Saturday, October 31, 2009

14. Grocery Store Finds...

This is an area I wanted to create for everyone to share some of their favorite "healthy" grocery store finds. You can either post it in the comment fields below or you can email me and I will post it up here in the main field. These can particularly be items that make life a little easier on the mom determined to feed her kids a certain way! The more convenience foods we get posted below, the better! Also, please note the store found. You can post your name or choose not to. See below....

VitaMuffin Vitatops (frozen food section), Market Street- Leya

Cascadia Farms Organic Sweet Potato Puree (frozen food section), Market Street- Leya

Goya Fruta Mango Pulp Puree (frozen food section), Market Street- Leya

Barilla PLUS pastas (multi-grain w/ omegas and 10-17 grams of protein per serving), Market Street- Leya

Happy Baby Fresh Frozen Organic Baby Meals (frozen food section), Super Target- Leya

Ella's Kitchen Organic Baby Food (snack/food section), Toys-R-Us- Leya

Kashi frozen pizzas (the protein content in these is crazy as frozen pizzas go and they're whole grain), Market Street- Leya

Willow Wind Organic Farms Mixed Vegetables (frozen food section), CostCo- Karen H.

Oroweat Sandwich Thins (I was told they are also perfect for little pizzas), most grocery stores/CostCo- Karen H.

Voortman Flax Cookies (chocolate chip or cranberry), most grocery stores/HEB, Alisan H.

Amy's Organic Pizzas (frozen food section), most grocery stores in organic freezer- Alisan H.

Friday, October 30, 2009

13. Nutrition needs by body part...

Do you know what your kids should eat for their healthy, growing bodies?

Brain – B6

Eyes – Vitamin A
Sweet Potatoes

Heart – Magnesium
Orange Juice
Brown Rice
Pumpkin Seeds

Bones – Vitamin D and/or Calcium
Turnip Greens

Skin – Vitamin A and/or B complex
Red Bell Peppers
Collard Greens

Immunity – Vitamin C and/or Zinc
Edible Podded Peas

Joints – Vitamin C

12. Healthy Snack Ideas

Healthy Snack Ideas:

* yogurt (low, low, low in sugar)
organic raisins
cheese and crackers
Annie's bunny snacks
apples and organic peanut butter
graham crackers
organic animal crackers
sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds (great in trail mixes)
raw nuts (again, great in trail mixes or sneaking into cookies recipes, pancakes, muffins)
dried fruits (watch the preservatives)
organic popcorn
fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy dips (kids LOVE dipping)

* I sneak probiotic capsules into my kids' yogurts (Yo Baby). I bought probiotic capsules for children from the local health food store and I pull them apart and dump the powder in the yogurt and mix well. The kids never know. Just make sure and mix it in the very top part of the yogurt to make sure they actually get it. Sometimes they'll leave a little yogurt and I want to rest assured the probiotic has been eaten! See my article on probiotics next!

11. The perfect Halloween dinner!

We're having a family over for Halloween dinner and some serious super-hero trick-or-treating. Luckily this mom, we'll call her Dee, feeds her kids like I feed mine. You'll hear more about Dee when I post my article on juicing. Anyway, my goals for my Halloween dinner were simple. I wanted it easy. I wanted it rich and warm. I wanted it somewhat healthy and full of protein to combat all the candy that was about to be inhaled and I wanted it easy to make ahead (ala crock pot friendly meal). My solution? Jessica Seinfeld's Sweet Potato Sloppy Joes. I haven't tried this recipe yet but I'm pumped. Sloppy Joes...a classic but with a new healthy, seasonal twist and chock-full of protein. And what a yummy, laid-back food for Halloween night! I'll probably serve it with some frozen waffle fries (baked). Throw some carrot sticks on the plate as well. For dessert...wait, what am I thinking????

Here's the recipe....

Deceptively Delicious, Seinfeld

"Sloppy Joes with Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash"

1 T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground sirloin or turkey
1/2 cup pureed sweet potato
1/2 cup pureed butternut squash or red pepper puree
raw, finely chopped carrots (optional)
1/2 cup reduced-fat low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chili powder or to taste
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
8 whole grain hamburger buns or hot dog buns

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set it over medium high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cooks until the onion starts to soften (not brown), 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the mean breaking it up with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the vegetable purees, raw chopped carrot if using, beef broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half, 15 to 20 minutes.

Spoon mixture over buns and serve!

