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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Make Your Own: Green Chili Chicken Casserole

This amazingly yummy casserole is from one of our readers, Mary!! Thanks, Mary!
Green Chili Chicken Casserole
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
12 corn tortillas, cut into fourths
16 ounces low-fat Cheddar cheese, shredded*
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 can green enchilada sauce
* I sometimes substitute with low fat Mexican cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In baking dish, arrange chicken and sprinkle with cumin and garlic powder.  Bake until chicken is cooked, 30 minutes or more depending on the thickness of the chicken.  When cooled, shred chicken for casserole.
Line the bottom of a medium sized baking dish with half of the tortillas.  Top with half of the sour cream, half of the chicken, a third of the cheese, and a third of the enchilada sauce (you will end with cheese and enchilada sauce).  Repeat layers, top with the remaining sauce and cheese. 
Tent with aluminum foil (not touching or the cheese will bake onto the foil).  Bake for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly-don't let cheese brown.  Let stand for 5 minutes before digging in.
PER SERVING: (approximately)
451 Calories; 12g Fat (23.9% calories from fat); 52g protein; 33g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 98mg Cholesterol; 725mg Sodium;
Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain (Starch); 6 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 Fat; 1/2 other Carbohydrate
Green Chili Chicken Casserole
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
12 corn tortillas, cut into fourths
16 ounces low-fat Cheddar cheese, shredded*
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 can green enchilada sauce
* I sometimes substitute with low fat Mexican cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In baking dish, arrange chicken and sprinkle with cumin and garlic powder.  Bake until chicken is cooked, 30 minutes or more depending on the thickness of the chicken.  When cooled, shred chicken for casserole.
Line the bottom of a medium sized baking dish with half of the tortillas.  Top with half of the sour cream, half of the chicken, a third of the cheese, and a third of the enchilada sauce (you will end with cheese and enchilada sauce).  Repeat layers, top with the remaining sauce and cheese. 
Tent with aluminum foil (not touching or the cheese will bake onto the foil).  Bake for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly-don't let cheese brown.  Let stand for 5 minutes before digging in.
PER SERVING: (approximately)
451 Calories; 12g Fat (23.9% calories from fat); 52g protein; 33g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 98mg Cholesterol; 725mg Sodium;
Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain (Starch); 6 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 Fat; 1/2 other Carbohydrate

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tips for a Healthier Lunch Box

The Basics:
  1.  One serving of veggies or salad AND one serving of fruit.
  2. One serving of low-fat or fat-free milk/dairy item (ie: low-fat cheese stick, yogurt, cottage cheese).
  3. One serving of protein (ie: chicken, fish, eggs, peanut butter, beans).
  4. Water, milk or 100% juice.

Healthy Sandwiches:
  1.  Swap white bread for whole wheat varieties. 
  2. Switch it up with whole wheat pitas/wraps.
  3. Switch from bologna, salami, or other fatty luncheon meats to low-fat alternatives like lean turkey or chicken breast.
  4. Include veggies like lettuce, cucumbers, or shredded cabbage.
  5. Use peanut butter in moderation. 2 tablespoons (size of 1 ping pong ball) provides 190 calories and 16 grams of fat.
  6. Use a thinner layer of peanut butter and substitute sugary jelly with banana or apple slices.
  7. Skip high-fat mayonnaise.  Try something with fewer calories like mustard.
Pack a Salad:
  1. Make it colorful. Use dark greens as a base then load up on bright veggies like pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots.
  2. To make it a main entree, add lean protein such as chicken, beans, or hard boiled eggs.
  3. Pack low-fat or fat-free dressing in a separate container to prevent it from getting mushy.
 Easy Entrees:
  1. Make a cold pasta salad from whole wheat noodles left over from the previous night's dinner.
  2. Mix plain brown rice with canned beans or shredded lean meat for a high dose of protein and fiber.
  3. Pack hummus with fresh veggies and whole wheat pita triangles or flatbreads for dipping.
  4. Include low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese with carrots, cherry tomatoes, fresh berries, or melon. These make for a calcium-rich, high-protein lunch.
Healthy Drinks:
  1. If you pack juice, make sure it's 100% juice. All fruit drinks are required to list the percentage on the label.Many juice drinks contain no more than 10% juice and are mixed with a lot of sugar.
  2. Water and low-fat milk are the best drinks for children.  They can be frozen to help keep foods in the lunch box cool and should be defrosted by lunch time.
Energy Snacks:
  1. Swap traditional fried chips for baked chips or corn chips. (Not totally in agreement with this---this would be a sometimes food, not an often food:))
  2. Pack salt-free dry-roased almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts to provide kids with a dose of heart-healthy essential fatty acids- be sure to cap the serving at 1/4 cup since nuts are high in calories.
  3. Try low-fat or light yogurt in exchange for full calorie varieties targeted at children. To avoid artificial sweeteners, pack fat-free plain yogurt with fresh fruit.
  4. Select whole grain granola bars that are low in fat and sugar-take a look at the food label and choose the ones that contain less than 1g of saturated fat per serving and are no more than 35% sugar by weight.  To figure the percentage of sugar per serving, divide the grams of sugar by the gram weight of one serving and multiply by 100.
  5. Aim to make snack treats occasional instead of everyday items.  A small serving of animal cracker are lower in fat and sugar than regular cookies, doughnuts, brownies and other baked goods.

