Friday, August 31, 2018

All Of That Struggle, and Such a Simple Solution

Making Dinner: A Meal Planning Brainstorm

Panko salmon, brown rice, sweet potato fries, and zucchini wedges. 

On the first day of kindergarten, I was determined to be a super mom and make my dinner while Mazen was in school so we could relax and spend time together that afternoon. But since I’d had little working time the previous week, I was so behind on tasks that they took over my day and all that I had accomplished by 5:00 was taking the salmon out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge that morning. (Note: It was still partially frozen when I was ready to cook it.) It was a total dinnertime preparation fail, and if you missed it, you can see all the videos that I saved in Instagram Stories by clicking on the dinnertime circle in my Insta profile.

I think the combination of craving routines at the end of summer and having a baby on the way has me itching for a stricter schedule so that cooking, dinner, bath, and bedtime routine go as smoothly as possible. My goal is dinner at 6pm sharp, Mazen’s bath/shower around 6:45 and bedtime stories and tucking in (which is often a process) from 7-7:30ish. On this particular night, we didn’t sit down to dinner until 6:45 and he wasn’t in bed until 8.


Breakfasts and lunches have never been a problem for me. I have a bunch of regulars that I create in less than 10 minutes, and most are healthy and made from real food. I’m also usually eating lunch alone, so that means I’m only preparing something for myself.

Breakfasts: oatmeal, overnight oats, pancakes, eggs and toast, power toast, yogurt bowl, cereal, smoothies

Lunches: salads with protein, sandwich, leftovers, chips, fruit

But dinnertime is SO hit or miss.

Some weeks I have a perfectly prepped meal plan, a Blue Apron box, or winging it goes smoothly. Other weeks, especially those when I’m too busy on Sunday to really think through our week, I feel out of control. That’s what happened during the first week of school!

We all know the key to smooth dinners is to plan ahead. It’s remembering to do the planning that’s the hard part. The worst thing you can do is wait until 5:00 on the day of to decide what to make, especially if you’re starving, have kids, or an unpredictable work schedule.

In the past I’ve tried my own meal plan, meal plan services, buying staples and mixing and matching, and prepping everything in advance to a T (which I did a lot more when Mazen was young). While I do love services like Vie, Cook Smarts, and Blue Apron, I have found that for the long term I really want to have more control over my meals. I like doing those services here and there – it feels like someone else is cooking for you – but week after week, I want to choose the meals I make based on flexibility, cravings, seasonal foods, sales at the grocery store, produce that someone might share from their garden, or our schedule for the week.

Sunday prep days where you batch cook and/or freeze meals are another solution to the dinnertime conundrum. Sometimes I enjoy doing the Sunday prep and getting organized for the week, but other Sundays, especially if we have a day full of plans or are traveling, prep gets pushed to the weekdays and doesn’t really get done. I have experimented with Monday prep days, and those actually have gone quite well, but ultimately I don’t want to spend any long period of time making all the meals for the week. Also, while I love the idea of having every meal for the week prepared, there are a lot of meals that I just don’t think taste as good made in advance. Pre-cut veggies sort of lose their luster by Thursday/Friday and while some meals taste better days later, some are just best fresh. I’d rather do a little bit each day, perhaps in the mornings, than a huge block at once.

House Tweaking’s Chicken Marbella was a great make-ahead dinner we had this week!

Tons of you (100?!) responded to my stories with “Girl you are not alone!” (so glad to hear that) and lots of tips. A dozen people recommended an Instant Pot! I really hesitate to buy another kitchen appliance because I’m not sure that would really solve my problems and I’m also really working on minimalism (but that’s a topic for another day!) I believe you all that they are great, and maybe someday I will trade my Crockpot for one. A few recommended Prepear as a great meal planning app, as well as Dream Dinners.

I am looking for a solution the would satisfy the following:

  • Me choosing the recipes
  • Flexibility
  • Doesn’t require a large weekly block of time for planning or prepping, but still involves some advance prep

Thus I’m thinking a combination of a monthly meal plan plus a themed day-of-the-week plus a really good bank of recipes is ultimately what I need to put together.

