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.