Back 2 School: Eat Well 2 Learn Well

ten-creative-brown-bag-lunches-that-kids-and-adults-will-loveIt’s time to start thinking about back to school routines.  Good nutrition is another school supply for insuring your child’s success this school year.  Researchers support the fact that children and teens that eat well also learn well.

Avoid Brown Bag Boredom

Build an appetizing meal with at least 3 food groups. Ditch the sandwich and explore other options for whole grains such as pita, tortillas, sandwich thins, or rice-like grains such as quinoa, farro, and wheat berries. Load up on lean protein to make the energy last longer with fresh turkey or chicken, low-fat cheese or yogurt, peanut or almond butters and boiled eggs. Add fiber to stay satisfied with raw vegetables (carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, jicama, grape tomatoes) and fresh fruit. Enlist the troops and invite the family to build their own lunch by choosing 1-2 servings from each food group.

Tips for Building a Smart Snack

Keep ingredients for smart snacks on hand. A smart snack has 2 food groups: a source of energy (carbs) and a stabilized (fat or protein). Ideal snacks for younger children are small, nutrient-dense and fun! Think fruit, vegetables and protein!


  • Fruit Kebabs with yogurt dip
  • Ants on a Log
  • Veggie Faces

Ideal snacks for older children are also small, nutrient-dense and portable. Think complex carbs for lasting energy and protein!


  • Fruit (apple, orange) + Cheese Stick
  • Trail Mix (nuts + dried fruit)
  • Raw Vegetables + Hummus or Peanut Butter

See these tips in action via my latest newscast:

Bottom Line: Help your families to achieve balanced energy for working, learning or playing by building balanced meals and smart snacks!

Feed Fido Well: 5 Ways to Keep Large Breed Dogs Healthy

dog-foodPets or companion animals have been around for centuries.  Pets date back all the way to the 8th century. An early literary reference to “man’s best friend” is in Homer’s Odyssey. Pet popularity has only increased over time. It is estimated that about 42% of households in the U.S. own a dog and about 33% own a cat. Independent of whether you are a dog person, or a cat person, one can understand the love that people have for their pets. Why not show your love for your companion animal with good nutrition?

This post explores good nutrition principles for large breed dogs, such as airedale terriers, German shepherds, Golden retrievers, and Alaskan huskies. Larger dogs are predisposed to dysplasia, at the elbow and hips. This disposition is heavily associated with a dog’s early nutrition. Check out the 5 recommendations below to help keep your pup healthy!

  1. Choose a dog food with anti-inflammatory ingredients with a appropriate composition. Look for dog foods with a high percentage of protein. High protein diets do not contribute to dysplasia; this is a myth. It is important to consider the ancestral diet of canines. Canines are carnivores, but can tolerate some carbohydrate. Therefore the ideal dietary composition is:
  • 56% Protein
  • 25-30% Fat
  • 16% Carb

This is the assumed ancestral diet. However, in this day and age that is nearly impossible and thus research supports the following composition from dry dog food:

  • 18-32% Protein
  • 8-22% Fat
  • 46-74% Carb

Dry dog foods that will meet this composition will have high-grade animal products as their primary ingredients, with minimal grains and potatoes. Grains that may benefit a dog are barley and oats.

  1. Do not overfeed your puppy.Provide adequate energy needs for growth at a steady pace based on the following equation: 3500 x (Pup’s Weight / 2.2)

This will determine the number of calories based 3500 kCal of Dog food per Kilogram of body weight. You will need to identify the volume of dog food to provide the amount of calories your pup needs. If you find that growth is inadequate at this rate, you can multiply the weight up to 4000 Calories.