We sort of already to the day-of-the-week style planning. Often our weeks include:

  1. A dinner salad (usually on nights Mazen is with his dad)
  2. A fish, rice, veg dinner (possibly the most tedious one – that’s what I failed on the first day of KG)
  3. An Italian night (either homemade pizza, spaghetti, meatballs, or a Mona Lisa Pasta dish)
  4. A leftovers night (most often Thursdays when Thomas has volleyball)
  5. A dinner date for T and me (often Tuesdays; this might change drastically in October!)
  6. A weekend dinner out as a family at a restaurant, event, or sometimes hosted by us at home
  7. ??????

So we halfway have the foundation laid, but I think I just need to fine tune it a bit more. Perhaps #7 can be a soup! I also think the fish, rice, veg dinner could be a bit more specific. Perhaps this turns into “one sheet pan” night? I don’t want to go super basic with the themes because I think we would get bored of the same recipes each week, but by sticking to a theme, we can buy the staples and mix and match them as need be. I also think having 20-30 solid recipes in the bank that can be repeated monthly is much more reasonable for the palate boredom. This is basically what I do anyways!

So maybe our schedule gets revised to this:

Sundays (when we have more hands/time on deck): Rotisserie chicken with whole grain and veggie or Sheet Pan Meal, prepped after grocery store trip. (Anne just posted some great ones!)

Mondays: Italian with side salad (I could buy 4 Mona Lisa lasagna/zitis/raviolis at the beginning of each month, which are about $10 each and made from scratch, and this night would be super easy) and/or I could start making some of those great freezer meals before the baby comes and Monday could be freezer night!

Tuesday: Dinner date till baby comes, then maybe Taco Tuesday?

Wednesdays: Crockpot or soup

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Pizza night (either homemade or take-out in a pinch)

Saturday: Family events or a wild card meal (that we have all day make, like something special on the Big Green Egg)

With this plan, Sundays and Wednesdays would require morning prep time that I could plan for. By using Mona Lisa or quick Italian (like dry spaghetti, a pack of grass-fed beef, bagged spinach and jarred sauce), I could save prep time on Monday mornings. Tuesday/Thursdays would require little-to-no prep, at least for now.

With this plan in mind, please share your favorite one-pan dinners and crockpot soups! I will definitely do a follow-up post if we put this into action. I’m sure it will get tweaked! Also: What’s your favorite way to save recipes you come across on the ‘net? I have so many recipes saved to Pinterest boards and I forget about them when I need more!

from Kath Eats Real Food

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Testimonial: Keto Success: Get Your Mind Right


Let me first say thanks.  Of all the info I consume regarding diet & health, yours is by far the best communicated.  When you write or talk, it feels like having a conversation in person with you.  (yikes, hope that’s not creepy).  I’ve been Keto’ing for the last year, but still bought your Keto Masterclass just a week ago.  Great so far.

I’ve also been reading and listening to your material for the last couple years.  As I’ve moved along my own journey of losing 50 lbs and improving my health markers, I’ve wanted to hear someone talk about the mental side of diet & health.

I’ve yo-yo dieted like many, starting in late high school.  The past two years have created real change.  I’ve finally learned about food.  In college, a box of Rice-a-Roni was a healthy meal as far as I knew.  I finally enjoy eating healthy today in my mid 40’s.  What I’ve realized is that in all the prior diets, my approach has been, “Let’s do this so I can get back to a place where I can start eating pizza again.  Then I’ll just do it in moderation.”  I’m sure you know how that story ends.  The problem with that is the mental approach, right?!

I can look in mirror today and honestly say that I believe I’m going to eat a low carb diet the rest of my life.  I’ve learned more about cooking.  I’ve joined my wife in the shopping & planning of meals.  Of course, the physical benefits have been significant.  On the flip side, I also know that because the SAD diet doesn’t make me violently ill overnight, I’ll experience plenty of slip-ups.  It’s so easy to say, “Dude, it’s just one night of pizza and beer.  Jump back on the horse tomorrow.”  Happy to say this is happening less and less as my journey continues.

