5 superfood snacks for g-free kids: healthy ideas from a RD

Here is a real treat for all of you fellow parents of g-free kids:  A guest post from Megan at www.thehappybellyproject.com who is a registered dietitian with a 4-year old daughter with celiac disease. I believe all of our children can benefit from her healthy superfood ideas. Enjoy! 

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Creating fun, kid-friendly snacks is a great way to get your little one to try new foods. Check out these ideas that all include superfoods—foods that provide a significant health benefit when you add them to your diet. Often as a dietitian I am telling people what not to eat. I love having the opportunity to encourage people to eat more delicious foods!

“Super-Nutritious Trail Mix”

    • Popcorn
    • Dark chocolate chips
    • Almonds
    • Gluten-free pretzels
    • Dried fruit

Mix all together and serve. Think outside the bowl! For a fun and portable snack pull out those plastic Easter eggs or other fun container.

What they know: Kids feel like they are getting a special treat just by getting to pick out which color egg they want their snack to be in!

What you know: Dark chocolate is full of good nutrients and antioxidants that help your brain, heart, and mood! Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. Almonds contain phytosterols, which promote lower cholesterol levels in addition to providing protein—a plus if your child is not a big meat eater.

“Yogurt Face”

  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mangos or other fruit
  • Gluten-free pretzel sticks

Create a circle of yogurt on a plate. Use the fruit to create your own silly face, or a cat face, or even to abandon the face idea altogether and simply spell out numbers and letters for your little learner.

What they know: They won’t get in trouble for playing with their food. They get to create a masterpiece and then eat it.

What you know: Superfoods yogurt and blueberries make this a nutritious and delicious snack. Yogurt provides protein, calcium and probiotics, which are important for keeping young (and old) GI tracts healthy. Blueberries have been touted as one of the healthiest foods you could possibly eat; they’re full of antioxidants protective against many cancers.

“Magic Princess Wands”

  • Skewers
  • Mangos or other fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cheese cubes

Skewer the fruit and cheese. Add a strawberry as the topper. (I think Starfruit would also be a great topper; however, you’ll usually need to wait until it’s in season to find it at your local store.) With a 4-year-old daughter and a trip planned to Disney this year, Princesses are everywhere in our house! If you can relate, why not have them on your table, too?

What they know: Anytime little girls get to play “Princess,” it’s a good thing!

What you know: Cantaloupe is full of vitamin C, folate, and caratenoids, antioxidants that give cantaloupe its yellow-orange color and are important for eye health and immunity. All the fruits provide needed fiber, and you can sneak in a little protein with the cheese.

“Through the Forest

  • Broccoli
  • Cheese
  • Celery
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried cranberries or raisins

Create a forest with trees and logs with ants crawling on them! Let your kids get creative. What other animals can they imagine in the forest?

What they know: Their imaginations will run wild creating a story to go with their forest. Once one of the most feared dinnertime vegetables, suddenly eating broccoli that is a “tree” while pretending to be a giraffe sounds like a great idea!

What you know: Broccoli is a fiber-rich vegetable that has high levels of vitamin C (which helps the body absorb iron) and potassium (which helps ensure the nervous system, including the brain, is functioning optimally), and has even been found to inhibit many cancer cells. Protein found in peanut butter is a great way to keep those little tummies full until the next meal!

“Sweet Potato Power Chips”

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and sliced thinly. (The smaller and thinner you slice them the better! Only the small, thin ones really get the “crunch” like chips.)
  • Olive oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar

Coat thinly sliced potatoes with olive oil and season with cinnamon and sugar. (A large plastic kitchen storage bag works great to ensure all pieces get evenly coated.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Broil for 5 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn! Bonus: Baking these makes your house smell wonderful!

What they know: Chips are like junk food, right?