Packing a Quick Lunch:
  1. Piece together things that don't need preparation...whole piece of fruit, low-fat yogurt, individual packs of baby carrots, and sliced turkey wrapped in a tortilla is a great balanced lunch.
  2. Save time by packing leftover rice, beans, chicken, salad, and other healthy options into lunch containers are dinnertime. 

    Thank you to Empower Me for this comprehensive information. I received it at CHOP's Healthy Kids Day!

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Go Foodtown!

    I stopped in our local Foodtown the other night after my nutritionist appointment and was really pleased to see these tags posted all over the store! Sorry about the crazy glare- camera phones are the worst.  I used it to find maple syrup (the nutritionist suggested buying pure maple syrup instead of using the sugary fake stuff), orange juice and a few other items. I still read the labels before I made my purchase, but the tags lead to good healthy food. Score one for Foodtown!

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Toddler Tips: The Perfect Spoon Food!

    Baby A LOVES using spoons at this point but is not always successful- forks are much better for delivering food to the mouth without any spillage.  That being said, some food requires a spoon and it's always a huge mess.
    Dun, dun, dun....enter yogurt!

    I usually feed Baby A her yogurt, but last week I put her yogurt directly on her plate and let her have at it. I was seriously impressed- yes she got it all over her face, but it mostly got in her mouth---none on her lap/arms/ears/feet/etc!!!  This was Fage yogurt--we buy this or Chobani usually- plain, low-fat, and she loves it!

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Make Your Own: Baked Tomato Risotto

    This is another reader recipe!!!!

    2 med zucchinni
    1 jar spaghettis sauce
    1 can chicken broth
    1 can sliced mushroom
    1 cup arborio rice
    2 cups shredded mozz cheese
    yellow bell pepper (optional)

    preheat oven to 350, spray 3 qt. casserole dish w/ non stick cooking spray
    cut zucchinni lenghtwise in half.  cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices.  combine spaghetti sauce, broth, zucchinni, mushrooms & rice in prepared dish.

    bake, uncovered, 30 minutes.  remove from oven & stir casserole.  cover & bake 15-20 min. or until rice is tender.  remove from oven; sprinkle evenly w/ cheese.  bake, uncovered, 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.  garnish w/ yellow pepper if desired.

    This is supposedly a side dish, I used it as a main course.  I added more rice, spaghetti sauce & cheese.  (why not??!!)  & used vegetable broth in place of chicken to make a vegetarian meal (no one knows the difference!  ;) )  It is just delightful!!

    Thanks, Jessica!!!

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Healthy School Lunch Choices for Your Children

    I posted an article from GMA yesterday and here is another good one! I generally pack Baby A dinner from the previous night with snacks like: natural applesauce, mozz cheese, fresh fruit, and sometimes goldfish or honey wheat pretzels. Mmmmm. What do you pack for your children?

    Healthy School Lunch Choices for Your Children

    Nutritionists, Chefs, Parents Share Tips on Packing Tasty and Healthy Meals


    Aug. 17, 2010—

    As kids head back to school, many parents struggle to come up with healthy lunch options that kids will enjoy. Here are some healthy lunch alternatives from nutritionists, chefs and "GMA" viewers.
    CLICK HERE to browse all of "GMA's" kid-friendly recipes for more ideas!

    School Lunch Alternatives: Experts' Advice

    Beyond Peanut Butter:
    There are options for children with peanut allergies. Peanut allergies don't always translate to other nuts, so some children can try almond butter. "This is a really nutritious option that allows kids to have a similar alternative," said Dr. Keith Ayoob, the director of the nutrition clinic at the Rose R. Kennedy Center in New York City.
    Other peanut butter alternatives include soy nut butter, sunflower seed butter and apple butter.
    *Allergies can vary by individual, so always check labels and check with your child's doctor.
    Skip the Sandwich:
    Experts say low-fat cheese and whole grain crackers are a great way to get your kids the calcium they need. Hard boiled eggs are also an option. Dietitian Marion Groetch of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City says eggs are "a great source of protein and low in saturated fat."
    She also suggests whole grain pasta salad and green salads.
    Heather Cupp, a dietitian with Riley Hospital for Children's POWER program in Indianapolis, Ind., says there are lots of fun alternatives to the lunch sandwich. Her suggestions include:
    Breakfast for Lunch: 2 tablespoons of apple butter with one medium banana sliced and sandwiched between two whole wheat waffles, 1 cup of low-fat milk, 1 cup of carrot sticks.
    Tacos to Go: Two hard or soft taco shells, or one small bag of baked tortilla chips and toppings like lettuce, tomato, low-fat cheese,, beans, salsa, etc. Add one low-fat pudding cup and 1 cup of berries for dessert.
    No-Bake Pizza: 1 Whole grain English muffin, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, 1 piece of string cheese, 5 slices of turkey pepperoni, 1/2 cup of sliced sweet peppers and mushrooms. Assemble at school so the muffin does not get soggy.
    Shape, Alphabet or Other Theme Meals: An "S" themed lunch could include salmon salad (instead of tuna) with crackers, sweet bell pepper slices and strawberries for a sweet end. A circle theme would have crackers, reduced fat cheese cut-outs, melon balls, cherry tomatoes and other circle foods. Or try an ocean theme: tuna salad with goldfish crackers, blue Jello, broccoli trees with dip and pineapple for dessert.

