Monday, March 22, 2010

Cooking with My Kids: Fish Tacos

My friend Michelle over at What's Cooking posted a feature on her blog about my experience of cooking with my kids and a recipe for fish tacos that my daughter and I recently made (and loved!). You can find it here:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Meatless Meal: Potato and Egg Tortilla

This past year I've been trying to work in at least one meatless meal among our weekly dinners. Some have been hits; others not so much. I'm still experimenting with what works with my family. The recipe below is one that's gone over well, and I would go so far as to say it's family-friendly. Plus it is reminiscent of a meal that the au pair from Spain who lived with us for a year over a decade ago used to make for us ~ and she just had her first baby! This meal is on our menu this week.

Potato and Egg Tortilla

¼ cup olive oil

2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

8 large eggs

¼ cup 2% milk

½ teaspoon salt

· Preheat broiler.

· Heat the oil in a medium, oven-safe skillet over medium heat.

· Add the potatoes and cook for about 5 minutes.

· Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and onions are softened.

· Whisk together the eggs, milk, and salt.

· Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cook until firm around the edges.

· Transfer skillet to the broiler, cooking until the top is firm and golden.

· Cool and serve in wedges.

Serves 4.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How To Tell If Your Child Needs A Supplement

This article is a guest post by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen. Maryann is a registered dietitian, mother of two and creator of, a blog dedicated to giving parents the most credible nutrition advice. Subscribe to her site and get free nutrition downloads and other member benefits.

"As long as they eat a variety of food, they should be fine," the pediatrician tells you. But those comments do little to satisfy your concerns. In fact, the two questions you had before going to the doctor just got louder:

Are my children getting all the nutrition they need to grow and thrive? And if not, do I need to supplement their diet?

The easiest way to get to the bottom of this nutrition dilemma is to answer some key questions about what your children eat on a regular basis.

1. Do they eat from all the food groups? If your children eat from all the food groups including dairy, meats, grains and fruits and vegetables (not every day but their overall pattern), then they probably don't need a multivitamin.

Many parents are concerned about a lack of vegetables. Children who eat a variety of fruit with some vegetables should be fine, especially if the fruit is rich in vitamin C like oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes. Cantaloupe and sweet potatoes are great because they contain both vitamins A and C (two key nutrients kids need). Carrots, often liked by kids, are rich in vitamin A. Of course many greens are chock full of vitamin A but children do not need to eat them to meet their needs (but, please, keep offering).

But if your child skimps on whole food groups, like all fruits and vegetables, a multivitamin may be a wise choice. For more on this see Should Children Take Multivitamins?

2. Do they eat fish twice a week? According to Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, author of The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet, children who do not eat fish twice a week will benefit from fish-oil supplements. That's because the types of omega-3 fatty acids present in fish (DHA and EPA) are essential for brain health. This is different from the omega-3s found in plant sources like flax and walnuts (ALA), which only convert a small percentage to DHA in the body.

So how much is enough? According to Tribole, she recommends children 2-3 years old get 433mg of DHA/EPA with a minimum of 145mg of DHA, 4-6 years old get 600mg of DHA/EPA with a minimum of 200mg of DHA and 7 years and older including adults get 650mg combined with a minimum of 220mg of DHA. For pregnant women the DHA minimum is 300mg. Check the supplement facts label to see how much DHA/EPA is in each serving. For more details see: Kids & DHA: The Complete Guide for Parents.

3. Do they drink milk and get regular exposure to sunlight? According to a 2009 study published in Pediatrics, 7 out of 10 kids have lower than optimal vitamin D levels. The AAP recommends 400IU of vitamin D for breastfed children and older kids who drink less than 4 cups per day (for young children 4 cups would be too much).

What about sunlight? It's difficult to tell if your child is getting enough to get the vitamin D requirements. According to vitamin D expert, Dr Michael Hollick, being out in the sun between 10am and 3pm provides the most exposure to vitamin D. Children with dark skin, who are overweight or wear sunscreen, will not make much D from the sun. If you aren't sure, check with your pediatrician.