* I plan on simplifying this recipe a bit. For instance, totally omitting the celery. I have pre-minced garlic in the fridge. I also plan on using CASCADIA FARMS ORGANIC, ALL-NATURAL SWEET POTATO puree found in the frozen food section at my grocery store. How stinkin' easy is that? Thaw. Dump in recipe. There is absolutely NOTHING else in this package but pureed sweet potato. Not even water. Check it out. If your store doesn't carry, might be time to get with the store manager....

And don't forget, you can make the meat mixture ahead of time and throw it in the crock pot to stay warm! It'll be better later anyway after all those spices and flavors meld!

I can't wait to hear feed-back about this recipe! Particularly from the kiddos. I already know what the husbands are gonna say!

10. Nut-free classroom or school? Here are some solutions...

Below is the "Safe Snack List" that my oldest daughter's school nurse sent home. It has helped me tremendously (as well as a certain mom that has been a wonderful resource) in planning treats for her nut-free classroom.

Snacks considered SAFE:

Nabisco- Teddy Grahams, Honey Maid Graham Crackers, Nilla Wafers, Oreo Cookies (usually the plain variety of Oreos are safe but NOT the snack bars)
Pringles Potato Chips
Some Fruit snacks
Goldfish (NOT the colored ones- blue dye #1)
Go Tarts
Most Fruit Cups
Kraft Handisnacks puddings
Hunt's brand puddings
Jello brand puddings
Certain popcorn brands (read labels thoroughly)
Sunshine Cheez-it Crackers (regular flavor)
Most fruits and vegetables
Frito Lay Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos, Ruffles, Rold Gold Pretzels
Krispy Kreme Donuts
Also any mix found in the baking aisle at the grocery store (Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, etc.)
Hostess snacks (cupcakes, Ding Dongs, etc.)

Snack considered UNSAFE:

Hanover pretzels (ALL)
Little Debbie snacks (ALL)
Jelly Belly jelly beans (ALL)
Candy Corn
Any of the main candy brands (M&Ms, Milky Way, Lemon Heads, Gummy Bears, Cracker Jacks)
Grandma's Cookies
Yogurt covered raisins
Chocolate covered raisins or pretzels
Zapp's Potato Chips
Any Kettle cooked chips
Chick-fil-A products
Any peanut butter cracker, cookie or snack
Most bakery items (whether it is a grocery store bakery or a boutique bakery)
Most all generic brands of foods (store brands too) as they are not required to follow strict labeling guidelines.

The important thing is to read all labels carefully. And when in doubt, don't buy it. As Room Mom last year for my child's class, I had no problem shooting moms an email and just point-blank asking a question about safe items or running ideas by them. They appreciate it. Which reminds me, you never want another child in the classroom to feel "different" or ostracized from his or hers peers. If they can't have the treat, you don't need to bring it. And as for the moms of these children, they feel bad enough because they feel like it is such a pain for all the other moms. As if they can help it. Be cognoscent of that and realize it they didn't ask for this and just as easily could've been you! I know several peanut allergy kids where the parents have absolutely idea where/how/why they have this allergy. It wasn't in the family anywhere. But when in doubt, Krispy Creme or throw together some cupcakes from a mix! Easy and cheap! Just watch the sprinkles! ;-)

9. Most common allergen foods....

In no particular order:

eggs (usually whites)
nuts (especially peanuts)

Have a nut allergy in your child's class? See my post on items that are approved for a "nut free" classroom.

Not too long ago, I heard a guest speaker at one of my moms' groups. This particular guest speaker had been a Headmaster at a couple of private schools in the area for years and years and years. In her presentation on discipline issues, she stressed how time and time again she would find that a little one's discipline issues (usually boys) were directly linked to their diets- specifically an allergy that had gone undetected. If you are facing this, ask the teacher to start tracking if the issues usually come after lunch. If so, start dissecting your child's lunch. Use the above list to start weeding these items out. Get proactive and take your child to an allergist for the "prick test." It sounds so much worse than it is. On that note, please know that taking your child for any allergy testing before the age of 3 is not AS accurate as waiting until after their 3rd birthday. Also, take into account genetics. If you or your husband has a particular food allergy, there is a good chance one of your kiddos might as well. And you definitely want to be very CONSERVATIVE introducing that food to your child but don't wait too long. There is new reasearch out, and I believe the jury is still out, but researchers (and the American Pediatric Board) are re-evaluating when parents should introduce peanut butter. Peanut allergies are on the rise. But so is the trend of waiting until a child is 2 before introducing it. Is there a link? That's what they're trying to find out. But think about it. Do you know any adult with a peanut allergy? I don't. Our parents were giving us about 80% of the above allergen list way ealier than parents do now. Interesting to chew on. We'll wait and see what the conclusive research shows.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