So my struggle today and likely forever is that I still want to overeat.  I’m always in search of the food that I can eat with no limit.  Of the 100’s of conversations I’ve had with others about Keto…when you read between the lines…they’re all looking for the same thing…what can they eat in a gluttonous fashion?  By far, my biggest challenge is overall caloric restriction.  Historically, eating for me has had nothing to do with hunger.  Ever.  Intermittent Fasting has probably been the greatest tool in learning to curb my calories.  If you could witness the struggle that occurs between my ears when I talk myself out of a coffee with heavy cream or yet another handful of pecans.  Fat bombs…forget about it.  I’m going to eat the entire recipe in a couple days.  BUT, I’ve made improvements.  I continue to embrace simplicity and continue to exclude “gateway foods/ingredients”.  It took 2 years, but I’ve finally stopping using any sweetener in my coffee…because as I mentioned, my approach was, “Man, when I find a Keto approved sweetener, I’m gonna eat the hell out of it.”  What.  A.  Trap.

So…why did I type this letter?  You were right to open Module 6 of the KM saying that it’s going to be loosey-goosey and hippy’ish when compared to the science of Keto.  That may be, but all the science in the world won’t convince the person whose mind isn’t in the right place.  I’ve gotten to the point that now when someone begins to ask me questions about Keto, one of the first things I say to them is, “If you’re looking for a plan that will allow you to eat unlimited amounts of XYZ, there’s no such thing.  Seriously, 9 chicken breasts for dinner isn’t in the plan.  Nope, a bucket of buttered broccoli isn’t either.  I know it was Kerrygold butter, but you still can’t eat the whole bucket.  Want to keep talking?”

So glad you addressed mindset.  I think its importance is awfully underrated.  Sure, there are people whose mindset is solid and they don’t need much of any guidance.  Since most of America is fat and sick though…my hunch is that discussing mindset provides a great deal of value for your readers and listeners.

I look forward to moving on in the KM.  Keep up the great work.

BJ David

Keto Masterclass

The keto diet is one of the most effective ways to shed fat and improve your health. Keto Masterclass helps you start keto right, step-by-step, so that you can be successful long-term.

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Wired-to-Eat-RenderDon’t forget, Wired to Eat is now available!

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from The Paleo Diet

What I’m Loving Lately 119

Hi, guys! Happy Friday and Labor Day Weekend to you!

I can’t believe this is our final weekend of summer. It seriously flew by. It was truly the best few months, and I’m sad to see the fun times end, but I am a little excited to get back to a routine. Mal is back-to-school next week, and Quinn “officially” starts PreK. I can’t believe this is Quinn’s last year at Kindercare before he’s in Kindergarten and riding the school bus all by himself. WHERE does the time go, right?

With it being Friday and all, I wanted to share some FAVORITES from the past week. It’s quite the mix of goodies with everything from oysters and popcorn to CBD oil and cozy fall sweaters and hoodies. I hope you guys enjoy this round-up! 🙂

The Raw Bar at Island Creek Oyster Farm on Duxbury Bay – We finally made it, and it was everything I expected and more!

If you’re local and love oysters, you definitely need to visit before the season ends.

FYI: The Raw Bar only serves oysters (and other raw ocean items) and booze, so it might not be enough for dinner, but it’s definitely a pre- or post-dinner spot. It’s also super kid-friendly and located right on the bay, so the views and atmosphere couldn’t be more perfect. I hope we have a chance to visit again soon!

Episode 186 of Fit Womens Weekly Podcast – I had the opportunity to chat with Kindal about unbalanced hormones during and after birth control, how seed cycling may help, and why macro counting works for some but not others.

Brooks Fly-By Hoodie – Obsessed. I first saw this hoodie when I was in Seattle for the Brooks Run Happy Ambassador Trip, and I immediately knew I wanted it in my life. It’s my favorite! It comes in different colors and some of them (white and pink) are on sale right now. It also comes in a 1/2 Zip, which is super cute too! FYI: I’m wearing my favorite TOMS sneakers in the photo below – lovvvvve them!

Ultimate Guide to Reverse Dieting – I’ve been really interested in reading more about the reverse dieting concept. I find it an interesting approach to helping people get out of diet mode in a healthy way, especially if they’ve been restricting calories and working out too much for too long. This is definitely a good read if you are at all curious about how the metabolism can take a hit and be repaired from dieting.

Point Sur allover pointelle crewneck sweater – I’m seriously loving this sweater! It comes in dark green, navy, and light pink too – and J.Crew is having a big sale right now. Use code BIGSALE for 30% off + an extra 10%!

women's point sur allover pointelle crewneck sweater - women's sweaters

FREE ground beef for LIFE from ButcherBox – If you’ve been thinking about trying ButcherBox, now is the time! This deal is just too amazing to pass up!

