Starting healthy habits for life: 6-12 months

My niece Lily gets her first taste of solid food at 6 months of age

My niece Lily gets her first taste of solid food at 6 months of age

Long before school, your child needs healthy foods to grow and to develop properly. Right from when they are babies, how children eat will help build the foundation for healthy eating habits for life.

Healthy eating is critical to good health. Children and adults who eat healthy reap the benefits of healthy living and have less chance of developing certain diseases.

When it’s time to introduce solid foods for your baby, you will probably have many questions.  Remember first and foremost that there is no need to rush solid foods. As discussed in the previous post, Top 5 reasons for breastfeeding, breast feeding is encouraged for as long as possible and is recommended as a child’s exclusive food source for the first six months.

The two main questions I get from moms are “How do I know if my baby is ready?” and “What should I feed my baby when they are ready?”

How can you tell if your baby is ready for solid foods? Look for these signs:

  • Can sit up with very little help
  • Can hold her head up
  • Opens her mouth when food is offered
  • Is able to take food from a spoon and swallow it
  • Can turn her head to refuse food
  • Is six months old

What should I offer?

  • A variety of foods so your child can learn to enjoy many different tastes. Your baby may even like foods you don’t.
  • Plain vegetables, fruits and meats without added salt or sugar.
  • Serve foods separately (for example, don’t stir meat and vegetables together) so your child can learn to like different flavors and textures. Do not give your baby store-bought baby food dinners which combine different foods.
  • Foods without added sugar. Babies do not need custards and desserts.
  • Plain foods without sauces or gravies. Your child should be able to taste the food and does not need sauces or gravies.

Another local blogger, Felicie Young,  wrote a great post for Baby Friendly Newfoundland and Labrador about her experiences called Starting solids or the truth about how lazy I am, which is definitely worth reading.

For more information, check out this helpful publication from Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Health Feeding your Baby: 6-12 months. As always, if you have specific questions, make sure you connect with your health care provider.

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

Top 5 reasons for breastfeeding

Top 5 Reasons to BreastfeedBreast milk is all your baby needs for the first six months of life. Plenty of benefits come along with breastfeeding your baby.

Check out the top 5 reasons for breastfeeding your newborn:

  1. Nutrients and Protection – Breast milk is custom-made by each mother for her own baby, and contains the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. Remarkably, as your baby grows, your milk will also change to keep up with your baby’s needs. Breast milk contains valuable antibodies that help prevent disease and may reduce the risk of your baby developing allergies. After birth, your first milk, called colostrum, offers vital early protection and helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria by coating your baby’s digestive system. This early protection is even more important if your baby is born prematurely – colostrum protects!
  2. Brain Power – There is strong evidence that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests, as well as on teacher ratings of their academic performance.
  3. Convenient and Portable – Breast milk is always safe, fresh and exactly the right temperature. It’s ready for baby at a moment’s notice, and you don’t have to heat it, boil water, or sterilize bottles – no mess no stress. This makes night time feedings a lot easier. Since breast milk is always with you, traveling and shopping with your baby is simpler, with no equipment to carry or refrigeration needed.
  4. Benefits Mothers Too – Research suggests that breastfeeding provides a measure of protection against breast cancer, ovarian cancer and weak bones later in life. Your body uses calories to produce milk, so breastfeeding can help you to gradually lose weight gained during pregnancy.
  5. Continues the Special Relationship – The closeness and comfort of breastfeeding strengthens the bond with your baby, as one part of all the things you can do to build a secure, loving relationship. Dads and moms can’t spoil a baby, so give your baby all the cuddling she or he wants.

YouWon'tRegretItCheck out this newly released breast feeding promotion video, called You Won’t Regret It, produced here in Newfoundland and Labrador. This celebrity-packed exploration of the choice of breastfeeding is a must-see for its entertainment value alone. (And it even features Krystin Pellerin and Andy Jones, two of the Very Special Guests appearing at our upcoming Kids Eat Smart Foundation Gala – Alice in Newfoundland!)

You can also find more information on breastfeeding from the Baby-Friendly Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Information for this post was also sourced from 10 Great Reasons to Breastfeed your Baby by Public Health Agency of Canada in partnership with the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada.

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

Eating Healthy for Mom and Baby

Recommended Servings during pregnancyWith so much information available on pregnancy, it can become difficult for women to know how to best take care of their health.

Often in my personal life I get many questions from expecting mothers on What should I eat? What should I avoid? How can I improve my overall health during pregnancy?

