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Apologies - you can now view and download documents from the previous post, "Good For ME! Help Children Learn Healthy Eating - They're Worth It!"
To download documents, click on the highlighted .pdf file below each image.
Thanks! Hope they're helpful.
Healthy eating should be a way of living that will promote health, growth and well-being. As adults, many of us have turned to healthy eating to cure our ills, whether that's extra weight or lack of fitness - and it's great that we have. But we can't wait until our children are adults to have them learn about nutrition and fitness; we need to instill values and practices now that they can apply in their own lives. We can't push that responsibility onto them, and we shouldn't assume they'll pick it up in school or through government initiatives. Children can learn about healthy eating through school and campaigns, but we need to help them put it into practice in our homes and families.
Safefood in Ireland launches a campaign to fight childhood obesity today. Here are the facts: 1 in 4 children is overweight or obese. Obese children are likely to become obese adults. Many parents don't recognize when their child is overweight. 4 out of 5 children aren't getting enough physical activity. Safefood is also highlighting some of the short term effects: problems with bone health, breathing difficulties and psychological/social effects. And long term effects: cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The statistics are grim, but statistics don't show us how to change our habits. Safefood is attempting to highlight the problem, but we need to create solutions.
Having spoken to children about healthy eating in classroom and group settings, there are a few ideas I want to share. We tell kids they'll get vitamins and minerals from food, but we don't tell them what that means. They learn the words but not the value or the practice. We tell them sugar is bad but we don't make it relatable. They're not understanding what has sugar, how much it has and how much is too much. We tell them to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, but we might not be giving them 5 portions per day!
I developed a few tools I think can help - please, download them and use them in your home or classroom.
To help children understand vitamins and minerals - what they are, what they do, how much we need, and what foods they're in - I've written 2 sheets that clearly explain what vitamins and minerals are and in what fruits and vegetables we find them.
To put into practice the healthy habit of eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, I created 2 printables. The first is a teddy bear dot-to-dot. It has 33 dots to connect plus 2 eyes. Kids color in a dot each time they eat a fruit or vegetable - if they color all 35 they'll have eaten 5 portions for the 7 days that week. The second is a Good For Me Sunflower. Again, they can color in a section each time they have a fruit or vegetable - there are 35 all together - 5 a day for 7 days. These not only help the kids see how many portions they're eating, it encourages us as parents and caregivers to actually serve or provide enough! Encourage kids to use the color of the fruit or vegetable they've eaten when coloring in - this way they can see how much (or how little) variety they're consuming.
Those are positive messages for kids. Don't be afraid to share some of the alarming truths so they can understand the importance of healthy eating and why we need to be concerned about it. Here's what I tell kids:
Nutrition means getting the food we need for health and growth. Why do you need to aware of it? Diet related illnesses for people my age have reached "epidemic" proportions. We're not doing a great
job for ourselves. And we're feeding you guys almost twice as much sugar as we had when we were kids. You can blame us when you're older and not feeling great, but that won't make you better. You need to learn why it's important to look after yourself.
Let's talk about what you don't want: sugar. I know you think you want it! And sugar is what our body burns for fuel - but we can get the sugar we need from natural food sources - when we have too much sugar, our body turns it into fat and stores it. Consuming too much sugar increases our risk for heart disease - even for young people! If we become obese, we increase our risk for a variety of cancers, diabetes, weak bones, breathing problems and more. Obesity is an epidemic in Ireland and globally. (Epidemic means it's a problem for a great number of people.) The World Health Organization says that body weight is now the most common childhood disease. In Ireland, more adults are facing obesity than smoke - and we know how bad smoking is. So, this is serious! And we need to change what we're eating and we can't wait.
One way to lower the amount of sugar you have is to cut out - or at least limit - sugary drinks. The World Health Organization recommends that you have no more than 45 grams of added sugar per day. Did you know that 1 can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar? A bottle of Lucozade has 64 grams! Even 1 cup of unsweetened apple juice has 24 grams of sugar. Make sure you're thinking of sugary drinks as treats - they're not what you should be drinking when you're thirsty. Water is really the best for that. And while we're on the subject of treats, let's remember the definition of that word: "an event or item that is out of the ordinary..." That means it's not something you have every day! Enjoy your treats, but keep them for special occasions.
Let's talk about what you do want: Eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables every day - and eat a variety of them so you get lots of different vitamins and minerals. Eat protein, which helps to build and care for all of the material your body is made of: muscles, blood, organs, every cell. Protein also helps move those vitamins and minerals around your body so they can get to where they need to go. You get protein by eating meat, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. Eat grains, they give your body vitamins and minerals, too. They're also important for your digestive system (the way your body absorbs nutrition and moves it around your body). Some examples of grains are oats, rice, whole wheat flour, bread, pasta.