8. Nutrient Deficiencies in Toddler Diets

In compiling my research over the past several years, I have come across four nutrients that researchers say are deficient in the American toddler diet. These nutrients are:

Vitamin E
Essential fatty acids

Below is an at-a-glance list of food that will help you grocery shop for items high in these nutrients therefore having them readily available in your own kitchen.

Essential fatty acids:

Chicken liver (blah I know)
wheat germ (great to add to ANY muffin or cake mix, pancakes, oatmeal, cookies, shakes)
cod (fish)
peanut butter (low sodium and sugar and high in the omegas)

* Eat all of the above pregnant and breastfeeding as well. Boost your baby's brain power early! Not to mention their heart and eyes!

Vitamin E:

Vegetable oils


Whole Wheat (100% whole wheat/grain)
Fortified, low-sugar cereals


Blackstrap molasses
Beef Liver
Ground beef
Cooked lima beans
Turkey (the dark meat)
Brocolli (raw)
Spinach (raw)
Slivered almonds
Raisins (watch the preservatives)
Kidney beans

I know some of them are a little far-fetched, but some of them are not. Make a list of these things, many of which come frozen or do have a decent shelf life in the pantry, and integrate them into your kids' diets as you can. Throw slivered almonds in a muffin or cookie mix. What's easier than kidney beans with bar-b-que? Wheat germ and ground flax seed or flax seed oil are must-have pantry staples. You can throw them into so many things. Go through the above and add a couple to the grocery list. You gotta start somewhere, right?

7. Baby Food Introduction Chart

When I first made the decision to start making my own baby food, I found very few resources out there on exactly what order to introduce new foods to my infant. Then alas, the greatest one ever (see below). Taken from the book, Mommy Made by Martha and David Kimmel, this list sets up the introduction flow in a manner that presents the high allergen foods last, some even after your child turns one. It is VERY conservative, which I know some of you first-time moms will appreciate, however, you veterans, feel free to speed things up a bit! I sure did with my kiddo number three! Also, for those of you interested, I have this chart in Excel format so if you're interested in keeping up with it by date of introduction and any reactions/notes, etc, just shoot me an email and I'll send you the Excel chart format for your use! Priceless, I'm telling you.

Email me at


5 months

5 months

5 months

5 months

6 months

6 months

6 months

7 months

8 months

8 months

9 months

9 months

9 months

10 months

10 months

10 months

10 months

12 months

12 months

12 months

12 months

12 months


Acorn Squash
5 months

Butternut Squash
5 months

Sweet Potatoes/Yams
5 months

6 months

6 months

6 months

Green Beans
6 months

6 months

6 months

7 months

7 months

Yellow Squash
8 months

9 months

9 months

10 months

11 months

12 months +

Lima Beans
12 months

12 months

Bell Peppers
12 months

12 months

12 months

12 months


7 months

9 months

Cottage Cheese
9 months

Cream Cheese
9 months

Mild Cheeses
10-12 months

Sour Cream
12 months

12 months

Ice Cream
12 months

Whole Milk
12 months


Rice (white)
5 months

5 months

7 months

12 months

8 months

Brown Rice
9 months

Black beans
9 months

Teething biscuits
9 months

Oat Cereal Circles
9 months

Egg-free pasta
10 months

12 months

12 months

Peanuts/peanut butter
12 months

12 months

12 months

12 months


8 months

Egg Yolk
8 months

8 months

9 months

10 months

10 months

11 months

12 months

12 months

12 months

Egg Whites
12 months

6. Making baby food...JUST DO IT.

Before I posted any further articles, I thought it important to explain how I came about this little hobby of mine. Really, I owe it all to a dear friend/mentor of mine, Kimberly. Kimberly has a daughter named Madeleine. Kimberly had Madeleine before I ever had children. One day while out lunching, I noticed that Madeleine was noshing away at sauteed spinach, mushrooms and grilled chicken. All the other children were eating chicken fingers, french fries and drinking Sprite. I looked at Madeleine. Looked at the other children. Looked at Madeleine. WOW, I thought. That is crazy. After peppering Kimberly with tons of questions about how she got her kid to eat that way, the bottom line was clear. Make your own baby food. Start early with fresh, simple, unprocessed, unpasteurized baby food. You'll mold their taste buds and they will forever be grateful for it. So I went out and bought the "Bible" of baby food making, Mommy Made, and off I went the minute my first child was ready for solids. And the rest is history. I LOVE IT. Currently, my 6-month-old son is quite the little foodie himself. Just last night he had a carrot-sweet potato-blueberry blend. I couldn't even sit here and list all the nutrients in that little mixture if I wanted to...

