flavor-peak start showing up at the grocery store.  One of my favorite apples, the Honeycrisp variety, are starting to make an appearance at my local grocery store and I couldn't be happier!   I  look forward to their appearance every fall because I just love how they burst with a sweet yet slightly tart taste.  (If you haven't tried a Honeycrisp apple yet, go find one, you are in for a treat!)  Even though I relish my daily apple for its wonderful flavor, sometimes I also like to remind myself of all the nutrients found in an apple.

Apples are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.  Apples also contain flavonoids, a type of phytochemical.  The most prevalent flavonoid in apples is quercetin.  Quercetin has shown promise in some studies as being an inhibitor of cancer, and other studies have shown that people who eat a lot of apples have lower rates of lung cancer.

How about serving apples for snack today?  They are a quick, easy, yummy and nutritious!

Tip: Make sure you eat the skin, the quercetin is concentrated there.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

American Youth Eating a Lot of Empty Calories

Most people are aware that we have a problem in this country with the growing number of children and adolescents who are overweight or obese.  We know that this is a result of many different factors in our world today, but our eating habits seem to be a big part of this epidemic.  A recent article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association took a look at at what American youth are eating and what the major sources of "empty" calories are (that is, nutrient-poor foods that supply calories and very few nutrients to a person's diet).  Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the researchers found that the top sources of energy (calories) for 2-18 year olds included grain desserts, pizza and soda.  Sugar-sweetened beverages (this included soda and fruit drinks) provided almost 10% of total calories for the day!  Also disturbing is that 40% of the total calories taken in daily by these kids were from empty calories!  Half of these empty calories came from soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk. 

This article is not surprising but it does remind us that we must continue to work on improving the diets of our kids!  I have talked about how our society today is "overfed but undernourished" and this article helps to point out why.  If our kids are getting 40% of their calories from empty calorie foods, how can they possibly get all of the nutrients they need in a day?

Those of you on our food program can use this information to show parents and guardians of the children in your care why it is important to choose a home child care provider who participates in the CACFP.  The CACFP meal pattern encourages eating foods from all of the food groups and limiting added sweets and fats.  As a provider, you can also use this information as a reminder about what children are eating when they are not with you.  That makes it even more important for you to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem, by limiting empty calorie foods and offering your children nutrient-rich foods!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sports Beverages

"Sports" beverages (such as Gatorade) are often marketed as being a necessary part of sports and physical activity.  Having sports heroes hawking the stuff just adds to its appeal for young children and teenagers.  I have seen this first-hand at my son's baseball games.  Kids bring and drink LARGE bottles of these sports drinks, even though they are mostly standing around in a baseball game, and only occasionally running or putting forth much physical effort.  So what should kids be drinking?  The general rule is: for moderate physical activity less than one hour in length, that is not taking place in extreme weather conditions, WATER is the best beverage.  Of course, this does not apply to very vigorous exercise lasting longer than one hour (such as running a marathon).

We know that many children consume too many sugar-sweetened beverages (such as soda) daily leading to many empty calories coming from beverages.  However,  people do not realize that sports beverages fall into this same category.  These drinks have come to been associated with a healthy lifestyle despite the fact that they are essentially sugar water.

Remember, the current recommendation on the CACFP is that juice should be limited to only two servings per week.  I would like to add that sports drinks should be reserved for extreme exercise and water should be the beverage of choice in most instances.  And if your kids need a healthy snack after their game, reach for whole fruit such as oranges instead of the juice!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Apple Season is Here!

The coolness in the air this morning (and the autumnal equinox on Wednesday) remind me that fall is here!  When fall rolls around I always start thinking about apples, and homemade applesauce, and apple pie, and sweet potato apple bake, and.....  My husband really likes apple pie, but to me there is nothing better than a fresh, crisp apple all by its juicy self!  Did you know that there are several places in Colorado where you can go pick your own apples?  Check out this  pick your own website to see if there is a farm near you. 

After picking fresh raspberries with my family last weekend (at Berry Patch Farms in Brighton), I am looking forward to picking some fresh apples very soon.  My kids just love to do this and I'll bet yours will too!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Battery Ingestion in Young Children

I realize that this is not really a nutrition topic, but it does involve eating!  In a previous post I shared a cool new choking prevention poster with you.  Today I wanted to share information about a slightly different subject.  Check out this  recent article regarding young children swallowing disc batteries.  This can be a real danger to young ones, and it seems as though these little disc batteries are more common all the time.  I found the statistics in this article to be quite alarming!  Can you believe that over 2,000 incidences of children swallowing these batteries occured in 1998 alone, and that there has been an 80% increase since that year?!   Keep this article in mind when you are checking to make sure that your child care home is "child proof".  Do your best to keep items containing these batteries out of small hands.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Biscuits, Ice-Cream and Soft Drinks for Infants?!?

I recently came across an article that both shocked and saddened me!  The study, published in the journal Nutrition & Dietetics found that some very young babies had already been introduced to high fat, high salt and high sugar foods even though experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant's life.