Eat/Drink dairy to help you develop strong bones and teeth. You can get dairy from milk, yogurt, cheese. And you also want to be active - that's the easy part: play, run, walk - get moving.
I hope this helps you to help the children in your life! They're worth it.
Don't judge a gourd by its hard exterior, nor a root by its, well, root. In season now, beets and spaghetti squash don't come in pretty packages, but when you see them in your local market, don't pass them over. Both deliver nutritionally and add interesting flavour and texture to your fare. This week, they feature in two of my favourite fall lunches. Both are easy to prepare at home with the tiniest bit of pre-meal planning. If you have half an hour before you'll be eating, the rest is simple.
A Salad to Start:
Baby Leaf Salad with Roasted Beets,
Goat Cheese & Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
I love roasted beets & goat cheese in a salad - knowing how uncomplicated it is to prepare, it kind of kills me to pay for it in a restaurant. The sweetness of the beets and creaminess of the goat cheese comes through in every bite and is a great balance to the peppery rocket (arugula) and the nutty pumpkin seeds. Not only are the flavours delicious, the ingredients are nutritious.
Beets: The American Heart Association published a study in April of this year which found patients with high blood pressure who drank a cup of beetroot juice per day lowered their blood pressure (by 10mm Hg). The theory is that beetroot's high nitrate content helps to improve blood flow and relax blood vessel walls. The premise of increased blood flow has scientists researching improved mental performance and improved athletic performance. A current trend in endurance sports has athletes downing pre-race beet juice - so if you need to up your stamina, add some beets to your day. In addition, beets have high levels of folate and betaine - which together help lower homocysteine levels in the blood (high levels are associated with cardiovascular disease.)
Goat Cheese: First of all, when you add this to your salad, crumble well and a little goes a long way. Also, when comparing to a cow's cheese, goat's has 20% fewer calories and just over half the fat.
Pumpkin Seeds: You'll find these on many a "Best Foods" list. They are touted as associated with a lower risk of early death - always a good thing - because of their high magnesium content. They're also high in other minerals such as zinc and iron.
Most importantly, this salad tastes great - I've been known to eat a family-sized portion on my own.
Baby leaf salad (should contain rocket/arugula)
Pumpkin Seeds, toasted
Freshly Ground Pepper
First, roast the beets. If they're small, you can leave whole, otherwise quarter them. Rub with a small bit of olive oil (you don't have to - it just keeps the exterior more supple) and place in tin foil. Wrap into a package (allow room for air to circulate within) and put into oven at 200ºC for approximately 30 minutes (shorter for smaller, longer for larger). Test to see if ready by inserting a fork into the largest beet section, if it goes in easily, they're done. Unwrap and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, carefully cut off hard skin and slice into chunks. Use what you need for your salad and save the rest in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Toast the pumpkin seeds: simply toss into a hot pan for a few minutes stirring occasionally, until the skins begin to crack and they brown just slightly. You'll hear them pop a bit.
Prep your other ingredients and the rest is just assembling: put salad leaves into bowl, add diced red pepper, onion slices, crumbled goat cheese and add roasted beets. I'm not giving you exact amounts - you'll have to judge by how many you're feeding and how much they'll eat (if you're hosting me... lots!)
Add dressing: a swish of olive oil and a sprinkling of balsamic - I don't pre-mix, just toss in the bowl. Because the goat cheese is creamy, you shouldn't need much olive oil. When I use the highly technical term, "swish," I mean a light 1, 2, 3 zig zag pour. Does that make sense?
Toss and top with the warm toasted pumpkin seeds.
Spaghetti Squash "Pasta"
If you're looking to lower your carbohydrate intake, you could try spaghetti squash. When roasted, the insides really do strip out in pasta-like strands and it's a non-starchy vegetable. A 1/2 cup of cooked spaghetti squash gives you 5 grams of carbs, whereas spaghetti pasta has 20 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup cooked.
It's also low calorie, low sodium and virtually fat free but packed with fibre and a good variety of vitamins and minerals.
1/2 of a spaghetti squash, roasted
1 red bell pepper, roasted and diced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
handful of basil, torn
feta cheese, approximately 30 grams, crumbled
1/2 a plum tomato, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
Use a large and very sharp knife to cut the squash in half vertically. (You can place the 2nd half open side down on a plate and keep in fridge a day or two until ready to use.) Place open side down on a lightly oiled baking tray. Bake in oven at 190ºC (170ºC fan oven/375ºF) for about 30 minutes. Test if ready by inserting a sharp knife though hard outer skin - if it goes in easily, it's ready. Remove from oven, allow to cool until you're able to handle.
