Nutrition Spotlight: Omega-3’s and DHA

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Image source: india.com

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient in the body. They are used by the body in the brain and eyes and are thought to have many disease-preventing benefits. It’s important that everyone consumes enough of them, but it is even more so for pregnant and breastfeeding women and their toddlers as they develop – especially if they are eating a vegetarian diet.

There are three main omega-3 fatty acids:

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

All three of these play crucial roles in the body and can only be obtained from food. DHA is considered to be one of the most important fatty acids in the brain development of infants and toddlers. In fact, DHA is the most abundant building blocks of brain and retina tissue and adequate DHA levels have been associated with intelligence and happiness later in life. Because of this, breast milk is extremely high in DHA. But what about after breastfeeding?

The most plentiful sources of DHA are cold water fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. This can leave those wanting to raise their child on a vegetarian diet (or those who have a toddler who just doesn’t like fish!) in a tough place. Fortunately for vegetarian families, there are plenty of ways to ensure your toddler’s brain health if you prefer not to eat fish or use fish oil supplements.

While there are no common vegetarian sources of DHA, it is made in the body in small amounts during the breakdown of ALA, along with EPA. Many oils and seeds are plentiful in ALA – chia seed, flax, hempseed, walnuts, pecans, olive oil, and more. Because of this, most adult vegetarians and vegans have a low but steady level of DHA in their body.

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Image source: flickr user

For infants and toddlers with growing brains, they may need a little more. There is no established dietary reference intake for DHA specifically, but the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids suggests a total intake of 15 milligrams of DHA per pound of body weight in children over the age of 1. Many pediatricians recommend a DHA supplement for omnivorous and vegetarian children alike, as well as their pregnant and nursing mothers.

Vegetarians can take comfort in knowing that there are kid-friendly supplement options. Since fish get their DHA from algae, it is only natural that DHA supplements derived from algae have hit the market. Algal oil DHA has been found to be as effective as DHA from fish and is available in liquid and capsule form for kids of all ages.

All in all, for a healthy growing brain, make sure your toddler is getting at least one serving a day of oil or seeds high in omega-3s along with an appropriate algal oil supplement. Vegetarian moms-to-be and breastfeeding moms should also supplement with DHA for baby’s best start!

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Omega 3 Banana Avacado “Ice Cream” Recipe (Vegan)

Ingredients:

2 ripe frozen bananas
½ avocado
¼ cup pistachios
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Chop bananas into pieces a day or two ahead of time and place into freezer
2. If pistachios are still in shells, remove them
3. Place ingredients into a blender or food processor; blend until thick and creamy
4. Spoon mixture into bowl! If you would like it thicker, place it into the freezer for a couple hours after making
5. Top with well-ground up pistachios or flax seed for an extra boost of omega-3

Tip: This recipe can be modified to create a puree for little ones transitioning to solid foods, using just half a banana and half an avocado!

Written by: Amanda Dunham

Sources:
Omega-3 fatty acids: considering microalgae as a vegetarian source of EPA and DHA
Harvard Ask-the-Expert
Divine Glowing Health blog

Sources of Plant Based Protein for Toddlers

Kenny Louie at flickr.com_slash_photos_slash_kennymatic
Photo credit: Kenny Louie

As young eaters begin their transition from milk and smooth textures to a variety of finger foods, it doesn’t take long to notice a toddler’s preferences in terms of taste, temperature, and texture. During this transitional phase when many toddlers may only accept certain foods (don’t give up!), many parents worry about whether or not their child is getting enough nutrients. One common area of concern is protein.

Studies have shown that babies between 12 and 24 months of age typically consume about 14-19 ounces of breast milk or formula per day, accounting for about 50% of the baby’s nutritional needs. The amount of protein typically found per ounce of breast milk is almost 0.4 grams, meaning the amount found in those 14-19 ounces usually ranges between 5.3 grams and 7.3 grams. Children between the ages of one and three years old need 0.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. So what do all these numbers and measurements come down to? Basically, if the average 28 pound toddler needs 16 grams of protein every day, he or she is getting just under half that amount from milk or formula, leaving the other half to solid foods.

