Chocolate-Avocado Pudding

chocolate-mousse-2635500_1920-1.jpg

Back in 2012 when I first started teaching baby food cooking classes, a client of mine mentioned that her husband had been making chocolate avocado pudding, and that her baby was gobbling it right up. I put the idea on my imaginary list of recipes that I wanted to recreate, and then—-like every other item on my to-do list that I write in my head but never on paper—I completely forgot about it. Fast forward five years when that baby of hers is ready to graduate kindergarten, and here I am in my kitchen finally checking off this recipe. Do I regret not trying this sooner? Yes, but mostly because recently when I pay for avocados at checkout, I have to do a doubletake (2 for $5--seriously?!) and then you get home, cut it open, and it's all pit. Five years ago, if I can remember correctly, the world was a cheaper place for avocados, and hashtags like #avocadoproblems and #avocadofail and #willworkforavocados (okay fine I made that last one up), were not yet a thing.

But I digress.

In truth, this recipe was a real win for the kids, and I already am thinking ahead to tweaking the recipe for avocado-chocolate fudgsicles this summer (stay tuned!). The avocado creates a perfectly creamy texture and a blank slate that lets the chocolate from cacao powder and semi-sweet chocolate chips really shine through. It comes together in minutes after a whirl in a food processor or blender, and since it's made without refined sugar, it's a treat that I'm happy to serve my kids regularly. Also, unlike every other avocado recipe in the world, this can be made up to 24 hours in advanced and stored in the refrigerator. Because of the chocolate, there's no telling if the avocado turns brown.

Finally, another perk to this recipe is that it's allergy friendly--perfect for friends who are allergic to milk or eggs. But everyone will love it!

CHOCOLATE AVOCADO PUDDING makes 4 servings Ingredients: 2 medium ripe avocados 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips 1/4 cup cacao powder* 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 1/4 cup milk (cows, almond, coconut, or even water) pinch of salt 1/4 cup pure maple syrup Directions: In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips according to package directions. Cool for a few minutes, then add them to a food processor or blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until no lumps remain, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Transfer mousse to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 20 minutes (or up to 24 hours before serving.

*I use cacao powder instead of cocoa powder because it is much less processed than cocoa powder and it contains a crazy high amount of fiber, nutrients, antioxidants and magnesium. You can find it in the same location in the grocery store as traditional cocoa powder. Yes, it's more expensive, but we use it sparingly enough that it's worth it for us.

Pea and Mint Guacamole

IMG_5451.jpg

I'm all about feeding my family the same foods (because: sanity), and guacamole is my go-to at least twice a week. The baby gets hers mashed and spoon fed, my 3 and 6 year olds like it with chips or spread on crackers, and I do the cliche avocado toast. I love using foods that they already like as a vehicle for getting them to taste new flavors, and this is an example of that. In place of lime juice and cilantro, this springy, refreshing version is made with fresh lemon juice, mint, and peas. The peas give the guac a serving of protein (yep, peas contain this filling, muscle-building nutrient!). You could add the peas whole, slightly mashed up, or use it for leftover baby food pea puree--because cooking one thing for everyone is always a win!  

PEA AND MINT GUACAMOLE

Ingredients: 2 ripe avocados 1/2 cup peas OR 1/2 cup pea puree 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped juice from half a lemon salt and pepper to taste

Directions:  Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mash with a back of a fork until you reach the desired chunkiness (I like mine a little chunky; the kids like theirs smoother). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Protein-packed granola!

granola-787997_640.jpg

When parents tell me that their child is ahead in reading or sports, I like to brag that mine are at least 15 years past their age when it comes to food. By that, I mean that they've channeled their future frat boy diet and could live off of cereal at every meal. 

 In fact the single food truth I swear by, is that if you pour it out of a cereal box, they will eat it. There are a whole bunch of good-for-you cereals out there (more on that HERE), but cereals for breakfast can fall short on the protein they need to sustain them until snack time.

