The Good Food Book for Families
Every family’s essential cookbook and invaluable reference for eating tasty, healthy meals based on the new Canada’s Food Guide.
Young children (ages 2 to 5) need enough calories to sustain healthy growth and development. Small children have smaller appetites and tend to fill up quickly — therefore, they benefit from eating 2 - 3 small snacks and 3 small meals per day. Snacks and meals should be scheduled so as not to interfere with the next meal. Whenever possible, meals should be enjoyed together as a family.
Young children have an innate preference for sweet foods. When given the choice, they will often choose juice over water, raisins over grapes and fruit leathers and candies over fresh fruit and vegetables. Over-consumption of these foods can lead to tooth decay, add excess calories and result in a lifelong preference for artificially sweetened foods. To avoid this, offer unprocessed, whole foods and help your child establish a preference for healthy foods from day one.
Higher-fat, nutrient-dense foods, such as nut butters cheese and avocados should not be restricted because of their fat content. A low-fat diet is not appropriate for young children.
At this stage of their lives, appetites vary day to day and even meal to meal, depending on growth, activity level, social setting, frustration, fatigue and illness. When excited or overly tired, children may lose interest in food, and when hungry they will concentrate on eating. This could mean they skip or pick at the occasional meal. Instead of worrying about the missed meal, evaluate your child’s nutritional intake over several days or weeks. In most cases, the variations in the amount eaten will average out, providing your child with all the nutrients needed. This is especially true in the case of children who are provided nutritious foods and allowed to stop eating when they are full. This teaches them to listen to their bodies. Encouraging this habit for life is more important than teaching children to finish everything on their plate.
Be wary of choking hazards, such as popcorn, hard candies, chewing gum, nuts, olives, raisins and cough drops. Cut wieners, carrots and grapes lengthwise. When eating, young children should be supervised and sitting upright at a table or in a highchair.
Family meals are crucial to the physical and mental well-being of children. Children who eat regular meals with their families tend to have a higher intake of calcium, fiber and vitamins. These nutrients are essential for healthy growth and development of children. Furthermore, studies suggest that teenagers who eat regular family meals tend to have lower tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use. They also tend to have higher grade point averages and fewer depressive symptoms.
Obesity is the result of a chronically positive energy balance - in other words, too many calories ingested compared to the amount of calories burned. The problem exists on both sides of the equation. Our children eat too many foods high in calories and fat while not getting enough exercise to burn off those excess calories. We know that obese parents are more likely to have obese children. And while genetics does play a role, the rapid increase in obesity in the past 25 years demonstrates the potent effect of environment on the condition. The dietary and exercise habits of parents strongly influence the habits of their children.
We know 7 out of 10 children aged 4 to 8 do not eat the recommended number of daily servings of Vegetables and Fruit.6 Their diets contain more than the recommended amount of fat. Many children eat regularly at fast food restaurants, where portion sizes are inappropriately large. They are physically inactive, spending a significant amount of time engaged in sedentary activities such as watching television, playing video games and on the computer.
Statistics show that forty percent of obese 7-year-olds and 70% of obese adolescents become obese adults. Because it is more difficult to lose weight as an adult, preventing children from becoming obese is of critical long-term importance to health. If you suspect that your child has a weight problem, consult your doctor. Lack of physical activity is a major contributor to weight gain and obesity. According to Health Canada, over half of Canada’s children are not active enough for optimal growth and development.
Health Canada’s Food Guide recommends all Canadians drink 2 cups of milk per day. This is because milk is an excellent source of both calcium and vitamin D; nutrients essential for the calcification and strengthening of bones and teeth. Because insufficient calcium intake during childhood cannot be made up for later in life, it is essential children get enough calcium now. This can be achieved by serving milk or fortified soy beverage with meals, yogurt for dessert and cheese on salads and in pastas and sandwiches. Other sources of calcium include: tofu, leafy greens, baked beans, nuts, canned salmon (with bones) and of course, breast milk or formula for infants. If your child does not like milk or cannot drink it due to an allergy or an intolerance fortified soymilk can be substituted.
You are right that drinking fruit juice is a great way to get a serving of fruit or vegetables into your kids. The Canada Food Guide recommends that kids aged 2 and up get between 4 and 8 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, depending on their age and sex. It is best to eat the fruit or vegetable more than the juice as juice is less filling and generally has less fiber. Also, it may have lost some of its nutrient value during the juice-making process. When giving juice, keep in mind that Health Canada considers a serving to be 4 ounces. That is only ½ a cup which isn’t a lot considering that a juice box contains about 6 ounces- already a serving and a half.
