Category Archives: Food and Nutrition

The ABCs of Toddler Nutrition

Guest post by Alzein Pediatrics

You’ve celebrated your baby’s first birthday with candles, balloons, and cupcakes and suddenly, you have a toddler. Suddenly too, while the candles were still sending tendrils of smoke into the air, your toddler seems to have become a picky eater. 

Your baby who was once eager to try everything is now eating only green peas and chicken – and absolutely nothing else. Their appetite also seems to have dropped sharply since eating that birthday cupcake.

With this abrupt shift, you may be newly concerned about nutrition. Is your child getting enough to eat – and are they getting enough vitamins and minerals for their growth and development? 

Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn Illinois says, “It’s normal for toddlers to start rejecting new foods – and for parents to worry about how much food their child is actually eating. At this point, it’s helpful to take a big step back and look at the big picture.”

Dr. Alzein recommends starting with the basics, the ABC’s of toddler nutrition. “First, we start with vitamins and minerals,” he says. “Then we’ll think about quantity.”

Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps promote normal growth and development. Vitamin A is important to your child’s body for bone and tissue repair. It’s also critical for healthy skin, healthy eyes, and a robust immune system. 

Your child can get Vitamin A by drinking two cups of milk, and eating cheese. Eggs are also a good source, along with yellow and orange vegetables like carrots, yams, and squash.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B is an entire family of nutrients, including B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6( pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), Folate, and B12 (cobalamin). The B Vitamins help your child maintain and grow a healthy metabolism and aids in energy production. 

Your child needs B Vitamins for a hearty circulatory system and nervous system. Serve your child proteins for Vitamin B, including lean red meats, chicken, fish, milk, cheese, nuts, beans, legumes, and whole grains.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is packed into all sorts of fruity goodness like oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, strawberries, and kiwis. Red bell peppers, also a sweet treat, are one of the best sources of Vitamin C. It’s also plentiful in tomatoes and broccoli. 

Vitamin C acts as a biochemical redox system that helps to “recharge” enzymes. It helps the heart by acting as a vasodilator in atherogenesis and is an antioxidant. It also helps your child build strong muscles, robust connective tissues, and healthy skin.

Calcium

Calcium is important for strong bones throughout your child’s life – from infancy to old age. Dairy products provide large amounts of calcium, so serve your child full-fat milk, cheeses, and yogurts. You can also provide calcium in tofu and calcium-fortified orange juice.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D – well, you know that one! Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and teeth, and it helps your child’s body absorb calcium. Besides milk, serve your child fatty fishes like salmon, sardines, and mackerel. 

Did you know your child’s body can also produce Vitamin D on its own? Just make sure your child is getting five to fifteen minutes of sunlight exposure to their face, arms, and hands each day.

Iron

Iron is crucial for brain development, building muscles, and producing healthy red blood cells. Lean red meat – beef, pork, lamb, and others – is a strong source of iron. You can also serve your child turkey, spinach, beans, and prunes for a boost of iron. 

TIP – Vitamin C helps your child’s body absorb iron from plant sources and drinking milk blocks the absorption. When your child is enjoying spinach, serve up some orange segments too. Serve your child milk between meals and serve water or orange juice with meals.

Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in your toddler’s nutrition as it helps heal all the bumps, scrapes, and bruises that happen as they become more mobile. Your child can get zinc in lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes, milk and cheese, and eggs.

Adequate Calories

Worried about how much your toddler is eating? Dr. Alzein says, “Your toddler needs about 1,200 calories each day. That’s perhaps a breakfast of one egg and small toast with avocado and a few snacks such as an orange or cucumber slices with hummus dip throughout the day. Also, a small turkey, corn, and tomato wrap for lunch and about 4 ounces of salmon and with a few asparagus spears for dinner. 

While it might not seem like much to you, it’s plenty for your child. Our nutritionist stresses that kids are born with the ability to eat only as much as they need to grow. Parents serve food, but your child should choose how much to eat.”

Toddlers are more likely to “graze”, eat small meals and snacks throughout the day to maintain energy and blood sugar levels. When your toddler enjoys frequent snacks but pushes back against meals, offer snacks that are nutrient-dense such as whole-grain crackers with yogurt. Avoid highly processed foods like chips and sodas.

Mealtime Success

At mealtimes:

  • Provide meals and snacks at regularly scheduled times.
  • Use a child-size spoon and fork with dull prongs.
  • Seat your child at a comfortable height in a secure chair.
  • Avoid battles. If your toddler refuses a food, accept that and try again in a few days.
  • Keep portions small.
  • Don’t use dessert as a reward, and serve healthy options like a bite of dark chocolate.
  • Cut food into bite-size pieces.
  • Use ground meat instead of steak or chops.
  • Make plates colorful with lots of red, green, and orange vegetables.
  • Serve fresh or frozen fruits, whole or cut up depending upon your child’s age.

