Nutrients Found in Fruits & Vegetables (You May Never Have Heard of!)

Nutrients Found in Fruits & Vegetables (You May Never Have Heard of!)


Fruits and vegetables are an essential source of vitamins and minerals.  Today, much ado is made about individual vitamins and minerals.  But there are many more beneficial nutrients in fruits and vegetables than just the Vitamin C and Vitamin A we hear about a lot in the media. Here are some of the beneficial nutrients your kids get in the fruits and vegetables they eat that you might never have heard of.


IMG_2365Flavanoids are what give fruits and vegetables the vibrant colors in their skins.  There are many types of flavanoids, some of which are covered in more detail below.  Different flavanoids have been shown to confer different benefits, but flavanoids in general are powerful antioxidants that can help improve help by reducing inflammation and even stopping the growth of cancer cells.


Bioflavanoids are found in citrus fruits and they have the benefit of extending the value of vitamin C in the body.  This is a main reason why eating fresh fruits and vegetables is so beneficial – just taking a supplement with a single vitamin or mineral misses out on benefits like bioflavanoids.  Bioflavanoids lower cholesterol levels.  They also support joint collagen in cases of arthritis.


Quercetin is an important antioxidant that is especially good at reducing LDL cholesterol oxidation.  It also helps the body cope with allergens as well as lung and breathing problems.  Quercetin is found in apples, onions, and citrus fruits.


Beta-glucan supports the body’s white blood cells, which stabilizes and balances the immune system.  It is found in mushrooms.


Midnight black grapes

Anthocyanins are the most common flavanoid antioxidant, 9 times more common than any other flavanoid.  They are most commonly found in fruits with really strong colors, such as berries, red grapes, red cabbage, eggplants, and blood oranges.  Anthocyanins reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, fight cancer cells, and can even improve cognitive function.

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is used in many dietary supplements because of its immunity-boosting properties and its promotion of T-cell production.  It is also abundantly found in tea.  It also reduces the risk of colon and breast cancer.

Ellagic Acid

Berries in Jean Talon Montreal Market

Ellagic acid is an antioxidant and is also anti-carcinogenic, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract.  It also reduces cancer growth because it inhibits cell production of ATP.  Ellagic acid is found in walnuts, pomegranates, raspberries, and strawberries.



Beta-carotene is the most well-known of the carotenoids and one you have probably heard of.  Most people have heard that the beta-carotenes found in orange foods like carrots are good for eyesight.  This is because it is converted into Vitamin A in the liver.  But did you know it also decreases the amount of cholesterol in the liver?


Rose hips

One of my favorite supplements is grape seed extract, which contains antioxidants that can cross the blood-brain barrier to help heal the cells in your brain.  Proanthocyanidins, which used to be known as “condensed tannins,” are a flavanoid antioxidant found most potently in grape seeds and pine bark, but also appearing in apples, berries, barley, sorghum, rose hips, and rhubarb.  In addition to their powerful antioxidant properties, they also extend the life span of Vitamin C by 400% as well as increasing the amount of Vitamin E found in blood vessels.


Before making this soup, I toss all the tomatoes I need to use up in a big tub of water and wash them as I go.

Lycopenes have recently gained some fame for their ability to decrease the risk of prostate cancer.   They also help protect against heart disease.  Lycopenes are found most commonly in tomatoes, which has given ketchup and pasta sauce manufacturers cause to celebrate good sales as well as good health.  (Of course, fresh, raw vegetables are the best source of these nutrients!)



Flavones are another kind of flavanoid, responsible for the yellow coloring in foods like capsicum (bell pepper), yellow summer squash, and apricots.  They are incredibly powerful and have been shown to have the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of other flavanoids, as well as fighting allergies and cancers.  They also have neuroprotective properties, helping to keep brains functioning even better.  They also counteract stress-related diseases and can reduce the complications of diabetes.



Isoflavones may have helped get soy a bit of a bad reputation because of their tendency to mock estrogen.  However, isoflavones can help protect against hormone-related conditions in both men and women, including breast cancer and prostate cancer.  They also help increase bone density, reduce cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease.




Lutein is another nutrient that’s really good for you.  Lutein, which is found in blueberries and squashes, is important for healthy eyesight (and therefore very important for pregnant mums and growing kids to consume).  Not only that, but it’s also good for your heart, as it helps to prevent coronary artery disease.


This is by no means an exhaustive list of nutrients.  However, these are some nutrients you may never have heard of.  The benefits of eating a broad variety of plant and vegetable foods cannot be understated.  These secretive little nutrients should give you even more motivation to get your kids to eat their veggies!

Getting a Dehydrator!

Getting a Dehydrator!

Our new dehydrator full of its first fruits!  You can see my kids were so excited to try them they wouldn't even let me take a photo!

Our new dehydrator full of its first fruits! You can see my kids were so excited to try them they wouldn’t even let me take a photo!

I’ve finally gotten a dehydrator!  I’ve been wanting one for years and finally hubby bought one for me as a belated birthday present.  Truthfully, it’s as much a present for him as it is for me – he loves dehydrated food to take with him on his many camping/hiking expeditions.  Plus, the dehydrator can be used to make all sorts of exciting healthy snacks for the kids.