The study was conducted in Australia and was part of a survey in that country. The researchers tracked 587 women for the first 12 months of their infants' lives through regular phone interviews.  They found that almost one in four mothers had introduced biscuits (sweet cookies) and cakes to their infants by six months of age!  This is just so unfortunate because babies do not need sugary solid foods in their diet at this time.  Not only is it increasing the amount of sugar in their diet, but it is displacing essential nutrients that they would get from breastmilk.  In addition, we have to remember that eating habits developed at a young age are likely to continue for life. Why even give a baby ice cream and cookies when breastmilk (or formula) satisfies all of their taste needs?

Like the U.S., Australia has a increasing rate of childhood obesity. According to the study, up to 20% of children aged 2-3 were found to be overweight or obese in Australia.  Another good reason to get children started off on the right (less sugary) path!

Fortunately, I also think that this is partly just an education issue.  That's why I appreciate all of you ladies who do home child care.  You are so good at educating the parents and caregivers of the children in your care.  With your guidance, they can make decisions about feeding their infants and children that will help them to be healthy and develop healthy eating habits for life! 

I also know that sometimes it can be challenging if you suddenly find yourself caring for an infant when you haven't cared for one in awhile.  If you need a little "refresher" information, please feel free to ask your Wildwood rep., or call the office for a copy of our book called " Feeding Infants: A Guide for Use in the Child Nutrition Programs".  It is full of useful tips and hints!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Upcoming Wildwood Workshops

If you live in the Colorado Springs or Pueblo areas of the state, our latest workshop is coming your way soon!  The "Scrumptious Snacks and Marvelous Meals" workshop will be offered on October 6 at 6:30 pm at the East Library in Colorado Springs (5550 N Union Blvd.), and on November 1 at 6:00 pm at the Pueblo Library (100 E. Abriendo Ave.).  This 2 hour workshop will give you lots of information about serving healthy snacks and meals.  Plus, you will get lots of meal and snack ideas and recipes.  YUM!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Have You Signed Up For the Wildwood Conference Yet?

Our conference preparation is in full-swing and every day seems to bring something new and exciting!  We have rounded up lots of little "surprises" for the participant registration bags and we are working on getting more.  I am also working on the correspondence course that will be given to those attending, and I will give you a little hint about it ~ Did you know that chia seeds (formally known from Chia Pet fame) are a tasty, nutritious food?  After searching at my local health food store to no avail, I finally found some chia seeds online (at and have been experimenting with recipes.  You don't want to miss it!~

Will we see you there?  I hope so!  You can find a registration form on our website under the "Forms and Documents" section and you can even register online if you go to the top left-hand portion of the website and click on "Fall Conference Registration".  Register before October 15 to get the best deal!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A New Way to Serve Quinoa

I am so excited that I have found a recipe for quinoa that my whole family will eat.  Quinoa is such a nutritious whole grain that I keep trying to find a way serve it to my family.  Most of my other attempts have been rejected because some of the child members of my family object to the "earthy" like flavor of quinoa.  I am happy to report that this recipe has just enough spice to cover up that flavor and is very tasty! 

Green Bean and Quinoa Toss
4 1/2 cups frozen French-cut green beans
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
sprinkle of salt
black pepper to taste
1 3/4 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 red onion or sweet onion, finely diced
6 Tablespoons chopped almonds*

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the frozen green beans and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain the beans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper.  Add the green beans to the mustard mixture and toss to coat.  Add the remaining ingredients (quinoa, cheese, onion, and almonds) and stir well.  This dish can be served immediately or chilled before serving.

Note: if your children don't like the flavor of feta cheese, you can substitute another milder variety of cheese.

Crediting information:  Makes 7 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable requirement and 1 bread/bread alternate at lunch or supper for 3-5 year old children.

*can be a choking hazard for children under the age of 4.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Americans Are Still Not Eating Enough Fruit and Veggies!

Did you see the latest news from the CDC regarding fruit and vegetable intake among Americans?  According to their survey, most Americans are still not getting enough of either fruits or veggies. This really is a problem because not only are most people missing out on the vital nutrients and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, but we also know most people are loading up on the less than desirable things like salt and sugar. 

How does your diet rate?  Do you get enough fruits and vegetables?  One of the things I like about the Child and Adult Care Food Program is that it encourages fruits and vegetables throughout the day.  You can make sure your kids are getting enough by serving fruits and/or vegetables not just at mealtimes but at snacktime too.  If you sit down with the children and eat all of the fruits and vegetables you are serving to them, you will likely be pretty close to eating enough too!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Don't Forget the Herbs!

When cooking do you ever find yourself leaving out the fresh parsley or other herbs because you don't have any, or don't want to buy them to put in just one dish?  I have been guilty of just that when it comes to parsley.  I blame this on the fact that I used to have a nice patch of parsley in my backyard that even grew in the winter!  However, we recently built a deck in our backyard and my parsley patch was destroyed in the process.  I usually forget that I can't go out and grab a handful for a recipe until I am in the middle of meal preparation , and I also forget to buy it when I am at the store. 

I am trying to do a better job of remembering to buy it, and I will surely plant some more next summer.  That is because fresh parsley and other fresh herbs such as cilantro can not only make a dish tastier, but more nutritious too!  Fresh parsley is a good source of beta-carotene and vitamin C.  It also provides a little folate, iron and potassium to the diet.  Herbs are also a great source of antioxidants. 

