Embracing a plant-based diet without being vegan

One of the most popular diet trends right now is including more plant-based foods and many are choosing to become vegan. The reason is many studies show diets that are abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds are consistent with lower rates of chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  This makes sense as one of the components of the western diet that is believed to contribute to heart disease includes increased intake of saturated fat, which is present in animal fats.  Also, as more of the population is becoming aware of environmental issues many are choosing to eat less meat because it is better for the environment.

When you first hear about a strictly plant-based diet it seems extreme, especially if you are a dedicated omnivore. I know when I first started to read the research I was overwhelmed, but then I started to read more information just encouraging you to eat more plants and less meat.  That was something I could embrace.  To be honest I had tried being vegan, but at this point in my life when I have a family to cook for and children that are constantly changing their tastes, it was just too stressful.  I also get a lot of joy out of sharing one meal with my family and I was afraid I would constantly be eating a separate meal.  For me it just made more sense to have a diet that is high in plants and low in animals.  Below are some small steps I have taken to consciously include more plants in my diet:

  1. Try and have at least 1 vegan meal per day.  I will be honest and I probably meet this 4 days per week, but it is a work in progress and a couple of years ago I likely was not even eating 1 vegan meal per week.
  2. Include plant-based protein in foods that you may not notice the difference. Many times I start my day with a smoothie. I realized that I could use either fortified soy milk or protein fortified nut milk in place of cow’s milk and I did not notice the difference. Below is the recipe for my favorite morning smoothie.
  3. Embrace beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Beans are easy to add to salads and soups as a plant-based protein. Nuts and seeds can be added to salads and vegetable stir fry to give a crunchy texture and add protein. Legumes, such as lentils, are very versatile. They can be added to rice dishes and I find that they can replace meat in soups, stews, and chili. Lentils are also quick cooking.
  4. Using the principles of my earlier post on “how to build a dinner” one can deconstruct meals to make them appropriate for either meat-eater or a non-meat eater. We have a family friend that comes to dinner weekly that is vegan. I utilize the build a meal concept to serve something that pleases everyone. I have served stir fry bowls, Mexican rice bowls, baked potato bar, pasta bar, and vegan chili bar. When doing this you want to make sure that the staple dish is vegan and then you can have extra toppings like cheese or meat that omnivores can use to customize their dish, but there are plenty of vegan toppings so the vegan at the table does not feel like they are eating air.  Refer to previous post https://amyreednutrition.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/how-to-build-a-dinner/
  5. Use the above ideas to start a meatless meal night for the family.

Over the last few years it has become easier for me to incorporate more plant-based meals.  Who knows, one day when I am no longer cook for the family I may decide to be vegan because research shows that it does not matter at what point in your life you become vegan because there are health benefits seen at every age. However, for now, I will just eat more plants and less meat.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

8 ounces of fortified soy milk or protein fortified nut milk

1-2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter

1 banana

1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

Place in blender and blend until smooth.  If you like a slushie consistency then add a few ice cubes when blending.



Who wins the battle: Cooked vs. Fresh Produce

There is a lot of conflicting information regarding what the best foods are to eat. One thing that is debated is “cooked produce worse than raw produce?”  There are many concerned that when you cook a food there is nutrient loss and therefore it is generally thought that fresh fruits and vegetables are better than cooked.  However, we must remember that for many people it is impossible to eat raw fruits and vegetables all the time.  Let us take a look at some things to keep in mind when purchasing fresh, cooked, canned, or frozen fruits and vegetables.

Cooking may actually improve the nutrients of some foods. When tomatoes are cooked it has been shown that their levels of the antioxidant, lycopene increase. Lycopene is present in fruits and vegetables with a red flesh.  Lycopene is thought to lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.  When carrots are cooked it is thought that the levels of beta carotene increase.   Beta carotene is considered a carotenoid and it helps give fruits and vegetables a yellow, red, or orange color.  Beta Carotene is converted to vitamin A and plays an important role in many body functions.

