Much attention is given to the healthiness of the foods we feed our families. We much pay attention to pesticide residue, growing practices, antibiotic use, and more. But the cookware we prepare all of these healthy food choices in could be working against our healthy intentions.
Non-Stick Coatings. Less mess to clean up in pots and pans sounds appealing, but it turns out the popular Teflon non-stick coatings that make food slide of the pan are full of risky chemicals. Specifically, the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in Teflon has been linked as a possible carcinogen, particularly from the fumes released at high heat. The link is not absolute, but when safer options exist, why expose yourself and your family?
Other common complaints associated with non-stick coatings include flu-like symptoms, dubbed the “The Teflon Flu.” The bottom line is with children’s delicate systems still developing, taking extra steps to protect against harsh chemicals, taking extra care is particularly worthwhile.
Instead Try: Use regular stainless steel or cast iron pots and pans with healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil to protect from sticking. Ceramic coated pots and pans also provide a no stick surface without the added chemicals.
Heating in Plastic. The phthalates and other chemicals found in plastics leach these chemicals into the food and drinks they hold. Though BPA has been removed from plastics in recent years, the safety of the replacement chemicals is not well established.
While there is believed to be some leaching with any contact with all plastic use, that risk increases when plastics are heated. While it can be convenient to cook something in the microwave in a plastic dish, it only takes a few extra seconds to transfer it to a safer dish.
Instead Try: Stick with glass dishes for cooking or reheating anything in the microwave. Glass is easy to clean, safe, and does receive or transfer odors to food.
The start of school is synonymous with several things: fresh school supplies, full back packs, and lovingly packed school lunchboxes. What no one mentions about these those lovingly packed sack lunches is just how difficult packing school lunches can become day after day. Finding something easy to pack, nutritious, and that will actually be eaten by discerning little eaters leaves no wonder as to why we are tempted to turn to a PBJ and a bag of chips. Take heart because three simple strategies will take the stress out of packing school lunches.
Start with the Essentials. While brown bags are inexpensive for the short term, investing in a good lunch box will pay off in the long run and make it easier to pack lunches. Several companies make lunch boxes that are made entirely of insulated ice pack material, allowing you easily to pack foods that need to stay chilled.
Another lunchbox essential that will help you out in packing lunchboxes is compartmentalized containers. You can get a simple Tupperware type container or a stainless steel bento box to avoid chemicals in plastic.
Ditch the sandwich. Mix up the traditional school lunch by getting creative with what you put in your child’s lunch box. Try raw vegetables slices, fruit and nut butter, boiled eggs, nuts, wraps, or even leftovers from the night before. Putting a frozen smoothie in a leak-proof thermos will leave it at just the right consistency by the time lunch rolls around.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel. Plenty of people share free lists of school lunch menu ideas on the web. Rather than racking your brain to come up with ideas, print a couple out and sit down with your children to go over some options that sound good to them. Work your way through trying a few new options. Keep a list of the lunches that were hits and you’ll have your own quick and easy go-to list!
Picture two scenarios: the first involves you rushing through a crowded supermarket picking over pale produce, kids begging for candy, long lines. The second involves sun on your shoulders as you wander through stands filled with fresh produce, introducing your kids to new foods as you go. It’s easy to choose which scenario seems more enjoyable, but this pleasant scene is not the only thing that makes shopping for produce at local farmers markets more desirable. Check out the impressive benefits of buying local:
1. Fun and Personal. Taking your kids along to the farmer’s market is not only a fun way to spend a Saturday morning; it is also a great way to make food shopping more personal to your children. Encourage them to talk with the farmers and ask any questions they may have. Meeting the people who grew their eggplant or zucchini just may make picky eaters more likely to willingly try a bite!
2. Affordability. By cutting out the middleman of the large grocery store chain, you can often realize major savings on the items you need. As an added bonus, many small farms actually use organic farming practices, but have just not gone through the formal process to be able to officially label their food organic. Ask the proprietors at the stands you frequent; you’ll likely be pleased to learn how few (if any) chemicals are used.
3. More Nutrients. Factors like heat and time can cause nutrients and antioxidants in food to diminish. Rather buying food that is subjected to be shipped across the country (or world), get foods that are grown in your own backyard.
4. Freedom for Kids. Let each child pick out one new food he or she to try. While you may end up with neon colored candy if you give your child this option at a traditional grocery store, when charged with this task at the farmers market they are almost guaranteed to make a healthy choice. Letting your child practice making independent food choices in environments where healthy options are easy will help prepare them to make good choices in all environments.
Mark your calendar to take a trip out to a nearby farmers market this weekend.
As the hot sun blares down during the sweltering days of summer, nothing sounds as refreshing as a cold soda to a hot kiddo. Our kids beg for them, and because they are quick and convenient, it is easy to hand one over. But as health experts tell us, those ice cold cans pack in high levels of sugar, caffeine, or artificial sweetener.
- Mineral Water. Mineral water gives kids the fun fizz of a soda, but none of the sugar, caffeine, or artificial sweeteners found in most sodas. Tip: Because these come in cans and fun flavors, this is probably the easiest switch to pull on kids who usually like to pop a tab on a cold soda.
- Fresh Squeezed Juice: Summer is the perfect time to let your kids experiment with squeezing their own orange juice. Having a hand in the making of juice adds to the appeal for children.
If you’re pressed for time , plenty of tasty juice options are available, just look for varieties that are 100 percent juice. While juice should not be consumed exclusively, it can be a tasty and refreshing treat sometimes. Tip: Let your kids pick out a new drink bottle or thermos to carry their juice to picnics and on the go.
- Iced HerbalTea: Plenty of kid-friendly flavors of herbal tea are available today. Orange, strawberry, pineapple, and more are all easy to find. Buy a couple of flavors to let your kids find their personal favorites. To make the experience more fun for kids, let them make their tea in the sun by placing jars of water with tea bags in the sung for a couple of hours. Tip: Make sure you only choose flavors that are safe for kids. Many fruit flavored herbal teas are kid-safe and caffeine free, but always verify as some herbal teas are intended for medicinal purposes.
Many of the healthy foods we want our kids to eat require a bit of convincing and disguise to get our kids to partake. As much as we may dream of it, rare is the child who will pull up to table and beg for plain kale. However, berries are the exception to this need for convincing. Packed with disease-fighting antioxidants, almost all types of berries are considered super foods for their exceptionally high nutritional content.
With summertime upon us, berries are in plentiful supply. These potent and tasty treats are delicious on their own, but give them a try in these simple recipe ideas.
- Very Berry Smoothie. Combine a frozen banana with strawberries, blueberries, or any other favorite berries you have on hand. It’s hard to go wrong. Use a milk of your preference to thin to your desired consistency. As an added bonus, the sweet, strong flavor makes it easy to add some greens to the smoothie.
- A Better PBJ. No, this recipe does not involve homemade canning. In fact, all you need is a fork. Mash your favorite berry with a fork and then spread evenly over a slice of bread. Pair with a slice with your favorite nut butter for a fresh sandwich without the high fructose syrup jelly brings to the sandwich.
- Berry Kabobs. There is something about eating something from a stick that holds great appeal for kids. Stack a variety of summer berries on a stick to create a yummy (and beautiful) kabob. This treat can also be paired with organic yogurt for dipping.
As you enjoy your fresh picked berries this summer, remember that they freeze well too. Rinse and dry berries, and store in an airtight container to be able to enjoy them year round.