Top 5 Tips For Successful Baby-Led Weaning

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My daughter is almost 10 months old and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve spoon-fed her food. She started eating solid food when she was a week shy of her 6 month birthday, when she grabbed a banana out of my hand and stuck it in her mouth, swished it around a few times and then swallowed it. Since then, she’s happily fed herself with no problems. I had been toying with the idea of trying “baby-led weaning” with my daughter, a self-feeding method of introducing solids to a baby, but hadn’t decided 100% whether we were going to go that route or not. When she took her first bite of that banana, and I witnessed first hand that she didn’t choke or throw up, I knew then and there that she would do just fine.

Now, before you give your special baby-food blender away and toss your ice-cube trays, realize that baby-led weaning isn’t for everybody (my son was happily spoon-fed for the first few months). It is not a “better” way to introduce solids–it’s a different way. Both methods (baby-led weaning and spoon -feeding) can work really well–it just depends on both the baby and the parents as to which method (or perhaps a combo) will work better. I also truly believe that both methods can be “baby-led”, especially if you pay really close attention to your baby’s cues and do not coax or force your baby to eat. Baby-led eating allows your baby to be in charge of whether and how much they eat. It gives them the opportunity to eat until comfortably full, which allows them to trust their inner cues when it comes to hunger and fullness. Experiment with both methods, being careful to follow your baby’s cues either way. Your baby will tell you fairly quickly whether or not he wants to accept food from a spoon or if he’d rather gum large chunks of solid food without any help. 

If you are going the baby-led weaning route, I’ve learned (as a BLW newbie myself) a few tricks along the way: 

1. Do not freak out when your baby gags: Your baby will likely gag. A lot. Babies have a great natural gag-reflex that will help them move food that has travelled too far to the back of their mouths, back to the front again so that they don’t choke. They may make a funny face and make a gagging sound, but if you wait for a few seconds, you’ll see that your baby is an expert at this and will not choke. Baby’s are developmentally ready to handle solid finger foods at 6 months of age (assuming baby wasn’t born premature), therefore it is very unlikely that your baby will actually choke on food. But it is still imperative that you take an infant CPR/First Aid course just in case (and for peace of mind).  If you freak out when your baby gags, your baby will freak out because they will be scared. Try to stay calm (or at least look calm) and let baby do her thing. 

2. Plan your family meals to be baby-friendly: The food that I typically make is quite flavourful, sometimes spicy and sometimes contains seasonings such as salt and pepper–things that 6 month old babies do not need. A baby’s kidneys are not mature enough to handle a lot of salt (sodium) or sugar, so it’s important to keep this is mind when you’re preparing and cooking food. I purchased the baby-led weaning cookbook, but decided not to use it because, after all, one of the reasons we went this route is so I didn’t have to create a whole different meal for my baby. So what I did instead was toned down the spice and the seasoning a lot. For example, I wouldn’t add salt and a pepper to our vegetable frittata (we could add it on afterwards if we wanted) or I would use fresh chicken and homemade pizza sauce on our pizza’s (instead of ham or store-bought pizza sauce). I would take out a scoop of stir-fried meat and veggies for my daughter prior to adding stir-fry sauce and I when I made homemade hamburgers, I would leave the seasonings out of hers. Remember that the same guidelines apply to baby-led weaning as with spoon feeding in regards to what to feed your baby. It’s important that you focus on iron-rich foods first (meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, eggs, iron-fortified grains) and progress onto vegetables and fruit and then whole grains and dairy after that (9 months for yogurt and cheese and 12 months for homogenized milk).  Here’s some information on introducing allergenic foods to baby and on when and how to transition baby to cow’s milk. 

3. Buy an easy-to-clean high chair and plastic bibs: Baby-led weaning is definitely messier than spoon feeding. We invested in a new highchair for our daughter, as I found that hand-me-down that we used for my son was hard to clean. You don’t have time to clean a highchair for 15 minutes after each meal or snack, so make sure that the high chair is easy-t0-clean (I find plastic is best, and we remove the cushy cloth lining too). Buy a few plastic bibs that you can rinse quickly and that have a pocket that catches food (our daughter will just scoop fallen food out of the pocket). You even might want to think about putting a small tarp down underneath your baby’s highchair so that you don’t have to clean your floors several times a day. Friends of ours do this, and clean it off at the end of the day. Genius. 