Now I don't mind saying, I'm known in many a social circle for how my kids eat. They eat great. Better than any kid(s) I've ever come across. When people ask me, which is all the time, why it is they eat so good, the answer is swift and confident, "I made all their baby food." I have been accused of being some hippy, tree-hugging, broom-skirt wearing mom for this. You'd think I breastfed for two years or something. On the contrary I couldn't be more different than the aforementioned description. It all goes back to my original post. I'm so hard on myself about the way I parent. I'm hard on myself about everything I care about. So for me, to be able to so definitively control something so important is great. And to feel so good about it is worth all the effort (which is really minimal to be honest).

It's so easy. I can't stress that enough. A couple hours one Sunday afternoon and you can make enough for a month! Or you can make a little here and there. Whatever works for you, find it and stick to it! For me, it's cathartic to watch mango become this Heavenly looking fluff. Or for pear, in all it's sweetness, to literally look like liquid brown sugar once pureed. I even loved mashing up egg yolk with a fork to mix in my babies' cereals. Just typing it makes me relish in the pride I take in feeding my kids well.

Let us get started...

Consult the Baby Food Introduction information in a previous post to find out "where" your baby is age-wise for the appropriate foods.

Feel free to get more creative as you get more comfortable with this and your baby's diet broadens. You can start having a ton of fun mixing different fruits and vegetables! My son's very favorite is a pear-apple-banana puree. He can't get it fast enough and he can't grunt more to get it! Get creative. Have fun. And feel great about that growing baby of yours as vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants flood his or her little body! They're getting healthier by the second as their little cells are getting substantial nourishment.

What you need:

1. A food processor.

2. A small enough silicone spatula to scrape around the inside of the processor taking into account the center opening (try Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma).

3. * Storage containers or ice cube trays for storing your food.

4. Freezer space.

5. Knife and cutting board (depending on the fruit/vegetable you're working with).

6. A Pyrex measuring cup to pour water into the processor.

* See the comments section below for some tips on storage containers.

Have your fruits and vegetables already prepped. This means thawed, washed, cut, steamed, peeled or whatever else you need to do to get it "baby food ready."

What to do:

1. Put fruit or vegetable in processor.

2. Hit food process then puree.

3. Get to desired texture (This will depend on the age of your child. Young baby ='s puree. Older baby ='s chunkier texture. I didn't put an age because every baby is different.)

* You want to start introducing different textures all throughout this process. There are "texture sensitive" babies out there. You know who's fault that is? The parents.

4. Once happy with your puree, spoon into storage container(s) of choice.

5. Freeze.

You're done! Congrats! Now pour a glass of wine as you clean-up and treat yourself to a bubble bath. You just did a good thing for your baby. Now go do a good thing for you!

5. Seasonal Recipes- October/November

"Cheesy Baked Potato with Butternut Squash" (Super Foods, Karmel)

4 medium baking potatoes
vegetable oil
1/2 medium butternut squash (about 10 ounces)
3 T butter (plus a little extra)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Prick potatoes in several places, place on baking sheet and brush all over with oil. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until they feel soft when pressed. Meanwhile, scoop out the seeds from the squash half and brush the flesh with a little soft butter. Bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, cut the tops off the potatoes and scoop out the flesh. Scoop the flesh from the cooked squash and mash together with the potato, mustard, parmesan, mulk and butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put the mixture back into the potato shells, top with grated Cheddar and place under the broiler for a few minutes until golden.

"Yellow Cake with Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Icing" (Deceptively Delicious, Seinfeld)

Nonstick cooking spray
1 18-ounce box yellow cake mix (any brand)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup water
2 T vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
6 ounces nonfat lemon, banana or vanilla yogurt

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray and flour lightly. Combine cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs, egg white and yogurt in a medium mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. About 20 minutes. Allow to cool then frost!

