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Snacks for the Little Ones

Snacks for the Little Ones

Doesn’t it seem like our child’s days revolve around eating? It’s true! Children are hungry little ones and rightfully so because their bodies are growing so quickly and they have endless energy that needs fueling! Kids’ little tummies can only hold so much at mealtime. Three meals are important to maintain structure in a child’s diet, but snacks are important to help bridge their nutrition in-between meals.

Healthy, kid-approved snacks are a great way to ensure that children receive a balanced diet. Snacks not only provide calories, but can also provide important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients. Use these five tips to make perfect healthy snacks that any child (or adult) will be sure to eat!

Food group pairings

In order to help kids eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups, try to incorporate at least 2 food groups in a snack. Check out the following examples of kid-friendly snack ideas that pair different food groups:

  • Protein + grain = hard-boiled egg + crackers
  • Vegetable + protein = baby carrots + hummus
  • Fruit + protein = apple + peanut butter
  • Dairy + fruit = yogurt + berries

In order to help kids eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups, try to incorporate at least 2 food groups in a snack. Check out the following examples of kid-friendly snack ideas that pair different food groups:

The meaning of snack size

Children’s stomachs are small and since they empty quickly, children need small portions frequently throughout the day. It’s important to maintain meal size and snack size though, and avoid letting children snack or “graze” all day long. If children are allowed to nibble on snacks throughout the day, they miss out on feeling hungry and full. These important cues for children to learn. Of course many children would love to snack on chips, cookies, or other snacks with little vitamins and minerals. If children snack throughout the day, they never get hungry enough for a nutritious meal. It’s then more difficult to fit in healthy foods. Check out the following snack size tips:

  • Use small bowls and side plates and avoid eating directly from the bag or container. For example, portion out crackers in a small bowl or divide a portion of pretzels on a side plate.
  • Return the bag, box, or container back to the cupboard or pantry after serving snacks. For example, after serving crackers, close the box and return it back to the pantry to avoid second servings.
  • Use reusable storage containers or snack-size bags for portioning. For example, store trail mix in snack-size containers or bags.

Pre-portion snacks to grab and go

Now that we have snack size in mind, pre-portioning snacks and storing them in the pantry or refrigerator can save you time. This also helps to ensure that older children and teenagers grab appropriate portions instead of eating directly from the container. When days are busy, pre-portioned snacks help to save time and ensure healthy choices are made. For example, instead of heading for the cookies in the cupboard, having pre-washed grapes portioned in snack bags in the refrigerator makes it easier to eat a healthy snack on the go. Having ready-to-go foods such as clementines, pistachios, boxed raisins, or bananas make it easy for travel. Grab pre-portioned or ready-to-go snacks before a day of shopping, when running to activities after school or work, or have them on hand after sports or other children’s activities.

Get those little hands to help!

Many children love to help and snacks are a perfect opportunity to include them in the kitchen. Children are also more inclined to try a new food if they are involved in picking or preparing it. Children can portion popcorn into snack bags or count celery sticks into snack containers. If you have a picky eater, this is a prime opportunity to give them control. For example, if your child often declines vegetables, you can say, “what would you like with your hummus: sliced peppers or baby carrots?”  As the adult, you ensure a vegetable will be included, but it gives the child some control.

Out of sight out of mind

If there are snack foods that cause confrontation in your home, avoid having them in the house altogether. For example, if candy is in the home and children know it’s available, then it’s more difficult to encourage children to have a healthier snack. If only healthy snack options fill the kitchen, then the options for sugary snacks won’t be there. This change is helpful for not only children, but adults too!

Now that you’re snack smart, use these tips and ideas to make the healthiest kid-friendly snacks for your family. When you meet with your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian, you will review additional healthy snack ideas that are individualized for you and your family to help you meet your goals. We look forward to working with you!

