Saturday, February 23, 2008

Healthy Food Options for Kids

I think a lot of us will benefit from this question by newsanchormom reader Jennifer. I am excited to say I got some specific recommendations on brands from two dieticians. (often times people don't want to mention brands.)

Jennifer wrote:

"I work really hard to feed my family healthy meals and try to rely as little as possible on convenience foods. However, working full time and having two kids, I do rely on a few products to make my life easier, things like tortilla shells, frozen vegetables, rice mixes, etc. I always look at the labels but find myself questioning which data is the most relevant. Calories? Fat grams per serving? Sodium? For example, one product may be lower in fat, but higher in calories and salt. How do you know which is really the healthier option? (BTW, we don't have any health issues, so it's more about prevention than, for example, avoiding salt due to high blood pressure)."

Karen Hutton, the Patient Services Manager at Methodist Medical Center in Peoria and Julie Fehrenbacher, a Registered Dietician at Methodist, gave me some great insight on this topic.

Julie said she thinks Jennifer is on the right track. She said, "With the tortilla shells go for whole grain and make sure there's at least three grams of fiber in there. The frozen veggies are great as long as they don't have a pre-made sauce on them. The rice mixes, I would encourage a whole grain rice mix or brown rice that you could add seasoning to. " Karen said "rice mixes" usually have a lot of salt in them. "If you add your own seasoning, you wouldn't have as much salt. " She suggests using half of a seasoning packet so you aren't getting as much salt.

I wanted to know about the pre-packaged foods. Are those just absolutely horrible for my kids?Julie said, "There are some good prepackaged choices. I like Morning Star. It's a little more expensive, but they have veggie burgers that only take about 15 minutes to make and they taste good. I also like the whole grain Lean Pockets. " Karen said, "Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine are also fairly good options. The portions are smaller than other frozen meals and it would be better than going to McDonald's."

Both dieticians agree frozen vegetables are one of the best options. Use the microwave to cook them and add seasoning like Molly Mcbutter. You can also add garlic powder like Mrs. Dash. Add frozen veggies to whole grain rice for a quick meal.

What do dieticians feed their kids/grandkids?

Here's one I haven't heard. Karens say to try making a pizza using Light Flat Out bread. She says it is high in fiber, low in calories and easy. She just puts pizza sauce on top, some low-fat cheese and veggies. Karen said, "The cheese doesn't have to be fat free, it can be low fat and you don't have to use a lot to make the pizza taste good. The Flat Out Bread comes with different crust. It's usually in the bakery isle or deli area. But make sure you read the package because some stores don't sell the "light" version. "Karen has seen them at Wal-mart, Schnucks and Kroger.

Julie suggests Vandekamp breaded fish for kids. She said, "It's baked so the fish sticks are healthier and they're approved by the Heart Health Association."

So what should you keep in mind when you're looking at the back of a package?

Calories, Fiber and Fat content are the main things to look at when you turn the package over. Julie says to compare like products. See which ones has the least amount of calories and fat and the most fiber.

What about the foods in the health food section?

Karen said, "The health food section has more organic and soy products. They don't have to come from there to be healthy options, but there are definitely healthy food products in that area."

What about little snacks to throw in the diaper bag? What would be your choice?

Karen said, "Julie and my favorite bars are Fiber One bars. I keep them in my purse, 140 calories, 4 g fat, 9 g of fiber. They have peanut butter, not just chocolate flavors."

Karen and Julie say to encourage kids to drink more water when making these choices because they can get bloated and constipated. "Water is so important." will let you type in your personal information to give you a better idea of exactly what you should be buying at the grocery store.

What are your favorite food choices for kids?

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Diane Vespa said...

Jen, this was your best post ever!
Thanks for the tips. As exhausted Moms, I think we can all use a little help in that department!!

Sodium selector said...

Helping reduce the amount of sodium in your child's diet is important. "A taste for high salt intake is learned and children eventually feel that foods low in sodium don't have any flavor" according to Las Vegas dietician, Carolyn Leontos. In this article ( she emphasizes the importance of helping kids develop healthy habits.

There are major difference in the sodium content of prepared foods.

One recent low sodium product that I discovered is Krema Natural Peanut Butter. The ingredients are just peanuts! The sodium content is 0 mg per serving! Learn about Krema at .

Jan M

Jennifer said...

Thanks so much. I really appreciate the product recommendations. I have seen the flat out bread at Walmart, but never would have thought to make homemade pizza with it. (My kids love to top their own pizzas)
I'll have to watch for the whole grain hotpockets. They might make for an easy weekend lunch, when eaten with some fresh fruit.
Thanks for doing the research. This post has so much great advice.

Shannon said...

I love the Steamfresh frozen veggies. They're no more expensive than their canned counterparts and taste so much better... my kids actually get excited over carrots and corn when they see me pull one of those out!

This is something we struggle with a lot too. My kids aren't really picky and often choose fruits over sugary stuff for snacks, but I feel like we get into such a meal rut and that makes us turn to faster, less-healthy options.

Lisa said...

Great post! I am very aware of what I feed my kids on a regular basis and do my best to make healthy choices. It was helpful to hear specific brand recommendations... Unless I get to the store without the kids, they don't have the patience to sit in the cart for long while I read nutrition labels. So thanks for the ideas. I'll definitely be trying these!

Maria said...

Thanks for the tips! I like to keep washed, organic, fresh fruit around for snacks when we are home. When away, I chose an unsweetened cereal like snack or dried fruit to keep in his snack trip type bowl. I never give him juice, so all he knows is breastmilk and water for quenching his thirst. said...

I tried the flat out bread pizza last night and it was a big hit. The light flat out bread looks like tortillas and is in front of the cheese in the deli at Walmart. I put mozarella cheese and feta cheese on the kid's pizza. I put zucchini, mushrooms and green peppers on mine.
And I also bought the the Fiber One bars and the VandeKamp fish sticks. It was a lot faster knowing which brands to grab as opposed to reading all the labels. I will have to try Stream fresh frozen veggies. I wasn't sure which veggies to choose.

Anonymous said...

A great way to add flavor to hot veggies is to serve with cheese sauce. Easy to make from 1 Tablsp cornstarch & 1 C milk, mix/shake, pour in pyrex & microwave for @ 2.5 min. Stir away lumps until thick, add shredded cheese, @ 1/2-3/4 Cup. This is also a base for cheese soup. Also, to control salt in casseroles, use this same white sauce minus the cheese and add your own flavoring- chicken/veggie base, onion, spices... and use instead of canned soup in any recipe. Susan T

Template by lollybloggerdesigns. Design by Taylor Johnston.