Reflections from Thanksgiving 2017

This post was written shortly after Thanksgiving 2017. While we didn’t have phones at the table to show a close up of everything that occurred while eating, I wrote this personal reflection shortly after the holiday in hopes that it could later be used to inspire and encourage other families as we approach another holiday season.

To learn more about How to Handle Feeding Kids over the Holidays, be sure to subscribe here. Members of my newsletter will be the first to know when my link to next week’s blog post goes live - just in time to save a little sanity and restore a bit of joy before all the holiday gatherings!


We are about to speed into Christmas. Literally. We hosted everyone at our home for Thanksgiving less than 24 hours ago and I have already been in the attic most of the morning to pull out all of our Christmas decor. I love this time of year. But yesterday, as we gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, I had a few realizations I felt were too important not to jot down.

Because although this all may not come full circle again until next Thanksgiving (or another large family dinner), there is something that happens during the holidays that doesn't in the day in, day out of feeding our kids:

a realization of progress

I work with many parents who ask me, "How soon until my kid will: ‘…eat everything I offer?’ ‘...like vegetables?’ or ‘…not be so picky?’

Although I wish I had a quick answer to this, I am reminded why I approach my clients and my own family the way I do.

Because a Division of Responsibility in feeding works.

The consistency of what, when, and where we create a pleasant, no-pressure feeding environment pays off. Even when we don't always see it in the day to day, week to week, or even month to month. When we are faced with a more formal family gathering where the menu holds both meaning and a lot more effort than usual put into the meal, we begin to see that from year to year and through all the eating opportunities in between, our kids are learning to be what Ellyn Satter calls, “competent eaters.

For all of you parents who think you aren't making progress, or at least are not yet seeing it, take a seat and read a few reflections from my own weary dietitian-mom heart.


Reflections from Thanksgiving 2017

As I fed my almost two year old tonight, she ate a dinner roll with butter. LOTS of butter. A cup of milk. A handful of peas. A lick of turkey. A poke at cranberry sauce. No interaction with the butternut squash or Brussels sprouts. Then later, a larger than average portion of whipped cream for dessert (she turned down pie! I know, right?!).

I could see how any parent may feel defeated in this. She ate seemingly "nothing." Or at least not what I would have chosen for her to eat should I have been able to spoon feed her. But you know what did happen?

Her almost four year old sister, however, ate like a champ. That same child who has struggled with apprehensive eating for years. The same little girl who two years ago sat in her booster seat and ate a roll with butter. LOTS of butter. A cup of milk. A handful of peas. A lick of turkey. A poke at cranberry sauce. No interaction with the butternut squash or Brussles sprouts. Then later, a larger than average portion of whipped cream for dessert (no pie either…I know!)

But this year?

My older daughter was stoked we were having "turkey bones!" and ate two of them (thankfully I bought extras than just the two on the bird knowing she is on a more recent all-things-protein-on-a-bone kick). She has learned to like mashed potatoes. She accepts cooked peas now in addition to frozen. She was curious to try the cranberry "jam" and liked how sweet it was. She enjoyed one roll (still with a large amount of butter), but it wasn't her end all be all "love it" food that she ate nothing more than. It was just a part of the holiday dinner.

And you know what?

It felt uh-maz-ing.

There were no second meals made. No fits in front of our extended family and friends. No fusses about if/whether and how much she would eat from the meal I had worked so hard to prepare. No fights to eat more, stay seated, or show good manners around the meal and others at the table.

It was just a great time to see that all the hard work put into raising a competent eater had shown up in one of those moments when I really don’t want to have “that kid” who doesn’t eat anything at the holiday dinner.

And I didn’t.

 
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My pride as a dietitian mom has been put through the ringer many, many times, so this desire wasn’t about wanting to look good in front of our company. While no parent wants “that kid” at a big gathering, my desire for an enjoyable was more than that.

My mom heart longed to know the one thing I have wondered often, even as a dietitian:

“Are we even making any progress?”

It was then, amidst the wondering and worrying about all the what ifs for how the meal could go, I was reminded:

Indeed, we are.

I don’t know if next year I will remember these small wins. I don’t know if we will see them repeated again in our oldest, if our youngest will be on board with any new foods, or if the whole meal will be a hot mess despite my best efforts yet again.

What I do know though is that going into the holidays with apprehensive eaters can be stressful, particularly for parents. Our kids often absorb a lot of this stress over what will be offered and if they will even like or want to eat any of it, while most parents carry this weight with them as well. We all want to enjoy the food, the family, the friends, and the festivities of the holiday season. That’s why no matter where you are at in what feels like “attempting” to raise a healthy eater, I hope this personal reflection will help to encourage you to keep on course. You might not see “success” on your average Tuesday, seemingly at all over the past month, or in the moments when you cave and make mac and cheese once again.

My hope, however, is that in that moment you sit your sweet littles down at the beautifully set holiday table this year, you can choose to enjoy the meal and embrace any bit of progress alongside them.

There will be a day our children help us make the very holiday dishes they today turn down. Hang in there.


As we get ready for the holiday season upon us, I want to share with you some of my best advice on how to handle the stresses of feeding kids over the holidays. That’s why next week, I am sharing seven common feeding scenarios (AKA struggles!) from the holiday season plus advice for how to handle them so you can set your family up for success with all the family meals and holiday gatherings to come! It will give you all the tips and tools you need to make your family’s holiday meal one to remember…and not because it was such a hot mess it is scared into your memory kind of thing.

To get the direct link to this article in your inbox next week, enter your name and email below:

How to Handle the Halloween Sugar Rush

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Healthy Height. All opinions are my own.

One of the first things that makes parents skin crawl around Halloween isn’t the spooky decorations or costumes. It is the sheer amount of sugar their kids are eating

We all recognize that the candy consumed on (or near) Halloween is “too much” compared to what most on average. For many parents though, they don’t know how much sugar is technically “too much” when it comes to our children’s everyday eating habits.

 
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That’s why this week, I am sharing a post I wrote over on Healthy Height titled, “How to Handle the Halloween Sugar Rush.” With several tips that apply to the very day to day questions and concerns you are likely facing right now surrounding Halloween candy, I know you will find the information and insight in this article helpful.

We discuss:

  1. How much sugar do kids need

  2. The difference between natural sugar and added sugars

  3. Why added sugar isn’t always bad

  4. Four Tips for Managing Sugar Around Halloween

If you’d like to learn more about each of the above topics and how they can help you to handle the Halloween sugar rush, visit my post:

How to Handle the Halloween Sugar Rush

How to Handle Halloween Candy with Kids

Y'all, these videos by Jimmy Fallon each year crack me up.

