Margarine or Butter?

For the most part, most people have veared away from butter in recent decades and have switched to margarine. As a Dietitian, I often get the question how come margarine and not butter?

This is my  explanation: Margarine is made from vegetable oils, so it contains no cholesterol.  These types of fats help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol when substituted for saturated fat. Butter, on the other hand, is made from animal fat, so it contains cholesterol and high levels of saturated fat. Trans fat, like saturated fat, increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. In addition, trans fat lowers high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol levels
In addition margarine is also higher in “good” fats — polyunsaturated and monounsaturated — than butter is. It also important to note that, not all margarines are created equal. Some margarines contain trans fat. In general, the more solid the margarine, the more trans fat it contains.

As from my previous post Tackling the Nutrition Facts Table look for a spread with the lowest calories that tastes good to you, doesn’t have trans fats and has the least amount of saturated fat. When comparing spreads, be sure to read the label and check the grams of saturated fat and trans fat. Also, look for products with a low percent Daily Value for cholesterol.

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

A Healthy Summer Treat for the Kids

popsicleWith summer struggling to make it’s way through I thought I would push it along a little with a refreshing summer snack for the kiddies! A perfect snack to help cool down the kids on those hot summer days which includes a serving or two of fruit as well. Get the kids involved in making them the night before to get them excited about the snack.

Healthy Fruit Filled Frozen Treat


  • 3 cups watermelon puree (seedless if possible)
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
  •  1 peach or nectarine, diced small
  • handful fresh cherries, pitted and chopped


Cut the watermelon into chunks and then puree it in a blender until smooth. Set aside.

Set out about 1 dozen popsicle molds (amount needed will vary depending on size of molds). Fill each one with the chopped fresh fruit. Then pour in the watermelon puree until each mold is full to the top. Place a popsicle stick into each one. Place into your freezer and freeze for about 6 to 8 hours.

When ready to serve, run the popsicle molds under warm water for a few seconds and then pull each one out.

You can use whatever fruit you have on hand to make a colorful frozen treat.

Adapted from: www.dashrecipes .com

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tackling the Nutrition Facts Table

Sometimes people feel overwhelmed when trying to decide which product is better for them than another. I think the most overwhelming of them all would be the cereal aisle. I often get questions about which cereal is best. The key to this answer is knowing how to read those Nutrition Facts tables that some people dread so much. This facts table can give you all the information your need to decide on which cereal is best. Use the amount of food and the % Daily Value (% DV) to choose healthier food products.

Follow these three steps:

1. Look at the amount of food
Nutrition Facts are based on a specific amount of food. Compare this to the amount you actually eat. This can be a tricky one as some labels will list 1/2 cup of cereal for example an likely we are all eating up to about a cup. This of coarse will force us to do some math in our heads to figure out the actual values.

2. Read the % DV
The % DV helps you see if a specific amount of food has a little or a lot of a nutrient. fact-fiche-choose-eng

**Rule of thumb: 5% DV or less is a little 15% DV or more is a lot.

3. Choose
Make a better choice for you. Here are some nutrients you may want…

less of                                              more of 
Fat                                                        Fibre
Saturated and trans fats                  Iron
Sodium                                                Vitamins & Calcium
For cereals in particular remember the rule 5% DV or less is little 15% DV or more is a lot. Looking for high fibre content in cereal is key!

For more information check out Health Canada website for Nutrition Fact info:

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fabulous fibre

FibreYou’ve probably heard that you should get more fibre in your diet, but do you know why that is?

Dietary fibre is an important part of healthy eating because it aids in the normal progression of food through the gastrointestinal tract. As a result, fibre makes it easier to remove waste from the body.

Consuming fibre also plays a role in the production of various beneficial compounds in the body.

If you want to start getting more of this healthful ingredient in your daily diet, why not incorporate it into your first meal of the day?

Here are some great fibre-filled breakfast foods that you should definitely try:

1) Cereal
All cereals contain some amount of fibre in them, but whole-grain and multi-grain cereal varieties contain the most. Some of the best cereal types include those with bran flakes and oat clusters. Whole-grain shredded wheat cereals are also excellent sources of fibre. Combined with the high protein and Vitamin D content in milk, cereals are one of the most well-balanced breakfast foods out there. Look for cereals with 15% or more of fibre listed in the Nutritional Facts Label. To pump up the fibre on cereal try adding a variety of fresh or frozen fruit to the cereal mix as well!