4. Think BIG: You may be tempted to cut your baby’s food into teeny tiny pieces so that they don’t choke. Unfortunately, baby’s don’t have the fine motor skills to pick up tiny pieces of food and bring them to their mouths until they are around 8-9 months old (or older). This is why it’s so important that you make baby’s food pieces large enough that they can grab onto them. A homemade potato wedge or half of a skinless, boneless chicken thigh cut length-wise, or a slice of pear (peeled) are examples of appropriate sized pieces of food. A piece of whole grain toast with some butter on it cut into thick strips would be appropriate too. Your baby should be able to pick up their food, bring it to their mouth, and gnaw on it. It is normal for baby to “miss” their mouth or drop their food, but as long as they can bring it to their mouths, it is likely appropriate in size. It is still very important to avoid foods that pose a risk of choking for the first year of life, such as hard fruits and vegetables (ie. raw carrots), stringy foods (ie. celery), nuts and seeds, whole grapes, a gob of peanut butter (I thinly spread on toast strips), and wieners and popcorn. 

5. Go with the flow: Your baby may absolutely LOVE self-feeding right from day one, and she may go through periods where she’d rather be spoon-fed. My daughter for the most part has thrived with baby-led weaning, but she went through a period when she was teething, where she wanted to be fed pureed food with a spoon (presumably because it was softer and didn’t hurt). When and if you do feed pureed food, either make it yourself (best choice) or choose organic options from the grocery store. Know that it’s completely normal for your baby to reject a food, spit it out or throw it. It may take up to 20 exposures for a baby to accept a food so keep re-introducing the food pressure-free. Include baby in family meals (this is the beauty of baby-led weaning) and give him/her the food that the rest of the family is having (assuming it isn’t a choking hazard). Know that most of the food may end up on the highchair, on the walls or on the floor, and this is ok. Your baby is getting most of his/her nutrition from breastmilk and/or formula until one year of age. Have fun with it! 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like this post that I wrote on baby-led weaning vs. spoon feeding and how to create a healthy eating environment for your baby. 

Sesame Chicken With Fennel and Orange Salad

 

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Spring is finally making an appearance in our city, although there are still many remnants of winter, with snow on the ground and a chill in the air. My son has been dying to play in the park and ride his bike and it’s only been in the past week that we’ve been able to make that happen–even if only for 10 minutes at a time. Because it’s been such a brutally long winter, I’ve continued to stick to our usual go-to winter meals–hot steel-cut oats for breakfast and warm comfort foods such as soups, casseroles, stir-fries and pasta dishes for lunch and dinner. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be given the assignment by Canadian Living to test out this refreshing citrusy sesame chicken salad. It was about time that I switch things up and try something Spring-inspired. 

I have to admit, I rarely use fennel in cooking unless I’m making roasted root vegetable (usually at Christmas or Thanksgiving). Before I made this recipe, I don’t actually think that I had eaten fennel raw, which now that I’ve tried it, I can’t believe! It was delicious and paired perfectly with the red cabbage, orange and cilantro. Fennel tastes mildly like liquorice, which added to the complexity of the flavour in this salad.

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The recipe (on the cover of the May issue of Canadian Living) calls for chicken breasts, but I happened to have boneless, skinless chicken thighs on hand instead, which worked out really well.  Both the sesame glaze and the dressing were a breeze to make, and I had almost all of the ingredients on hand (with the exception of apple cider vinegar, which I replaced with red wine vinegar). 

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Because I had a sneaking suspicion that my 3 year old and 10 month old might not appreciate this meal as much as my husband and I would, we decided to feed them early and put them to bed so that we could enjoy dinner just the two of us–a rare “at-home date night” as we call it. My husband isn’t a huge salad fan, but he was pleasantly surprised when he tasted this one and even had a second helping. 

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Because fennel and cabbage are fairly “sturdy” vegetables, this salad will make for great leftovers tomorrow (even though it is already dressed).  I would definitely recommend trying this refreshing Spring salad out–it was delicious, easy to make and allowed me to branch out from making the same old salad that I always do.  Not to mention the fact that this salad-that-eats-like-a-meal is jam-packed full of nutrition and is satisfying and filling. 

Enjoy!

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Check out the full recipe here: Sesame Chicken With Fennel and Orange Salad 

 

 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Canadian Living and I receive compensation for it. All opinions are my own. 

