Five Tips for Travelling with Young Children

We have had the opportunity to travel with our children several times since they were born and each time there have been things that stood out to me as significant in our success. I have chosen to share the top five tips that seem to hold true in all vacations that we have taken, whether for 3 days or 3 weeks, by flight or by car.

 
1. Be as efficient with space and time as possible.

  • When packing, have 1-2 back up outfits that are for the actual travel days stored in Ziploc bags at the top of one of your bags so they are easy to locate. Make up a complete one for each child with a diaper/pull up/or underwear and socks. The reason for the Ziploc is to prevent you from rooting through your child’s main bag to find a diaper or underwear and new clothes if they have a diaper blow out, accidentally can’t wait for the next bathroom break, or get car sick along the way. You need a new option as fast as possible. Also if room permits, pack a towel that can be sued to clean up any bodily fluid that has come out of the child at a less than opportune time.
  • When packing your child’s main bag, pack in outfits so that you aren’t bringing clothes that you won’t use. Bring one outfit per day with 2-3 extra tops in case one gets dirty mid-day with a spit up for babies or at a meal for older children. I plan on sleepers or pajamas to last for 2-3 nights. If these get soiled, then they are easy to wash in a sink and hang to dry if needed. For bathing suits, it is nice to bring two so that you have a dry back up.
    Side note: Bring a small container of clothing detergent just in case there are laundry facilities or if you need to do a sink wash for anyone. If you do not bring detergent, you may be left without a good cleaning option OR using one that causes a reaction to your child’s skin. Children get used to the detergent we use and vacation is not the time to play with that.

2. Set yourself up for successful sleep.

  • Ideal beds: Determine ahead of time where and on what your child will sleep. There have not been enough beds for whole family in most places we have visited. For several years we travelled with three play yards which worked well. Then when our older two outgrew them, we started bringing air mattresses. They were time consuming to set up, took up a ton of space, and Clay slipped off of his several time each night making a huge THUD on the floor. I was determined there had to be another way. Recently I found the Regalo Tot Cots. I was thrilled when they sent me two cots earlier this summer and we have used them on several occasions over the summer including sleepovers at grandparents, “camp” nights at home, and most recently a two week vacation to a family cottage. The boys honestly LOVE them. They find them comfortable and very special to sleep on. They have slept over 12 hours each night that they have slept on them and truly no complaints going to bed. Wes has had a few mid-day naps on his as well. Each cot comes with its own sheet and we let the boys use their favourite blankets over them. I have washed the sheets and dried them on low heat and they came out really well. No change at all! My husband and I were also incredibly thrilled with the compact carrying case and the 3 minute set up and take-down. The cots accommodate up to 75 pounds so we will be using them for years to come yet and will be investing in one for Rhett soon too!
    If you have any questions about these cots, please feel free to comment below or email me. I would be happy to answer them.
  • White noise: Houses/cottages/hotels all have their own unique noises. Children are used to the ones in their own home, but may find foreign noises alarming. Using an app such as NoiseBox on your iphone or ipad works well to help drown these out. I actually use it when I am away at my bedside too!

3. Young children like “the familiar”. It is beneficial to bring along a few things that remind your child(ren) of home. For example, have them choose 1 stuffed animal, 3 small toys (and I mean small!), 1 book, 1 blanket, and 1 cup. When they are involved in this process, they can feel secure knowing they will have these things from home in less familiar or completely unfamiliar surroundings. Depending on the age of your child you may also consider bringing their usual bowls, plates, and/or cutlery. This is something that I always do.

4. Bring toys and books for the travel time and the “down times”.  This tip will not eliminate the “Are we there yet?”, but hopefully it will help reduce them. A few days before you leave, head to your local dollar store and purchase several small toys/activities that your child will enjoy. Wrap them up individually and offer a new one every 20-30 minutes. It takes them a few minutes to unwrap it, and then they enjoy playing for a while. It helps to occupy them and keeps you feeling sane. These are also great for down times on holidays between planned activities or when you are trying to keep children quiet in the morning before other people are awake. When we are visiting the boys grandparents I find the mornings to be on the long side and this is one activity that I use to keep them quiet. I usually take wrapping paper and just re-wrap some items from the car/plane ride. I also like to visit the library either before we leave or at our destination to offer the boys new and exciting stories.

