Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Staying Well during Flu Season

Despite what you may see advertised, there are no miracle foods or vitamins that can help prevent or cure any type of flu. There are, however, plenty of smart things you can do to keep your family as healthy as possible this season.

Cough like a vampire. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands. Children, who rarely carry tissues, can easily be taught to "cough like a vampire" with a cape over their months.

Keep your hands clean. One of the best ways to stay healthy is to wash your hands properly and frequently. This will help protect you from all germs, including seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. Use soap and warm water - and wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand wipes or gel sanitizers.

Drink plenty of fluids. Water is always a refreshing choice. Tea, especially antioxidant-rich green tea, can be a nice way to warm up and stay hydrated anytime. 100% orange or other juice is also good, but don’t overdo it: A small glass a day is plenty. Drinking enough fluids (6 to 8 cups a day) will help keep your mucous membranes moist and able to fight off germs.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Produce is packed with the nutrients that your immune system needs to fight viruses and bacteria of all types. Go for all types of brightly colored fruits and veggies. They will have more of the disease-fighting antioxidants, like vitamin C and beta-carotene. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned in juice, and 100% juice can all offer health benefits.

Choose nutrient-rich snacks. During flu season, your body needs every drop of nutrition it can get, so don’t waste your calories on ‘empty’ snacks. Skip the chips, cookies, and colas. Feed your body well with a variety of tasty nutrient-rich items. In addition to fruits and veggies, go for sunflower seeds, nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.), low-fat yogurt, and beef jerky.

Consider a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. This is the right time of year for a little extra nutrition insurance, a basic vitamin/mineral pill with 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for most nutrients. Although super-expensive supplements with mega-doses are mostly a waste of your money, you may want to look for a supplement with 800 to 1000 IUs of vitamin D. While there is still discussion about the value of D, many experts are recommend more than the DV of 400 IUs for optimal health and well-being.

For more ideas of staying well in flu season, read Beat the Bug on Kids Eat Right.

Friday, December 24, 2010


The article of the week from the Kid's Eat Right campaign is all about the importance of the Family Table (and there's also a yummy looking recipe for a Kwansaa cake with sweet potatoes, carrots, and raisins).

What better way to celebrate the comfort and the magic of the holidays ... and family meals ... than to cook with child. It doesn't have to be anything complicated or fancy ... some Christmas cookies, a Kwansaa cake, or a noodle. It's the time together that is important ... the planning, the shopping, the time together in the kitchen. Memories like these with last far longer than any toy you buy ... and they are worth all the mess that is part of the process.

5 Easy Ways to Make Cooking Cool for Kids

Cooking with kids helps teach many things in addition to food and nutrition skills. Cooking can help teach culture (different people enjoy a variety of foods); real life math (fractions for doubling or halving ingredients); organization (getting things ready); and following directions (reading a recipe). For more information about easy family meals, visit Enriching Family Mealtimes.

1. Get kids involved in planning meals and snacks.

Although you may see cooking as a chore, kids see the kitchen as an exciting and even a magical place. Everyone loves to be involved in choosing their favorite dishes for meals and foods for snacks. For small children, eating becomes something much more special when “I got to pick it out” – and even better when “I made it myself.”

2. Get kids involved in shopping for new foods.

Food shopping with children works best when they are well rested and not hungry. Use your trip through the aisles to talk about possible meals and different ways to prepare various foods. Allow children to choose a new item that appeals to them – like a fresh fruit or vegetable from the produce department, a local farmer’s market, or your garden.

3. Get kids involved in kitchen safety.

All children need adult supervision in the kitchen. Give frequent reminders about what is OK to touch and which items could be dangerous. Talk about which kitchen tasks are for grown-ups and which are for kids. Establish kitchen rules, like never touching a hot stove, being careful with knives, washing hands often, and keeping all surfaces clean too.

4. Get kids involved in preparing tasty recipes.

Children are able to manage different kitchen tasks at different ages. A preschooler can stir ingredients that have been pre-measured; an elementary age child can read the recipe and do the measuring and mixing themselves; tweens can learn to cut, chop, and dice safely; and teens may be able to try challenging techniques from a TV cooking show.

5. Get kids involved in setting an appealing table.

Children are justifiably proud when they make even simple dishes, like a fruit salad or a sandwich, themselves. You can reinforce their success (and desire to try cooking again) by making the table setting special as well. Put their creation on a ‘fancy’ plate, light a small candle, use colored napkins, or put some flowers in a vase.

Wishing you and your family all the blessings of the season!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tis' the week before Christmas ...

... and every flat surface of our lives seems to covered with appealing holiday foods and beverages, with a few fruits and veggies thrown in as a garnish or after-thought.

Tis' the week before Christmas ... and stress levels are also topping the charts. Millions of ads urging us to buy, buy, buy to have the perfect holiday ... it's drive anyone to the egg nog (and I'll have a side of almond roca with that, please!). It's no wonder that the world begins to feel like a nutrition minefield.

Because I sincerely believe that is is possible to survive the holidays with your health and spirit intact, I wrote about Savoring Holidays Foods for Comfort, Joy, and Good Health in the December Healthy Families newsletter from Eat Right Montana. Download a copy today for fun tips on giving active gifts, enjoying nuts and seeds, baking better bar cookies, and a recipe for oatmeal, fruit, and nut bars. Here's what I wrote about the comfort and joy of slowing down to enjoy ...