Now that I think about it, maybe I will even try planting both of these herbs in pots in my windowsill this winter.  But, I haven't figured out how to keep the cats from knocking them over if I do......

Friday, September 3, 2010

Commercials We Actually Want To See More Of

A group of baby carrot farmers has put together a very innovative website to go along with their new "baby carrots, eat'em like junk food" campaign to get people to eat more baby carrots.  You can check it out here.  

The website has videos, a sneak peak at their new "junk food packaging", and information about their "carrot crunch-powered" video game .  The site also promises that a baby carrot commercial will air on September 7 and I can't wait to see it.  These are the type of commercials we need more of! 

Click on the "Nutritional Info (yawn)" section for another funny surprise.   

I really like this campaign and applaud their willingness to compete with other junk food websites.  Here's hoping it works!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Aerobic Exercise Has Lifelong Impact

According to a recent study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, a moderate aerobic exercise program can alter the metabolism of sugar in children and adolescents.  This is promising news because it can reduce their risk of developing heart disease and diabetes later in life!

Researchers studied both lean and obese teenagers who were sedentary.  The teens participated in a 12-week exercise program of four, 30-minute exercise sessions every week.  By the end of the program, none of the teens had lost weight, but all of them increased their insulin sensitivity and their ability to maintain normal blood glucose levels.  The obese teenagers also lost some of their abdominal fat which is considered more "dangerous" fat because it is linked with insulin resistance.

Just one more reminder for all of us that we really need to ensure that children are getting the recommended physical activity* every day! 

*Toddlers should accumulate at least 30 minutes daily of structured physical activity; preschoolers at least 60 minutes.  Toddlers and preschoolers should engage in at least 60 minutes and up to several hours of daily, unstructured physical activity and should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time except when sleeping.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Free Eating Healthy Posters

Looking to "jazz up" your eating area?  The Baylor College of Medicine's Children's Nutrition Research Center has some great downloadable posters on their website.  Many of them would be great for childcare homes.  Check them out here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another Reason to Limit Screen Time

We all know that children need to get up and move around more and watch tv less!  We also know that many of the advertisements during childrens' television programming are for foods that are less than stellar nutrient-wise.  So, the results of a recent study may not be surprising, but should make us even more motivated to limit screen time for kids. 

A study reported in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association has shown that if you based your diet entirely on foods that you saw in tv ads, you would eat 25 times the recommended servings of sugar, and 20 times the recommended servings of fat in your daily diet.  The foods featured on tv ads not only had too much sugar and fat, but also oversupplied sodium (not a surprise either considering most of the sodium in the American diet comes from processed and restaurant food).  Additionally, if you followed this "tv ad diet" you would be deficient in 12 important nutrients such as vitamin A, D and E.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Fun Website For Your Kids

Here is a really fun website for your kids to explore!  "Fizzy's Lunch Lab" is a PBS site that promotes good nutrition and encourages physical activity.  You will find games, printable placemats to color, recipes and outdoor activity ideas.  Kids can also listen to musical hits such as "Fruit is Nature's Candy" and "Veggie Fever".  The video section will likely be a hit too with webisodes about the Lunch Lab, and "Lunch Lab Live" videos that are funny talk show parodies.  This is our new favorite website!

Check it out here.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Zucchini Bread

I don't know about you, but my garden is bursting with zucchini!  I just love this time of year when everything starts to get ripe and delicious and ready to eat!  I am always on the lookout for zucchini bread recipes that are not loaded with oil.  (You really don't need an entire cup of oil for one loaf of bread!)  I found this recipe in Healthy Cooking magazine and changed it up a little to include some whole wheat flour. (I like to use whole wheat pastry flour because it gives baked goods a nice texture, but you can use regular whole wheat flour also).
It turned out to be delicious!  It makes two loaves, so you can even put one in the freezer for later.

Zucchini Bread
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups enriched all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups shredded zucchini
3/4 cups chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, applesauce, eggs, oil, and vanilla.  Stir until well combined.  In another bowl, combine the flours, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir until blended.  Stir in the zucchini and walnuts. 

Transfer the mixture to 2, 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pans coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Crediting information:  Makes 51 servings total (both loaves).  Each serving is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Snack recipe

Here is a cute recipe adapted from one I saw in Potpourri magazine.  It is always a good idea to serve a vegetable at snack for a little extra "insurance" towards making sure kids get all of the vegetables they need in a day! 

Buried Treasure Eggs
12 large eggs
1 cup skim milk
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
salt and black pepper to taste

Combine the eggs and milk in a bowl and mix together using a whisk.  Heat a medium skillet over medium  heat and pour the egg/milk mixture in.  Cook and stir until the eggs are thoroughly cooked.  Add the peppers, onion, salt and pepper.  Serve warm.  Encourage the children to search their eggs for the different colors of "buried treasure" (the peppers)!

