A nutritious, portable, and delicious snack or breakfast!
- 2 cups dates, room temperature
- 1 ½ cups peanut butter
- 1/8 cup cocoa
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1/8 cup sesame seeds
- Remove pits from dates.
- In a food processor, combine dates and peanut butter. The mixture will clump in a ball, and never be perfectly smooth which is OK – just try to process out the big date chunks.
- Add cocoa and process to distribute evenly.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and process enough to mix everything together, but do not totally puree the mixture.
- Spoon mixture into pan (I use 8x8), and press flat with a spatula so it’s about 1 inch thick. (I don’t line my pan, but you can line yours with wax paper or aluminum foil if you want to lift the bars out for easy cutting).
- Chill for at least one hour.
These bars don’t have to be refrigerated, but they do hold together better when they are kept cold. These freeze well.
Serving Size: One 1 1/2 square inch bar
Pack some protein and antioxidants into this pretty and tasty dessert for kids! Start preparing the night before, or early in the morning to allow for time to strain the yogurt – this step makes the final product creamier and less icy (although I have made pops like this and skipped this step, and they are still good)!
Let your kids get a little wild by putting them in charge of smashing the berries! Place the berries in a sealable plastic bag and give your kids an assortment of “smashing” tools such as a rolling pin, potato masher, or ice mallet. I did this activity outside, for obvious reasons. Luckily no bags broke (and no fingers, either)!
I used ½ cup of sugar to sweeten the yogurt. If your strawberries are very sweet, you could get away with a little less sugar, but unless your kids love plain yogurt you do need at least a little bit to counteract the tartness.
You can freeze the final product in ice cube trays, Popsicle molds, Dixie cups, and/or put in an ice cream maker.
DIY Berry Frozen Yogurt Pops for Kids
- One 32oz. Container Plain Yogurt (I used nonfat)
- 2 cups berries, mashed
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Strain yogurt in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight by placing in a strainer lined with cheesecloth.
- Mash berries either by hand or in a food processor.
- Combine sugar, lemon juice and sugar and let sit in refrigerator for an hour.
- Mix strained yogurt, berry mixture, and vanilla together.
- Spoon into ice cube tray, or whatever mold you choose, and add stick (the yogurt is thick enough it just stands up). If you use an ice cream maker, process for 15 minutes, or until thickened.
I have been experimenting with reducing gluten in my diet for various reasons, and have made this pizza for a savory, super-easy dinner a few times. The last time I made it was when the family had “real” pizza which I had to avoid because of gluten, and my five-year-old ended up eating most of my gluten-free substitute pizza! This is a very quick and easy recipe that kids love!
Pair this with some grilled vegetables or salad for a fast and easy dinner! Involve the kids by setting out the ingredients and letting them make their own pizza!
Gluten-Free Tortilla Pizza (4 servings)
- 4 Corn tortillas
- 1 cup sauce (pizza sauce, pesto or brush with olive oil)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.
- Lay out tortillas on baking sheet, and top each with ¼ cup sauce.
- Sprinkle ¼ cup shredded cheese on each tortilla.
- Add desired toppings.
- Place under broiler for about two minutes, or until cheese has melted.
Try this easy substitution the next time you throw a barbecue and your family and guests will have no idea their great-tasting hamburger also contains a hidden healthy bonus!
Replace roughly one-third of your burger mixture with finely chopped mushrooms! They are virtually undetectable, even if your family doesn’t normally like mushrooms! My son, who does not like mushrooms, actually ate a leftover patty straight out of the fridge, cold, without any condiments the following day.
Adding chopped mushrooms to your hamburgers helps protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer and boosts the immune system by decreasing the overall fat content of the burger. Adding mushrooms also adds a powerful punch of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
You could substitute other vegetables for mushrooms, such as zucchini. I choose mushrooms because their meaty texture and mild flavor blends well with the burger. I like to search for vegetables that my kids won’t eat on their own. For example, I wouldn’t bother adding carrots because my kids will eat those every day straight out of the bag.
You don’t even have to precook the mushrooms! Just chop them very finely by hand or in a food processor and mix them in! When determining the amount, do a ratio using volume – I just eyeball it. So, if you have about two cups of ground beef, add one cup of mushrooms. Adding more is fine of course, but too much and you run the risk of the hamburger not sticking together and slipping through the grates on your barbecue!