    Healthy Lunch Alternatives

    Sandwich Suggestions:
    If your child has to have that sandwich, there are lots of good choices. Experts draw a distinction between processed meats and fresh deli meats, such as plain roast turkey or roast beef.
    Start with whole grain breads, rolls, pitas and wraps, Groetch advises.
    Hummus is a great alternative to processed meats, as are tuna salad, chicken salad or egg salad. Just watch the salt content and limit tuna salad to twice a week because of the mercury content.
    Ayoob recommends "a slice of Mom's meatloaf slipped into a pita pocket with some lettuce and tomatoes ... or substitute some leftover chicken that's been deboned and shredded."
    And for dessert, nutritionist Connie Diekman, the director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, suggests a "fruit and yogurt smoothie enjoyed with graham crackers."
    Experts note that packed lunches should always be kept chilled until eaten.

    Chef's Solutions

    Sarah Moulton recommends marinating very thin chicken breasts in olive oil and lemon juice and grilling them on the weekend to have for the week. She also suggests pita pizzas with low-sodium tomato sauce and low-fat unsalted mozzarella with tomato and basil and other veggies.
    Rocco DiSpirito says one option is "a mini smorgasbord of veggies, fruits, cheeses and sauces." You can find containers that separate hot and cold foods and can separate sauces. Include things like carrot sticks, celery sticks, asparagus, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and low-fat string cheese with dips like marinara sauce, low-fat ranch dressing and hummus. He also recommends fruits like strawberries, cherries, grapes and peaches, with dips like low-fat cream cheese and jelly and flavored yogurts.
    And "GMA's" own chef Karen Pinkus says a great healthy alternative is a white bean spread:
    (1 can drained white beans, 1 clove garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, chopped fresh rosemary in the food processor or mash it all up with a fork). You can serve it on bread or with crackers, cherry tomatoes, or cucumbers.

    Healthy Lunch Alternatives, From Parents

    Viewers sent e-mails to "GMA" with their own healthy solutions.
    Kristen of Gurnee, Ill., makes her own sliced meat.
    "My husband and I grill/roast chicken breasts, turkey, or roast beef," she wrote. "We then slice and freeze the meat for future sandwiches. We like this method because we are able to control (for the most part) the amount of fat and salt that is added in the cooking process."
    Crystal Ottaviano of Stamford, Conn., wrote to "GMA" that she gives her daughter sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches. "This is not only a healthy alternative to deli meat," she wrote, "but sunflower butter has a similar taste and consistency to peanut butter, and is a safe alternative for many kids with peanut allergies."
    Suzanna Quintana of Sheridan, Wyo., suggested preparing packed lunches "tapas-style, with several healthy options that are easy to munch on: celery sticks, carrot sticks, pretzels, cucumbers, natural apple sauce, whole grain crackers, dried fruit, like raisins or cranberries, cheese sticks, etc."
    Another mother suggested making burritos instead of sandwiches.
    "Use whole grain tortillas, smear some re-fried beans, grated cheese and taco sauce if they like it spicy," wrote Nell Justice of Las Vegas. She also suggested adding "natural apple sauce and carrot sticks to nibble on."

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Make Your Own: Apricot Jam

    Doesn't this sound delicious and easy??

    No Sugar Apricot Jam

    Or should I say, no added sugar, considering the fruit sugar.  Either way, this jam was so easy, I don’t know why I haven’t been doing it for years.
    This recipe actually came from my mom.  She first gave us a box of apricots the other day, that needed to be used ASAP!  Then she told me about some new pectin in the stores that do not require adding sugar to your fruit.  It specifically says on the box, “No sugar needed.”
    apricot jam1 I used
    • 6 cups of apricots
    • 2 TBL lemon juice
    • 1 box No sugar needed pectin
    • 1/4 cup concentrated apple juice
    • 3/4 cup water
    apricot jam2 I through everything in a pot, and stirred.  Waited it to start boiling, and break down the apricots.
    Then I put it into jars and straight into the fridge! No canning at this house!
    apricot jam3 MMMM,  and you know what it tastes like?  Apricots!  Tangy and delicious, not sickingly sweet.  Apricots are supposed to be tangy!
    apricot jam5

    Super Healthy Kids is a great website---go check 'em out!

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Make Your Own : Zucchini Muffins

    Zucchini Muffins (12 Muffins or 24 Mini Muffins)

    Baby A and I made these today and they were delicious!!! I made a double batch and froze several so I have easy on-the-go breakfast options.

    1 Cup All Purpose Flour
    1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
    1 Tsp Cinnamon
    1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
    2 Tsp Baking Powder
    1/2 Tsp Salt
    2 Eggs, whisked
    1 Tsp Vanilla
    1/3 Cup Vegetable or Canola Oil
    2/3 Cup Agave Nectar
    1 1/2 Cups Zucchini, shredded (about 2 small zucchini)
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Place the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
    3. Place the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk to combine.
    4. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir just until the ingredients are combined.
    5. Pour the zucchini mixture into large or small muffins cups (I like to use a small ice cream scooper to make spooning into the muffin cups easier).
    6. Bake 15 minutes for small muffins and 20 minutes for large ones.
    7. Cool and serve.