5. Be prepared for adequate nourishment. The tips for this point vary based on your vacation. Here are a few ideas:

  • For a road trip, pack plenty of bulk snacks with small containers on hand to distribute little bits at a time. These small containers can then be used on the remainder of the holiday. I also always take our PlanetBoxes with us. I can use them in the car if we travel over a meal time or as a picnic option as part of the holiday. For a plane trip, space is a little more limited, so packing each child with a small multi-section container works well or a trail mix in one container. KIND snacks are a great compact option for travel as they are lower in sugar than most other packaged snacks, shelf stable, and offer satiety for children and adults alike!
  • When you are arrive at your destination, head to a grocery store to pick up healthy snacks that are ready to eat such as whole grain crackers, almonds, yogurt, Babybel cheese, apples, grapes, baby carrots, baby tomatoes, snap peas, etc. If you do not have access to a fridge, then investing in a “plug in” cooler is a great idea. We have one that we use in the car and in most places we stay that are part of a road trip. If you do invest in one of these, you can also do more grocery shopping at home which saves money if you are heading to a cottage/tourist town which can save a significant amount of money and also ensure you have any specialty items that you need. For our most recent trip, I made up a two week meal plan and purchased most of the groceries from Costco before leaving. We transported them using a plug in cooler and one additional cooler bag. I will be sharing this meal plan and the grocery list that goes with it in my next post.
  • If you need to eat out as part of your vacation, seek out any Groupon deals or “kids eat free” nights at local restaurants. There are several sites for this information. Here are two that we have used:
  • If you are at an all-inclusive, then that part is a little more straight-forward.

As I said at the start, there are many other tips that have worked on various vacations we have taken, but these are ones that really stand out to me. I hope that they are helpful for you on your next trip with your children. If you have other ideas, please share in the comments below. We are all in this together and I love learning from you too!

 

 

 

 

 
Until next time…stay healthy!

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Heart Healthy Pasta

My boys LOVE pasta but I often worry that the meal will not offer enough protein and vegetables so I have come up with several blender pasta sauces so all their nutrition needs are met in one simple bowl. Here is one I developed last weekend that was a huge hit so I wanted to share.

The tomato base offers lycopene which is a cancer fighting antioxidant.

The hemp hearts offer a source of complete protein which means all essential amino acids are present and a source of omega 3 fatty acids which are wonderful for growing brains in children and promoting heart and mental health in adults. They also act as an anti-inflammatory.

The feta cheese is a lower fat cheese that offers a creamy texture and taste and a source of complete protein.

Nutritional yeast offers a cheesy flavour as well and a great source of vitamin B12.

Spinach and kale are packed with nutrition!!!

Ingredients

1 jar low sodium pasta sauce (any flavor is fine)

1/3 cup Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

1-2 large handfuls of spinach or kale

Instructions

Blend in a blender and pour over pasta. I have a vitamix and blend my sauces on the soup setting to warm them up but this is not necessary if you don’t have a blender that heats.

Hope you and your family enjoy this as an easy meal sometime soon!

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

Red Curry Bean, Lentil, and Vegetable Stew

May has started out wet and chilly where we live which is keeping me interested in making warm soups and stews. I developed this recipes recently and it is not only packed with nutrition but also a ton of flavor and a bit of heat to warm you right through on a cold wet day. If you like curry…this is a must try!

