“I don’t know the answer, my brain is not working!”

brain blogWhen I heard my 6 year old say that in response to a homework question I decided to see the “upside” in the situation. I had the perfect “in” to get her to eat more fish!

I redirected her thinking skills towards answering the question: “What foods do you think fuel your brain so you can think better and learn more efficiently?” She quickly recalled our recent conversation about how different nutrients feed different parts of the body, and our brain specially needs fats. The “good fats”, mono and polyunsaturated, full of omega fatty acids, those are the ones that will benefit our brain the most. And you can find a lot of them in fish! Connect the dots, and there you go. She was really excited about having fish for dinner. She had been eating tilapia and salmon since the age of 12months, but sometimes tuna and other fish she is a little resistant to trying it. Making the connection to how it can help them achieve her goals is all the incentive most kids needs to take the first bite.

When discussing the brain I can’t forget to also mention the foods we should avoid: those full of artificial coloring and over-processed foods with trans fats and overwhelming amounts of sugar and salt. Ends up those toxins make their way easily to the brain, which is a fast oxidizing mass. Therefore protecting it from wasting away is just as important as feeding it to grow! Other ways to protect is enriching our diets with lots of antioxidants. The more common ones are Vitamin A and carotenoids found in carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, Vitamin C found in citrus, green peppers, green veggies, Vitamin E found in nuts and seeds, Selenium found in fish, eggs and garlic! Others include flavonoids, lycopene, lutein and lignin.

We have lots of recipes that will include plenty of those brain feeding foods! Just search our tab for brain recipes here: Recipe Tab

You can also learn more about feeding your children’s brain by listening to this podcast: Better Food Choices – Feeding your children's brain

Subscribe to our podcast here to listen to all past shows!

 

… for the health of your family,

Carolina

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Nut Butters best when made simple!

Don’t ever leave me alone with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon! Something about the pure taste of nuts blended into a smooth perfection is one of my favorite ingredients for recipes, snacks or just an afternoon spoonful delight.

I don’t like my nut butters tainted with any extra ingredients, no other oils, excessive sugar or too much salt, and definitely no unnecessary preservatives. That’s why when we searched for a nut butter to present to our Kid Kritics taste testers we found Once Again Nut Butters the perfect choice!

once again logoThe ingredient list fit our standards with simple and wholesome ingredients.  Their Organic Peanut butter with Omega-3 is just organic peanuts with flaxseed oil (that’s where the omega-3’s come from). Their cashew and almond butters also contain two or three simple ingredients only. They all passed the Kid Kritics taste tests with flying colors; kids who were used to your generic grocery store type peanut butter tasted Once Again’s pure taste and loved it!

I invite you to look at Once Again’s website, you’ll be surprised to learn about this amazing employee-owned business located in a small rural community in Upstate New York that thrives while helping the community and supporting organic and sustainable farming! They provide a healthier alternative to an all-time favorite all American staple food, the peanut butter. Their communications director Gael Orr sits on the board for Domestic Fair Trade Association, their dedication to helping the community and making the earth a better place is clear when you look at the list of charities and projects they donated to in the last year alone.

At this day and age I think teaching our children social responsibility is as important as ever, and when I purchase a jar of Once Again Peanut butter I’m endorsing a company and their actions, and I can feel good about it! But the best part is that I am 100% confident that I am giving my family the very best nut butter they can enjoy.

Back to the peanut butter, they have an All American Style and a Peanut Butter with Omega-3 that are both Kid Kritics Approved. They are both amazing! Smooth and rich as peanut butter should. They spread easily and work really well in baking recipes. We have recipes our Healthier Recipe Moms created and shared as well as our Registered Dietitians.Once Again Cashew butter

Their Organic Cashew Butter, which only has organically grown dry roasted cashews milled smooth with 5-8% expeller-pressed organic sunflower oil to enhance spread-ability. It really is great in cookies, smoothies and whatever you may dream of.  The Almond Butter with Omega-3 is also Kid Kritics Approved is milled smooth, no salt or sugar added, just rich roasted almonds mixed with flaxseed oil to give your body the Omega-3 nutrients that it needs. It tastes amazing, no bitter or aftertaste that I have experienced with other nut butters. Perfect to alternate with Peanut Butter for recipes and sandwiches for the kids. As you all know I like to “teach” variety is always best to accomplish getting all the nutrients, minerals and vitamins from natural sources that our bodies need.