Moms: Five Tips For Staying Healthy When Life Feels Overwhelming

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Being a Mom is rewarding and amazing, but it’s also the hardest job that I’ve ever had. When I had my daughter 9 months ago, I assumed that she would be a laid back, happy baby like my now three year old son was–a baby who slept through the night by three months, and rarely cried. Instead my daughter cried through her first 7 months of life, rarely napped for longer than 20 minutes at a time and didn’t particularly like to sleep at night either. Having a rambunctious three year old and an extremely fussy baby made life seem *very* overwhelming at times. As a Mom, regardless of how many children you have and what their ages or temperaments are, there will be times where you feel stressed, frustrated and overwhelmed. Even though we know these times pass eventually, it can sometimes seem impossible to “keep our heads above water”. If you’ve ever felt that drowning feeling, you know what I’m talking about.

During those tough 7 months, I found it hard to stay healthy. I would forget to eat sometimes (which NEVER happens),  I would grab the easiest and most convenient food around instead of being careful to eat a balanced meal, I would become dehydrated from forgetting to drink enough water, and I’d trade exercise and sleep in for cleaning my house. Although I did give myself a break and didn’t beat myself up about it (I was in survival mode, after all), I did start to feel run down, impatient, and exhausted. No doubt this stemmed from the craziness that was my life at the time, but it was also a result of not taking care of myself enough. I’ve preached many times that it is very important to take care of yourself as a new Mom, and how proper nutrition is essential for breastfeeding and so on and so forth, but here I was, totally neglecting my own health. What I learned from it though, was that as a second (or third or forth)-time Mom, you need to be creative and take a few short-cuts to stay healthy through the overwhelming times. Here are a few tips that I learned along the way: 

Be creative with your activity:

If your baby refuses to nap, strap him or her into a carrier (I used the Ergo Baby), and go for a brisk walk. If you have a toddler or preschooler, get them to either ride their bike or scooter or strap them into the stroller and push them. Set up a mini-circuit in your house where you do squats and lunges, walk stairs and lift weights (or your baby). Buy a second-hand treadmill or elliptical trainer for your home (this is what I did) so that you don’t have to worry about childcare when you go to the gym. Have a dance party in your living room with your kids. I put my baby in the jolly jumper and crank music while my son and I dance. It’s fun and gets the kids moving too. This will also put you in a better mood and boost your energy (any exercise) because activity releases feel-good endorphins in the brain. 

Make meals simple:

Think simple and forget fancy when it comes to meals. Start with protein (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy) and add veggies and/or fruit and a whole grain food. Examples are a suppertime omelette with salsa on toast, this yummy turkey-taco pizza, french toast with yogurt and berries, or stuffed peppers that take no time at all. Kids love these easy-to-make meals and they take less time to prepare. Here are some of my favourite (and most popular) quick and easy weeknight meals:

DIY Kung Pao Chicken

BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Thai Peanut Chicken Thighs

Muffin-tin Veggie Frittatas

Turkey Tomato Pasta Bake 

Need more? Here are some more quick and easy supper ideas

Cook once, eat twice:

There’s nothing worse than glancing at the clock after a busy day and realizing that it’s almost supper time, but you haven’t had a chance to prepare anything yet. This is why it’s so important to make the most of the meals that you actually do have time to cook. Recycle one part of a meal for something new the following night. For example, if you make tacos one night, use the leftover meat to make taco pizzas or taco salad the next night. If you’re barbecuing chicken one night, barbecue 3 or 4 extra chicken breasts to use in a stir-fry, quesadilla or chicken caesar wrap the next night. I find it’s easiest to recycle the protein (meat, poultry, fish etc) portion of your meal to cut down preparation the next night, but I also often make extra rice or quinoa to use for leftovers as well. Leftover grilled or stir-fried veggies are also great additions to salads. 

Eat breakfast:

If there’s one meal that you should not miss, it is breakfast. Research continues to support the fact that eating breakfast boasts many health benefits. It gives us a boost of energy to start our day, it revs up our metabolisms and if we include a good source of protein such as eggs, dairy and/or meat, it can help to decrease the chances of unhealthy snacking later in the day. What’s more, is that breakfast eaters (both adults and kids) tend to weigh less than breakfast skippers. This could be due to the fact that our cravings throughout the day are controlled better when we eat a healthy breakfast (including protein), therefore eating less calories overall by the end of the day. 

Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go:

If you ever hang out with me in person, you know that I always have my purple water bottle with me at all times. I don’t let it out of my sight. Staying hydrated is really important. More than half of our body is made up of water. Our bodies use water to regulate our body temperature, lubricate our joints and remove waste from our bodies. Every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies need water to function properly. And I don’t know about you, but I tend to sweat more these days, carrying my baby around and chasing after my toddler, so my water needs are higher than normal. If you’re a breastfeeding Mom, your water requirements increase, as well, to keep your milk supply up. Aim for about 2.5 to 3 litres of fluid a day to stay hydrated. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink– by that point you are already slightly dehydrated. 

