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Healthy Eating Habits

Find fun ways to help your family discover fresh food, its origins and get on the path to having healthy eating habits.

by Jessica Corwin, RD

Teaching nutrition, healthy eating habits and cooking classes at farmers’ markets, I find kids watching my every move, perhaps wondering what the heck the purple plant is in my hand. It seems that there are countless children who have no clue that food comes from anywhere but the supermarket shelves. Without this awareness, they don’t recognize the relationship between eating healthful foods and having the energy to run and play. It’s up to us, as parents and caregivers, to teach them where their food comes from.

Research has found that the more involved kids become in the mealtime process (grocery shopping, gardening, harvesting and cooking), the more likely they are to try the new food and (gasp!) enjoy it.

Take a family trip to a farmers’ market, visit a fruit farm where you can pick your own treats, or plant a kitchen garden (see below). Then together, plan meals and create recipes with your bounty while also teaching your kids healthy eating habits. Your kids will feel proud as they become more involved in the process. You will not only be helping your children develop a healthy relationship with their food, you will likely reduce their risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Easy Kitchen Garden

Reuse household containers to grow a moveable feast and teach kids healthy eating habits.

by Hillary Black

• Salad greens and spinach are fast growing and so tasty fresh from the garden. Even if you have just a small deck, porch or windowsill, try your hand at a mini kitchen garden and you’ll never run out of fresh greens again. Perfect containers include plastic water or vinegar bottles (cut a hole in the side but leave the handle) or large tin cans. Make a few holes in the bottom for drainage and a layer of stones or gravel helps, too. Potting soil, seeds, sunshine and water will transform into ingredients for salads, sauces and more in no time.
• Fresh herbs such as Italian parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano and thyme dress up salads, steamed vegetables, soups and omelets.
• Use fresh spinach for an easy sauté in a touch of olive oil with minced garlic and a splash of lemon juice.
• Buy a head of organically grown garlic from the grocery store, plant a few cloves and when the greens appear, snip them to add a mild garlic touch to salads and egg dishes.
• Experiment with different types of greens such as romaine, mache or mesclun—a mix of baby lettuces that may include endive, arugula and red oakleaf, for example. You’ll never run out of salad greens or lettuce for sandwiches.

Teach kids these healthy eating habits that they can use for a lifetime!

Photography by Hillary Black

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Greek-style Yogurt

Learn the importance of protein and make Greek-style Yogurt at home.

Think of protein as the building blocks of our bodies. Needed by all of our cells, protein helps build cells when we are growing and helps repair cells that are damaged. Proteins are essential to our body’s healthy growth and development, particularly for children. Whether your family gets their protein from lean meats, fish, beans, tofu or nuts, try to include a taste of protein with each and every snack or meal.

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Balance your plate. Divide your plate in half, and fill one half with fruits and veggies. Next, divide the second half again, filling one quarter with whole grains and the other with lean protein. Now you have a balanced plate according to the latest tool from the USDA known as MyPlate. (Visit myplate.gov.)

This may seem fairly straightforward, yet as many families are making the switch to meatless meals, not everyone knows how to add protein in a nutritious manner. For a vegetarian option, replace the 3-4-ounce portion of meat, poultry or fish with beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan, edamame, nuts or seeds. All of these protein-rich foods are free from cholesterol and unhealthy fats.

Go Greek. Greek-style yogurt seems to be one of the trendiest foods on the market, and for good reason: Greek-style yogurt contains more protein than most other yogurts. If you’re not willing to pay the extra cost for this protein-rich version, you can make your own at home simply by draining off the liquid of your usual yogurt with cheesecloth (recipe follows).

Stock up. Keep protein-rich snacks such as boiled eggs, nutty trail mix or hummus on hand, and your entire family will be more likely to eat them.

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Greek-style Yogurt

Makes approximately 2 cups

1 quart plain yogurt
Cheesecloth, coffee filter or clean
dish towel
Large bowl

1. Line bowl with cheesecloth or towel.
2. Pour yogurt onto the cloth.
3. Wrap the yogurt up by bringing the corners of the cloth together. Twist and squeeze the cloth around the yogurt to drain off as much liquid as possible into the bowl.
4. Once most of the liquid has been removed, tie the ends of the cloth together to prevent the yogurt from pouring out. Use a rubber band or string to close the ends.
5. Set the wrapped yogurt into a colander, place the colander over a bowl and set in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight.
6. Remove yogurt from the refrigerator and squeeze to remove any remaining liquids. Tip: It should have the consistency of sour cream.
7. Untie the cloth and scrape the thickened yogurt into a clean bowl and serve or refrigerate.

By Bridgett Hurely and Jessica Corwin, RD

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Healthy Pasta Taste Test

We conducted a healthy pasta taste test and discovered that not all noodles are equal. Here are the results.