In fact, the best breakfasts for kids (and adults too!)  have 3 components to keep you full and energized:

  1. Protein (found in eggs, yogurt, lean deli cuts, cheese, and nut butters)

  2. Whole grains (found in oatmeal, whole grain breads, multigrain waffles, and cereals)

  3. Fruit

Most kids don't have trouble eating the latter two as their morning meal, but protein at breakfast can be harder for them to swallow--especially since the morning rush leaves little time for frying up a few eggs. Enter your child's (and your!) next best option: homemade granola. This version is made with protein-packed oats, grains, and seeds. And unlike store versions, it's not full of crazy amounts of added sugar. It's also crunchy (a win with kids!), full of filling fiber, and made with and nuts and seeds for healthy fats to give the brain a big boost. But best of all, it is delicious.

Think of this recipe as a blank slate: If you don´t have all the ingredients,  feel free to skip some or replace other nuts, dried fruits, or seeds. Best of all, this keeps well in the freezer, so you can make a big batch and always have it on hand.  

My kids and I eat it with wild blueberries, ½ banana and low fat yogurt. You could also pour it into an old cereal box (shhh!) if you really want them to love it. 

Protein-Packed Granola 

Makes 4 cups (I usually double it since it goes fast in our house)

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats ¼ cup wheat germ ¼ cup flax seed ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds ¼ cup chopped raw almonds ¼ cup chopped raw walnuts ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds ¼ cup dried unsweetened grated coconut 2-3 Tbsp. canola or olive oil 2-3 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey ¼ cup water ½ cup of mixed dried berries like raisins, apricots or cranberries

Directions.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, wheat germ, flax seed, coconut, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.

In a small bowl, mix together the oil, honey or maple syrup, and water in a small bowl. Pour the liquid into the oat mixture and stir until it is well incorporated.

Spread the mixture the mixture on the baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 30 minutes, mixing occasionally so everything cooks evenly.

Let the mixture cool completely on the baking sheet, then return the mixture to the large bowl and stir in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (it'll last for at least a few weeks) or transfer to the freezer.

Recipe: Cinnamon Apple Chips

dried-apples-1049483_1920.jpg

One thing is for sure at this time of year: You're going to be eating a lot of apples. Here in November, apples are the only fresh fruits left at the farm stand, and that fruit (along with pears and bananas), will be what my kids survive on until citrus season begins this winter. Happily, my kids LOVE apples--our family goes through at least a dozen a week!--but it's also nice to change things up a bit.

This recipe for baked apple chips is so simple, and it's the perfect project for a rainy homebound weekend day. All you have to do is slice the apples nice and thin, let the kids sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon, and then set them in the oven on low for an hour. Your home will smell wonderful all day, and you'll end up with sweet and crispy chips that are perfect for snacking by the handful or packing into lunch boxes.

 

Cinnamon Apple Chips

Ingredients:

2 apples

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Core the apples. With sharp knife, slice off 1/2-inch from top and bottom of apples and discard. Saw gently crosswise into very thin (1/8-inch) rings

Arrange apples on the baking sheet in a single layer. Place the sheet on the middle shelf in oven, and bake for 45min-1 hr until apple slices are lightly browned and almost dry to touch.

Let chips cool on racks completely before storing in airtight container.

Pumpkin Hummus

IMG_3755.jpg

With all the adorable treats there are to buy and make (and eat!) on Halloween, it's refreshing to have something that you can serve that feels slightly redemptive. Especially if you're a parent like me who likes to steal their kids' Halloween candy in the name of safety. As in: "Hmm, that Butterfinger packaging looks iffy. I'm going to have to confiscate that." This pumpkin hummus has all the feels for something that looks super spooky (it's orange, after all!). And you could serve it with black tortilla chips and  baby carrots, or even top it with plastic spiders!

Plus, with 5 simple ingredients and 2 minutes to pull it all together, it's totally doable to make despite the chaos of the crazy day. We promise it's worth it!