There are a few issues with juices. Often, they have added sugar or the dreaded super-sweet high fructose corn syrup added top them. These are usually labeled as fruit drinks, beverages or punches. Children naturally prefer sweet things, so most will love these drinks and drink as much as they can get their hands on. These kids tend to “hate water” and may even avoid milk according to their parents. Over time, they move from juice to soda pop and “slurpys.” And before you know it, they have a mouth full of cavities and perhaps even a weight problem.
One of the benefits of juice is that it can help to keep young children’s bowel movements regular. Too much of a good thing, however, can lead to very loose stools and the so-called toddler’s diarrhea. This is one more reason to limit juice intake. Dentists tend to recommend limiting intake of fruit juice too. Juices can be very acidic, not to mention the fructose (natural fruit sugar) content. Even 100% fruit juice can wreak havoc on the teeth over time.
It’s always important for children to avoid unpasteurized fruit juices as these can be a source of harmful bacteria.
If you offer fruit juice to your young child, just give it once a day and give her a few sips of water afterward to rinse her mouth. Diluting fruit juice and offering it throughout the day is not recommended. There is then a tendency to offer more juice which only serves to continuously feed the plaque-forming bacteria.
So juice can be good, but limit it to once a day, or treat it like a treat. Make sure it is pasteurized and made from 100% fruit juice. And never let a baby go to bed with a bottle of juice.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients. This means the body cannot make them is sufficient quantity to meet our physiological needs and therefore they must come from the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the healthy development of growing brains and good vision. They are also known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in adults. Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, but it is not the only source. Follow these tips to boost your child’s intake of brain boosting omega-3 fatty acids:
One of the easiest ways to instill healthy life-long eating habits in children is to follow “the division of responsibility in feeding”. This means Parents are responsible for what is presented to eat and how it is presented and the children then decide what they eat and even whether they eat at all.
In practical terms this means putting the food out picnic style and allowing the children to help themselves. Parents obviously must have an understanding of nutrition and offer healthy, appropriate choices. This eliminates the need to pressure or force feed, which almost always backfires. Research tells us that children who are forced to eat have a tendency to eat less. They may become revolted by food and are often less willing to try new foods in the future.
When serving the food picnic style make an effort to ensure there is something you know your child will eat. At times this may mean he fills up on whole grain bread and fruit for dessert. But whatever you do, do not fall into the trap of becoming a short order cook; substituting a ham sandwich for fish. This can be a slippery slope; leaving parents feeling exhausted and often only serves to reinforce the picky behaviour. Children need to learn that mealtimes are to be taken seriously. If they choose not to eat it, they will have to wait for the next meal or schedules snack.
Do not conclude your child dislikes broccoli because it has been rejected once or even a few times. Research tells us it may take as many as 10 to 20 exposures before a new food is accepted. The reason Indian children like spicy food and Japanese children like fish is because they are continually exposed to these foods. If you want your child to eat a wide variety of foods, expose them to a wide variety of foods.
Following the division of responsibility in feeding helps children learn how to regulate their food consumption. A healthy baby comes into the world instinctively knowing when to turn his head indicating that he has had enough to eat. As children grow many will loose touch with the feeling of being full and overeat when given the chance. We live in a world where obesity is on the rise and as a result teaching children how to listen to their bodies and eat what is needed for energy, growth and maintenance of a healthy weight has never been more crucial. Avoid using food for comfort or as a reward. These are not patterns you want to establish, as they can lay the foundation for problems such as eating disorders in the future.
Equally important is to lead by example. We know that parents who are healthy eaters are more likely to inspire these habits in their children. And finally make an effort to eat and enjoy family meals together as often as possible!
No, diets are notorious for not working. Children whose food intake is restricted have a tendency to become obsessed with food and overeat when given the chance. Diets can interfere with normal growth and development. With children the goal is generally to slow the rate at which they are gaining weight so they can grow into a healthier weight.
Resist the temptation to harp on the quantity of food your child eats. This may turn mealtime into a battleground. Instead, make an effort to improve the quality of food you serve. Stress the importance of whole foods and fresh ingredients. Clear out your kitchen and get rid of any “junkie” processed foods. These foods tend to be high in salt, fat and sugar. Start the day with a nutritious breakfast. Those who eat breakfast tend to consume fewer calories in a day. Offer low fat dairy product and start meals with higher fiber foods such as a non-cream based vegetable soup; a platter of vegetables or a salad. This is a nutritious way to fill up your hungry child. When dressing salads avoid high calorie add-ons such as bacon bits, cheese, toasted croutons and creamy dressings. Instead, opt for a lower calorie oil and vinegar dressings. Keep high calorie, sugar laden drinks out of the house. Limit juice to only once a day and only serve %100 real fruit juice. Water is the best drink to alleviate thirst and its calorie free. Offer fruits and vegetables as snacks between meals to allay extreme hunger, which can lead to overeating, eating. Offer food in appropriate portions Serve smaller portions and let your child ask for more. And finally, make an effort to include regular physical activity as part of the family routine. If you do not see an improvement following these simple strategies, consult your doctor.