Not because I am some sick dietitian who just loves to see kid's Halloween candy taken from them, but rather because they show just a glimpse at how much kid's. love. candy.

How to handle Halloween candy with kids isn't a new issue of parenthood, nor does it come to any surprise to dietitians. I know it is one that a lot of you are probably wondering about though as we sit here just days away from Halloween.

Before we jump in though to talk about 13 lucky little lessons for how you can handle all that Halloween candy once it makes its way into your home, I want to encourage each of you to enjoy the festivities (including some nutritionally-absent food options in candy) on Halloween. On Halloween night, don’t stress over the sugar. Just cherish the times with your kids. See the joy in their eyes. Embrace their sticky fingers. Teach them to listen to their tummies. Foster freedom around food. Brush their teeth. Tuck them in agreeing that the day was the “best day ever” (in their innocent eyes).

Then tomorrow, you can begin to implement the following ideas for how all foods fit - including all that candy they carried home.

How to Handle Halloween Candy with Kids

Want to know how to make Halloween candy with kids a little less spooky?
Read these 13 lucky little lessons from a dietitian mom.

1) Remember the Basics of the Division of Responsibility.

If you want the most simple way to break down how I think we should handle allowing our kids to have Halloween candy, it all comes back to the basics of Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility. As a reminder, it is our job to determine what, when, and where our child eats. It is our child's job to determine if/whether and how much they eat. Connecting the dots between this and how it relates to Halloween candy, that means it is our job as the parent to set boundaries around what candy/treat is offered, when your child has it available, and where your child is allowed to eat it. Then, you can transfer the control and trust to let them determine if/whether and how much they eat (keep reading).

2) Don't make Halloween candy feel forbidden.

The more you can keep Halloween candy neutral, the better. Research is clear that kids who grow up in an environment where restriction, pressuring, and bribing is used (to get them to eat either a certain way or a certain amount), the more often they crave forbidden foods like candy. Maybe you can relate? If you were raised in a family where sweets and treats were overly off limits, you may find yourself struggling with self-control when it comes to common triggers like candy. Conversely, when approaches like the Division of Responsibility are used as the main form of food parenting, our kids learn how to self-regulate all foods, including candy. So even though it may seem as though a more strict food environment serves our kids well when it comes to Halloween candy, remember that the more restricted this highly appealing food becomes, the more your tactics may backfire.

3) Consider your kid.

I’m not saying to cater to the sugar obsessed kid and become totally permissive as a parent. What I am saying is to address their sugar obsession head on. Rather than forbid them from eating these preferred sweets more because you know they tend to obsess over them, consider creating a more liberal dessert policy in this season to help see it past. By offering these foods more often for a given period of time, you can establish an environment that shows you trust your child(ren) to listen to their bodies and make healthy choices. Kids in turn learn to trust their own intrinsic cues while still appropriately managing cravings and making smart food choices. While kids don't need added sugars in their diets (see the next point), a small amount for a given period of time can help take it off its preferred food pedestal.

4) Determine "enough."

While the Division of Responsibility deems it the child's role to determine if/whether and how much our child eats of a given food, there are exceptions to this when it comes to candy and dessert. This gets a bit confusing but in general comes back to parents finding smart strategies for what amount of candy is age-appropriate or rather “enough,” so that it doesn’t crowd out healthier options of food but also doesn’t restrict the sweet stuff so much that kids cravings for it increase (beyond expected). The dietitian in me would say no amount is necessary. The mom in me, however, realizes that a 90:10 food philosophy allows just enough flex room with food, especially in seasons like these. So if you are wanting a number of pieces of candy per day that gets the pass, you can review this calculation to find a general gauge for how much added sugar still falls within appropriate limits. You can also read more here for ideas on how you can determine healthy in your home, encourage pleasure, and promote self-regulation so “a little can go a long way” with candy and other foods that fall in the 10% (of discretionary calories).

5) Be clear and consistent.

Being clear about when your child can eat Halloween candy during the day (or scattered throughout the week) helps keep both of you sane until the candy bowl runs out (or gets forgotten about!). Amidst your child's frequent initial asking for Halloween candy, decide on a consistent answer for when they can expect to have it using a predetermined time of day. While this may differ from family to family in timing and frequency, it is important that you stay consistent. This makes it so candy isn't the dangling carrot in front of their nose that they always chase and yet never actually get to enjoy. It also makes it less tempting to use tactics like bribing (i.e. "If you eat all of your dinner, you can have a piece of Halloween candy). Instead, these clear and consistent expectations take the pressure off of you from daily deciding if/when to allow it and in what amount, while also freeing up your child's mental energy to focus on something other than an elusive forbidden food.

6) Determine the when.

Just as we talk about the aspects that fall under the parent's role with the Division of Responsibility, also comes the clear and consistent expectations around the when candy is offered. Just as we addressed above when each day candy will be offered, here I want to highlight the when in terms of how long it will be offered. Determine for your family the following: When is Halloween candy welcome in your home? For one day post-Halloween? One week? One month? Until it runs out? While some kids do forget about candy when it is kept out of sight and out of mind, other kids tend to do better with time limits that are set for the whole family. In our house, all candy is over my the time of my husband's birthday (which conveniently is November 6th). This helps us to enjoy it for the week following Halloween, but then get back to our normal eating habits and family dessert policy of desserts only on weekends and birthdays.

7) Include Halloween candy as a snack.

Crazy, right? Especially when I tell each of my coaching clients to use snacks to fill in nutritional gaps with non-traditional "snack foods." But that can be done here too simply by pairing the candy alongside a more nutrient-dense item like a glass of milk, side of fruit or veggies with dip, or handful of nuts (age permitting to prevent choking). When spaced appropriately with scheduled meals and snacks, offering Halloween candy as part of a child's snack makes it so it doesn't compete with more nutrient rich meals.

8) Find other nutritionally void foods to cut.

While it might sound crazy to offer candy as a snack, think of all the nutritionally poor options we default to offering out kids for snacks. From snack crackers to fruit snacks and roll-ups, it isn't the calories in these I am concerned about. It is the fact that those calories come at a valuable cost: the real estate in our kid's stomachs. So take this as an opportunity to become more intentional about when you are working to get in important nutrients. While candy isn't an ideal option to be offering, it can compel you to think through what other, everyday options you otherwise may have offered that also are nutritionally void. Start making a commitment to watch for added sugar in the other foods you offer, and gradually choose healthier, lower added sugar alternatives. While the new food labels are only rolled out on some food products so far, you can still look at the ingredient list to identify sources of added sugar. Then consider how you can make healthier choices to cut down the added sugar in your family's everyday favorites. This will create a habit that serves your family well far after the candy runs out.