  1. Assess the calcium to phosphorus ratio. Excess calcium in a pup’s diet is probablly a close secondary cause of dysplasia. Aim for a ratio of 1.1:1 to 1.5:1 (Calcium:Phosphorus) Utilize the calculator at:
  1. Consider supplementing Glucosamine and Chrondroitin. Most vets agree upon 500mg of Glucosamine and 400mg of Chondroitin per 25lbs body weight per day. This may be found in the dry dog food. If it is not, you may want to consider supplementing the dog’s food.
  1. Consider supplementing with Fish oil.Quality fish oil can help to combat inflammation in dogs just like it does in humans. Researchers do not know the best ratio of EPA to DHA for dogs. They have concluded that EPA has strong anti-inflammatory properties for dogs and make recommendations for daily intake based on the following equation: 20mg EPA for every 1lb body weight. So, for a 25lb pup they would need 500mg EPA daily. This- again- may be in their dog food and they may not require a supplemental form.

Six Ways to Eat Pumpkin that aren’t Pie

dsc_6136Pumpkin is a versatile nutrition powerhouse that can be enjoyed in more ways than pie. One serving of pumpkin, or ½-cup, has 2 times the daily need, or recommended daily allowance (RDA), of vitamin A and one-third of the daily requirement of vitamin C. This fiber-rich squash is also a potent antioxidant that is loaded with carotenoids. Carotenoids are anti-oxidants found in plants that give them their rich orange, yellow and red color. Carotenoids have cancer-fighting properties. Researchers have also found that these orange antioxidants can help to prevent heart disease and promote eye health.

Pumpkin is not just for pie and can be prepared in several ways- sweet and savory- for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Most recipes will call for diced cooked pumpkin or a pumpkin puree. Start fresh and make your own.

Roasted Pumpkin
• 1 small Pumpkin
• 1 Tablespoon Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Using a large spoon, scoop out the seeds and insides of the pumpkin. Save the seeds for roasting.
2. Use a serrated knife to peel the pumpkin or remove the skin.
3. Dice pumpkin into 1-inch by 1-inch cubes.
4. Place the pumpkin cubes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and rub on both sides of pumpkin
5. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until the cubes are fork tender.
6. To make pumpkin puree, place the cooled pumpkin cubes into a blender and add ¼ cup water. Puree to desired consistency.


Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Serves 2
• 1 cup Pumpkin puree (see recipe above)
• 1 Banana
• 1 cup Non-Fat Milk
• 1 Tablespoon Honey
• 1 ¼ teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
• 5 Ice Cubes

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until desired consistency.
Pumpkin Pancakes
Serves 2-3
• 1 cup Oat flour
• ½ cup Rolled Oats
• 1 ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
• 1 Tablespoon Oil
• 1 teaspoon Vanilla
• ½ cup Pumpkin Puree (see recipe above)
• ½ cup Plain, Non-fat Yogurt
• ½ cup Non-fat Milk
• ½ teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

1. Preheat skillet over medium-heat.
2. Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir until mixed.
3. Pour batter on to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes on each side.


Savory Pumpkin Soup
Serves 4
• 3 cup Pumpkin Puree (see recipe above)
• 1 cup low-sodium Vegetable Broth
• ¼ teaspoon Garlic powder
• ¼ teaspoon Onion Powder
• ¼ teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
• ¼ cup Fresh Parsley, minced
• 2 Tablespoons Tub Margarine
• ½ cup Plain, Non-Fat Greek Yogurt

1. Mix the pumpkin, broth and spices in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Stir in parsley and yogurt. Serve hot or cold.

Spicy Pumpkin Chili
Serves 6
• 3 cups Roasted Pumpkin, cubed (see recipe above)
• 2 Tablespoon Olive oil
• 1 small Onion, chopped
• 1 Yellow Bell Pepper, chopped
• 2 cloves Garlic, minced
• 1 (14.5 ounce) can low-sodium Tomatoes, diced
• 1 lb. Ground Turkey Breast
• 1 cup Water
• 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
• 1 teaspoon Cumin
• 2 (15-ounce) cans Kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Add turkey and cook until browned.
3. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, water, chili powder, and cumin and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to medium low and add beans.
5. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes more.
6. Ladle chili into bowls and serve hot.


