September 16, 2008 2:20 PM
Lisa Ryckman on 'Eat This, Not That for Kids'
Mark_Wolf(Q) The descriptions on a menu aren't much of a guide to healthy eating, e.g., Bakin-robbins Heatlh Shake with 900 calories and 46 grams of fat. Guess that's OK if you're Michael Phelps; for the rest of us, not so much.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) So true. I had a reader point out that this isn't a guide to a healthy diet for kids -- it's more like the lesser of two evils.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) That said, lots of people take their kids out to dinner, and their kids eat hot lunch at school, and they like sweet stuff, and moms sometimes resort to convenience food because they're so incredibly busy.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) So in the real world, this is a helpful little guide. It's good to know, for example, if your taking the family to Denny's, that the Kid's D-Zone Smiley Alien Hotcakes have half the calories and a fraction of the fat of Kid's D-Zone Big Dipper French Toastix.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) There's a lot to be said for making the best food choices under the circumstances, and teaching kids to do the same.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Turkey seems like a healthy choice but several of the items in the book are turkey-based but get the "Not that" label.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) Yes, that's another benefit of a book like this -- many of the choices you'd assume were better really aren't. And they're surprising.
mom24(Q) I haven't see the book, but reading the article, it seems to me they are focused mostly on fat and calories. Which, granted, is important, but my kids actually need more calories than they are getting, so I look for those calories to be healthy calories. Seems to me, an almond snickers is a better candy treat than a marshmallow peep.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) You'd think so, and on some levels, you'd be right. A Snickers would have more protein because of the nuts. But when it comes to calories and fat, two Peeps are more benign, if you will, than a Snickers.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) I have one of those kids who needs more calories, too. I try to give it to him through homemade protein shakes, adding whey powder and the like.
mom24(Q) But does it outline what makes a marshmallow peep a better snack? (And I'm refering to a snack size snickers, not full size!) Empty calories, but fewer of them vs. some protien with more calories? I'm not convinced.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) As you say, they seem to base the candy ratings on calories and fat. A fun-size Snickers has 80 calories and 4 grams of fat, including 1.5 saturated. Two Peeps have 64 calories and no fat. From an artery-clogging standpoint, the Peeps appear to be marginally better. But it's all relative.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) Actually, though, a Snickers bar -- and we're talking full-size here -- often has fewer calories and less fat than many so-called "healthy" protein bars. So label-reading seems to be key.
Mark_Wolf(Q) You'd think something like Juicy Juice 100% Juice Fruit Punch would be good for a child, right?
Lisa_Ryckman(A) Beverages are a very problematic area. Everybody assumes that 100 percent juice is always good for you. But it's also concentrated calories.
mom24(Q) Right, but it can't be all about just calories and fat. Low calorie and low fat will not make for a healthy child. I agree that snickers shouldn't be a regular part of any person's diet, but same goes for most of the food listed on even the "good" lists! I think the idea of "choose this, not this" is great for eating out (I know I've gone to pancakes over french toast away from home based on these same ideas I've seen in maganzines). However, my home made french toast, with whole wheat bread and not deep-fried would beat those restaurant pankcakes any day!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) Absolutely! You couldn't be more right. This is less a guide to eating well than a guide to making better choices under various circumstances that most of us find ourselves in at one time or another. That said, it also contains some very good recipes for yummy homemade kid faves like Mac Cheese and Nachos, and some guides to homemade holiday meals. Would you mind sharing your French toast recipe with us?
mom24(Q) It's not so much a recipe - just the basics. Eggs, touch of skim milk, vanilla, cinnamon. But I use 100 % whole wheat bread made with honey (not HFCS - Sara Lee makes lots of great options, include DeLightful which is low cal and low carb for Mom!), spray my pan lightly and "grill" it on the stove top. Add some blueberries (always a bag in my freezer!) and some Agave Nectar, and I'm guessing you have yourself a pretty healthy and filling breakfast!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) Sounds great -- and something maybe my teenage boy could make himself (like that's gonna happen -- but a mom can hope!) Tell us about agave nectar. I just bought my first bottle the other day. What do you use it for? Do you find it works well in recipes?
mom24(Q) I bought the agave nectar as a syrup substitute. And I use it sparingly - since I usually have fruit on my breakfasts I don't really need added sweetness. I know a lot of people use it in tea. I don't bake much, so I can't attest to that aspect!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) I tried it in tea and thought it tasted excellent. It seems much sweeter than sugar, so it's easy to use less of it. I've also been experimenting with stevia. Do you have any experience with that sweetener?
