A Wholesome Start: Vegetarian Toddler Nutrition

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A vegetarian diet can support the healthy growth of toddlers and preschoolers – if it is done right. Since these years are key when establishing eating habits for life, it’s important to give your toddler a solid foundation, especially if you choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Kids who can learn to appreciate and enjoy greens, fruit, and grains at a young age are going to be set up for a lifetime of solid eating choices.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine,

Children raised on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes grow up to be slimmer and healthier and even live longer than their meat-eating friends. It is much easier to build a nutritious diet from plant foods than from animal products […] As for essential nutrients, plant foods are preferred sources because they provide sufficient energy and protein packaged with other health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

Below are some helpful tips and information of key nutrients that are important to remember when feeding your budding vegetarian.

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Key Nutrients in a Vegetarian Diet:

Protein – found in beans and legumes, grains, tofu, tempeh and other fermented soy products, nuts and nut butters, dairy, eggs

As long as he is eating a good mix of greens, beans, and veggies, your toddler’s protein intake should be sufficient.

Vitamin D – fifteen minutes of playtime in the sun every day; also found in milk and fortified milk replacements

Calcium – found in green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, almonds and almond butter, milk and yogurt, calcium-set tofu, fortified milk substitutes (soy, coconut, almond), fortified orange juice

Iron – found in whole grains and cereals, dried fruits, beans and legumes, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals

Try to pair plant-based foods containing iron with foods containing vitamin C (citrus, tomatoes, fruit, and more) as it promotes iron absorption!

Zinc – found in whole grains, nuts, beans, hard cheeses, tofu, fermented soy products

Vitamin B12 – eggs, dairy products, B12-fortified nutritional yeast, fortified milk replacements, fortified cereals

B12 is one of the few nutrients that isn’t easily found in a varied, wholesome plant-based diet, but is crucial for growth and development. If your toddler loves dairy, her B12 intake should be fine – if not, consider fortified foods or a supplement.

Fiber – found in whole grain breads and cereals, legumes, fruit, vegetables

We all know a diet high in fiber is good for adults, but it fills up small toddler tummies quickly and may cause children to feel full before eating enough. High fiber foods should also be high in calories, or try lower fiber foods like fruit.

Fats – found in nuts and nut butters, avocados, tofu, hummus, oils

Healthy fats are important for growth and brain development. Aim to provide monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (avocado, nut butters, tofu) and linoleic oil (canola, flaxseed, soy products).

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Helpful Tips:

The key to success with a vegetarian diet is mindfulness and planning!

Make every bite count – pack in plenty of protein, vitamins, and good fats.

Keep things fun by offering a variety of foods and introducing new ones frequently.

Toddlers are experts at mimicking. Make sure you’re eating your greens, too!

A well-balanced vegetarian diet contains things like nuts and fruit. Be sure to limit choking risk for toddlers by grinding nuts, halving or quartering grapes small fruits, and finely cutting vegetables and fruits – and of course, always supervise consumption of these foods!

Be sure to maintain regular checkups with your pediatrician, and listen to their recommendations.

Written by: Amanda Dunham

Sources:

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Vegan Society

Vegetarian Nutrition

Modern Mom

Eight Reasons to Bring Your Kids to the Farmers Market!

Image credit – Natalie Maynor

If you are looking for a fun family activity this weekend, what better place to go than your local farmers market? A trip to the farmers market is a great way to expose your children to new fruits and veggies while introducing them to the idea of eating locally grown seasonal ingredients. Each stand at the market is a hands-on classroom on new textures and tastes with farmers just waiting for inquisitive minds to talk to. Plus, kids are much more likely to try that winter squash if they learned about it and helped pick it out!

Here is a list of eight great reasons to bring your kids to the farmers market this fall:

1. Connecting with “real food”

We have a huge disconnect with our food in America. Break the cycle of processed, packaged food by reconnecting with whole foods at the farmers market. Show your child what a carrot really looks like, or where the corn in that can comes from!

 

2. Talking with farmers

A lot of people don’t know much about where their food comes from or how it is grown, especially if it is done using sustainable or organic methods. As mentioned above, most farmers are happy to field questions about their work and their produce! Farming is pretty amazing, so encourage your kids to ask questions. If you get a chance to discuss growing food with your child beforehand, have them make a list of questions they want to ask the farmer.

 

3. Teaching them how to be a good consumer

If your kids are old enough, give them a small sum to make their own purchases. This allows them to explore the decision process involved behind shopping wisely and will make them excited to try out their very own veggies later for dinner. If you have a toddler, let her give the money to the farmer!