9) Keep candy out of sight.

Just watch, and I think you’ll be surprised about how much more out of mind candy becomes if their pumpkin pale isn’t on the counter in plain sight. As mentioned from a study I shared on this post about five ways to curb sugar cravings in kids, keeping candy out of plain view helps keeps not to focus on it as frequently. The less they think about it, the less they ask for it, the less of a nonstop issue it needs to be from a nutritional standpoint. So put it away and wait until your child asks for it. Chances are that even before all of the candy gets consumed, your child will forget to ask for it at the set time (discussed above) and your family can just move on without it again.

10) Talk about the characteristics of candy.

If you want your child to wolf down their candy, help remove each piece from the wrapper and prepare to see your kid mindlessly go after it. Instead, let me suggest you try this. Use inquiry-based learning to slow down the eating process. Ask questions about a candy’s taste, texture, flavor, color, size, etc., to help your child slow down and savor their candy. Just as we as adults have to remind ourselves to do this, let's equip our children at a young age to be mindful eating. Not restrictive from any one food (no food allergies, permitting), but rather remind them to be mindful about each morsel they put into their mouths. Not only does this help our kids to learn to appreciate specific elements to fun “sometimes” foods (in these off seasons when they are offered), but this helps our kids to consume less as well. For more on avoiding labels around Halloween candy or other “forbidden foods,” read this article on Six Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar.”

11) Look at behaviors beyond the candy bowl.

We obsess so much about if/whether our kids eat Halloween candy that we divert our focus and honestly our accountability from the constant, day to day feeding behaviors we have irregardless of Halloween. While it is of obvious importance to limit added sugars as an overall feeding principle in our families, we also need to keep in mind that there are likely many other feeding behaviors that we could improve on also. So rather than getting too focused on the candy at hand, let's also take Halloween as an opportunity to consider what other feeding habits we could pay closer attention to.

12) Consider other creative options.

Just as Elf of the Shelf took the Christmas season by storm, many parents are also adopting a "Switch Witch" for handling the candy after Halloween. Many local dentist offices also participate in candy swap out programs, so ask your child's dentist if they do something list this.

13) Transition into a season of Gratitude.

As October ends and a time for Thanksgiving nears, teach your kids to consider how they could serve others with their candy. This may be sending the candy to troops, donating it to Ronald McDonald House for sick children who couldn't trick or treat, or by making a visit to a local elderly facility to share it with them. From a work site wellness standpoint, I tend to not encourage parents taking it all to work with them as the alternative. Instead, engage your kids in community outreach ideas that will help others to enjoy the candy when they otherwise wouldn't be mobilized on their own to do so.


Final Challenge: Be Big Picture About It

However you choose to handle all of that leftover Halloween candy with your kids, remember the big picture. Our goal in even having this conversation is to instill in our children a healthy relationship with all foods - even those that we don't always love or want them eating a lot of like candy. By teaching them when it's appropriate and how to self-regulate these types of foods, we empower them to handle all of the Halloweens to come with confidence around candy. That is no costume, but rather a true eating competence to aim for within each of our families.

Happy Halloween to all of you, my favorite guys and ghouls!

Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Super Simple Online. All opinions are my own.

As we countdown to all the candy of Halloween with much anticipation by kids and often fear from parents, I want to spend the next few weeks highlighting some simple takeaways when it comes to the sticky subject of sugar.

 
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This week, I am sharing a post I previously wrote over on Super Simple Online, titled “Six Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar.” While we may have fast-forwarded six months to another holiday season centered around sugar since it was published, the principles I share regarding sugar remain the same:

  1. Understand the real problem.

  2. Define healthy in your home. 

  3. Avoid labels. 

  4. Encourage pleasure. 

  5. Avoid reward. 

  6. Practice self-regulation.

If you’d like to learn more about each of these and how to handle the sticky subject of sugar in your home, visit my post:

Six Simple Takeaways on the Sticky Subject of Sugar


Then stay tuned over the next two weeks as I share more on How to Handle Halloween Candy with Kids (next week) and How to Handle the Halloween Sugar Rush (in two weeks).

If you aren’t already subscribed to my newsletter, now is the perfect time to sign up to receive once-weekly updates. As members of my community, you are the first to read insider information as well as receive updates when these and other upcoming blog posts are published. Just fill out your name and email below!

My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids [packaged + prep-free]

This post is unsponsored. I was not compensated nor asked to include any of the following products, however I did receive samples of some of the following products for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own.


My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids

(Plus 15 of My Favorite Homemade Ones!)

Even in feeding my own kids three meals and two snacks a day, I still feel stuck for healthy, practical ideas at times. Add that to the confusion of walking down any given snack aisles (even as a dietitian mom), and I get why other parents are overwhelmed when trying to find healthy, kid-friendly snack options.

Last year, I shared a post on “The Best Pre-Packaged Snack Foods,” which included information on different types of snack foods (i.e. fun foods, sometimes foods, and everyday foods) as well as ideas on how such snack foods can have a healthy place in your child’s diet. This post also included a free printable shopping list (see below) of My 20 Favorite Pre-Packaged Snack Foods from Target, which many of you downloaded and said that you enjoyed (which you can also download for free here).

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That’s why in this post, I thought I would not only revisit the conversation of snack foods and update some of my recommendations in each “category” (see below: bars + bites, starchy snacks, fruit snacks, and protein-packed snacks). My goal in this post is to further eliminate all guesswork and curate a list of my favorite snacks within each category. I get several inquiries about where to buy these snacks as well (when I share them on Instagram or Facebook), so I have shared links for the best places to buy each of these products as well to make it even easier for you to restock your own pantry (now that the school year is in full swing)!

 
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Although I want to make seeing the following snack food suggestions as straight-forward as possible, I already am anticipating some of the feedback I might get from families who find these either impractical, inferior, not cost-effective nor environmentally-friendly, or who are ultimately unclear on how these snacks fit into an overall healthy lifestyle.

I have tried to address those possible concerns here:

First, pre-packaged snacks are often more expensive.

I don’t recommend these to blow anyone’s food budget but rather because I know many families out there are in need of convenient, readily-available snack options that require no prep. That said, I respect not all of these options may be a good fit for every family’s budget and have tried to provide ideas at a variety of price points. Some of the snacks suggested in this post are in fact more expensive than mainstream alternatives on the market. Typically, this is due to higher-quality ingredients yielding a more natural, nutrient-dense product than competing, lesser expensive varieties. For my family, I prefer to invest in higher-quality packaged snacks and saving them for when we need them (on the go, when traveling, and on the occasional school day when we are in a rush or don’t have other homemade options ready). This lessens how often we eat them, stretching our food dollar further without compromising quality. Many of the following options also may be purchased either on sale or in bulk (for a discount) or in larger sized packages and then divided up into their own smaller, snack-sized containers to help save. Otherwise, some of these pre-packaged might have recipes so you can recreate similar homemade snacks (instead of always reaching for pre-packaged).