Important note: Be sure to book yourself a doctors appointment if that “drowning” feeling doesn’t subside. As important as it is to stay healthy physically, it’s also important to stay healthy emotionally and mentally as a Mom. If you can’t seem to shake the overwhelming feeling or if your mood doesn’t improve, you could be dealing with post-partum depression. Don’t let your health slide- make sure you seek help. 

Setting Mealtime Boundaries For Your Child

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As the parent of a preschooler and baby, I know firsthand how stressful mealtimes can be. They are certainly not relaxing by any stretch of the imagination, but they can be enjoyable and less chaotic if boundaries are set. It’s up to us parents to set these boundaries and consistently enforce them, while at the same time, letting our kids explore food in a fun and unpressured way.

Minimize picky eating and mealtime battles by setting these mealtime boundaries with your kids:

You set the timetable:

As a parent, you get to decide when mealtimes happen. Otherwise, eating becomes a food free-for-all and a snack-fest all day long. When this happens, kids often refuse to eat at meal times (because they’re full from snacking) and this makes mealtime unenjoyable for all. One of the things that I love about Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility, is that it takes the pressure off of both the parents and the kids when it comes to mealtime. Parents are responsible for the what’s, where’s and when’s of eating and then kids get to decide whether and how much they eat. This can be scary for parents because it means that the control is handed over to their kids after the meal has been served. But once parents can let go and trust that their child will learn to accept most foods in time, this no-pressure way of feeding lifts a huge weight off of their shoulders. Parents already carry the burden of planning meals and snacks, shopping for and preparing food, so when the responsibility of making sure your child actually eats is shifted from the parent to the child, parents often feel a sense of relief. As they should. 

The 5 minute warning:

Give your child a 5 minute warning for mealtime. When kids are focused on building a Lego kingdom or pillow fortress, or deep into a puzzle, they will likely react negatively (to put it nicely) when Mom or Dad insists that they stop NOW and come to the table NOW. It’s just not that easy for toddlers, preschoolers and young kids to switch gears that quickly. Giving them a 5 (and then 3,2 and 1) minute warning allows them to finish up what they are doing, clean up and come to the table. 

The magic mealtime words:

When your child resists (even with the warning) to come to the table, saying “but I’m not hungry!” or “I don’t want to have dinner!”, you can use the “magic mealtime words” which Maryann Jacobsen, RD explains so brilliantly in her Huffington post article “End Mealtime Battles With These 5 Simple Words“. These words are “you do not have to eat“. It may seem counter-intuitive to say these words, but it will make your life a lot easier. It takes the pressure off your child, you likely dodge a mealtime battle and like Maryann explains in her post, 9 times out of 10, your child will eat once they’ve sat down with the rest of the family. You are setting a boundary in that your child must sit at the table, but you are taking the pressure off by leaving it up to them as to whether they eat and how much they eat. The ball is then in their court. Make sure that you include one or two foods that you know that your child likes–that way, he or she will have something to eat even if they don’t like (or aren’t ready to try) other foods. Including a familiar and accepted food also makes it less scary to try a new unfamiliar food alongside it. 

It’s not all about eating:

If your child refuses to eat with the rest of the family for whatever reason, tell him or her that it is ok, but they must stay seated at the table. Teach your kids that mealtimes aren’t just about eating food, but also connecting with the rest of the family. Mealtimes are an opportunity for kids to tell you about their day (and vice versa), to observe you eating (which gives you a chance to model healthy eating), and to connect with the rest of the family. We set the 10 minute rule in our house which means our preschooler must stay at the table for at least 10 minutes before being excused. 

Decide what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable: 

Decide what is “acceptable” behaviour and “unacceptable” behaviour at the table and stick to it. In our home, acceptable behaviour is saying “no thank you” if food is turned down, tasting food and if it’s a no-go, politely spitting it out in a napkin, eating with hands if the food is a “finger food” and using utensils when it’s not (or at least giving it a good go), playing with food to explore (stacking, feeling, organizing, separating etc.). Unacceptable behaviour is throwing/flinging, leaving the table too soon (before ~5 minutes for toddlers, and before ~10 minutes for preschoolers), bringing toys to the table, saying negative things about the food served, being rude, yelling and getting up and down from the table over and over again. The most important thing is that you stay consistent with your mealtime expectations so that your kids know what is acceptable and what is not.