Other Helpful Hints

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice to less than 4 ounces per day for children 1 to 3 years old.
  • Celebrate Meatless Mondays with meals centered around beans, seeds, nuts, peas, and fish.
  • Opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley, and oatmeal.
  • Make it fun! Involve your toddler in choosing and preparing foods to help expand their palate and teach them healthy eating right from the start.

Your Healthy Toddler

“The toddler years are a time of transition, full of exploring and discovery – and that includes mealtimes,” says Dr. Alzein. “However, if your child is losing weight, not wetting diapers throughout the day, crying without producing tears, or seems listless and tired, along with an overall refusal to eat or drink, contact your pediatrician’s office.” 

“Your toddler may have health issues that prevent them from enjoying food, such as gastrointestinal challenges, swallowing issues, constipation, food allergies, or sensitivities. Keep a food diary for several days before your appointment, writing down every bite and swallow your toddler takes, to show your pediatrician.”

Dr. Alzein notes that the very best thing you can do to help your child become a life-long healthy eater is to offer your toddler a variety of foods from each food group with different tastes, textures, and colors – and then let them decide how much to eat.

Child Care Answers Resources on Nutrition

As your child grows or you add little ones to your family, don’t forget to review Child Care Answers parenting resources. Not only are there more tips on infant and child feeding, but also all about toddlers, including resources on biting, temper tantrums, school transitions, and more!

Healthy Eating and Cooking with Children

by Molly Manley, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Coordinator

Looking for a way to learn and grow with your kids, while also promoting healthy eating? Get on your aprons, and get ready to whip up something delicious with your children or those in your care. Cooking with children can promote lifetime skills such as:

  • Basic Math – Cooking involves counting, addition, shapes, sizes, and measurements.
  • Science – Highlight growing food or changing forms, like liquids and solids.
  • Language – Conversations with children while cooking will increase their language development and ability to follow instructions. Creating simple recipe cards with instructions is also a useful tool. Obtain children’s books from the library that pertain to the type of foods they will be eating.
  • Art – Have children draw pictures of the foods they ate.  Ask them to create a picture by painting with yogurt, or glue cereal to a piece of paper.

GO ON A FOOD ADVENTURE

Cooking with children also encourages them to explore new foods and how food gets to our tables. Discuss where food comes from, plant a garden, or take a field trip to the grocery store or a farm. This will give them a better understanding of what they are eating.

It would also be a good idea to shop around for child size utensils, cups, bowls and pitchers. This will make it easier for the child to prepare and serve themselves. We are promoting self-help skills, and, if the child has a difficult time succeeding, it may prompt them to quit out of frustration.

TRY OUT A NEW AND FUN RECIPE

Below are three simple recipes to try with children.

Fruit and Yogurt Muffin

Ingredients:
1 Whole Grain English Muff
¼ cup of Yogurt- any flavor
¼ cup of fruit- bananas and berries work well

Directions:
Adult: Portion out yogurt and fruit for each child separately.
Adult: Toast English Muffin.
Child: Spread yogurt over English muffin using a spoon.
Child: Add fruit to top.

Pizza Rollups

Ingredients:
1 tube of crescent rolls
1 jar of pizza sauce
1 package of string cheese – cut into quarters (1 ounce each)
1 bag of pepperoni- cut into quarters, unless using minis

Directions:
Adult: Unroll crescent roll dough, separate into 8 triangles.
Child: Place 8 pepperoni pieces on each.
Child: Place a piece of cheese on the short side of the triangle.
Child: Roll up dough starting on the short side and pinch seams to seal.
Adult: Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Cook at 375 for 10-12 minutes

Serve with ¼ cup of warm pizza sauce
Makes a 8 roll ups.

Celery Snails

Ingredients:
1 bunch of celery –  washed and cut in halves
Apples –  cut into slices small enough to fit into celery
Peanut or Almond Butter

Directions:
Adult: Wash and cut celery and apples to appropriate size.
Child:  Spread peanut or almond butter on celery pieces.
Child: Insert apple into middle of celery.

Cover image by Flickr user Andrew Seaman, Creative Commons license.

Preventing Childhood Obesity

by Jenny Mathis, School Age Specialist

As a parent in today’s hurry-up society, I recognize how easy it can be to succumb to unhealthy habits that are responsible for creating an overweight child.  For the sake of convenience and budget, we all have all been guilty of these habits. My vice? Swinging by the closest fast food joint when the evening hours fade away after extracurricular events or running errands. At some point in time, most of us have relied on a computer screen to keep a child occupied. It sure makes things easier to handle issues, cook dinner, or just sit down and take a deep breath.

If we take time to look at the potential long term effects, it can help families become empowered to make small changes that will make big impacts.

OBESITY IS TRENDING UPWARD

Statistics says that nearly 1 in 3, or over 30% of Hoosiers are overweight or obese*. Unfortunately, this trend is getting worse, and the numbers are increasing each year.  What can you do to make sure that your family is not among these statistics?

IDEAS TO KEEP YOUR KIDS ON TRACK

Childhood presents an opportunity to instill life- long healthy habits with regards to physical activity and healthy eating. I find these some ideas helpful:

  • Plan meals for the week.
  • Pack healthy snacks for kids in between meals on busy days.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Set aside time for physical activity.

Staying active and eating healthy is the key to helping combat this ever growing problem.

WALK THE WALK AND TALK THE TALK

Do your child and yourself a favor. Role model behaviors. Incorporate healthy behaviors as often as you can. Eat right. Keep moving. Little changes will render big gains.

OTHER RESOURCES

For more tips, check out these resources:

Cover image by Flickr user University of Delaware Alumni Relations, Creative Commons license.

*Harper, Jake. “Report: Nearly 1 In 3 Hoosiers Obese.” WFYI Public Media, 21 Sept. 2015, www.wfyi.org/news/articles/report-nearly-1-in-3-hoosiers-obese. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.

Supporting Breastfeeding in Child Care

by Lauren George, Infant and Toddler Specialist

You have a new baby starting and Mom hands you a bottle. She says “Charlie eats three ounces every two hours.  Here is his milk.  He is breastfed.”  You freak out.  “I’ve never had a breastfed baby before. This cannot be enough milk. What am I supposed to do with this?!”  All these things start racing through your mind.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BREASTFED AND FORMULA-FED BABIES

Yes…breastfed and formula fed infants eat differently, and that can be overwhelming when you aren’t sure what to expect.  And yes, three ounces is enough!  Unlike formula-fed babies, breastfed babies eat based on calories, not volume of milk.  They also typically each much more often than formula-fed babies.  You can expect a breastfed baby to each between 2.5 ounces to 5 ounces every 1.5 to 3 hours.  On the other hand, a formula fed baby is likely eating 6 to 8 ounces of milk every four to five hours.  That’s a huge difference when you compare them!

And what do you do with the breast milk, you may ask!? The same thing you do with formula – handle it as a food. Breast milk can be stored in the same refrigerator as formula and can be stored both fresh or frozen.  It can be heated in the same warmer or under running warm water, and you don’t need gloves to handle it.  See…it is easier than you thought!

SUPPORTING BREASTFEEDING MOMS

And lastly – Mom may need your support.  Tell her she is doing a great job providing breast milk for her baby.  Offer her a place within the classroom where she can nurse at drop off, pick up, and on her break if she chooses to.  Know what resources are available for her in your community, like local support groups or the contact information of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), in case she has any bumps along her breastfeeding journey.

Cover image by Flickr user Jeff Snodgrass, Creative Commons license.

A provider’s view on food and the CACFP program

by Emily Barrow,  CACFP Child Nutrition Professional

March 12th-18th is National Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) week. To celebrate, here’s a peek into the work that we do every day at Child Care Answers, sponsoring providers throughout Central Indiana.

Proper nutrition during the early stages of childhood ensures appropriate development and reduces physical and educational problems later in life.  Providers participating on the program receive valuable nutrition education that helps them support growing children and their nutritional needs. In addition, they receive a reimbursement to assist them financially in serving nutritious meals.

WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A CACFP PROVIDER

I recently reached out to one of my child care home providers, Shannon Garcia, to understand her experience with the CACFP program. She shared, “CACFP not only provides good nutrition for the children but also enhances my business. It is a marketing tool that makes me stand out from other home day cares that don’t participate. I enjoy meal planning and shopping for meals. It eliminates the hassle of trying to decide and make meals on the fly. It also helps me see menus in writing so that I know I’m offering variety and healthy choices.”

INVOLVE CHILDREN IN THE FOOD PREP (AND MAKE IT FUN!)

The children in Shannon’s program also love to help her make colorful fruit salads and sing songs as they prepare them.  As providers (or parents), involving kids in the preparation is always a fun way to get meals going.  Below is a delicious fruit salsa recipe served with cinnamon chips that makes an excellent CACFP snack. Enjoy!