Second, pre-packaged snacks aren’t always nutritionally superior to ones you could make yourself.

If you have the time and energy to recreate items in the categories below, I encourage you to do so as you might be able to pack even more nutrition into them. However, for the purposes of this post, I aimed to include options that I personally and professionally consider nutrient-rich options in the given category (when compared to the alternative, pre-packaged items on the market). I have included some of the nutrition and ingredients list information I look for in each of the respective category.

Third, pre-packaged snacks create more waste.

I admit that at times, I weigh the convenience of pre-packaged snacks over considering how environmentally friendly the packaging is of such products. That’s why, as mentioned above, I tend to serve homemade snacks or portioning pre-made snacks into a reusable snack bag when able. You can find some of my favorite reusable snack bags here.

Fourth, consider a few of the following tips if sending any of the following packaged snacks to school.

  • Make sure you know the dietary restrictions of your child’s school and avoid sending any restricted allergens. Many of the options below include nuts, so use your discretion for if and when such snacks are safe and appropriate. If you need peanut-free ideas, read this post for 12 peanut-free pre-made and portable snack ideas.

  • Tear a small opening in packaging so it makes it easier for your child to open it come lunch or snack time. This gives them more time to eat, rather than using that time to wait on their teacher (who likely has to open the packages for several kid’s!).

  • If your child’s school requires you to send snacks labeled, consider using one of the reusable bags (shared above) with a reusable name label on it. This lessens the work of having to write on it each day (especially since Sharpies don’t always write easily on all snack options).

Fifth, know how to offer snacks.

No matter WHAT you offer, if you don’t have a foundation for WHEN food is offered, all of your efforts can still get derailed. That’s why it is important to both choose appropriate snack food options, as shared in my post on The Best Pre-Packaged Snack Foods, and to be mindful about how to feed your child at snack time. Spacing snacks 2-3 hours from meal times and enforcing a “kitchen is closed” at all other times can help to promote your child to eat more of the nutrient-dense items when offered and eliminate mindless grazing on potentially less- healthful snack foods. Wondering how to feed your child at snack time? Read more here >>



My 45 Favorite Snack Options for Kids [Packaged + Prep-Free]

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links to my Amazon shop. These do not cost you anything extra to use; they will only provide Veggies & Virtue a small commission for any purchases made through this link. Thank you for supporting this small business!

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Bars + Bites (Non-Perishable + Packaged)

I am a big fan of bars and energy bites as a way to pack a lot of nutrition into a small, convenient package. With so many bars over-saturating the market, however, it can quickly become overwhelming to know which ones to buy. Since bars and bites can vary a lot in their taste, texture, and overall nutritional as well, I have also included a bit of information below on each bar/bite includes that will hopefully help guide you in your buying decisions a bit about which to buy and why.

Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following bars:

  • Sugar: Many “healthy” bars on the market have considerable amounts of added sugar. Considering many children already get more added sugar than they need in their diet, parents should consider the source and amount of sugar in the bars and bites they buy. Looking for bars with only naturally occurring sugar in the ingredients list (from sources like dates) is ideal. Otherwise, select bars with limited sources and amounts of added sugar. If an ingredients list states several sources of added sugar and/or exceeds around 6 grams of sugar per serving (equivalent to 25% of the max amount of added sugar a toddler should have in a day), try to avoid and select another bar or bite instead. Wondering how much sugar your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Fat: Bars and bites are an excellent way to get healthy fats into children without the choking hazard of whole nuts. This fat source in bars also provides satiation, so kids won’t become hungry as quickly after eating. Since children need more fat than hey do protein in their diets, prioritize a bar that offers healthy fat over “protein bars” that might be more intended for adults. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Protein: Protein that comes naturally-occurring from sources like nuts and seeds make a great option in snack bars or bites that you want to sustain your child for longer than say, a carbohydrate-rich bar would. Otherwise, there is rarely a need to choose bars or bites for young children though that have added sources of protein (i.e. in the form of protein isolates). That’s because when distributed across three meals and two or three snacks a day, most children are already getting their protein needs met without such added sources. Wondering how much protein your child needs? Read more here >>

Top 10 Bars + Bites (in no particular order):

  1. RXBAR Kids

    RXBARs have permanent residence in my own life these days. As one of the few bars that legitimately keep me feeling full between meals or when my own mom lunch gets bumped hours behind when I feed my kids, I can’t even count how many times these have protected me from getting hangry. When RXBAR came out with the kids option of bars, I was immediately sold. The ingredients list is unmatched in the industry for being full of the fuel I want my kids to eat and yet can’t conveniently get into them on the go in the way RXBAR Kids has captured to in this smaller sized bar. With kid-friendly flavors, RXBAR Kids are now one of the top bars we tuck into the diaper bag or in the car as an emergency snack as I know they will tie us over longer than many more carbohydrate-rich bars. From our own experience, RXBAR keep us feeling full the longest, which makes them great when you need a more substantial snack bar (or to avoid if you need a light snack close to a meal). The texture of RXBAR Kids is a bit more tough to chew through than other bars and can get stuck to teeth, so I know it took some getting used to for both myself and my girls. With some re-exposure though, we have started to enjoy these bars as one of our favorites. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. I find the RXBAR website and Sprouts tend to have the best deals on these bars.

  2. LARABAR minis

    LARABARs have long been a favorite of mine, even before the “bar market” exploded into what it is today. They were early adopters of the simple ingredients list and keeping bars a wholesome source of nutrition. I particularly appreciate that all LARABARs use dates in their base as the source of sweetener, as this makes them tasty to kids without needing to add any additional sugar. While the nutrition facts reads higher in sugar than some other bars, this again is from real food (dates) rather than added sugar, and thus less of a consideration or concern in my book. For parents with small children, I often encourage LARABARs as a safe way to include nuts in a child’s diet. Compared to offering kids bars with large nut pieces or a handful of nuts when active or out and about, I feel more comfortable recommending snacks like LARABARs that offer the nutrition of nuts without the same choking hazard. While I love all of the LARABARs, their LARABAR minis are another great option for small children as one to toss in a lunchbox, have as a light snack, or offer alongside something else. The smaller size helps lessen the situations when your child might only eat half of a bar and then potentially waste the rest. I am unsure if they are phasing out the minis (as they aren’t shown on the LARABAR website), but they have been and will continue to be a favorite here as available. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. On the LARABAR website (as of this posting), the mini bars do not exist. I continue to see them in stores like Kroger and Target though, as well as on Amazon.