    Thank you, Weelicious!

    Make Your Own: Zucchini Bread

    One of our awesome readers shared this amazing sounding zucchini bread recipe!

    2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 medium)
    1 cup unsweetened applesauce
    1/2 cup canola oil
    ...3/4 cup fat-free egg product or 3 eggs
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 1/2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 cups Gold Medal® whole wheat flour
    3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottoms only of 2 (8x4-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray.
    2. In large bowl, mix zucchini, applesauce, oil, egg product, vanilla and sugar until well blended. Stir in all remaining ingredients except walnuts until well blended. Stir in walnuts. Spoon batter evenly into pans.
    3. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

    There is not much sugar in this, and I have yet to try it with nuts. Got this from

    It's also good with some flaxseed. They come out sooooo moist and I always make two batches (4 loaves) and freeze them.

    Thank you, Chalee!!!!

    Ten Worst and Best Foods

    Can you guess what the best and worst foods are? I am happy to report we regularly eat most of the foods on the good list, and only eat one (soup...and very occasionally, in recipes, not in a bowl) on the worst list.

    Ten Worst and Best Foods

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Back to School Tips

    I saw a good segment on GMA this morning and thought you all might like to check out Dr. Roizen's Healthy Choices for School lunches!

    Back to School: Dr. Roizen Tells You to Serve Your Child -- and What to Avoid

    Processed Lunch Meats are Not Healthy, Roizen Says


    Aug. 17, 2010 —

    As kids go back to school, they're depending on the school cafeteria or a brown bag lunch packed for convenience. But the most convenient food isn't always the most nutritious.
    Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic appeared on "Good Morning America" this morning to talk about the five foods that your child shouldn't have for lunch -- and the healthy alternatives.
    The foods parents feed their children should demonstrate proper nutrition, provide energy and promote good health, he added.
    CLICK HERE for Dr. Roizen's list of 10 web extra healthy suggestions for your kids, and CLICK HERE for healthy lunch alternatives from nutrition experts, chefs and "GMA" viewers..
    CLICK HERE for Dr. Roizen's recipe for Better Chicken Fingers.

    Eat This, Not That

    Don't Eat: Croissant Breakfast Sandwiches, up to 900 calories and 65 grams of fat.
    Roizen gives this an "F" for fattening, calling this sandwich a complete disaster. Prepackaged ham or sausage plus cheese on a croissant allows schools without kitchens to serve students a hot breakfast using minimal equipment, but this convenience comes at a cost, Roizen said.
    Roizen Recommends: English muffin sandwich, up to 330 calories and 16 grams of fat.
    In just three minutes you can whip up this healthy breakfast sandwich for your children with Roizen's recipe: split and toast a whole-grain English muffin. Spray a ramekin or Pyrex custard cup with a nonstick spray and fill it with one cracked egg. Scramble and microwave for 30 to 45 seconds. Top one half of the toasted muffin with the cooked egg and top with the other half to make a sandwich.
    Add sliced tomato, baby spinach or another vegetable for extra credit!

    Don't Eat: Doughnut, up to 300 calories, lots of refined grains and sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup.
    The sweeteners will give you child a sugar crash later in the day, Roizen said. He warned that sometimes doughnuts are billed as being "fortified" with sprinkles, but pointed out that so-called fortification was because the sprinkles had vitamin A.
    Roizen Recommends: Whole grain bagel, great source of iron, fiber and protein.
    Serve your child a whole grain bagel with natural peanut butter. It's a great way to get healthy fiber, good fat and protein.
    For extra credit, have your child wash down the bagel with low-fat milk. That way, your child will get a healthy dose of calcium, which is often lacking with children opt out of breakfast cereals.
    Don't Eat: Processed lunch meats, which carry increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
    Parents may have warm memories of crustless bologna sandwiches on white bread, but children are better off without meats that have been cured, smoked or salted. Roizen said processed meats such as bologna and salami are some of the worst things that a person can eat. That's because the preservatives with which they're made stay with people for life and are proven to increase risks for both heart disease and cancer.
    Roizen Recommends: Trade luncheon meats for unprocessed ones such as turkey breast or roast beef for a low-fat boost of protein with 100 percent whole grain bread and a little lettuce or tomato.

    Don't Eat: Chicken nuggets, low-quality meat with saturated fat and high sodium.
    Chicken nuggets are a popular choice in high school cafeterias, but nuggets are generally made with low-quality meat and are loaded with heart-unhealthy sodium and cholesterol-raising saturated fat, Roizen said.
    Roizen Recommends: Better-quality chicken nuggets. Find a brand that uses lean chicken and whole-grain breading. Oven bake them the night before, chill them, pack them and send the package to school with an ice pack, he added.
    Don't Eat: Jellied fruit cups, full of added sugar and chemicals.
    Popular gelatin fruit cups may be portable and kid-friendly, and the fruit within might be packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber -- but the gelatin is packed with sugar and artificial coloring.
    Roizen Recommends: Go "old school" with fruit in the lunch box, but make it fun, Roizen said. He recommended that you freeze grapes or mango chunks the night before, pack them with ice and send them along for your child's lunch, or make fruit skewers. You could spear melon chunks and strawberries -- or other fruit that you prefer -- on a shish kebab stick.
    For extra credit, send your Disney-loving daughter to school with fruit in a princess-themed cup. A recent study from Yale University showed that 50 percent of kids said food tasted better when it came in a package decorated with a cartoon character than it did in plain packaging.