Use a large spoon to scrape the flesh and put into serving bowl. Use a downward motion from top toward bottom; it will come out in spaghetti-like strands.
While squash is baking, roast your red pepper, too (See here for how-to) and dice. Add to squash (if any oil comes out of the peppers, add that, as well.)
Sauté onion slices and minced garlic in the tablespoon olive oil for a few minutes until onion begins to soften. Add to squash and mix through.
Add diced tomato and torn basil. Add black pepper and salt and toss all ingredients. Crumble feta cheese over and stir through.
There's a natural buttery texture to the roasted squash, so this dish has a creaminess without adding much oil or cheese. After the 30 minute roasting time, it comes together very quickly.
There's a lot of trial and error in my efforts to make recipes more worthy. Just this morning, I attempted sweet potato cookies - the flavor was close-ish, the texture was not. In fact, my husband nervously asked through a mouthful, "um, are these meant to be dog biscuits?" I am not daunted though, I'll keep trying and I'll let you know when I get there. In the meantime, I had some extra mashed sweet potatoes to use up. Hence, today's success. A really tasty sweet potato & cannellini bean dip. Plus, to deliver it to our mouths...
I finally made a healthier version of breadsticks that turned out crispy and tasty. Much happier response from husband - and kids, too! They were devoured within an hour. I've had quite a few attempts at a healthier breadstick - cutting the olive oil and upping the whole wheat flour kept giving me tasty but not crispy results. This time, the combination is right and they were exactly as I'd hoped. So, finally, success!
(As John Hodgman would say, you're welcome.)
CRISPY GARLIC & HERB BREADSTICKS
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 7gram package dried yeast (just under 1 tablespoon)
1 1/2 cups wholewheat flour
1 1/2 cups strong white flour
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil (+a little to grease bowl and baking trays)
In a small bowl, whisk water, sugar and yeast together. Let sit for few minutes to proof - should be bubbly and frothy when ready.
In the meantime, combine flours, oregano, basil, garlic powder and sea salt in a medium or large mixing bowl. Whisk or mix to distribute ingredients.
Add olive oil and mix well with spoon - try to incorporate olive oil throughout.
Add water/yeast mix and mix well with spoon - should come together into a slightly sticky ball of dough.
Sprinkle some flour (I used the white) onto your work surface and turn dough onto it. Knead for 5 minutes, adding small sprinklings of flour, either to your hands to onto dough, to keep it from becoming too sticky.
Lightly coat a bowl (can wipe and reuse the mixing bowl) with some olive oil. Place ball of dough in, cover with plastic wrap and put someplace somewhat warm and allow to rest for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 190ºC (170ºC fan oven/375ºF) and lightly oil 3 baking trays.
Punch down dough and turn onto floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to lightly roll dough into a rectangular shape about 1-2 centimeters thick. Use a large, sharp knife to cut into strips.
Use your hands to roll each strip into long thin sticks - you'll have to cut into sections to fit onto baking tray.
Roll the breadstick on baking tray to very lightly coat with the olive oil from tray.
Bake for 20 minutes total, flip over once after 10-15 minutes of baking time.
Remove to cooking rack.
Or dip first...
SWEET POTATO & CANNELLINI BEAN DIP
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 pinches sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
Peel and chop sweet potato - boil until soft and mash. Use a food processor or hand blender to purée well.
Finely chop rosemary.
Drain and rinse beans and put into a mixing bowl. Add sweet potato, olive oil, water, sea salt, cayenne pepper and rosemary. Mix well and again, use a food processor or hand blender to purée.
Don't forget - this dip delivers goodness along with taste!
Sweet potatoes = low fat/calorie and great Vitamin A and fibre content plus potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin C and protein.
And cannellini beans = lots of protein (most of plant based foods), loads of fibre, and packed with minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese, potassium. Also has a great supply of folate.