Curried Pumpkin and Chickpeas
Serves 4-6
• 3 cups Roasted Pumpkin, cubed (see recipe above)
• 2 Tablespoon Olive oil
• 3 cloves Garlic, minced
• 1, 2-inch piece Ginger, minced
• 1 small Onion, chopped
• 2 Carrots, chopped
• 2 stalks Celery, chopped
• 1 medium Tomato, chopped
• 1 small head Cauliflower, chopped
• 1 Bay Leaf
• 2 Tablespoons Curry Powder
• 2 (15-ounce) cans Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
• 3 cups low-sodium Vegetable broth
• 2 Tablespoons Plain, Non-fat Greek Yogurt

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, carrot, celery, ginger and onion and cook until soft, 15 minutes.
2. Add tomato, bay leaf, and curry powder and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes.
3. Add chickpeas, pumpkin and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add cauliflower, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 1 hour.
4. Remove bay leaves. Stir in yogurt and serve hot.

Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
Serves 2-4


• 1 cup Pumpkin puree (see recipe above)
• 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
• 1 cloves Garlic, minced
• ¼ cup Onion, minced
• 1 cup low sodium Vegetable broth
• 2 Tablespoons Parmesan, grated
• 1/3 cup Plain, Non-fat Greek Yogurt
• Pinch Nutmeg

1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until tender, 3-5 minutes.
2. Add pumpkin and broth and stir until combined. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
3. Add cheese and yogurt, whisk until combined.
4. Serve ½ cup sauce over 1 cup Cooked Whole Wheat Pasta.


Don’t forget to save those nutrient-dense pumpkin seeds for a tasty snack or crunchy topping loaded with fiber, healthful fats, vitamins and minerals!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
• Raw Pumpkin Seeds
• Water
• Salt
• Cooking Spray

1. Clean the seeds by removing pumpkin flesh and rinsing in a colander.
2. Pour the clean seeds in a saucepan and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring seeds and water to a boil for 10 minutes.
3. Drain the seeds and pat dry.
4. Preheat oven to 325F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and spreads seeds in an even layer.
5. Roast the seeds for 10 minutes. Then, remove and toss to be sure they are cooking evenly. Place them back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes.
6. Serve warm or cold, or store in an air-tight container.

Help Your Child Eat Well

Written by Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD CD CDE CPT

A recent anti-obesity campaign from Children’s healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong4Life movement, released a video that has sparked great attention. This PSA, “Rewind the Future,” features a 300-pound man having a heart attack in the ER as his life flashes before his eyes. The viewer gets a sneak peek into the habits that may have led him to that hospital.

Eating well starts at birth and there are a variety of things that parents can do to help their child develop mindful eating habits.

  1. Read Books about Food. Help your child to learn about where food comes from.
  2. Play Games with Food. Keep food fun and let it penetrate into different areas of life besides the dinner table. Food can be used to help your child with math, shapes, colors, and a variety of sciences including horticulture, biology and chemistry.
  3. Plant a Garden. Get dirty with your kids. Researchers have shown that kids who garden tend to eat more vegetables than those who do not.
  4. Invite your child to plan the family’s meal. Children who have a say in what they eat are more open to try new foods and tend to have better diets.
  5. Ask your child to help prepare the family’s meal. Don’t stop at meal planning, invite your child into the kitchen to learn how healthful food is prepared.
  6. Eat as a family. There are loads of benefits that come from family meals, including better communications skills, healthier meal patterns and a stronger sense of belonging.
  7. Avoid power struggles. Keep meal time a peaceful time and learn to trust your child’s choices during meals and snacks.
  8. Let your child develop their palate. Help your child to explore a variety of foods, including those that you may not like. Remember, just because you like sweets after a meal, or salt and butter with your veggies your child may not. Allow your child to develop their own nutrition likes and dislikes.
  9. Allow your child to obey their instinct. From birth, infants follow their internal hunger and fullness cues. They eat until they are satisfied. Help your child to preserve this intuition.
  10. Be a good role model. Kids tend to model their parents eating habits. If you’re reaching for vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruit and water, they will too.