Get 2lbs Of Ground Beef For Life

Stay-Healthy Travel Hacks From Successful Women – I’m so honored to be included in this piece on Forbes!

Primally Pure Charcoal Deodorant – I get lots of questions about this all-natural deodorant, and I’m still loving it. It’s easily the best I’ve found and worth every cent for keeping me dry and smelling delicious – well, ok, kind of minty, but definitely fresh!

What a Functional Medicine Practitioner Tells His Hashimoto’s Clients to Eat – I know there are quite a few CNC readers with autoimmune diseases and Hashimoto’s is fairly common among women, so just wanted to share this blog post.

The Ultimate Detox System + CBD oil – I have a full post coming out about CBD oil, but I want to give a shout out to the Ultimate Detox System that Kristin from Thrive by Food recommended to me. I recently received my results from the DUTCH test (via Kristin), and it was truly fascinating (IG Live coming soon about it)! My hormones are wacky because my body has issues detoxing. DETOXING! Finally, some answers! Even just ONE single month using the detox system with CBD oil has made all the difference in my hormonal and anxiety issues. More info coming, but just wanted to tell you guys because I’m really excited to finally have some answers and see some results! FINALLY!!!!!

Eating Strawberries Reduces Colon Inflammation, Improves Gut Health in IBD Mouse Model – Interesting study!

Quinn microwave popcorn – We’re loving all kinds of Quinn microwave popcorn right now. It’s organic, not made with any funny ingredients, and sooo delicious! Quinn and I have been loving it for our movie nights!

Question of the Day

Anyone else just love microwave popcorn?

It always brings me back to my childhood – watching movies with my mom and sister – so I love having it with Quinn now on our movie nights!

P.S. Thinking about trying EverlyWell? They’re offering 15-20% off their tests with code SCHOOL until Monday!

The post What I’m Loving Lately 119 appeared first on Carrots 'N' Cake.

from Carrots 'N' Cake

How to Throw a Low-Carb Barbecue Party—With 20 Recipes

Magical Linen and Snooglicious Pillows

I spy – a huge bump! Suddenly I feel so large and in charge. Moving off the couch and rolling over in bed has become much more difficult. Thomas has noticed an increase in grunts : )

But my bed is cozier than ever!

MagicLinen asked if I wanted to review one of their linen duvet covers. I love the farmhouse look and feel of linen, especially in dusty blue stripes. Based in Lithuania, MagicLinen is stonewashed to give it softness without chemicals, and all of their pieces are handmade. They aren’t cheap, but they should last forever.

We absolutely love the feel of the duvet, and because linen feels a cool in hot weather and cozy in winter, I’m hoping I can use this year round to rotate with my other navy blue cover. (I’m only buying bedding in shades of navy, blue, and white from here on out so I can mix and match everything – note that my other shams match well!) I will say that one reason I tend not to buy a lot of linen is its wrinkle factor, but this cover came out of the dryer with few wrinkles, and the ones that are there have that rustic look.


I can’t remember if I wrote about it or not, but my new jersey pillowcase for the snoogle is AWESOME! So glad I bought it. It’s a million times softer than the case that came with the pillow, and it’s also a gazillion times easier to get on and off thanks to a back zipper. If you have a snoogle, buy this immediately.

Also this is totally OCD of me, but one of the main reasons I disliked the snoogle with my last pregnancy was because it didn’t look pretty sitting on top of a made bed. This time around, I have a bigger master and a chair in the corner, so the snoogle rests there as a pretzel during the day and my bed looks tidy. #itsthesmallthings

Speaking of snoogling, I love how he wants to cozy up to me. He and Mazen both all last week!

After a season of working at my dining room table, I’m trying to get back into the office, which won’t be an office much longer! We are still trying to decide which room to make the new office: the corner of the family room or the old office, which I am toying with the idea of turning into a toy room. Hmmm!

Working breakfast: Well-done pancakes, Barney Butter, nectarine.

An everything salad: greens, leftover okra, rotisserie chicken, dates, green pepper, garden tomato, seaside cheddar, walnuts, dressing. Did I miss anything?