2) Whole-grain waffles/pancakes
Did you know that waffles and pancakes come in whole-grain and multi-grain varieties? You can find these mixes in your local grocery stores. If getting some resistance from kids start off slow with half regular white flour mix and incorporate the whole grain mix

3) Veggie omelette
There are not many foods that make for a better start to the day than eggs. The egg is a nutritious, edible nugget that is high in proteins, fats, and other vitamins and minerals. One of the most popular preparations of egg is the omelette. To boost the fibre content of your omelette, add plenty of leafy, green vegetables like spinach. Tomatoes and onions are also omelette favourites too. Most fruits and veggies have abundant fibre content, so get creative and add whatever you would like into the egg mixture.

4) Oatmeal
This mash of whole oats is a traditional breakfast food that has been eaten by various peoples for many years. High in fiber and packed with energy, oatmeal is usually sweetened with sugar and may contain other spices like cinnamon to enhance its mild flavor. To boost fiber content and add texture, toss in fresh berries or other fruit pieces for a complete meal.

5) Multi-grain peanut butter and banana sandwich
This high-calorie, high-fibre breakfast will give you enough energy to last the rest of the day. Popularized by the King of Rock, this combination of peanut butter and banana on toast offers tons of essential fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals too. If you are looking to start your day right, this is the only way to go.

For more info about fibre and ways to source it in your diet, check out Food Sources of Fibre from the Dietitians of Canada.
Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Smoothies: quick, nutritious and kid-friendly!

healthy-smoothies-for-kidsStart your Day with A Refreshing Smoothie

Smoothies are fast, fresh, low in fat and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Having frozen berries on hand for smoothies can make mornings a breeze while including two of the four food groups right off the bat!

Amp this is up with a bowl of high fibre whole grain cereal or whole grain toast and peanut butter to balance breakfast off right!

Check out these delicious and nutritious smoothie recipes – and the directions for each are the same: combine, mix in a blender, pour into glasses and serve!

Berry Delicious Smoothie

Makes 4 cups


  • 2 cups frozen mixed berries
  • 1 cup strawberry yogurt
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup milk

Banana Berry Yogurt Shake

Makes 1 serving


  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup 100% orange juice
  • 6 large frozen strawberries

Fresh Fruit Smoothie

Makes 2-3 servings


  • 2 cups 100% orange juice
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

 All recipes sourced from

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Re-Think Your Drink!

Rethink your drink

Photo: Compliments of Maisie Groves, IRT, Labrador Straits Academy

How much added sugar are you drinking each day (gulp!)?

Many people are not aware of the liquid calories they drink each day. These extra calories can add up over time and lead to many health problems. Many of the calories in these drinks come from added sugar, which is an empty source of calories.

All this sugar can affect our health and our teeth and contribute to tooth decay. Kids (of course) have a smaller stomach size, so when they fill up on sugary drinks they consume less nutritious foods and beverages in their diet.

So what should you drink?

Choose most often:

  • Wonderful water: the best choice when you feel thirsty.
  • Marvelous milk: healthy drink choice! Contains naturally occurring sugar, and nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamin A and D.

Choose sometimes:

  • 100% unsweetened fruit juice: healthy juice choice. Contains naturally occurring sugar, and other nutrients like vitamin C, A, folate, potassium, antioxidants and more. No more than 125 ml per day.
  • Chocolate milk.


  • Sports drinks: make up of water, sugar, salt, and electrolytes. Intended for use during INTENSE physical activity lasting longer than 60 minutes
  • Fruit Drinks: e.g. Jammers. Contain only small percentage of juice and some have no juice at all. Flavour comes from added sugar. Some have added vitamin C and it is usually their only nutrient.
  • Pop/Diet Pop: No nutritional value and provide empty calories. Regular pop is made from water and sugar. Diet pop has almost no calories, however it still contains acid (harmful to teeth) and caffeine.
  • Energy Drinks: way too much caffeine and sugar.

Why choose sugary drinks less often:

  • Sugar and tooth decay: sugar + bacteria in your mouth= acid. Diet drinks also contain acid. Acid breaks down tooth enamel. This can lead to cavities. Brushing teeth, or rinse with water after consuming sugary/diet drinks. Eating a piece of cheese also helps protect teeth and give kids a boost of calcium.
  • Nutrient content: drinks with added sugar tend to have more calories and lack nutrients that mike and fruit juice contain.
  • Osteoporosis: decrease in bone density (weakened bones). Bones break more easily. Inadequate calcium and vitamin D is a major factor. Peak bone mass occurs during adolescence. High sugar drinks replace nutritious choices. Studies have found that there is a correlation between a higher pop consumption with a corresponding decrease in bone density among adolescents.
  • Increased caffeine consumption: Pop and some energy drinks contain caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the CNS. Intake can cause nervousness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, rapid heartbeat, and lead to dependency. Moderation is KEY! Effect of caffeine is dependent on body weight (e.g. 355 ml can cola may have same effect on a young child as four cups coffee on an adult).