  3. KIND Kids

    If your kids are used to granola bars that more closely resemble a candy bar, this can be a great way to food chain to a healthier alternative. With 5 grams of sugar, this is less than most competitors while also being made with much more natural and nutrient-dense ingredients. There are also some tasty nut-free flavor options that make this a fun “competitive" food” for school (should your kid be like mine and want “what everyone else has”)! Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.

  4. KIND Healthy Grains Bars

    While a little bigger than the KIND Kids bar, this one still only has 5 grams of sugar per bar. It is a tasty granola-bar option for bigger appetites, bigger kids (or adults, as my husband and I eat these too!), or when a bit more snack is merited. There are several flavor options as well, again with nut-free options that add some variety to snacks for school or after school sports. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.

  5. Health Warrior Chia Bar

    This chia bar packs several real food ingredients into a small bar, making it perfect for little tummies who need good nutrition in smaller sizes. With only 3 grams of sugar and several flavors to try, this is a great way to go for a granola-bar alternative. My kids love the new chocolate chip flavor! Similar to the texture of a LARABAR, this too is a softer option of bars for kids who might not be able to bite into other bars or need small pieces torn off to eat. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. Use discount code veggiesvirtue20 for 20% off of first purchase when shopping on healthwarrior.com.

  6. Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Bar

    These pumpkin bars are organic and made up of simple ingredients (just pumpkin seeds, honey, and spices) and yet taste like a treat! With nut free flavor options, we have found them helpful as a convenient pre-packaged bar option that we can send to school. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon. Use discount code veggiesvirtue20 for 20% off of first purchase when shopping on healthwarrior.com.

  7. Made in Nature Figgy Pops

    Tied with maybe muffins, I live by energy balls as quick and easy options I can eat with one hand while still getting a decent amount of nutrition packed in. Since I am not always able to make them at home though nor do I always have the right ingredients on hand, I have become particularly fond of these Figgy Pops for a pre-made energy bite option. With several flavors and even nut free options, these Made in Nature Figgy Pops are a new mainstay for #momlife and fueling active little kids with healthy AND convenient snack options. Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon.

  8. MySuperSnack Granola Bites

    These include what you love about an oatmeal cookie in a convenient snack-sized shape. With more fat and fiber than most bars on the market, these aren’t the highly refined granola bar option void of the fiber or fat that keep us full. Instead, these granola bites are a tasty way to convert “cookies” into a healthier snack option that is still sweet and satisfying. Shop for in stores or on Amazon.

  9. Nourish Snacks

    These granola bites option are more like a crunchy take on oatmeal cookies than the above granola bite while again packing much more nutrition in than a cookie-esque snack option. Again packing in less added sugar than other granola-based snacks, these granola bites were created by a fellow dietitian mom to satisfy the needs of a nutrient-dense snack while also catering to cravings of a sweet tooth. With a variety of flavors, my girls are really fond of taking a larger back of these Nourish Snacks to share or an individual bag of the nut-free options to school. Shop for in stores or on Amazon. You can select the 1-ounce single serve or 4-ounce snack-to-share size bag when buying on Amazon.

  10. Matt N’ Mikes SuperKid Bar

    The newest bar in the bunch, these bars by Matt n’ Mike have been ones we have really enjoyed. I am fond of the ingredients list being made up of simple, real foods while still being sweet enough and in a size that my kids enjoy. As a smaller business than some of the other bars listed above, these might not be as easily available at the grocery store but they are readily available online. Shop for in stores or online.

 
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Starchy Snacks (Non-Perishable + Packaged)

Often seen as “filler foods,” chips, crackers, and cookies are usually not essentials from a nutritional standpoint. However, they are often impossible to avoid in our diets, especially with kids. So although our goal is to always load up our kids with the most nutrient-dense options (especially when they are young and their stomachs are particularly small), the reality is we also may find ourselves wanting to offer some sweet or savory snacks on occasion.

It is important to not make any foods so forbidden that it becomes something our kids covet. Instead, our kids need to know how all foods fit, including items like chips, crackers, and cookies or other “fun foods” (read more on Fun Foods + Snacks here). Our job as parents is to look for options that allow us to offer better-for-you ingredients in such food options most of the time. I am not the type to instill fear in families for the occasional neon orange puff nor a creme-filled cookie eaten at birthday parties, classroom events, or special outings. I don’t usually recommend families have these on hand as everyday options however, as they can become particularly tempting to eat more often and crowd out other more nutrient-rich options when they’re in the house. When families are looking to find healthier options to have at home and on hand, the following are some that I have found to be both kid-friendly and dietitian-approved.

Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following snack chips, crackers, and cookies:

  • Whole Grains: When possible, I always opt for starchy snack foods that contain some whole grains. This will be shown with a label from the Whole Grain Council on the front of packaging, a marketing claim of “X amount of whole grains per serving,” or by viewing the ingredients list to make sure that the first ingredient in a whole grain. Although having a whole grain snack doesn’t necessarily equate to it having more fiber, often times such snacks will still be nutritionally superior by offering more protein, vitamins, and minerals than snack foods made with refined grains. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Ingredients list: Bars and bites are an excellent way to get healthy fats into children without the choking hazard of whole nuts. This fat source in bars also provides satiation, so kids won’t become hungry as quickly after eating. Since children need more fat than hey do protein in their diets, prioritize a bar that offers healthy fat over “protein bars” that might be more intended for adults. Wondering how much fat your child needs? Read more here >>

  • Bonus Ingredients: After seeing a need to make such starchy snack foods more healthy, many food manufacturers are starting to create more nutrient-dense varieties by adding in otherwise nontraditional ingredients to these options. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even legumes are now more commonplace in crunchy, starchy snacks. When possible, parents should opt for starchy snacks that include bonus ingredients (and thus nutritional benefits!).

