As moms, food and nutrition for ourselves and our children is always on our minds. We recently teamed up with Nurture Life to ask their nutrition expert, Lara Field, some questions. Keep reading for her answers as well two great recipes you don’t want to miss!
We love that Nurture Life provides healthy meals for babies, toddlers and kids that are also quick and easy to prepare. A definite mom win! Can you tell us a little more about ChooseMyPlate and how Nurture Life’s meals are developed?
ChooseMyPlate is the USDA’s most recent update to the Food Pyramid. It’s a teaching tool created to promote and teach healthy, balanced eating by highlighting the major food groups — lean proteins, low-fat dairy, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables — as well as proper portioning. Nurture Life’s toddler & kid meals are developed with balance in mind, sourcing lean proteins, using healthy fat sources and incorporating fiber-filled vegetables as much as possible. Each of our meal plans (Toddler 1-3, Kids 4-8, Kids 9-13, and Kids 14+) take into account proper portions of proteins, grains and veggies for that age group, offering a variety of nutrients without overwhelming their plate.
Nurture Life also creates wholesome baby purees and finger foods that progress in texture and flavor to meet your baby’s growing needs. Our Stage 1 purees are single ingredient fruits and veggies, thin in consistency and the perfect texture for your baby’s first foods. With our Stage 2 purees, we combine familiar fruits and veggies with whole grains and diverse proteins. These combination purees, like Pear, Apple, Quinoa & Cinnamon and Salmon, Carrot & Butternut Squash, offer new flavors and textures for your baby to explore. Our Stage 3 finger foods feature a variety of chopped vegetables, grains and lean meats that are big enough to pick up but small enough to prevent choking.
What if we’ve got picky eaters? As moms, our natural state is to worry, especially when it seems as though the kiddos will only eat pasta. Do you have any tips or tricks for getting those veggies in and ensuring a well-rounded diet for our little ones?
Try adding veggies into foods they already know and love, such as blending carrots or zucchini into your tomato sauce, preparing a whole grain muffin with spinach mixed in or adding kale to a berry-filled smoothie. Nurture Life’s Veggie Bolognese over Spinach Stuffed Gnocchi packs in nine different vegetables while still catering to familiar flavors.
Repetition is key to getting your picky eater to try new foods, so keep trying! Make veggies a priority by consistently offering them during mealtime. If your child rejects a specific vegetable, don’t give up — serve it again a few days later and get creative with how you prepare it. With enough repetition, your child will likely become more comfortable and take a bite.
It’s also important to lead by example. If we want our kids to eat veggies, we should eat them as well! Be a role model and demonstrate how important these nutrient powerhouses are.
Do you have any tips on how to talk to children about nutrition? Can you expand on how to model good eating habits?
Try to make nutrition a natural conversation at home. Whether it is cooking a new recipe or selecting vegetables at the grocery store, discuss what you are eating and cooking with your kids and, of course, why. That being said, some lessons can be demonstrated rather than explained.
Let’s talk flavor! We love the idea of introducing new and fun flavors to our kids. When should we start? Is there any science behind introducing newer flavors at younger ages?
Babies are exposed to a variety of “tastes” in utero from mom’s diet, so whatever mom has enjoyed during pregnancy, baby has enjoyed too! As soon as your baby is introduced to foods, they can start enjoying herbs and spices. At Nurture Life, we begin to feature herbs and spices like turmeric, cinnamon, basil, thyme and curry in our Stage 2 combination purees.
Research shows that early and repeated introduction of foods correlates to your child liking them. So, it’s a good idea to introduce new flavors and foods early and often. If your kids are having trouble trying more exotic flavors, repetition is key. Keep on incorporating these flavors, as it can take anywhere from 6-15 tries until they get used to and begin liking the taste. Additionally, the more you limit extreme tastes (like foods really high in salt and sugar), the more open your child will be to a variety of tastes and flavors.
What about snacks? Should we avoid them? Can you provide some ideas for healthy alternatives to the regular packaged items we find at the grocery store?
Snacks are not always well-balanced and may fill kids up before lunch or dinner. Kids benefit from mealtime in more than one way: They get a healthy balance of food groups, learn to listen to their bodies for hunger cues and can bond with their parents or caregivers about their day. Snacking frequently can offset their appetite regulation, making it harder for kids to listen to their bodies about their hunger levels.
When offering snacks, start with fresh fruit and vegetables. They are fiber-filled, nutrient-packed and often ready-to-eat! Tree nuts and seeds also are an easy, pantry-stable choice—think pistachios, almonds, peanuts, cashews and pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Roasted chickpeas and low-fat popcorn are great natural alternatives to processed chips and crackers. For toddlers, freeze-dried fruit, whole grain crackers, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt with fruit and even bran flakes make a great snack.
Could you share an at-home recipe to try?
One of my favorite recipes is this Green Veggie Smoothie, which incorporates a dose of hearty greens and protein packed legumes! For a fun and nutritious twist on comfort food, I love this Chicken Zoodle Soup.
Lara Field, MS, RD, LDN
Pediatric Registered Dietitian + Nutrition Expert
Thank you to Lara and Nurture Life!