Crediting information:
Makes 8 servings, each serving creditable for 1 meat/meat alternate and 1/4 cup of the vegetable requirement at lunch or supper for 3-5 year old children. (Or makes16 servings meat/meat alternate at lunch or supper if not counting the vegetables toward the vegetable requirement).  If served at snack, makes 48 servings of meat/meat alternate for 3-5 year old children.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Online Resources for Providers

I just came across a new nutrition website called "The Taste Buddies" for kids aged 6-10.  The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has just launched this colorful site which has healthy activities, kid friendly recipes and fun nutrition facts.  Check it out here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Whole Grains

Have you been trying to eat more whole grains and/or serve more whole grains to the kids in your care?  If you said yes, you are not alone!  According to a recent study by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, most people are trying to consume more whole grains.  The study found that 73% of the respondents said that they were trying to eat more whole grains, and 72% were trying to include more fiber in their diets.  This is very encouraging, however, the study also showed that many people are still confused about just why they should be eating more whole grains.  

What are whole grains?  All grains start life as whole grains.  For example, wheat plants growing out in a field contain wheat seeds.  The wheat seeds, or "kernels" are whole grains.  Seeds contain 3 key parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.  To be considered a whole grain, the seed must retain all of its 3 key parts.  When grains are refined, such as when "white" flour is made from wheat seeds, some of the 3 key parts are removed.  White flour (also known as "wheat" flour on food labels) contains only the starchy endosperm of the seed, the bran and the germ have been removed.  This strips important nutrients from the flour.  Food manufacturers often "enrich" the flour and add back some of the missing nutrients, but they do not add them all back.

What do you miss by eating refined grains?  The bran which contains antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber and the germ which contains B vitamins, protein, minerals, and healthy fats.  When the bran and germ are removed you lose 17 key nutrients and food processors are only required to add back 5 of the lost vitamins and minerals.  They cannot add back the antioxidants.

Why are whole grains important in the diet? The medical benefits of eating 3 servings of whole grains per day instead of refined include:
  • better weight maintenance
  • decreased stroke risk
  • decreased type 2 diabetes risk
  • decreased heart disease risk
  • decreased risk of some cancers.

Your next question may be "That's all great but how do I know which products are truly whole grain"?  This is an excellent question because food companies often engage in deceptive practices when trying to get you to buy their product.  The answer lies in reading the labels carefully, and I have blogged previously about this here   I have also previously blogged about whole grain recipes for use in your child care home using millet, barley, and whole grains in general.

What is your favorite whole grain recipe?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wildwood Conference

It's August already?!?  I simply cannot believe that August is upon us, but that just means that the Wildwood Conference is only about 3 months away.  We are all starting to get excited about the conference and we are getting speakers lined up and ironing out all of the details.  The conference will once again be held at Children's Hospital.  (Check out this link to see the flyer for the conference).  If you haven't already marked your calendar, please do so now.  It is going to be so much fun, and we can't wait to see you all there!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Upcoming Wildwood Workshops

Are you looking for an opportunity to learn about nutrition for children, mingle with your peers, and earn some continuing education hours?  The newest Wildwood workshop, "Scrumptious Snacks and Marvelous Meals" will be offered on Thursday, August 12 at the Denver County Association Meeting.  This meeting will be held at 7 pm at the Salem United Church of Christ at 5300 E. Florida Ave, Denver 80224.  Additionally, the workshop will be presented on Wednesday, September 22 at the Jefferson County Association Meeting at 8 pm. The address for that meeting is the Clement Community Center at 1580 Yarrow Street in Lakewood. 

This workshop is full of tips for serving healthy meals and snacks to the children in your care.  If you attend, you will also receive lots of recipes and menu ideas.  This workshop will be offered throughout the state during the next year.   If neither of these locations is close to you, keep watching for more dates, or call your program rep. to see when a workshop will be offered in your area!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Choking Prevention Poster

I just uploaded a new resource to the Wildwood website.  The "Prevent Childhood Choking" poster is now available in the "forms and documents" section of our website.  This poster was developed by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the International Food Information Council Foundation.  It is a colorful poster that would be great to post in your childcare home or even to pass out to the parents of children in your care.  I am continuously amazed at how many parents are unaware of foods that can be choking hazards for young children!

Friday, July 9, 2010

More Web Resources

If you are a Denver Post subscriber, you may have noticed that a nutritional website developed by a Boulder company is in the running for a prize from Michelle Obama's campaign to fight childhood obesity.  The website,, is the only entry from Colorado to make it into the finals in the "Apps for Healthy Kids" competition (which is part of the Let's Move! campaign started by Michelle Obama). 

ZisBoomBah is a free website that is aimed at kids ages 9-12.  Kids can design their own meals by dragging and dropping foods onto their plate.  Once they have filled up their plate, they can "Add It Up" and various meters rate the nutritional value of the foods chosen.  My kids liked this aspect because it allowed them to see the nutritional value of the choices that they made. The website also has nutrition videos, recipes, and kids can even email the meals they have created to their parents. 

If you want to check out some more of the nutrition websites that are in the running in the "Apps for Healthy Kids" competition click here.  There are some other contenders which also offer nutrition games for kids.  Additionally, this link will allow you to vote for your favorite one after July 14. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

McCormick Spices

I received a free sample of McCormick's "Recipe Inspirations" spices in the mail the other day.  As you can see, the package includes 5 individual spices (there are 6 little packets of spices but 2 contain paprika).  It also includes a plastic-coated recipe card (which can be saved for later use) on the back of the package to make an entree using the spices included in the package.  The one I received is for "Spanish Chicken Skillet" and includes paprika, minced garlic, thyme leaves, black pepper and red pepper. 

