Friday, September 19, 2014

Are you ready for some football?

Tailgating is a community bonding experience that can be filled with outrageously delicious, but not always the most healthy, foods. Here are 5 healthy and easy food items that can be added to any tailgating festivity that squeeze in a little bit of healthy fats, vegetables and lean proteins. Guaranteed to  score a touch down with the taste buds and the body!

1. Guacamole- mash up a few ripe avocados, squeeze a half a lemon and add salt and pepper to taste. Dip your favorite chopped vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, red peppers, cauliflower. 

2. Skewered thinly cut chicken strips with cherry tomatoes and onion. Marinate the chicken overnight in balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper

3. Salad on a stick: Layer chopped romaine lettuce, quartered tomatoes, carrot slices or coins, red pepper slices and cucumbers. Dip in oil and vinegar. 

4. Grilled portabello mushrooms with goat cheese. 

5. Grilled stuffed peppers. Stuff with black beans, cheese and cooked rice or cooked quinoa and garbanzo beans. 

Have a great season!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Recipes: Tour guides or the Law what do you think?


Do you ever follow a recipe? My clients are often asking me what I eat and what I cook for my family. I go back and forth and usually end up somewhere between following a recipe and branching off to substitute ingredients I don't have or know that my family won't eat. 

In the book Cooked: A natural history of transformation, Michael Pollan writes " the recipe is never the recipe". He continues with "a recipe is merely a sketch or notes". 

Maybe you know that, maybe you never follow a recipe and live on the edge when it comes to dinner time and you are able to throw together a meal without any qualms. But to some, recipes are the law, whatever the small font says, its followed to the utmost detail.  

Why does it matter if you follow a recipe or make up your own? really doesn't if you are an experienced cook. If you know how to balance meals and have your protein, vegetable, starch and dairy then you are good to go. 
But for those of us that are hindered and confused about the balance and just the anxiety of "what am I going to make every night" recipes can be key. 

Here is what I recommend...

1. Make it easy. Meal planning can be as easy as 1 + 2 + 3
Pick a flavor desired + pick a protein + side of carbohydrate and vegetables and fruits. Top off with making sure there is water or low fat milk to drink. 

2. Make it a task that is not hard and can be easily replicated

3. Use My Plate as a guide. 

Why is it important? 
1. Because planning meals are one of the best things that a family can do to stay healthy. 
2. Pre-planned meals help a family avoid fast food restaurants
3. Pre-planned meals help families stay within a budget. 

So you have burned a few pieces of toast or boiled plastic in with the pasta...things happen and there is always a new day and with each day a new idea and fabulous recipe. If you don't think cooking is fun, change your perspective. It doesn't have to be a chore, it can actually be a lab for experiments, a classroom for teaching and an area to grow and nourish your children. 

Good luck and if you need recipe ideas click here. Or if you want to check out a box full of recipes for only $40 with a menu planning system click here

**Image of child chopping vegetables by Hanna Mayo Photography. 

Twitter: @ABCD Eat Right1 

Friday, September 12, 2014

1 in 6 Americans suffer from this each year...Can you guess what it is?

If you answered Food borne illness you were right! According to the US Center for Disease Control and prevention 128,000 of the 15% of Americans that suffer from food borne illness end up in the hospital every year.

September is National Food safety month and a great time to review the basics and keep your home and lunch box safe. Here are 12 tips to keep the lunchbox and kitchen food borne illness free! 

Top 6 tips to keep the kitchen healthy:

  •  Keep it clean- wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before food preparation, after handling raw meat, poultry and eggs and before you move to the next step in cooking. (Sing the ABC Song or click here for more fun song ideas)
  • Always rinse fruits and vegetables before eating and peeling
  • Cook meats to the proper temperature: Click here for the internal temperature chart. 
  • Wash your surfaces with soapy water after prepping meals.
  • Avoid cross contamination, store raw foods below cooked foods, swap out grilling tools to avoid raw cross contamination.
  • Thaw overnight or thaw in cold running water (do not let sit in a bath of water).

 Top 6 tips to keep the lunchbox healthy: 

  • Pack 2 freezer packs if the lunch contains perishable foods such as meats, eggs or yogurt. Frozen water bottles or juice boxes, as well as freezing yogurt can be used to help keep the lunchbox within a safe temperature range. By lunchtime these items will be ready to eat or drink.
  • Clean the lunch boxes often by wiping them down or tossing them in the washing machine. 
  • Pack lunches in an insulated lunchbox instead of paper bags (its better for the environment and it keeps foods safer).
  • Throw away any leftover food and packaging after lunch is over. Do not reuse packaging unless it has been thoroughly washed. 
  • Pack the lunch the night before and keep in the refrigerator, this keeps the meal cooler longer and makes it easier during the morning rush. 
  • Wash your hands before you start meal preparation and make sure to tell kids to wash their hands before meal time. 