Detox: The Body’s Spring Cleaning

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD CD CDE CPT


Tis’ the season for spring-cleaning! Take the opportunity to peruse through things acquired over the last several months. Some people truly enjoy the refreshing nature of starting fresh with the turn of this season, and others dread the time it takes to sort, scrub and discard. The body also has a spring-cleaning process, but it happens more than one time per year; it is constant.


The Dispute

There is much debate in the nutrition community whether the body needs assistance in the detoxification processes. Some healthcare professionals state that the body can eliminate any toxins it comes into contact with without assistance. Detox critics warn consumers against fad diets that encourage people to hit their body’s “reset button.” Many detoxification protocols are quite extreme and include unhealthful behaviors that can cause more stress to the body; there are healthful habits that can support this natural process.


How it Happens

Detoxification is the physical removal of toxins from a living organism.When the body is equipped with healthy lungs, kidneys and a liver the body is constantly detoxing. In fact, the liver’s main function is to process toxins that we ingest purposefully (alcohol, cigarette smoke, charred meats, etc.) and unintentionally (pollution, heavy metals, etc.). In general, the detox process occurs in three phases:

  • Phase I: A family of enzymes, known at Cytochrome P-450, lead a series of reactions that create an unstable form of the toxin. These reactions are known as oxidation, reduction and hydrolysis.
  • Phase II: This step continues the process initiated in phase I and creates a water-soluble product that can be removed via bile or urine.
  • Phase III: Activity in this phase occurs in the intestines where the intestinal cells (enterocytes) pump toxins, known as xenobiotics, back into the bowel. When the toxin re-enters circulation, phase I and II activities also increase, and the overall detox process occurs at a higher rate.


It is important to note that not all toxins cause this up-regulation. In fact, toxins from charred meats and cigarettes only increase phase I activity and not phase II. Therefore, there is potential for these toxins to reach unhealthful levels in the body.


How to Help

Research in the area of nutrition-supported detox is well underway, but remains inconclusive. Researchers do know that there are several nutrients, parts of foods that help to support the body’s spring-cleaning. Read on to learn how to help:

Reduce Exposure

The simplest way to support detox is by reducing the body’s exposure to toxins. This would include smoking cessation, consuming alcohol in moderation (0-2 servings per day), and avoiding the “dirty dozen.”

The dirty dozen plus are 14 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticide residues. If a person is interested in purchasing organic foods, these are the best ones to start with:produce

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • White Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Bell Peppers
  • Kale and Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash


Support the Process

Many of the detox reactions require specific nutrients. Therefore, the theory is that by increasing a person’s intake of these compounds they could support the detox process. These include B vitamins, glutathione and flavonoids:

  • B Vitamins are found in dark green vegetables, orange fruits, whole grains, beans, poultry, fish and eggs.
  • Glutathione is a potent antioxidant made of three amino acids (glutamate, cysteine and glycine). Milk thistle and curcumin (turmeric) have been shown to increase levels of glutathione in the body, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products.
  • Flavonoids are yellow-colored antioxidants that are found in several foods, including parsley, blueberries, tea, and citrus fruits.


Pick up the Pace

There are two ways to increase the rate of detoxification processes in the body:

  • Choose foods that can increase the phase I and II activities, including cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), onions and garlic.
  • Stay hydrated by choosing water as the beverage of choice. When the body is well hydrated it is able to carry out its natural functions with ease.

The V-5 “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”

The V-5 definitely “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) I couldn’t miss the opportunity of featuring my beautiful children during National Nutrition Month®!

Lily enjoying some pre-meal tummy time.
Lily enjoying some pre-meal tummy time.

Eating well is a pillar in the pursuit of overall wellness, especially if you are/were a premature infant. I attribute my children’s well-being to their healthcare team’s (which includes Mommy & Daddy) dedication to feeding them well from day one.

I have bragged on and on about breast milk in past posts, including Mommy Nutrition and 2 Simple Acts, so the following will feature the best solid foods for infants, or Baby’s Super Foods. These also happen to be super foods for the oldest of children- aka adults. I selected the following foods based on their nutrient density, ease of digestion and preparation and friendliness to the young palate.