The thing I like about this idea is the fact that it is a seasoning mix that does not include salt!  Most packaged spice mixes that you can buy at the store are jam-packed with salt but this one just contains herbs and spices.  The recipe on the package does recommend that you add 1 teaspoon of salt when you make the recipe, but you could easily leave it out if you want to keep the sodium level low. The recipe that you make with this card also includes 1 can of diced tomatoes and you could use the low-sodium variety to further limit the sodium if you wanted to.

While someone who cooks all the time and has these spices on hand might not find this to be a useful product, this would be a good trade-off for someone who doesn't.  For example, using this product could produce a much more nutritious product than buying a frozen dinner.  The recipe lists prep time as 10 minutes and cook time as 25 minutes, and the recipe is a fairly simple one, making this a good product for a beginning cook. Also, the McCormick website touts these as "putting flavorful twists on traditional recipes".  I think they want people to get a chance to try spices that they may not be familiar with (rosemary, cilantro, sage, and dill) without having to buy a whole bottle of the spice.  For those of you with lots of cooking experience, who knows, it may be just what you are looking for too- new recipes and a little "inspiration"!

Monday, June 28, 2010

90% of Americans Get Too Much Sodium

New data from the CDC indicates that only 9.6% of U.S. adults limit their daily sodium intake to the recommended levels!  At first that was very shocking to me, but upon thinking about it, it really is not.  It seems as though many people are eating out more frequently and eating more processed foods.  These foods are usually very high in sodium and people are often unaware of that fact.   Quick quiz: do you know what the daily sodium recommendations are?

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults get less than 2,300 mg of sodium each day.  Of course, this recommendation is for only about one-third of Americans.  The guidelines for anyone who is over 40,  has high blood pressure, or is African-American are far stricter at 1,500 mg of sodium each day.  Note: it looks like the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines that will come out later this year will encourage all Americans to make 1,500 mg of sodium per day their goal!

Any guesses as to how much sodium the average American takes in every day?  A whopping 3,466 mg of sodium!   What are the risks for taking in so much sodium?  A high sodium diet has been shown to raise blood pressure in most people.  This is unfortunate because high blood pressure increases a person's risk for stroke, heart disease and also kidney disease.  In fact, the CDC estimates that if everyone followed the sodium recommendations, there could be 120,000 fewer cases of heart disease and 66,000 fewer strokes every year.

Where is all this sodium coming from?  As I mentioned before, many people mistakenly believe that most of their salt comes from the salt shaker.  In reality, salt that we add ourselves only accounts for about 10% of our daily sodium.  About 75% of sodium comes from processed and restaurant foods.  I found it interesting that the CDC report  listed the three food groups from which we get the most sodium.  These included 37% of our daily sodium from grains (this included pizza crust and breads).  28% of our daily sodium comes from meats, including poultry, cold cuts and fish.  12% of our daily sodium comes from vegetables (this included potato chips, french fries, canned vegetables, canned vegetable soups and vegetables with sauces).

So, what can the average American do to cut down their sodium intake?
You can take simple steps like: eating fewer processed foods and restaurant foods (if you make food at home you can control the amount of sodium you add), eating more fresh vegetables or frozen vegetables without added sauces, reading food labels to help you choose low-sodium foods, rinsing canned vegetables and beans to remove as much salt as possible or buying the "no added salt" varieties.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Don’t Forget Your Vitamin C!

We all know that we need to remember the sunscreen when we are headed outside for a day of fun in the sun.  But according to some new studies, you might want to consider taking along some strawberries to munch on as well! 

Previous studies have shown that topical vitamin C (the type found in cosmetics and lotions) can help protect our skin from sun damage.   (This is why you often see vitamin C added to sunscreens.)   Eating foods rich in vitamin C has also been associated with "better skin aging appearance" (fewer wrinkles) in other studies   But new research has shown that eating foods rich in vitamin C not only keeps those wrinkles away but actually may protect our skin from sun damage. This is a great discovery if it turns out to be true!  We already know that vitamin C is necessary for healthy skin, and sun protection would be another bonus for eating yummy vitamin C rich food!

It is thought that vitamin C's role as an antioxidant is the reason  for this protection (previously another antioxidant, lycopene, had also been shown to help prevent sunburn).  So now you have another great motivator to make sure your children are getting enough vitamin C every day- the knowledge that it just might help them avoid a painful sunburn!

Vitamin C rich foods include: oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, red bell peppers, papaya, broccoli, kiwi, guava, and cantaloupe. 

Lycopene can be found in "red" foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit

Monday, June 14, 2010

Where's the fruit?

You have probably heard the message that most people do not eat enough fruit.  Depending on how many calories you eat in a day, the MyPyramid recommendation for fruit can be anywhere from 2- 3 1/2 cups per day.  The majority of Americans do not eat this much fruit every day, but I believe that many people are trying to do better. 