1 8-ounce pkg. reduced-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 T frozen orange juice concentrate

Beat all ingredients until smooth. Spread icing onto cooled cake or cupcakes.

* For this particular recipe, I sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice on top. Feel free to use cinnamon or nutmeg! Just a little for that seasonal flavor!

4. Recipes...

My favorite recipe(s) from each of my recommended books:

Super Smoothies by Barber and Whiteford

For infants:

"Breakfast on the Crawl"
1/2 cup breast milk or formula
1/3 quartered fresh strawberries
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 banana (RIPE)
approx. 1/4 cup dry rice baby cereal

Put milk and fruit in blender. Blend until smooth. Add rice cereal to desired consistency that is "age appropriate."

*Obviously, you will more-than-likely use a spoon for this in lieu of a straw! Unless you have a highly advanced infant! Also note that strawberries are a high-allergen fruit so feel free to sub it out with another fruit.

For children and adults:

"The Flu-Buster" (appropriate, eh?)
1 cup of orange juice (I would recommend FRESHLY squeezed)
1 cup quartered fresh strawberries
3/4 cup diced papaya (don't be afraid of the jarred here if necessary)
1 banana, sliced (they say frozen but I use fresh)

Combine orange juice and berries in blender. Then add papaya and banana. Blend until smooth.

Top 100 Baby Purees by Karmel

Oatmeal puree for infants:

"My Favorite Oatmeal"

1/2 cup milk (cow's milk, breast milk or formula)
1/4 cup rolled oats (try and do steel cut if you can)
6 dried apricots, finely chopped (get ones with the fewest amount of preservatives)
1 large pear (peeled and chopped)

Put milk, oats and chopped apricots into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer and stir occasionally for 3 minutes. Puree with chopped pear.

Vegetable side for older babies:

"Cauliflower and Broccoli in Cheese Sauce"

1 1/2 cups chopped cauliflower florets
1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 T unsalted butter
1 T all-purpose flour
1 cup of milk
pinch of nutmeg
3 T grated cheddar cheese
2 T grated Gruyere cheese

Steam cauliflower and broccoli for about 7 minutes or until tender (or boil until tender). Meanwhile, prepare the cheese sauce by melting butter in saucepan and then stirring in flour. Make a smooth paste and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk, bring to a boil, and cook for a few minutes over low heat until thickened and smooth. Add nutmeg. Stir in cheese until melted. Puree to desired consistency if necessary.

* Both of the above recipes are perfect for "table-training" which is teaching your child to self-feed. They both stick to the spoon well which makes for a great (and neater option) table training-food!

Super Foods for Babies and Children by Karmel

The below fish recipe is a staple recipe in our house. I serve it with broccoli florets, mango chunks and whatever "good" starch I have on hand. This meal, as you will learn in my article, "Brain Food and Vitamin E," is the ideal meal for rocking the best of both those worlds! Not to mention it is super quick and easy!

"Fillet of Fish with Herb Butter"

2 T softened, unsalted butter
2 T herbs (the recipe calls for fresh but I use dried I have on hand)
1 T lemon juice
2 cod fillets (about 1 pound)
Coarse ground sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (both of which should become spice cabinet staples)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the butter with the herbs and lemon juice. Place the fish in a small ovenproof dish, season with salt and pepper and spread the herb butter over the top. Bake until the fish is cooked through (only 8 to 10 minutes). Flake with fork and make sure there are no bones.

I had to add these choices because honestly, I make them ALL the time and have to admit, I do feel a bit "deceptive!" But in a good way. WINK.

Deceptively Delicious by Seinfeld

"Pita Pizzas"

8 4-inch whole-wheat pita pockets
1/2 cup spinach puree (1 pkg. of frozen, thawed, drained and pureed in food processor)
2 cups bottled tomato sauce
2 cups thinly sliced part-skim mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400. Spread spinach puree on each pita. Spread the sauce over the spinach. Cover with cheese covering all spinach thoroughly! Place pizzas on foil-lined baking sheet and bake until cheese melts and begins to brown. Let cool so the cheese "sticks" and "covers" the veggies!

"Baked Egg Puffs"

Nonstick cooking spray
2 large eggs
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup yellow squash or butternut squash puree (baked or boiled until soft and then pureed in food processor)
2 T shredded reduced-fate cheddar cheese
2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400. Coat small ramekins or coffee cups with cooking spray and set on baking sheet. In large bowl, whisk eggs, egg whites, squash puree, cheese flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Divide the mixture among the ramekins or cups and bake until tops are puffed up and the eggs are no longer runny in the center when pierced with a knife, about 13 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

* For those of you with babies, any recipe that call for just egg white, don't throw the yolks out! Babies can have the yolk of an egg before their first birthday! Save those suckers and use them when feeding your infants! A great protein source and omegas.