So where can toddlers fulfill the rest of their protein needs? Meat or dairy aren’t the only sources of protein available for this job. Here are five plant-based, high-protein foods with a variety of flavors and textures for new eaters to choose from!

1. Green Peas
In only half a cup, green peas provide 4 grams of protein, plus lots of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and other vitamins and minerals. Peas are a fun finger food and easy to serve cooked whole or mashed and added to other soft foods such as mashed potatoes.

2. Cooked Oatmeal
Each half-cup of cooked oatmeal provides about 3 grams of protein, as well as plenty of carbohydrates. Many parents begin with warm cereal like oatmeal to introduce babies to semi-solid foods, but one important tip to keep in mind is to avoid offering sweetened oatmeal initially. This will help prevent a “sweet tooth” from emerging early on, and will help baby try a wider range of foods before craving the sweet stuff.

3. Brown Rice
Brown rice provides about 2.5 grams of protein for every half-cup, making it a great source for toddlers who may love eating the fluffy or sticky grains off their fingers. It may get a bit messy, but brown rice can be a tasty complement to nearly anything!

4. Avocado
Every half-cup of avocado holds about 1.5 grams of protein, in addition to plenty of the healthy fats they’re famous for. Avocado is also quite versatile–it can be served in slices, mashed in a bowl, or blended with many other foods, including baked goods! (Just swap some or all of the butter in a recipe for avocado!) The slight sweetness and soft texture appeal to many first-time eaters.

5. Hummus
One little tablespoon of hummus provides 1.2 grams of protein, making it the most protein-packed contender per serving size on this list! To avoid potentially irritating baby’s system with pre-made hummus that typically includes garlic (which some gassy babies may be sensitive to), tahini (a sesame product that toddlers at risk for a sesame allergy should avoid), and spices, make your own at home by blending cooked chickpeas, a little olive oil, and any other veggie you like that baby can eat. Show your toddler how to dip crackers or other finger foods in, and he or she will be thrilled to imitate!

Written by: Lauren Mesaros

Sources:
Baylor College of Medicine
KellyMom
Parenting Science

Fresh Fruit Pizza With Coconut Cream Whip

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Looking for something new for dessert at this weekends BBQ?  Why not try this delicious fruit pizza!!  It is full of fruits and you can add even more if you like!  The kids can get involved and help layer on the toppings!!

Cinnamon-sugar pizza crust

1 cup + 3/4 cup white bread flour, divided
3/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp cinnamon
2 & 1/4 tsp pizza yeast (no proofing required)
3 tbsp oil
2/3 cup very warm water
more flour for kneading dough
Avocado-Lime Whip
4 avocados
Fresh lime juice from half a lime (approx 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave nectar
2-3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1-2 tbsp coconut milk
12 tbsp icing sugar (confectioner’s)

Fruit
Fruit salsa: Chop up a mixture of strawberries, mandarin oranges, mango, kiwi, and raspberries. Add in blueberries too. You will want about 2-3 cups of the salsa.

Fruit layer: Mandarin, strawberries (sliced), blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi (sliced), mango (sliced), and whatever else your little heart desires! Peach would be good too.

Preparation:
For crust
1. Preheat oven to 500F. In a large mixing bowl, mix together 1 cup flour, plus the salt, sugar, cinnamon, yeast. Stir well. Now quickly add 2/3 cup very warm water along with 3 tbsp oil. Stir well. It will be very sticky but not to worry.
2. Now add in 3/4 cup- 1 cup more flour, gradually, as you stir. Once the flour is in, grab the dough and place on floured surface.
3. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding flour as it gets tacky. After 5 mins the dough should be smooth and not tacky. Form into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Cover the ball with a bit of oil so it doesnt dry out. Now cover the bowl and let it rise for 1.5 hours. You can punch out the air halfway through.
4. After rising time, punch air out and spread into an oiled pizza pan or you can place it directly onto a preheated pizza stone. Sprinkle with lots of sugar and bake at 500F for 14-15 mins. until golden. Cooking time may vary so watch carefully.