One thing that makes it difficult for many people is the misleading packaging on many food products.  Consider "fruit snacks" for example. On more than one occasion, I have observed people at the store who are stopping by with their child to pick up snacks for their baseball team, soccer team, etc.  Often these parents will tell the child that they need to choose fruit snacks because they are "healthier". When I hear this it really makes me sad.  The food companies have done a great job of convincing people that fruit snacks actually contain fruit!  In reality, they are more like candy than fruit.  Most contain concentrates of nutrient-poor juices such as apple and pear and then they add more sugar and artificial colors.  Some throw in a few vitamins to make their nutrition label look a bit better, but fortified sugar is still just sugar!

What are some other products that people mistakenly think contain a lot of fruit, but really don't?  How about toaster pastries?  The packages of these pastries often claim "made with real fruit", but how much is really in there?  One toaster pastry averages about 200 calories, but really only about 2% of those calories are coming from fruit!  You are also getting 6 grams of fat (some brands even contain unhealthy trans fats), 16 grams of sugar, 160 mg of sodium and less than 1 gram of fiber.  That is a lot of extras that you don't need if you are really just trying to get the nutrients from fruit.  On the other hand, if you ate the equivalent 200 calories worth of dried apples, you would get 7 grams of fiber (and very little sodium, no fat and no added sugar). 

Bottom line:  fruit snacks and toaster pastries are a "sometimes"  (or "whoa") food.  Most of the time choose fresh fruit, canned fruit without added sugar, and unsweetened frozen fruits to meet your daily fruit quota.  Fruits such as grapes, apples, and bananas can be an easy and portable snack.  Dried fruit as part of a trail mix is even less perishable and is easy to carry around on a busy day.  Making smoothies can also be a great way to help children get more fruit, and you can control the ingredients yourself (thereby preventing added sugar)!       

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Information Available on the Wildwood Website

I have just added some new informational handouts to our website that I wanted to make you all aware of.  Our juice flyer, and a flyer outlining the benefits of breastfeeding are now available under the "forms and documents" section of the Wildwood website.  Both flyers can be shared with the parents of children you care for.  The breastfeeding flyer lists the benefits of breastfeeding for both the mom and infant.  This flyer also includes safe milk storage tips and tips for heating breastmilk.  The juice flyer offers information about why limiting juice consumption in children is recommended. 

Do you have any suggestions for information you would like to see posted, questions you would like answered, or topics you would like to see covered in this blog or on our website?  Feel free to leave us a comment below!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Food App

I'll admit it, I am not a big cell phone user.  I do have a cell phone, but as my children would tell you, it is "so primitive"!  I only use my cell phones for emergencies.  Much to my children's dismay, my cell phone doesn't have a camera, internet access, or even a voice mailbox!  That being said, I understand the fun factor of I-phones, Blackberries and all of the others.  So, for all of you I-phone users out there, I wanted to share a cool food-related "app" that you might be interested in. has an app that can help you choose the freshest produce, give you storage tips for the produce, and even give you information about which fruits and veggies have the highest pesticide residues.  The app has information for more than 125 different fruits and vegetables, all available instantly.  If you are intrigued, check it out!  I imagine this would be a great tool to have when you are visiting the grocery store or farmer's market! 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are You Growing a Garden This Year?

I have previously blogged about the benefits of gardening with children.  Some of these benefits include: children are more likely to eat what they grow, it gives children a chance to learn about plant lifecycles, it can help them be more responsible, and it is a great way to get some exercise!  Gardening can also be a lot of fun!

If you are planting a garden with the children in your care this summer, and you end up with more than you can eat, consider donating your excess to a food bank.  There is a great website:, that links up home gardeners with food banks.  If you visit this website, you can type in your zip code and find a food bank or pantry in your area that would love to have your extra produce!  You can help feed the hungry, and you and your children can feel good about giving to others.

Opportunity for Child Care Providers

If you were on our Food Program back in 2007, you may remember the little spiral-bound books we handed out from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Colorado Physical Activity and Nutrition (COPAN).  They were the "Child Care Champions Best Practices" books and they were full of great ideas and resources for child care providers.   According to the developers, the best practices were "designed to help prevent childhood overweight and to promote intuitive eating".  There was also an assessment that child care providers could take to identify which of the seven best practices they were promoting well in their child care, and which ones they could improve on.

CDPHE is now revising the Child Care Champion's Best Practice Self Assessment and would like your help.  If you are a child care director or child care provider in the Denver area (or are willing to drive to the Denver area for the meeting), here is an opportunity for you!  Colleen Domer is looking for individuals to discuss the seven best practices and share information that will help make the assessment more useful and practical to child care providers.  She will be holding focus groups in a central Denver location on the following days:

Saturday, June 5th from 10:00am to noon
Tuesday, June 8th from 6:00-8:00 pm
Saturday, June 12th from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm

Each group will last about an hour and 15 minutes and each participant will receive 1 hour of continuing education.  In addition, participants will receive food and refreshments and have their name entered in a drawing for $100 gift certificates. 

If you would like to participate, or have questions call Colleen at 720-273-6696.  You can also email her at

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More Resources for Child Care Providers

Do your kids like Elmo and his friends on Sesame Street?  If so, you might want to check out a resource that is available on the "Sesame Workshop" website.  This great resource is called "Healthy Habits for Life" and it is meant to help you teach young children about the importance of good nutrition and physical activity.  You can download a guide that is full of games, coloring sheets and fun physical activities starring the Sesame Street characters. You will also find some great recipes and snack ideas.  The caregiver guide and the storybook are available in both English and Spanish.  

