Summer is over, the kids are back to school, and s...
Hey mamas -- are you a little freaked about yo...
Imagine your spouse takes you out for your birthda...
For last week's Funny Friday moment, click here. ...
How would you feel if you came home to find your c...
In our house, the holiday season begins when we ho...
With all the stories on kids and bullying, I felt ...
Hey mamas — are you a little freaked about your kids and food allergies?
About 7% of Canadians have a food allergy, and international research suggests that food allergies are on the rise.
For years, experts said parents should wait one to three years before introducing certain foods (milk, peanuts, eggs, soy) to children who were at risk of developing a food allergy, however, a new report from Canadian paediatric and allergy experts says that delaying your baby’s exposure to potential allergens won’t actually reduce the risk of developing an allergy. And it turns out that being overly-cautious about exposing babies to potential allergy-causing foods may actually be doing more harm than good.
The report looks at earlier recommendations for high-risk infants (who have a parent or sibling with food allergies) and found that babies who are at high risk of developing a food allergy can actually be exposed to potential food allergens as early as 6 months of age.
The report goes on to say that pregnant and nursing moms should not avoid foods like milk eggs or peanuts, as avoiding these foods does not decrease the chance of allergy development for the child and can put the mother and infant at risk of under-nutrition.
- Pregnant and nursing mothers should not avoid milk, egg, peanut or other allergens
- Babies should be exclusively breastfed for at least the first six months
- Hydrolyzed cow’s milk formula is a better choice than intact cow’s milk formula
- Don’t delay introduction of any specific solid food beyond 6 months. Waiting longer to introduce peanut, fish or eggs may even increase a child’s risk of a developing a food allergy
- The allergy risks or benefits of introducing solid foods under 6 months of age is still up in the air
- Once a new food is introduced, it’s important to continue exposure to the foods to maintain a tolerance.
You can read the full report here.
How do you handle food allergies in your family?
In our house, the holiday season begins when we host our annual “Letter Writing to Santa” party/fundraiser. This year, we had 24 people pay to attend our party, and my boys raised $238 for Cystic Fibrosis. I am so proud of the work my boys put into this fundraiser, and I think “giving back” is a great way to start our Christmas celebrations.
After our party, we turn our attention to the Santa Claus parade, and then we start “counting down” to the big day. This is a great way to build excitement as Christmas draws closer, and today I am sharing some ideas for counting down to Christmas with your little ones.
If you want to keep things simple, an inexpensive chocolate advent calendar will work well. My boys love these chocolate calendars because I let them take turns eating the chocolates before breakfast. Seriously, what is more fun than chocolate first thing in the morning? Using a chalkboard or calendar is also a simple alternative.
If you want to get crafty, an advent paper chain is a great option. When I was a little girl, my mom and I used to make paper chains by looping red and green strips of paper together. Then, we’d rip a ring off each morning, and by Christmas Eve, all the rings were gone.
If you want to get a little creative, a balloon pop is a lot of fun. Write little notes with easy activities on them, and stick them inside balloons. Then, each day, get the kids to pop a balloon and do the activity. Wouldn’t it be fun to fill the balloons with adventures like “drink hot chocolate outside” or “play Christmas carols and sing along”?
The last idea I am going to share is one of my favorites. On November 30th, I wrap 24 Christmas books and movies, and each morning the kids unwrap one that will be read or watched that evening. I number all the packages, and I try to save the movies for the weekends and “The Night Before Christmas “ for the 24th.
However you decide to countdown to the big day, I hope you enjoy all the excitement and magic that is sure to fill your house this December!
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)
“Would you like some help packing something for martial arts?”
As many couples do, my husband and I have certain code phrases that carry nuances no one else will get and the one delivered this morning, above, is really code for “If you feed our kids junk food from one of the plaza eateries again this month I am going to lose my mind.”
I used to think that we would never be one of those families that throws pizza slices at their kids in the car, but in fact, sometimes we end up rolling that way.
