New Podcast Coming!

An exciting new podcast is coming in June! Produce for Kids will be launching this new podcast and will showcase current bloggers, Advisory Board members and others.

“With more than 300 blog posts on produceforkids.com and a panel of 12 dedicated expert blog contributors, it only made sense to take this content and bring it to life in audio form,” Amanda Keefer, director of marketing communications at Produce for Kids, said in the release. 

“Our audience is evolving, and we intend to do the same, providing them with the information they need in the way they are choosing to receive it.”

and

Blog and future podcast contributors include registered dietitians Katie Serbinski, Holley Grainger and Jode Danen; psychologist Stephanie Smith; plant-based parenting expert Cory Warren; and meal prep planner Brenda Thompson.

Stay tuned!

Talking to Kids About Weight

Fat. Skinny. Over weight. Underweight. Chunky. Slight. Slender. Normal. Chubby. Short. Huge. Teeny. Average. Muscular. Frumpy. Flabby. Round. Skeletal. Portly. Tubby. Stick figure.

There are a lot of words we use to describe bodies. Ours, other people’s, everyone’s. And while we know that weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) can be an important piece of information when talking about someone’s overall health – those numbers are also so emotionally loaded that it can be tough to have a conversation about them without ending up with hurt feelings – no matter what our size.

I have recently started a new series over at Produce for Kids:

ASK THE PSYCHOLOGIST

My first column went live not long ago and is about this very topic. Here’s the question:

Many schools across the U.S. check-in yearly with kids’ BMI (Body Mass Index). What if your child has a bigger build and is a very athletic/healthy eater but falls into the BMI alert category (of being overweight or obese) simply based on weight/height ratio. Do you have any recommendations on talking to kids about this touchy subject? 

Want to read my answer? Check out the whole article here:

Power Your Lunchbox: Leftovers Edition

With 2 middle school-ers in my house, mealtime has taken on a bit of a different meaning. I can no longer expect my older kids to eat whatever I put in front of them (well, maybe I could expect that, but I would spend a lot of time being disappointed). Nowadays, the food that comes out of my kitchen has to be yummy, healthy, not embarrassing, and cool. This is made particularly difficult because what qualifies as “cool” and “not embarrassing” changes all the time – sometimes within the span of a few hours. It’s exhausting.

So, when Produce for Kids sent out their Power Your Lunchbox Promise (see more about the awesome program here) I decided to enlist my middle school-ers to help make some healthy, cool lunches they might actually eat!

For reasons I will surely never understand, leftovers are currently all the rage in the middle school lunchroom.  Perhaps it’s because they feel cool to have access to microwaves now that they’re out of elementary school? Perhaps it’s because sandwiches are too square? I honestly have no idea. But we’re going to go with it.

Here are 3 days worth of lunches made from leftovers:

We started with this sorry-looking pork chop with peach jam sauce:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sliced it up, and added it to this yummy-looking salad:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Definitely looks cool to me! (Disclaimer: A few days later my daughter informed me that salads with salmon and berries on top are now the lunch of choice for the cool kids in the lunchroom. Seriously?)

Here’s another one. We started with half of a turkey sausage, and an odd turkey meatball leftover from an Italian feast the night before:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Found an old roll to make a sandwich:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chopped up some pineapple – and we had a delicious lunch! Perfect for cold, January days!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This last one is the best, because my oldest actually made the dinner all by herself.  She is currently taking what we used to call Home Ec as an elective (yes, it’s a very cool class). She had made this veggie stir fry earlier in the week and was super eager to make it for the family:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was very good. We ate it with tilapia and a veggie egg roll. Yum:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She then told me that the stir fry was good hot or cold! Yea! Another great candidate for leftover lunch:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was even willing to share with her younger sister! Miracles can happen, people!