    10 More Healthy Alternatives from Dr. Roizen

    Instead of: Ice cream
    Have: Kefir or yogurt with live culture or spore bacteria

    Instead of: Potato chips
    Have: Baby carrots or celery sticks, or cut up fruit with lemon spray on them

    Instead of: Fried foods
    Have: Grilled, baked, or roasted foods

    Instead of: Chocolate chip cookies
    Have: 1/2 ounce high-quality dark chocolate

    Instead of: Potato chips
    Have: Air-popped popcorn

    Instead of: M&M's
    Have: Edamame beans

    Instead of: Toffee, caramel
    Have: Nuts or or cut-up fruit

    Instad of: Cheez Doodles
    Have: Low-fat string cheese, walnuts

    Instead of: Corn chips
    Have: 100 percent whole grain pretzel sticks, celery sticks, or cut-up apples

    Instead of: Store-bought salad dressing
    Have: Extra-virgin olive oil and either vinegar or lemon juice or both

    Did you learn anything new? What tips do you have?

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Tip: Make Extra Pasta

    When I make pasta, I usually make enough for us to have lunch the following day, and I like to make a little bit more to keep on-hand for Baby A lunches, snacks, dinners, etc. If we're eating late one night, I'll heat up some pasta and that way she doesn't have to wait and I don't have to make two dinners. I would serve something green with it like peas, limas, or really, even mixed veggies!

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Fed Up With School Lunch

    I have been known to be really obsessed with the menus that are being prepared in my student's schools. I love asking teachers what the kids are eating, and am SHOCKED when I find a school that serves healthy food, not to mention one local preschool that has their own veggie garden (squeeeeee!!!!)!!! 

    Generally, it goes like this:
    Snack- sugary packaged cereal bar
    Lunch- buttered noodles, corn, canned fruit (syrup) OR nuggets and fries
    Snack - pre-packaged rice krispie treat


    Nothing fresh. Everything with sugar.

    No wonder my (and all of their) students have behavioral difficulties, not to mention bathroom issues, etc.

    I read this awesome article on Fed Up with School Lunch and she really outlines the what is happening in American Preschools.  The article is long but it's a good read.

    For 15 years, I worked as a teacher and center director at two of the largest child care providers in the United States. Although you might think that the nutrition in child care and preschool centers is much better, you are not correct. Early childhood is the time of rapid development, discovery of the world around us and the time when most kids are just beginning to figure out who they are. It would make sense to have well rounded, healthy nutrition in the countires preschool and child care centers but unfortunately, it is not.

    One of my daily challenges as the director of a child care and preschool center was maintaining a budget. Just like those cafeterias in the public school system, it is all about the budget. Athough it was my job to stay on budget, I often felt guilty with what these kids were fed. State licensing laws in California mandate that the children are fed a daily mix of protein, fruits, veggies and dairy products but there is not a set limit on calories or fat levels.

    In order to maintain a budget, you have to go with what is cheap. Since your monthly budget in a preschool is based on the number of children you have enrolled, so it pays to have a school that is as full to capacity as possible because that will give you the “extra” money for not only supplies like crayons and markers but also food. When I ran a school that was close to capacity (I had 125 children enrolled and school capacity was about 145), my menus were full of yummy treats like green salad, pasta salad full of fresh veggies, homemade favorites like lasagna and BBQ chicken sandwiches. We also had homemade cookies sweetend with apple sauce not sugar and kabobs with fresh fruit. It was easy to make healthy choices for the kids and in three years, I never had a complaint about food and often parents asked for recipes we served, to make at home.

    In contrast when I was assigned to a struggling school that had an enrollment of 50 or so (capacity was about 165), there was no way to stay close to budget and be nutritious. I was not the director but the assistant director and most days, I would not even eat the food. It was everything on the cheap, chicken nuggets, fruit cocktail in heavy syrup, packaged cookies and sometimes a trail mix of dry breakfast cereals and juice for snack. At one point the director even ordered the cook to serve either fruit (it was the canned kind in heavy syrup) or veggies because it cut the cost of each meal to a more manageable budgeteed amount.

    In both cases this food is served to all children that eat table foods. So babies that don’t have food sent from home are fed the same meals and staff simply finely chop the foods for them to eat. So little ones (around age nine months of age or so) were eating processed, sugar-ridden foods before they were even one year of age. Now on the outside looking in I realize how crazy this is! My own son was in the young toddler program and had many problems going to the restroom, sleeping and even having good behavior. I think now that it was not only the environment but also the food that he ate daily while in care.

    Parents with young children should investigate the salt, sugar and fat content that their infants, toddlers and preschoolers are eatting. I think that they would be shocked! No child should be eating that much fat and salt laden, processed food at one year old. It is sad to see our littlest people being taught that chicken nuggets, fruit cocktail and crackers are suitable lunch and that juice is the only beverage of choice unless you are eatting lunch.

    Our children’s poor nutrition starts young, too young. The cycle is created for many when they are not even old enough to talk. Parents need to rally in all areas of education and care to meet the needs of our children to teach and facilitate healthy nutrition which is something that can stay with them for a lifetime.