Commuting time, daycare and scheduled class time, plus a 5-year spread in our kids’ ages all combine to make evening meals a challenge several times a week. Since one of my kids gets a hot lunch but the other packs his, we need to apply some creativity if we want our kids to eat. (Are mine the only kids who get really picky after 5:30 p.m.?)
Here are three of our go-to nut-free meals, and four other strategies we have tried.
These take a little bit of prep time (cutting off the crusts; I don’t do the pinwheels, I’ll admit) but there’s something about their size and novelty that makes my kids eat them up, particularly my two-year-old. As a bonus, there’s not a whole lot for them to drop. Pro tip: You really have to wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or have them packed close in a container so they don’t dry out.
Dinner dippers (pictured above)
This takes a stable location, like the lobby of a martial arts academy, but serving dip and crackers also seems to tempt my kids into eating a closer-to-proper meal. The egg-based dip in particular packs some protein with kid-friendly flavour. Hummus also works really well, and sesame seeds are not nuts.
Quick breads, empanadas and other savoury little bites
If something looks like a treat or an appetizer, my kids are favourably disposed. By making my own muffins, quick breads and meat-pie-like-things I can control the ingredients. Warning: Your kids have to be willing to eat room temperature or cold-from-the-fridge empanadas, which my kids are. Our favourite savoury treats include Apple Cheddar Quick Bread and Cheddar Bacon Muffins. Don’t tell the Test Kitchen but I use 3/4 whole wheat flour, 1/4 all-purpose flour in both those recipes.
Four other strategies for eating on the go
1. Keep dinner in the work fridge: I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out which meals I could leave in my car, or whether I had time to swing by our house, until I realized I have access to modern refrigeration at work.
2. Keep napkins, wipes and cutlery in the car.
3. Pack drinks along. If you end up buying, it’s too easy to get talked into an unhealthy snack.
4. Fruit, cheese and (healthier) crackers are still better than junk food. Add in some raw veggies and you are rocking it.
What’s your power kids’ meal on the go? Also, check out our kid-friendly picnic food.
Can you get an “F” in Lunch? One Manitoba mom has learned a hard lesson from her daycare after failing to meet the requirements of her daycare’s nutrition standards.
Teacher and mother of two, Kristen Bartikiw, was taken to task over lunches she prepared for her two children. According to her daycare centre, the lunches (which included roast beef, potatoes, milk, carrots and oranges) didn’t meet the provincially-regulated nutrition standards. She received a notice informing her that that “grains” were missing from the menu. Daycare staff “supplemented” her kids’ lunches with Ritz Crackers and charged Bartikiw a $10 fine.
Say what? This seemingly wacky policy is the part of the Manitoba Government’s Early Learning and Child Care nutrition regulations. Lunches for children in daycare are required to include a milk product, a meat, a grain and two servings of fruit or vegetables. Daycare providers must supplement the meal if a child is missing an item from the list.
In-school nutrition is a big deal. More and more boards, like the Toronto District School Board, are removing soda machines from schools, and Manitoba schools uphold some of the highest nutrition standards in the country, with limits on the number of pizza and submarine sandwich lunch days a school can have.
My kids’ kindergarten teacher once sent prepackaged cookies back after we had sent them four days in a row for afternoon snack (it had been a rough week at our house). And as a parent (and spouse of a teacher), I can totally understand why no teacher anywhere wants to spend a day with 25 kids hopped up on Halloween candy.
School health curricula include units on nutrition and exercise, so schools should walk the walk (or run the laps?) when it comes to putting those ideas into practice.
But how much say should other people have over what our kids eat if we’re the ones packing the lunches? At our house (where Canada’s Pickiest 5-year-old lives), we do what we can, aiming for balance over a day, or sometimes even a week. The kids might gorge on fruit in the morning, and eat bread for dinner. It all evens out and so far, nobody has scurvy. Forcing kids to hit all the food groups at every single meal is why kids are forced to drink milk with apple slices. (Worst taste combo ever, yes?).