Tummy time-out for Kali
Tummy time-out for Kali

Grass-fed Beef & Organic Poultry

Meat and poultry are great first foods due to their iron content.  Baby’s stores of iron begin to fade around 6 months so, a food rich in iron is important. Additionally, iron from animal sources (heme-iron) is much easier to absorb and use by the body. Meat also is loaded with B-vitamins and zinc. If you opt for grass-fed over grain-fed cattle, you will also get meat with more healthy omega-3 fats, vitamins A and E, and less of the unhealthy saturated fats, hormones and antibiotics. Organic poultry is ideal for the same reasons; basically more time and attention are directed towards the birds living quarters and nutrition creating a better quality end product.


Lentils may be small but they are mighty. They are loaded with protein, fiber, iron, zinc and a host of B-vitamins. They are also a good source of copper, potassium and molybdenum. These legumes are quick and easy to prepare and generally more tender than other types of dried beans.

Bone Broth

This nutritional powerhouse can be made by boiling chicken or beef bones in water and a touch of vinegar. It is a significant source of GAGs, or glycosaminoglycanschondroitin sulfatekeratan sulfate and hyaluronic acid, which are all “ingredients” for cartilage. Additionally, the red marrow has myeloid stem cells, which supports red blood cell development and the immune system. This broth also is a great source of glycine and proline, which are the building blocks for other amino acids (protein). Glycine and proline are also used by the body to aid digestion, promote healing, and create healthy plasma. Logically, bone broth also provides a good source of minerals found in bone: calcium, phosphorus and magnesium to aid in bone development and maintenance.

Theo chowing down on avocado
Theo chowing down on avocado


This fatty fruit is a good source of fiber, vitamins K, E and C, a few B-vitamins, as well as, potassium, and copper. Avocadoes provide a host of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals (antioxidants from plants) and can help with absorption of other nutrients, like carotenoids (orange, yellow and red phytochemicals). Besides aiding in blood sugar regulation and heart health, they also make a great beauty product.

Butternut Squash

This orange, winter squash may require some extra prep work but the sweet flavor and benefits are well worth it. Although squash are a starchy vegetable, their carbohydrate is much different than a potato; it has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The orange color gives away that it is a great source of vitamin A, but it is also loaded with vitamins C, B6 and several minerals.

Gluten-free Oatmeal

This hardy cereal is a great first food for infants. My vote goes to oats over rice for an infant cereal because it is rich in iron, zinc, phosphorus, fiber and protein, as well as, several other vitamins and minerals. It also comes without the worry of arsenic toxicity.

Why gluten-free? Well, gluten is a very inflammatory agent that is found in wheat, rye, barley and some oats and can be difficult to digest. Often times, traditional oats can also be “contaminated” with wheat due to shared processing equipment. I feel it is best for babies to be wheat-free until their first birthdays when they dive into that cake! Overall, I opt for gluten-free because it is much nicer to the kiddos’ digestive tract.

Bella loves to help feed herself
Bella loves to help feed herself


I had to include at least one common fruit. Bananas are a great first fruit because they are a good source of vitamins C, B6, B2 and of course, potassium. They also provide bone-building minerals, including magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. Besides the benefit of being very convenient to prepare, they are also known as nature’s antacid because they contain a substance that can help the stomach and intestines produce the mucus lining.

Another bonus of the foods mentioned above is that when they are pureed they contain at least 20 calories per Tablespoon, which is equivalent to the average amount of calories in one-ounce of breast milk. When you have picky bottle-feeders who love solids this can be a huge lifesaver!

Ellie loves to help feed herself, too.
Ellie loves to help feed herself, too.

Whether these foods are old favorites or perhaps news ones to try, I encourage children of all ages to serve up these super foods and “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right!”

The sign of good food (Kali)
The sign of good food (Kali)

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Your One Source For Wellness Information.


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