If you would like to try one of these delicious Once Again Nut Butters but haven’t seen them in a store near you, here is a link where you can purchase them online: https://www.onceagainnutbutter.com/shop

For the health of your family,

Carolina Jantac, MS,RD,LD

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Over 75 Healthier Snack Ideas for your kids!

I received requests (or cry for help!) on what would be better alternatives for snacks for children to bring to school. I started to put this list together thinking of practical things that we sometimes don't remember or think of! These are popular choices at my house and I've had great success brining them to my children's schools. No more sugar filled overprocessed snacks for us! Here is a list to help you with ideas and recipes of Better Food Choices Snacks, healthier for your family and Kid Kritics Approved. Note: the items in blue have links you can click on to get the full recipe!

Feel free to print this list and share at your schools, parents groups and after school clubs:

  • Banana (sliced with PB, or dip in honey)
  • Strawberries (dip in yogurt)
  • Mellon (cubed, good in a kabob)
  • Kiwi (cut in half, scoop out fruit – or skin, slice)
  • Grapes (great in a kabob, good frozen)
  • Blueberries (good with yogurt), fresh, frozen or dried
  • Cherries, fresh, frozen or dried
  • Peaches (good with yogurt)
  • Pineapple (great to dip in honey)
  • Apples (sliced with PB – can make into a sandwich, or with yogurt, dip in honey)
  • Applesauce (no sugar added)
  • Watermelon, fresh – in fruit kabobs
  • Oranges (especially easier to peel and eat smaller ones such as Clementine’s)
  • Freeze dried fruit of different flavors
  • Raisins and dried cranberries mixed with nuts (1/3 to 1/2 cup is a good portion size)
  • Carrots (dip in hummus or yogurt)
  • Celery (dip in hummus or yogurt, PB with raisins)
  • Cut up green, red or yellow peppers (dip in hummus or yogurt)
  • Raw broccoli and cauliflower (great with yogurt)
  • Cherry tomatoes (great in a kabob mixed with fruits)
  • Edamame
  • Cooked Green Beans (great with yogurt)

For all fruits and vegetables you can try a few different dips:

Fruits are also great in a kabob type recipe with the variation you choose! Pick fruits and vegetables that are fresh and in season.

Other snacks:

  • Cubed Cheese (great in a kabob with 3-4 veggies or fruit)
  • Gluten-Free Crackers
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Popcorn
  • Popcorn Mixes –
  •                 Deliciously Yummy Snack Mix
  •                 Light Cinnamon Popcorn
  •                 Monkey Trail Mix
  •                 Spicy Buffalo Trail Mix
  • Rice Cakes (great with PB and fruit spread or hummus)
  • Nut mixes (1/2 cup portion) -
  • Hard Boil Eggs
  • Plain yogurt (send fruits and honey separately for toppings)

Toppings: chia seeds, sesame seeds, chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, granola, flax seeds

With a little more time to prepare:

Products we recommend:

  • Cabot Creamery Cheese and Greek-style yogurt
  • Snackimals Cookies – Barbara’s Bakery
  • Crunchmaster Grammy and Cheezy Crisps
  • Flamous Brands Falafel Chips and Zatar Chips
  • Good Health Natural Foods – Popcorns, Veggie Stix (original, pizza, hot)
  • Greens+ – Chocolate Energy Bites
  • Iceland Spring Water
  • Lisanatti – Rice Cheeze Sticks
  • Once Again Nut Butters
  • Shelton’s Turkey Jerky, and Turkey Sticks
  • RW Garcia Chips
  • Upfront Foods Granolas
  • Naturipe – Berry Quick Snacks

… for the health of your family,

Carolina

The suggested brands listed in this recipe are Kid Kritics Approved.  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.    

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Newly Kid Kritics Approved RW Garcia Chips!

Everyone loves a salty snack now and then, right?  Kids like to find that crunchy snack in their lunch boxes.  Adults enjoy munching on something salty during the big game or at parties.  I know our family does!  The problem is, so many popular salty snacks are filled with junk – MSG, artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, and other additives.  Plus, they can contain upwards of 200 mg sodium per serving.  And who knows if they are made with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients.  I don’t want to serve that kind of snack to my family or guests. 

rw-garcia-mixtbag-chipsIn steps RW Garcia.  Their philosophy?  “Great tasting can be good for you.”  And they mean it.  RW Garcia makes organic and 100% natural snack foods.  As a Registered Dietitian, I like that this company is committed to sourcing top quality ingredients.  Their MixtBag Tortilla Chips are Non GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten Free, and made with simple, all-natural ingredients.  And the sodium content is much lower than most with 50-80 mg per serving.  The Kid Kritics team approved of the MixtBag ingredients and the Kid Kritics themselves loved the taste and crunchy texture. 