According to Bartikiw, the daycare eventually dropped the policy because it was too difficult to enforce. You can read more about the lunchbox saga on Weighty Matters, a blog by Ottawa-based nutrition expert Dr. Yoni Freedhoff.
What do you think? Would you welcome nutritional help from your kid’s school, or should schools stay out of students’ lunchboxes?
Photo via Weighty Matters
I am so impressed with our blogger Gina Bell’s ideas for controlling the candy in her household. There are Ziploc bags, a Book Fairy, the whole thing is very well-planned and highly impressive.
In my home though, things are a little less disciplined. This is what it looks like:
1. Kid empties trick or treat loot on floor.
2. Mom roots through it to pull out all the nut-containing chocolate, due to son’s anaphylactic peanut and tree nut allergy AND any chocolates and candies that may contain nuts or have been processed at a plant that processes food with nuts.
3. Kid doesn’t like about one-third of the treats anyway (green lollipops, sour candies, cheese twists) so those get sorted out.
4. Voila, not that much is left, and I let my son eat what he wants. I tell him that I want him to be healthy, so he shouldn’t eat too much. He’s pretty good at rationing himself.
So I’m not being entirely truthful here, because, honestly, the real way I control without controlling is that we don’t go trick or treating to that many houses. In a few years, I’m sure the little guy will be putting his foot down, or perhaps putting the pedal to the metal to hit up more homes. We’ll see.
How do you control the candy at your house?
Raise your hand if you get overwhelmed by all the Halloween candy your kids bring home after a night of trick-or-treating? OK… you can put your hand down now. I have some fantastic ideas for controlling your children’s Halloween candy intake.
In our house, we have a system we have been using for years. First, as soon as my boys get home, they empty their three bags of loot into one big pile, and each boy is given a large Ziploc bag. Then, they take turns picking their favorites from the pile and putting them in their bags. They have a lot of fun trying to choose their candy wisely and trading with each other. The “candy draft” is one of our favorite Halloween traditions.
After all the boys have filled their bags, the rest of the candy is taken away. The next evening, we put the bag beside the front door for the Book Fairy. While the boys are sleeping, the Book Fairy takes the bag of candy and leaves each boy a new book. The Book Fairy has also been known to leave new costumes for our dress up box. I think she must get good deals on costumes when they are marked down by 75% after Halloween. (Book Fairies love bargains!)
If you aren’t interested in leaving books for the Book Fairy, there are many other ways to deal with your mountain of Halloween candy. One of my favorite ways to get rid of chocolate is to bake with it. Add Smarties or chopped up chocolate bars to your favorite chocolate chip cookie or banana bread recipe to create an extra special treat.
You can also share the candy with others. Donate it to a children’s hospital or food bank, or bring it to work.
Putting it away and taking it out a little at a time is also an excellent option. If you have a family birthday coming up, the candy can be used for a party Pinata or loot bags. Halloween candy is also great for family movie nights, making an edible Christmas advent countdown, or eating after the kids have gone to bed. (Shhh… don’t tell my boys!)
Halloween is an exciting time for little ones, and it can still be fun without sending everyone into a sugar-induced coma. I hope you find these tips helpful in controlling the candy in your home.
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)
Halloween is just around the corner, and my boys are already carefully planning their costumes for the big day. At this point, I think they have decided on Harry Potter, a Soldier, and a Policeman. I think dressing up is a wonderfully, magical part of childhood, don’t you?
Without question, Halloween is a really fun time for kids, and now is the perfect time to start planning some frightfully fun crafts and activities for them.
