Developing your child’s palate: 7 do’s and don’ts

When it is time for your child to start trying new foods you may be wondering what happens beyond air puffed snacks and rice cereal. You’ll Google, you’ll read, and you’ll likely get a ton of unsolicited advice from people about what your child should be eating and how much. It’s important to recognize that all children are unique and what works for one child may certainly not work for another. That being said I’ve developed some helpful “do’s and don’ts” that I believe can help children explore food in a way that’s healthy, exciting, and what it should be—an experience. IMG_8548

Recommended Do’s & Don’ts:
  1. Do test for allergy or intolerance. Keep a journal in your kitchen when your baby first starts trying solids. Write down the date that they try a new food and do that for roughly 3-4 days. Offer a little each day into your child’s mouth, even if they don’t scarf it down. Allow for them to get that exposure and then watch for any signs of allergy or intolerance such as rash or upset stomach. It’s important to speak with your pediatrician about when to introduce common allergy foods such as eggs and peanuts as some foods may cause serious reactions. Also important, no honey for babies before age 1.DSC04357
  2. Don’t assume your child won’t like something. I think this is the biggest mistake we can make as parents. Just because YOU don’t like something doesn’t mean your child won’t like it. Allow them to figure that out for themselves. For example, a super nutritious food like broccoli may not be your thing but your kid may enjoy it! Don’t turn them off to something just because it’s not your favorite.
  3. Do say “Ok” when your child wants to try something new. I’ve gotten plenty of funny looks when my son eats seaweed paper or pickled ginger. The thing is, he wanted to try it and I said “ok”. The truth is, why not? We must allow children to explore taste and flavor just as they do through play. It is part of the human experience!
  4. Do offer things multiple times in different varieties. All too often parents assume that after one failed attempt it’s over for that new food. A wrinkled face and spitting out food followed by a “yuck” shouldn’t mean that that food is out forever; try cooking the food a different way and offering it again a few days later.
  5. Don’t OVER glorify goodies and treats. We’ve made such a big deal about cake and ice cream that it’s become this magical meal in the eyes of many children. Of course, you would be hard pressed to find a human being on this planet who doesn’t love a decadent desert but it’s important to set healthy habits regarding dessert when children are young. If we treat these things as the ultimate reward then they may start think they “need” this food as part of their normal diet. With childhood obesity rates on the rise, this is something absolutely within our control. It’s our job as parents to teach our children about how we can enjoy treats from time to time and that a healthy diet involves balance and awareness of the power of food (both good and bad). Even better, we are fortunate that there are company’s creating healthier snacks and cookies that parents can feel good about. IMG_5625
  6. Do talk about healthy foods from the start. This is a fun one! Talk about the amazing properties of food with your kiddos. This can be a great way for you to enhance your own knowledge of the nutritious benefits of different foods and their incredible properties. I’m not saying you need to get super scientific here but simply share the information with your toddlers. It will stick and it’s never too early to help them appreciate the healing powers of nutritious cuisine.
  7. Lastly, Do get creative. From teething to tummy aches, there will be some times where your munchkin is just not in the mood and peanut butter crackers are all that he or she may want. Recognize that as frustrating as this is, it likely a temporary phase and you’ll have to work around it. A great way to do this is to use other foods as a vehicle for superfoods. For example, you can get a lot of fruits and veggies into a power packed smoothie or oatmeal bowl. Chat with other moms for support, they’ll be your best bet for finding great tips for sneaking in broccoli and kale when the little one is suddenly boycotting dinner!IMG_7686

Chocolate Protein Poppers

If you haven’t jumped on the protein ball bandwagon, please join me! PS- These plant-based poppers are gluten-free.

proteinpoppers1For years, I’ve loved the concept of raw and healthy snacks that you can easily whip up at home. From time to time I’ll throw together a mixture or try some of the other amazing recipes out in the google-sphere.

Today, was one of those days where I just felt like a cookie. You know what I mean?

For most of us, it’s typical around the post-lunch lull to want something like this. I often sip a hot green tea and nibble on some of my favorite Alter Eco Blackout chocolate. Today I recalled a great post on aloha.com that was recently shared on their website. That got me thinking I ought to whip up some protein balls to cure my cookie craving. I’ve been loving the chocolate Aloha plant-based protein powder in my smoothies and so it was destined to appear in this afternoon’s creation (I get a protein supply mailed to me directly from the company that comes in handy single-serve packets which means I’ve always got it on hand). alohaprotein

Here’s how you can throw together these scrumptious chocolate protein poppers!

Mix the following dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl:

Then mix in:

  • 1/3 cup of 100% pure organic maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup Justin’s almond butter (I used maple almond which I keep refridgerated)
  • and throw in a handful of dark chocolate chips!