Cook just as you would a regular Hamburger.
The mushrooms will blend with a lot of other burger recipes as well, so go for it if you’re working on a gourmet burger for your kids - so many possibilities. I love adding a little bit of sautéed onions and garlic, however, I usually don’t have time to do it!
It’s confusing enough trying to figure out how to start feeding your baby. And when you throw in the issue of environmental toxins in baby food, a whole new level of confusion is added!
A few years ago the discovery of arsenic in our food supply made us all question whether we should continue the tradition of feeding infants rice cereal as a first food. While there is still no clear-cut answer, or even “official” guidelines, we can use the information available to best protect and nourish these new eaters.
My Personal Suggestion – From Amy Higbee (RDN, CD)
Based on the research so far, I suggest starting with a whole-grain fortified infant cereal such as oats, and continuing with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole and multigrain fortified infant cereals and meats. If you do offer rice cereal, don’t offer it every day. Variety in your baby’s diet is the best defense against environmental toxins.
Following is a summary of current research and advice from evidence based sources.
Arsenic makes up part of the earth’s core, and is naturally present in many foods, including grains, fruits and vegetables. The naturally occurring arsenic in food is referred to as “organic”, and is not considered the threat. “Inorganic” arsenic is the troublesome form of which long-term exposure is believed to be associated with higher rates of some cancers and may have other implications. The terms organic and inorganic refer to the chemical form of arsenic, and not the farming technique used to grow the food. Even if rice is grown using organic farming techniques, inorganic arsenic from the soil and water supply can get into the rice as it grows.
The inorganic arsenic in our food supply comes from pesticides and poultry fertilizer, which get into the soil and water used to grow food. Rice is under extra scrutiny because it absorbs the arsenic more readily than some other plants.
In 2013 the FDA conducted a study to determine the average level of arsenic in more than 1,300 samples of rice and food items made from rice. They found variable levels between food categories, as well as between food items in the same category. The FDA has not set specific limits regarding rice, and is still working on determining the possible long-term effects of arsenic exposure.
Consumer Reports also conducted their own analysis, both in 2012 and more recently. They offer additional information regarding arsenic levels in different rice foods and other grains. Using their research, they assigned point values to different rice products with higher points associated with a higher level of arsenic, and provide a recommendation for a total point limit of 7 per week. Infant rice cereal was assigned a point value of 1 ¼ points, so if no other sources of rice were in your baby’s diet that would be a limit of about 5 ( ¼ cup uncooked) servings per week. See below for the link to the Consumer Reports article.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents offer their children a wide variety of foods, including other grains, such as oats, wheat and barley, which will decrease their child’s exposure to arsenic from rice. Previously, the belief was to hold off on exposing infants to possibly allergenic foods such as wheat, however current practice is moving away from that theory.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to protect human health and the environment, advises against using infant rice cereal as a first food. EWG suggests trying soft fruits, vegetables, meats or whole-grain non-rice cereals.
One common thread in most advisory organizations is to include a variety of foods in your infant’s diet. The best way to protect your baby from environmental toxins and provide the most nourishment is to slowly introduce a variety of food.
There are no “perfect” first foods, however, some foods may be more easily accepted by your baby. Soft vegetables, fruits or fortified whole-grain infant cereals all make great possible first foods. I have also seen recommendations for using meat as a first food because of the iron content, however it might be a challenging texture change for sensitive brand new eaters.
Babies accumulate iron in utero, and iron stores typically last until they are about 4-6 months. At this age breastfed infants need some additional iron in their diet. This is one reason why fortified infant rice cereal has always been the standard. Today, there are other choices of whole-grain, fortified cereals such as oats, barley or multigrain. Including some of these cereals in your baby’s first foods will help meet their need for iron. Offering meat would also provide iron, but in my experience the texture is more challenging for some babies in the very beginning. This issue is not as much of a concern for formula-fed babies as most formulas are iron-fortified.
There is no clear –cut answer to the question of whether or not to feed infant rice cereal to your baby or not. If you do choose to offer rice cereal, try to vary it with other foods so it is not a daily staple.