Ah, comfort food. Whether it’s your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup or your Aunt Susan’s famous mashed potatoes, certain foods bring back memories of family traditions and good times. Growing up, my comfort food was pasta topped with my father’s tomato sauce. Pasta is still a staple in my home; my children love to help make my father’s sauce recipe, and of course, choose the pasta.

It used to be that the familiar options for pasta were homemade (great if you had the time) or store-bought pasta made from refined flour. Today, the choices for healthful and fortified pasta are abundant, but choosing one can be overwhelming.

The Taste Testers:

Since spaghetti is the most popular pasta shape in my home, that’s what we used in the healthy pasta taste test. I decided to conduct the healthy pasta taste test sampling five of the healthier-option pasta brands widely available. All pastas were either whole wheat, whole grain or fortified. In a blind healthy pasta taste test, nine children ages 6-11 tried all five pastas, rating them on taste and texture. We asked them to rate from 0 to 10, 0 being the least favorite and 10 being the best. The results of the healthy pasta taste test were surprising!

 

Healthy Pasta Taste Test Results:

#1 Favorite Overall Winner

Barilla PLUS Multi-grain Thin Spaghetti
This pasta received either a 9 or 10 from all of the children.

“Yummy from beginning to end.” Lillianne H.
“I loved everything about it.” Megan M.
“I loved it so, so much; there was nothing bad about it.” Paige S.

Nutrition Facts: 2-ounce serving; 210 calories; 10g protein (the highest of all pastas sampled); 4g dietary fiber; 38g carbohydrate (the least of all pastas sampled). Visit barillaus.com.

Runner-up

Ronzoni Smart Taste Thin Spaghetti
These noodles received a rating between 8-9.

“Delicious!” Alys G.
“Very good.” Carter R.

Nutrition Facts: 2-ounce serving; 170 calories; 6g protein; 5g dietary fiber; 40g carbohydrate. Visit ronzoni.newworldpasta.com.

The lowest-rated pasta of the group received comments such as:

“Yuck!” Jane M.
“Eww!” Owen R.
“Not very good at all.” Kennedy C
“Icky and grainy.” Landon G

If you’ve tried whole-grain pasta and given up because your kids didn’t like it, try again. Your kids don’t have to give up taste to get healthy fiber. Start out by trying the pastas that won in our taste test, and conduct a healthy pasta taste test of your own for your kids.

Nonno (Grandpa) Russo’s Simple Tomato Sauce

Makes approximately 7 cups
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
½ large can (14 ounces) water
½ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ medium white onion, minced
4 fresh basil leaves, rolled and cut into ribbons, or 3⁄4 teaspoon dried basil
2 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Pour crushed and plum tomatoes, tomato paste and water into a medium stock pot and mix until combined.
2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

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Variety is the Sauce of Life!
Use the basic recipe (above) and try these two variations.

Meat Sauce

1 lb. of your favorite ground meat (ground sirloin works well as does ground turkey breast)
3 Tablespoons olive oil

1. Brown meat in olive oil; drain off fat and add meat to tomato sauce.
2. Cook an additional 30 minutes.

Veggie Sauce

1 lb. mushrooms, any variety (I use baby portabellas, also called crimini or brown mushrooms)
¼ small white onion, roughly chopped
1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise then sliced
1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil

1. Lightly sauté all veggies in olive oil then add to sauce.
2. Cook an additional 20 minutes.

Written and photographed by Cathy McConville

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Spring-time Treats (Part 1)

Cute spring eats are on the menu, and these look almost too good to devour—almost.

Carrot Flower

Recipe and photography by Heather Holly, welovebeingmoms.blogspot.com

Serves 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

1 celery stick

1 package baby carrots (about 40)

½ cup ranch dressing

  1. Put ½ cup of ranch dressing in a ramekin or small bowl.
  2. Arrange the baby carrots so they surround the bowl, and place a celery stalk “flower stem.�? A leafy piece of celery works best to mimic leaves.

 

Bunny Pops

Recipe and photography by Paula Biggs, frogpricepaperie.com

1 package white gum paste

1 bag white candy melts or candy coating

1 bag large marshmallows (one per pop)

1 bag pink triangle candies

  1. Remove a small amount of gum paste from the bag, roll into a ball and flatten to approximately 1/8-inch thickness.
  2. Use a knife to cut bunny “ear�? shapes out of the gum paste. Make them pointy at the bottom to help them stick into the marshmallow. Set aside to harden.
  3. Insert lollipop sticks halfway into the bottom of each marshmallow.
  4. Once the gum paste “ears�? have hardened, follow package directions on bag of candy melts to heat until melted to a smooth consistency.
  5. Dip a marshmallow in melted candy until coated.
  6. Add a candy triangle “nose.�?
  7. Insert the hardened gum paste “ears,�? pressing slightly into the marshmallow.
  8. Place the bunny pop into Styrofoam while the candy coating sets.
  9. Repeat steps 6-9 until you have made the desired number of bunny pops. You may need to adjust the “ears�? as the candy coating hardens.