Stir well, but let’s be honest…I got right in there! I worked the mixture with clean hands into a well-mixed dough and got to rollin’.  I rolled roughly 10-12 balls and put them on a plate in a fridge for 20 min.proteinpoppers2

20 minutes later… Cookie fix taken care of! Even my little guy liked them! romeoproteinballYou can try this for yourself or get creative and see what you can come up with. Have a little fun and share your creation with me on Instagram by taking a photo and tagging @mindbodybespoke!

Farmers Market Lovin’

Are you missing out on the glory that is The FARMERS MARKET?!

I was spoiled rotten while living in Ithaca, NY where the farmers market is totally UNREAL. Luckily, in my new spot of Bronxville I’ve been able to hit up the farmers market on a few Saturdays and have been pleasantly surprised to find some great people, produce, and postivitiy! Yeah baby!

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If I sound overly enthused about this it’s because I am. The farmers market is a wonderful place and it’s more than what we often think. While I absolutely love to pick up fresh berries and dark leafy greens, it’s also a fantastic place to find unique items and gifts. During my last two trips I picked up awesome homemade spicy tomato chutney by Bombay Emerald Chutney Company, raw coconut graham crackers by Healing Home Foods, and an incredible spicy habanero ketchup by NY Chup. I’m dying to get back for some of the homemade kombucha that caught my eye as I was leaving.

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RomeopopsicleIt is a great place to take the kiddos because there are samples galore! Here’s my son enjoying a dairy-free avocado lime popsicle. It got ALL OVER HIM and the stroller but he was so happy I just let it go. The sun was shining and he was enjoying a health conscious treat so I was a happy mama bear.

Have you tried your local farmers market? Hit up a google search and find the closest one near you. Check out my youtube video below where I chat more about this awesome way to spend a weekend day.

 

Gardening with the Tower Garden

The Preggers Pantry Fit Mama, Carly Zuffinetti, discusses the benefits of the Tower Garden

CarlyandRioI was so honored when Frances asked me to do a guest piece for her amazing blog! She and I have such similar ideas and desires when it comes to living the healthiest and happiest life possible. I have an Instagram blog that is all about having a healthy pregnancy and raising a healthy baby. It is ever evolving and I have met some amazing people through social media. I love that you can find like minded individuals at your fingertips! We can all learn so much from one another, which is one of the reasons I decided to start my blog.

I taught special education for 12 years and I knew when I had my baby that I wanted to take some time off of my career to focus on my son. I’ve always been interested in health, wellness and nutrition and thought this would be a great time in my life to learn more about how to do the best things possible for the growing baby inside of me. There is so much information out there about what to eat, vitamins to take, how to exercise, what type of birth you want, etc. Research can be very overwhelming for a pregnant mama! I decided to find the things I love the most and share them with my followers. Thus, The Preggers Pantry was born!

CarlyTowerGardenOne of the things I really wanted to do when I found out I was pregnant was start an organic garden. I had no idea how I would have time for this though, as my husband and I travel quite often. So I continued to talk about this garden I dreamed about week after week, every time I bought vegetables or went to a farmers market. Then on my birthday in April my husband surprised me with a Tower Garden! This has been the best investment my family has made since having our baby. The Tower Garden is a vertical garden that uses a process called aeroponics to grow plants in an air/mist environment without the use of soil. I watched the video and checked out the website and immediately started putting my garden together. I ordered seedlings right away from Montecito Farms and went to a Tower Garden training at Socal Urban Farms in San Diego to learn everything I needed to know. It’s been about 2 months since I planted my seedlings and my garden is growing like crazy! I have been harvesting herbs, lettuces, and greens everyday for cooking and my daily green smoothies. I also chop spinach and put it in my baby’s avocado every morning. I decided to do mostly herbs, greens and lettuces in my garden because that’s what I use the most. I planted basil, cilantro, parsley, oregano, thyme, romaine, butter lettuce, red lettuce, arugula, 2 types of kale, spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, cherry and heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, and squash. A few of my tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini just popped up and I’m so excited!

Check out @thepreggerspantry on Instagram for my green smoothie and salad recipes and for other healthy pregger, mama, and baby ideas! I would also love to hear about any recipes or products you used and loved during pregnancy, too! If you would like more information on how to get your own Tower Garden, email me at thepreggerspantry@gmail.com

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What is Gut Health?