Intrigued about the name MixtBag?  In each Mixtbag you get not just one, but two varieties of tortilla chip!  There are three different Mixtbags.  First is the Yellow & Blue Corn MixtBag made with, you guessed it, stone ground yellow and blue corn!  Next comes their Red & Yellow Mixtbag made with yellow and white corn.  Beet powder gives the red chips their color (and some added phytonutrients).  Finally, the Sweet & Spicy Salsa MixtBag is bursting with flavor and spices. 

The Kid Kritics raved about all 3 in the blind taste test.  Here are a few of their commentes, “Yummy in my tummy … Extraordinary … Tastes like chips you eat with Nachos … I would take these on a vacation … I will take them to the movies … They were superb … scrumptious!”  It’s true, they do taste great on their own, but you can also pair them up with veggies and a healthy dip such as salsa, guacamole, hummus, black bean dip, spinach dip, or even lima bean dip!  Find these recipes and more on KidKritics.com! (click here for recipes)

I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

… for the health of your family,

Jaimie Proctor, MS, RD

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 marketing program.  Though monetary compensation for marketing is involved, this does not affect the nutrition evaluation or taste test results.  The taste tests were done by children at the YMCA/Boys and Girls Club and products only receive the Kid Kritcs Seal of Approval with 70% or more approval.  The company donated samples of this product for the creation of recipes.  I was compensated for my time.  All opinions stated are my own.

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Deliciously Guilt Free Way to Start your Morning! A Good Bowl of Cereal.

Cereal is seriously one of my favorite things to talk about! I wasn’t introduced to cereal until I was 15 years old since I grew up in Brazil and we had no such delicious breakfast alternative to pour in a bowl with milk in the mornings.

Nowadays I have a love-hate relationship with cereal. Although I think it’s absolutely delicious, promotes extra milk intake, can pack a ton of nutrients and fiber it does not mean a complete breakfast. The weak attempt of most cereal boxes to “illustrate” a fruit next to or chopped in your bowl of cereal is hardly ever practiced at home by most families. I read recently that the cereal industry has been shaken due to constant demands for change in formulations.  Parents are demanding less sugar varieties and whole grains (so glad by the way!).  This combined with rushed family routines (no longer having time to sit down for a meal – even a bowl of cereal!) has led to the explosion in the granola bar and breakfast bar industry.  But cereal can be a part of a balanced diet and we need to take time to sit and eat even though we’re so busy.  I’m here today to bring attention why we, as Registered Dietitians, like Snackimals Cereals by Barbara’s Bakery and why the Kid Kritics Approved them in blind taste tests! barbaras cinnamon snackimals

Their package design is simply adorable! The cute monkey, panda and elephant are just as cute in the cereal pieces as they are pictured on the box. And how fun that they are running a promo right now that you can actually name the cute blue monkey on their box (click here to enter! You win a free app and enter to win a whole year of Snackimals stuff!).

Of course what’s inside the box is really what matters. The nutrition value is right on target for what I look for in a cereal, lower sugar than many kids cereals, with only 7g per serving! Good amount of fiber, calcium and protein as well. And thanks Barbara’s Bakery for making these from organic, non-GMO ingredients and whole grains! We so appreciate your dedication to transparency, honesty and only using the best quality ingredients.

Snackimals cereals come in two flavors: Cinnamon Crunch and Vanilla Blast. They are both Kid Kritics Approved.  In my house the cinnamon is a favorite. They are crunchy and safe sized pieces that you can pack as snack as well. I’m not a big fan of soggy type cereals, the ones you pour on the bowl and before you even grab the spoon (or answer to one or two kid emergencies) the cereal is already a bowl of mush. Snackimals is not one of those! It holds up well in milk (any kind too! We use almond, rice and cow’s milk) so you can enjoy it at your own pace and still get the same crunch until the very last bite.Snackimals cereals

Snackimals cereals are flavored perfectly with just enough taste to stand on their own, but not overpowering so you can pair them up with blueberries, strawberries or even banana and still taste all the flavors in your bowl. If you are lucky enough to have any extra cereal in the box you can incorporate it into a number of creative recipes (ok, you may just have to buy another box! But it’s so worth it). I like the idea of using cereals instead of cookies for recipes like pie crusts, parfaits, crumb toppings for desert or even breading for chicken. The difference is you are using a lower sugar ingredient (when compared to most cookies) and adding the nutrition that cereals pack (usually higher calcium, fiber and vitamins).