Give warning about future eating opportunities: 

It’s easy to fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to eating (and feeding) when life gets busy.  Meals and snacks often get served when time allows, in the car, in front of the TV or in bedrooms. Sometimes it’s just easier to give in when your child says “I’m hungry, can I have a snack?” to avoid confrontation or a tantrum. When it happens (which could EASILY happen in my house because my son is hungry allofthetime), main meals tend not to be eaten. This could be because your child is too full from snacking before the meal, and/or because they are holding out for future snacks later on. When my son was younger, we got into the bad habit of offering a bedtime snack every night, regardless of what time dinner was eaten. So even if dinner wasn’t served until 6:30pm (and my son goes to bed at 7:30pm), he would still get a snack. What started to happen is that he would eat less and less of his dinner, knowing that yogurt and berries, banana and peanut butter or something else familiar and yummy was coming before bed. We’ve started making a point of letting my son know whether or not there will be a snack before bed (depending on timing) and it has helped. We either say “the next time you will have a chance to eat isn’t until tomorrow’s breakfast”  or “the next chance to eat is right before story time”. If your child asks for a snack an hour later, remind them by saying “remember when I told you that your next chance to eat isn’t until before story time? That’s when you will get a chance to eat again. This is in 2 hours. The kitchen is closed until then. ” Or something along those lines. It’s important that we give our growing children ample eating time and opportunities (about every 2-3 hours), but it’s also important to set boundaries so that eating doesn’t become a food free-for-all. 

If you found this helpful, you may also like this post on how to avoid common mealtime battles and this one on what not to say to your kids about food

 

Souvlaki-Style Pork Tenderloin With Mixed Vegetables

souvlaki style pork tenderloin

Easy to make, healthy, delicious and kid-friendly! You can’t go wrong with this Souvlaki-Style Pork Tenderloin With Mixed Vegetables.

Aloha from Hawaii!

I have been enjoying the sun and surf with my family in Hawaii for the past week and a half and I’m trying not to think about the fact that we are flying home to the bitter cold in a few days. We’ve been getting updates from friends and family back in Calgary about the cold weather–it sounds like we decided to vacation at the optimal time (not to rub it in fellow Calgarians)!

We’ve been loving the beautiful weather here in Maui and have managed to get to the beach everyday for at least a couple of hours of swimming and soaking up the sun. Our three year old has been in heaven, building sand castles and “surfing” with his boogie board. Our 7 month old has never been happier, getting her fair share of ocean time and playing in the sand.

One of the highlights of our trip has been the amazing food. The fresh fish and seafood, fruits and veggies, macadamia nut treats and coconut drinks to name a few favourites. But one of the best meals that we’ve had so far on the island was tonight’s dinner, Souvlaki-Style Pork Tenderloin and Mixed Vegetables. I made this delicious recipe because it was my first assignment (so exciting!) as one of the Canadian Living Network bloggers. This recipe will be featured in Canadian Living’s March 2014 issue (hits newsstands today!), so I was asked to recreate it and write about it on my blog. A few months ago, I was thrilled to be chosen to be a part of Canadian Living’s “CL Voices Network”, which means that I will be writing blog posts (on this blog) for Canadian Living, testing and sharing tasty recipes like this one, writing about healthy products and taking advantage of any other exciting assignments that are thrown my way. As a longterm fan of Canadian Living, I am bursting with excitement about this new venture and am honoured to be a part of the Canadian Living team.

This is one of the best pork tenderloin recipes (my hubby and kids can attest to this) that I’ve ever tried. Although this recipe incorporates mostly greek flavours (which I love), I thought that is would be fitting to mention the fact that pork is actually a big part of the Hawaiian cuisine–being that traditionally, pigs were raised for religious sacrifice–and is often served at Hawaiian celebrations (such as Luau’s).  I had planned on barbecuing instead of baking (because the thought of turning on the oven in this heat and humidity was not appealing), but decided at the last minute to follow the recipe as is and bake it. I’m so glad that I did because it turned out perfectly! Not only was this delicious, but it is also very nutritious. Pork tenderloin is extremely lean, so it doesn’t send us over the edge calorie-wise like some higher fat red meats do, but it is also very tender and moist if cooked correctly. The medley of vegetables alongside the pork is colourful and nutrient-rich. There is no need for an additional starch or grain with this meal because the nutrient and fibre-rich sweet potato provides all of the starch needed. Any leftover pork will be perfect in sandwiches, on pizza or paired with leftover veggies for lunch or dinner the next day.