Cheers to a healthy school year that is food borne illness free! 

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Testing and the kitchen again with the kids cooking up pancakes and waffles!

The kids were motivated to try something new this morning and wanted to explore new breakfast ideas. I had a recipe that I wanted to try but they were not too keen on coconut so I let Jackson do his own thing with pancakes and Olivia and I worked on a new coconut banana waffle. 
The mess ensued but there was a lot of laughter and little minds working hard at measuring and planning what would go into the recipes. 
Jackson likes cinnamon and vanilla and although I felt it was too much, I let him add as much as he wanted and even try tasting vanilla. Vanilla smells much better than it tastes on its own and he quickly learned that :) 

The end product was awesome and the kids ate them up. 
Jackson named his: Pancakes (but must be said with a British accent) and Olivia's coconut banana waffles are gluten free and boosted with protein using a PB2 product. 

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Friday, August 29, 2014

34 Million people are traveling this weekend? Are you one of them? If so, what are you going to eat?

According to AAA Travel, over 34 million people plan to travel this weekend! If  you are one of them and your not looking forward to unhealthy food consider some of the following tips!

Traveling is a great place to get in your refined foods. Theme parks, beaches and family reunions host a number of unhealthy eating choices. This is also a time of year where you may feel compelled to throw out your healthy eating habits and give in to the easy route of fast food and quick picks.

Here are five tips for circumventing the junk on your family vacay so that you don't go home feeling worse than you did before you left for your summer fun.

1. Research rocks-
A little pre-planning goes a long way. After you have picked your vacation city do a search for healthy fare in the area. Find out which restaurants have healthier choices. Here are a couple of websites I like to look at: and

2. A little pre-shopping goes a long way-
Let's face it, no matter how hard we try there are very few "clean" options available at theme parks. The best that we did were salads but we ate at the best restaurant the theme park had. It's best to bring your own healthy snacks. When we went to the theme parks we loaded up on dried fruits (mangoes, raisins, cranberries), dried nuts, Kind bars, apples and oranges as well as bottled water.

3. Dine in-
When choosing a place to stay, consider a condo or renting a house. The ability to have a kitchen is by far a life saver when trying to avoid unrefined foods. Double check to see if you have access to a grill. This is a great way to spend time with the family in the great outdoors and an easy way to cook vegetables and lean meats.

4. Hydrate the right way
Don't forget about the importance of hydration. Sometimes being dehydrated gets in the way of eating healthy. Your efforts to take in extra fluids can lead to your intake of easy refined foods that are quick to grab when grabbing a drink. Bring your own water bottle full of water, fresh juice blends or smoothies.

5. Adventure hunt - Seek out local produce or farmers markets in the area where you are vacationing.When we were headed down to the Florida Keys we stopped at an amazing local fruit stand called Robert is Here. Our kids experienced amazing local tropical fruit and we bought enough local produce to last us the 4 days we were in Key Largo. To find local farmers markets in your area of vacationing visit:

Have a safe weekend and we will see you in September!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Who is your lunch lady? And all things related to school lunch

Have you ever stopped to think about who your lunch lady is? If your child buys school lunch you know that they will have become very familiar with the lady that serves them 5 out of 7 days a week during her school year.

Things have changed tremendously since I was a kid and saw the "Grade D- but edible" box of burritos while I was waiting in a  school lunch line. If that box was available these days I would have taken a picture of it and shared it on social media. That pretty much ended my school bought lunch days except for the occasional cinnamon roll or other teenage junk food delight. Although things have changed, they still have a very long way to go. Schools went from making their own meals from scratch, to never making anything in house and purchasing all packaged processed foods. The packaged foods may have gotten "a little bit healthier", but in all honesty they still are processed memories of once upon a time whole clean foods. 
I struggle as a parent to allow my kids to buy school lunch, versus bringing a home packed lunch and it provides me with anxiety throughout the school year. I recently came across this blog posting by another RD and thought it was worthy of sharing. A link to Pam Dannon's blog and site can be found at the bottom of the page. 

 Published: 07/14/2014 
The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act: A Top 10 List 

This featured post is by Pam Dannon, EdM, RD.
So far, so good. To date, the meal pattern and nutrition requirements of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA) have done some great things for school cafeterias. Here are the top 10 examples of positive changes (in no particular order) and why they are important.