 

4. Introducing new foods

Farmers markets are full of foods your child (or you!) has never seen before. Having such an interactive experience with these new foods makes kids more eager to try them. Combining the new foods with happy memories at the market is a great way to positively reinforce trying different foods. Create a farmers market hunt for your kids – try to find a purple vegetable or foods of different shapes.

 

5. Cooking at home

Cooking with toddlers or young kids can be a messy adventure. But it also cultivates awareness and skills that will help them later in life, as well as bring them closer to their food. If they get to help cook the food they just picked out, it’s even more exciting!

 

6. Learning about nutrition

A day at the farmers market is a great way to talk about nutrition concepts, even basic things like how nutrients can help you see or why it’s healthy to eat a variety of foods. Kids can begin to understand how whole foods are packed with vitamins and minerals as well as being tasty!

 

7. Family bonding time

Weekends are often busy and filled with errands and other obligations as well as family time. An afternoon trip to the farmers market is a great way to get in some quality time enjoying family and food! It may end up being a weekly tradition.

 

8. Experiencing the importance of community

 People from all over your community, no matter how big or small that is, visit the farmers market. Having your child interact with new faces and feel the connections between people is fantastic, no matter how old they are. Eating food grown in their community can also allow older kids to start thinking about the impacts their choices make on those in the area.

 

Ultimately, shopping at the farmers market is an opportunity to connect with your food and the people who grow it. The more you can expose your children to the idea of buying, preparing, and eating real, sustainably grown food, the better they are prepared to make great decisions about their meals and health in the future!


Image credit – Kyle Woollet/Brooks Institute

Farmers markets flourish most during summer and fall, but many are open throughout the winter and spring, offering great cool-weather veggies. To find your local farmers market, click here!

 

Written by Amanda Dunham

 

Sources: EatLocalGrown, Raising Kids With Love blog

Squash Spotlight: Butternut Squash!

Butternut squash soup
Photo credit: Veronique

Last week we featured a post about different kinds of fall and winter squash. This week we would like to highlight one in particular from that list, one of the most popular and versatile varieties mentioned: butternut squash!

Butternut squash, with its bright orange flesh full of carotenoids (a group of antioxidants), is an excellent source of Vitamin A–about 148% of your daily recommended intake for only half a cup! It’s also high in Vitamin C, fiber, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Plus its sweet, smooth, slightly nutty flavor makes it a winner for the tastebuds!

The tastiest butternut squash will feel heavy for its size and have a matte skin rather than a glossy skin. (A glossy skin is a sign of having been picked too early, and the flesh likely won’t be as sweet as a full-grown squash.) The squash can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to three months, while cut squash can stay fresh for about a week in the refrigerator if well wrapped. For a gourd with the most flesh, choose one with a long, thick neck. For slightly more beta-carotene content, pick one with skin more orange-colored than the rest.

Butternut squash can be prepared in many ways through roasting, toasting, puréeing, grilling, stuffing, or adding to casseroles or baked goods. In South African cuisine, butternut squash is commonly used in soups or grilled whole and seasoned with spices like nutmeg or cinnamon. Another common method is roasting, simply by cutting the squash in half lengthwise, lightly brushing with oil, and placing cut side down onto a baking sheet to bake for about 45 minutes. The seeds can also even be roasted like pumpkin seeds.

Here’s a favorite way to enjoy butternut squash that even the littlest members of the family can eat! Smooth, creamy, easy Butternut Squash Soup!

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1-2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 (32 fl oz) container vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pot and cook the onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, and squash for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

2. Pour in just enough vegetable stock to fully cover the vegetables, and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 40 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.

3. Pour soup from pot into a blender and blend until smooth. Return to pot, then add as much of the leftover vegetable stock as needed to reach the desired consistency and heat through. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

What’s your favorite way to cook butternut squash? Share your tips in the comments below!

Written by: Lauren Mesaros

Sources:
Recipe adapted from Butternut Squash Soup II

Introducing Purees Into Your Child’s Diet

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Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed as to when and how you should begin introducing solids like fruits and vegetables into your little one’s diet?  Here are a few tips!