Ingredients

2 cups dry mixed beans

1 cup red lentils

3 cups vegetable broth

2 cups coconut milk

½ red cabbage

1 sweet or red onion

3-4 large celery stalks

2 yellow zucchinis

2 green zucchinis

1 Chinese eggplant

3 Tbsp. Avocado oil (split into 2 portions)

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp. red curry powder

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Rinse and drain beans and lentils and then soak in warm water for 2-3 hours. Once beans are ready, you can move forward with the rest of your recipe.
  2. Dice onion and place at the bottom of a large pot. Sautee the onion on medium heat in 2 Tbsp. of the avocado oil. Add diced cabbage and celery as you have it ready. Once they are softened add diced zucchinis and eggplant and stir together.
  3. In a separate dish mix together red curry powder, paprika, nutritional yeast, cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. avocado oil, and stir together. Then add this into the pot. Once all vegetables are coated well, add the beans and stir thoroughly.
  4. Add the vegetable broth and stir and then let simmer on low for 1 hour stirring every 15-20 minutes. Add coconut milk and let simmer for an additional hour (or more) until it reaches desired thickness and beans are to desired softness.

My favourite way to enjoy this stew is heated and topped with dollup of coconut or vanilla yogurt. It would also be great warm or cold in a whole grain wrap!

Until next time…stay healthy!

Mixed Bean and Barley Vegetable Stew

This is a simple vegan recipe that makes a nice stew allowing for versatility of its use. It can be consumed on its own, on top of rice or quinoa, on top of a salad, in lettuce wraps, or pureed with a bit more liquid and eaten as a soup. So whether you were hoping to find a recipe for meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wellness Wednesday, Thrifty Thursday, Fast Friday, Soup Saturday, or Stay-at-home-Sunday…this recipe could fit them all! My favourite way to enjoy it is on top of a spinach salad with a dollup of tzatziki on top and a sprinkling of The Chicago Spice House Moroccan Seasoning.

Bean Barley Stew

Ingredients

1 cup lentils

2 cups mixed beans

1 cup barley

2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 zucchinis, diced

1 red onion, diced

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup water

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 tsp. truffle or sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Wash, drain, and then soak the lentils and beans in warm water for 2 hours.
  2. When read rinse them again and place in a pot. Add barley, fresh water, broth, and wine (or additional broth).
  3. Heat on medium and add in the remainder of the ingredients. Keep at a rolling boil for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for about an hour or until liquid has boiled off. Additional spices or herbs can be added during this time or at time of serving is a variety of flavours is desired.

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

 

 

Milks…are they all the same?

Another topic that I was asked about “taking the fight out of” was the topic of milk. Now this is a big one but I am going to try to tackle it. The truth is that the variety of milks out there have many similarities, but important differences as well. This post is not meant to sway you to include or not include cow’s milk in your diet or your child’s diet. It is simply meant to inform you of the differences in the milks and the nutritional requirements that we are trying to meet with milk and milk alternatives at different life stages.

Cow’s milk: Cow’s milk contains 2 main proteins: casein and whey. It also contains lactose which is a sugar made up of glucose and galactose. There are many micronutrients that naturally occur in cows milk such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B12 (among others), and then vitamin A and D are added as per government regulations. The nutrients in milk work together to help us build and maintain strong bones and teeth, but also serve many other purposes as well. Milk comes in various fat levels. Whole milk (or homogenized) is 3.25% fat. This is the best milk choice for children age 12-24 months who are no longer breastfed due to its high fat content. Fat is essential for brain development in children and choosing a lower fat milk product at this age would take away from the fat in their diet. For a child who is allergic to casein or lactose intolerant, breast milk or a non casein based formula is best until 2 years of age. For children ages 2 and up, 2% milk is a good choice as it has sufficient fat. Ideally children 2 and up are drinking 16 oz of milk per day…no more, no less. So what about children who are allergic/intollerant to casein, lactose intolerant, or vegan? Well that is when it gets confusing. I am going to try to “take the fight out of milk choice” for you now.

Soy milk: Soy milk has the same fat percent as 2% milk so it is a suitable option for children over 2 years of age. It also provides the same amount of “complete protein” as one cup of cow’s milk.  It does not, however, contain all the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as cow’s milk. So if you are choosing soy milk, then please ensure that you choose one that is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 at least and ideally others as well. Because the micronutrients are added, they do not stay suspended in the milk very well so it is best to shake the carton of soy milk very well before pouring it to ensure that you are actually ingesting what you have paid for. Some people do not want to consume soy milk because of its estrogenic properties, so then we have to look at other milk alternatives.