    When I left the child care and preschool industry and became a stay at home mom, my son who was about one and a half, also left care. During this time he had a lot of problems sleeping, was almost always constipated and often in care was “wild” for no apparent reason. Once he was at home with me, things changed. He got homemade meals everyday, was limited on sugar and was given choices. His choices were often carrots or green beans or a choice of low fat ranch dressing or tomato sauce for his chicken breast. When I saw that he was actually learning to make “healthy choices” as well as think independantly it made something click inside. Maybe all his issues were based on all the processed foods, sugar filled foods he was served in preschool and insisted on eatting at home. Maybe I was not only changing his diet but teaching him how to make better choices when it came to food.

    This made me make some changes in our whole family’s diet. We are not rich, not by any means but we found a way to always include fresh fruit, freah veggies and lean proteins in our shopping every week. We changed to whole grains, we cut out salt, switched to lean turkey and chicken instead of beef and even added in more fish to our diets. Our son fell in love with our morning breakfasts of egg whites with sliced tomato or steel cut oats topped with strawberries, blueberries and cinnamon. He started asking for salmon and the “tan rice” (brown rice) for dinner. He refused to eat the chicken nuggets, fish sticks and processed foods the other kids ate while at play dates. We even switiched kid favorite like jelly/jam, syrup and lollipops to sugar free types. We started having salads a few times a week as a main dish and ate high carb things like pasta as a side dish rather than a main dish.

    Our son’s behavior changed as well as his sleep patterns. He also began to have regular “movements” that were normal and didn’t make him cry. When our second son was born and started to eat table foods we commited ourselves to even having his rice cereal be whole grains. We thought if we did that, we might never have to “recondition” him as we had with our oldest.

    It actually has not made that big of an impact on our budget. We eat seasonally, or in some cases such as blueberries, buy frozen. Looking back on our diets both the one our oldest ate in preschool and the one that our family ate I realize it really was not that hard to make a change. This does not mean that we have never again eaten Mickey D’s or had ice cream but when looking at the whole picture, we have made a BIG change. It has made us all healthy and our kids now make much better choices when it comes to food.

    Today's guest blogger: For over 15 years I worked in the preschool industry as a teacher, infant care provider and eventually as a center director. I learned a lot from the parents, children and educators that I worked with over the years but now have moved on to raising and teaching my own children at home as a Stay-at-Home Mom (by far the hardest job I have ever had). I enjoy sharing my knowledge of the preschool world with everyone I can and currently write a blog called Preschool Mommy and am a Featured Parenting Contributor on Associated Content, a local writer for Examiner on the topics of Motherhood and Preschool and write on occasion for the AOL site Holidash.

    What do you think about this? What can we do (besides packing our child's lunch/snacks of course) to rectify this situation locally?

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    You still have time----Vote!

    Most of you already know that I am a photographer.  We are honored to be in the running for Philadelphia's Best Children's Photographer!!!!!!! Please take a moment to visit the MyPhl17 Hot List and vote for us!!!! 

    We would love you even more if you pass this along to family and friends so they can vote, too!

    Leave a comment if you vote!

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Make Your Own: Souper Summer Squash Soup

    I got this recipe from Whole Baby Food and just happened to have a humungo sqaush and some zucchini (both homegrown by family!) on the counter, so I was excited to try this.  The recipe says you can puree or leave it, but the chunks looked gross so I pureed. My husband was a little nervous when he saw it on the counter, but did taste it and loved it! YUM!

    Here is a Souper Summer Squash Soup – enjoy it with your tiny diner from 7 months+  Puree it if desired or serve with the squash pieces intact depending on how your little one enjoys textures.

    3 medium summer squash (yellow-crocked neck or patty pan) washed and diced into small-ish pieces
    3 medium zucchini squash – washed and diced into small-ish pieces
    1 medium tomato – roughly diced
    1/2 cup finely chopped onions
    1 clove of garlic
    4 or 5 cups of veggie stock (homemade or low sodium commercial – love Pacific Natural brand!)
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    pepper, basil, oregano and chives
    2 drips of lemon juice from a bottle of lemon juice or squeeze the juice from 1/2 of a lemon)

    In a frying pan with a olive oil, saute onions, tomato and garlic 5-10 minutes until veggies are all a wee bit soft and onion is translucent; remove to a bowl.
    Add the stock to the crockpot and turn the crockpot on low
    Add the squash to the frying pan and sautee in the remaining oil for about 5 minutes – you’re not cooking the squash, just softening up a wee bit and allowing the flavors from the oil (tomato, garlic & onions) to seep into the squash
    Now add the squash and the remaining veggies to the crockpot along with the pepper and oregano (to your taste preference) – cook for about 1 hour until squash pieces have reached a texture you like.  Add the lemon juice and basil during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.
    Stir frequently and once soup is done to your tastes, serve warm or, allow to cool a bit and then puree.  If pureeing, you may want to then warm the soup back up prior to serving.  This is great cold too!  Serve the soup with crusty bread and chicken salad on a bed of lettuce for a quick light meal that even baby can partake of.

    *Taste often as summer squash may turn a wee bit bitter if you are leaving the skins on the squash – you may peel if desired but there really should be no need if you are using fresh squash.   You could also add 1/2 cup of rinsed brown rice or even lentils to this 1/2 way through the cooking.