Deep frying vegetables are not the best way to get the nutrients. Foods that have been fried have increased levels of free radicals due to oxidation of the oil when heated. Free radicals can damage living cells in the body.

Vitamin C levels in foods can lower as a result of the cooking process. Foods that are high in vitamin C, like tomatoes and citrus fruits do not have as high of levels after cooking. However, this should not be a reason to never cook a vegetable.  Vitamin C is plentiful in many foods, therefore as long as you eat some fresh citrus, strawberries, and raw broccoli with your cooked vegetables you should be fine.

Frozen food can be a way to get optimal nutrients if the process is done correctly. When fresh produce is frozen it needs to be done quickly, packed in a container that allows minimal air, and stay frozen until ready to be prepared. Many fruits and vegetables may be frozen shortly after harvest and may have more nutrients than fresh produce.  In winter months when some areas of the country are unable to grow fresh produce locally, frozen produce may be one of the best ways to have foods with optimal nutrients.

The transit of some fresh fruits and vegetables may contribute to loss of nutrients. When fruits and vegetables are not grown locally they may be harvested weeks before they are consumed and depending upon the conditions of transfer they may lose some nutrients by the time they arrive at a grocery store for purchase. Produce contains a high percentage of water and once harvested water loss, energy loss, and nutrient loss occur.  Therefore, depending upon the time of year and where you live, frozen or canned produce may provide a better nutrient profile than fresh.

There really is no clear-cut winner in the battle of cooked vs fresh produce. The winning idea is that everyone should include plenty of fruits and vegetables in their diet, whether they are cooked or fresh.  Despite all of the conflicting information about diet one thing that has remained consistent is that fruits and vegetables are always part of a healthy diet.

Additional sources of information used as reference in preparing this post:






A Dietitian’s Confession

Yes, I have a confession to make. Many think dietitians eat perfect all the time and I would like to say that most of the time I am good about having a balanced meal that includes fruits and vegetables, I drink water most of the time, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen making food from scratch, and I do not eat much fast food.  Therefore, many would say that I do fit the stereotype for dietitians.  I also exercise at least 5 days per week.  I am not going to lie, I admit, I love chocolate (especially mixed with peanut butter) and I have other splurges as well.  My confession is that I take a medication to lower my cholesterol.  I am sharing this with you because in today’s society there is judgement by others if you are taking a medication for something that is reportedly cured by lifestyle.

When I was in my late 20’s and some of my cholesterol numbers were starting to get higher than desired I made a few tweaks to my diet, hoped it was a fluke, and went about my life. Medication would not have been an option at that time because I was hoping to start a family.  After I was finished with pregnancy and nursing I decided it was time to get my numbers checked again and they were high, especially my LDL (my bad cholesterol).  I was 37 years old.  At the time I still felt I was eating healthy and I was regularly exercising.  I started the medication and also tweaked my diet again.  After 6 months my cholesterol was almost too low on the medicine and I was getting ready to train for a ½ marathon so my doctor told me to stop the medication.  When I had my labs drawn after being off the medication and after running a ½ marathon and continued healthy eating, my numbers went back up.  My doctor and I decided I should go on ½ the dose of the prescribed statin, and that is what I remain on today.

I share this with you because when you look at the lifestyle risk factors for heart disease they are poor eating habits, inactivity, smoking, and increased alcohol consumption. I had none of these and historically had low blood pressure, therefore, with my family history being my only risk factor (there is a strong presence of early heart disease in one side of my family) medication was the option. Being on a cholesterol lowering medication does not make me want to give up the lifestyle that I live.  I still choose healthy foods and maintain activity.  I will admit that I do try to add new foods to my diet that may help naturally lower my cholesterol and improve heart health.  Some of these things include, eating at least 1 plant-based meal per day, taking fish oil supplements, including increased whole grains, and eating less meat.  In the last few years it seems that no matter what I have tried to tweak about diet, my numbers are the same.  On the medication the numbers are within a normal range, I lead a very active lifestyle, and I keep reminding myself that this very low dose of medication is really not something to be ashamed of.  It is true that many can change their lifestyle to help with risk factors for disease, but be careful of making blanket statements about those that need medications to control those risk factors.

