Chia Seeds: worth the try or just a trend?

Chia seeds have become very popular in the last few years; within the last 18 months they’ve begun to show up on our grocery shelves. You find them in bags, but also in granola bars, chips, cereals and even cookies! And yes, these are the same seeds that we got to know as “Chia Pets.”

But what are they? And are they really good for you?

Chia, Salvia hispanica, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family.  It is grown commercially for its seeds.  These little guys are loaded with good fats:  55% Omega 3, 18% Omega 6, 6% Omega 9 and 10% saturated fat. Plus they are high in fiber and protein as well! And, they also have up to 18% of recommended daily intake of Calcium along with phosphorus and manganese.

Not only do they power us up, their nutrients help reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance, reduce high cholesterol, and their fiber content helps regulate bowel function.

Good News. Chia seeds are fun to eat!  They can be consumed raw or be added to a liquid substance such as smoothies. When wet, they turn into a gelatin form (pudding!).  This gelling action coupled with their fiber and protein content, cause a satiating effect – a bonus for those on a weight management plan.

I think chia seeds are here to stay!  They are easy to consume, have almost no taste and are pretty shelf stable.  For these reasons, they are more commonly consumed – even taken the place of flax seeds.

Have I convinced you yet to try them? Great! Check out a recipe that will get you started on getting to know these powerful little seeds. PS- they are good for kids and adults!

Tropical Green Smoothie: http://www.kidkritics.com/recipes/Tropical-Green-Smoothie/404 

For the health of your family,

Carolina

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Summer is here: Pack your water bottles!

We’ll be officially kicking into summer next week on June 21st but here in Florida we’ve had temperatures in the 90’s for about a month already. School is out, kids are home, playing in the pool, parks, beach, yard and more. Besides lots of sunscreen it is so important to stay well hydrated. How much water should a child drink? There is no clear cut answer to that question.  It’s important they are never thirsty, since that is a reaction that comes as a signal from the brain, which usually means the body has already been deprived of adequate fluids for a little while.

Everyone, especially kids, should keep a water bottle handy at all times. When they are playing in the pool or the beach, it is even more important to drink water every 30-45 minutes at least. When playing in the sun and sweating they will need some electrolyte replacement. But don’t feel like you have to offer the conventional sports drinks which come loaded with sugar, artificial dyes and other additives. Water can still be the main source of hydration, and they can get electrolytes from fruits! Pack orange slices, watermelon, strawberries, honeydew melon and of course bananas. Also, don’t forget nature’s “electrolyte replacement”: coconut water. It is a perfect balance of electrolytes, natural sugar and water which will quench thirst in the best kind of way. When looking to purchase coconut water make sure they list only coconut water as the ingredient. They should come packed in a tetra pack container which avoids the need for preservatives and is BPA free. 

This same advices goes for when children (or adults) unfortunately come down with an illness like fevers or diarrhea requiring extra fluids. Use coconut water or diluted juice before using sports drinks.

To make water more fun to drink all summer, try fruit infused water. Simply add a couple of your favorite fruit slices, such as orange and lime to a water pitch and leave it in the fridge to enjoy throughout the day. For a fun drink that will keep you hydrated and serve as a treat try making this “Pineapple Mint Refresher” 

Main Points to remember:

1. Drink all day! Don't wait until you get thirsty.

2. Keep water bottles with you at all times during the summer. 

3. Skip sports drinks and go for coconut water, half diluted juice or plain water and get your electrolytes from fruits and veggies.

4. Keep well hydrated to avoid headaches, dizziness and weakness during hot summer days.

For the health of your family… 

Carolina

 

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Food Dyes: Get informed

Whenever I read a nutrition label that includes artificial food dyes my first reaction is, “Who do they think they are fooling?” The addition of lab made colors is an old technique used by food companies to make their product more appealing in the cheapest way possible, regardless of their safety record.

A friend of mine was shocked recently when I pointed out the truth about the ingredient list of colors found on a box of a popular Mac and Cheese, one which is a staple in her house for her very picky toddler.  Her first words were, “Why didn’t I know about this? I’ve been feeding my child a box of chemicals daily.  This is just horrible!”