-Elizabeth Fay, MS, RDN, CNSC


5 Tips for Better Family Meals

5 Tips for Better Family Meals

When it comes to healthy eating for you and your family, the approach is certainly a team effort. Nutritious family meals can support every member of the family. Family mealtime offers one meal that can incorporate everyone’s food preferences and avoid parents and caregivers from being short order cooks. Let’s say goodbye to having the “kid’s” meal and the “adult” meal (unless, of course, there is a food allergy involved or food safety comes into play… more on that later!). Here are 5 tips to help you shape the most nutritious family meals for every member in your household.

1. Include fruits and vegetables at every meal

Incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into children’s meals as soon as they start eating solids helps to create a custom. Eating different fruits and vegetables becomes the routine for all family members and over time, a meal almost feels “empty” without fruits and vegetables filling half of your plate. Don’t worry if you have older children or only adults in your family. It’s never too late to incorporate more fruits and vegetables and start a new routine!

2. Be a role model

Family members, especially children, will be more inclined to eat the family meal when they see their parents, caregivers, family members, etc. also eating the same meal. We want to be good role models for our children and family members, so we have to lead the way. For example, on homemade pizza night, children will be more responsive to eating the salad on the table if they see the adults eating the same.

3. Make one meal and stick to it

In order for family meals to be successful and simple, one meal should be prepared. Family members will quickly learn that only one meal is being prepared and there are no alternates. To help make the one meal a success, meal planning can include other family members. For example, each family member can pick a day and choose the menu. This helps to ensure everyone’s preferences are being accounted. Of course food allergies and taste preferences should always be taken into account. If there’s a food allergy, the food item should be avoided from the meal. If a family member has a specific taste preference, that item could be left out or added later. For example, a family member may dislike mushrooms. If stir-fry is for dinner, then the meal can be prepared and portioned out for that person and then finished with mushrooms for the remaining family members. When it comes to food safety, all precautions should be taken. Infants less than 1 year of age should not be given honey or foods containing honey. Young children’s meals need special attention to ensure all foods with choking hazards are avoided and meals are provided in bite-size pieces. Raw and undercooked foods such as meat and eggs should be avoided, but especially for children and older adults.

4. Cook in bulk and freeze leftovers for busy nights

When it comes to busy schedules, sometimes we’re faced with cooking very late or with little time. When you meal prep, you set yourself up for success for such days. Recipes can be doubled or tripled to portion and freeze extras to have on hand for busy nights. Even cooking and freezing staples such as rice, barley, beans, or quinoa can be very helpful to grab and go when you’re short on time. For example, it could be very helpful to have beans pre-cooked and ready to use on burrito night or have quinoa pre-cooked to quickly prepare a salad without having to start from scratch.

5. Recruit help

We all need help when it comes to family meals and extra hands can help bring success to mealtime. Adults, teens, adolescents, and even young children can be excellent helpers in the kitchen and dining room. Young children can set the table and set out condiments and other items. In addition, adolescents can help set the table, wash fruits and vegetables, pull out ingredients, wash dishes, and load the dishwasher. Teenagers and young adults can add extra help by chopping vegetables, washing pots and pans, and cleaning up as the meal is prepared. Other adults can help with meal prep by dividing and conquering the recipe. For example, one adult can chop the vegetables and prep items, while the other family member is in charge of stove top items such as preparing the sauce, cooking pasta, etc. Help from family members can promote pride. Children learn responsibility and they may be more inclined to eat the family meal after having contributed help.

When you receive your custom Nuleeu meal plan, use these tips to help speed up your meal prep or apply these tips on busy days and nights when plans may change unexpectedly. During your nutrition consultation, your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can also walk through additional family meal tips and provide individual recommendations for you and your family to ensure mealtime success!

-Elizabeth Fay, MS, RDN, CNSC


What’s a Serving Size?

What’s a Serving Size?

As I grew up, I always thought that a serving was the amount of food I put on my plate. Although this is somewhat true, the nutrition in our food is based on the serving sizes we eat. If only the nutrition of 1 pizza slice equaled the nutrition of 3 slices I serve myself!