Pumpkin Hummus

In a food processor, add 1 garlic clove, 1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas, 1 cup canned pumpkin, juice of 1/2 lemon, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin. Puree until completely smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Beet Hummus

beetroot-936429_1920.jpg

Seriously, does it get more beautiful than this? This recipe, which uses roasted beets in place of traditional chickpeas, makes a show-stopping spread (seriously, what little girl wouldn't love a PURPLE dip?) and is a great use for leftover roasted beets. I love adding this to a crudite platter alongside pita and veggies at a part--it adds a great pop of color

This recipe calls for 1 pound of roasted beets, but if you're starting out with our beet baby food ( Get the recipe here) you'll want to set aside about 1 cup of pureed beets to make this recipe in place of the cooked, roasted beets below. Add the pureed beets and follow the rest of the recipe as is.

Roasted Beet Hummus Ingredients: 1 lb cooked or roasted  beets, quartered  OR 1 1/2 cups beet puree 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped (optional) 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/2 tablespoon tahini 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1 garlic clove 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt Directions: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Taste throughout and adjust the balance as you see fit. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro, if desired.

Apple-Carrot Muffins

APPLE-CARROT-MUFFIN.jpg

At the end of every September,  I find myself up to my eyeballs in apples. Between the trips to the farm where my kids pick them right off the tree, and stops by the farmer's market where apples get sold by the bucket, and visits to the grocery store where apples are on sale for pennies to the pound, I start to wonder what the heck to do with all of 'em. This humble recipe is one that I've been making for a few years and I appreciate its ease (there's no peeling, coring or chopping required) and its practicality (you can make a batch, freeze them, and then pop one out to eat for breakfast or throw in the lunchbox as a snack).

With all the overly sweet apple recipes out there, this one uses a scant amount of sugar and is sweetened naturally with fruit and made even more wholesome with whole wheat flour. My 2-year-old and 5-year-old enjoy making this with me as much as they would like making an apple pie or an apple crisp, and I like having something in the house that's both fun to make together and that I can feel good about serving my whole family.

Apple-Carrot Muffins makes 12 muffins

Ingredients: 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour 1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup grated carrots (from about 2 large carrots) 1 cup grated apples (from about 1 large apple) 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce 2 eggs 1/4 cup whole milk 1/4 cup canola oil 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray or use muffin liners. Grate the carrots and apples using a box grater. Set aside In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, stir together the carrots, apples, applesauce, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Pour the carrot-apple mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Do not over mix. Divide the batter evenly into muffin cups and bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

chocolate-zucchini.jpg
 When my first son was 18 months and refusing all vegetables as most 18-month-olds do, I made a lot of zucchini muffins to get in some sort of vegetable. Maybe even too many muffins. Because four years later, he still inspects the muffins I make for zucchini to ensure that I’m not slipping one by him.

These double chocolate zucchini muffins pass the test for true picky eaters since the cocoa powder disguises zucchini into the batter. And while they’re made with traditional sugar and even some chocolate chips sprinkled up top, they’re also made virtuous with ingredients that include a fruit, a vegetable, whole wheat flour, and olive oil. But your kids will just notice that they taste like chocolate. 

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI MUFFINS

(makes 12 muffins)

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 medium ripe bananas

1/4 cup olive oil

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 large)

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In a large bowl, mash bananas until no big lumps remain. Add in oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla, and mix until combined.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in zucchini.

Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin tins.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

 

This article originally appeared on Little Hoboken.

How to pick the healthiest granola bar

food-2202344_1920.jpg

Children loves granola bars, but many brands you'll find on the shelves contain as much sugar as candy bar! But healthy packaged ones do exist, and they're a great snack to have on the road or on those days that you simply don´t have time to make your own. When I buy granola bars at the grocery store, I look for these numbers on the nutrition panel:Calories: around 150 Sugar: less than 10 gram Fiber: more than 3 grams

Here's a list of my favorite granola bars that I feel good about giving to my kids.