What you know: Sweet potatoes: Like the cantaloupe, the orange color indicates they are full of carotenoids, the precursor to vitamin A in our body. Carotenoids help boost our immunity, are strong antioxidants, and help protect our eyesight. Olive oil is a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, or “healthy fat” that may help protect our hearts and ward off the “bad cholesterol” LDL. It is also a good source of Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K.

Fellow parents: Do you have any other healthy snack ideas? If so, please comment below…thanks!

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Megan is a registered dietitian and mom to a 4-year old daughter with celiac disease. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, daughter and son where she works with patients with kidney disease. She blogs weekly at www.thehappybellyproject.com on all things related to living, loving and learning about the gluten-free diet and celiac disease.

Happy once, happy twice, happy chicken soup with…pasta?

Ahhhh…..homemade soup.

I was sick recently and got the urge to make the first batch of the year. I was also actually feeling very patient that day, so I invited my girls to help me make it. Sometimes I get a response like, “But we’re playing!” but that day I got two bright “Okay!”s.

Now that they’re getting older, I let them do more work with recipes, which is probably part of the reason they were so eager to help. In past years they would only get to do a few jobs, but now they’re using sharp knives, operating an electric chopper, stirring things over the stove, and the latest excitement — learning how to use the new handheld can opener!

So, like it says in the book, we set out to make chicken soup with rice. However, we were out of rice, which is a rare occurrence. Instead, we used gluten-free pasta, using my sister-in-law’s recipe with a few modifications. The girls proudly wore their two (of many) aprons that my Great Grandma Bertha handmade for herself many years ago. And they brought me mine, too, since I always seem to forget to wear it.

Before we start, we always turn on happy music to send out good vibes for the process, and after a quick reminder to take turns without fighting, we are good to go. (The way I see it: nothing spoils KQT  – Kitchen Quality Time – for a Mom like quarreling kids.)

Here are some of the jobs my 8 year old daughters took care of with this recipe:

I kept a few jobs to myself like cutting the chicken up and dumping everything into the boiling water, but overall they were able to help with almost everything. And we were all in good moods, which definitely helped keep things fun. There have been times we’ve set out to do a recipe where there are arguments between my girls about whose turn it was to dump a tablespoon of something into a recipe, and I was feeling short-tempered and sent them out of the room crying. There have been other times when I was rushed for time and impatient with their attempts to help. Again: not a good combination. There have been memorable, happy times as well, of course. Good, bad and downright ugly — it’s all happened in our kitchen.

I have learned that, personally, there are two main prerequisites for making food with my kids: lots of patience and lots of time. If I don’t have both of those, it just doesn’t work for us. Thankfully, this particular soup-making day was one of the good ones, completely without incident. Those happy times are the ones I cherish with my girls, and I know they do, too.

I could list a bunch of reasons why it’s important to get your kids into the kitchen with you, but I won’t. We all know that learning to help with recipes will teach your kids lots of valuable things, like measuring skills, following directions, learning kitchen terminology, how to use different tools, etc.  But for me the main reasons I ask my kids to help me with a recipe are: the quality time it gives us and the pride they take in being part of a successful gluten-free food discovery. All of the other things are just icing on the cake.

For those of you who would like some more motivation to include your kids,
try these 5 inspiring articles from these helpful websites:

Get your kids in the mood to help make soup by reading these wonderful children’s books together. If you don’t have them, here are cute videos of Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup With Rice (sung by Carole King) and Marcia Brown’s Stone Soup.

If you’d like to see the soup recipe we followed, it’s the last recipe on the last page of this PDF: Gluten-Free Kid-Friendly Recipes

What’s your favorite kind of food to make with your kids? What factors come into play as you decide to let them help or not: time constraints, moods, number of ways they can help, etc.?  What are some ways you make kitchen time quality time? Feel free to post pix of your kids cooking on my Facebook page to help inspire others.

Illustration from Chicken Soup With Rice © by Maurice Sendak

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Gluten-free Valentine’s Day cards, plus a mini kid-size giveaway!