Dinner was Mona Lisa Ziti and a side Caesar salad. An easy dinner night!

from Kath Eats Real Food

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

What Can Heat Do For Your Health?

Chocolate Milk + Fish Sticks

Hi, guys! Happy Hump Day!

Did you see that I just launched a new FALL-INSPIRED macro offering?! It includes all sorts of delicious, macro-friendly seasonal recipes (i.e. apple, pumpkin, squash) along with your own personal macro goals. It doesn’t include one-on-one coaching, but it’s great for someone who just needs a little kick in the butt and motivation to get back on track. It’s perfect for post-Labor Day! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Ok, so onto our day so far – which, for Quinn, started with chocolate milk and fish sticks. Apparently, he was hungry before bed last night (or just planning breakfast for the next morning like his Mumma does) because he said he wanted them “after his nap.” Quinn woke up more than ready for his chocolate and fish sticks this morning, so that’s exactly what I made him – and he ate and drank them right up! Please note (again): The abandoned Pull-Up on the coffee table. Haha! I assume they’re not that comfortable?

I was also very much looking forward to breakfast this morning. Listen to this combo that I mixed together last night and let sit in the fridge overnight: SO Delicious vanilla yogurt, a mashed up piece of banana bread, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and fresh sliced strawberries. It was so good!

After breakfast, I headed to the gym for a nice long workout. I needed it after not working out very much in the past week or so.

Latest Videos

After class, I took some time to share some “sneaky” ways to get more protein into your diet over on Instagram. It’s a personal struggle as well as one that my many of my nutrition clients often encounter. Head over to my feed if you’re in the same boat!

Now I’m drinking an iced coffee/collagen/Ripple milk protein shake as I blog and catch up with email. My To Do list is crazy today since I have a very special photoshoot on the agenda for tomorrow.

Question of the Day

What are some of your “sneaky” tips and tricks for getting protein into your diet?

P.S. J.Crew fans: They are having a huge sale right now! Use code BIGSALE for 30% off + an extra 10%!

from Carrots 'N' Cake

Why Babies & Toddlers Hate Vegetables (and what to do about it!)

This post might be a rude awakening for some parents and it’s not meant to be a slap in the face, but I think it’s important to share the truth about foods that are marketed towards babies and toddlers. Especially since eating a processed food diet is the #1 reason why kids don’t like vegetables.

When my daughter started eating solid food, I didn’t buy any jarred baby food. I never bought a single jar of pureed peas, pureed bananas – or any of those other jars of pureed baby food. I also didn’t blend up pureed fruits and veggies at home to make my own homemade “baby food”.

When I tell some people that, I can tell they are confused and wonder what in the world I fed my daughter when she first started on solids. 

There is an entire industry dedicated to selling jarred and pureed baby food and parents are led to believe that this is what you are supposed to buy for your baby (unless you make homemade pureed foods). Yet in my experience, babies can start with small soft finger foods and become eaters on their own.

Letting a baby feed themselves after the age of 6 months is called Baby-Led Weaning, and this has worked amazingly for Harley. 

Harley eating green beans for the first time

Jarred baby food is not the same as real food.

My Advisory Council member, Dr. Jonathan Aviv, studied the ingredients and composition of jarred baby food and discovered that even organic versions are surprisingly acidic compared to whole foods. For instance – a jar of banana baby food contains the additives “citric acid” and “ascorbic acid”, which can turn the entire jar of food acidic About 100 times more acidic than a regular banana! This increased acidity can have an effect on the digestion of food and give your baby acid reflux. 

Jarred banana baby food is not the same as a mashed banana.

Dr. Aviv says if you see the ingredients “citric acid” or “ascorbic acid” to be wary, as it can turn the entire contents of the food acidic.

The industry goes on to perpetuate the idea that babies “graduate” from purees onto finger foods with a whole new line of more processed foods for toddlers…

You’ve got Pasta Pick-ups, Lil’ Crunchies, Arrowroot Cookies, and Lil’ Meat Sticks. With these products, the industry is helping put young children on the processed food bandwagon so that it only seems natural to them to eat food from box, bag, or jar. This is the stage that my daughter is at now – and just like I never bought her jarred baby food – I don’t buy these products either. When she sees me or her Dada pick up anything processed, she’s curious and wants a bite too – this is more motivation not to eat processed foods in front of her and keep the junk out of our house.