This breakfast is designed to be made in bulk; once made, can be served in seconds! Extra granola should be stored in airtight containers.
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1¼ cups dried cranberries
1¼ cups raisins
1 cup skim milk powder
¾ cup canola oil
1¼ cups liquid honey
Yield: Approximately 16½ cups
Serving Suggestion: Serve with a fruit smoothie.
If you cannot find Roma tomatoes, regular ones can be substituted.
3 lb Roma tomatoes, cored and quartered
3 red bell peppers, seeded and halved
1 head garlic, top removed
¼ cup canola oil (plus an extra drizzle)
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, grated
2 tbsp canola oil
7 to 8 cups salt-free or low-sodium chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Yield: 10 cups
The following is designed to appeal to children, so the meat mixture is not very spicy. If making for adults, add ½ rounded tsp crushed red pepper flakes to the mixture. Alternatively, you could sprinkle some crushed red pepper flakes onto the adults’ portion after the children have been served. Leftovers make a delicious pasta sauce or can be served over shredded lettuce with diced tomatoes and shredded Cheddar cheese to make a yummy taco salad. In fact, grown-ups can eat a taco salad while the kids enjoy their Turkey Tacos.
½ onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 tbsp canola oil
1 lb ground turkey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup tomato paste
1 rounded tbsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
1 cup water
¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
Salt and pepper
12 large whole wheat soft flour tortilla (approximately 10 inches)
1 cup Salsa
1 cup light sour cream or plain yogurt
10 leaves romaine lettuce, shredded
4 tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup diced red onions
1 avocado, diced and sprinkled with lemon juice so it doesn’t turn brown
1 rounded cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Yield: Serves 6 (2 tacos each)
Serving Suggestion: Serve with Homemade Salsa (page X), a green salad and corn on the cob.
The Baby's Table
The essential guide to giving your baby the best possible start in life.
For most healthy infants who were born at full term, 6 months is the right time to introduce solids. There may be a few exceptions, however.
It wasn’t so long ago that we were recommending that solid food be introduced at 4 months of age. The change came about after a number of studies showed that there was no real nutritional advantage in introducing solids at that age, and, more importantly, introduction at the earlier age could interfere with the continuation of breast feeding. Breast milk is considered nutritionally complete (except for vitamin D) for full term healthy babies up until 6 months of age. After 6 months, another dietary source of iron and fiber becomes important.
Signs that indicate that your baby may be ready for solids include the following: he may seem hungrier than usual; he may be interested in foods when others are eating and lets you know about it by vocalizing and even fussing if he’s not offered anything. He should be able to turn his head away to indicate when he has had enough. He might pick up food and mouth it, or open wide when food is offered. He will hold a bit in his mouth without pushing it out with his tongue. Pushing food out is called the tongue extrusion reflex and it means that he’s likely not ready for solids.
Babies born prematurely often have to wait until they are 6 months corrected for their early gestation before starting on solids as they are usually not quite neurologically ready for the complex tongue movements required to move food to the back of the mouth before swallowing it. Some full term babies will also have to wait a bit longer, especially if they gag regularly when solids are offered. Just like any other developmental milestone, there is some variability in terms of when some babies will be ready for solids.
If you think your baby might be ready, talk to his doctor or health care nurse first. Be sure to breast feed before giving any solids so he will continue to get lots of your milk while his diet is transitioning. A good choice for a first solid food would be a single grain infant cereal fortified with iron and diluted with breast milk. Continue to breast feed while introducing solids as the breast milk will still be the most important part of his diet for several months.
Iron fortified single grain cereal is the first food you should feed your baby. Because these cereals are fortified with iron, homemade substitutes are not adequate. These cereals are easily digested, unlikely to cause allergies and designed to replace fetal iron stores. A good first choice is iron fortified rice cereal followed at weekly intervals by barley, oatmeal and finally wheat. Introducing these cereals one at a time helps to identify any allergy your baby may have to a single grain. After you have introduced all grains individually you can start introducing mixed grain cereals. Continuing these cereals for the first 2 years of your infant’s life will help ensure adequate iron intake.