Made good granola bars. A great choice for the school or camp since they are nut free and free from the most common allergens. They come in 4 delicious flavors AND are made with vegetables. 1 bar has 7 grams of sugar and 90 calories which is a good snack size especially for toddlers and prek aged kids.

Junkless Chewy Granola Bar: All four flavors are made with fewer than 8 ingredients, which is a refreshing shift from the lines of unpronounceable ingredients often found in store-bought bars. Our two favorite flavors are Cinnamon Roll and Chocolate Chip.

Cascadian Farms Organic, Oatmeal raisin granola bar. Lower in sugar than their other flavors with only 7g of sugar and 80 calories, this is also a great option for toddlers.

Kashi Chewy Granola Bar in Trail Mix Flavor. This contains nuts, so while it might not be a good option for school or the park, it's a great snack for safe environments and contains a filling 3g fiber.

Kind Cinnamon Oat Bars. Not all Kind Bars are low in sugar and nut-free, but these are, which make them a great choice for school. With only 5g of sugar and 2g of fiber, these are a healthy and filling choice.

Lära bars. Made exclusively with dried fruit and nuts (so not school friendly), these are high in good fats and natural sugars from the fruit. I have my kids split a bar.

15 Convenient Snacks that We Love

snack-1284230_1920.jpg

If time was never an issue and groceries magically appeared in our fridge, our kids would live on a diet of all homemade food all the time, but in reality, we do a mix of fresh foods, homemade snacks, and packaged ones. Here are our go-tos: 1. Organic popcorn

2. Sliced veggies like red peppers, cucumbers, and baby carrots with mini to-go hummus. These don't require refrigeration--perfect for on-the-go.

3. Homemade muffins, like these healthier blueberry muffins or kid-approved zucchini muffins.

4. Store brought granola bars: Check out our post on our favorite granola bars!

5. Apple slices with peanut butter or sunbutter

6. Applesauce pouches.Look for ones that have apples and water as the only ingredients and steer clear of ones that have fruit concentrates (another word for added sugar). We do Mott's Unsweetened Applesauce .

7. Yogurt sticks. We love the Siggis brand for being low in sugar and high in protein. The kids love these frozen.

8. A bowl of cereal with milk. Check our our post on our picks for the healthiest cereals

9. Mini whole wheat bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter

10. Cheese and crackers

11. String cheese. Our kids love the new character string cheese (and often fight over whether I should buy Spiderman or Paw Patrol!)

12. Whole fruit--apples, bananas, peaches, plums. They're so portable and can stay for a day or two in your purse or in your car.

13. Chopped fruit, like watermelon, cantaloupe, and raspberries and blueberries, which double as a hydration for hot summer days.

14.Harvest Snaps Pea Crisps. The kids LOVE these, and I love how they have natural protein from the peas.

15. Homemade trail mix. We make ours nut free with Cheerios, raisins, chocolate chips, and sunflower seeds.

Healthier Blueberry Muffins

blueberry-MUFFIN.jpg

Is it just my kids, or do all kids' demands for snacks increase by 300 percent in the summer? Seriously, I'm not even done cleaning up breakfast when they come back whining "I'm soooo hungry!" And from there snacks are an hourly request. Oy! Our snacking always includes fruits and veggies with go-tos like sliced apples and peaches, berries, chopped up peppers and baby carrots. And to risk sounding like the annoying mom at the park who always packs everything homemade, I do make them tons of homemade snacks that I stockpile in my freezer (don't roll your eyes, I also do many prepackaged stuff too--favorites can be found by clicking here). Here's the thing: Whipping up a batch of muffins seriously takes very little time, and if you make one snack a week for say, 3 weeks, you end up with a variety of homemade snacks that are super easy to grab and go and also way healthier than anything you can buy in a package. Especially since store-bought snacks can be sneakily loaded with sugar (more on that here!)