* Also, for those of you with babies, any recipe that calls for a puree, make more than the recipe calls for and freeze cubes of it for your infant. Kills two birds with one stone as they say!_______________________________________________

The Sneaky Chef by Lapine

I don't know about you, but anything quick for breakfast that my kids can eat on the way to school is OK by me. These breakfast cookies rock. Freeze them and just get a couple out before you jump in the shower in the morning. They'll thaw in no time. Then just make-up little snack baggies of either blueberries or grapes, grab their sippys of water and off you go. You drive, they eat breakfast. That is serious multi-tasking time management my friends!

"Flour Blend" (I doubled this below. If you're gonna make it, then make it for several uses!)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups wheat germ, unsweetened

Mix well and set aside for BOTH of the below recipes!

* And don't sneer at the wheat flour and wheat germ! These need to be in your pantry anyway! Trust me! More on this later! I will post some other recipes where this flour blend will come in handy, but if you need another use for it, add some bread crumbs and tons of different seasonings and Parmesan cheese. Coat some chicken or fish fillets with it! TO DIE FOR! Makes for an awesome Chicken Parm coating!

"Breakfast Cookie and Milk" (These have a lot of protein for a "cookie." Perfect for breakfast.)

2 cups whole grain cereal flakes (such as Wheaties or Total)

3/4 cup of the above Flour Blend

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 large egg

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

Cinnamon for dusting

Preheat oven to 400. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with oil. Crush the cereal in a plastic bag. Or you can food process it. Whisk flour blend, cereal, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk egg, sugar, oil, vanilla and ricotta cheese. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just enough to moisten dry ingredients. Drop tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets leaving about an inch between cookies. Flatten with back of fork. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar lightly. Bake about 18 to 20 minutes or until nicely browned and crispy around the edges.

* Great with milk! Maybe "chocolate milk" that you used Ovaltine in? A multi-vitamin in a glass!

Both my oldest kids went through this whole NO AVOCADO stage. It drove me absolutely crazy. I LOVE avocados. Love them, love them, love them. The below recipe is so easy to sneak one of nature's most valuable commodities into some store-bought chocolate pudding. My kids LOVE pudding. And so does their Daddy. But what they don't know......

"Chocolate Pudding with Avocado"

Boxed instant pudding mix (it has to be chocolate for this recipe)

1 ripe avocado, pureed in food processor

Make pudding to boxes instructions. Before it's set, quickly add to avocado in food processor. Mix well to avoid texture issues. Spoon into ramekins or other small bowls. Put in fridge- the colder you serve this, the less likely the detection of avocado. Feel free to squirt some Reddi Whip on top and throw some sprinkles on top! Voila! A great, light dessert full of calcium, vitamins C and K, folate and fiber. Oh, and "good" fat! SUPER MOM!


3. Feed your body (and your grocery cart) like a caveman...

I was just recently consulted by a very close girlfriend of mine on the grueling task of grocery shopping. This particular girlfriend of mine, we'll call her J in this post, was frustrated with her inability to do what she considered to be "healthy" grocery shopping. She, like many of us, was lured into the inner aisles of the grocery store where things have a shelf life of up to ten years! If not more! GROSS! But as busy moms, sometimes perishable items are not appealing due to their propensity to go "bad" so quickly. The pantry items are just so much more convenient- AND FULL OF PRESERVATIVES.

Think like a caveman. I know you can because most of you if not all of you have a husband or a father or a brother or an ex-boyfriend that on a good day is just a notch up from a caveman. This kind of thinking will get you mentally touring through the grocery store, a virtual tour if you will. How did a caveman eat? Meats. Fruits and vegetables. Nuts. Some whole grains. Done. No Pop Tarts. No Fruit Loops. No Lunchables (no, silly, these are not good for your kids). No Goober Grape. No Vienna Sausages (seriously, I'll call CPS on you for these). Fresh, clean foods.

Let's say that together: "Fresh, clean foods." Say it out loud right now, "Fresh, clean foods."