Here is a link to this delicious recipe: Souvlaki-Style Pork Tenderloin and Mixed Vegetables

 

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Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Canadian Living and I received compensation for it. All opinions are my own.

 

Top Five Food Ingredients That You Should Be Avoiding

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I don’t believe in dieting or food deprivation to improve health or lose weight, because I believe that weight loss and better health can be achieved through making smarter choices most of the time and eating more mindfully. There are, however, a few food ingredients that I avoid most of the time and don’t feel good about feeding my family. These ingredients often make their way into popular processed/convenience foods at the grocery store, or perhaps foods that you may order in when you don’t feel like cooking. When people ask me what to look at when purchasing foods, I always tell them to look at the ingredients first and foremost as it will tell you everything you need to know. The nutrition facts table is a nice-to-know, but it really doesn’t give you much information about the quality of the product that you are buying. When looking at the ingredients list, be wary of lists with more than 4 or 5 ingredients, especially when you don’t recognize the ingredient (in other words- it’s not a real food) or is sounds more like a chemical.

Here are my top five ingredients to avoid: 

BHT/BHA:

Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) are preservatives that manufacturers commonly add to foods to prevent spoilage and extend shelf-life. BHA is added to foods such as butter, meats, cereals, chewing gum, snack foods and beer to prevent oils and fats from going rancid and/or as a yeast de-foaming agent. BHT is meant to preserve the odour, colour and flavour of foods and to prevent fats from becoming rancid. It is often added to breakfast cereal and packaged snack foods. Although these preservatives help manufacturers keep their products on shelves longer, they may be harmful to those of us who consume these foods. BHT and BHA are known carcinogens (increase risk of cancer) and they may interfere with normal endocrine function which could alter hormone levels which could result in health and behavioural changes among other long term problems. To read more about BHT, check out my friend Gwen’s post here.

Hydrogenated oils:

Hydrogenated oils (or trans-fats) are chemically altered liquid oils that are made into semi-solid fats that have a long shelf-life. These fats are unhealthy and increase our risk of heart disease among other diseases. You’ll often see “hydrogenated palm kernel oil” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on foods such as store-bought cookies, muffins, pudding mixes, pastries and microwave popcorn. Trans fats are also found in deep fried foods because any oil that is heated to deep-frying temperatures is altered to create a trans fat. Limit your fried food indulgences and try to avoid any store-bought baked goods and bake your own instead.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or “glucose-fructose”:

High fructose corn syrup (or often labeled “glucose-fructose” on food labels) is one of the most common sweeteners added to processed foods. It is a liquid sweetener made from cornstarch and is used because it is cheaper than regular sugar. HFCS is most commonly found in soft drinks and flavoured fruit drinks, but can also be found in condiments like ketchup, breakfast cereals, canned fruits, boxed desserts, ice cream, flavoured yogurts and jams and jellies. Although the verdict is still out as to whether HFCS is worse for us than other types of sugar, we know for sure that too much sugar can lead to obesity, metabolic disease, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes among other health issues. HFCS also leads to gastrointestinal issues like gas and bloating because HFCS feeds that natural bacteria in our gut.

Sodium nitrites or nitrates:

Nitrates and nitrites are commonly added to processed meats to stop the growth of bacteria and to preserve the flavour and colour. These nitrates are known carcinogens and are likely one of the reasons that processed meats increase our risk of colon cancer. We should try to avoid processed meats altogether for this reason. Organic processed meats, on the other hand, do not contain nitrates by law in Canada. Nitrates can also be naturally found in certain foods such as celery, beets, and spinach, but the benefits of these vegetables WAY outweigh any potential harm that these naturally occurring nitrates may cause. Organic vegetables typically have lower amounts of nitrates as compared to conventional vegetables.

Artificial food colourings:

Artificial food colourings such as Allura Red, Sunset Yellow FCF , Tartrazine, and Citrus Red #2 are synthetic chemical dyes that are approved in Canada and are often added to candy, soft drinks, icings, ice cream, some cereals and other processed foods. Artificial food colourings have been linked to Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in kids and can also cause side effects such as rash, asthma, dizziness and fainting.

10 New Years Resolutions That Will Benefit Your Children As Much As You

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Research shows that less than half of us will stick to our New Years Resolutions by June and only 10% of us will follow through by December. Making healthy changes to your lifestyle is not easy. In fact, it’s REALLY challenging, especially for those of us who have created less-than-healthy habits over the years. Habits are actions that we take without even thinking about it. Actions like grabbing a cookie from the cookie jar as we pass through the kitchen, or taking a handful of cereal from the box when we open the pantry, or munching on snacks when we watch TV after dinner.