Top 15 Starchy Snacks (in no particular order):

    1. Nourish Mini Popcorn Chips: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    2. MySuperCookies Snack Packs: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    3. Bitsy’s Smart Crackers: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    4. Bitsy’s Smart Cookies: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    5. Peeled Peas Please: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    6. Rhythm Superfood Chips: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    7. Boom Chicka Pop Sea Salt Popcorn: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    8. Annie’s Whole Grain Bunny Crackers: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    9. Triscuits Whole Grain Crackers: Shop for in stores

    10. Puffworks: Shop for on Amazon

    11. Hippeas Organic Cheese Puffs: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    12. Simple Mills Almond Crackers: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    13. Moon Cheese: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

    14. Crunch-A-Mame: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

    15. Dry Cereal (like Kashi Heart to Heart or Barbara’s Puffins)

 
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Fruit Snacks (Non-Perishable + Packaged)

I am all for getting our fruits and vegetables in, but sometimes fresh options just aren’t realistic. That’s why I often rely on the following non-perishable and packaged options. With only real fruit in the ingredients, no added sugar, ingredients, or food dyes are necessary to make these “fruit snacks” a sweet snack for kids.

Here are a few nutritional considerations for how I came to select the following fruit snacks:

  • Sugar source: Opt for “fruit snacks” that contain only fruit in the ingredients list. Ideally, limit those with added fruit concentrates as these increase the sugar content without offering the same fiber and overall nutritional benefits of whole fruit. Although some parents may be concerned that the sugar content (as shown on the nutrition facts label) appears “high” even in fruit snacks made only with fruit, rest assured this is all naturally occurring sugar from fruit (and not added sugars) and can be used to offer valuable nutrition. Serve as a stand alone snack for a quick energy source (due to the higher amount of sugar/simple carbohydrates), or pair it with something that has a bit of fat, fiber, or protein to give it a bit more staying power.

  • Fiber: Fruit-based snacks tend to be a compact source of carbohydrates for their fruit-based equivalent. Often times, the fiber from the fruit is lost in the processing, so when possible, choose fruit-based snacks that have retained some fiber.

  • Ingredients List: Keep it simple. There should be very few foods on the ingredients list outside of fruit, potentially ascorbic acid (a source of vitamin C that acts as a preservative), and maybe added items like chia seeds (as in the case of the Pressed bars below).

Top 10 Fruit Snacks (in no particular order):

  1. Made in Nature dried fruit: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  2. Fruit Bliss snack packs: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  3. Kind Pressed bars: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  4. Peeled dried fruit: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  5. Bare apple chips: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  6. That’s It bars: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  7. Organic boxes of raisins: Shop for in stores (or put the organic ones in a large bag from Costco into smaller containers)

  8. Chukar Cherries: Shop for online or on Amazon

  9. Freeze-dried fruits: Shop for in stores or on Amazon

  10. Organic Applesauce pouches: Shop for in stores (also at Costco)

 
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Protein-Packed Snacks (Both Perishable and Non-Perishable + Packaged)

One of the best ways to ensure your kids keep asking for more snacks is to offer ones that are full of quick energy and refined carbohydrates (even if natural carbs from fruit) without anything to go with it. If, however, you need to offer a snack with a bit more staying power (more on that here), be sure to add in a protein source so your child stays full longer. Some of the best ways to do this without any extra effort is with the following quick sources of protein.

Here are a few considerations for how I came to select the following protein snacks:

  • Protein: Whether you opt for an option that it plant- or animal-based, any of the following protein options can make a nutritious addition to any snack. If you are only able to grab a bag of carrot or a whole apple otherwise, the following options can round out those snacks to make them both more satisfying and filling.

  • Perishability: Of all the snacks shared, this list is the only one that might include a perishable option. Offer variety on the days you have an ice pack with those that you need a shelf-stable option. An asterisk below denotes the protein options that are non-perishable.

  • Ingredients List: Keep it simple. These should be minimally processed with few added ingredients outside of the obvious protein itself.

Top 10 Protein-Packed Snacks (in no particular order):

  1. Babybel: Shop for in stores (We buy ours at Costco)

  2. Organic Cheese Sticks: Shop for in stores

  3. Good Culture Cottage Cheese cups: Shop for in stores

  4. Horizon Milk Boxes*: Shop for in stores (I find them on sale at Costco often)

  5. Hummus cups: Shop for in stores (We buy ours at Costco)

  6. Hard Boiled Eggs: Shop for in stores (including Costco)

  7. Vermont Uncured Pepperoni*: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  8. Biena Chickpea Snacks*: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  9. RX Nut butters*: Shop for in stores, online, or on Amazon

  10. Siggis Yogurt tubes, drinks, or triple cream cups: Shop for in stores


15 Favorite Go-To Homemade Snack Recipes

This list could be just as endless as the aisles of pre-packaged snack foods. I am often asked for recipes to the following though, so I have included our go-to homemade snack recipes as well. You can easily pack up any of these in place of one of the items above and take them with you. This is an ever-changing list in our household, but for now, here are our top ten favorites!

  1. Healthy Carrot Muffins (and others shared on Muffin Club here)

  2. Blueberry Lemon Energy Bites

  3. Chocolate Chip Oat Energy Bites

  4. Peppermint Energy Bites (like these or these)

  5. Green Smoothies (like this one) in a reusable pouch (like this one)

  6. Immune-Boosting Smoothies (like this one) in a reusable pouch (like this one)

  7. Homemade Apple Sauce (like this one but we leave the peels on!) in a reusable pouch (like this one)

  8. Homemade Granola (to add on top of a Siggis yogurt cup!)

  9. Homemade Granola Bar

  10. Avocado Banana Cookies

  11. Baked Oatmeal Bars

  12. Homemade Fruit Leather

  13. Homemade Gummies

  14. Chunky Monkey Bars

  15. Microwave Popcorn


While I am sure these lists will need to be updated and changed over time, I hope that for now they provide a helpful starting place to help you shop for healthier snacks for your family!

Cold-Fighting Clementine Smoothie

This post is sponsored by Darling Clementines®. All ideas and opinions are my own.

From the hustle of early morning wake-ups to feeding famished kids after school, it can take families some time to get into the groove with Back to School. Come October, many parents start to focus on the next big thing though: flu season.

However even amidst our efforts to get flu shots and fight infection at home, I know many families are also looking for ways to use food as immune-boosting medicine as well.

That’s why I love this smoothie featuring Darling Clementines®.

 
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Clementines are a familiar Fall favorite. You can toss them in backpacks as an option that doesn’t bruise nor brown in a lunchbox and they’re easy enough for little ones to peel on their own. Did you know that Darling Clementines® are available year-round though, thanks to the variety of growers harvesting them every month of the year? That means that when other summer fruits move out of season and become grossly expensive by now, Darling Clementines® continue to be an easy, economical fresh fruit option for our families all year.

In this smoothie, Darling Clementines® offer a vibrant orange color that makes it perfect for Fall and all the festivities in October. They also offer the vitamin C and flavor to make for a cold-fighting smoothie your kids will love slurping down.