I believe in and support the idea of eating foods as they were made by nature. When an apple is not the perfect tint of red it doesn’t mean it won’t taste good.  Because we “eat with our eyes” the industry has found it very profitable to add artificial enhancers to their products to boost sales.

So why should we avoid them? Because synthetic coloring additives have been proven unsafe in multiple ways as they contribute to conditions ranging from ADHD to carcinogenic toxic illnesses. Some fake colors have been completely banned in the US, but, several are still FDA approved even though other countries have prohibited them. These lab-made food dyes include Blue #1, Blue #2, Green #3, Red #3, Red #40, Yellow #5 and #6. Those last two even come with warning labels in some countries: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”  When you see a color and a number in an ingredient list, you can be assured they are made from derivatives of coal tar and petroleum.

 

 

The good news is that we can avoid them completely by simply reading ingredient labels. Eating “clean” by eliminating artificial dyes is not as hard as you may think. But it does require you to be informed. Those dyes are not only in bright colored sodas or candy, they are also found in cake batter, yogurts, breakfast cereals, and just about everywhere.  Don’t you be fooled!

 

 

This is something we pay close attention to when evaluating products and recipes for our Kid Kritics Seal of Approval. We are happy to see that many companies are moving to using herbs, spices and natural ingredients such as paprika, annatto and beta carotene to enhance color in their products instead of dyes. 

Take a look at this wonderful Kid Kritics Approved recipe full of natural colors! It has lots of eye appeal while keeping true to a “clean eating” way of life without any artificial dyes: Colorful and Crunchy Pasta with Vegetables

… for the health of your family,

Carolina

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Our Healtheir Recipe Mom Brooke! An everyday Hero Hero

 

A few years back, Brooke’s toddler was newly diagnosed with Diabetes Type 1.  As she was desperately searching for healthier sugar free products and recipe ideas, she landed on the Kid Kritics site and signed up to be a Healthier Recipe Mom.  That’s how I “met” her.  I was immediately impressed with how proactive she was.

Brooke’s big challenge was just beginning; she had to pay total attention to every meal she prepared, reading labels of every product she purchased. Taking care of her son’s health became a full time job. Complicating this task was her limited food budget.

Eleven months later, another level was added to Brooke’s challenge. Her son was also diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Now she faced another dietary adjustment for her little guy and thus her family. Not only would she have to count her son’s carbohydrate intake, monitoring blood sugar, she would also have to study the source of his starch intake.

Recently Brooke described to me how much more difficult it was to adapt to the gluten free lifestyle versus the diabetes diagnosis. It seemed her son could no longer eat anything he liked – all wheat, rye, barley, oats were out of the question. Adding to this stress was the reality that family outings such as, church potlucks, eating at friend’s house and any restaurants would now be very limited.  But again, she took charge and decided her family would all go gluten free to avoid any dangerous cross contamination in the house. And, she wanted to eliminate the struggle keeping her child from eating gluten foods stored in their home.

Digging through gluten free brands, Brooke discovered that a gluten free diet of processed foods can be very expensive; most gluten-free convenience items are “fluff”, processed and very low in nutritional value. Plus she learned that most gluten free products have higher carb content than regular versions, making it harder for her to manage her son’s insulin regimen.

There is a silver lining in this picture. Brooke noticed changes in herself when she transitioned to a gluten free diet as well: she had more energy! Plus, her family is definitely eating healthier morning, noon and night.  She now relies on serving a lot of affordable fresh produce and home cooked meals. Without a doubt, Brooke now excels at creating and adapting delicious healthy recipes for her family!

More great news. Brook’s son has been a “champ” with the transition. Because he understands how much better he feels, at only 3 ½ years old he rarely puts up a fight if he can’t have something with gluten. Another plus – he has already become really good at asking people if something has gluten in it before he will take a bite.

Brooke is an amazing mother! She has so much on her plate and deals with it with strength, positive attitude and love. It is our honor to have Brooke as part of our “Healthier Recipe Mom” group. Using qualifying ingredients for restricted diets, she creates “good tasting” recipes the whole family enjoys!