Many people contemplate change for years without actually creating an action plan to follow through with it. But when something big happens and our motivation suddenly goes up–let’s say when we have kids–creating positive change in our lives becomes easier because we have a strong motivator. We want to live long enough to be able to see our kids get married and have kids of their own. And we want our kids to grow up being active and eating healthfully. We want them to learn the value of good food and nutrition and we want them to have a positive body image and high self-esteem.

Our children model after us, therefore any positive (or negative) lifestyle change that we make directly affects them and their lives. Because I exercise in our basement on most days, my son now pretends he’s “exercising” on his mini trampoline and calls it our “exercise time”. When I serve my son his breakfast and forget to sit down with him and eat mine (because I’m trying to get things done), he asks me “but Mom, why aren’t you eating breakfast?” When I step on the scale (which is a rare occurrence), my son quickly jumps on after me. “What does it say Mommy?” he says. “It says that you’re perfect just the way you are” I reply.

When you set your New Years resolution this year, think about the little ones that are watching you; soaking up every little word that you say and action that you take. The little people that adore you so very much and want to be exactly like you.

Here are ten healthy resolutions that will benefit your children as much (if not more) as you:

  1. Have family meals at least once a day.

    Family meals give you and your kids a chance to connect and catch up. Research shows that families that eat together eat more fruits and veggies, less fried foods and sugary drinks and younger children who eat with their family tend to be at a healthy weight.

  2. Talk about your body the way you want your children to view their own

  3. Involve your kids in meal prep, even if it gets a bit messy.

    If your child has a hand in creating a meal, they will not only feel a sense of pride and achievement, but they are also more likely to eat it.

  4. Only indulge in treats that you absolutely love and leave the ones that you don’t really love.

    Save room for only those treats that you can’t live without. Your children will learn to be more mindful and selective in their treat choices too. Here are some more mindful eating tips.

  5. Eat at your table and cuddle on the couch

  6. Always portion out your snacks

    Don’t eat from packages or boxes. Better yet, stop buying processed foods from packages and boxes in the first place.

  7. Have a dance party in your living room once a day.

    We do this almost every night before bedtime. It tuckers the kids out before bed, gives everyone an extra bit of exercise, and makes for some hilarious moments.

  8. Fill half of your plate with veggies at least once a day.

    Aim for two or three different colours to get a variety of nutrients.

  9. Eat until your “tummy is full”, not until your plate is clean.

    Listen to your internal hunger cues first and foremost and ignore external hunger cues that can lead you to overeat.

  10. Put your utensils down in between each bite and savour your food.

    Your kids will learn to pace themselves according to the people around them.

For more free tips and resources on nutrition for kids, follow me on my Facebook page :)

Happy New Year!!

Chewy Triple Ginger White Chocolate Cookies

Triple-Ginger-Cookies That’s a mouthful isn’t it? And a delicious one! These chewy ginger cookies have been holiday family favourite for a few years now and I’ve been meaning to share the recipe for a while. The original recipe (Chewy Triple Ginger Cookies from the Atco Blue Flame Kitchen) did not call for white chocolate chunks–my Mom so brilliantly decided to test out this addition and it worked beautifully (which isn’t surprising). These cookies, although not “healthy” overall (c’mon, it’s Christmas!), contain a lot of ginger, which on its own may possess many health benefits ranging from easing stomach upset and acid reflux, to treating bronchitis and menstrual cramps. But let’s face it- you the only benefit you will likely be thinking about when you eat one of these is how amazing it tastes.

If you are a fan of ginger, you will absolutely LOVE this recipe. I would double the recipe, because they will disappear in no time over the holidays. They make for a great hostess gift too! Oh, and you should also try out this amazingly delicious warm ginger cake recipe too.

Chewy Triple Ginger White Chocolate Cookies 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (500 mL) flour
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) ginger
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda
  • 2 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) cloves
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1 cup (250 mL) packed golden brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) molasses (tip: spray your measuring cup with a oil spray first- the molasses will slip out much easier)
  • 1 tsp (2 mL) vanilla
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) grated fresh ginger (tip: keep your fresh ginger in the freezer- it’s easier to grate and lasts a lot longer)
  • Sugar for rolling

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, ginger, soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a bowl. Using medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together brown sugar and butter until fluffy. Add egg, molasses and vanilla; beat until blended.
  2. Add flour mixture and mix just until blended. Gently stir in crystallized ginger, white chocolate and fresh ginger. Cover and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
  3. Shape dough into 1 inch (2.5 cm) balls. Roll balls in sugar and place 2 inches (5 cm) apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350ºF (my oven is super hot so I had mine at 325)  for 12 – 14 minutes or just until cookies are cracked on top. Cookies will be soft to the touch; do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. Store in a tightly sealed container for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Makes 4 dozen smallish cookies.