Go to:  On the right-hand side of the page you will find the downloads and also some very cute videos.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Limiting Screen Time in Children

You may be aware of the recent kick-off of the "Let's Move" program by first lady Michelle Obama.  On Tuesday, as part of this program, the Childhood Obesity Taskforce released their action plan to tackle obesity in children.  One of their recommendations for early childhood focuses on limiting screen time in children.  They recommend that the guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics be encouraged in all early childhood settings.  Home child care providers are in a perfect place to make a difference in this way!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children two years old and under should not be exposed to television, and children over age two should limit daily media exposure to only 1-2 hours of quality programming.  According to the taskforce report, one study found that 43% of children under the age of two watch television daily, and 26% have a television in their room!  They also reported that preschool children are watching more television than is recommended. 

What does this have to do with obesity prevention?  Studies have shown an association between increased television viewing and an increased risk of being overweight.  Not only that, a recent study linked early exposure to television (at age 2) to a future problems such as: decrease in classroom engagement, decrease in math achievement, increase in victimization by classmates, decrease in physical activity, and an increase in weight.  Amazingly enough, these negative impacts of the early television watching persisted many years later.

What can you do?  As a child care provider, you are in control of your television set!  Limit screen time and encourage physical activity instead.  You can have a big impact on the present and future health of the kids in your care!   

To learn more about the Let's Move program, and how you can help prevent childhood obesity, visit their website:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Springtime Dip!

With the arrival of Spring, comes the arrival of fresh green peas to grocery stores, Farmer's markets, and maybe even to your garden! I just love fresh peas, they are one of those vegetables where the fresh version is so much better than the frozen variety, and not even comparable to the canned version!

Green peas are a true nutrient-rich food. One cup of fresh green peas has only 117 calories but supplies an impressive 7 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. It also contains the following percentages of our daily requirements: 97% vitamin C, 22% vitamin A, 12% iron, 45% vitamin K, 24% folate, and 26% thiamin!

We all know that kids love dips! Serve this one with whole-wheat pita bread triangles, toasted corn tortilla triangles, or carrot and celery sticks.

Green Pea Guacamole Dip (adapted from AICR Newsletter)
1 cup baby green peas, freshly shelled
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and pit removed
2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 roma tomatoes, finely chopped

In a small saucepan combine the peas and 1/2 cup of water, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes or until peas are soft. Drain well. Spread the peas on a double layer of paper towels and gently blot dry. Place the peas in a mixing bowl and mash with a fork.

Add the avocado to the bowl and mash until the dip has the desired texture. Add the onion, cilantro, lime juice, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours if desired or serve immediately.

Just before serving, sprinkle the tomatoes over the top.

Crediting information: Makes 6 servings. Each serving creditable for the 1/2 cup fruit/vegetable requirement at snack for 3-5 year old children.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sweet Potatoes

I just couldn't resist talking about sweet potatoes again! I wrote a post in February about my favorite sweet potato recipes, but I wanted to share my newest favorite with you. As I mentioned before, the Center For Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) rated dozens of vegetables in 2009. They gave each one a score based on how much potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, iron, calcium, fiber, and carotenoids a serving contained. Not surprisingly, leafy greens (such as kale, spinach, and collards) came in at the top of the list. Sweet potatoes were next on the list though because they are packed with nutrients!

This recipe not only contains nutritious sweet potatoes, but also quinoa and black beans. As you might expect, this is a very nutrient-rich casserole!

Quinoa and Black Bean Casserole (adapted from

1 cup dry quinoa
1 cup salsa
2 eggs
1 cup shredded low fat cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded sweet potato (grate using a cheese grater or food processor)
3 cups cooked black beans (or use 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the quinoa and cook according to package directions.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together the eggs and salsa and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the cooked quinoa, black beans, sweet potato, half of the cheese and the cumin. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetable mixture and mix well. Pour into a 9 x 9 inch casserole dish that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top and bake for 30 minutes, uncovered.

Crediting information: Makes 15 servings. Each serving creditable for 1 meat/meat alternate and 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal for 3-5 year old children.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Marathon Pancakes!

I have been training for a marathon! I have always been a runner but never usually run for more than an hour at a time. I have had to adjust to the fact that I have to take food with me when I go on long training runs. I tried some of the more common carbohydrate snacks for athletes like the little gels and little gummi bites but I found them to be kind of gross and they also made my stomach feel weird. The best marathon food I have found for me is these oatmeal pancakes! I love these pancakes since they are not too sweet and are full of healthy oats but not a lot of fat (which you don't want when you are running long distances).

Even if you don't take them for a run, these pancakes are great for breakfast served with homemade blueberry sauce! (I use frozen blueberries, a little sugar, water and a little cornstarch to thicken it all up) YUM!

"Marathon" Pancakes (adapted from a Health magazine recipe)

1 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 cup enriched all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cup skim milk

Soak the oats in the buttermilk in a small bowl for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk the eggs and egg whites together in a large bowl. Stir in the skim milk. Add the dry ingredients and oat mixture to the egg mixture and stir. Cook on a skillet coated with cooking spray.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vegetables For Breakfast

You probably know all about the value of feeding many servings of vegetables to children every day. Vegetables are so full of good nutrients, and populations of people who have a diet high in vegetables tend to be healthier. As a child care provider, you have a chance to help children get some of the vegetables that they need in their diet every day. Maybe you can even help them discover a vegetable that they never even knew they liked!