Coconut milk: Coconut milk is the nest best option for children as it has the same fat content as 2% milk and soy milk. However, that is where the similarities end. Coconut milk is not a source of protein or any micronutrients. If a parent is choosing coconut milk for their child, then they need to replace the 16-18 grams of protein that would be provided by 2 cups of cow’s milk or soy milk each day AND ensure that the coconut milk is fortified and (as I said above) shake the carton well. A nice way to add a complete protein into coconut milk is to blend in hemp hearts. These are packed with protein and omega 3 and just add to the creamy nutty flavour that is already in coconut milk.

Two other milks that I am commonly asked about are almond and rice milk. These milks are not a source of fat or protein and are only a source of micronutrients if fortified. These milks are not suitable for young children unless they are mixed with higher fat and protein sources such as hemp hearts and chia seeds.

One other thing to consider is that a pure whey protein powder that is casein free is a nice complete protein alternative for a child that needs casein free but can handle whey.

I hope that this information is useful and as always, please comment below with any questions. If you want to read about our journey to dairy free with Clay, you can do so here.

 

 

Mango Curry Chicken Pizza

I grew up eating traditional pizza, but for years now I have not enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong, I like pizza…but I like it dressed up in new ways. I love BBQ chicken pizza with roasted broccoli and red onion. I love Mediterranean pizza topped with grapeseed oil, garlic cloves, arugula or spinach, sundried tomatoes, and black olives. And one of my all time favourites is this Mango Curry Chicken Pizza packed with flavor and nutrition your whole family will love!

Ingredients:

1 Whole wheat pizza crust

1-2 chicken breasts (cubed or sliced)

1 cup Pizza sauce or Tomato sauce

3-4Tbsp. Tandoori curry paste (or 3-4 Tbsp. avocado oil mixed with 2-3 Tbsp. of red curry powder…I like the one from Chicago Spice House)

1 Tbsp. Honey or Agave

1-2 tsp. Pureed garlic

1 Red pepper (sliced)

1 Mango (sliced)

½-3/4 cup old cheddar cheese (shredded) OR Daiya dairy free cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Mix together tomato sauce and tandoori curry paste (or oil and curry mixture).  Spread this over pizza.
  3. In a non-stick fry pan, cook chicken breasts in water until no longer pink inside.
  4. Drain excess water, and then add the garlic, remaining curry paste and honey or agave.  Mix together and cook until warmed through.
  5. Spread over pizza, cover with diced red peppers and pieces of  mango.  Sprinkle with cheddar cheese (preferably low fat) or Daiya dairy free cheese.
  6. Heat in oven until cheese is melted and toppings are heated through. I find 15-20 minutes works well.

I like to serve this with a fresh arugula salad topped with diced green apple, halves red grapes, almonds, and a honey mustard dressing but you could pair it with any salad or just cut up fresh veggies.

Until next time….stay healthy!

Ten Tips for the Toddler vs. Veggies Standoff

The theme for Nutrition Month in Canada is “Take the Fight out of Food”. I asked my Instagram followers for suggestions on what they would like to have the “fight” taken out of when it comes to food and the top request was information about toddlers eating vegetables so that is what this blog post is focusing on. The tips that I mention can be used for older children as well though!

Tip 1: It takes up to 20 exposures to a food before a child knows if they actually like it. An exposure can be seeing the food on a plate, helping to prepare the food, touching the food, tasting the food, and/or actually swallowing the food. For example, a child may help to tear spinach leaves up but never ingest any…this is an exposure. A child may pick up a iece of broccoli and touch and top feeling soft and spongy and the bottom feeling firm. This is an exposure. I child may lick a piece of watermelon but then set it back down. This is an exposure. Continued exposures in a safe, non pressured environment are is one of the best practices that will lead to a “well rounded eater”.

Tip 2: Do not get caught up in meals vs. snacks. Ideally we will capitalize on our children’s hunger and offer veggies at their “hungriest/most alert” times. Put a veggie tray out mid morning while you play and enjoy some veggies with them. Or have one ready for when they come home from daycare or school and you may find that more veggies are consumed than ever would be on their supper plate. Perhaps your children are hungry in the car on the way home from school or day care…this is a perfect opportunity for some diced peppers and sliced cucumbers!

Tip 3: Include your children in grocery shipping and meal prep. There are a lot of fun ways for children to help in the kitchen and many of them surround veggie prep. You can see a more extensive list here.

Tip 4: Offer dips. Children LOVE to dip. Whether it is hummus or Greek yogurt or tzatziki  or your favourite homemade salad dressing…kids LOVE to dip!

Tip 5: Help your child sort their thoughts out. When you child expressed that they do not like something, it could be more that they are worries what it will taste like and or feel like and do not feel safe to take the risk of trying it. We have had lots of fun in our house with “Today I tried…” which creates a non-pressured adventure of trying new things. You can find out more about that here.

Tip 6: Recognize “normal” behaviour. Food jags will occur and are expected. This means that young children love a food one day and hate it the next. This is most typical from ages 15 to 36 months, but certainly can still happen in pre-school years. It is part of normal development and one of many ways that these adorable tiny humans can drive parents crazy by exercising their autonomy and reaching to see where limits lie. The truth is that the best thing we can do is support our children in this journey. The “division of responsibility” is key to dealing with food jags and “picky eater” behavior in general. It is our responsibility as parents to offer healthy food throughout the day. It is the child’s  responsibility if they will eat it or not. child’s responsibility if they choose to eat. That means ideals no filler foods like gold fish and puffs and ideally no “short order cook”. Children will soon learn that no other options are coming, so they may want to eat what is in front of them. This process can take time, and there may be some meals that end up in the garbage, but overall it leads to well rounded eaters and that is the ultimate goal for well rounded nutrition.

Tip 7: Please do not use food as a reward or give punishment around food. A child who is lead to believe that they are “good” or “bad” with relationship to food may end up on the path of emotional eating. If a child does not eat their broccoli, this is not grounds for punishment. And if they do, this is not ground for “deserving” a brownie. When it comes to eating healthy food, a kind word of encouragement is great but there is never need for feelings of guilt of reward.

Tip 8: Lead by example. Are you eating vegetables in front of your kids? Are you reaching for them while you make supper? Are you sitting with your children at lunch and eating a salad? Even if it does not seem like it, your children are watching EVERYTHING you do. Whether it is putting your coat away, making exercise a part of each day, eating your vegetables, or sitting down to pray. They see it all and the best thing we can do to teach our children is lead by example.

Tip 9: Try smoothie bowls. This isn’t a direct means of having the child eat the whole food, but it is still a way to introduce flavours and increase a child’s intake of new foods. Trying a green smoothie bowl may help the child feel more comfortable to try other green foods.

Tip 10: Last but not least, realize that every child will have a few “I don’t like foods”. I know I do and you likely do as well. Just keep offering all foods and over time it will become obvious which ones are starting to stick and while ones may be “off the table”.

So, in summary…we are looking to offer veggies at times when are children are most hungry; avoid taking up space with “filler foods”; involve children in meal prep; keep meal times low stress and focus on the bigger picture; offer all members at the table the same foods (no short order cook); and last but not least lead by example. And please…DON’T GIVE UP…you are doing a great job!

I hope that his is helpful for you. As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comment section or on my Instagram page.

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

Does my child need a multivitamin supplement???

I have been asked several times since starting this blog to write on the topic of vitamin and mineral supplements for children. I have been hesitant to do so because it is really one that requires an individualized approach. Having said that, I have decided to write about it in general terms. If you have specific questions about yourself or your child, then I would recommend you see your family doctor or registered dietitian or contact me directly.

It it is a common question to wonder if we or our loved ones need a vitamin/mineral multivitamin or single nutrient supplements. Here are a few questions to ask yourself…

  1. Do they have allergies or intolerances that causes elimination of a portion or all of a food group? Are they vegan or vegetarian?
  2. Do they have intense aversions to certain foods that are not easily overcome?
  3. Has the child had nutrient deficiencies in the past?

If the answer is “yes” to any of the above, then a supplement MAY be in order. For example, if milk and milk alternative intake is limited, then calcium and vitamin D are nutrients of interest. If meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are eliminated, then iron and vitamin B12 are nutrients of interest. The next step in each of these examples is to see if the child is consuming foods in place of the eliminated foods that provide similar micronutrients. For example, the child may be drinking fortified coconut milk which provides calcium, vitamin D, and other important nutrients. (As an aside…we know that protein is missing in this option, but that is off of this topic. More info on that topic can be found here.)

If the child has low overall food intake or is considered a “picky eater”, a parent may be concerned; however, this alone is not reason to start a supplement. Children have important nutrient needs; however, they do not need an overabundance of food. They need high quality and nutritious food. If presented with a small eater, my first approach would be offer nutrient dense foods at all times and be cautious to not allow the child to fill up on foods that do not contribute to their health such as gold fish crackers and puffs. In addition, I would ask the parents how much milk is being consumed. Children who drink more than 16 ounces of milk per day are at greater risk of iron deficiency. This is for two reasons….

  1. Calcium in milk can interfere with iron absorption, and
  2. If milk is filling their small tummy, then there may not be enough room for adequate amounts of other foods.

Having said this, if you feel your child may have low levels of important nutrients, they may truly benefit from a supplement. Calcium and vitamin D are vital for bone health. Iron plays a critical role in brain develop, energy levels, and more. The list goes on and on for why we need all nutrients in adequate quantities. As I said at the start, you may want to check in with your family physician of local RD if you are concerned. They can assess your child and even request blood work if deemed necessary. (We had this done with Clay and he was in fact iron deficient.)

Last, but not least, if you are choosing to go ahead with a supplement, please try to keep it as “low sugar” as possible. Giving children gummies and sugar coated tablets is not great for dental health and can be confusing for them. If a child thinks it is candy and accidentally ingests too many multivitamins they are at great risk for toxicity. In fact, iron poisoning is one of the top concerns for toxicity in children and can be fatal.

I hope that his provides you with some food for thought on this topic. As always, if you have any questions you can comment below, email me, or DM on Instagram @mealsformeandmyminis.

Until next time….stay healthy!

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Its National Registered Dietitian Day…so what exactly is an RD???

I am often asked what the difference is between a Nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian. I decided that Registered Dietitian Day was a perfect day to chat about this.

The bottom line is that Registered Dietitian is a qualified and regulated health professional with a regulated title, and just about anyone could choose to call themselves a “nutritionist”.

Okay, so why does that matter?

Well, an RD is registered with a College of Dietitians…similar to the College of Physicians or College of Nurses, etc. We are held accountable for our actions and also required to go through an assessment and set goals each year and follow up each year to ensure we are staying on track with professional conduct and development. We also are required to have malpractice insurance. A nutritionist does not have anyone that they are accountable to. If they were to give inappropriate advice, there would be no recourse.

What is the education requirement to become an RD?

RDs must complete a 4 year Bachelor of Science followed by a comprehensive dietetic internship and/or obtain a Masters of Science. Following this, the individual must write an exam and pass this exam to be registered with their college. I am a member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario. If I were to move to Alberta, I would need to re-write the exam to be accepted into the College of Dietitians of Alberta. The same would be true if I moved to any other country in the world. I would need to write the exam for that country’s College of Dietitians.

Dietitians are experts in nutrition and have guiding principles for counselling and overall conduct. Nutritionist is more likely to suggest more extreme measures and typically will not have as broad an understanding of overall health, as they are not truly a health professional.

I hope that this helps to clarify if you have ever wondered about this topic. Feel free to email me anytime if you have further questions.

Until next time…stay healthy!

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