To help standardize nutrition information about our food, the USDA has standard serving sizes (also called portion sizes). This is particularly helpful when reviewing your custom meal plans created by your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian Nutritionist or when comparing the Nutrition Facts labels of different foods. Now that we’ve reviewed MyPlate in our previous blog post, we’re going to walk through each food group and review common serving sizes found in each category. Some of these servings may come as a surprise to you! You’ll also find examples of how many servings someone may eat when following MyPlate guidelines, based on an 1800-calorie diet.

Fruit

Fruit servings are most often measured in cups. Picture a household measuring cup that you might use in the kitchen. Sometimes this is helpful to estimate fruit portions like grapes or raisins. For solids fruits, picture a tennis ball, which is equal to a medium piece of fruit or 1-cup serving. Below are some examples of 1-cup equivalent portion sizes of different fruits:

  • Applesauce= 1 cup
  • Dried fruits (prunes, raisins, etc.)= 1/2 cup
  • Grapes= 1 cup or 32 grapes
  • Orange= 1 large orange
  • Pineapple= 1 cup chunks, slices, etc.
  • Plum= 3 medium or 2 large plums
  • 100% Fruit Juice= 1 cup

For people following an 1800-calorie meal plan following MyPlate guidelines, it’s recommended that they consume 1 1/2 cups of fruit per day.

Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are identical in their serving size approach. They both measure portions out using cups. Picture a baseball for easy reference when picturing a cup of vegetables. For leafy vegetables, the serving size is equal to 2 cups or 2 baseballs. When leafy greens are cooked, the serving size is 1 cup. Below are some examples of 1-cup equivalent portion sizes of different vegetables:

  • Beans= 1 cup whole or mashed
  • Broccoli= 1 cup chopped or 3 long spears
  • Celery= 1 cup or 2 large stalks
  • Kale= 2 cups raw or 1 cup cooked
  • Pepper= 1 cup chopped or 1 large pepper
  • Tomato= 1 cup chopped or 1 large tomato
  • Tomato juice= 1 cup
  • Spinach= 1 cup cooked and 2 cups raw
  • Squash= 1 cup cooked, sliced, or diced
  • Sweet potato= 1 large sweet potato

For people following an 1800-calorie meal plan following MyPlate guidelines, it’s recommended that they consume 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day.

Grains

Grains get a little tricky with serving sizes, but we’re here to help! Grain serving sizes are measured in both ounces and cups. Since they are measured by weight and most of us don’t weigh our food, one trick is picturing the size of common items. One slice of sandwich bread the size of a CD cover is equal to a 1-ounce portion. When it comes to cold cereal, rice, barley, quinoa and other grains, think of a baseball as your measurement comparison. For a piece of baked bread such as cornbread, picture a bar of soap as a comparison size. Below are some examples of 1-ounce equivalent portion sizes of different grains:

  • Cornbread= 1 small slice (2 1/2” x 1 1/4” x 1. 1/4”)= 1 ounce
  • English muffin= 1/2 muffin= 1 ounce
  • Mini bagel= 1 mini bagel= 1 ounce
  • Oatmeal= 1/2 cup cooked= 1 packet oatmeal= 1 ounce
  • Popcorn= 3 cups popped= 1 ounce
  • Rice or pasta= 1/2 cup cooked= 1 ounce
  • Sandwich bread = 1 slice= 1 ounce
  • Tortillas= 1 small tortilla (6” diameter)= 1 ounce

For people following an 1800-calorie meal plan following MyPlate guidelines, it’s recommended that they consume 6 ounces of grains per day.

Protein

Protein foods are measured by weight as well. Since most of us aren’t weighing our food, protein foods can get tricky to calculate what’s a serving. Have no fear! We’re here to help you with tips and tricks. Here are some common examples of different protein foods and their ounce equivalents:

  • Almonds= 24 almonds= 2 ounces
  • Beans= 1/4 cooked beans= 1 ounce
  • Chicken= 1 small chicken breast the size of your palm= 3 to 4 ounces
  • Egg= 1 egg= 1 ounce
  • Egg White= 3 egg whites= 2 ounces
  • Peanut butter= 1 tablespoon= 1 ounce
  • Pistachios= 24 pistachios= 1 ounce protein equivalent
  • Tuna= 1 can of tuna drained= 3 to 4 ounces
  • Turkey slice= 1 deli slice= 1 ounce
  • Steak= 1 small steak= 3 1/2 to 4 ounces
  • Vegetarian bean burger= 1 patty= 2 ounces