Cautious Eater Ahead!

 Why I choose to say Cautious eater rather than Picky eater.

I hear the term picky eater from parents, friends, and relatives often. I have used that term on many occasion, but mostly because it is the most used phrase to describe kids that may have limited food choices.  The term picky eater has been used to describe my own child.  However, after several years of addressing my child’s picky eating I have decided that I needed a change in my thinking.  When you look up the word picky in the dictionary it is defined as, being choosy, fussy, or hard to please.  All of those terms may remind us of a picky eater, but this definition also brings up negative thoughts about the one experiencing these behaviors.  The word cautious is described as careful to avoid danger and desire to avoid problems.  A cautious person will likely pay attention to all the signs in the image above and be careful.

When I look at my child I feel like the word picky sounds negative and it makes me angry at him for not responding when I try to introduce a new food or try a new strategy.  Recently, I have started to think of him as more cautious.  This makes sense because he is cautious in other areas of his life.  In the past we have had to ease him into wearing shin guards and snow boots.  He is anxious anytime we are trying something new, therefore, why would trying new food be any different.

Being cautious can be a good thing at times and since I have shifted my mindset I have realized that because this is part of my son’s personality he may never be the adventurous kid when it comes to food. However, that does not mean I am going to stop introducing new food experiences, but I will approach it similar to how I approached him wearing snow boots for the first time, slowly and without expectations.  Also, I do not want to discourage him from being cautious and to be honest I am really hoping that his cautious side will be his greatest asset in his teenage years.

I recently did a Facebook live post on my Facebook page, Amy Reed Nutrition, about this new approach to my son, the cautious eater. The new techniques I am trying include the following:

  • Teaching him how to make a few of his favorite foods so he can gain some independence in the kitchen.
  • Discussing what we will be having for dinner, but letting him know that I realize he may be hesitant about some foods and I do not expect him to try it. (However, just like the boots…if I keep putting them by the door and eventually he may put them on).
  • Encouraging him to get involved in the kitchen, but not forcing him.
  • Purchasing kitchen utensils that he feels comfortable with.

If you would like to see my Facebook live video on the Cautious Eater and other videos here is the link https://www.facebook.com/amyreednutrition/videos/?ref=page_internal

The bottom line is the word picky is a negative word as opposed to cautious, which is viewed as a more positive trait.  Do you think we should move to label kids as cautious eaters, rather than picky eaters?

Kind is the new Tough

Kind is the new Tough

Last summer I wrote regarding my concern that the message to have a healthy body image is more aimed at girls than boys. Since then I have done more research about boys and body image and as a mother of boys I have paid attention to how the message of body image is sent to them.  This fall I saw the book pictured below “Strong is the new Pretty” by Kate T. Parker, and I thought why not have a parallel campaign for boys that helps debunk the stereotype that boys need to be strong and tough.

Strong is the new prettyedited

That is what led me to research this more, because I wondered, what is the impact of having highly muscled and attractive men advertising many products? Also, how is giving attention to men that do not always make kind decisions affect our young men?  The following are some facts I have found in reviewing articles related to males and body image:

  • Boys that have a positive relationship with their father and a positive relationship with peers have a lower incidence of body image discrepancy. Body image discrepancy is when a youth is dissatisfied with their actual body size because it does not meet what they believe to be their ideal size (1).
  • Fear of negative attention from peers about body type causes boys to have a higher incidence of body image discrepancy (1).
  • If boys have positive physical self-worth there is less chance of body image discrepancy (1).
  • When young men have nurturing parents this leads to better body satisfaction (2).
  • Prevalence of extreme dietary restriction and purging behaviors are increasing at a faster rate in males (3).
  • Binge eating disorders are the most common type of eating disorders in men (4).
  • Males desire bodies that are lean and muscular (5).
  • Muscle dysmorphia is a condition where men obsess about achieving an overly muscular physique, which can lead to obsessive exercise and varied eating patterns (4).