This is probably not the first time you've heard to shop from the "outer aisles" at the grocery store. But as moms, all those lovely pre-packaged snacks look too good and too easy to resist. I get it. I've been there. But it's worth it to stop the madness now. And the good news, if you don't have it around anymore, you won't be eating it either (i.e. a few inches lost here and there).

I have had the question posed to me more than once, "Well what about breads? Good breads? Whole grain breads?" Well to be 100% honest with you, all of those breads on the bread aisle are full of so many preservatives it is disturbing. Buy them if you must, but your best bet is the "live" frozen bread in the frozen food section. It has to be frozen because it has ZERO shelf life because it has ZERO preservatives in it. Get where I'm going with this?

And if you think canned vegetables have any nutritious value at all, think again. First off, the sodium in those things is just almost criminal. The only canned anything you should be buying is beans and corn. Other than that, go either the fresh route or the frozen route. This is a good time to mention that a lot of times, frozen fruits and vegetables are actually BETTER for you because they are flash-frozen upon picking/cleaning therefore their nutrient content is intact. The longer any fresh produce sits, the more and more nutrient and anti-oxidant content it loses. Don't be afraid to buy frozen. Just make sure and read the ingredients. It should just say, "Mangoes." "Peas." No other ingredients at all. None. The only frozen item that has anything extra is peaches (ascorbic acid) which is basically just a vitamin C preservative/color preserver.

Story: I one time had a good friend of mine come to me all excited about a casserole recipe she'd found. She said, and I quote, "It is a great way to get your kids to eat vegetables." Sure, I say! Send it my way! Ingredients? ALL CANNED VEGETABLES. And then some nasty Campbell's soup that has MSG in it. Are you kidding me? That is not a good way to get your kids eating vegetables. That is an empty solution to a problem more and more American households are facing today. All your doing is getting them hooked, literally addicted, to sodium. Try pureeing a bunch of fresh or frozen vegetables and sneaking it into spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce or even chili and other stews. But her enthusiasm was sad to me. Why? Because she didn't know any different. If we're not educated, how on earth can we expect our children to be? And their children? And so the cycle goes....

Now, at this point I think it important to mention that I am NOT one of those moms whose kids NEVER get fast food or junk food. That is ridiculous, not realistic and just down-right boring. I can say, however, that my kids NEVER get sodas/soft drinks. Ever. Never. Ever. Period.

But the thing is, when your kids eat a certain way 90% of the time, who cares if they have pizza, cake, apple juice, sugar cookies and candy at ONE birthday party? Seriously? You don't want your kids to have a bad relationship with food, ESPECIALLY your girls. This will be the topic matter of an entirely separate post at a later date....

Back to the grocery cart. Back to "J." I proposed this question to J: "If someone like Jillian Michaels or Richard Simmons JUMPED OUT at you at the check-out stand to 'grade' your cart, what grade would you receive? Ask yourself that every single time you're about to check-out. Look down at your cart. Is it mostly processed or mostly fresh or frozen?" I can undoubtedly say that nine times out of ten my grade would be an A to an A+. And to me this is NOT subject to interpretation. Bring it Richard Simmons! Bring it all day long! You should be able to say that when you're checking out. I literally am sometimes ridiculously proud of my shopping cart! You should be too! If you're not, you need to start doing things differently.

2. The basics.

There are just a few basic things everyone must be familiar with before you embark on the exciting journey of good nutrition for your kiddos. One, you must have a little knowledge about the food pyramid. Yes, that's right. The same ol' food pyramid you learned about in grade school. However, it has been tweaked a couple of times (including recently) since then! Print it off and hang it in your pantry door. I hang any beneficial charts or info dealing with nutrition on the inside of my pantry door with double-sided tape. A good habit to get into! Here is the link to the food pyramid:

Secondly, I have some recommended books that I think are must-haves. If anything, I piggy-back off a lot of the recipes instead of following them exactly. Here are my endorsements and what I consider to be a good jumping-off point for recipes and advice!

Mommy Made, Martha and David Kimmel (Where it all began for me.....)
Super Smoothies, Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford
Top 100 Baby Purees, Annabel Karmel (Yes, I am passionate about making baby food from scratch.)
Super Foods for Babies and Children, Annabel Karmel
The Sneaky Chef, Missy Chase Lapine AND/OR Deceptively Delicious, Jessica Seinfeld

I haven't yet made up my mind about, Lunch Boxes and Snacks by Annabel Karmel. It is definitely for the older child and their lunch box- not preschoolers. But I did get a couple of ideas from it (like doing "safe" skewers of tortellini pasta, cheese cubes, grapes, cherry tomatoes and any other "skewable" healthy thing your kids will eat). Those are all obviously MAJOR choking hazards as well so make sure your kiddo is ready. I'll let you know as I continue to peruse this read if it's worth purchasing or not....