For more healthy and cool ideas for your lunchbox, head over to Produce for Kids:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to take the Power Your Lunchbox Promise? Check it all out here:

 

 

 

Practicing Kindness and Generosity

Most parents say they would like their children to be kind, thoughtful, generous adults. But it can be hard to know how to teach and model these traits. I was recently challenged to perform a “random act of kindness” with my family by Produce for Kids. They provided me with this list of 100 ideas to get our creative juices flowing.

After some compromise (another ability many of us parents prize!), my 3 kids and I decided to make “homeless bags.” There are about a million ideas online for how to put together these little care packages for people experiencing homelessness. And it’s actually something my kids had done a few times before with other organizations. But they had always wanted to host their own bag making event.

So we decided to go for it. On Thanksgiving. When we were hosting dinner for 20.

Ummmmm…

How did I get talked into that?

Anyway. What we did was text our Thanksgiving guests and asked them to bring something to contribute to the bags. We ended up assigning people various items like toothpaste, combs, water, snacks – so that we didn’t have duplicates. We provided gallon-size zip top bags, a whole bunch of travel-sized lotion, lip balm, and sunscreen.

We set everything up assembly-line style:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We gave everyone instructions to fill the bags with the various foods, toiletries and socks. And then I went to baste the turkey. When I came back, this was happening:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last bag had been completed and was being zipped up! I missed the whole thing!

The good news is: this activity is easy, fast and suitable for people of all ages (we had folks from 1 to 71 participating!). The bad news is: if you blink, you’ll miss the whole darn thing!

At the end of the day, it was a fun activity that will allow us to provide just a bit of comfort to those experiencing homeless in our community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody got to take home a couple of bags (along with a few slices of pie!).

Want to try your own act of kindness? Here’s an easy one:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Log into Facebook and check out what Produce for Kids and Feeding America are doing to help recent disaster relief efforts!

And once you do that, take a break this holiday season and spend some time with your family – maybe snacking on these little cuties?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the full recipe for these yummy Snowman Fruit Kebobs at Produce for Kids.

Happy Holidays!

Are You Worried About Your Teen’s Eating Habits?

Pinterest is pretty awesome. I love looking at the beautiful pictures of gardens and homes, crafts and cupcakes. I’ve even gotten a few useful tips and recipes for feeding my kids – particularly when they were younger.  But now that they’re getting older and they aren’t so into the cutesy butterflies made out of watermelon; and they aren’t impressed when I make smiley faces out of bananas and oranges on their morning pancakes – it’s not nearly as useful to me.

In fact, my tween and teen aren’t impressed by much that I do. And sadly, Pinterest – and society in general – has kind of left me out in the cold when it comes to helping my older kids make healthy choices when it comes to food. So, I recently offered some tips for helping older kids navigate the world of food choices over at Produce for Kids.

Check it out:

When No One In Your Family Eats the Same Thing…

Eating together as a family is a powerful force for psychological health. It’s a seemingly easy thing to do to encourage:

  • Good communication
  • Improved mood
  • Healthy habits
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Better performance and school/work

But actually eating (happily) together is easier said than done…especially when no one in your family eats the same thing.

I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids offering some tips for getting your family around the table at once.  One of may favorite tips?

Don’t give up. I’ve known a lot of families who have tried to change their cooking and eating habits, only to quickly become discouraged by the enormity of the task. Habits (especially eating habits) take a long time to form, and take a long time to change. By setting small, realistic goals and giving your family lots of grace, you will notice positive changes over time.

Check out the entire article – including some reasons why my family has fallen into some not-so-great eating habits over the years – here.

Are Work, School, Activities Getting In the Way of Your Life?

Is this what dinnertime looks like at your house? Yea, me neither…

I have a million good intentions at the start of each week:

  • I’m going to exercise
  • I’m going to meditate
  • I’m going to watch less TV
  • I’m going to cook fresh foods for every meal
  • I’m going to finally weed the garden
  • I’m going to clear out my email inbox

You know the drill: We all have the best intentions to live in calm, healthy ways. But then reality sets in and all the plans get blown up. I recently wrote an article about how to carve out time – at least a couple of times a week – to slow down and eat a meal with the ones you love. Here’s my favorite tip:

Want to read the entire article? Check it out:

#PowerYourLunchbox – Teen Edition

Do you remember being a teenager? A middle schooler? Let’s just say it can be a challenging time in life. Bodies, ideas and emotions are changing at lightening speed; nobody understands you; and life can feel like an endless series of demands, trials and challenges. Everything from clothes to hair to after school activities can be put to the test:

Is this cool or totally dorky?