Hello!  I normally won’t be posting every day like this but I have a few more things I want to get out before Valentine’s Day, and wanted to give you a few days to enjoy them…

G-free V-day cards!
My favorite site for coloring pages and cards is Activity Village. They’ve got everything imaginable except for gluten-free cards (in fact, I couldn’t find any anywhere) so what else could I do but create my own?  I pulled out my old marker pad and pens and went old-school for this post, drawing everything by hand. (I had to get off the computer for a few hours!)  🙂  So what I came up with is 4 little Valentine’s Day cards (with the help of dear ol’ Mom who helped me come up with some wording) — made especially for all the g-free kids out there. You can download the PDF here: 4VcardsHR, then print out copies of it for your kids to color, glue onto colored construction paper and give out for Valentines — or just hang in their room or on the fridge. Please let me know how your children enjoy these…I would love to hear what they did with their cards! (*Please note: the below preview won’t print out large enough — click on the blue link four lines above this for the printable PDF).

My first mini kid-size giveaway… I have a bunch of stuff like this that I’ll be giving away once in a while, just for kids. How often do your kids get things in the mail?  If yours are like mine: not often enough. These giveaways are just meant to give your g-free kid a little excitement by receiving a little surprise in a snail-mail envelope, along with a little note from a famous author (okay, maybe an unknown author)…  😉

If you’d like your child to receive one of these coin purses in the mail, please comment below with your favorite thing about this website and/or something you’d like to see here in the future. I’ve got 3 of both styles, so 6 winners will be randomly chosen by midnight tomorrow (Sunday, Feb. 12th). At that point winners will need to send me their mailing addresses and I’ll send them out. Stay tuned…

Next up are some wiggly, jiggly jello ideas for Valentine’s Day. Keep coming back for more things for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the photo album and kids’ stuff page!

Simple ideas for your special, little gluten-free Valentine

Valentine’s Day brings plenty of opportunities to make your g-free kid feel extra loved — as well as show love to others — around the clock. A little creativity, some thoughtfulness, a cookie cutter and a few other supplies can go a long way in making your g-free kid feel like a very special Valentine by the end of next week…

Here are some quick ways we make things seem “Valentinesy” (as we say) for the weeks surrounding the big day:

FOR THEM:  One of our “go-to” treats — for any occasion — is chocolate dipped marshmallow pops. These couldn’t be easier and I’ve never met a kid who didn’t love them. We make and send them in to almost every class party and my girls always say they were a hit. All you have to do is stick a skewer into each marshmallow, dip them in melted chocolate, add sprinkles, put on wax paper and set in the freezer. Just change up the sprinkles depending on the holiday and they are a festive addition to any occasion.

With your handy-dandy cookie cutter, make heart shaped pizzas. For these we just rolled out part of the dough and cut them out, then topped them individually. Or even easier — just make regular pizzas and use a cookie cutter after it’s cooled. Moms like me are always happy to eat the leftover scraps!  🙂

FOR OTHERS:  Make simple peanut clusters. Just fill cookie cutters up partway (depending on how thick you want them) with melted chocolate mixed with peanuts, decorate with sprinkles if you’d like, then let them set in the freezer for a while before you pop them right out.

Or let your kids make free-form peanut clusters, too!

FOR FUN:  Remember and repeat — life is not all about food. When each upcoming holiday nears, I let my daughters become designers extraordinaire… Decorations come up from the basement and I let them decorate this shelf in our living room however they want.

This is Lindsey’s most recent creation (she was sick that day and Morgan was somewhere else, so she was even more excited to do this one solo). Putting a bunch of decorations in one spot has a lot more impact than sprinkling them around the house, and my kids are free to revisit and rearrange as they see fit.

So many ideas, so little time… What are some simple things you let your g-free kid do for Valentines Day?  Do tell!  🙂

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*Also, please stay tuned for 2 special things just for kids:  4 Valentines Day cards for g-free kids to color (as soon as I finish drawing them!) and a mini kids-size giveaway. Should be up in a day or two… thanks!