For people following an 1800-calorie meal plan following MyPlate guidelines, it’s recommended that they consume 5 ounces of protein per day. This may be surprising for some of us because you may find restaurants serving an 8-ounce steak, which could be equal to the protein you need for one and a half days! Remember, protein itself can be found in all of the food groups, so we don’t have to rely on protein foods themselves to meet our protein needs.

Dairy

Now we’re back to something a little more common. Dairy foods have a mix between foods measured in cups (think baseball again or a measuring cup) such as milk and yogurt, as well as measurements by weight such as cheese. Here are some examples of common dairy foods and their serving size equivalents.

  • Almond milk fortified= 1 cup
  • Cheese block= 9-volt battery= 1 cup dairy equivalent
  • Cheddar cheese= 2 slices= 1 cup dairy equivalent
  • Cottage cheese= 2 cups= 1 cup dairy equivalent
  • Evaporated milk= 1/2 cup= 1 cup dairy equivalent
  • Frozen yogurt= 1 cup
  • Milk= 1 cup
  • Shredded cheese= 1/3 cup= 1 cup dairy equivalent
  • Soymilk fortified= 1 cup
  • Yogurt= 1 regular container (8 ounces)= 1 cup

For people following an 1800-calorie meal plan following MyPlate guidelines, it’s recommended that they consume 3 cups of dairy foods per day.

Everyone has his or her own individual nutrition needs. Some of us need to consume more portions and some of us should consume fewer portions. As you receive your custom Nuleeu meal plan or Nuleeu meal delivery, look at the serving sizes and compare them to the knowledge you now have!

-Elizabeth Fay, MS, RDN, CNSC

References:
1. “All about the Dairy Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 14 Dec. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy.
2. “All About the Fruit Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 4 Jan. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit.
3. “All about the Grains Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 3 Nov. 2017, www.choosemyplate.gov/grains.
4. “All about the Protein Foods Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 10 Aug. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods.
5. “All about the Vegetable Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 4 Jan. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables.
6. “MyPlate Graphic Resources.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 3 Dec. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate-graphic-resources.
7. “MyPlate Plan: 1800 Calories, Age 14+.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 14 Aug. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlatePlan_1800cals_Age14plus.


Focusing on MyPlate

Focusing on MyPlate

When it comes to eating a variety of foods and maintaining balance within your diet, MyPlate is an essential tool that can help you transform your meals and snacks. The USDA published MyPlate, which outlines the 5 major food groups, with each category offering its own nutrition recommendations.
We’ll break down each food group together and review the major nutrition messages that can help you be successful when choosing the most nutritious foods for you and your family.

Fruit

First we’ll start with the fruit group, which is labeled in red. As you can see this food group makes up just less than 1/4 of your plate. The big message here is that the fruit group pairs right next to the vegetable group, filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. We all know that fruits are healthy for us, but specifically this food group is a major powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Keep in mind these helpful tips when choosing fruits in your meals and snacks:

  •  Choose whole fruits most often

For example, if you have the option, choose a whole peach over canned peaches in syrup or pick a fresh apple instead of sweetened applesauce.

  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables

This key message is shared with the vegetable group. To maximize the vitamins and minerals in your meal or snack, ensure that half of your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables. For example, you may have an orange on the side of your leftover vegetable casserole or you may have a peanut butter and banana sandwich with a side of baby carrots for lunch. Whatever the meal may be, check in to see if you’ve included fruits and vegetables as half of the meal.

Vegetables

Next up is the vegetable group! This green group in the MyPlate image fills up slightly more than 1/4 of the plate. This is another rock star nutrition category loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Keep in mind these helpful tips when choosing vegetables in your meals and snacks:

  • Choose whole vegetables most often

Just like the fruit group, choose the least processed vegetables as possible. For example, choose fresh or frozen plain broccoli in place of frozen cheesy broccoli. Another idea would be to choose a baked potato on the side of your meal instead of potato chips.

  • Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables

Just like the fruit category, check in to see if half of your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables. Vegetables can be a separate item on your plate, intertwined in a casserole, layered in a sandwich, or be the basis of your snack. Add vegetables to stir fry, pasta, sandwiches and wraps, muffins, or as a side dish.

Grains

Grains seem to be a hot topic today, but this is an important food group we shouldn’t discount. Grain foods are loaded with carbohydrates that fuel the body with energy. Check out the following tips to help you choose the most nutritious grains:

  • Make half of your grains whole grains

What’s a whole grain? A whole grain is a grain that contains all 3 parts of the grain (the germ, endosperm, and bran). Whole grains are less refined and processed, so they typically offer more fiber and protein. Grains such as 100% whole wheat bread are considered to be a whole grain, while white wheat bread is an example of a non-whole grain food.  Just a few examples of other whole grains include quinoa, 100% whole wheat pasta, farro, barley, brown rice, kamut, bulgur, popcorn, and oatmeal.

  • Have grain foods make up about 1/4 of your plate

Looking at the MyPlate image really helps us to see the amount of grains we need in comparison to the other food groups. Keep this in mind when you’re meal prepping or following your Nuleeu meal plan.

Protein

Protein foods are important not only for the protein they deliver, but the additional nutrients loaded in the variety of foods in this category.  Protein foods not only include meat, poultry, and fish, but also nuts, soy, seeds, eggs, and beans. Keep in mind these helpful tips when choosing protein foods in your meals and snacks:

  • Choose lean proteins

Vary your lean proteins by choosing items such as beans, tofu, at least 92% lean beef, and skinless poultry.

  • Choose low sodium protein foods

When you’re meal planning for example, choose whole turkey breasts in place of deli turkey slices or choose unsalted nuts instead of salted varieties to limit the sodium content of your food.

  • Have protein foods make up just less than 1/4 of your plate

Protein foods only need to fill about 1/4 of your plate. This will come as a surprise to many of us since we usually have our protein at the center of our plate in the largest portion. Surprisingly, your current protein portions may be enough protein for you all day! Keep in mind that nutritional needs vary from person to person and a Nuleeu Registered Dietitian can meet with you to review your specific needs and make individual recommendations and meal plans just for you.

Dairy

Dairy foods are incorporated in our meals and snacks to help us meet a variety of our vitamin and mineral needs. Dairy foods include cow’s milk, yogurt, and cheese, but also non-dairy fortified beverages and foods such as soy or almond milks and yogurts. All of these products can offer important minerals such a calcium and phosphorus for bone health, while other dairy foods provide protein and other vitamins and minerals. Check out the following tip to help you choose the most nutritious dairy foods:

  • Choose low fat dairy products

When we incorporate dairy foods, we want to choose fat free or low fat products most often to help limit the amount of saturated fat in the food. Plant-based alternative products are a great nutrient-rich alternative to dairy products, but be sure to check the saturated fat content of these products as well. For example, many coconut yogurts contain a high amount of saturated fat.

There you have it! That completes our tour through the 5 food groups of MyPlate and the many nutrition messages this guide offers. MyPlate is excellent because it can be used and applied to not only meals, but also snacks. Although the MyPlate image depicts separation between foods on the plate, this guide can be applied to complex mixed dishes, sandwiches, smoothies, and snacks. How have you incorporated MyPlate into your meals and snacks? We’d love to hear from you!

-Elizabeth Fay, MS, RDN, CNSC

References:

  1. All about the Dairy Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 14 Dec. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy
  2. All About the Fruit Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 4 Jan. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit
  3. All about the Grains Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 3 Nov. 2017, www.choosemyplate.gov/grains
  4. All about the Protein Foods Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 10 Aug. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods
  5. All about the Vegetable Group.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 4 Jan. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables
  6. MyPlate Graphic Resources.” Choose MyPlate, USDA, 3 Dec. 2018, www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate-graphic-resources