Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Picky Eaters

Now, today I was teaching a nutrition education workshop and was so happy with the turnout of parents attending!  I hope there's good turnout for this post too, because many, many parents find this topic difficult.  Drumroll please...


I know, little ones will be little ones, but trust me, you've got this in the (grocery) bag.

Here are a few simple tips to get us going...

1. Use dip!  Many kids love raw baby carrots, celery sticks, pepper slices, or broccoli crowns.  They like them even more when there is a dip available (and rightfully so- don't we all?).  You're the caregiver, so you can offer healthy dips in the correct portions.  Perhaps you make a dip of greek yogurt, celery salt, dill seasoning, and low-fat mayonnaise, or maybe you're in a rush, and some simple ranch dressing will do the trick.  Remember, dips make veggies taste better, but we want to be having veggies with some dip, not dip with some veggies.

Photo courtesy of:

2. Be a role model.  Kids look up to you all day, everyday.  This means that parents and adults who surround children are their role models, and this goes with food too!  When mom, dad, aunt, babysitter, grandmother, cousin, family friend, etc. eat meals with our little ones and express their excitement and enjoyment over eating vegetables, kids catch on!  On the other hand, if we raise children accustomed to adults ordering a double side of french fries instead of a vegetable, children will follow in suite.  Try to be a good role model by choosing vegetables and fruits at meals and snacks.

Photo courtesy of:

3. Have vegetables available in the home.  If vegetables are in abundance in the home, they will become customary, just like cookies and crackers so quickly become a staple in many homes.  If children are used to being offered vegetables as a snack or at meals, vegetables soon become second nature.

4. When cooking or baking, include vegetables more often.  Instead of keeping your usual routine of a vegetable on the side of the plate, can you throw some sauteed peppers in your spaghetti sauce?  Instead of simply chicken burritos, can you add lettuce, tomatoes, onions, or even squash?  Perhaps instead of a typical sweet bread, can you bake oatmeal zucchini bread?  Another great recipe is sweet potato quesadillas.  We don't want to be tricking our little ones too much though, because they are soon going to grow up and be adults.  We want them to be able to make healthful choices themselves.

5. Include children during shopping, cooking, and meal times.  If your young one is old enough and you have the time, including them at the grocery store (I understand this is the most difficult tip) and talking with them about vegetables in the produce section can really intrigue children.  Kids love to learn!  Remember, they love to learn even more when the information comes from you!  So, soak up the moment, and include them at dinner.  Maybe they can set the table or pick out the vegetable serving utensils.  Can then be in charge of telling everyone what is being offered at dinner?  Most little ones love to be included, so let them in!  

6. Start while they're young.  If you have a little one in your life who is still at a young age, this tip is for you.  Incorporating vegetables as a daily habit is much easier when kids are younger.  So take advantage of their young age and expose them to a variety of vegetables while their taste buds and opinions are still forming.

Many more tips to come!  
I'd love to hear your ideas too and what works for you!  
Until next time at the table...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Hey ya'll!  Ok, "where have I been?" you ask.  Besides being swept away in The Bachelor obsession, my thesis got the best of me!  Just 2.5 weeks until my defense and then The Blue Placemat will be back in full force.  Until then and as I stall to make dinner... let's talk fiber!

Ok- we hear it everywhere.  Fiber is so great and so grand, but what is so good about it?!

We'll talk about the different types of fiber later.  For now, we'll just get the tummy uh-grumblin'.

FIBER can...
1. Lower your cholesterol
2. Keep you full longer
3. Help prevent against cancers (i.e. intestinal)
4. Help maintain steady blood sugars
5. Help promote good colonic bacteria

Ok, now where can we find fiber?  YOU KNOW!  It's basically added in everything now- probably even water for all I know!  (Just kidding... sort of.)

Fiber is naturally (not natural like bags of potato chips are labeled "natural", but like mother nature natural) found in four of the five food groups (excluding dairy): grains, fruits, vegetables, protein

Fiber is...

  • most often associated with grains foods- look for whole wheat/oat/corn/etc. on the ingredient list of grain foods (preferably listed first)
  • found in abundance in fruits and vegetables (think of gas-causing fruits/vegetables, they're loaded with fiber)
  • also found in the protein group.  Not those meats that we tend to picture when we think about protein, but those other protein-rich foods like beans and nuts!

Now that you're a fiber expert, go throw a pot of whole wheat spaghetti on the stove.  Try it!  You'll like it!  See you at the table soon!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On the run

How many times have you stopped this holiday season mid shopping trip because you're so ravenous or you feel shaky, you'd stop anywhere in the world to get your belly fed?

Well, nevermind the nutrition, the savings you can get by packing a snack and a water to accompany you on your shopping trips or long car rides may be a selling point in itself. Stopping at a fast food establishment, coffee shop, restaurant, or even vending machine to hold you over could cost your wallet some serious money!

You're also more likely to over indulge on larger portions, leading to excessive calorie intake. Meals and snacks out tend to be higher in saturated and trans fat. Saturated fat impacts your LDL cholesterol (aka "bad" cholesterol) byy raising it. Trans fat on the other hand is even worse: it raises your LDL cholesterol and lowers your HDL cholesterol (aka "good" cholesterol). Talk about a double whammy!