If you are a provider on the Child and Adult Care Food Program you are feeding the children in your care vegetables for lunch and supper at the very least. But what about those kids who just get to eat one of those meals at your child care home? Are they getting enough? Probably not, since most kiddos do not get enough servings of fruits and vegetables at home. You might want to try serving vegetables at breakfast on occasion to help children get what they need, and also because it can be a delicious change of pace!

I found a recipe for mini egg frittatas that I have adapted a bit. It is a very versatile because you can use any diced veggies that you have around (even leftovers)! The last time I made these I used onions, red bell pepper, zucchini and green chilies which gave them a really pretty mix of colors.

I have served these to my family for both breakfast and dinner and there are never any leftovers!

Mini Egg Frittatas
(makes 12 frittatas)

You will need:
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups of diced veggies (for example: red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, green bell pepper, zucchini, onion, green chilies, etc.)
1 cup low-fat grated cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese)
10 eggs, beaten together (I usually substitute 1 cup of egg substitute- such as Egg Beaters- for 4 of the eggs just to cut down on the saturated fat and cholesterol)
2 Tablespoons chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large 10-inch skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the diced veggies for about 5 minutes or until they are slightly soft. Season with salt and pepper. Coat a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Divide the veggies up among the muffin cups.

In medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs and add the chopped chives. Fill the remaining area in the muffin molds with the egg (about 1/4 cup per muffin cup). Sprinkle the top with cheese. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the eggs are completely set. Serve warm or cold.

Crediting information:
Makes 12 servings. Each serving is creditable for 1/4 cup of the vegetable requirement at breakfast, or 1 meat/meat alternate and 1/4 cup of the vegetable requirement at lunch or supper for 3-5 year old children.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Added Sugars May Increase Heart Disease Risk Factors

I have talked a lot about the importance of cutting down on the amount of sugar our children are eating. So, you probably know by now that eating a lot of added sugars adds calories to our diets and not much else! In the U.S., our consumption of added sugars has risen dramatically in the last twenty years. This is unfortunate because products containing a lot of added sugars are usually pretty nutrient-poor choices. I have talked about the risk of children not getting enough of the nutrients they need if they fill up on foods like this. Eating lots of processed, nutrient-poor foods can also contribute to weight gain which is a problem for more children every year.

If all of this was not enough to convince you to avoid feeding children these foods, maybe a new study will change your mind. The study in the April 21 issue of JAMA shows that eating a lot of foods containing added sugars can actually increase the risk of heart disease. In this study, they found that eating foods containing large amounts of added sugar was associated with lower levels of HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) in the body, and led to higher levels of triglycerides (these are bad and we want these levels to be low). I always like to point out that you should never base your diet on the results of one study alone, but we already did know that eating a lot of simple sugars can raise your triglycerides. Also, there is no down side to eating less sugar!

With the rise in the number of obese and overweight children, we are seeing more risk factors for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.) develop at an earlier age. This is just another good reason to serve children more nutrient-rich foods that are whole, fresh and not processed!

If you would like to read the study, click here:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Concerns about BPA

We have received some great information regarding BPA that I wanted to pass on to you. This is from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Concerns about BPA are especially relevant to child care providers since baby bottles can contain BPA. Please read this important information if you use plastic water bottles, or baby bottles:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Cancer

Have you heard the latest news about fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer risk? New results from the European Prospective and Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study show that eating fruits and vegetables can reduce your cancer risk. Unfortunately, a lot of news sources are printing headlines that the study has shown a "relatively weak" protective effect (2.5% lower risk) from eating fruits and vegetables. I am hoping that most people don't use this as an excuse to eat fewer servings of fruits and vegetables! The American Institute for Cancer Research recently responded to these headlines by warning that many of these news articles are not giving people enough information about the study to interpret the results in a meaningful way.

According to AICR, here are three key reasons why fruits and vegetables should (still) feature prominently in your diet:

1) AICR recently published a landmark study on cancer and cancer prevention and they point out that we already knew that diet is not protective for all types of cancer. Their report found probable evidence linking fruit and vegetable consumption to cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, stomach, esophagus and lung. The strength of protection from fruit and vegetable consumption for these diseases is probably much higher than 2.5%. Since there has not been a link shown between other types of cancer and produce consumption, this is probably why the overall numbers look lower.

2) Even if the 2.5% decrease is accurate, if everyone ate just 2 more portions of produce per day, we would have 2.5% fewer cancers (about 37,000 cases every year in the US). I am sure any of those 37,000 people would rather have eaten more fruits and vegetables instead of getting cancer.

3) There are many other benefits to eating lots of fruits and veggies. People who load up their plates with plant products are less likely to become overweight. Being overweight is a risk factor for cancer, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases.

Are you interested in learning more about diet and cancer? AICR offers free brochures (up to six at a time) or downloads providing information on topics ranging from eating smart for cancer prevention, antioxidants, or even information for those with cancer. Many of their brochures are also available in Spanish. Go to to check out their materials.