03, September 2015 9:00 AM

Keep the focus on healthy eating as a family all month long. Celebrate the back-to-school season with recipes that will step up your snacking game, bring the family together over balanced dinners, stay budget friendly in honor of Hunger Action Month and explore the vast array of fruits and vegetables available in most groceries.

September Family Meal Recipes

Smart Snacks

Walking Meals with Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip and Warm Chocolate Pudding; plus Fresh Fruit Burritos, Turkey + Cheese Melt Tortilla Wraps, Potato Skins and Kale + Spinach Chips.

Healthy Meals, Happy Families

Pulled Pork TortaCabbage, Carrot + Pineapple Salad and Strawberry Orange Cups; plus Chicken Pasta Salad with Blueberries, Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes, Pulled Pork with Caramelized Onions and Good News Breakfast Smoothies.

Hunger Action Month

Corn + Broccoli Calzones, Sauteed Peppers and Tomatoes and All Natural Oatmeal Banana Cookies; plus Red White and Green Grilled Cheese, Lentil Soup, Bean and Cheese Burritos and Fruity Yogurt Parfaits.

Fruits + Veggies More Matters Month

Apple Sauerkraut + Cheddar Quesadillas, Simple Sesame Snap Peas and Fruit Juice Coolers; plus Fig PizzaChicken, Broccoli Rabe + Feta on Toast, Ribollita Sicilian Supper Stew With Peppered Cheese Melts and Persimmon Cookies.

Tags: back-to-school balanced meals family meals food group foods Healthy eating
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

28, August 2015 11:52 AM

Fearless feeding, healthy eating for kids Recently, the San Jose Dietitian's book club reviewed Fearless Feeding, a book about healthy eating for kids written by two registered dietitian nutritionists, Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobson. The authors wrote this book in response to what they increasingly see among parents: Fearful Feeding

Fearful feeding is brought on by less time and support for making balanced meals, crazy confusion on what constitutes healthy eating and an endless selection of food choices (both healthy and otherwise). These, combined with overwhelming pressure to feed in a way that their child grows up to be both thin and healthy, have created a large number of parents who are anxious about how to feed their children successfully.

This book proposes a Fearless Feeding solution. A child that is a Fearless Eater is one who consumes balanced meals, eats the right amount of food for his/her body type, enjoys healthy foods and doesn't feel guilty eating Fun Foods in moderation. 

Fearless Feeding encourages parents to:

  • Have confidence in when and how to introduce new foods
  • Offer balanced meals and snacks with regularity, striking the right balance between serving familiar foods and new foods
  • Read their child's cues rather than exerting force and pressure
  • Understand normal childhood growth spurts 
  • Make feeding yourself a priority to set a good example

This book outlines as much about how to feed kids as what to feed them. Parents need a feeding strategy that will serve as a road map to guide feeding choices from infancy through high school. This book clearly defines that path with a nice blend of theory, stories and recipes. The book is based on nutrition research and is well referenced with citations and appendices in the back of the book.  

In short, our book club gives this book a resounding two thumbs up. It is well laid out with an introductory chapter that defines Fearless Feeding, then the parent can skip ahead to the chapter that is relevant to their child's age. The main ideas in each chapter are formatted in Fearless Tips and Fearless Facts sprinkled throughout in easy-to-read call out boxes. 

The techniques described in the food definitely resonated with our book club since many of us have worked in the field of pediatric nutrition and/or have children of our own. One dietitian stated the book is a more current version of the groundbreaking books published in the 1980's by Ellyn Satter on the division of responsibility for feeding kids. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I recommended this book to our club since I know Jill and Maryann and am familiar with their nutrition philosophy and parenting advice. The Fearless Feeding approach aligns with my personal values and parenting experience. What I enjoyed most about the book is the wonderful stories shared in the book, both the authors' own personal struggles with feeding their children (hey, just because we are dietitians doesn't mean feeding our own kids is trouble-free) and their success stories when working with the clients they serve. As a former pediatric dietitian, stories from real life clinical experience, in combination with nutrition research provides the most believable nutrition advice for kids. 