FRUIT SALSA WITH CINNAMON CHIPS

Recipe by Jen Nikolaus, Yummy Healthy Easy

Ingredients

Fruit salsa:

  • 16-oz. strawberries, diced
  • 2 kiwi, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar-free apricot preserves or jam

Cinnamon chips:

  • 4 flour tortillas (I used soft taco size)
  • cooking spray
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ tsp. cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.  Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. On a large plate, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Spray each tortilla front and back and carefully lay on the plate, one at a time. Move around lightly to get the cinnamon and sugar to adhere to the tortilla, then flip coating the other side.
  3. With a pizza cutter, cut cinnamon and sugar tortilla in half and then each half into four pieces, creating 8 slices per tortilla. Spread out on the baking sheet. Repeat with all tortillas and then place in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Pull baking sheet from oven and set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the fruit and the preserves in a medium sized bowl. Serve with cooled cinnamon chips and enjoy!

Cover image by Flickr user Quinn DombrowskiCreative Commons license.

Going Back to Work: What does that mean for Breastfeeding?

by Lauren George, Infant/Toddler Specialist & Certified Lactation Counselor

Going back to work or school can be challenging for nursing mothers. Mothers are not sure how many ounces of milk to send in each day, getting baby to take a bottle can be difficult, and finding a provider that understands breastfeeding can be a challenge. Here are some tips to make it go more smoothly.

BREASTFED BABIES DRINK BASED ON CALORIES, NOT VOLUME.

It will be rare that a breastfed baby ever takes an 8 ounce bottle. Typically, divide 24-30 ounces by the number of feeding in a day. So if baby nurses 10 times a day, then each bottle will be roughly 2.4-3 ounces. It is best to send less milk than more milk. You don’t want all that hard work to go down the drain!

TRY TO PUMP EVERY 2-3 HOURS

Finding time to pump at work can also be challenging. I always pumped when I knew my baby would be eating, so every 2-3 hours. The more you take out, the more milk you make!

IT IS BEST TO INTRODUCE A BOTTLE AT HOME BEFORE BABY’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL.

Try having someone other than mom introduce a bottle first (around 4 weeks old). Try daily with a few ounces each day. Don’t stress out…some babies will take it just fine and others will take it eventually.

FIND A CAREGIVER THAT SUPPORTS MOTHER-INFANT RELATIONSHIPS

As you interview prospective child care providers, you want a provider that is open to you coming in and nursing whenever you get a chance, supports feeding on demand and not on a schedule, and won’t push you to send in more milk than you know your baby needs. Trust yourself as the expert on your baby, especially when it comes to breastfeeding!

Additional information, including a milk calculator, can be found on www.kellymom.com.

Cover image by Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture’s photostreamCreative Commons license.

Tips for Raising a Healthy Eater

by Emily Barrow, CACFP Child Nutrition Professional

As a parent, you have the ability to greatly impact your child’s eating habits by modeling healthy eating and encouraging her to try new foods. Children develop their eating habits and preferences from infancy, and they remain with them through adulthood. Studies have shown that children exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables between the ages of 6 and 23 months will have a positive association between dietary variety and nutritional status[1] and will be more likely to accept healthier food later in life.

So what does healthy eating with children look like? It starts when you set the meal. Take the time in your busy schedule to sit at the table as a family. Create a relaxing and pleasant environment for the meal time.

Plan a healthy menu ahead of time. Be aware of some pitfalls, like the fact that some foods packaged for children are very high in sugar. For instance, 55% of the 80 calories in “kid-friendly” Go-Gurts, (Yoplait’s kid-friendly yogurt in a tube) are made up in sugar[2]. Yogurt can be a wonderful way to incorporate dairy into a child’s diet, however, make sure to read the labels when shopping. Another item commonly served to children that is high in sugar is juice. 12 ounces of grape juice contains 15 teaspoons of sugar. In comparison, a 12-ounce soda only contains 10 teaspoons. Offer your child fresh fruit over juice – it reduces the amount of sugar she consumes and gives her fiber in her diet.

When the meal begins, allow your child to serve herself and decide for herself when she is full. Offer a variety of foods; keep in mind temperatures, textures, and colors. Discuss new foods together and model a positive attitude about it. Offer new foods more than once to the child, but make sure to offer familiar foods at the same setting.

Children react positively when meal time becomes fun and engaging.

SOME TIPS TO MAKE HEALTHY EATING FUN INCLUDE:

CREATE A ROUTINE

Children like to know what to expect next. Make sure you are serving your meals at the same time each day.

TRY A GARDEN

If a child is part of the growing process, she takes ownership in the finished product and is more willing to try it.