Usually my first answer is that a healthy balanced diet for mom and baby is key; before, during, and after pregnancy! Pregnancy usually brings more awareness of healthy eating to moms which is nice to see as a dietitian.

Eating well during pregnancy will ensure that your baby gets all of the vitamins and minerals required in the early weeks of development. Eating well after pregnancy also ensures baby is getting key nutrients while mothers are breastfeeding.

Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide helps you choose the foods that will give you the nutrition you need in preparation for pregnancy. All women 19-50 years of age should aim every day to eat a variety of foods from each of the four food groups:

  • Vegetables and Fruit: 7-8 recommended servings of a variety of vegetables and fruit
  • Grain Products: 6-7 recommended servings emphasizing on whole grains more often
  • Milk and Alternatives: 2 recommended servings of lower fat milk, cheese, yogurt or enriched soy beverages
  • Meat and Alternatives: 2 recommended servings of poultry, fish, lean meat, dried peas, beans, lentils, eggs or tofu.

It only makes sense that pregnant and breastfeeding women need more calories. For most women, this means only an extra two or three Food Guide Servings from any of the food groups each day in addition to their recommended number of Food Guide Servings per day as above.

For more information check out this neat resource  to make sure you’re getting the required servings a day – the My Food Guide Servings Tracker for pregnancy is handy to post on your fridge.

(Don’t forget to use Canada’s Food Guide to help you determine how much food is in “one serving”!)

Important nutrients for you and your baby

Folic Acid
Folic acid, also known as folate, is a vitamin needed both before you conceive and during pregnancy. This vitamin helps reduce the baby’s risk of developing a type of birth defect, called neural tube defect, which affects the brain and spinal cord. Cooked asparagus, cooked spinach, romaine lettuce, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, orange juice and sunflower seeds are some excellent sources of folic acid.

Since it is difficult to get enough folic acid from food alone, women of childbearing age should take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains 0.4 mg (or 400 μg) of folic acid before becoming pregnant and in the early weeks of pregnancy. Make sure the supplement contains no more than 1 mg (or 1000 μg) of folic acid unless your physician recommends otherwise. Talk to your health care professional about taking a multivitamin supplement before you become pregnant.

Iron
During pregnancy, your requirement for iron increases from 18 mg to 27 mg per day. This extra iron will be used to make red blood cells that carry oxygen through your own body and to your growing baby. Feeling tired may be the first sign that you are low in iron. Start to build up your iron stores now by eating more whole grain and iron-enriched breakfast cereals, lean meats, dried peas and beans, dark green vegetables, dried fruits and nuts. Talk to your health care professional about your iron levels during pregnancy.

Calcium
Calcium helps keep your bones and teeth strong. Get used to eating lots of calcium-rich foods now. Milk and fortified soy beverages are excellent sources of calcium and they also contain vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. If you have a milk allergy, talk to your health care provider about calcium supplements. Other calcium-containing foods to include in your diet are: yogurt, cheese, orange juice with calcium, tofu set with calcium sulphate, almonds, canned sardines or salmon with bones, legumes and leafy green vegetables.

Caffeine
Caffeine crosses into the baby’s blood when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Take a look at your caffeine intake and keep it to less than 300 mg a day. Instead of caffeinated beverages, drink water, milk, soup and fruit and vegetable juices before and during your pregnancy.

To stay within the recommended limit, a pregnant woman could drink a little more than two 8-oz cups of coffee a day, as long as she did not take any other products that have caffeine in them. It is important to realize, however, that many coffee mugs are larger than 8 oz. Also, takeout coffees can be as large as 16 oz (474 ml) or 20 oz (592 ml). Just one 20-oz coffee would contain more caffeine than the daily limit suggested for pregnant women.

For a breakdown of the approximate caffeine content of certain drinks and foods, click here. For more information, about caffeine and your health, visit Health Canada’s page Caffeine and Your Health.

For more information, check out Health Canada’s terrific resource The Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy – you can view it online, download a copy or order a free copy by mail.

The Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

Information for this post was also sourced from the Dietitians of Canada’s pregnancy section of their website.

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

Hopping into a Healthy Easter

Easter Bunny SnackThe tradition of giving eggs at Easter is what Easter’s all about! To celebrate the arrival of Spring, presents of eggs — a symbol of birth — were given, wrapped in gold leaf. Today, that tradition has turned into giving chocolate eggs, candy and treats.

As with all holidays we always need to remember everything in moderation. Having a few treats here and there can be ok as a part of a healthy balanced diet. This Easter season why not host a special holiday brunch and include some creative and healthy treats for the kids!