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Easy Recipes Using Farm Market Fare

    What is your favorite thing to make with Farm Market finds? My recent favorite has been crock pot spaghetti sauce--YUM!

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Ten Tips for Healthy Toddlers

    I love this list- 10 Tips for Healthy Toddlers.

    It's simple, easy, and tips that really are no-brainers, but somehow get so lost in the thick of people's lives.  Do you have any tips to add?

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Why Buy Local Produce?

    I found this article on Chef Mom and knew I had to share. We used to buy produce only at our local super market. Then we moved on to produce marts (like Dekalb Produce), we supplement from Costco, and over the past month have only bought from local farms. Where do you get your produce?

    Finding local produce – and why you should make the effort!

    Filed under: Green living, Information and studies, Other good stuff, Vegetarian adventure
    Posted July 27, 2010 by Jen
    With all the talk about local produce, you may be wondering where you can get some for yourself. With so much of the food we eat shipped in from a great distance and to the local mega-mart, thinking about where to acquire local produce may take some brainstorming. Thankfully, with increased awareness of eating locally, it’s likely easier than you think.


    One very popular method of acquiring local produce is through a CSA farm. CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, is when a farmer sells seasonal shares in the foods he produces. You put up the money early, say late winter or early spring (and this money becomes, literally, seed money – the money with which the farmer buys seed), and for a certain number of weeks in the summer and fall, you get a share of the produce this farmer grows.
    While it’s really fun and eye opening to get all sorts of different produce throughout the summer and fall, you do have to plan ahead. In fact, if you are not part of a CSA and would like to be, start researching CSAs now, so when sign-up time for next season comes around, you’ll be ready.

    Farmer’s Markets

    Another somewhat obvious source for local produce is farmer’s markets. But beware! Not all farmer’s markets, and not all vendors at farmer’s markets are created equal.
    Some farmer’s markets are “farmer’s” markets in name only; they have more vendors selling more kitch crafts than actual farmers. And some produce vendors are not farmers at all – there are some people who buy wholesale produce from standard supermarket vendors, and try to pass it off as local at farmer’s markets. Feel free to ask a vendor about where particular items are grown to get a handle on how well the vendors knows the produce – and whether he or she actually grew it or not.
    National directories such as are a good place to start when looking for a local CSA or farmer’s markets.

    Yes, even your local mega-mart

    With the rise in popularity of local produce, even the mega-marts are getting in the act. Regional supermarket chains are allowing – well, encouraging – individual stores to get some produce from local growers. This produce likely will be displayed separately from the standard produce, and if you don’t see any, ask for it. You may not get the best price on the local tomatoes once the store gets its cut, but you can’t beat the convenience.

    Local backroads

    Keep your eyes open when driving around your neighborhood, town, and region. You never know when you’ll come across a roadside stand selling the freshest of the fresh corn, lettuce, peppers, zucchini, or cucumbers. Don’t just stop and get some – note where it is and make friends with the seller. Learn about what other items might become available, and take that route again.

    Why you should make the effort

    Finding local produce is terrific, but you should also know why it matters.
    Choosing local produce is not only choosing the freshest and most nutrient rich produce you can find (and often also the tastiest), it’s supporting your local economy. Local farmers are part of your local economy and the money you spend with local farmers and producers is more likely to stay in the local economy.
    Local produce has a lower carbon footprint. It takes less fuel to bring your local produce home than it does to bring the same item all they way from another state or even country to your mega-mart.
    Finding local produce may take more of an effort than you are used to, but it is a worthwhile endeavor. Not only will you have some delicious food on your table, you’ll be supporting the local economy and reducing your carbon footprint.

    Friday, August 6, 2010


    You know I love a good smoothie! Chef Mom has come up with some very intresting smoothie combos that I am excited to try!

    Smoothies are tasty options when you’re thirsty on a hot summer day. But smoothies – especially ones carefully constructed from nutritious ingredients – can be more than that. They can, if needed, be a meal.
    When it’s brutally hot outside and you don’t want to heat up the house with a traditional dinner – and want to help maintain appropriate hydration – smoothies could be just the thing. Plus, you can even customize them for each member of the family.
    The key to smoothies as meals is thoughtful selection of excellent ingredients. With some thought to what is going in, you can create a smoothie that delivers much of the day’s suggested servings of significant nutrients, drawing from major food groups. You can get your fruits and vegetables, your dairy, even your protein. While grains are a little tougher to process into smoothie, you can balance that nutrient in another meal.

    Fruits & juices in smoothies

    Fruits and juices are probably the most obvious and easiest smoothie ingredients to choose. What’s fresh and local in your town right now? What can you juice? Just about any fruit makes a delicious smoothie ingredient, and combinations are fun to try. Peach-banana? Blueberry-plum? It’s all about what sounds good to you.

    Vegetables in smoothies

    Smoothie ingredients aren’t limited to just fruits and fruit juices. Vegetables can make terrific smoothie additions and add even more nutrients. Carrots and beets can both be jucied and are delicious smoothie additions; beet juice add fabulous color, too! Celery and wheat grass are other interesting additions and steamed spinach can add an iron boost. For a real kick, try adding sweet peppers. Just about any juicy vegetable is worth a try.