Here is the link to Amazon where if you have over $25 in your cart you qualify for free shipping. Not to mention the books are always cheaper on Amazon than retail at ANY bookstore around (except maybe Half Price Books).

Just cut and paste the above title/author(s) into their search field, add it to your cart and PRESTO! Done!

I think Mommy Made does a fantastic job of not only telling you which fresh foods contain a certain vitamin or vitamins, but it also explains the importance of these vitamins and body functions they help support. I learned a great deal from Mommy Made that not only benefited my children, but my husband and I as well. For example, did you know that when black beans and corn are mixed together your body processes them as a protein, not starch? Crazy. So you know that dip with the black beans and corn that everyone makes? PROTEIN! And the thing, as you dig deeper and deeper into the world of child nutrition, you will quickly realize that this stuff is (obviously) applicable to adults as well! For forever! For a life time! This is an investment for better health on every level!

Thirdly, make sure your family is on some kind of multi-vitamin. For those of you think you're a rock star right now because your kid is on some crappy vitamin like Flintstones or something, think again. First off, most vitamins like "that" (including Centrum for adults) are made from CHEAP synthetic CRAPPY ingredients. Get yourself to the local health food store and get a higher quality, more natural multi-vitamin for children that has natural elements in it (not to mention tons of natural minerals as well). Secondly, and this is very important, liquid anything absorbs better into your bloodstream more efficiently than anything "solid" that must first be broken-down by your body. Therefore, getting your kids a liquid multi-vitamin will help their bodies absorb it better and pass less of it as waste in their urine. Plus, it isn't has hard on the stomach and the liver to breakdown. Ask for help at the health food store as well. You will learn this as you continue to read my blog, I am a huge fan of health food and whole food stores. They are an un-tapped treasure trove of hidden health secrets that really will make you feel like a ROCK STAR once integrated into your family's every day life!

And lastly, get your you-know-what up right now and purge your fridge and pantry of HALF of all processed foods you currently own. Get up. GO NOW. GO. And if you're sitting here thinking to yourself you don't even know what a processed food is or you wouldn't even know where to begin, we've got bigger problems.

But not to worry. My next blog post, "Feed your body (and your grocery cart) like a caveman..." will help you learn the error of your ways!

1. Satisfaction Guaranteed! An intro to Cutie Patootie Foodie...

Several people in my life have suggested I start a blog on feeding kids (the right way) for awhile now. Today, my kids' Godmother got her claws into me and REALLY talked me into it! Thank you, Godmudder Cherry.

What got me interested and passionate about feeding my children? Well, several things. One, anyone slightly educated on nutrition knows the importance and benefits of feeding not only ourselves, but young children as well. Growing brains and bones and bodies have special requirements. What I have learned throughout the years is that moms are either uneducated on how to go about this, or sadly, just too dad gum lazy. Insert my blog. I'll do ALL the work for you. You just read it!

And my other reason? The thing about feeding your kids well is, it's OK for it to come from a "selfish" place. As moms, we beat ourselves up daily about everything. Discipline. Are our kids smart enough? Do they have good manners? Are they healthy? How do they stack-up against other kids? How do I stack-up against other moms? Just a bombardment of "what ifs" and "I should'ves" and all the mommy guilt that just simply comes from being a mom. But let me tell you ladies, there is nothing quite like laying your head down at night and knowing that you COULD NOT HAVE fed your kids any better than you did that particular day. It is satisfaction that a million dollars could not buy. And in the long run, though a couple more puzzles or "crafts" in a day might have their own benefits, there is nothing, nothing, nothing more important than feeding them well.

When you really start to look at children around you, the ones that have fewer discipline issues, better sleep habits, better manners, make better grades at school, have better listening skills, get along better with other children, are more active, more inquisitive, have shiny hair, brighter eyes, glowing skin and are less-likely to get ill are the children that are just simply fed better. That is a fact- plain and simple. If guilt is starting to well-up a little bit as you read the above, don't sweat it. You just found someone who not only takes this subject very seriously, but sincerely loves researching it and sharing it with others. Satisfaction guaranteed!