 

To Brooke and all mothers out there we want to wish you a “Happy Mother’s Day!”  You are all heroes in my eyes.

 

It is our joy to give you a couple recipes Brooke has created using

Kid Kritics Approved Products:

Tropical Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust 

Wild Blueberry Syrup

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Olympic Breakfast for Kids

Recipe,BreakfastBananaSplit

I was looking to see what Olympians eat for breakfast… no not cheeseburgers.  They know the science of  eating for performance.   Their breakfast food depends on the time of day they are competing.  Let’s say they are up at 6pm and their race is at Noon.  This would call for great grain carb sources and some fruit for energy, not a lot of protein.  The staple for most is oatmeal – better to have cooked rolled or steal cut oats.  Along with this I recommend our recently Kid Kritics Approved Breakfast Banana Split.  You simply cut a banana in half.  Spread some vanilla yogurt over the halves. Top it with freshly cut strawberries, pineapple and some blueberries.  Place a dollop of some vanilla yogurt over the fruit.  Sprinkle ground nuts of choice on top (or not if you have nut allergies in your home).  Serve.  This combination, with oatmeal lightly sweetened with 100% pure maple syrup or fair trade honey, prepares your kids for hours of  high performance.  FYI: all fresh produce contain some protein  – a little of a lot adds up.  Of course, include a tall glass of spring water.

Enjoy this Olympic Power Breakfast!  (Recipe details Click Here)

… for the health of your family,
ellen

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Look at what I brought home with me!

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A RECIPE to die for!  I call it the Pineapple Mint Refresher. Why, because one sip of this ice cold drink and you'll feel the fresh mint rush.  During a really hot summer in Jerusalem, we walked into the Aroma cafe where coffee is their specialty.  Since I have never like the taste of coffee, not even mocha, my eyes searched for an alternative and spotted a green drink.  It turned out to be a combination of lemon juice with mint and ice cubes pulverized in a blender.  Think they may have added some honey as a sweetener.  It was out of this world delicious!  For the rest of the days we were there, I order a glass full.  When I returned home in the states, I decided that since I wasn't sure of the exact lemon recipe, I would make my own using 100% pineapple juice.  It was sensational! Ever since, I have made one everyday for my afternoon pick-me-up. 

The key that makes this cooling drink a stand out is the use of a blender to grind fresh mint leaves in a 100% fruit juice along with some ice cubes.  My proportions are 1 cup of 100% pineapple juice (not from a can), 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves and a handful of ice cubes.  That's it! CLICK HERE for RECIPE details

For this photo, I realized I had run out of pineapple juice so I pulverized fresh pineapple with water.  Then added the mint leaves and ice.  The more mint leaves you use, the greener it is… here the green has yet to settle.  The more mint leaves your use, the fresher the uplifting taste! 

Now I will admit that after I took this photo, I noticed I had a couple of strawberries and blueberries in the fridge.  So, I threw them into the blender and now I have a purple/pink mint drink.  There is hardly a fresh fruit that can't be enhanced by fresh mint.  Try it!

Where do you buy fresh mint?  You can find it in a grocery store in packets or as a plant.  Since it grows like a weed, I recommend buying a plant of two, put them into larger pots either directly into the ground or on your balcony.  Now this drink becomes really inexpensive.

By the way, refreshing has a double meaning here.  Mint and pineapple are both full of nutrients, antioxidants and even anti-inflammatory properties. Serve it to you whole family this summer.  Once you have made this – just takes minutes – I'll best you also will be hooked – that's a good thing!

… for the health of your family,
ellen

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Lemons. Performance Food of the Week

Lemon

Lean on lemons to prevent disease, defeat free-radicals, cleanse your digestive tract, help lower blood pressure, increase your HDL (good cholesterol), while feeding your brain, blood, bones, ears, eyes, hair, lungs, mouth/teeth, nails, and skin.  All that and more in one lovely lemon.  Put thin slices in water, daily.  Use lemons to marinate fish and chicken. Squeeze some in baking recipes, over other fruit and vegetables such as asparagus, beans, peas, sweet potatoes and carrots.  Use it in salad dressings.  Add lemon juice to as many possibilities available to add flavor while caring for your body.  And, don't forget to drip some on a bite or sting to remove the poison and pain!  Always have a lemon or two in your kitchen.