For avocado whip
In a food processor, add in the avocado, lime juice, and agave. Process until smooth. Now add in the vanilla, melted coconut oil, and coconut milk. As the last step, add in the icing sugar very gradually until the consistency you want is achieved. Cool in fridge for about 30 minutes before using. Spread over the base of cooled & cooked pizza crust.

For Fruit
After you have spread on the avocado-lime whip, it is time to layer on the fruit. I started with an outer layer of fruit salsa, followed by a layer of sliced fruit. After those two layers, I did a very small layer of sprinkled coconut, followed by a layer of raspberries, and then finally fruit salsa.

Source: Oh She Glows

Delicious Avocado Recipes The Entire Family Will Enjoy!

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Earlier this week we told you the amazing nutritional benefits of avocados and today we have a few of our favorite recipes that are sure to become favorites with your little ones!

Baked Avocado Fries

1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup flour, I prefer using whole-wheat or rice flour
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Greek yogurt
1/2 – 1 cup Italian Panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper, to taste

Tip: You can also use plain breadcrumbs and add your favorite herbs and spices such as garlic, onion, rosemary, cilantro, basil, and chives!

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 450º F
  2. Slice avocados lengthwise 
  3. Set up three bowls and put flour in one, in second put Dijon, Maple syrup, soy sauce, and yogurt, in third put breadcrumbs and seasonings of choice if desired.
  4. Dip avocado slices in the bowls in order, making sure to coat each slice in each bowl.
  5. I prefer using a baking sheet with wholes in the bottom to help even crisping and simply spray the pan with cooking spray, however  you can also cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  6. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until breadcrumbs begin to brown.
  7. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve with dipping sauce of choice.  

Avocado Mango Smoothie

1 medium avocado, coarsely chopped 

1 cup almond or rice milk

1/2 cup orange juice

1 handful of baby spinach

2 tsp chia seed or ground flaxseed meal

1 cup chopped mango, fresh or frozen

ice cubes

Preparation:
1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend until well combined. Enjoy!
Serves 2 (or one really large)

Avocado Chocolate Pudding

6 cup pitted Dates (soaked at least 10 minutes)
1 Avocado
1/4 cup Cocoa or Cacao powder
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Stevia or sugar
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1/2 cup almond or rice milk

Preparation:

  1. Pit your avocado and scoop out the flesh.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a Food Processor or Blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Add more milk or water to get desired consistency. Place in fridge for an hour or so where it will solidify slightly.
  4. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Adapted From: The Almost Vegan

All About Avocadoes

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We all know that avocadoes make a great compliment to many meals for out little ones but do you know why they are such an amazing nutritional fruit?

Health Benefits

 –       Half of an avocado contains 35% of the RDA for Vitamin C and over 50% of the RDA for Vitamin K!

–       Avocadoes are an excellent source of fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats.

–       They are full of antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene

–       Avocadoes contain 30% more potassium than a banana!

 

Selection and Storage

–       -Refrigeration can slow the ripening process.

–       -To quicken the ripening process, store the avocadoes in a paper bag with an apple for 1-2 days.

–       -Sprinkle cut avocado with a dash of lemon juice to prevent browning.

–       -If making a dip like guacamole, put the seed in the dip while refrigerated to prevent browning.

–       You know an avocado is ripe when it is slightly soft to the touch when you press it.

Simple Ways To Add Avocadoes To Meals

–       Substitute avocadoes for butter and oil in recipes such as brownies and cakes.  In general, the ratio is a 1:1.

–       Add to your little ones favorite smoothies!

–       Slice them up along with other veggies for an afternoon snack.

–       Blend them in your favorite dip or make guacamole.