The ingredient list on most store-bought toddler food is despicable. Especially Gerber Graduates line… 

I was pretty shocked looking at the number of ingredients on the back of this package of this Gerber toddler food…and even more shocked Gerber is allowed to produce food for small children with hidden MSG that stimulates your taste buds to the point of addiction – not to mention the mysterious “flavoring” which could mean anything and the carrageenan linked to digestive issues. Sheesh!

Instead of the additive monosodium glutamate (MSG), the food industry sneaks in other additives – such as “autolyzed yeast extract” and “torula yeast” which contain free glutamic acid – the main component of MSG that makes food addicting. This is a super shady trick by the food industry that allows them to use MSG right under our noses and get us hooked on processed food.

Gerber loves to get our kids hooked on MSG and added flavors from a young age… 

These Gerber Lil’ Crunchies are nothing more than Cheetos for babies. They seriously have almost identical ingredients to Cheetos. Instead of using monosodium glutamate in Cheetos, they sneakily use “Autolyzed Yeast Extract”. This is one of the most infuriating products out there. I’d take heed of that warning to “Keep Package Away From Children” a bit further and run… run far away from these products.

Gerber even adds MSG-like additives to their “seasoned” veggies… 

I’m not the only one appalled. A reader sent me this note about Gerber ‘Lil Sticks:

I found this while grocery shopping for my baby. This was in the baby aisle and can not possibly be healthy. I can’t wait to see what your investigations turn up with baby products… What is Gerber trying to feed our kids?”

Yep… just more MSG-like additives, flavors, and sugar added to conventional processed meat. Yikes. Gerber should be ashamed. 

It’s no wonder kids don’t like vegetables. Their taste buds are being hijacked at every meal! 

Babies and toddlers can be exposed to a wide variety of vegetables from a young age without having to resort to help from processed food. This isn’t just common sense, it’s backed by science too. Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine found that a big reason kids don’t seem to like green vegetables is because they are not nurtured to like the flavor and bitterness of them from a young age. While babies naturally love sweets, they need to be exposed to dark green vegetables on a regular basis to learn to love them. The researchers further found that a major contributor to the problem was all of these prepared baby foods out there that don’t prominently contain vegetables. Out of 548 foods they found only 52 of them were single-vegetable products and NONE of them were dark green vegetables.

It’s best to start introducing vegetables right when they begin eating solids, as babies between 4-7 months are the most receptive to new tastes. When very young children eat processed baby and toddler foods they are reinforcing a love for sweet and heavily processed foods instead of for the healthiest foods on our planet… vegetables. And, I can speak from some experience. I’ve been giving Harley vegetables at nearly every meal since the beginning and she already really loves just about every single one… she even picks the kale out of her pasta and eats it before anything else.

Are Squeezy packs healthy?

A lot of parents love squeezy packs, and I can see why. They are super convenient to travel with, don’t require a spoon, kids love them, have simple ingredient lists, and are easy to find organic. That being said, I don’t buy them for Harley. 

From a very young age, children develop habits and start to form opinions about food. Think about this… squeezing pureed pear into your mouth from a sanitary pouch with a spout is nothing like picking up pieces of fresh pear and putting them in your mouth. When you eat real pears, you can see it. You can feel the juicy texture in your fingers and smell it. This helps you to learn more about what you are eating and learn to love real food (versus food that comes in a shiny package with a cartoon character on it). When they see pears in the grocery store, they will start to associate them with the real pears they have been eating at home. If they’ve been sucking pears through a pouch, it’s unlikely they’ll make that connection. Offering real whole foods (whenever possible) is how you help foster healthy eating habits for life.

There are more reasons to stop buying squeezy pouches…

  • These products typically contain less fiber and more sugar than whole foods meaning they have an increased ability to spike blood sugar in the body.
  • Some pouches have added sugar in the form of “fruit juice concentrate”, making the fruit in the pouch sweeter than the real thing.
  • They could be highly acidic, just like jarred baby foods when they have citric acid and ascorbic acid added to them.
  • If they are preserved with lemon juice or citric acid, this could be harmful to teeth when sucked from a pouch and allowed to sit on the teeth for an extended period.
  • Toddlers are developing their fine motor skills, including how to hold food, bring it to their mouths and chew it. These pouches totally bypass the chewing process.