And yes, I know those aren’t the terms today’s teens would use to describe good and bad, so I am reverting to my own adolescence (cringe.)

Anyway, it wasn’t until a year or so ago that I realized that school lunches were also judged in terms of being cool, or not-so-cool.  Here are how things work out for the teens/tweens in my house:

Buying lunch = cool

Taking lunch to school = not cool

But after discovering that my now-7th grader ate fried chicken sandwiches every single day for lunch last year, I decided we needed to make some changes this year.  So when Produce for Kids issued their annual #PowerYourLunchbox Pledge, I decided to get creative. The goal? To find a cool(ish), healthy lunch that my tween and teen would actually eat for lunch. In front of their friends. And not blame me for ruining their lives. Tall order, I know.

And here’s what I came up with: Mason Jars. They’re cheap, functional and Joanna Gaines-approved (that’s a good thing in our house). You’ve probably seen mason jar salad ideas floating around online for the past couple of years. I had too, but I had yet to try them. Here’s how it went:

I pulled everything out of my frig and pantry that could go into a salad:

I read that you should start with dressing, so I put that on the bottom, then filled up the jar from there:

I put the dry ingredients (tortilla strips, croutons, etc) in a little baggy on top so they would still be nice and crunchy at lunch time:

Then I realized I could put anything I wanted into the jars and it would look cute! Leftover pasta salad, fruit salad – nothing in the frig was safe!

…you see where this is going…

One of my kids took this for lunch today, doesn’t it look delicious?

In about 20 minutes we made several lunches and snacks.

And guess what? The kids actually took these beauties to school, ate the contents and brought the jars back home to be refilled – a HUGE SUCCESS! Next time we might try peanut butter, hummus or Nutella in a jar, with some fruits or veggies in another jar for dipping. The possibilities are endless!

Want more ideas for healthy, yummy and semi-cool lunches? Check out Produce for Kids.

Want to help support Feeding America as they provide meals for kids in need just by lifting a finger? Take the #PowerYourLunchbox Pledge!

 

Food, Mood and Mental Illness

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like food and mental health would have much to do with each other. But actually, they go hand in hand. Appetite changes (eating more, or eating less) can be an important red flag, or symptom, when it comes to diagnosing mental illness.  For example:

  • Some people who suffer from depression notice that their appetite wanes as their mood becomes worse.
  • Others who suffer depression, or other mood disorders, may notice that their appetite actually increases as their psychiatric symptoms intensify
  • Still others might notice that their appetite patterns change (they’re hungry at times they never were before, etc) as their psychological health changes

Psychiatric medications can also change appetite and eating habits.  Stimulant medications, anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and other psychiatric medications used to treat mental illness all come with possible side effects.  For this reason, mental health providers and patients often keep a close eye on eating habits when a new medication is started, or dosage changed.

Want more information about food and mental health? Check out my recent article at:

And for recipes, stories and other ways food and mood go together, check out my Food and Mood page.

How To Eat Dinner As a Family…Without Yelling, Screaming or Crying

Does dinnertime at your house look like this?

Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell,1943 oil on canvas, Norman Rockwell museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Or like this?

The Scream, 1893 by Edvard Munch

Few of us have the happy, healthy, technology-free family dinners we think we should have. In fact, many families almost never eat at the same table at the same time (let alone eat the same thing). I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids about where to start when you’ve never eaten as a family. The prospect can be daunting, so I tried to offer some simple strategies for sharing meals together – and have fun doing it. Check out the full article: