The Value of Meal Assembly at the Table

Children love to show what they can do. They love autonomy in choices, independence in tasks, contributing in the home, and creating things. As parents and caregivers we are to decide what a child is offered to eat and when, but the child is to decide if and how much they will eat. Offering children the opportunity to create their own version of a meal follows this division of responsibility while also allowing for independence and contribution from them to the meal.

I have partnered with KiddoBloom to bring you a fun lunch (or snack) option that your children may enjoy assembling. It offers representation from 3 food groups and is packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre, and healthy fats.

Place a pita, wrap, or whole grain crackers on a plate along with cucumber slices (or alternate fruit or vegetable) and a scoop of hummus or mashed avocado. Then let your child decide what is next. They may choose to dip the pita and cucumbers in the hummus or they may choose to build a stack, wrap, or sandwich.

And even if they don’t eat it all, remember that exposure is key! Even food sitting on a plate or touched but not consumed is an important exposure that contributes to increasing interest in and variety of food consumed.


Choosing Lactose Free Milk Alternatives for Children

This post was sponsored by Americord. All content was written by me, Noelle Martin MScFN RD.

We recently chatted about the Breastmilk and Lactose Intolerance in Babies. Today I wanted to take this one step further and talk about how to handle lactose intolerance once a baby stops nursing to ensure that their GI system is happy and they are well nourished.

Ideally children 2 and up will drink 16 oz. of milk per day for the nourishment they need…but how can we reach this goal for a lactose intolerant child?
The first thing to consider is the age of the child. If they are under one year of age, then a lactose free formula is best. From 12-24 months there are two main options. One is to continue with the lactose free formula. The other is a lactose free whole milk. 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 and eye development in children and choosing a lower fat milk product at this age would take away from the fat in their diet. For lactose intolerant children ages 2 and up, lactose free 2% milk is a good choice as it has sufficient fat. So how does this lactose free milk work? Let me explain.

Cow’s milk contains lactose which is a sugar made up of glucose and galactose. During digestion our intestinal villi secrete lactase, an enzyme, to break down lactose back into glucose and galactose. Lactose free cow’s milk has lactose added to it so the breakdown occurs in the milk rather than our guts. There are many micronutrients that naturally occur in cow’s 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. For some children they may have further restrictions, such as a casein allergy. From there it gets a little more complicated.

Here are a few important points about milk alternatives:
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 is recommended to avoid soy formula and soy milk for infants. Soy milk 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 next 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 complete protein and omega 3 and just add to the creamy nutty flavour that is already in coconut milk.
Two other milks that are commonly considered 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.

Fitness Friday: Sports Nutrition for Recovery and Results!

Let’s be honest, it can be HARD to make time for working out. But the benefits to physical activity are endless and the importance of fitting it in for our mental and physical health are paramount. When you carne out that time, you want to know you are getting the biggest benefit possible. Depending on when your workout is, and what type of workout you are doing, your nutrition surrounding it can really make a difference in your results.

Here are a few important tips:

Pre-workout snacks or meals (consumed about 1-2 hours prior to workout) should incorporate a long activing carbohydrate with a source of protein. Ideally they are low in fat and free of foods that cause gas. For example, avoid high bran cereals and certain fresh veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts if you are heading for a run or to a spin class in the upcoming few hours.
Good choices for pre-workout meal are:
• Steel cut oats with Greek yogurt and berries
• Whole grain wrap with almond butter and banana
• Whole grain pita with low fat Swiss, spinach, tomato, and cucumber
• Roasted sweet potato with chicken
Good choices for a pre-workout snack are:
• Piece of whole grain bread with natural peanut butter
• Homemade, low sugar granola with Greek yogurt.
During your workout, your body does not need additional nutrition as long as the aerobic part of your workout is less than 60 minutes. If you will have your heart rate up in the aerobic stage for longer than 60 minutes, then there are other consideration which I will discuss at another time.
Post workout (within 15 minutes of finishing), your body needs quick acting carbohydrates to feed the brain and central nervous system and also replenish your glycogen stores. It also needs protein to repair and support the building of muscle tissue. If you consume too much protein with inadequate carbohydrates, your body will use the back bone of protein to service its carbohydrate needs, instead of using protein for muscle building and repair. Therefore, you need to consume more carbohydrates than protein post-workout for the most efficient process. This is not a time to make your body work harder to get what it needs. Do what is recommended you ask??? Well, the answer is one that often raises eyebrows and questions… 1 cup of chocolate milk (or chocolate soy milk). Okay, so the response I get from almost everyone (who isn’t an RD) when I say this is….BUT IT HAS SO MUCH SUGAR!!!!!! Yes, it does have simple sugar, and that is the point! Post workout is one of the few times that we actually want to consume a quick acting sugar. Your body needs to know that you are there to nourish it. The key part here is not just consuming the chocolate milk, but also the timing. Research has shown us time and time again that consuming 1 cup of chocolate milk within 15 minutes of the end of your workout is best and contributes to the best results such as increased muscle mass, reduced muscle wasting, reduced overeating later in the day/evening, and overall a better metabolism. Recommendations from research would go on to say that we should consume another healthy meal or snack again within 60 minutes of consuming the chocolate milk.

Okay, so if you are wondering if there is another alternative that you could have instead…I am always asked for alternatives…then I will tell you this. The number goals are to have a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Chocolate milk has 30 grams of quick acting carbs and 8-9 grams of complete protein. Soy chocolate milk has the same. I have been asked if Greek yogurt and berries is okay instead. My answer is that it is better than nothing at all; however, this combination has more fibre making it slower to digest. If you are choosing a protein shake or supplement, then the main thing is to determine how you can create these ratios. Perhaps use less protein powder to ensure that your ratios are 3:1 for carbs:protein.

I have worked with people from Learn to Run clinics to marathon runners, high school level athletes all the way to athletes in the NHL and CFL. At every level, the truth remains that if we feed our bodies adequately before and after workouts, we will optimize our outcomes. If this is different than what you are doing now, the question is…are you willing to give it a try? Are you interested in better results? Whether you are new to working out or you have been consistently active for years, I hope that this gives you a way to take your workout results to the next level!

Tips for Parents of Children with Allergies

Did you know that a child who has a food allergy is also more likely to have eczema and asthma? The more food allergies that a child has, the more severe their eczema and asthma will likely be. The top allergens associated with these are casein in milk, peanut allergies (including legumes), and eggs. If your child has a food allergy, even if not anaphylactic, it should be taken serious by all who are in contact with your child as it could cause a flare up in their eczema and/or asthmas along with other direct allergen related symptoms. Here are a few strategies you can use to protect them from exposure that could lead to gut discomfort, skin irritation, and breathing concerns.

1. Keep all allergen containing foods out of your home. Discuss the importance of an allergen free home with all members of the family, even from a young age. We would never want to make the child’s siblings feel that they are responsible for the child remaining safe; however, it is essential that all children in the home are educated on what can and cannot enter the home.

2. Prepare a list for relatives of food items that cannot be in the home (or at least within reach) at times when you are visiting. You may also wish to list possible symptoms and negative outcomes that could result if the list is not adhered to.
3. Educate your child’s teachers and peers about the importance of the child remaining “dairy free” or “peanut free”. Let them know that you appreciate their help in keeping your child safe. You can add stickers to lunch boxes that help remind those in the lunch room that your child has dietary restrictions. I really like the ones from Mabel’s Labels.

4. Teach your child phrases they are comfortable saying at times that they need to decline a food. A phrase such as “thank you for offering, but that food will cause me to have trouble breathing”.
5. Create fun experiences and “treat” options with foods your child can safely have. For example, during holiday celebrations there are often milk filled treats. You can make Snow Pudding with coconut yogurt and shredded coconut for your dairy free child or Soy Butter cookies for your peanut free child.

I hope these strategies are helpful for you as you help to normalize the experience of allergy free living for your child.

This post was sponsored by Americord. All content was solely created by me, Noelle Martin RD


Foodie Mom Squad Feature

Eleven has always been a very special number to me. There are many significant events in my life that happen to correlate with that number. It’s not superstition or a lucky number, just something fun that I have noticed. I recently reached 11,000 followers on Instagram and I wanted to do something special to celebrate. I decided to ask 11 fellow “foodie moms” to answer three questions so that I could share them with you. I hope you enjoy meeting these inspirational, creative, and genuinely wonderful women that I have grown to appreciate so much in my life. You can click on their name below to find out what they said when I asked:
1) What inspired/prompted you to start your Instagram feed/blog?
2) What is something you have learned from another #foodiemom and applied to your own cooking/meal strategy/etc.?
3) What is a food or nutrition related goal that you have for 2018 for yourself or your family?
Joy from @lunchesandlittles
Ashley from @veggiesandvirtue
Jen from @drjencohen
Alyssa from @babyfoodideas
Kanchan from @chiefspicemama
Leigh Ann from @mydiaryofus
Kayla from @thefamilyfoodproject
Megan from @mamamakesfood
Heather from @heather_kidskitchen
Vivian from @dr.vivian
Kristy from @onmykidsplate

Meet Leigh Ann from @mydiaryofus

What inspired/prompted you to start @mydiaryofus?

