With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, its time to show our children just how important it is to love your own heart. February is American Heart Month, which makes it the perfect time to raise awareness of heart health for your entire family. With heart disease being the number one killer of both men and women in the US, and child obesity rates on the rise, every member of the household from toddler to elder can benefit from adding heart healthy nutrients into their meal plan.
Boosting the heart health benefits of meals doesn’t have to be boring or cause those much dreaded food battles. With a few easy tricks, you can have your children excited about their meals, willing to try new food, and most importantly eating a nutritious, heart healthy diet and enjoying it!
#1 Make Fruits & Vegetables Fun
The research is clear. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown to be protective to the heart by helping to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels while promoting a healthy body weight. But as any parent with a picky eater is aware, just telling your child to eat their veggies does not always work. So how can you get your little ones to start gobbling up their greens without a fight? Make it fun!
The more creative you can be with your little one’s food, the more likely they will be to try it. Try cutting fruit and vegetables into fun shapes, calling them fun names such as broccoli ‘trees’ or carrot stick ‘swords,’ and allowing your child to take a stab at creating food art will have them begging to eat produce. A simple activity of arranging fruits and vegetables into funny faces can increase your child’s exposure to new foods, which over time has been shown to increase acceptance and intake. And you don’t have to be an artist to make food art fun. Just be creative, silly, and have fun with it. Your kids, and your whole family, will love it. Who wouldn’t want to eat food that looks this fun?
#2 Say No to Fat Free
If you were under the impression that all dietary fats are damaging to the heart, think again! Plant based fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have been found to provide multiple health benefits such as improving cholesterol levels, decreasing inflammation, and even promoting a healthy body weight. Incorporating a good source of these nutritious fats daily may aid in nutrient absorption while promoting heart health. Great sources include nuts, seeds, avocado, hummus, and plant-based oils such as olive oil.
To help your children incorporate more healthy fats into their meal plan, aim to add a healthy fat source to every meal and snack. Try topping cereal or yogurt with chopped walnuts, snacking on a handful of almonds, or using hummus or guacamole as a dip. Cooking in plant-based oils such as olive or avocado oil can be another great way to add these healthy fats into your family’s diet.
#3 Hello Whole Grains
Grains are a staple in many meals and snacks and include foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and pretzels. Although most of us eat plenty of grains, we aren’t always choosing whole grains. On average, most people consume just one serving of whole grains per day. That means that the majority of grains we are ingesting are the refined, rapidly digested forms, which can have a negative impact on overall health. Whole grains on the other hand can promote a healthy heart. These nutrient-dense foods are packed full of soluble fiber, a form of fiber that has been found to decrease unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels.
If you worry that your child will never become a whole wheat bread covert, there’s no need to be concerned. Whole grains don’t just have to be just whole wheat. One hundred percent whole grains include options such as rye bread, brown rice, quinoa, and even popcorn (and what kid doesn’t love popcorn?!). Try introducing your child to a variety of whole grain options to find out what they love. You can even use whole grain flours, such as oat flour, to create family favorites such as pancakes and muffins.
#4 Embracing Balance
Teaching your child the important of balancing a variety of food groups at each meal is a fantastic way to get them started on the path to good health. Research has shown that visual cues are one of the best ways to educate portion size and meal planning. Using a compartmentalized lunchbox such as Yumbox, you can help illustrate what a balanced meal looks like to your child. The individualized compartments with graphics and text help to make meal planning fun and educational. Younger children can use the visual images to help them identify food groups, while older children can begin to understand the basics of meal planning and portion control. Providing a balanced meal rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy, and healthy fats at each meal is the perfect combination for a healthy heart. Using a tool like Yumbox can help to take the stress out of meal planning and transform heart healthy eating into a fun activity the entire family can join in on together.
Disclosure: This blog post has been sponsored by Yumbox Lunchboxes. All opinions are my own.
Happy National Chocolate Cake Day! Today’s food holiday makes me happy because who doesn’t love a delicious, moist chocolate cake? I’ll tell you who- anyone trying to lose weight or manage her blood sugar levels. Sure, a chocolate cake tastes great, but it’s the weight gain and blood sugar spikes after eating it that make you curse every bite that you took. So how can you celebrate this food holiday? Should you just find your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist? Absolutely not! I say “let them eat cake!” – just in a slimmed down way.
Photo credit: Kelly Sloan
With a few simple alterations you can transform a chocolate cake into a slimmed down, healthier version that still satisfies your sweet craving. There are many ways you can whip up lower calorie version. For instance, you can swap butter for applesauce or oil for yogurt. You can even replace added sugars with mashed banana. Whichever way you do it, these simple swaps can significantly reduce the overall calorie and carbohydrate content of your recipe. One of my favorite secret swaps is to add vegetables into the batter. This not only reduces calories, but adds a good source of vitamins and minerals to the final product. The way I see it, if you’re going to eat cake, you should enjoy it AND feel good about it after. No more chocolate cake guilt- that’s how I’m celebrating today!