1. Free potable water must be available in all school cafeterias, increasing healthy hydration options.

2. Fruits and vegetables were divided into their own food groups in the new meal pattern, so that both must be offered each day. In the past, students could choose some combination of fruits and/or vegetables. Also, students must take a fruit or veggie for the meal to qualify for reimbursement from the federal government. Furthermore, certain veggie subgroups — dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables — must be offered over the course of the school week. These changes have increased the variety of fruits and vegetables offered to students.

3. The minimum amount of grains that must be served each week decreased, as fruits and vegetable offerings increased in the meal pattern, reflective of MyPlate recommendations.

4. The amount of meat or meat alternate that must be offered each week at some grade levels decreased, recognizing that yogurt and some vegetarian options, though lower in protein, can be healthy choices for students.

5. Targets were set for sodium, the first time that must be tracked by menu planners.

6. Calorie ranges rather than minimums were established, ensuring that menus were not too high in calories, averaged over the course of a school week.

7. All milk served in National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) must now be skim or low-fat. Any flavored milks must be skim. This brings down the total fat content of meals, while ensuring students still get the necessary vitamins and minerals for their growing bones.

8. Menu planners now track only saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and calories and no longer track total fat, protein, vitamins A and C, and iron and calcium. Well-planned menus including all the food groups with lean protein and fluid milk tend to keep those nutrients in an acceptable range.

9. Breakfast meal patterns no longer require a meat or meat alternate, allowing students to choose their often preferred two grain (for example, cereal and muffin) options, and allowing schools to offer more grab-and-go breakfast options, which increase participation and get more kids eating breakfast.

10.  Individualized meal patterns were established for the logical age/grade groups of elementary, middle and high school students. In the past, there was a kindergarten through eighth grade meal pattern option, which did not meet the nutrient needs of students at both ends of the range.

Some of these implementations have not been without angst. Fruits and vegetables that must be taken by students, as mentioned in No. 2 above, may be thrown away by students. Also, those increased fruits and vegetables mean greater costs to school food service operations, even though the reimbursement only increased by 6 cents per meal. In addition, sodium targets, which will continually lower until 2020, can be tricky to meet since products are still being reformulated by manufacturers and student palates don’t always agree with low-sodium choices. And effective this school year, 100 percent of grains must be whole grain-rich — meaning they  must be made up of 51 percent or more whole grains — presenting a potential challenge not only for sourcing, but for changing recipes and production methods, and gaining student acceptance.

What's next for the HHFKA? Other than increased whole grain requirements, we will see competitive food regulations, more specific wellness policy regulations, and stepped up nutrition requirements for both breakfast and lunch. Stay tuned!

Pam Dannon, EdM, RD, works in Child Nutrition Services in a mid-size school division for the School Health Initiative Program (SHIP). She also writes a blog, F4: All Things Food and can be followed on Twitter.

We may have a long way to go to meet the best standards ever, but at least it is a work in progress. I encourage each and every reader to get involved with the nutrition side of your child's school. Remember that it is OK to ask questions and provide assistance via the way of a wellness committee and voicing your concerns to school boards and PTO's. The only way things will change is if we as parents take time and ask for change as well as support it when it does happen. Ask your children what they ate for lunch and support them when they make the healthy choices as school. Talk to them about the importance of nutrition so that they can build the healthy habits that they need throughout life. It will be a message that they will prosper and benefit from for many years to come. 

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hydrating the lunch box. A key to reducing fatigue and increasing energy as the school year kicks off.

Staying hydrated is an important part to staying healthy during the school year. Although children may not be in the hot sun as much they will still work up a thirst in the classroom as their biggest muscle organ (their brains) start exerting themselves in scholastic exercise.  

How much does a child need to drink? 
A child needs 6-8 cups of fluid per day. 
One cup is equivalent to 240 milliliters which is equal to 8 ounces. 

What counts as fluid? 
-Water (the best hydrating liquid around)
-Milk (low fat and skim milk)
-100% juice (limited amounts due to the high amount of sugar and extra empty calories)
-Anything that is a liquid at room temperature (soup, Popsicle, smoothies, pudding etc.)

What are the signs of dehydration? 
Fatigue or tiredness
Lethargy or sleepiness/less active
Vomiting or nausea
Dry skin
Dry or sticky mouth
And often times hunger

Thumbs up to low fat milk, water and 100% juice.

Thumbs down to sports drinks, energy drinks, sodas and non-100% juice drinks.

Join us all throughout August as we build a healthy lunch box and keep the kids healthy throughout the year!