Bunny Smoothie

  • Try a smoothie to start Easter Sunday. Put 1 cup of nonfat milk, ½ cup 100% orange juice, ¼ cup cooked carrots, ¼ cup fat-free plain yogurt, 1 tbsp. honey and six ice cubes into your blender, and blend until smooth.

Plastic Eggs

  • If cooking is not for you, buy a selection of brightly colored plastic eggs. Fill them with an assortment of healthy treats, such as nuts, raisins, yogurt-covered cranberries, healthy granola or even cereal. If they are placed strategically around the house for an Easter Egg hunt, your children will love finding them, whatever they contain.

Easter Bunny Breakfast Sandwich

  • As chatted about in previous posts, Why are some kids picky eaters?, getting creative with healthy food is key to getting kids to try new foods and keep them interested in healthy foods. Check out this cute idea for serving up eggs on Easter morning:

Bunny Breakfast Egg

Supplies Needed

  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice bread

For decoration:

  • Red radish
  • Cucumber
  • Peas
  • Cherry tomato
  • Beans
  • Carrot
  • Parsley

Preparation

  1. Toast your bread lightly and cut into a circle
  2. Cook your egg sunny side up and slide onto toast
  3. Slice your decoration ingredients and have fun assembling your bunny!

Hint: To make a perfect round egg – grease a large circle cookie cutter and put it on a hot greased skillet, crack an egg and gently pour into the cutter cook until set.

* See Picture Above.

Recipe Sourced from: http://www.circletimekids.com/recipes/bunny-breakfast-egg

Ideas sourced from: http://www.ehow.com/info & www.pinterest.com

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

Food Safety in the Kitchen

washing-vegetablesKids Eat Smart Foundation knows that safety is extremely important when handling food and aims to educate volunteers in food safety practices. If food is not safe it can cause people to become very sick.

Food Safety is the practice of proper handling and storage of food to prevent food borne illness. Food borne Illness is sickness caused by eating foods that are in some way contaminated. There are many things you need to do to ensure food is safe to eat.

Essential Steps to Food Safety:

  1. Handwashing
  2. Proper food handling/preparation
  3. Proper Food Storage

To prevent food contamination during preparation of meals at home:

  • Wash hands frequently – wash before, during and after food preparation. When you switch tasks in the kitchen wash hands. When dealing with raw meat wash hands frequently
  • Clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces and utensils before and after each use
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables well under running water and cut off any discoloured or bruised areas
  • Keep food at the appropriate temperature until it is ready to serve (cold foods less than 4°C and hot foods greater than 60°C)
  • Keep food covered as much as possible, especially if you are moving from one location to another (e.g. if food preparation area is separate from where food will be served)
  • Regularly check the temperature of your refrigerator to make sure it is less than 4°C
  • Store meats on the bottom shelf of your fridge to avoid cross contamination

Keeping food safe while in the kitchen is key to keeping our families safe from food borne illness.

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

Packing healthy for family road trips

Road TripSpring break is just upon us and for many families that means road trips! Road trips to the family cabin or to go and see Nanny and Poppy around the bay for Easter Break are traditions for many families in Newfoundland and Labrador.

But the long drives, full as they are of inventive games and good conversation (or these days perhaps IPods and DS systems) are more often than not excuses to mindlessly graze on all manner of snacks and treats full of sugar and salt and fat.

If we take some time to think about our snacks and plan ahead we can pack ourselves a nice selection of healthy treats. When preparing ahead we can be sure to avoid that common hungry walk through the candy and chip aisle in the gas station while stopping for that pee break or stretching our legs, and have our healthier treats packed in the car to keep those bellies full!

Plan healthier

A common pretense for buying unhealthy foods for road trips is that they are more convenient than other, healthier foods. Easy as it may be to give in to that misconception, the truth is that there are dozens of equally convenient foods that are also much better for you, for example:

  • Low-fat yogurt tubs or yogurt tubes
  • Cheese strings
  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery with peanut butter and raisins
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Small baggies of nuts
  • Water bottles

Of these snacks, only the celery and eggs require any kind of preparation, and there are many others that make fine, easy snacks.