I originally started my blog when my husband got a new job and I had to start a new career because we moved in the middle of nowhere! I was cooking all the time and had a few friends encourage me to start a blog…so I did and had no idea that it would lead me to where I am today! Now my motivation is my son who I want to teach to live a healthy lifestyle as well as fall in love with the kitchen too! I also always want to inspire other families in their own kitchen and my hope is that they will feel more confident about feeding their family in a healthy way!

What is something you have learned from another #foodiemom and applied to your own cooking/meal strategy/etc.?

Oh wow, I learn so much from so many #foodiemoms on a daily basis! But I would say one thing that they all have in common is to not pressure your kids to eat something, just keep exposing them to healthy foods and they will come around! I have found this to be so true with my own son!

What is a food or nutrition related goal that you have for 2018 for yourself or your family?

My big food goal for 2018 is to take better care of myself nutritionally. As moms we tend to run ourselves thin and end up eating leftovers off of toddler plates instead of making ourselves a lunch that we can enjoy and that our bodies will benefit from! If we take care of ourselves, then we end up being better moms, better wives, and are happier too!

Meet Joy from @lunchesandlittles

What inspired/prompted you to start @lunchesandlittles?
I’ve always been a lover of color, good food and fun, and having children brought those side of me out even more. However, when I signed up and started using Instagram it was for personal reasons/ connections and I had no intention on growing it in any way, especially not in the direction it grew. One day, in addition to pics of our kids, I started posting fun food; toast shaped liked a fish, a stack of colorful pancakes, etc. I was simple sharing what was working for us with meal times in our home. All of a sudden, people started following along, and I guess the rest is history. Today my children are definitely the on-going inspiration for my feed. I want the foods that I make at home to be able to compete with the store-bought, commercial versions that routinely catch my family’s attention. I regularly challenge myself to make healthy treats and meals more fun, and in the process have taught myself that with the right ingredients, and a little extra time – even the healthiest meals could be appealing to children (and adults!). On my feed I try and share what I have learned (and am still learning!) with my audience, sharing family recipes, fun food and healthy treats, that are usually pretty coloful and easy too!

What is something you have learned from another #foodiemom and applied to your own cooking/meal strategy/etc.?
I get inspired by other women on Instagram every single day and could write so much about people who have taught, encouraged and even shaped me over the last couple years in this community. To name just a few: Kayla (@thefamilyfoodproject), Melanie (@cleanlittleplates) and Megan (@mamamakesfood) have each inspired me to eat more plant-based, which is something I really did not do that much a couple years ago. Heather (@heather_kidskitchen) is another Mama who has inspired me a lot. She has a vision and desire to make meals fun and colorful just like I do and I love that she works to help little ones outside of her home be hands on in the meal prep/ cooking process too. Ashley (@veggiesandvirtue) is another Mama who inspires me with her feed. She has kind of coined the phrase “loveitlikeitlearningit” in the insta-world and I love that she gave a term to something I have been trying to do with our own little ones. I also love her dietitian background, as I do not have the same head knowledge that she does when it comes to a lot of those details in the food space.

What is a food or nutrition related goal that you have for 2018 for yourself or your family?
For 2018, I really want to get back to basics. At times in 2017 I got a bit elaborate with recipes and got some feedback that my dishes and ideas were hard to replicate. I love making meals fun, and delicious, but I also want people who follow me to understand that feeding your family healthy, real food does not have to be hard. Sure, there are occasions I take more time to prep a meal than others, but I am also a mother of 3, all 4 and under, and definitely know what it is like to feel busy, overwhelmed, or just not want to cook. Ha! I hope in the next year to reach even more parents with the message that making healthy and good meals can be done on any schedule, and real food really can be fun.

Meet Megan from @mamamakesfood

What inspired/prompted you to start @mamamakesfood?
My passion for healthy eating and cooking took a new turn when our son became old enough to start eating solid foods. I’ve always enjoyed preparing food, but making it for our son was (and still is) so much fun. I decided to document our feeding journey and hopefully share some inspiration with other parents by starting my blog and Instagram feed. My son is nearly three now and it still brings me joy to prepare colorful and nutritious meals for all of us and continue to share pictures on Instagram. Not only is it truly satisfying to know I provide a little bit of healthy-feeding-inspo out there, but I’ve also forged friendships with countless like-minded foodie moms across the world.