What can parents do?

  • Provide your sons and daughters with milk, 100% juice, or water in school for recess and/ or lunch
  • Avoid stocking sugar-sweetened beverages at home
  • Encourage kids to drink lots of water and 2 cups of milk every day.

In an effort to highlight the health impact of sugar-sweetened drinks and the importance of milk and water, the Western School District recently organized a Healthy Beverage Week. With this initiative, students identified the amount of sugar found in commonly consumed beverages, described the nutrition implications of drinking these beverages regularly, and identified healthier options.

The Western School District recently found that, on average,

  • 33% of our students have sugar-sweetened beverages at lunch and 28% at recess. (Kool-Aid Jammers, Fruit Punch, Sunny Dee, and soft drinks are the most commonly consumed sugary drinks.) Some schools have percentages that far exceed these averages.
  • With the Provincial School Food Guidelines, these drinks cannot be sold in school and are either brought from home or purchased at nearby convenience stores.
  • Another statistic of note is that only 21% of students are having milk for lunch (18% at Recess).

For more information on Healthy Beverage’s check out the Healthy Beverage Week website – there are a variety of resources in which you may be interested.
Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

Making Breakfast a Daily Habit

breakfastIf you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

In general, kids, teens and adults who eat breakfast have more energy, do better in school, and eat healthier throughout the day. Without breakfast, we can get irritable, restless, and tired.

So make time for breakfast — for you and your kids!

Sometimes timing is the biggest issue with getting everyone fed and out the door. It’s always good to know in the back of your mind “Ahhhh, my kids can get a healthy nutritious start to their day at their Kids Eat Smart Breakfast club at school – what a relief!”

Breakfast eaters typically cruise until lunch, while beaming with energy – compared to those who skip the meal and tend to snack before lunch and throughout the day, and tend to be drawn to unhealthy, high-calorie options.

On those days when we skip breakfast you might find yourself cruising the vending machines or looking around the office kitchen for a snack to tie you over until lunch. If breakfast isn’t part of your morning routine, use these three tips to help you develop a new daily habit

1. Set a goal

The first step to any new habit is setting a realistic goal. If you are not eating breakfast at all, it is unrealistic to believe you will suddenly starting eating it every day.

Is your work week consistent or is every day different? Are you a person that thrives on routines or do you enjoy a more free-flowing schedule?

Answering those questions will help you decide what end goal is best for you and whether it will be to eat breakfast every day or five days each week (some people like to be a little more relaxed about their breakfast routine on the weekends).

Once you have decided on the long term goal, start with a third of that as your beginning goal (2-3 mornings a week let’s say). Once you achieve that beginning goal several weeks in a row, increase by one day for the next few weeks. Continue increasing your short term goal until your long term goal is achieved.

2. Make Time

Now that you have the goal, the next step is to set aside time to achieve it.There are a variety of activities or tasks that take up the morning. Identifying how you spend your time can help determine where you can make time to eat breakfast.

Do you hit the snooze several times before actually getting out of bed? Frequently get lost in social media updates or checking e-mail? Try to fit in household chores like emptying the dishwasher or throwing in a load of laundry before leaving the house? How about being busy managing the time of other people in the home? (I know I have been guilty of all of the these!)

Do a time audit regarding how you spend your time each morning for several days. Review your audit to determine what you might be able to change in your routine to claim 15 minutes in the morning for your breakfast.

My plan of the breakfast attack is to munch on some breakfast while catching up on the latest morning news – then I have two strikes off the morning list – news and a full belly!

For those of us that are lucky enough, maybe making breakfast a routine at work when you arrive could work for you?

Dropping your kids off to their Kids Eat Smart Breakfast Club at school can ensure the kids are getting the nutritious start to the day they need and off you run to work maybe a little earlier than everyone else at the office to enjoy your breakfast at your desk or in the break room.

3. Plan Ahead

Now that you have identified the need for change in the morning routine in order to reach your goal of eating breakfast, you need to develop a plan.

Perhaps you will plan to avoid checking e-mail or social media until after you have had your breakfast. Maybe you have to plan ahead and pack lunches or get the backpack together and next to the door the night before so you have time to sit down with the others in the family at breakfast.

Breakfasts will never just happen, it has to fit into a plan that becomes a new routine.

Another major part of your plan will include the food you will eat. Spending a little time before grocery shopping to plan your breakfast meals for the week will ensure you have quick, nutrient rich meals on hand each day.

Check out for more information on breakfast menu ideas and tips!

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.