What are some easy take along snack ideas to pack?
  • Carrot/celery/pepper slices and hummus
  • Apple with peanut butter
  • Trail mix
  • Crackers with peanut butter
  • Almonds
  • Grapefruit with pistachios
  • Banana with peanuts
  • Mini muffin with an orange

If you can keep your food cold with an ice pack, etc...
  • Cheese stick with mini pretzels
  • Yogurt with granola
  • Cheese cubes with crackers
  • Cottage cheese with tomato
Mix and match your favorite on-the-go snacks and let me know your favorites!

Remember, snack-sized resealable bags help to keep portions in control and keep us from eating those 8 or more servings of nuts!

Until next time at the table.  Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Perfect Pomegranates

Pomegranates are certainly gaining publicity and popularity!  They're loaded with folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, and copper.  What will all of these great nutrients do for you?

Folate is an extremely important nutrient, especially for pregnant women.  Recommendations encourage women before and during pregnancy to have 400 mcg daily to prevent neural tube defects.

Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the complications and severities of colds, as well as improve immune function, skin health, and fetal development.  Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron, so for those iron-deficient folks, including vitamin C at meals when you're consuming iron helps to make sure your body will absorb iron more efficiently!
     Ex: Have a cup of vitamin-C rich, 100% orange juice in the morning with your iron-fortified cereal.  OR Stir-fry iron-rich white beans with vitamin C-loaded red bell peppers (which actually have twice as much vitamin C as an orange).

Vitamin K is the imporant vitamin that helps our blood clot.  We typically think of "clotting" as a bad thing (especially internally), but our bodies need to clot especially if we experience a cut or scrape.  When you hear vitamin K think Clot.

Copper is found in many foods such as seafood, nuts, cocoa, and organ meats.  This nutrient has been linked to proper bone health and a decrease in bone loss as we age.  Most of us don't have to worry about having a copper deficiency since our bodies need very little of this nutrient, so supplementation is not recommended

This video gives you a great step-by-step guide on how to keep your kitchen and clothes clean while getting those pesky little pomegranate seeds out:

You can find pomegranates for about 2 for $3 during this time of year.  Enjoy them on a salad, as a snack with nuts and seeds, sautéed in some whole grain rice, or sprinkled over some yogurt.  Let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keep it Cool

Now that the winter months have rolled in, remember that frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables. Choose plain veggies over those that are in cream or butter sauces and spice them up yourself! Best part is that frozen veggies are usually less expensive in the winter too! Just don't be tempted to pick up the frozen entrees in the supermarket coolers beside those frozen veggies ;-)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Quick Dinner, SUPER Tasty

Need something really quick for dinner?  Keep it super tasty with Bruschetta...

A perfect combination of rich, ripe tomatoes, tangy balsamic glaze, calcium-rich mozzarella, and crispy baguette bread- this recipe is waiting for you!

1  baguette, whole wheat italian loaf, or your favorite bread
2-3 vine ripe tomatoes
1/2 package fresh mozzarella (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
Ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. 
2. Slice loaf of bread into as thin or thick slices as you like.  With a serrated knife, slice tomatoes and fresh mozzarella into 1/4" thick slices.
3. On a aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, crisp bread in the oven for 2-3 minutes.
4. Once bread is toasted, remove from the oven and carefully place tomatoes on top of bread.  Layer with mozzarella slices.
5. Re-toast bruschetta slices in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt.
6. Remove toast from oven.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze.  Top with salt and pepper to taste.

Need some help in the kitchen?  Let older kids help by drizzling the balsamic glaze or grinding the pepper over the bruschetta.  They'd love to help you and will be more cooperative with dinner!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pack It Up, Pack It In

The Blue Placemat Table Talk:

10 extra minutes tonight...

Could save you up to 20 minutes tomorrow morning.

If you just finished dinner and you have leftovers, why not pack some of them up in a larger container and separate a bit for your lunch tomorrow?  This could save you huge steps in the morning, when you may be especially slow-moving and groggy.

While you're at it, wash a piece of fruit and a vegetable to add to your meal.  Gather your lunch together and put it aside in the refrigerator or bag it the night before and refrigerate so you can just grab and go.

  • You may be tired now, but this could save you time and money tomorrow.

"How much money?" you ask...

  • By packing your lunch just 3 times each week, you could save about $18 weekly.  Doesn't seem like such a bargain?  Well, this adds up to save you $72 each month and $936 all year.  
  • If you're really motivated, try to bring your lunch (almost) every day.  By bringing your lunch to work or school 5 days/week, you'll save on average $30/week (usually more), $120/month, and $1,560/year!!!  

PLUS, you'll get to eat EXACTLY what YOU want, and you know that your lunch was made safely and in a clean way.

*Don't be afraid to mix it up.  Bring leftovers from appetizers, salads, hot meal dinners, etc. to mix it up from the same ole' sandwich.  If you're on a sandwich kick and afraid your sandwich will get soggy overnight, pack it so that you can assemble it at work or school, or save your sandwich by adding condiments in the morning to your ready-built sandwich.  This will keep your bread fresh and stomach growling for lunch!