The Gut Microbiome by Alexandra Weinstein, RD CDN

Gut health has been a hot topic lately. The buzz-worthy word “gut” refers to the alimentary canal, including the intestine and stomach: essentially the entire Gastrointestinal Tract or digestive tract. New research has revealed that the bacterial content (or “microbiome”) of your gut may impact overall health, particularly the risk of certain chronic diseases. The human gut contains a vast number of microorganisms known collectively as the “gut microbiota.” Factors including age, genetics, environment and diet may influence the makeup of this microbiota. Each of us has a unique combination of healthy microflora (bacteria) living in our digestive tracts. Our unique microflora is affected by certain factors such as how we were born (vaginal delivery vs. caesarian section), whether or not we were breastfed, what antibiotics we may or may not have been exposed to in childhood, illness, diet, and other environmental factors. The microbiome becomes more stable with age, meaning less subject to change. The microbiome community carries out a range of useful functions for the host, including digesting foods we cannot easily digest including some fibers, stimulating the immune system, and blocking the growth of harmful microorganisms. Though the research is quite young and there is little to put into practice at this time, the goal is that treatment for some diseases can be tailored to each person based on their unique microbiome.

[ File # csp11929586, License # 2246430 ] Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php) (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / doctor

The exact content, meaning types of bacteria, in our microbiome and how that affects our risk of chronic disease has been the subject of recent research. Researchers have been looking into the gut microbiome for how it relates to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Disease, obesity, insulin resistance, Type 2 Diabetes, and other chronic health conditions. For example, researchers have found a reduction in diversity of the microbiome which is associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Regarding obesity, recent research in mice has highlighted an increased ratio of a class of microbes called Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes in obese mice relative to their lean counterparts. (SOURCE: The gut microbiota and its relationship to diet and obesity: New insights. Siobhan F. Clarke, Eileen F. Murphy, Kanishka Nilaweera, Paul R. Ross, Fergus Shanahan, Paul W. O’Toole, and Paul D. Cotter. Gut Microbes. 2012 May 1; 3(3) 186-202.) Researchers have shown that long-term dietary patterns affect the ratios of Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Firmicutes, and that short-term changes may not have major influences. In addition, researchers have studied the impact of a strict vegan or vegetarian diet on the microbiota, and found a significant reduction in Bacteroides spp., Bifidobacterium spp., and the Enterobacteriaceae, while total bacterial load remain unaltered (SOURCE: The Microbiome in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Current Status and the Future Ahead. Aleksandar D. Kostic,1 Ramnik J. Xavier,1,2 and Dirk Gevers. Gastroenterology. 2014 May; 146(6): 1489-1499.). The implications of these changes in microflora have yet to be fully discovered, but stay tuned!

What can we do to improve our gut health? Foods that support gut health include fermented foods (lactic acid bacteria have acted on the food pre consumption to break down the sugars into lactic acid, making the food easier to digest) such as sauerkraut, pickles, olives, tempeh, Kimchi, Kefir, yogurt, miso, cultured non-dairy alternatives such as some soy, almond, or coconut milk-based yogurt products, soy sauce. These foods contain probiotics, or live bacteria, that can potentially improve our population of these healthy microflora. Probiotics are live microbial organisms present in food or supplement form. On the flip side, it would be advisable to avoid animal products treated with antibiotics, as these might destroy healthy gut flora.

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In addition to eating foods that contain probiotics, they are also available in supplemental form. With the supplement market so flooded, how do we choose a probiotic? Look for an expiration date- this will help guarantee that the pill does actually contain live cultures, because a probiotic is no good if the bacteria are not live. Probiotics are filled with living microorganisms that if not properly made, shipped or stored, may not actually contain what they were manufactured with. Look for a probiotic with multiple different strains of bacteria. Look for at least 1 billion or more live organisms. Consumerlabs.com is a great resource for information on whether products actually contain what they say they contain, and what contaminants might be present. Store probiotics in a cool, dry place out of sunlight. Some probiotics require refrigeration. Generally, studies have indicated that probiotics are safe, however caution should be taken in a person who is very young, very old, or immunocompromised, and particularly in the critically ill population.

A prebiotic is “a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well being and health”. (SOURCE: Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics. Michael de Vrese, J. Schrezenmeir. Food Biotechnology. Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology Volume 111, 2008, pp 1-6607 May 2008). They are nondigestible or partially digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. Food sources of prebiotics include inulin and chicory root (nondigestible fructo- oligosaccharides), which can be added to foods to increase fiber content, or can be found in Jerusalem artichoke, onions, asparagus, leeks, dandelion root, burdock, and artichoke. Of note, prebiotic foods may be poorly tolerated in those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome due to their propensity to be fermented by gut microflora and produce gas.

To close, the subject of the gut microbiome is fascinating, and we have just broken the surface in the world of research on this subject. The best advice for now would be to consume both pre-and probiotic foods as tolerated, as part of a healthy, “clean” diet, and to avoid pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in food as possible. I look forward to learning more about what our unique microbiome means!

AlexGuestBloggerAlexandra Weinstein, RD CDN, is a Manhattan based Registered Dietitian. Alex graduated from New York University and went on to complete her Dietetic Internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Alexandra has worked for New York City teaching hospitals for the last five years, both in inpatient and outpatient settings. Alex’s expertise is focused around Digestive Disorders.

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