The above are facts that I have found from various studies and organizations that support eating disorder awareness. Given these above statistics I have noticed that there is not as much body diversity in advertising to boys and men as there is to females (and that is only my opinion from what I have observed).  I have also noticed that there seems to be a double standard I have heard female newscasters overly commenting on how attractive a male is, when as a society it would not be acceptable for a male newscaster to make the same comment about a woman’s body.  I say to be equal we stop commenting on others bodies and start talking about the positive qualities they show.  Do they help people? Do they have a unique talent? Are they smart?  Are they kind?

Muscle Photo #2editedMuscle Photo #1edited

Are these images really what we want to encourage our boys to live a healthy life?  Is this realistic?  Is this the only picture of health?

Evidence supports how important it is to have positive nurturing relationships to improve self esteem and body acceptance.  I say it is time we stop emphasizing the need for boys to be strong and tough, but start teaching them to be kind!  This will lead them to become better friends, better fathers, better life partners, and better humans and that will benefit everyone.

Related articles:




  1. Micheal S, Wentzel K, Elliot M, et al. Parental and Peer Factors Associated with Body Image Discrepancy among Fifth-Grade Boys and Girls. J Youth Adolesc. 2014 January: 43 (1): 15-29
  2. Holsen I, Jones DC, Birkeland MS. Body image satisfaction among Norwegian adolescents and young adults: A longitudinal study of the influence of interpersonal relationships and BMI. Body Image. 2012; 9:201–208.
  3. Mitchison, D.; Hay, P.; Slewa-Younan, S.; Mond, J. The changing demographic profile of eating disorder behaviors in the community. BMC Public Health 2014; 14:943.
  4. Research on males and eating disorders. National Eating Disorder Association website. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/research-on-males. Accessed January 3, 2018.
  5. The silent victim: More men have eating disorders than ever before. The Atlantic website. 2012 April 5. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/the-silent-victims-more-men-have-eating-disorders-than-ever-before/255171/, Accessed January 3, 2018.

The Winter Fresh Fruit Blues

The Winter Fresh Fruit Blues

I do not know if any of you experience this, but I always get the blues when I go to the grocery store this time of year because I do not feel that there is enough variety of fresh fruit. In Ohio it can get cold (lately we have had temperatures below 0 degrees) which means we do not have a year round growing season.  The summer is great with all the locally grown fruits and vegetables, but this time of year I may be able to purchase berries and other fruits, but they are just not as good and more expensive because they are not in season.  Also, many times the fruits have been shipped a long distance and in that process nutrients are lost.  That is why sometimes I think it is better to get some fruits that have been preserved.  I admire those who already have a stockpile of home canned and home frozen fruits from a summer harvest, but many do not have this as an option.  Below are some ideas for how I battle the fresh fruit blues and I hope you find them helpful too.

Canned Fruit:

I do purchase canned fruit, but I make sure it is packed in its own juices rather than heavy syrup. Some of my favorite canned fruits are: Mandarin Oranges, Pineapple, Peaches, Pears, Natural Unsweetened Applesauce

Frozen Fruit:

Frozen fruit can be an excellent alternative this time of year when fresh fruit is not as plentiful. A consumer needs to make sure that the frozen fruit does not have any added sugar.  Frozen fruit can be used to make smoothies and this can be a good way to increase the fruit intake of your family this time of year.  The frozen fruits can also be added to sauces, baked goods, and pancakes/waffles.  Good ideas for frozen fruit are: Strawberries, Mixed berries, Cherries, Peaches, Pineapple, Mangoes, Raspberries, Blueberries, Black Berries

Freeze Dried Fruit:

Freeze drying is a method of preserving fruit in which the fruit is frozen quickly and the water is removed. The fruit is then vacuum packed.  It is an old method of preserving fruit as it allowed for long term storage.  Freeze dried fruit is crunchy and sweet, which attracts kids.  Some of the freeze-dried fruits my family has tried include: Strawberries, Raspberries, Apples, Peaches and Bananas

Dried Fruit:

Dried fruit is also a way to include fruit in your diet when the fresh selection is not as plentiful. When purchasing dried fruit make sure there is minimal sugar added.  If a package says no sugar added, read the ingredients as this could mean artificial sweeteners have been added instead of sugar.  Some are fine with the use of artificial sweeteners, but others may find the taste off or not tolerate the artificial sweetener.  Examples of common dried fruits include: Raisins, Cranberries, Blueberries, Peaches, Cherries, Apricots, Plums, Dates

Below is a comparison chart compiled looking at different preparations of peaches*.

Type Fresh Peach Freeze-Dried Peaches Dried Peaches Frozen Peaches Canned Peaches in 100% juice
Amount 1 medium 34 grams ½ cup 1 cup ½ cup, drained
Calories 59 130 100-140 100 45
Fiber, grams 2 2 3 4 1
Total Sugars grams 13 18 22 21 13+
Added Sugar 0 0 0 Not stated Not stated
Vitamin C, mg 10 15 5 9-11 5
Ingredients Peach Most brands contain only peaches. Some may contain other ingredients to maintain freshness. May contain peaches and Sulphur dioxide and the amount of sugar added can vary depending upon brand Varies depending upon brand. The best is one that contains only peaches. Peaches, Peach Juice, Pear Juice, Natural Flavor, and Ascorbic Acid


In the age of the clean food/real food movement people may think that if it is not fresh fruit then it should not be included in the diet. Overall, fresh fruit is a good to include in your diet, but canned, frozen, freeze dried, or dried fruits can help one meet their daily need for fruits during times of the year when fresh fruit is not as plentiful.

*The table was created with information from food-a-pedia on supertracker.gov, USDA nutrient database, www.sparkpeople.com, and labels from the Del Monte Corporation and Aldi foods incorporated. The new food label requiring that the added sugars be listed is not required for food labeling, which is why the information on added sugars is not available for all products.  The amount of nutrients will vary based on brands.  Look at portion sizes carefully on packages as the portions in the comparison chart are not equal.





Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

It is getting that time of year when some parts of the country are becoming colder. On these cooler days many find comfort in a bowl of soup.  Soup can be a great way to pack in the nutrients.  It was the recent cooler weather that inspired me to create this soup.  I love roasting cauliflower because I love the sweet flavor the roasting brings out and when I was in the mood for soup I thought the roasted cauliflower was a great flavor base for this recipe.

After roasting the cauliflower to achieve the flavor I decided to blend it with a potato to make a very creamy and delicious soup. This recipe can be modified to meet the needs of those with specific diet needs.  The soup is gluten free (make sure the broth does not contain wheat).  It can also be made to be milk free as well.  If someone is following a vegan diet this soup can be made vegan if vegetable broth and/or milk alternatives are used for liquids and topped with toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley.  The base of the soup includes various vegetables to provide a variety of nutrients and the seasonings can be adjusted to taste if someone needs a food that is lower in sodium.  Below is the recipe.

Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup

2 heads of cauliflower, chopped

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic minced

½ of a medium sized onion

½ cup chopped carrot

2 potatoes, chopped

½-1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

5-6 cups of vegetable broth

1-2 cup of milk, milk alternative, or additional broth (Depending upon the desired consistency-If you prefer a thinner soup, then more liquid will need to be added).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the chopped cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread the cauliflower out on a large cookie sheet and roast in oven for 30 minutes.  While the cauliflower is roasting pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a large heavy duty saucepan or Dutch oven.  Add the onions and sauté until soft.  Add garlic, potatoes, carrots, and Italian seasoning.  Sauté until the cubed potatoes are browning.  Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the roasted cauliflower.  Place the soup in batches in a high powered blender.  Blend in batches until smooth.  When blended add back to saucepan and place on low simmer.  Add the milk, milk alternative, or additional broth to achieve desired consistency.  Suggested toppings- shredded cheese, bacon, corn, croutons, toasted pine nuts, or fresh parsley.  Enjoy this on a cold day.