Lastly, if you are thinking this will be a great cereal for your kids to try you are right. But don’t be surprised if the parents finish the box before the kids even get a taste, that’s what happened at my house. My husband (yes, the guy that grew up on sugar laced frosted corn flakes!) is a big fan of Snackimals Cereal too!

For the health of your family,

Carolina Jantac, MS, RD, LD

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 marketing program.  Though monetary compensation for marketing is involved, this does not affect the nutrition evaluation or taste test results.  The taste tests were done by children at the YMCA/Boys and Girls Club and products only receive the Kid Kritcs Seal of Approval with 70% or more approval.  The company donated samples of this product for the creation of recipes.  I was compensated for my time.  All opinions stated are my own.

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Go Wild for Wild Blueberries!

wild blueberry   We just finished a terrific radio show with Family Food Experts kitchen Radio on www.w4wn.com (there will be a podcast I will post when available) with guest Susan Davis, RD the Wild Blueberry Nutrition Advisor and I just had to come share some of the things we talked about!

Did you know Wild blueberries are packed with twice the antioxidant capacity of ordinary blueberries, and these little guys are supercharged with anti-aging phytochemicals. Hard to believe that the tiny wild blueberries are so powerful but that’s what Susan explained to us today! They are available frozen all year round, and since they are picked at peak and readily frozen they preserve all their nutrients. This is good news for us busy moms that need to rely on frozen fruits more so when shopping once a week!

They are good for the entire family and have powerful properties to help you stay healthy and age well. Their antioxidant and phytochemicals are being studies for their impact on treating, preventing and delaying disease processes such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Wild Blueberries should be a part of your daily healthy diet balanced to prevent common illness like colds and viruses by strengthening your immune system. And if you aren’t sure how to incorporate them in your routine, no worries! We have plenty of recipes and ideas.

 My kids love them in yogurt, so I add 1/3 cup to vanilla yogurt to send in their lunch box and they help to keep yogurt cold (use a cold pack as well) and turn their yogurt purple which my kids just think is so much fun! We also add them to smoothies, they are so sweet and powerful they work great when you are also trying to add some veggies such as spinach to their morning smoothie. 

For recipes please visit our website under recipe tab: www.kidkritics.com/recipes and look for many options made with Kid Kritics Approved products from Wyman's of Mainewymans

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Kid Kritics: Sports International Football Camps

sports camp internationalWe recently became the official “Nutrition Advisors” for the Sports Internation Football Camps! We are so excited to work with very talented young boys in the pursuit of their dreams to become football players. At the camps they get to learn from the very best! And we got to see it first-hand recently in Minnesota. Camps are taking place all summer long around the United States. Kid Kritics is coordinating the nutritional education component for the camps along with several of our Kid Kritics Approved Brands! Upfront Foods, Iceland Springs, Good Health Natural Products, Cabot Creamery, Flamous Brands and Crunchmaster were our sponsors for the Nutrition Poster: Fuel Your Dreams Giveaway. Campers also got to enjoy snacks from these sponsors which was a real treat.

sports camps 2  sports camps 3  Molly, from our Kid Kritics Team was the lucky one that attended this camp and got to meet Kevin Williams, #93 from the Minnesota Vikings. Kevin was at the camp to provide the kids with his own experience about what it takes to be a professional football player. The kids had a great time learning from Kevin, and he was a big fan of our input for what it takes to keep a player healthy and strong.We look forward to our continued work with Sports International Football Camps! There is nothing more inspiring than kids fueling their dreams with good nutrition to become the best they can be.

sports camps 1

Would you like your very own Football Poster? They are perfect for athletes, homeschoolers, coaches and classrooms. Order yours here:

http://www.kidkritics.com/index.cfm?page=store

And to find a Sports International Football Camp near you or for more info please visit:

https://www.footballcamps.com/default.asp?page=00

 

 

poster... for the health of your family,

Carolina

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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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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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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.