“The national holiday food frenzy can be difficult to navigate,” says Dayle Hayes, MS, RD (registered dietitian) and president of Nutrition for the Future in Billings. “With a diet looming on the January horizon, many Americans throw caution to the wind and gobble up everything in sight. This overindulgence often leaves us overstuffed, physically uncomfortable, and feeling guilty.” Fortunately, there is another approach.

According to Hayes, you can survive the stressful eating season with your health and holiday spirit intact. The key is to slow down and take the time to really savor whatever you are eating. “As a nation, we tend to eat quickly and not pay much attention to the flavors and textures of our food,” she explains. “When we eat hurriedly, we often eat more than we want with less satisfaction.” In other countries, like Italy, France, China, and Argentina, mealtimes tend to be longer, with family and friends lingering at the table to talk.

To savor food means, “to taste appreciatively” or “to relish.” When we appreciate and relish our food, we often eat less and enjoy it more. If you are used to chowing down and moving on, paying attention to food may take a little practice. Hayes suggests these strategies to help you savor the food at any holiday event.

Prevent overeating by not getting overly hungry: It is difficult, if not impossible, to make smart food choices when you are super hungry. Deprivation naturally leads to overeating at parties or buffets filled with tempting goodies. Instead of starving before parties, eat regular meals and have a protein snack before you go out. A cup of soup, a string cheese, a piece of beef jerky, or a handful of nuts work well.

Eat and drink slowly while listening to internal cues of satiety (fullness): When you eat too quickly or while doing other things, it’s easy to overeat – past the point of pleasure and even past the point of physical comfort. Real satisfaction comes from eating slowly, from savoring the aromas, textures and flavors of food, and from letting your body say, “that’s plenty,” before you are overly stuffed.

Take a time-out from food to check your stress levels: Much of our usual holiday eating and drinking has nothing to do with hunger or fullness. It’s a way to cope with tense situations or difficult people. If this happens to you, move away from the food and spend some quality time with a friend – or walk around the block. Often, this is all it takes to realize that stuffing more food will make you feel worse rather than better.

“If you want to eat well this holiday, there is no need to call in the food police or hope that a Grinch steals all your Christmas cookies,” says Hayes. “By practicing some basic self-care and by listening to your body, you can enjoy all your favorite holiday meals and treats with comfort – and in good health.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

What I got to do on Wednesday!

On Wednesday, I worked with all these wonderful people on an upcoming video about making mealtimes pleasant in childcare settings: Pass the Peaches, Please

From left to right, this is Tay and Sam the video guys (MSU students), me, Molly from MT Team Nutrition (the director), and the WONDERFUL ladies from the ASMSU Day Care Center in Bozeman: Teacher Robyn and Director Mary.

This childcare center is wonderful in every way. Their meal service illustrate the absolute best in family style meals for children, which why we filmed Pass the Peaches, Please there!

More on the when it is ready for distribution ... which will be far and wide! For now, just a few shots of the table, the delicious meal (sweet and sour chicken, jasmine rice, mixed veggies, pears, whole grain bread, and pour-your-own milk), and the super sweet cleaner-upper!!

This was pretty much the most fun that I get to have "at work"!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Such a wonderful week ... it almost felt like Christmas

From my perspective, so many cool things - big and little - happened in child nutrition last week that it felt like Christmas had come early this year.

The biggest news, by far, was the passage on Thursday of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. While it will take a while for the dust and regulations to settle in, the new bill has some significant benefits for several child nutrition programs - which I plan to discuss here over the coming months. FRAC has provided a thorough side-by-side analysis comparing the new legislation to the current law.

While not as far-reaching as child nutrition legislation, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a very important clinical report this week: Identification and Management of Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents. The article addresses an issue of critical and growing concern - eating disorders among young people - and also discusses the largely unrecognized connection between childhood obesity and eating disorders. I will certainly be discussing the implications of this publication in the next few weeks.

Last week was also a good week in my professional world ... first, with the publication of an article about a best practice for schools. Scheduling Recess Before Lunch: Exploring the Benefits and Challenges in Montana Schools was published online in the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management, from the School Nutrition Association.
This study provides valuable information about the potential benefits and challenges of Recess Before Lunch (RBL), which can be used by child nutrition professionals to support school wellness efforts and to encourage implementation of RBL as an effective school-wide wellness strategy.

School Meals That Rock, the Facebook page that I started in reaction to Jamie Oliver's attack on school lunch, topped 1,000 likes this week. From the beginning ...
The goal of collecting School Meals That Rock is simple. I want to showcase all the AMAZING things that school nutrition folks are doing from Maine to Montana and Michigan to Mississippi. I know that millions of delicious, nutritious, local, fresh, kids-friendly meals are being served every day across America – and I want to collect the photos that tell this story.

I got to visit another school doing amazing things this week - University High School in Philadelphia - photos and description to be published next week on School Meals That Rock.

A note about recent food art:
I want to acknowledge Sandra Frank, EdD, RD as the designer. Her work is free for use by dietitians. For more options, visit Sandra Frank Food Art. THANKS!