Cauliflower Soup no spoon

Recognizing Nutrition Needs of “Extra”ordinary Kids.

Nutrition needs of “extra”ordinary children

With the release of the movie “Wonder,” which is based on a book where the main character has Treacher Collins Syndrome, people are becoming aware of being inclusive of others no matter their ability or appearance. This is an issue that needs to be discussed in our society.  One of the things to keep in mind is that children with these “extra”ordinary needs have unique nutrition needs.  This is mentioned in the book “Wonder” as the main character has trouble chewing.  As a pediatric dietitian I have spent my career working with these “extra”ordinary children and their families and I wanted to write something that educates others on some of their specific nutrition needs.

Nutrition needs of “extra”ordinary children:                                                      

  • Some of these children may drink from a bottle or sippy cup much longer than other children their age. The reason for this is that their parents have likely worked with a medical team that includes a therapist to find the safest way for their child to receive hydration. Oral skills may be delayed and that is why their transition to other cups may not be the same as their peers.
  • Depending upon the child’s ability to chew or swallow some of these children may be dependent upon tube feedings. Tube feedings are provided to allow the child to receive adequate nutrition because either it is not safe for the child to swallow or the child may get tired when eating, making it difficult to take all the calories they need to grow.
  • Puree foods may be given longer than infancy if an “extra”ordinary child has trouble with their chewing skills. This can allow a child to still receive nutrition by mouth without having to chew if that is something that is difficult for the child. It does not mean that the child cannot chew it means that they may not be efficient enough to take in all of their calories with highly textured food.
  • Meals may take a longer since they may not be able to chew as quickly or efficiently as other children. This may mean that “extra”ordinary kids will be allowed to have more time to eat at school.
  • “Extra” ordinary children may also have sensory issues and these sensory issues may affect the types of foods that they accept and/or their meal time routine. If a child is overwhelmed by a lot of noise they may not be able to eat. If they have sensitivities to textures they may not be able to eat certain foods or overly prefer others. For example, they may prefer foods with crunchy textures because they like the sensory input it gives them.
  • Someone outside of the child’s life may think parents are feeding “extra”ordinary kids items that may not seem “healthy”. These items could include cheese puffs, veggie straws, or certain types of crackers. Sometimes these items are suggested to children that have difficulty chewing because a child can take a bite and then it can easily dissolve in their mouth, which allows them to get used to textures. This is likely something that parents may be giving for therapeutic reasons under direction of a feeding therapist.

I encourage all of you to either see the movie “Wonder” or read the book. Please remember these unique nutrition needs of “extra” ordinary children as we move to be a society that is more inclusive of all.

*In the photograph there are two books other than “Wonder” pictured.  “Out of my mind” is by Sharon Draper and is about a girl who travels in a wheelchair and is unable to communicate until she gets a special communication device and then the world around her discovers how smart she really is.  “Ugly” is a memoir by Robert Hoge and it is his story of growing up with a face that looked different from others.  My 11-year-old has read all of these books and loved them.

Encouraging kids to learn about food.

Best books for kids about food and nutrition

The holidays are fast approaching and gifts are going to be purchased. Books make a great gift for any kid and if you are interested in helping your child learn more about food then maybe you should consider giving them a book about food.  I have looked at many children’s books about food and nutrition over the years, but before I would show it to my kids or recommend it to others the book has to meet certain criteria.  Here is what I look for in a book about food and nutrition for kids:

  • The book needs to focus on what to eat and not what we should not eat. Children generally accept positive messaging.
  • A theme that encourages fear of food is not one that I would recommend to children. We do not want to teach kids at an early age to fear what they eat. This could lead to selective eating and eventually eating disorders.
  • A book that includes great pictures of food is also great as good visual appeal may encourage a child to try something new.
  • It is also nice when a book can be used to teach children about foods in different cultures as this can help encourage acceptance and understanding. Some children may pack more non-traditional foods for lunch and a book that educates others about different food cultures can be used as a way to stop teasing that could happen in the lunch room.