Quite simply, even if the ingredients are simple, these are not the same as eating real food and not something I would rely on a regular basis.

And, then there’s all that added refined sugar in toddler snacks…

What is “added refined sugar”? This is processed sugar that is added to a product that isn’t part of a whole food (So, it wouldn’t include the sugar naturally found in a whole banana, for instance). Here are some common examples of added refined sugar you may see on an ingredient list:

  • Sugar
  • Cane Sugar
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Corn Syrup
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Invert Sugar
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate

You may have heard the guidelines that say that adults are supposed to eat fewer than 25 grams of added sugar per day for good health. Well, it’s even more strict for young children. In fact, it’s recommended that toddlers under the age of two not eat ANY added sugar per day, and that the only “sugar” in their diet should include those naturally found in whole foods. 

Yet, the processed food industry doesn’t care – they still add refined sugar to virtually everything. Almost all of the store-bought toddler snacks out there have added refined sugar… even organic ones! 

What’s a parent to do? Thankfully, there are healthier store-bought baby and toddler foods to choose from…

Of course I always preach the gospel of eating mostly homemade, whole foods – and it’s no different when feeding my baby or toddler. But, ever since Harley was born I’ve been getting lots of baby food questions from other new parents out there looking for healthy store-bought options:

“Hi Vani, My name is Tania and I am a first time mom of a beautiful 14 month old girl. Until now she has been enjoying her breast milk and solid foods 3x a day, but as she is getting older and we spend more time outdoors and with other kids, she has gotten really interested on snacking 😕 as she sees all the other kids with Cheerios and cookies… I honestly want to stay away from giving her snacks, but at the same time I want to be able to have options. It is beyond sad to see organic and non-gmo kids food brands to have “natural flavors” to their puffs, bars, etc. Therefore, I wanted to ask you (as a first time mom yourself to such a beautiful baby girl) if you have any recipes for such things or if you have discovered any store brands that you would feel comfortable giving to your daughter! Also, do you use any Food storage containers to keep her baby food warm other than what you shared on a recent post you had? Your help, as always, is greatly appreciated.” ~ Tania

“I was wondering if you had any information about food choices in general for toddler diets (brand to avoid and which ones you recommend)… Any and all info on what to feed our kids would be awesome. Reality is we can’t always travel and be on the go with fresh foods and time is truly a barrier to making my own food for my child. Thank you for everything you do!” ~ Amanda

Thankfully, there are some packaged options that are a better choice and are more convenient than making everything from scratch yourself. And, there are some processed foods that I buy for Harley on occasion. Here are some good options I like:

What do you do when your daycare ONLY allows packaged food (not homemade)?

“My daughter will be going to daycare come September and the daycare she will be attending provides the AM/PM snack. This would be great, however the snacks they provide include cheerios, goldfish, nilla wafers, pretzels, etc. I do not want my daughter eating processed snacks on a daily basis, and I am hoping I can send in my own snacks. However, I don’t want her to feel like she will be missing out. I was hoping you could recommend some alternatives to the snacks listed above that would be better for her but appear similar so she wouldn’t know the difference (she is only 15 months)? Thanks in advance.” ~ Alicia

Whole real fruit should always be an option at day cares and if it’s not, I would lobby the management to start allowing it. But, if you’ve got no other option than packaged food, give these a try (but don’t rely on them on a regular basis when at home and have the choice):

I shared a recipe for healthy Mini Muffins with vegetables that Harley absolutely LOVES. They are so quick to make and stash in the freezer for snacks… it’s almost as easy as processed food! Get the recipe for Harley’s Mini Muffins here. 

I hope this helps you find better choices to feed your little ones healthy foods, which will set them up for a lifetime of loving real whole food (instead of heavily processed products in a can, bag, or box). If you know anyone who has a baby, toddler, or is expecting… please share this post with them. Next up – I’ll share what Harley eats in a day, so stay tuned and be sure to subscribe to my FREE newsletter below.




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A Sardine-Packed Trip To NYC

You may have caught on Instagram that I took a quick trip to NYC on Monday and Tuesday! On Monday night and Tuesday I attended a Culinary Workshop with the Cans Get You Cooking program put on by the Can Manufacturers Institute. I took a super early flight on Monday so I could spend the day with my little niece Emerson!