mom24(Q) Label reading is always key - which is why it is so important for restaurants to provide nutritional information. My kids love to go the Red Robin web site and build their burgers, adding and deleting calories and fat as they go.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) Restaurants should provide their nutritional info, and that's why some of the restaurants got an "F" from this little guide -- because they refuse to. Applebee's, for example.
mom24(Q) But then you run into the "light" versions using artificial sweeteners. Many parents would rather see calories from naturally occurring sugar (in juice) than fewer calories from chemicals.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) Yes, that's true. Here's something I wonder if you've observed, mom24 -- some adults assume that to get babies and toddlers to eat or drink something, it has to be sweet.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) My own experience has been that little kids' likes and dislikes can be easily controlled by their parents' choices. I always gave my kids water when they were thirsty rather than juice, and as teenagers, they're water drinkers.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) Another thought about juice -- dentists hate it because it's a real tooth-rotter, natural or not.
mom24(Q) Oh, that sweet thing! You've touched a nerve there. Grandma gives my kids strawberries with powdered sugar for dipping! Drives me nuts! My kids eat fruit and veggies either raw or lightly steamed/boiled. I'll add some lemon pepper to asparagus, or maybe a light sprinkle of paramsan cheese, but there is no sugar on fruit or cheese sauce on my veggies!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) My kids wouldn't eat asparagus, and then I ran across a great very simple recipe for oven-grilling them: lightly toss with a small amount of olive oil and lemon juice (adding pepper and/or other seasonings to taste) put on ungreased cookie sheet and sprinkle with parmesan. Then roast in the oven at 400 for about 10 minutes (depending on your oven). You don't have to cook them first. Fantastic! Now even my son will eat them.
mom24(Q) I've done the same in the oven with the asparagus, and it is really tasty. Not just for kids - that is my "fancy dinner" asparagus recipe. Obviously, I'm not much of a cook, but I try to make simple things with healthy ingredients.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) I'm the same way. I don't have time or energy to be much of a cook, actually. Do you have any other recipes or meal tips that you could share for all of us busy moms? Maybe something your kids like best?
Lisa_Ryckman(P) I'm 100 percent with you on the added sugar thing. I buy those "fruit only" jams (organic if possible) and my son seems to like that better than syrup on pancakes.
mom24(Q) I know the dentist issue with juice, and it makes sense. But, I have to say, I have a son with Cerebral Palsy, who is now 11 and has always had a lot of juice through a sippy cup (another no-no) and has NEVER had teeth problems. I think there are kids who are prone to teeth issues regardless of eating and brushing habits, and those who can get by with just good brushing habits!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) Yes, I think you're right. I had lots of cavities as a kid, but my brother and sister had none, and we all ate the same stuff and brushed our teeth.
Mark_Wolf(Q) Were you surprised to see KFC among the higher-rated places on the Restaurant Report Card?
Lisa_Ryckman(A) Well, at least KFC provides its nutritional info. And I think the point of this book is that even at some of the places you'd assume are the worst, you can STILL make choices that are better than others.
mom24(Q) It is amazing how many kids haven't been introduced to just plain veggies. My kids eat bell peppers like potato chips, and more than a few of their friends' parents have been amazed that their kids came home raving about them. At a school function last year, while we were selling the typical candy treats, we also had a table of "exotic" fruit and veggies for kids to try. Sunflower donated everything! The kids had a blast trying new foods!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) That's a fantastic idea! And what you say is so true -- it goes back to that idea that kids won't eat certain kinds of foods, and that's often something that adults impose on them rather than actual kid choices. My son is a very adventurous eater, and I think it's because he was offered lots of interesting foods when he was very little. He'll at least try anything.
mom24(Q) I make chicken about a million different ways - like most moms! I rarely spend more than 1/2 hour preparing dinner, and can usually feed 6 (including an athletic teenage boy) with around $10. Granted, my daughter eats like a bird, as well as my middle son, but I buy good chicken on-sale and keep it in the freezer, so I can use 2 pounds that I bought at $3 a pound ( I always buy either thin breasts or tenders - I do not cut up whole chickens!). Throw in some veggies (either fresh or frozen, depending on the season) and some pasta for the boys, and we're good!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) About pasta -- have you tried whole wheat or other grain mixes? If so, how do your kids like them?
angela(Q) Hello Lisa, Mark. I'm actually interested in recipes - recipes that are easy to prepare and take little time, that are high-fibre and low GI, no HFCS or trans fats, and tasty. I'm desperately trying to move away from wholewheat peanut butter sandwiches and whole wheat pasta!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) Hi Angela -- that can be a challenge for sure. I wonder if mom24 has some ideas for you?