Suggested books about food and nutrition for kids:

This is the way we eat our lunch: A book about children around the world by Edith Baer. The book is told in rhymes and includes some recipes at the end.

Dinner at the panda palace by Stephanie Calmenson. This is a counting book and it received a 5 star rating on amazon.

Eating the alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert. A lovely alphabet book that includes many exotic fruits and vegetables.

Fast Food by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers. The book offers beautiful pictures of fruit and vegetable sculptures.

The beastly feast by Bruce Goldstone. This story is about a group of animals that come together for a potluck dinner.

The vegetable show by Laurie Krasny Brown. A group of animated vegetables encourage healthy eating.

This Year’s Garden by Cynthia Rylant. This book tells the story of how seasons change by how a garden changes.

The Ugly Vegetable by Grace Lin. A story of a young girl questioning the appearance of an “ugly” vegetable garden compared to beautiful flowers. She learns a lesson when she tastes the soup these ugly vegetables make.

Any of these books would be great for a gift or a good find on your next library trip. Reading these books can be a fun and interactive way to teach your kids about food in a relaxed manner.


The Fourth Meal: Feeding the younger swimmer

The Fourth Meal: Feeding the young swimmer

About 3 years ago when my son participated in the city recreational swim league and placed first in every event he swam in the city finals, I realized I may have a swimmer on my hands.  So after a couple of years in the rec league he showed interest in swimming for a competitive team in the winter.  I want to state that I am not a supporter of sport specialization at young ages.  I allow my kids to participate in 1 sport per season and the year my son decided to swim he had to make the choice between basketball or swimming.  Swimming was appealing to me as a parent because I did not see it as a sport that resulted in a lot of impact on the joints and it is a sport that someone can participate in for a life time.  However, as a dietitian specializing in child nutrition I was nervous because swimming is a high calorie burning sport and I worried about how that would impact my son’s growth.  I really wanted to make sure I was refueling him after every practice so he could replace the calories lost so the increased activity would not impact his growth.

The fourth meal was a concept I learned from other swim moms.  On the days of swim practice dinner was served early and the fourth meal refueled the swimmer after practice. The timing of the practice made providing the 4th meal a little challenging as practice ended about 30 minutes before it was time to get ready for bed, but I felt since dinner was served early the 4th meal was important.  Therefore, I could not make a large meal for him because I did not want him to go to bed too late.  My solution was to pack a meal/snack that he could eat on the way home so when he got home he could put the final touches on homework and then go to bed.

Ideas for the portable 4th meal:

  • Fruit smoothie (frozen fruit, water, and orange juice or lemonade), ½ of ham and cheese sandwich, and Pretzels
  • Yogurt, Fruit, Whole grain crackers, and Water
  • 8 ounces of milk  mixed with chocolate instant breakfast powder and Banana
  • Ham, cheese and mushroom whole wheat quesadilla, Apple slices, and Water
  • Milk, Cherry Tomatoes, Clementine Orange, and Pretzels

Typically, I serve something from at least 2-3 food groups.  I usually do not offer a sport electrolyte beverage, but try to offer foods that will offer electrolyte replacement.  Offering fruits and vegetables will help provide potassium.  Offering pretzels, crackers, nuts, or deli meat will provide some sodium.  Offering dairy, meats, nuts, or legumes will provide protein to help with muscle recovery.  I also try to make fluid part of the meal as a smoothie or milk, but if not then water is offered with the snack/meal to encourage fluid replacement.

If you have a young and growing athlete at home I encourage you to check out Eat like a Champion by Jill Castle at the Nourished Child.  Most sports nutrition information is about elite competitive athletes and this book is geared toward the unique needs of the young athlete.