Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Beautiful berries!

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

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

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

Blueberry Corn Muffins

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

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

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

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

Fill the muffin cups with batter.

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

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

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

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hungry Monkey

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

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

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

A great book!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who needs sleep?

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some tips for good sleep "hygiene":

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

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Don't forget the white!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cooking with millet-not just for the birds!

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

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

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

Savory Millet Patties-adapted from Eating Well Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 5, 2009

Still confused about whole grains?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food for thought-book recommendation

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

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

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

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

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

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