mom24(Q) One of our favorite chicken dishes is an oven baked chicken parmesan. I did the chicken in egg, then into a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs and shredded parmesan cheese. I either bake it with a little butter sprinkled on top, or pan fry with non-stick spray.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) I'm trying that this week! Do you make your own bread crumbs?
angela(Q) Oh, and ideas for what to pack for school lunches!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) I've been trying to get more creative about lunches. My son is like mom24's middle one -- he needs lots of calories. I always include a bag of some kind of trail mix that I beef up with unsalted dry roasted almonds. Sandwich wise, i've been trying to use avocado more. I've also sometimes just gave him half an avocado for lunch (the cut side rubbed with lemon juice to prevent browning) with a spoon to scoop and eat for lunch.
mom24(C) I do not make my own bread crumbs, although I probably should - I usually end up throwing out the last few pieces of bread when a new loaf comes in! I haven't found any of the store-bought ones that say they are whole-wheat, so I usually go easy on the bread and heavier on the parmesan - just the carb-avoider in me! To make bread crumbs, do you just toast the bread and crumble it? I really should do that!
angela(Q) mom24, how in the world do you spend less than 1/2 hour preparing dinner?!! I am definitely missing something here! But I do save money by buying pre-frozen meat, which is usually cheaper than buying fresh and then freezing.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) That's a good idea.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) For bread crumbs, I either toast or not, depending on the bread. Then I pulverize in the blender. I also use original Fiber One cereal that has been run through the blender for a coating. It does contain Splenda, but it's got gobs of fiber and makes a fantastic coating for shrimp or chicken. Just dip in egg, roll in the blended Fiber One and bake in the oven. It's incredibly crispy.
mom24(Q) I like the yellow boxes (Barilla Plus). It is a multigrain pasta with 17 g of protein per cup, plus 7 g of fiber and Omega-3.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) I think that's tastier than going total whole wheat. I've also gotten hooked on shirataki noodles, which is pasta made from tofu.
Lisa_Ryckman(P) It looks and tastes pretty close to the real thing, but one big serving has about 40 calories, lots of protein and no fat (or flour, obviously). Very low carb.
mom24(Q) Angela - have you seen the South Beach diet books? They have some good recipes - just skip to the back!
Lisa_Ryckman(A) There are some good ones.
mom24(Q) To make the chicken I mentioned above, it has to cook for 30-45 minutes, but that's in the oven. The prep takes about 10 min. Pasta takes about 10 min., and can be done the same time as the veggies. If I do it on the stove, it takes even less time to cook.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) What are you seasoning with?
mom24(C) I season the breadcrumbs with pre-mixed italian seasoning.
mom24(Q) I love the Fiber One idea! I'll bet Uncle Sam would work as well. That's my favorite cereal for topping things (like yogurt)
Lisa_Ryckman(A) I've never tried Uncle Sam, but it's now on my list. BTW, you can find those shirataki noodles in the refrigerator case at places like Wild Oats. Like tofu, they're packed in water.
mom24(Q) For the bread crumbs - do you keep them in the freezer or make them only when you need them?
Lisa_Ryckman(A) I make them as I need them, but you could definitely keep them in the freezer. I think you'll like how crispy they make stuff with absolutely no frying.
angela(Q) Lisa, the trail mix and avocado ideas are great. I'm always stumped for fruit ideas, because cut fruit don't keep well. I usually end up with grapes or a banana. About breadcrumbs - I know it might seem like a small thing, but electricity costs are very high where I am and it's a bit difficult to justify firing up the oven to make breadcrumbs.
Lisa_Ryckman(A) No -- I just toast the bread and pulverize it in the blender. Then dip shrimp or chicken or whatever into egg (or egg substitute) and roll in the crumbs. Then bake in the oven. The oven's just for the baking part, not the bread crumbs themselves.
angela(Q) Thanks for all the tips! I think I'm taking too long to cook dinner. I mean, taking out the block of parmesan and grating it on the microplane already takes 10 mins because I wrap my parmesan block twice. And chopping up onions and garlic...*groan*
Lisa_Ryckman(A) I've taken to buying that prechopped garlic in big jars -- you can get it at Costco and Target, and probably other places. It keeps in the fridge, and you just spoon it up when you need it (I think one tsp is equal to a clove). It's real garlic, so you're not getting anything fakey. And what a timesaver!!!!!! Thanks so much to mom24 and Angela for a fantastic chat. So many great ideas! Oh -- and thanks to you too, Mark. Mark? Mark? You still there? Now where' did that guy go?
Mark_Wolf(P) Still here, enjoying the back-and-forth food talk. Thanks to Lisa and our participants for a great session.