My intern Kelly came up with a delicious Slimmed Down Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake recipe to help you celebrate today. Happy cake eating!
Slimmed Down Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Photo credit: Kelly Sloan
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups shredded zucchini
- ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
- Powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cream the coconut oil, sugars, and vanilla. Add the butter milk and Greek yogurt. Mix well.
- Add the flours, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda and mix again. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips, until batter is well combined.
- Spread the batter in a greased bundt cake pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Top with powdered sugar and serve.
Tip: You can also add walnuts or coconut to this recipe to change it up!
Nutrition Facts Per serving (with powdered sugar on top)
112 calories, 13 g CHO, 6 g FAT, 3 g PRO, 137 mg sodium, 5 g sugar
Photo Credit: Kelly Sloan
Today is National Peanut Butter Day! There are SO many great reasons to love peanut butter from its rich protein content to it’s nutrient density. People of every age can enjoy peanut butter daily to gain its varied health benefits. If you have a young child, you don’t need to hold off introducing this food any longer. The newest research suggests that early exposure to peanuts may reduce the overall allergen risk. Of course, you always want to speak to your pediatrician first about what is best for your child, but the new recommendations are to include peanuts between 4 and 11 months of age. My friend Kristen is actually trying peanut butter for the first time today with her little nugget and I know both mommy and baby will love it!
So why should you love peanut butter today (and every day)? My terrific intern Kelly pulled together a list of four health benefits of peanut butter that will have you excited to add it in to your diet on a regular basis:
- Peanut butter is a great source of protein. Each serving (2 tablespoons) provides 7 grams of protein. High protein foods can help build and repair muscles.
- It contains “healthy fats” also known as poly- and monounsaturated fats which some studies indicate may help to lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
- On average, you should aim for 25- 35 grams of fiber each day for optimal health. Peanut butter can help you to reach your daily fiber goals by providing 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving.
- It is also a high satiety source of food, which means it may help you to stay full and satisfied for hours after eating. This is especially helpful for those looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight.
To celebrate National Peanut Butter Day, Kelly created this amazing Peanut Butter Cup Milkshake for you to enjoy. I can’t wait to sip of this for a filling protein-packed breakfast I can take on the run.
Peanut Butter Cup Milkshake
Photo Credit: Kelly Sloan
- 4 tablespoons natural peanut butter, creamy
- 2 medium bananas, frozen
- 1 ½ cup low fat milk or substitute for almond milk
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Add all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add more liquid if needed.
- Top with your favorite toppings such as dark chocolate chips or chopped walnuts if desired. Enjoy!
Makes 3 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving):
Calories: 250 Carbohydrates: 29gm Fiber: 3gm Protein: 11gm Fat: 12gm
This morning Joey woke me up by telling me it was my birthday and that we should eat cake. He doesn’t talk in sentences yet but by yelling “Mommy birthday JoJo eat cake” I got the message loud and clear. He’s been pretty stuck on birthdays since his party, but I have to admit cake for breakfast sounds pretty amazing. So I figured, if the boy wants cake for breakfast, let’s have cake for breakfast- but in a healthy way.
I used my Whole Grain Chocolate Raspberry Muffin recipe to make the ‘cake’ (we used muffin tins, so they were cupcakes), and my new favorite discovery D’ Naturals Chocolate Cake Batter Fluffbutter. It’s an almond butter that has no added sugar and tastes like frosting. It’s SO good. Now of course, I can’t leave out the sprinkles. It’s Joey’s favorite part (and OK mine too!). Since everything else was whole grain and low in sugar, a few sprinkles on top of the ‘frosting’ can’t hurt.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.
Whole Grain Raspberry Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup 100% whole wheat flour
½ cup ground flax
1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup low fat milk
1/3 cup agave nectar
¼ cup honey
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 dash of salt
1 Tbs ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (at least 60% cacoa)
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
½ cup D’ Naturals Chocolate Cake Batter Fluffbutter
2 Tbs sprinkles (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, mix together flour and flax to blend evenly. Add in baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and blend. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add in honey, yogurt, and agave and blend until smooth. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir together while slowly pouring in milk to thin batter. Add in chocolate chips and blend evenly. Lightly grease a muffin tin and place 2 tsp of batter into each muffin cup. Next, lay 2-3 raspberries on top of batter. Pour remaining batter on top of raspberries to create a “raspberry filling” in the muffin. Then, top off each muffin with 1-2 raspberries. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool, then top with chocolate fluffbutter and sprinkles. Enjoy!
Makes 24 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving): **analysis includes sprinkles
Calories 135 Carbohydrates 20g Fiber 2.5 gm Protein 5 gm Fat 4gm