  • You should not introduce solids until your baby can properly sit up on their own to avoid choking.  This is usually around 6-9 months, depending on the child.
  • Begin by introducing small quantities of pureed vegetables and fruits.
  • Add a little breast milk, formula or cooking liquid to pureed fruits and vegetables to achieve the desired consistency to suit your baby. Babies generally prefer very moist foods.
  • Gradually increase the thickness and texture of fruit and vegetable purees as your baby learns to chew.
  • Some babies may be very fussy about eating new foods but don’t give up try again at another time.
  • As you introduce new foods, watch your baby for signs of a reaction or allergy. Avoid offering strawberries until your baby is 12 months old as some babies have a severe reaction to strawberries.
  • Make sure to only introduce a new food every 3-5 days so that you can allow time to make sure there is no allergic reaction to that fruit or vegetable.
  • Remove seeds and pips from fruits before using to make baby food.
  • Peel and/or trim vegetables if necessary.
  • It’s best not to add sugar or salt to baby food.
  • Remember, baby food is given in addition to the breast or bottle.
  • Try introducing vegetables before fruits since fruits are sweeter which can result in the baby resisting all less sweet vegetables.

Here is a delicious Carrot and Mango Puree that is colorful and delicious!

  1. Peel 3 carrots.
  2. Cut 1 mango into chunks.
  3. Halve and core 2 apples (I prefer Granny Smith since they are not as sweet).
  4. Arrange the fruits and vegetables on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast in a 350 degrees F oven until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Puree in a food processor until smooth.
  6. Let cool, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Written By: Stefanie Dove

Source: Fresh For Kids

Garden In A Glove

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Are you looking for a creative way to get your little ones excited about growing their own herbs and veggies?  If so, this is a fun way to teach them about gardening while at the same time doing it in a way to catch their attention!

Supplies:
plastic gloves (kind used by food servers; nothing fancy)
permanent marker
5 cotton balls
water
5 seeds (5 different varieties is optimal but 5 of the same variety would work)
bread bag twist tie

How To:

1. Write the names of each variety of seed on each finger.
2. Moisten the cotton balls so they are just wet.
3. Place seeds on the cotton ball. (Choose the number of seeds based on the size of the seeds. For example, a bean probably only needs one seed while carrots several.)
4. Slide the seed and cotton ball into the labeled finger. Do this for each variety.
5. Gently blow air into the glove and twist to seal in the air. Wrap a twist bread bag tie around the end to keep it closed.
6. Place or hang the glove in a warm window and watch what happens.
7. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can cut off each fingertip and plant the cotton ball and new seedling in soil for further garden/plant learning.

Source: Full Circle Gardener

Delicious Rhubarb Recipes That Are Kid Approved!

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Earlier this week, we told you about the health benefits of rhubarb and today we have 2 great recipes that the entire family will love!!  Do you have a rhubarb recipe that your family likes?!?  We would love for you to share it with us!!

Rhubarb Crisp

1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped peeled apple
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon instant tapioca
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Toss rhubarb, apple, granulated sugar, tapioca and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl. Place in casserole dish or divide into ramekins.
  3. Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, pecans, butter, syrup, salt and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl until crumbly. Sprinkle over the rhubarb mixture.
  4. Bake until bubbling and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Eating Well

Orange-Rhubarb Popsicles

6-8 rhubarb stalks
1-2 oranges
½ cup water
½ – ¾ cup honey, agave nectar or unsweetened applesauce

PREPARATION:

  1. Cut rhubarb into 1-inch pieces. Peel and chop oranges, leaving a little pith.
  2. Heat honey, agave, or applesauce and water in 2 quart sauce pan, stirring consistently until well incorporated.
  3. Add rhubarb and oranges. Simmer uncovered until rhubarb is tender and slightly transparent, about 10 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture into blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Pour mixture into popsicle containers or paper cups. Freeze.

Health Benefits of Rhubarb

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Last week we spoke about the importance of eating seasonal produce and one of the first spring vegetables to come in season is Rhubarb.  While it can be intimidating because most of us have no idea how to cook it, the nutritional value that it contains is well worth it and we are going to share some easy recipes with you this week that will have everyone in the family loving it!

Nutritional Benefits of Rhubarb

  • Rhubarb is an excellent source of Vitamin C, which is important to help support a healthy immune system.
  • It is high in dietary fiber which helps to maintain regularity within the digestive system.
  • Rhubarb is a good source of calcium which is essential for strong bones and teeth.
  • Rhubarb is low in sodium and saturated fat which makes it a very good food to help prevent heart related diseases.
  • It is also high in Vitamin K, which can help prevent diabetes!

Healthy ways to Prepare Rhubarb

  • Rhubarb is generally always cooked, however it has been eaten raw but is very bitter.
  • To get the best nutrition from rhubarb, it is suggested that it be baked or stewed for a long period of time to enhance the sweetness.
  • Rhubarb is great when used to make jams and spreads.