I often pick up vegetables at the market because they appeal to me, even if I don't have a plan for them yet. It helps me to be more adventurous in my cooking. Butternut squash is in season and often on my counter these days. I love to use it in soup, but wanted something different, so, looking in the cupboards, I found a few staples and with 7 simple ingredients and half an hour, pulled together a delicious curry. I've been eating it for lunch, dinner and even as a snack. There are no undesirables in this - it's all good.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH & LENTIL CURRY
1 small onion, chopped
2 small or 1 large garlic clove, chopped fine
1 1/2 cup red lentils
4 cups water
4 teaspoons curry powder (I used medium)
4 cups chopped butternut squash
1/2 green chili (or red) finely chopped - can use more if you prefer more spice
(can serve with coriander leaves and a dollop of yogurt)
This is so easy! Peel and chop butternut squash, set aside. Chop onion and garlic and quickly sauté (can use a little olive oil if you choose) in a large pot. Rinse the lentils with water and then add to pot. Stir. Add water and squash. Add curry powder. Stir. Add diced chili. Bring to the boil, turn down and allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Check that the squash has softened and the mixture has thickened as the lentils cooked. Done. I like mine with some torn coriander leaves and a dollop of natural yogurt.
Some info to enjoy along with this dish: butternut squash is low fat and low calorie, high in fibre, has lots of potassium (helps lower blood pressure and benefits bone health), Vitamin A (from beta-carotene, helps vision, immune system and cell growth), Vitamin C (an antioxidant, also used for tissue growth and repair), Vitamin B6 (helps body make antibodies, maintain nervous system, make hemoglobin and maintain blood sugar), and Magnesium (aids in the absorption of calcium, benefiting bone health + its vital to over 300 biochemical reactions in the body). Its bright orange color also signifies a high carotenoid content (protect against heart disease, certain cancers and macular degeneration). It's important to note - supplements are not a replacement for vitamins and minerals received through food. While they may be of some benefit to those unable to access healthy food, many recent studies are finding that over-supplementation is actually damaging to overall health.
And let's not forget the goodness of lentils! A long lasting staple to keep in your cupboard. They are also low in fat and calories and high in fibre, iron, folate and protein.
I received 2 things from my sister this week. A box full of candy corn and an e-mail alerting me to National Kale Day. I knew I loved the candy, but wasn't sure how I felt about a day devoted to kale. How silly is it, how OTT, that someone has created this media event celebrating kale? Certainly no sillier than National Doughnut Day (Nov. 5), National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day (April 12), or here in Ireland we have Arthur's Day on September 26th promoting Guinness - as if it needs it. (Full disclosure - I ate a fistful of candy corn while checking out this latest national day.) Maybe those behind National Kale Day are on to something... While I have no beef with doughnuts, grilled cheese or Guinness, I think kale is a little more in need of advocacy than products that are already fairly well embraced! So, I downloaded my Kale Hero Toolkit - truth - and had a look at why we might need to celebrate kale.
1 cup of raw kale has 206% of the RDA* of Vitamin A, 134% of Vitamin C, 684% Vitamin K, 121 mgs Omega-3s and 5 grams of fibre (we need between 25 and 40 grams per day). It also has much needed calcium and iron (especially important for women - and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that the calcium in kale is more easily absorbed than from other sources such as milk and spinach.) It's packed with goodness, but is low calorie and virtually fat free. It's good for our bones, our hearts, our eyes, our blood, our digestive systems, and our brains.
Marketers may say "Guinness is Good For You," but scientists, doctors and nutritionists are shouting, "Kale is Amazing For You."
What to do with it? In a previous post, Kale Konfession, I wrote about my adventures in trying to learn how to prepare and enjoy kale and the happy outcomes. Now I need to expand my repertoire, because when you buy kale, you generally get a huge amount of it - we need variety. This time, I made a kale salad and a warm side dish.
KALE & PEAR SALAD
8 stems of Kale (approximately)
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
Dressing: (may not need all)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 orange
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Wash kale thoroughly. Remove the hard stem from the leaves and roughly chop leaves into smaller pieces.
Chop pear into bite size pieces (no need to peel). Toast walnuts (just toss on to a hot pan for 3-4 minutes, shaking a few times so they don't burn).
Combine in a large bowl, mix dressing through and top with grated parmesan. Lovely, fresh, earthy yet sweet.
PEANUT SPICED SAUTÉD KALE (serves 1 or 2)
5 stems kale, washed and chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup water
3/4 tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Add olive oil and kale to a hot pan and sauté.
In a small bowl, whisk together water, peanut butter and soy sauce.
Pour contents into pan with kale and simmer, stirring throughout.
When kale has wilted (4-5 minutes, tops) remove from heat.
Sprinkle rice wine vinegar and red pepper flakes over.
Toss and serve warm.
I feel like a Kale Hero!! You can, too. (I enjoyed the candy corn as well - but that doesn't need anymore heroes. Anyway, we can celebrate it Oct. 30th, on, you guessed it, National Candy Corn Day.)
*RDA = recommended daily allowance