These blueberry muffins are so easy and delicious and they're made healthier with whole wheat flour, olive oil, and naturally sweetened with honey. I double the recipe and freeze leftovers To prevent sticking, I freeze on a baking sheet for an hour or so, and then transfer them to a gallon sized ziplock bag. I think you'll love them!

Ingredients 1¾ cups whole wheat flour 1 teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt ⅓ cup olive oil ½ cup honey 2 eggs 1 cup plain yogurt 2 teaspoons vanilla extract Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon 1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not defrost)

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin with oil or cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the oil, and honey or maple syrup, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use a wooden spoon to mix until just combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups (I like to use a 1/4 cup measuring cup sprayed with cooking spray for this part.) Bake the muffins for 20-22 minutes until set and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Store in an airtight container for 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Easy peasy peach salsa

mango-1467281_1920.jpg

Delicious when peaches are in season and when they're not (buy frozen slices), this salsa is delicious served with fresh pita chips or as a tropical topping for grilled fish, chicken, or tacos. Add a scoop to your toddler's high chair for a fun and colorful finger food. It's a crowd pleaser! Plus, peaches pack a nutritious punch. Click here to read all about the health benefits of peaches, plus the best ways to pick 'em and store 'em!

Easy Peasy Peach Salsa Ingredients 1 pound tomatoes, diced 1 bell pepper, seeded and finely diced 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced (optional) 1 medium red onion, finely diced 1½ pounds peaches, diced * ½ bunch cilantro, chopped 2 Tbsp. lime juice 1½ tsp salt, or to taste ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper or to taste Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for at least a half hour (or up to 2 days) to allow the flavors to develop.

*I liked the slightly larger dice for peaches to give them more of the center stage in this salsa. No need to peel them. You won't notice the peels and the color is prettier with the peel on.

Better boxed pancakes

better-panckaes.jpg

My kids have been flying through batches of pancakes lately. It’s something they ask for every weekend, and I’ve been known to throw Sunday morning leftovers into their Monday lunch box or occasionally even make breakfast for dinner, which gets them so excited that I’ve started to use it as a negotiation tactic: “We'll do pancakes for dinner if you share your toys / clean up the playroom / let me pee alone.” I act as if it’s a reward for them, but instead it's a break for me: Is there anything more simple to cook than breakfast foods OR anything more satisfying than knowing your kids will happily eat what’s on the table?

But, since plain old pancakes don’t have much nutritional value, I’ve been working on simple ways to boost the good stuff to make them a health food. Think of pancake mix as a blank slate—and remember that pancake batter is a pretty forgiving food; you can push the limits on experimentation without seriously affecting the final product. 

First, start with a whole wheat, multigrain, or buckwheat pancake mix—all contain more protein and fiber than plain mix. My personal favorite is Hodgson Mill Old Fashioned Buckwheat Pancake Mix. Then, pick and choose from the tips below to make ‘em healthier:

(Note, the values below are based off of 1 cup of dry mix)

  • To boost the protein, add in 2 tablespoons of nut butter or sunflower butter.

  • Give them a healthy dose of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (important for brain development!) plus added protein and fiber by stirring in 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed.

  • Sub oil or butter for applesauce, fruit puree, or canned pumpkin puree (yes to a veggie at breakfast!)

  • Start the day with a veggie by adding 1/4 cup shredded zucchini or carrots.

  • Make the batter taste even better by adding spices and flavors: ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cocoa powder, or pure vanilla extract.

  • Mix in 1/2 cup frozen berries (don’t let them defrost or it will discolor the batter!), sliced bananas, or chopped apples or pears.

  • Use real maple syrup or a drizzle of honey in place of artificial syrup, which contains high fructose corn syrup. Plus, the real stuff is so sweet that you can use way, way less (1 tablespoon total is plenty). 

  • Skip the syrup altogether and make a silly face using bananas, berries, apples--whatever! (You don't need a Pinterest degree to make it look good.)

  • Freeze the leftovers in between layers of parchment paper so you can pop out a pancake whenever you need.

 

[This article originally appeared on Little Hoboken]

 

Zucchini Muffins--our most requested recipe!