Of course, you’ll need a pumpkin or two. We like to visit a pumpkin patch to pick one out, but a pumpkin from the farmer’s market or grocery store works too. When carving your pumpkin – don’t forget to save the seeds. Did you know that pumpkin seeds are magic if you plant them in sugar and place them by the window on Halloween Eve? The “night before Halloween” moon will shine on them, and in the morning the kids will find special treats. Last year, our magic pumpkin seeds grew into cookie pops…and I have heard they can grow into suckers or chocolate bars too.
My boys and I always set aside a few “magic” seeds to plant, but we love roasting the rest of them. To roast pumpkin seeds*:
1) Have the kids pick the seeds from the pumpkin pulp. Then, rinse the seeds under cold water, and pat them dry.
2) Spread the seeds (in a single layer) on a cookie sheet.
3) Coat seeds lightly with oil.
4) Sprinkle seeds with salt, and bake at 325 degrees (until toasted) for 20-25 minutes. (Stir & check halfway through.)
*We like our pumpkin seeds plain, but if you are looking to “kick it up a notch”, you should totally try the Jack-Be-Spicy Pumpkin Seeds recipe by Canadian Living.
It’s also fun to make a special treat or craft to celebrate Halloween. We usually make a few things, but one of my favorite simple ideas is recycling an old water jug into a jack-o-lantern. All you need to do is draw a face on the water jug with a sharpie, and pop a couple of orange glow sticks inside. It’s a simple craft, and makes a great decoration. Craft up a few decorations, let the kids pick out a few things from the dollar store, and your house will be spooktacular in no time.
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)
Fall has officially begun, and in our house, this time of year is all about pumpkins. Don’t you just love a good pumpkin recipe, craft, and activity?
My favorite Fall activity is our annual family trip to a pumpkin patch. I love getting out in the fresh air with my boys and taking their pictures surrounded by pumpkins. I highly recommend searching out a pumpkin patch/corn maze in your area and making it part of your weekend plans.
Pumpkin crafts are popular in our house this time of year too… especially with my four year old. Last year, we made a simple pumpkin headband.
To make a pumpkin headband with your little one:
1) Cut out a pumpkin shape from orange construction paper and a pumpkin stem from green construction paper. Glue the stem and googly eyes onto the pumpkin. Draw a nose and mouth with a crayon or marker.
2) Cut two 1 1/2 inch strips of paper, and decorate them with stickers.
3) Staple the ends of the strips to the pumpkin.
4) Size the headband to the child’s head, and staple the ends together. Cute, right?
Finally, it wouldn’t be a pumpkin palooza without a delicious pumpkin recipe. I recently made a delicious pumpkin loaf with cream cheese filling (that you can find here).
Or you can check out some of the yummy Canadian Living recipes for Fall. Here a few that I am anxious to try:
I hope you are having a great Fall, and I will be back soon with some spooktacular Halloween fun!
Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)
I have to admit that usually my family relies on leftovers and I am worried my kids are going to be spoiled with all these new dinners.
September 4: Grilled Steak and Asparagus Salad
We never seem to have any trouble getting our kids to eat steak. Or duck. If only we did not have to pay for daycare, we would be set! But in all seriousness, this meal was a hit. I did serve the kids plain asparagus, which my toddler chewed on for a while, but spit out. (If you are a non-parent who happens to be reading, sadly, this happens.)
Family rating: Excellent, will make again
September 5: Sausage and Pesto Orecchiette
This pasta was a great fit for our family and close to some pastas we serve regularly. But I will say this one was better; I think it was tossing the pasta in where the sausage had cooked. Well, and of course it comes from our fabulous Test Kitchen.
Here’s my basil story to go with the pesto: When my elder son was 11 months or so old (okay, I actually don’t remember his age, but he was not yet walking but could pull up), I found him chewing on a house plant. I ran to call poison control, and actually was dialing the number before I realized I almost called the emergency line to report that my son had eaten…basil.
He still loves it in all its forms.
My kids also loved hearing that orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian. It did scare me that they then enjoyed biting into the pasta so enthusiastically.
Family rating: Excellent, will make again.
What’s your family’s surefire pasta hit?