Enjoy!!

 

Here are some of my latest posts on my Yummy Mummy Club Blog:

How to Avoid Food Battles With Your Kids Over The Holidays

Introducing Solids: Baby-Led Weaning vs. Spoon Feeding

Why Your Child May Become Smarter If They Play With Their Food

 

 

Is Introducing Peanut Butter As Early As 6 Months Is Ok?

Peanut butter

Yes! In a joint statement by the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (and endorsed by Dietitians of Canada),  doctors agree that there are no benefits to delaying the introduction of high allergen foods such as peanuts, eggs, and fish, even in high risk infants (those who have parents or siblings with food allergies).

Based on the current evidence, there is no reason to delay the introduction of these foods as it does not raise the risk of a child developing a food allergy. Doctors do advise though, to continue feeding your baby the potentially allergenic food after the first exposure to maintain their tolerance. In other words, don’t give your baby peanut butter toast just once- continue to offer it somewhat regularly after the first taste. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of introducing peanut butter at 6 months, don’t worry- you should only introduce potentially allergenic foods when you are comfortable with it and not before. After all, we still do not know if early introduction (4-6 months) of possible food allergens protects against developing an allergy, so there’s not a huge rush. But knowing that there is no risk in introducing these foods as early as 6 months is comforting for many parents and it gives us a few more options for high iron foods in those first few months (nut butters, fish, eggs).

The other good news ( in my opinion) is that pregnant and breastfeeding Moms need not avoid potential allergens such as milk, peanuts, eggs or fish, as there is no evidence that it will prevent their children from developing an allergy. This is good news and will hopefully dispel the belief that expectant or nursing Moms need to avoid certain foods for the sake of preventing allergies.

:)

 

The Best Butternut Squash Soup Ever

butternut squash soup

I love soup- especially when it’s cold outside. I find that soup is one of the easiest ways to ensure that I get enough veggies throughout the winter months (because raw veggies and salads aren’t very appealing in – 20 C weather). Soup is also a great way to help control your appetite this time of year, because warm food is more satiating and tends to keep us fuller longer. During the winter months, our serotonin levels drop (increasing our cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods), we’re typically not as active and we don’t eat as many vegetables and fruits. These are a few reasons why many of us tend to notice a bit of a weight gain during the winter. It’s important that we consume enough veggies (at least 4 servings a day–1 cup of veggie soup= ~1 serving), we get enough sleep (something I will talk about in a future blog post) and that we continue to be as active as possible.

As a busy Mom, I also find that making big batches of soup (whether it’s an all-in-one meal soup or a veggie soup) is an easy way to ensure that my family eats a balanced, healthy meal and also provides as easy option on busy nights.

This velvety butternut squash soup is so delicious- you’ll want to make a big batch! We paired it with grilled chicken thighs and a salad, but it would be perfect with a panini or grilled cheese sandwich too.

The Best Butternut Squash Recipe Ever

Ingredients:

  • 2 large squash, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • ½ tsp hot chili flakes
  • 2 1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger (I keep mine in the freezer so that it’s easier to grate)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp  of each nutmeg, cumin and paprika
  • 8 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup coconut milk (more or less to suit your taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Place squash halves on a greased large baking sheet. Rub the squash with oil and then Sprinkle squash with cinnamon and baked covered with foil for about 45 minutes to an hour (when you insert a fork, it should be soft.
  3. In a stockpot, heat oil over medium. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the chili flakes and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, salt and sauté for another 2 minutes.
  4. When squash is ready, remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so. Scoop out the squash- it should be very easy to remove from the skin. If not, you didn’t cook it long enough. Add Squash to the stockpot with the sauteed onions and other spices and along with the 8 cups of veggie stock. Simmer for about 15 minutes while stirring every so often to allow flavours to combine and deepen. Add the maple syrup.
  5. Transfer the soup in a blender or keep the soup in the stock pot and use an immersion (hand) blender and blend until smooth- I wanted mine extra smooth so I blended for at least 5 minutes until it was velvety smooth.
  6. Add coconut milk and blend for another 10-20 seconds or so.
  7. Return to the pot and warm again and serve. Test it out and add more spice and salt and pepper if needed.
Yields 10-12 servings.