 
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You can offer this smoothie as an easy grab-and-go option on the way out the door in the morning or have it ready as part of nutrient packed afternoon snack. Whenever you choose to enjoy it, this immune-boosting clementine smoothie is one your family will want to have in its immune defense arsenal this Fall!


Festive and Cold-Fighting Clementine Smoothie

 
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Here’s what you need:

Ingredients

2 Darling Clementines

½ cup Frozen pineapple

1 Frozen banana

2 TBSP Ground flax seeds

4-6 ounces Unsweetened coconut water

½ cup Ice

Instructions

Add all of the ingredients to a high-powered blender. Blend until smooth, adding additional coconut water and/or ice until desired consistency is achieved. Enjoy!

 
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Squeeze the Day

In case this smoothie wasn’t sweet enough for you, be sure to enter Darling Clementines Squeeze the Day Promotion Sweepstakes. Fill out the simple entry form (it takes less than 30 seconds to do here) and be entered to win a $500 gift card for YOU, plus a donation to a partnering charity. This costs you nothing to enter, but could afford you $500 to spend how you choose (maybe on a lifetime supply of clementines?!).

Enter here, or be sure to check out Darling Clementines for more on this festive and cold-fighting fruit!

Gardening with Kids: October 2018 edition

I admit, we are in a season when I really can’t justify the garden being “one more thing.” Sometimes hobbies that are non-essential can quickly become overwhelming in seasons when we have little time or energy to spare (such as life with a newborn!). That’s why this month, I want to encourage each of you to remember:

It is okay to start small.

It is okay to go slow.

It is okay to embrace “this is a season.”

Just as gardens require fertile soil, constant watering, pruning, and pest control, we all know motherhood does so similarly. That’s why I am challenging myself as well as any of you with an interest in these monthly posts to be willing to take on only what you can to bear fruit.

If gardening is one of those things that ultimately won’t bear fruit (literally or figuratively!) to your family in this season, rain check these ideas until the time is right. However, if you find your family looking for a healthy, hands on opportunity to connect with real food and spend time learning about “healthy food” (which is MUCH more effective than talking about it with kids!), maybe you could consider what kind of garden makes sense for your family.

Then, get dirty and let it metaphorically remind you that the messes of motherhood are MANDATORY for true growth to occur. Our garden is an ongoing work in progress and trial and error process...also much like motherhood. So while I love the yield it sometimes brings (by way of fresh veggies), it is also such a small and subtle reminder for me in the way gardening parallels motherhood.

How could a garden encourage versus overwhelm you in the upcoming season?

 
 Our newest little gardener dressed for the part on our first day of Fall planting!

Our newest little gardener dressed for the part on our first day of Fall planting!

 

Areas of Growth in the Garden

Garden Yields Update

Total seasonal yield to date: 
None yet for Fall, as our Fall crops are going in this month! Due to some feedback we got at our local nursery, we are trying some less traditional “Fall produce” to see if they grow and how they do!

Plot 1: Green beans, sugar snap peas, and cucumbers

Plot 2: Kale, Spinach, and Swiss Chard

Plot 3: Fall cherry tomatoes, carrots, and beets

Plot 4: Waiting to plant broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts once it cools off

Herb Garden: We are also finally starting our herb garden up closer to the house. For this, we have cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, and rosemary.

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New Feeding Wins or Progress via Food Play

This is the second Fall garden we have done, but I can honestly say the first gardening season so far that my oldest daughter has actually been into participating very much (out of the total of four seasons).

She tends to be my child who is not terribly amused by my ideas or interests. While my two year old finds everything I am doing fascinating and always wants to “help",” my oldest daughter tends to be much more independent, spirited, and deeply engaged in her own interests. While I love this independence in her and try to foster an environment for her to pursue her own interests (rather than pushing my own), I would be lying if I said sometimes I didn’t wish she would take a genuine interest in the activities I have planned for us - like our garden.

That’s why this Fall I am so excited she suddenly is excited about our garden. She was eager to mix the new soil, write our new plot sticks, plant the seeds, and daily go out to water our immature plants. For the first time, this is all on her accord. That’s what makes it so exciting to me!

Similar to how we should approach feeding our children in those weeks, months, and even years it takes to establish healthy relationships with eating (more on that here) and for them to “learn to like” new foods (more on that here), I am reminded of the patience versus pressure required in other areas (like gardening) as well. I have tried at times to talk my oldest into “how much fun this (gardening) is” when she didn’t show much of an interest. The same could easily be said for trying to tell our kids “this tastes so good” for a food they’d otherwise pass on. But what I am remembering this month is that continuing to expose our kids to these healthy habits is a seed-planting-process.

I don’t know if my oldest will stay this enthusiastic about our garden all Fall, but what I do know is that we are planting seeds for such enthusiasm towards healthy lifestyle habits at a young age and as part of her overall development into ultimately becoming an adult someday. She may not learn to like gardening as a kid or ever, but I am confident that planting the seeds for this being a part of our life now is something that she will be able to sow from later in life.

The same can be said for the “learning it foods” and family meals we offer now that seemingly “get wasted.” While not every seed will produce fruit, I think again we can be reminded of the overall parallel planting such seeds has for creating the foundation our kids learn how to eat from.

So although it might be the postpartum hormones that have me particularly sentimental in this month’s gardening post, I think the metaphor of planting seeds, watering our garden, and waiting on the harvest is a particularly fitting reminder for how we should approach feeding and raising our kids in general. I hope it encourages you to reflect on this as much as it does me!


Veggie of the Month: Pumpkin

I am honored to be a monthly contributor to Veggie Buds Club. Intended for children ages 3-6, Veggie Buds Club offers activities that empower kids to Learn + Cook + Play + Create + Grow with a monthly vegetable. Through fun, pressure-free ideas, Veggie Buds Club helps expose your child to a variety of vegetables in age-appropriate and engaging ways.

If you are interested in checking out Veggie Buds Club for your family (or to gift a friend!), I encourage you to hop on over today! Monthly registration closes at midnight on the first of the month, so be sure to sign up so you get this month's box - complete with a tip sheet featuring the advice I share below!

Images from past month's Veggie Buds Club.

Tips shared in this month’s Veggie Buds Club: Pumpkin

We often forget about pumpkin until summer starts turning to fall and we start planning for seasonal staples like jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie. Pumpkins hold so much potential however as produce with a subtle flavor that packs important nutrition. Fall is a great time to both introduce pumpkin and find ways that your family enjoys eating it so you can continue to include it in your diets year round.