    Dairy and non-dairy smoothie alternatives

    Dairy is also an easy addition to smoothies – as long as it’s in the form of yogurt, not ice cream or cheese. You can choose a plain or flavored yogurt, regular or Greek-style to add a bit of creaminess and calcium to your blender meal. If you don’t have yogurt handy, low-fat milk will do.
    You can also go the non-dairy route and try rice milk or other dairy substitute. The bigger point is to add a little creaminess.

    Protein in smoothies

    You may wonder how you balance protein into a smoothie meal. There are actually several options: you can use nut milks such as almond milk, blend in soft tofu for protein and creaminess, or – and most simply – add protein powder. Protein powder is available at health food stores both as a plain powder and flavored for nearly instant smoothies.

    Additional nutrients in smoothies

    To give your smoothies even more of a boost, you can add other nutrients like a table spoon of flax seed or other vitamin powders. Your local health food store is a great place to start for such nutrients. Just try not o go overboard! Nutrients are terrffic – until they make your smoothie too gritty.

    Garnish and sip that smoothie slow

    When your smoothie is finally done, don’t foget presentation. A little garnish and a straw go a long way to helping you and your family appreciate the cool calories on a hot night…and help you remember to savor your concoction.

    Banana carrot smoothie with wheat germ recipe

    • 1 banana
    • 1 carrot
    • 1 apple
    • water
    • Non-fat yogurt
    • Wheat germ
    1. Puree in a blender until smooth

    Strawberry celery smoothie recipe

    • 3 sticks of celery
    • Apple juice
    • 6 strawberries
    • Strawberry yogurt
    • Ground flax seed
    1. Puree in a blender until smooth

    Beet protein smoothie recipe

    • 1-2 beets, peeled, steamed, and chopped
    • Mixed fresh or frozen berries
    • Several kale leaves
    • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
    • Fresh lime juice
    • Protein powder
    • Plain or vanilla rice milk
    1. Puree in a blender until smooth

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Dinner Party- BBQ Style

    On Sunday, we hosted a surprise bbq to honor our dear friends in celebration of their 35th wedding anniversary.  Somebody on facebook asked if I could share the menu, so here you go!

    Ring bologna, cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, crackers
    Celery, pita chips, hummus

    Grilled chicken kabobs (chicken marinated in lemon garlic sauce)
    Grilled chicken drumsticks (marinated in buffalo sauce)
    Grilled sausage with rolls
    Grilled corn on the cob
    Crock pot baked beans
    Tomato and mozzerella salad

    Red Wine
    White Wine

    Homemade cake
    Fruit (which we left in the fridge, oops!)

    Baby A enjoying leftovers!

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Make Your Own: Mama's Spaghetti Sauce

    This is straight from the family archives, my mom's famous crock pot sauce!

    I use fresh tomatoes.

    Combine in crock pot:

    2 large cans tomatoes (peeled, whole) or 6-8 fresh ones
    3 cans (6 oz) tomato paste
    1/2 pack spatini OR a blend of italian seasonings to taste
    1 chopped onion
    1 chopped green pepper
    bay leaf - optional
    sugar- to taste (I don't usually add sugar)

    Simmer on low in crock pot for 4-5 hours.  Stir occasionally.  Throw out bay leaf before serving.

    -- pic

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Make Your Own : Eggs Benedict with Salmon

    Mmmm...we made this last week and LOVED IT!
    Slight variations-wheat bread instead of rye. Applesauce instead of sugar, changed the texture a little but was yummy, no capers, basil instead of parsley. Oh yea, and mama doesn't know how to poach an egg and they were kinda hard-boiled. Oops.
    recipe image
    Rated: rating
    Submitted By: dakota kelly
    Prep Time: 30 Minutes
    Cook Time: 20 Minutes
    Ready In: 1 Hour
    Servings: 8
    "Eggs Benedict with a twist! A delicate yogurt and lemon sauce perfectly compliments savory smoked salmon."
    3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
    2 teaspoons lemon juice
    3 egg yolks
    1/2 teaspoon prepared Dijon-style
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon white sugar
    1 pinch ground black pepper
    1 dash hot pepper sauce
    8 eggs
    8 slices rye bread
    8 ounces smoked salmon, cut into thin
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for
    1 teaspoon capers, for garnish
    1. To make the sauce: In the top of a double boiler, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, egg yolks, mustard, salt, sugar, pepper and hot sauce. Cook over simmering water while stirring constantly, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
    2. In a large stock pot heat 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Carefully break the eggs one at a time into the boiling water. When all the eggs have been added, reduce the heat to medium. When the eggs float to the top, remove them with a slotted spoon and let drain briefly.
    3. To assemble final dish: Toast bread slices and place on warm plates. Top each piece of toast with a slice of smoked salmon and a hot poached egg. Drizzle with yogurt sauce; garnish with parsley and capers.              

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Voila Customs

    Hopefully most of you read this site in full color and not just in google reader. If you do read in google, take a minute to pop over to the site and check out our amazingly cute layout.  The header, background and logo were all created by our amazingly creative friend, Nicole.

    Nicole has also made the MyPHL17 Hot List this year!!!! We are so happy for her and have already shown our support by voting and leaving a review, but we would love if YOU could head over and give her a vote! They are currently in the top 5, where they very much deserve to be!!!!! :)

    Here is the direct link for voting:
    Click me!

    Good luck, Voila Customs!!!!!