Include children

Rather than suggesting chips or cookies as possible snack choices, parents could easily turn food planning into a game that challenges children to think creatively and healthily about food. Parents can:

  • Make homemade trail-mix and ask children what to put it in, letting them pour and mix
  • Look for recipes together with children to decide on some new ideas
  • Arrange stops along the route to pick up local fruits (in the summertime!) or other produce, like nuts, letting children navigate or draw the route on the map

Pack extra

It’s also a good idea to pack extras of these healthy snacks for the whole trip. Sometimes when we are on vacations we tend to go for more sweets and treats as we sometimes adapt to the eating habits of our gracious hosts. Having these on hand to snack on throughout the day can help us keep a better handle on what we are eating throughout the day!

Celebrating Dietitian’s Day!

Listen to Amanda Burton, a registered dietitian in St. John's, talk about the differences between a nutritionist and a dietitian.

Click here to watch Amanda Burton, a registered dietitian in St. John’s, talk about the differences between a nutritionist and a dietitian.

Once a year, a special day is dedicated to all dietitians across Canada. It celebrates dietitians as health care professionals, committed to using their specialized knowledge and skills in food and nutrition to improve the health of Canadians.

Today, March 20, 2013 marks the fourth anniversary of Dietitians Day. It spotlights the profession and reminds us that dietitians are the smart choice for advice on proper eating, good nutrition and healthy living.

Usually when teaching in classes about healthy eating I pose the question to kids “What do dietitian’s do and where do we work?”

Usually the room goes pretty quiet and I get a few whispers and mumbles about healthy eating and working in hospitals.

This is certainly a good place to start as to the many things dietitians do in the work force but there is oh so much more!

  • Dietitians are one of a kind; they have the distinct ability to translate the complex science of nutrition into practical solutions for you on healthy eating and disease prevention and treatment.
  • Dietitians are uniquely trained to advise you on food, healthy eating and nutrition. They have a degree in food and nutrition, from an accredited university. To become a Registered Dietitian an undergraduate degree is required along with an accredited internship program. I completed my Bachelor of Science at Memorial University here in St. John’s and continued with an Integrated Internship program at Mount Saint Vincent in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
  • Dietitians must be members of a provincial regulatory body in order to practice. This ensures the public that they are receiving nutrition advice from a qualified professional.
  • Dietitians work where you live, work and play – in health departments, hospitals, health and wellness centres, food companies, universities, and recently I learned dietitians were on staff for the menu development of the International Space Station – very cool!
  • As consumers we can sometimes get overwhelmed with nutrition information – it’s sometimes hard to tell what to believe and not to believe. For good reason, when it comes to food and nutrition advice, Canadians trust dietitians most.

To find a dietitian in your area, visit www.dietitians.ca/find.

Also, you can click here to watch a short video from Dietitians of Canada featuring local dietitian Amanda Burton speaking a little bit about the differences between a dietitian and a nutritionist.

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

Meeting your family’s different food needs

DIYTacos

Try some Do-It-Yourself Tacos to suit everyone’s tastes

Elderly parent? Picky toddler? Newly declared vegetarian teen? Food allergy?

When shopping for family members with different health needs or preferences, it helps to plan ahead.

  • Plan menus and grocery lists together. Include food options that everyone can enjoy. Look at cookbooks, magazines or websites for meal ideas that meet your needs.
  • At the grocery store, read food labels carefully to look for ingredients you need to avoid.
  • When checking food labels, look at the % Daily Value on the Nutrition Facts table. Choose foods with more of the nutrients you want and less of the nutrients you don’t.
  • Check if your grocery store offers tours led by a Registered Dietitian.
  • Try a “do-it-yourself” meal, such as fajitas, tacos, sandwiches or salads. Just put all the healthy ingredients on the table and let everyone assemble their favourite combo.

DIY Tacos

The key to making tacos that everyone in your family will enjoy is picking ingredients that they already like and letting everyone assemble their taco themselves.

You can buy the corn tortilla shells at the grocery store or find a recipe to make your own at home.

I recommend making your own seasoning – the packages from the store are usually overloaded on sodium and MSG, and making a mix yourself is easy. Here is a mixture of spices and a little cornstarch for thickening, that closely resembles the packaged taco seasoning you might find in the store, without the salt or MSG:

Taco Seasoning

Ingredients:

  • 6 teaspoons chili powder
  • 5 teaspoons paprika
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and cornstarch.
  2. Close lid securely, and shake well to mix contents. 7 teaspoons is equivalent to 1 (1.25 ounce) package of taco seasoning.