Since canned pumpkin packing as many vitamins, minerals, and fiber as its fresh counterpart, there is no need to stress over making your own puree (unless of course your prefer the taste or the process). Either way, these gourds are very good for you! Consider how you can add in the health benefits of beta carotene (what gives pumpkins their bright orange color!), vitamin C (to help combat cold season!), and fiber (to keep your family both full and regular!) to any meal or snack by using some of the following ideas:

Breakfast

Bake pumpkin muffins

Add pumpkin puree to smoothies

Mix pumpkin in pancake or waffle batter

Lunch

Stir pumpkin into spreads like cream cheese to smear on a sandwich

Make hummus with pumpkin for a fun flavored dip

Make pumpkin soup to enjoy as “soup & salad” or “soup & sandwich” combos

Dinner

Mix pureed pumpkin into sauces, like spaghetti

Add pumpkin to chili

Look for pumpkin-filled pastas (like ravioli or tortellini)

Snacks

Roast pumpkin seeds

Bake healthy pumpkin cookies

Roll up some pumpkin energy bites

For more recipe ideas, be sure to try out each of the recipe cards included in this month’s Veggie Buds Club! Also remember to check out Veggie Buds Club before 12/midnight on the first of every month if you aren't already a subscriber. Then you can still order this month's box and veggie in time to participate!


Want More Actionable Ideas on How to Turn Your Veggie Averse Kid Into A Gardener?

Subscribe here for updates and early bird access anytime there is a new resource added and available!


For More Posts on Gardening with Kids:

Revisiting Formula Options with Child #3

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Kabrita. All opinions are my own.


 
 

I am writing this post within weeks of our third child being born. It feels so strange to be over two years past when I went through the experiences shared in this very personal post. Now, I am going into this next postpartum season with so much hope and yet so much unknown over some of the issues we faced then, like:

  • Will my son be able to breastfeed, especially if we catch a potential tongue and lip-tie early enough this time?

  • If I can’t successfully nurse, is exclusively pumping realistic a THIRD time around?

  • If I need to supplement with formula, do I know what options are currently on the market that the dietitian-mom in me can feel confident offering my own child?

 

As I know almost every mom in history can attest to, this season comes with some anxieties over what we can and can’t control. One thing I have come to embrace more now than when we had our first child though is that, as moms, we can only control the controllables.

When it comes to breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or a combination to the two, my dietitian mom pride has already been shot down, heart torn, and body ravaged over what I just couldn’t control (read more here). That’s why I am entering into my third postpartum season with more understanding, resources, and proactive approaches to promote the chances that things will go smoother with feeding our son than it did with either of our daughters.

Even still, I know that supplementing with formula might still be necessary.

 

This article will help to highlight three key considerations to evaluate if/when there is a need to supplement with infant formula.

 

In this post, I will share how personally and professionally I scrutinize the choice of which infant formula(s) might be best for my family. Specifically, there are three main arms I focus on when looking for an infant formula:

  1. The nutritional attributes and how it models those of breastmilk

  2. The quality and safety of the options available on the market

  3. The company’s transparency and mission to supporting both moms and babies with making the best informed decision available

 
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Nutritional Attributes - what to look for!

As addressed in a post I previously wrote, “What is the Best Infant Formula” (shared here in January 2017), there are different ingredients in infant formula to compare and contrast. All baby formula is modeled after the nutrition delivered in breast milk but you want to be sure that your formula uses ingredients also modeled after important breast milk attributes.

Lactose

Lactose is the primary carbohydrate found in breastmilk and the optimal carbohydrate source used in infant formulas. In some formulas, parents may notice use of other less-expensive carbohydrate sources like corn syrup or glucose solids (used instead of, or in addition to lactose). Ideally, parents want to select a formula (like Kabrita) that uses lactose as the primary (and preferably only) carbohydrate.

Whey

Breastmilk has two main forms of protein: whey and casein. While breastmilk has a whey:casein ratio of 60:40 (more whey), cow and goat milk both have less whey than casein proteins. In order to best simulate the proteins naturally occuring in breastmilk, parents should consider a formula with added whey. Kabrita, for example, uses a goat milk protein as the base with added goat whey to make it closer to breastmilk and even easier to digest.

DHA

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid) are fatty acids critical for an infant’s brain, eye, and neurological development. Both are abundant in breastmilk and are added to many US baby formulas. While there is some controversy around the process by which they are extracted, a good article and video from Baby Formula Expert can be found here for families who might have questions or concerns about the fatty acids in formula. Given their importance for brain health, I look for a baby formula with DHA and ARA.

Digestibility

In the post “What is the Best Infant Formula,” I spoke at length about the digestibility of different infant formulas. One type of formula I did not include at the time was goat milk formula, like Kabrita. In a recent study,  goat milk formula digested at a rate closer to breast milk (when compared to cow’s milk formulas). Unlike most formulas made with cow’s milk, those made with goat milk do not need to be treated/hydrolyzed in order to be “easier to digest”.


 

 
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Safety and Quality

In terms of quality, many parents are opting to use European Infant formulas here in the United States (like HiPP or Holle). While European formulas do often using higher standards than many of those in the US. the concern is that they do not have their ingredients, vitamin content, nor shipping standards regulated by the FDA. Parents should heed extra caution when ordering such products from Europe, or consider a product like Kabrita that offers a European-quality product and is sold legally in the US.

Safety is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a formula for your little one. For safety reasons, I strongly advise against homemade baby formula. Breastmilk or a regulated infant formula are the best options during your child's first year of life. If you are curious about my recommendations for safe cow milk alternatives for toddlers, you can review them here

 
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A Company’s Transparency and Mission

Whichever formula you choose, be sure to research the company so that you can feel confident in your choice. Ideally, parents should feel that a brand is transparent about the ingredients and manufacturing processes they utilize, while also aiming to educate and empower parents in their decision of which formula to use.


Parents can find out a lot of information about a formula by searching their website, particularly for their About and FAQ pages, as well as information on the ingredients and research that the company has conducted. I find the FAQ page on Kabrita’s site particularly informative and a good resource for comparison's sake when evaluating what other formula companies are sharing (or not) on their websites. I also value that Kabrita is a women-run company, led by Moms!

 

 
 

 

In Summary

We already have standing appointments with a pediatric dentist (for a frenectomy evaluation), lactation consultant (who specializes in post-frenectomies, should that be needed), and a wildly-recommended breast pump (courtesy of our insurance company). Even still, it helps me to welcome this coming season of feeding a newborn with more ease to know that I am both educated and empowered about what options I have when it comes to infant formula - should I need to utilize it. I hope this post will also provide you with the same peace of mind over such a decision.

Thank you to Kabrita for sponsoring this review of milk alternatives for toddlers; if you'd like to learn more about their goat milk formula, click here.