What is something you have learned from another #foodiemom and applied to your own cooking/meal strategy/etc.?
My favorite foodie mom hack is definitely adding vegetables in unconventional places: spinach in muffins, cauliflower in smoothies, zucchini in pancakes, and so on. I’ve taken this technique and ran with it for a while now, developing my own recipes along the way. Getting my son in the kitchen to make these foods with me makes creating these veggie-loaded goodies even more special because he knows exactly what he’s eating.

What is a food or nutrition related goal that you have for 2018 for yourself or your family?
I want to meal plan more regularly. It’s so easy with our busy lifestyle to not take the time to plan our meals for the week, but when I do take the time, we eat better and cooking is more fun and less stressful (as it should be!). I also want to focus on offering more vegetables at snack time – especially raw veggies. My son doesn’t eat raw vegetables very well presently and I want to work on that this year. Finally, another goal I’m aiming for is to reduce the amount of dairy and processed grain products (breads, pastas, etc) my family eats. These products can be an easy choice when we are especially time-crunched, but they do not leave our bodies feeling nourished afterwards.

Meet Kanchan from @chiefspicemama

What inspired/prompted you to start @chiefspicemama?
Growing up in India, spices were everywhere. They elevated our food and served as natural remedies for various ailments from a sore throat to a tummy upset. I didn’t think anything of it until I was a PhD student in Cancer Biology at Harvard University a couple of decades later and my lab started studying curcumin, the active compound in turmeric for its cancer-fighting properties! I was stunned and amused that turmeric, which is such an integral part of the Indian kitchen and farm-acy, was finally being recognised by modern science for it’s health-boosting magic. When I became a mother, I started offering my son spices in his baby purees at 7 months of age – turmeric with avocado and lentils, cinnamon with sweet potato, cumin with carrots and peas, and so on. Many of my mom friends in New York City were skeptical. “Is that allowed”?! “Can you really give babies spices”?! I started my blog and my instagram account @chiefspicemama to debunk these myths and misunderstandings and to bring healing spices and their amazing health benefits to kids and families everywhere. I have just published my first cookbook and feel so blessed to be working at the intersection of science, spices, and food – an absolute dream come true for me.

What is something you have learned from another #foodiemom and applied to your own cooking/meal strategy/etc.?
Kayla Mangione is the beautiful mama behind @thefamilyfoodproject and I have learned so much from her about the power of plants and how to eat a more balanced, plant-based diet, which I believe to be super important for the health of our families and the planet! Kayla introduced me to the iron-rich powers of blackstrap molasses, for example, which we now offer baby in her oatmeal on a regular basis. I also love how Kayla takes meat-heavy classics like beef bolognese and substitutes in lentils or beans to make a plant-powered dish that is truly delicious and nourishing. I definitely find myself eating

What is a food or nutrition related goal that you have for 2018 for yourself or your family?
I would like my family and myself to eat more plants and less meat in 2018. Meat can be a healthy and important part of a balanced diet and we will continue to be responsible omnivores but I would like to experiment with plant-based dishes more. I also want to expand my 5 year old’s palate (even if I consider him a reasonably good eater already!) and my goal is to be patient and compassionate as I continuously expose him to new and nourishing foods (he still dislikes raw peppers, for instance). Along these lines, I would love to add in veggies for breakfast for the whole family on a regular basis – chocolate, zucchini oatmeal, anyone?! 🙂

Meet Jen from @drjencohen

What inspired/prompted you to start @drjencohen?

I have worked with families, specifically families with kids of fussy eaters in the one-on-one setting for a long. I found that I never had enough time in the sessions to really help a family and I really wanted to do more. By starting my blog and instagram feed I found this was the best way to really help families out their who are struggling to know how to help their fussy eaters as well as the best foods to give their kids. I have also designed courses that families can do online to help their fussy eaters to want to try new foods. I had not planned on being on instagram but went on there one day and I was amazed at the community of other mum’s I found being part of instragram. I now get to help families and have friends all over the world.

What is something you have learned from another #foodiemom and applied to your own cooking/meal strategy/etc.?
love to cook but recipe development is not something that is a strength of mine. I have found so many new recipes and meal ideas to feed my family and kids. I am all about making veggies fun for kids and I love the amount of veggie recipes I have found from other #foodiemoms. I especially love how other mums are adding veggies to breakfast and other snacks. Before instagram I had never thought about adding cauliflower to smoothies or zucchini and carrot to oats!

What is a food or nutrition related goal that you have for 2018 for yourself or your family?

I love this question. My goal is to continue to expose my kid’s to different foods and different flavours. I want to keep using different spices, herbs, flavours and textures and make different cusines so that my kid’s really learn to appreciate all types of food when they are older. My personal goal for 2018 is to get my fitness back!