Additionally, as a group, we had to admit that this book would not work for all parents. The Fearless Feeding approach is based on trusting children to make overall healthy choices given the right structure at home and some parents are so health obsessed and concerned about what foods to feed themselves that they'd struggle with this concept for their children.  As health professionals, it is our responsibility to assess our clients and determine their readiness to change and provide resources that will align with their current situation in order to move them toward a less fearful approach even, if they are not yet able to embrace a fearless one.  

Maureen Bligh, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Tags: Dietitians Book Review family meals Healthy eating Maureen Bligh
Categories: categoryMeals & Snacks; Family Meals categoryTotal Balanced Diet (5 food groups) for Kids categoryHealthy Eating for Kids

28, August 2015 11:24 AM

a dash of sodium controversy With the upcoming release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, there seems to be a surge in the controversy around sodium. At a recent session at the Institute of Food Technologists’ conference (IFT) in Chicago, scientists explored the growing body of research around sodium, diet and health to shed some light on this volatile issue. (See Heart Health Controversy: Reducing Sodium Intake and Heart Health and Diet: What Really Matters May Surprise You for more on the emerging sodium research.)

The conclusion of this session at IFT was that salt intake should be set by physiology, not by public policy, and that individual variation needs to be considered in sodium recommendations. While food industry professionals seem to embrace this concept, the public health professional sees this as controversial. The consumer may hear messages from both camps for a while, until some consensus can be reached.

Indeed, this lack of consensus means we have not heard the end of this story. The nutrition and health communities will continue their earnest dialog on the topic, and that discussion is spilling over into consumer media. The good news is that momentum is building in a way that looks beyond the “salt is bad for you” dogma:

This controversy may be frustrating, yet we need to realize that there is often a lag before policy catches up with science. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines sodium recommendation are not likely to change, but the 2020 ones may reflect the emerging body of science challenging the paradigm of severe sodium restrictions. In the meantime, practitioners should remember that the Guidelines are guidance for the general population and that in working with individuals, recommendations need to be tailored to meet unique needs and preferences.  

As the conversations continue, we’d like to hear your perspective on the sodium controversy. Are you influenced by the more recent science or do you align with traditional public health views? How are you handling sodium concerns in your practice?

Lori Hoolihan, PhD, RDN

Tags: Dietary Guidelines for Americans Healthy eating Lori Hoolihan nutrition research sodium
Categories: categoryNutrition Education

12, August 2015 3:41 PM

As parents, we want to do everything we can to make sure our children are successful- at home, at school and in life. While back to school is a very busy time for kids, parents and teachers alike, spending some time talking about snacks can potentially make a big difference this school year.

Nutrition + Academic Performance Linked

A healthy, balanced diet is linked with academic achievement. In fact, the absence of certain food groups or nutrients in a child's diet can negatively impact grades and attendance. Kids who don't eat enough fruits, vegetables and milk and dairy foods tend to get lower grades than students who do meet dietary recommendations. 

Furthermore, deficits of specific nutrients like vitamins A, B6, B12, C, folate, iron, zinc and calcium are associated with lower grades and higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness among students. 

Room for Improvement in Kid Snack Choices

Many parents are unaware that poor snacking habits could negatively impact their child's academic performance, so Dairy Council of California encourages parents to pay special attention to snack options during back-to-school season. Research shows that kids get nearly one quarter of their daily calories from snacks- making snacks almost like the fourth meal of the day. 

Unfortunately, research also shows that healthy foods are NOT what's commonly on a child's snack tray. Kids are far more likely to snack on sweets or crunchy, salty snacks than nutrient rich food group foods. So there's plenty of room for snack improvement to help fuel academic success this school year. 