Try these spring time treats and stay tuned for part 2!

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Mother’s Day- Spring-time Treats (Part 2)

Spring has sprung, and with it comes these tasty treats. Today, it’s a too-cute breakfast. So dig your bunny paws into what’s in store!

Bunny Pancakes

Recipe and photography by Jenni Price, jennipriceillustration.blogspot.com

Serves 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 6 minutes per pancake

What You’ll Need:

• Large mixing bowl

• Electric mixer

• Two condiment squirt bottles

• Paper towels

• Spatula

• Spoon

• Electric griddle

2 cups plus 3 Tablespoons Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake Mix

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 ½ cups water

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Red food coloring

Pam Cooking Spray

12 chocolate chips

6 red M&M’S®

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir the pancake mix and sugar together with a spoon. Add the water and vanilla extract and stir. Beat the batter with an electric mixer until well blended without many lumps. You may need to add a little more pancake mix (1 tablespoon at a time) depending on the consistency. You want the batter thick enough to “draw with but not so thick that it won’t squeeze out of the squirt bottle.
  2. Pour the batter slowly into one of the condiment squirt bottles until it’s about 2/3 full. This will be your white color.
  3. Color the remaining batter pink using red food coloring (add 1-2 drops at a time).
  4. Pour the pink batter slowly into the other squirt bottle. Clean up any drips.
  5. Spray your griddle with cooking spray but do NOT turn it on yet.

To Create a Bunny:

  1. Draw the outline of a circle with the pink batter.
  2. Draw two arched lines for the bunny “ears with the pink batter.
  3. Using the white batter, draw the inside lines of the “ears and the round “mouth.
  4. Turn your griddle to the lowest setting (between 200-225°F) and let the outlines cook until puffed up. The outlines will keep remaining batter in.
  5. Except for space inside the white outlines, fill the “bunny with the pink batter within the pink lines.
  6. Use white batter to fill the 3 white outlines. Wait to flip the “bunny until the batter is bubbly and loses most of its shine.
  7. Place two chocolate chip “eyes and 1 red M&M’S® for the “nose. Or have fun and try using raisins or other candies!

These pancakes make the ultimate spring breakfast and are perfect for a whimsical tea party.

For more of Jenni Price’s amazing pancake art and tutorials, visit jennipriceillustration.blogspot.com.

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Coconut Oil: Do or Don’t?

While Dr. Oz and health experts are touting the benefits of coconut oil, the lack of scientific evidence indicates otherwise. However, this trendy ingredient hit supermarket shelves only recently. The saturated fat found in chocolate was once demonized as a contributor to heart disease, yet is now believed to be safe. So coconut lovers everywhere, remain hopeful!

If you prefer to stick with olive oil, go right ahead. Until we have more information, continue to use coconut oil sparingly. If you are not using it at all, there is no need to start (yet!).

What we do know is that unsaturated fats are heart healthy. Aim to include these in your diet instead of those made of saturated fats (butter, lard, coconut or palm oil) or trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oils).

For more information on how to incorporate healthy fats into your family’s diet, visit choosemyplate.gov.

By Jessica Corwin, RD MPH

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Mushroom and White Bean Tostadas

Next time you are looking for a quick and simple lunch idea that both you and your kids will love, try making a tostada. They’ll love the flavor of this Mushroom and White Bean Tostada, but you can top your tortillas with whatever your family loves!

Serves 6

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon butter

8 ounces sliced mushrooms, cleaned and patted dry

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pinch kosher salt

1 15.9-ounce can Great Northern beans,

drained and rinsed

¼ cup vegetable oil

6 flour tortillas, fajita size

1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped

1 tomato, seeded and diced

¼ cup shredded Swiss cheese

Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, butter and mushrooms. Sauté for 5-10 minutes or until mushrooms release moisture and shrink. Continue until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Add minced garlic, kosher salt and Great Northern beans. Stir and cook until mixture is heated through.

For tostada shells: On a separate pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Using tongs, place a flour tortilla in the oil. Fry for 30 seconds or until lightly browned. Use tongsto flip the tortilla, and cook for 15-30 seconds until brown. If bubbles form, poke with your tongs to burst them. Using tongs, carefully remove the tortilla from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain.

Repeat with remaining tortillas, turning down the heat if needed to avoid burning. Let shells cool.

To assemble, place one shell on a plate. Top with a handful of lettuce, 1 spoonful of the mushroom and bean mixture and 1 spoonful of diced tomatoes. Sprinkle with Swiss cheese. Serve hot.

Written and Photographed by Kristen Doyle