After researching the current evidence, if I were to start feeding my own baby, I would choose one of the fortified whole-grain cereals such as oats to start with. Then I would move on to include vegetables, fruits, other fortified infant cereals, and meat. I would include rice cereal only occasionally for variety, because our best defense against toxins in our food is to not eat too much of one thing! Not to be too negative, but you never know what toxin will be discovered in what food next week! My husband makes fun of how neurotic I am because I don’t even like to eat the same food twice in a day (unless it’s chocolate)! On a more positive note, feeding your baby a variety of foods not only better protects them from environmental toxins, but also helps provide a more complete diet for their growth and development.
Questions & Answers: Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/ucm319948.htm. August 4, 2014. Accessed March 20, 2015.
How Much Arsenic Is In Your Rice? http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm. November 2014. Accessed March 20, 2015.
AAP Offers Advice For Parents Concerned About Arsenic In Food. American Academy of Pediatrics Website. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Offers-Advice-For-Parents-Concerned-About-Arsenic-in-Food.aspx. September 6, 2013. Accessed March 20, 2015.
Arsenic in Rice – Should You Worry? http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice. Accessed March 20, 2015.
Ensure No Kid Goes Hungry!
During the school year, more than 21 million children rely on free and reduced school meals, but during the summer, only 3.8 million participate in the USDA’s summer meals program. This means that too many kids are at risk of hunger because they are out of school. For many students, school meals provide for over half of their daily calories during the school year, which means that providing these children with access to healthy meals is a big priority.
To help prevent summer hunger, the USDA partners with schools, local governments, and community organizations to provide free meals to children during the summer.
This means that any child under the age of 18 can go to a designated summer meal site and eat for free. But we need your help in ensuring that no child goes hungry this summer.
How you can help:
Be a Summer Meal champion in your community! Check out USDA’s Summer Meals Toolkit:
- Get the word out through community-based outreach
- Find info on program policy and administration
- Get ideas for planning and collaborating with stakeholders
The USDA also has a Summer Food site finder that will be updated soon.
Learn more about Summer Food Service Program.
YES! Just like when we get a cut our body sends defense chemicals to mend our skin, when an apple is cut the damaged cells secrete enzymes which react with the oxygen in the air. This chemical reaction, called oxidation, creates the brown color.
If it’s a hot day, the browning is faster. The opposite is true as well – if you put the cut apple in the refrigerator the chemical reaction slows and browning doesn’t happen as quickly.
My kids don’t seem to mind some slight browning, but if you have a visually sensitive little one there are some preventative measures you can take to preserve the surface of your cut apple!
Vitamin C, also called Ascorbic Acid, stops the oxidation process. You can squeeze lemon, lime, pineapple, orange or grapefruit juice directly on your cut apple. It does slightly change the flavor and texture of the apple, however. You can also soak the cut apple pieces for five minutes in a diluted mixture of squeezed juice from the above fruits mixed with some cold water for less flavor change.
Ascorbic acid can also be found as a powder sprinkle in the canning section of the grocery store. You just sprinkle the powder on the cut surfaces, and the oxidation is prevented. My kids don’t like the way the texture and flavor slightly changes with this addition.
Adding acidic fruit slices to your cut apples to create a fruit salad also works. Cut the apples and whatever acidic fruit you choose, and mix together. Some mixtures we have enjoyed:
- Apples, oranges, carrots, raisins
- Apples, grapefruit, dried blueberries
- Apples, pineapples, dried cranberries
And the possibilities go on… create your own master combination to keep it fun and healthy for your little one!
These pretty treats with a healthy bite inside only take about 15 minutes to prepare, and use just a few ingredients most of us already have on hand in the kitchen!
2 bananas, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup chocolate chips
¼ cup peanut butter
2 graham crackers, crushed into crumbs (or other toppings!)
- Line a small baking sheet or plate with wax paper to place treats on, which will fit in the freezer.
- Microwave chocolate chips and peanut butter together in microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds. Stir, and continue to heat and stir in 15 second increments until melted. Mine take 45 seconds total.
- Working quickly, drop banana pieces individually in chocolate mixture and coat outside by rolling around with a spoon.
- Roll some or all pieces in graham cracker crumbs.
- Place covered banana on wax paper.
- Poke stick in the middle, almost to the bottom of the bite.
- Continue dipping until all pieces are covered.
- Freeze for at least one hour.