When parents plan, prepare and present healthy snacks for kids that combine 2-3 food group foods, then healthy snacking can help overcome nutrient shortfalls, improve diet quality and set kids up for academic success. Add underconsumed food groups such as milk and dairy foods, vegetables, fruits and whole grains to kids' snacks to help provide nutrients needed for healthy growth and development. 

Avoid a battle of wills with your child by selecting snacks that are fun and tasty while being nutritious too. Parents can't go wrong with these healthy snack recipes for kids and the tip sheet Healthy Snacks for Home and School offers additional snacking ideas that combine food group foods. 

While what's available on hand for snacking is important, making the healthy choice the easy choice is important too. Check out Nine Hacks for Healthy Snacks for tips on how to set up your kitchen to promote healthier snack choices for kids and adults. This healthy snacking video also helps kids learn the benefits of making healthy snack choices at home and after school. 

Smart Snacking at School

While parents can control snacking options at home, what about school? New criteria established by the Smart Snacks in Schools regulations means that all foods sold during the school day must meet certain nutrition standards. Once these regulations are implemented they will apply to all foods sold on campus, including a la cart items, school stores and in vending machines. Additionally, teachers can establish healthy classroom policies to kick chips out of the classroom.

With these tips and tools, back-to-school is the perfect time to step up your snacking game to improve nutrition and academic achievement.



MacLellan D, Taylor J, Wood K. Food intake and academic performance among adolescents. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. 2008;69(3):141–144.

Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Dixon LB, Resnick MD, Blum RW. Correlates of inadequate consumption of dairy products among adolescents. Journal of Nutrition Education. 1997;29(1):12–20.

Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Resnick MD, Blum RW. Correlates of inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption among adolescents. Preventive Medicine. 1996;25(5):497–505.

Basch CE. Healthier Students Are Better Learners: A Missing Link in Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap. New York: New York. Columbia University; 2010. http:// EquityMattersVol6_Web03082010.pdf Accessed February 26, 2014.

Kleinman RE, Hall S, Green H, Korzec-Ramirez D, Patton K, Pagano, ME, Murphy JM. Diet, breakfast, and academic performance in children. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism. 2002;46(suppl 1):24–30.

Taras, H. Nutrition and student performance at school. Journal of School Health. 2005;75(6):199–213.




Tags: food group foods healthy eating for kids nutrition and achievement snacking
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating for Kids

01, August 2015 9:00 AM

Squeeze the last few drops of fun from this summer before getting into the back to school swing. Celebrate a uniquely American holiday, enjoy some no-cook and low-cook recipes, go down south and then get some great tips for packing lunch for back to school. The whole family can help plan, prepare and enjoy these healthy, balanced meals with foods from all five food groups. 

August Family Meal Recipes

Get Sneaky

Zucchini Rice Casserole with Tandoori Chicken and Strawberry Almond Parfaits; plus Zucchini Stew, Chocolate Zucchini Cake, Zucchini Quiche and Cheese Herb Zucchini.

Chill Out

Italian Vegetable Hoagies with Aztec Salad and Raspberry Mango Sundae; plus Chickpea Spread aka Hummus, Balsamic Vinegar Tomatoes, Chicken Wraps with California Dried Plums and Apples, and Refrigerator Oatmeal.

Kids Can Cook

Apple Cheddar Panini, Broccoli and Cheese and Peaches and Cream Pops; plus Mini Maui Pizza Pies, Baked Spinach Artichoke Yogurt Dip, Double Cheddar Mashed Potatoes and Kale and Spinach Chips.


Shrimp + Cheddar Grits, Green Beans with Pine Nuts and Roasted Peach Sundaes; plus Glazed Sweet Potatoes and California Dried Plums with GingerCucumber Tomato Salad, Mom's Macaroni and Cheese and Chili Cornbread Pie.

Get Packing

Sweetie Pie Quesadillas, Dunkin’ Vegetables and Minted Fruit Salad; plus Honey Baked BananasChicken Crunchers, Lemon Dill Carrots and Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies.

Tags: family meals food group foods Healthy eating holidays recipes
Categories: categoryHealthy Eating

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