Nutrition Spotlight: Omega-3’s and DHA

image00-2
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.

image01-2
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!

image02-1

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

Healthy Halloween Treats!

Image

The weather is cooling off, leaves are starting to change, and pumpkin patches are open for business – Halloween is just around the corner! Whether it is your little one’s first Halloween or you’re a veteran of this night of pumpkins, glitter, and masks, there’s sure to be plenty of treats.

While the occasional Halloween treat never hurt anyone, the standard packaged candy can actually be a bit of a trick, piling on sugar and processed ingredients. If you are looking to throw a Halloween party or play date for your children and their friends, it’s easy to make healthy treats that are just the right amount of sweet and spooky. Kids can also jump in the kitchen to help create these yummy snacks, extending the Halloween fun!

Healthy Halloween Recipe: Spooky Strawberry Banana Ghost Pops

4 ripe bananas
½ cup unsweetened strawberry jam
1 cup unsweetened coconut
16 semisweet chocolate chips
8 dried cranberries
8 popsicle sticks

1. Peel your bananas and cut each in half

2. Cut a slit in the bottom of each banana piece and insert a popsicle stick

3. Wrap the bananas in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about an hour, or until firm

4. As bananas are freezing, heat your jam on medium heat until it reaches a syrupy consistency

5. Dip the banana in the jam to coat it in a thin layer

6. Roll the banana in coconut or sprinkle it on by hand

7. Decorate your banana ghost with chocolate chips for eyes and a dried cranberry mouth

8. Repeat for all eight banana pieces

9. Place your bananas back in the freezer for fifteen or twenty minutes to firm back up – then your healthy ghosts are ready to go!

For some more fun recipes like “Snack-o-lanterns” and pretzel bones, check out this list from Spoonful (http://spoonful.com/halloween/best-halloween-recipes-gallery)

Written by: Amanda Dunham

Sources:
Ghost Banana Pop recipe – Tom’s of Maine blog (http://blog.tomsofmaine.com/index.php/healthy-halloween-treats-spooky-strawberry-banana-ghost-pops/)

Raspberry Coconut Ice Cream

title

We all love ice cream, but most that you find in the stores are not only highly processed, but very few are dairy free.  This is why I started making my own last summer and it has slowly become something I make during the year!  Here is my recipe for raspberry ice cream, however, you can swap out the raspberries for any fruit of your choice (I have even swapped the raspberries out for Oreos).

2 (13oz) cans chilled coconut milk (works best with chilled, full-fat milk)
3/4 cup granulated sugar, stevia, or other sweetener of your choice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen) or other fruit of your choice

Preparation:
1. Place the coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla in a blender. Blend until combined, about 30 seconds.

2. Freeze using an ice cream maker, according to manufacture’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add in the fruit. You can serve immediately for a soft serve texture or you can place the ice cream in a container and freeze for a firmer texture.

Fresh Fruit Pizza With Coconut Cream Whip

20101015IMG_63421

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

Overnight Oatmeal

Image

With the temps soaring and endless vacations, play dates, and activities happening each day, preparing a hearty breakfast for the little ones each morning might be somewhat challenging.  Overnight oats are great because they not only require little to no preparation, but you can get the kids involved by having them help select and prepare their own combination!

1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats
1 cup whole milk, rice, soy or almond milk
1 cup plain greek yogurt
3 tablespoons honey

Add any combination or make up your own of each of these: 1/2 a banana, mashed or sliced, mashed or chopped berries (this works great with frozen berries too) ,flax seeds, chia seeds, a teaspoon of peanut or almond butter, dried fruits, chopped, almonds, walnut, cashew or pumpkin or sunflower seeds

Preparation
1. In a bowl, stir together the oats, milk, yogurt and honey. Pour into small mason jars and stir in desired accompaniments.
2. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days. Serve chilled.

Strawberry Granola Bars

135572330

Yesterday we told you about the benefits of strawberries and today we have an easy recipe for a healthier alternative to traditional granola bars!  You can make these in muffin tins for smaller bite size snacks also!

Makes 20-24 bars
3/4 C almond butter or nut butter of your choice
1/3 C honey
1 tsp vanilla
2 large bananas, well mashed
1/3 C ground flax
3 C old fashioned rolled oats
3 C crispy cereal or granola
2-3 C fresh strawberries, chopped
1/2 C chocolate chips

  1. Prepare a 9×13 pan by lining it with plastic wrap or parchment or wax paper. Or prepare two muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the nut butter, honey, vanilla, mashed bananas and ground flax seed. Mix well and add the rolled oats and cereal and stir until incorporated. Add the strawberries and chocolate chips and gently stir them in.
  3. Press the mixture into the 9×13 pan or divide the mixture between the muffin cups and press down well.
  4. Once the mixture is packed well, place them in the freezer and freeze completely, 4-6 hours or overnight. Remove from the 9×13 pan and slice into bars.
  5. Individually wrap and store in an airtight container in the freezer or simply remove from the muffin tin and place in an airtight container or sealable plastic bag to store in the freezer.

Adapted From: Food Doodles