FullSizeRender-2-e1485963356581.jpg

These delicious, healthy  muffins are hands-down our most requested recipe—they're a regular on rotation at our cooking classes, and when I make them at home, I always get requests for the recipe.  And it's for good reasons: They're vegan (egg and dairy free) and nut-free, which makes them a perfect snack to bring for kids with allergies, and they're also super moist thanks to the addition of freshly grated zucchini and applesauce, which naturally sweetens the muffins without a ton of excess sugar. For this version, we use a combination of coconut oil and coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is considered a healthier sweetener because it's not as refined as a regular white or brown sugar. And coconut oil is considered a natural and healthy fat that can boost good cholesterol and lower the bad kind. If you don't have either on hand, you can easily sub equal parts of vegetable or canola oil or plain old sugar.

These also freezer really well, so we usually make a double batch and stick 'em in the freezer (To prevent stickage, I freeze the muffins first in a single layer on a baking sheet for about an hour before I transfer to a freezer safe container.)

IMG_1565

Zucchini Muffins

makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup organic unsweetened applesauce (at room temperature)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

2/3 cup coconut sugar

1 1/2 cups zucchini, shredded (about 2 small zucchini)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins or spray with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, add the first 6 ingredients (through salt) and whisk to combine.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the applesauce, oil, vanilla and coconut sugar, making sure all the ingredients are first at room temperature (otherwise oil will harden). Let the wet ingredients sit for 5 minutes to allow the coconut sugar to dissolve, then stir until combined.  Stir in zucchini.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir just until the ingredients are combined. Do not over mix.

5. Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour the zucchini mixture evenly into muffins cups.

6. Bake for 22 min or until a toothpick comes out clean. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 48 hours or freeze.

5 Baby and Toddler Foods That Look Healthy, but Aren't

confused-toddler-face_0-e1484590624507.jpg

It's no secret that Americans consume way too much salt and sugar, and a new study in the journal Pediatrics shows that food companies may be prepping babies' and toddlers' tastebuds early to acquire these tastes. Many baby and toddler foods--even those marketed as "healthy" or "organic" contained a gross amount of excess sugar and sodium, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . Almost half of fruit and grain based baby food contained added sugar, and foods made for toddlers—including vegetables, wheat or whole grain-based crackers, chips, sticks, or puffs—contained the sodium equivalent of plain potato chips.

We searched out the baby and toddler food offenders that pose as health foods so that you won't be duped.

  1. BABY AND TODDLER YOGURT

baby yogurt

Yogurt is a healthy choice for toddlers, but most of the yogurts marketed for kids (yep, even the organic brands!) contain a whopping two teaspoons of excess sugar in their tiny containers—and that's not counting the natural sugar that's already present in dairy. If you're introducing yogurt to your baby for the first time, start with plain whole fat yogurt (yep, babies won't notice that it's missing sugar!). Or for kids, sweeten yogurt naturally by adding in a squirt of honey, maple syrup, or by stirring in fruit preserves or purees. For on-the-go options, look for yogurts that contain no artificial sweeteners and contain less than 2.5 grams of sugar per ounce, like the Siggi's brand.

2. VEGGIE PUFFS

puffs

The one time I bought my toddler puffs was during an airport delay  (desperate times, people!) and when I knew he'd be super squirmy on a flight and looking for snacks. But when I read the ingredients on the Sweet Potato Puffs I had just bought, I noticed that sweet potato wasn't actually an ingredient! While some puffs actually do contain sweet potato, broccoli, or kale "flour," these powders lack all the fibers of real veggies, and the nutrients from powdered vegetables may not be absorbed by the body the same way nutrients from whole vegetables are. Bottom line: Puffs should be served to kids in the same way you serve yourself refined carbohydrates: limited. For more nutritious snack choices, go for a no-sugar-added cereal, like cheerios.