4. Are they vegetarians (or act like one)? Some kids are raised vegetarians and others simple eat like one. Lacto-ovo vegetarians (eats no animal products except milk and eggs) usually don't have a problem meeting their nutrition needs. But vegans (consumes no animal products) usually can't get enough B12 from plant food so they either need to supplement or consume fortified products.

Babies and toddlers are at higher risk for iron deficiency anemia. This common childhood nutrition deficiency has declined in the last 30 years due to the addition of iron to formula and cereals. And while many pediatricians test for anemia in babies, this can still be a problem in toddlers as they no longer consume iron-fortified liquids and cereal.

So if your child doesn't eat meat, fortified cereals or plant-based protein sources (soybeans, lentils, white beans, chick peas), check with your pediatrician about their iron status. Parents can help increase iron from foods by serving vitamin C-rich foods with plant sources of iron (or iron-fortified products) which increases their absorption three fold.

5. Do they get enough calcium-rich foods? As kids get older calcium can become a problem nutrient. 1-3 year olds need 500 mg per day, 4-8 year olds need 800 mg and 9-18 year olds need 1300 mg. Children under 8 usually don’t have a problem meeting needs as most dairy products such as milk, cheese (1oz) and yogurt have about 300mg of calcium. Toddlers need two cups of milk/yogurt to meet their requirements and 4-8 year olds need 2 cups milk/yogurt and 1oz of cheese to get theirs.

But when kids approach puberty their calcium needs skyrocket. This is also a time many kids drop the milk for sweetened beverages. Nondairy sources of calcium include calcium flavored soy milk (300-400mg), fortified cereals (200-1000), tofu (200-300), ½ cup spinach (150mg) and ½ cup kale (90mg)

Just as kids’ calcium needs go up, so does their ability to understand why they need to include calcium-rich foods, so talk to them about it. And if they don’t quite get to the 1300 mg of calcium with food, you can choose a chewable calcium supplement to help them get there. Their growing bones will thank you.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What Can Parents Do to Get Kids to Eat?

Earlier this week I posted a link to the article, "What Can Parents Do to Get Kids to Eat? Nothing" on Twitter. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, often tweets that others find interesting are retweeted to their followers. This particular tweet of mine has received the most retweeting of any post I have made to date. I'm not sure if that's because it appealed to people tired of hearing advice about how to deal with picky eaters who just want to be let off the hook with advice that there's nothing they can do anyway. Or perhaps people really read the article and appreciated the advice to use Ellyn Satter's division of responsibility model for feeding which was highlighted in the article.

Whatever the reasons behind the retweeting, I was truly impressed to witness the power of a provocative title.

For the most part, I really thought this was a good article with useful information. I was prompted by it to write my first-ever letter to the editor. My letter is below:


Dear Editor,

Thank you for printing the article, “Parents take on the picky eaters,” in today’s Life&Style section. I’m so happy to see Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility highlighted as a recommended approach to feeding children.

I do disagree, however, with the author’s statement that the answer to the question of what a parent can do if their child is not an enthusiastic eater is “nothing.” Having trained with Satter myself and having worked as a psychologist with many families of young children, I would say that the division of responsibility is far from doing nothing.

It requires significant effort on the part of parents to provide the structure needed to consistently supply the what, when, and where of feeding, especially in today’s busy world. It can also be very difficult for many parents to restrain themselves from taking over the child’s responsibilities as described in Satter’s model of determining whether and how much they will eat. Parents often feel a great deal of pressure to force their children to eat.

When parents learn how to effectively apply this model, the results are dramatic.

I'd love to hear what you think. Do you believe that parents can do anything to get kids to eat? It is an interesting question to me because I've come across such wide-ranging beliefs from parents on this topic. Some seem to think that we truly can force or trick our kids to eat anything while others truly believe that there is nothing we can do. What do you think?