I was up at 4 am for the flight and got to NYC in time for breakfast with my sister and Em. (PS. My doctor told me I could fly until 36 weeks, but this was my last trip!)

We walked to Stumptown Coffee where I got a delicious cappuccino. I had toast with almond butter at Larbs’s apartment.

We went for a long (hot) walk along the Brooklyn waterfront.

Our walk ended at a food hall in downtown Brooklyn where Larbs and I shared two delicious dishes: an arepa with avocado, plantains, and cheese that was SO GOOD!

And this tapas plate, which we barely touched because per usual we ordered too much food. (The lighting down in the underground was fantastic…not.)

I was saving room for some Ample Hills ice cream! The nice lady helping us convinced us to ry the 6-scoop sampler, which we thought would be 6 tiny scoops. It ended up being 6 LARGE scoops, and boy were we happy. This was the best ice cream I’ve ever had! Marshmallow rice krispie, two kinds of gooey cake, honey, and cookies and sweet cream. Epic flavors!

We walked back to the apartment only to find Emerson had lost a shoe and we had to double back, covering about 5 miles total over the course of the morning! I was exhausted after getting up so early and walking so much in the heat!

I was ready for a nap just like Emerson. Larbs got us an Ollie Swaddle, which she swears by, and Em was thrilled to show me how it worked. She didn’t want to be unwrapped!

She went down for her nap, and I took a Lyft to Manhattan for mine!

I had just enough time for a short nap and a great shower before heading out to dinner with the Cans group. We were all registered dietitians, so it was really fun to connect and chat all things nutrition and the media.

We hopped in cabs and went to Huertas in the East Village for dinner. They had a mocktail for me, which was much appreciated! This was made with peach juice (from a can!) and it was perfectly tart. I loved it!

The chef spoke to us about how canning has been used for many years in Spain to preserve and share the abundance of seafood they have there. Many of the tapas we shared were made with canned foods like clams, tuna, artichokes, beans, and even canned potatoes!

I loved the dessert – Granita de Cereza: cherry granita (featuring canned cherries) with yogurt mousse.

I was happy to be in bed by 8:30 and asleep shortly after. We had an early start the next day!

Our workshop started with breakfast at the office with yogurt parfaits, eggs, and fruit.

We spent the morning learning about the history, research, benefits, and trends of canned goods. Current staples in my house are canned fish (sardines, tuna, salmon), beans, pumpkin, coconut, tomato products, and artichokes. I learned I have more I should add! I hope to share more in depth with you later this year.

We were treated to a cooking demo from chef and cookbook author Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN. She made two fantastic dishes, including an awesome salad dressing made from canned apricots!

Our lunch spread included her dishes – a summery salad with goat cheese balls rolled in pistachios and canned artichokes – and a Caribbean Wok dish with beans and veggies. (This was my first time having canned sweet potato cubes – yum!) I also had the most delicious s’mores cookie!

After lunch we walked to the Institute of Culinary Education in the Meredith building where we participated in a canned food cooking challenge.

My group, including Katie and Lauren, was in charge of coming up with an entree recipe in one hour’s time using pre-selected ingredients.

We came up with a Lemon Parsley Pesto with Fettuccini, Lemon Zest, Chicken and Red Pepper. (The broth used in the pesto, chicken and olives were all from cans!)

Food photographer and owner of SeeFood Media Jamie Tiampo was there to give us photography tips and captured beautiful images of our recipes. We also learned a lot from professional food stylist Diane Vezza : )

This photo was actually taken with an iPhone in portrait mode – I need to upgrade my phone this fall just to get this feature!

Another team created this yummy shrimp gazpacho.

We wrapped up the day with some taste testing and were on our way back to the airport. I was very impressed with LaGuardia’s healthy food options – they had a whole salad bar/hot bar option! Much better than a soggy sandwich.

This was my last blog trip for who-knows-how-long. When Mazen was a baby, I didn’t travel without him until weaning at 14 months, so I’m not sure what the next year will bring. I am thankful I got in one last hurrah!

Disclosure: my travel and hotel were provided by the Can Manufacturers Institute. 

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