Risk factors for iron deficiency anemia in infants include pre-maturity, low birth weight, anemia in the mother during the pregnancy, too early introduction of cow’s milk or solid foods, low meat intake, breastfeeding beyond 6 months without other sources of iron and infant formula not supplemented with iron. As well, once cow’s milk is introduced there is a tendency for some infants to drink it to the exclusion of iron rich foods.
The signs to look out for are pallor of the skin along with irritability and a desire to eat unusual things like dirt or ice. In severe cases of anemia, children may have a drop in appetite which only serves to compound the problem. Iron deficiency can have effects on mental alertness, attention span and learning.
The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen to your infant is to serve a diet rich in a wide variety of iron rich foods. These foods include iron fortified baby cereals, red meat, poultry, spinach, broccoli and legumes. Serve iron rich baby cereals throughout the first 2 years of life and try mixing them with other foods. To enhance iron absorption, serve iron rich foods with foods that are rich in vitamin C such as tomatoes, potatoes and oranges. If your baby is drinking formula choose one that is iron fortified and when introducing cow’s milk (after the age of 1) encourage your infant to drink out of a cup. Between the ages of 1 and 2, limit milk intake to 3 cups per day. After that 2 cups is enough.
Selective, or “picky” eating is something that most toddlers and preschoolers do naturally. It is common for babies to happily eat almost anything offered to them, but as they progress into the toddler and pre-school years, many children become choosier in terms of just what and how much they will eat. This is due, at least in part, to the relative slowing in the rate of growth and the accompanying decrease in appetite that occurs during this phase of childhood. Recall that old adage of a child tripling his birth weight in the first year. If he continued to gain weight at the same rate over childhood, he would weigh around 200 lbs by the time he was only 3 years old!
Another reason why many toddlers who were previously so-called “good eaters,” change their eating habits is because they are now starting to see themselves as separate from their parents and are exerting their independence.
In most cases, a toddler is eating what she needs to meet her metabolic needs and to allow her to grow. If you think she isn’t getting enough, your doctor can measure her growth and calculate her BMI (body mass index) to ensure that she is not underweight.
Assuming her weight is in a healthy range, there are a few things to consider that may improve her eating.
Is she drinking too much milk? Canada’s food guide suggests 2 servings of milk per day for children age 2-3 years. If she is still drinking from a bottle, she may be drinking too much milk, filling up on it and then losing her appetite for other food. Switch her to a cup and she will likely drink less milk and eat more of other foods.
How much juice is she drinking? Young children often fill up on juice. Set a limit of 4 oz/ day and have her drink it in one sitting. This will have the added benefit of being easier on her teeth than drinking diluted juice throughout the day.
Keep portion sizes small and realistic. If you put a large portion of an unfamiliar food on your daughter’s plate, it’s likely to be an automatic turn-off for her. Let her see the rest of the family enjoying the new food and offer her a very small portion without resorting to any pressure tactics. Try offering the new food alongside something that she typically enjoys eating. It may take many so-called “exposures” to the new food for her to want to try it, but your patience will eventually pay off.
Don’t force her to eat something she really doesn’t want. You may win the battle, but force-feeding is stressful for everyone. The dinner table should be a place where she feels happy and relaxed, where she will be more likely to take some risks and try a new food.
There’s nothing like a little exercise to drive the appetite. Keep her active throughout the day and she will be more likely to eat with gusto.
3 carrots, washed, peeled and sliced
3 parsnips, washed, peeled and sliced
¼ cup salt free vegetable stock (2-3 cubes)
or leftover cooking water
Yield: 8-10 cubes
This is a great way to introduce chicken to an applesauce lover.
2 sweet apples, washed, peeled and quartered
½ chicken breast, poached
2 tbsp unsweetened apple juice or leftover poaching water
Yield: 10 cubes
The following can be made with lamb or beef.
1 cup water
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
8 cubes stewing lamb
1 potato, washed, peeled and cut in cubes
2 carrots, washed, trimmed and sliced
2 stalks celery, washed, trimmed and sliced
¼ onion, diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint (optional)
Yield: 18-20 cubes
8 oz salmon fillet
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (optional)
1 tbsp finely diced onion
Dash lemon juice
1 potato, washed, peeled and cut in cubes
1 tbsp breast milk or formula (whole cow’s milk after 12 months)
Yield: 12 cubes
books also available at Dr. Lauren Bramley and Partners Family Practice