3. CEREAL BARS & GRANOLA BARS

cereal bar

We get it: Kids love granola bars, and adults do too: They're easy, portable snacks that you can stick in your purse and pull out two weeks later if need be. But from a nutritional perspective, most bars contain nothing substantial but sugar--and most are so sickly sweet that they can prime your toddler's tastebuds to prefer overly sweet selections. In fact, the brands we researched contained THREE TYPES of processed sugar, unhealthy oils, and ingredient list thats way WAY longer than the front-of-box promise: "Made with real fruit and whole grains." There's nothing easier than making your own granola bars: We like to make a huge batch and freeze 'em, so they're just as convenient as anything processed, but way healthier. This five-ingredient recipe contains 0 added sugars and is made with nothing but whole grain goodness: In a bowl, combine 1.5 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1 cup milk (any kind will do), 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3/4 cup raisins. Pour into parchment-lined loaf pan, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes until ingredients are set. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into squares.

4. BABY FOOD POUCHES MADE WITH SPINACH OR OTHER VEGGIES

pouch

With names like "apple-spinach" and "zucchini-pear," they have to be good, right? While pouches serve their purpose (convenient, portable, etc.), relying on them as your tot's exclusive source of fruits and veggies can backfire. Check the ingredient list: Most contain "juice concentrates," which are a sneaky key word for sugar, and list the veggie as the very last ingredient, so there's not telling how much veggie they actually contain. Lastly, to maintain a shelf life, pouches are heated to super-hot temperatures, destroying the naturally-occuring nutrients that the fruits and veggies contain. (More on that here.) Consider making your own pouches, (we love the Infantino Squeeze Station) to control exactly what goes into them, and be sure to give your kids real fruits and veggies--you may be surprised to learn what they love!

5. TEETHING BISCUITS

teething buscuit

If they were labeled as what they really are ("Cookies for babies!"), no one would buy them. Hence the marketing ploy of calling them teething biscuits, which do little else to soothe teething any more so than than the calming effect of sticking a cookie in someones mouth. For serious teething relief that tastes good too, we swear by frozen bagels, frozen mango chunks or baby carrots in a mesh teether (like this here), or big thick carrots or frozen celery sticks for babies to gnaw on under adult supervision.

Mini Stuffing Bites

stuffing-bites.jpg

Why, I ask you, is stuffing limited only to Thanksgiving? This post is my plea to make Thanksgiving's best side dish extend throughout the winter. It's the ultimate comfort food--and this version redeems itself by containing also veggies and a fruit (and, ahem, sausage and butter).  I love these bite sized versions for many reasons:

  1. It's a universal rule that applies to 99 percent of kids across America: Bake anything in a muffin tin, and they're more likely to try it.
  2. These can can be made ahead and even stored in the freezer, so you can pop one out anytime—they make a great addition to your child's lunch boxes, or as a size to any meat-based dinner, or as an adorable party appetizer.
  3. Portion control. If you're the type that will go at the leftover stuffing with a spoon and without a stop button (insert self), these smaller versions can help reign it in.

Mini Sausage and Apple Stuffing Bites

Makes 24 Muffin Size Bites

Ingredients: 1 baguette cut into 1-inch cubes, about 8 cups 1 tablespoon butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 sausage links, castings removed (or 1 cup ground sausage) 2 apples, chopped 1 small yellow onion, diced, about 1 cup 4 celery stalks, diced, about 3/4 cup 2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme 2 cups organic low sodium chicken stock 3 large eggs, beaten ½ cup dried cranberries, optional

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 muffin tins or line with parchment liners. Set aside Place bread cubes onto cookie sheet, and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes until toasted. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté sausage in butter and oil until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Add apples, onions, celery, and thyme and sauté for 8-10 minutes more, until onion is translucent and celery is soft.  Remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, stir together sautéed ingredients, bread cubes, chicken stock, eggs, and cranberries and toss to thoroughly combine. Spoon the stuffing mixture into greased muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Pat the mixture down to pack it well. Bake for 25 minutes until bites are golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.