Servings Per Recipe: 21.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories: 8; Total Fat: 0.3g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 9mg; Total Carbs: 1.5g; Dietary Fibre: 0.6g; Protein: 0.3g

Filling suggestions:

  • Lean ground beef, ground turkey or pork
  • Fish – shrimp, cod, tuna (Fish tacos are all the rage right now!)
  • Scrambled eggs (Breakfast Tacos!)
  • Rice, Beans- black, kidney, garbonzo, etc.
  • Avacado guacamole, chick pea hummus, yogurt tzatziki, tomato salsa, hot sauce, shredded cheese etc.
  • Lettuce, peppers, onions, cucumber, tomatoes, shredded carrot, pickles, olives – really, any veggie that are your family’s favourites

Wishing you continued good luck during Nutrition Month in putting your Best Food Forward: Plan Shop Cook Enjoy!

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

Five fantastic foods for your pantry all year round

I know that fresh vegetables and fruit are not always available or affordable. Canned and frozen foods can be healthy too. Be sure to keep an eye out for lower sodium items and opt to pick items packed in water rather than in syrup or juices.

Plus, when they are on special, it’s a great time get stocked! A well-equipped pantry makes cooking a nutritious, delicious meal easy, any day. Having items on hand is key to creating healthy meals in a hurry!

When buying packaged foods, try to choose nutrient-rich ones that offer more vitamins, minerals and fibre, and contain less sodium, fat and sugar. Look for canned foods, such as beans, tomatoes or fish, without added salt.

Here are five fantastic foods I recommend keeping in your pantry all year round:

  1. Tomatoes – whole, diced or crushed, in cans. These make a beautiful base for a simple pasta sauce, soup or casserole.
  2. Fruit – dried, jarred or canned. Try adding a scoop of mashed canned pears to pancakes, muffins or smoothies.
  3. Legumes – including canned or dried peas, beans and lentils. These protein-rich plant foods make satisfying soups, stews and chilies that are deliciously nutritious.
  4. Fish – such as canned salmon and light tuna packed in water. These make tasty, protein-packed sandwiches, and they’re healthy additions to casseroles and pasta dishes.
  5. Whole grains – such as quinoa, parboiled brown rice or oats. Keep a variety of whole grains on hand for a nutrient-rich side dish or main meal.

Bonus items! Flavour boosters such as fresh garlic, spices, flavoured vinegars and reduced-sodium broths liven up cooking without lots of extra salt or fat.

Here’s a straightforward recipe (from AllRecipes.com) that uses three of my fave five to make a hearty, delicious meal :

Quick Beans and RIce

Quick Black Beans and Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, undrained
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked instant brown rice

Directions:

  1. In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high.
  2. Add onion, cook and stir until tender.
  3. Add beans, tomatoes, oregano and garlic powder.
  4. Bring to a boil; stir in rice.
  5. Cover; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 
Calories: 271; Total Fat: 5.3g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 552mg; Carbs: 47.8g; Dietary Fibre: 8.8g; Protein: 10g

Wishing you continued good luck in putting your Best Food Forward: Plan Shop Cook Enjoy!

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

 

Quick tips for cooking @ home

Stir the saucePrepare more meals from scratch with good-for-you ingredients.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated; nutritious convenience foods, such as frozen fruit, ready-to-go salads and pre-chopped vegetables, offer simple shortcuts.

Cooking from scratch allows you to control exactly what and how much of an ingredient you include in your family meals.

Tips for Cooking @ Home:

  • If sodium is a concern, choose low sodium ingredients and add only small amounts while cooking. This can drastically cut down on sodium levels in your meals.
  • If a lack of veggies are a concern, amp up traditional recipes with a variety of veggies, either frozen or fresh. You can add them to your chili, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, shepherd’s pie, stir fry and/or side dishes . For meaty entrees, double up on the veggie ingredients the recipe is calling for and halve the meat.
  • Keep it simple. Buy one main ingredient. Make multiple meals. I usually like to purchase ground meats in bulk and prepare it in a variety of ways. If I purchase ground beef or chicken, for example, cooking it in bulk can allow me to make spaghetti, tacos, shepherd’s pie and chili, all in one week!
  • Get fresh! Fill your cart with more fresh foods, like veggies, yogurt or fish, to cook from scratch.
  • Skip packaged meals. Cooking simple meals is an easy way to save money on your grocery bill. Pre-packaged frozen meals are usually packed with sodium and low in nutrients.
  • Cook n’ share! Prepare big batches on weekends and swap meals with friends.
  • Make cooking fun and include your kids in the kitchen to help out with portioning, stirring or dumping ingredients in the pot!

Remember cooking at home can be fun if we plan ahead and shop smartly!

Wishing you continued good luck in putting your Best Food Forward: Plan Shop Cook Enjoy!

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