… for the health of your family,
ellen

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Easter Brunch Menu – plan to make this one

Menu,EasterBrunch,SuperHealthyKids

Talk about a menu that gives you plenty of time to enjoy your guests, energizes everyone for a fun day with family and friends, has a Performance rating of 8 Food Groups and 8 Naturally Sourced Colors making it a powerhouse meal, and has a delicious something for everyone: Asparagus & Ham Frittata, Raspberry Almond Tart, Citrus Juice Bar! Please don't shy away from offering this to your kids.  The presentation of the cheese coated Frittata enriched with finely diced thin asparagus and ham (lean and organic if possible) is inviting with its tasty aroma.  This tart's crust is made with almond butter, filled with yogurt of your choice with a little orange juice, topped with fresh raspberries, then served cold.  Who can resist a juice bar with grapefruit, orange and blood orange juices (yellow, orange and red)?  Listen to how Natalie from the Super Healthy Kids website and blog created these recipes. Click HereEnjoy Your Brunch!

… for the health of your family,
ellen

Couldn't you use a free case of Oat Blueberry Lemon Whenever Bars, gluten free (Pamela's Products), for breakfast, lunch and snacks?  Enter to win. www.KidKritics.com/sweepstakes today!  (prizes change on Sunday night)


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Coconut is full of Good News

coconut-milk-benefits

Pure Coconut Water is "nature's great re-hydrater"  – its full of sodium, potassium, phosphorous and magnesium making it an excellent placement for energy and sports drinks.  Plus it has just enough sugar to make it taste yummy and as well as refreshing.  Tropical countries have been serving it to their very young, growing children, and adults for years.  It even has been used for electrolytes (minerals) and hydration replacement for the sick, especially those with stomach bugs.  

Coconut Oil is also a winner.  It's medium chain fats are smaller and thus more easily digested, immediately used by the liver to produce energy avoiding spikes and fat storage.  And, it contains important anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.  Thus, not all saturated fats are the same.  This is one you want to include in your food mix.  The other good news is that is has a high heat tolerance making it the preferred oil for cooking. 

As with any produce, organic is better.  We are currently researching the brands we would recommend.  Be sure to avoid coconut waters that are  "sweetened" and have added flavors.  Buy it straight and serve on ice.  Delish!  

Thanks to our team member, Carolina Jintac, MS,RD,LD, for this in depth interview about coconut products.  To hear all her good news: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/familyfoodexperts/2012/03/23/coconut-craze–how-good-is-it-for-you.

You will be so glad you did!

… for the health of your family,
ellen

No time like the present.  Enter to Win a Case of Gluten-Free Organic Brownie Mix by Simply Organic.  Makes yummy Birthday and Holiday treats for those with or without wheat allergies!  www.KidKritics.com/sweepstakes


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Coconut – the food trend

coconut-milk-benefits

Coconut is the latest "IN" natural food trend as Water, Milk, Butter, and Oil. Coconut was the source for products everywhere at Expo West, the largest Natural Products trade show.  The nutrient value of this food includes being a good source of Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Calcium, and an especially good source of Dietary Fiber, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese.  We love that it is a tasty source of minerals, which are especially lacking in children's daily diets.  Coconut water offers a refreshing alternative to water.  Coconut butters and oils are welcomed good fats for cooking.  We are currently vetting the different brands and will soon share our recommendations to you.  In the meantime,  keep your eye out for some.

… for the health of families,
ellen

Wouldn't you love to have a whole Boneless Turkey Breast Roast delivered to your front door?  Enter to win. www.KidKritics.com/sweepstakes today!

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DISCLOSURE: Once a product passes ingredient standards evaluation followed by a blind Kid Kritics taste test, a company can opt-in to the Kid Kritics Approved marketing program. Though monetary compensation for marketing is involved, this does not affect the nutrition evaluation or taste test results.