THINK ABOUT HOW YOU PREPARE IT

Some children may not eat a raw apple, but they might eat it if you cut it up and cook it. Discuss with your child the different ways you prepare food. Relate a tomato to all the products it becomes. Let him see what a whole tomato looks like.

LET THEM COOK

Children love to help in the kitchen. Find creative ways the children can be part of the process. They can cut up veggies, stir a pot, wash veggies, or help with the measuring. Give them ownership of the meal , and they will be more likely to eat it.

Cover image by Flickr user Donnie Ray JonesCreative Commons license.

[1] Arimond M, Ruel MT. Dietary diversity is associated with child nutritional status: Evidence from 11 demographic and health surveys. The Journal of Nutrition 2004;134:2579-2585.

[2] http://www.eatwellwithgina.com/2013/10/the-best-and-worst-childrens-yogurts/

Making Meal Times Positive

by Emily Barrow, CACFP Child Nutrition Professional

I know your schedule is jam-packed with work, child care drop-offs, sports, lessons, and play dates. But what about meals as a family? It’s easy to rush through them, but meal times are an important part of child development. Meal times are more than just feeding your child; they are a chance to learn socialization, healthy eating habits, independence, and table manners. As a monitor for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, I often remind providers they are shaping children’s eating habits for the rest of their life, and parents can often benefit from similar advice.

SO WHAT DOES A POSITIVE MEAL TIME LOOK LIKE?

To begin with, serve meals family-style, and try to follow consistent times for each meal. Children need predictable patterns. Knowing when to expect breakfast, lunch, and snack helps set the stage for their day. A routine of washing their hands, setting the table, and knowing what to expect during the mealtime will make the meal run more smoothly. When children use child-sized utensils, cups, plates, and serving dishes, it sets them up for success when serving themselves. I know it can get messy for children to serve themselves, but think of this as a learning experience. Sometimes a mess is going to happen while learning. Just keep a positive attitude about it.

During the mealtime, sit with your children, and interact with them. Talk about the food you are eating. Help the children learn to serve themselves. Take the chance to introduce table manners. All of these actions help children learn how to socialize during the mealtime. You set the tone for the entire meal. If you are rushed and stressed about the meal, the children will feel the same way. Encourage healthy eating habits and manners by modeling them for your children.

HERE ARE SOME QUICK TIPS TO START MAKING MEALTIMES A MORE POSITIVE EXPERIENCE:
  • Have your children help. Assign the children jobs, such as cleaning and setting the table. This allows them to feel more engaged about the mealtime, and it will be less work for you.
  • Serve children appealing foods. Think about the texture, color, and temperature of the foods. Try to offer a variety of colors to make the meal more interesting. Serve familiar foods along with something new.
  • Let children lead. Remember – you set the mealtime scene and offer healthy foods. Children should have the freedom to choose what they eat and how much. Don’t buy into the clean plate club. Children are very good at self-regulating how much food they need. However, you can encourage them to try new foods.
  • Start small. Changing the way your serve your meals can be scary, but start small. Perhaps you begin by starting a routine before the meal, or just have the children serve themselves the fruit or vegetable. You do not have to change everything overnight. Set goals and slowly integrate a positive, family-style dining routine into your day.

Cover image by Flickr user Phalinn OoiCreative Commons license.

Dealing with a picky eater

Do you have a child in your care that refuses to try something new? Many providers comment that they have children that just won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets and french fries. Or,  they say they would like to try new foods but don’t think their children will eat them. Don’t let the fear of new foods stop you from introducing them. Children need multiple exposures to new foods to develop a taste for them.

Make trying new foods a learning experience. Let the children touch it, smell it, and taste it. Talk about how it looks. Is it smooth? Does it have bumps? What color is it? Does it smell sweet? Try just a small tasting to start with. You might find that cooking it different ways will help a picky eater find a way they like it. Take apples for example: a child may not like a raw apple slice but if you take the apple slices, add a little cinnamon and microwave it till its soft they may like it. You could create a food tasting chart for each child. Give them a sticker to add to the chart when they try a new food.

You, as the provider, have the ability to help the children in your care create healthy eating habits for the rest of their life. 

Cover image by Flickr user Aikawa KeCreative Commons license.

CACFP Approved Fish Sticks

Child Care Answers CACFP program has been working with providers this contract year on learning about Child Nutrition labels on processed foods and it has been very eye opening. According to the child nutrition label for some prepackaged fish sticks products a 3 year old would need 12 fish sticks to get 1 1/2 ounces of meat. Here is a fantastic way to make your own fish sticks for the kids. Try making a couple batches and freezing them for another day.

Cover image by Flickr user DamonCreative Commons license.