What Dehydrator to Get?

Dehydrated apple slices

Truthfully, I only have the one and have only used a few dehydrators in my time, so I can’t recommend a particular brand.  It’s worth checking online to see reviews.  To me, the most important factor would be how reliable it is: does it dehydrate evenly at the expected temperature and is it going to break down?  The answer to the first question should be “yes” and the second should be “no.”  Everything else is a perk, so whether you want to spend extra to get a fancier model dehydrator is entirely up to you.

Some dehydrators offer fancier features.  One of my favorite features is a timer, which is handy when you’re dehydrating stuff for long periods of time.  However, if you don’t go for this option (which we ultimately did not), you can always use a standard wall timer to turn off the dehydrator when the time is up.  Other features include special trays for dehydrating more liquid ingredients like fruit puree or yogurt.  But if you don’t have the right tray inserts, don’t fret: a piece of parchment paper will work just fine.

You will also be able to decide what shape of dehydrator you want.  Some are round and some are square or rectangular.  I have used both and by far prefer square or rectangular machines.  Round machine trays have a hole in the middle.  Aside from your fruit leather coming out looking like a very flat donut, it’s harder to cut nice even strips.  I like the dehydrators with square or rectangular trays that make it easy to evenly arrange produce in neat rows, and to slice fruit leather or yogurt into strips.

Another detail to consider is what kind of tray to use.  The trays in our dehydrator are made of sturdy plastic that is dishwasher safe and easy to clean.  However, the holes are quite large, which means you need an insert or parchment paper to dehydrate smaller items like berries or peas.  Other dehydrators have finer, more mesh-like trays, which are good for dehydrating smaller items, but which are also much more difficult to get completely clean.

Finally, you have to consider the size of the dehydrator you want.  Today, you can get little dehydrators with just 3 or 4 trays that can sit on your countertop, or you can opt for a giant industrial-size model with 16 trays that might have to sit on your kitchen floor.  Some models allow you to add or subtract trays so you can purchase extras if your original turns out not to have enough.  Consider how often you will be using your dehydrator.  If you plan to use it for small amounts frequently, then perhaps a small model will be sufficient.  But if you want to preserve large amounts of fruits and vegetables or you have a lot of hungry kids looking for healthy and delicious snacks, then you’ll want a bigger model.  A bigger dehydrator will also be good for people who have bumper crops of produce periodically during the year: during those times you’ll want to preserve as much as possible, but during the times when you’re not using it, you can put your big dehydrator away.

Dehydrating Fruit

Dehydrated kiwi fruit and nectarine

Of course as soon as I opened up the dehydrator’s box, I immediately set to work slicing up some fruit to put in it.  I filled most of it with sliced apples but also threw in some kiwi fruits, peaches, and a stray nectarine.

Most fruit should be sliced about 1/4 inch thick and be placed peel side down (bananas should be sliced slightly thinner).  I have a mandolin that slices apples the perfect thickness.  I picked mine up super cheap at Kmart, so if budget is an issue for you a cheap mandolin won’t break the bank and will save you lots of time.  Soft fruits like peaches, bananas, and kiwi fruit, however, are more easily sliced with a knife.

Be careful not to slice fruit too thin.  I tried that once in a desperate attempt to get my apples to come out crunchy (this won’t happen with a dehydrator – you need a freeze dry machine to get nice crunchy apple chips without cooking the heck out of them).  If you slice fruit too thin, it sticks to your dehydrator trays and is unpleasant to try to get off.  Fruit shrinks as it dehydrates and a very thin slice will turn as thin as the finest paper (even to the point of being able to see through it) if you don’t leave some thickness to it.

Dehydrating fruit should be set at 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celcius) (strict raw foodists should not set it to be above 118 F or 48 C).  If you’re doing what I did and putting in multiple types of fruit, check that they all take approximately the same amount of time to dehydrate.

Healthy Food for Kids from the Dehydrator

Dehydrated peaches

Dehydrated fruit is a perfect healthy snack for kids.  They will love it if you give them a small bag of dehydrated fruit as a school snack.  Dehydrated foods keep for a long time as well, so you can do big batches and then vary what fruits you give your kids.  Apples one day, kiwi fruit the next. Or mix them up and give your kids a bag of healthy mixed fruit. Yum!

You can also mix other foods in with dehydrated fruits.  Add some nuts, pretzels, or puffed cereals to create a trail mix free of excess salt and processed sugar.  A snack like this is perfect for kids on the go, especially if they’re being rushed from one after school sport to the next.  Fruits give your kids healthy sugars, nuts have beneficial protein and fat, and cereals contain carbohydrates that provide energy more slowly to sustain your kids.  Sprinkle a little bit of Himalayan salt onto the nuts to replenish needed electrolytes.

Dehydrated vegetables can also make other everyday foods more exciting.  Dehydrated tomatoes, for instance, can really add some life a salad or pasta dish.  And of course the concentrated flavor in dehydrated vegetables makes them into tasty snacks.  (Plus, you can use your dehydrator to make healthier potato chips – don’t tell the kids!)

Have Fun with Your Dehydrator!

In the coming weeks I am sure I will get up more posts about the healthy snacks I am experimenting with in my new toy.  The most important thing is to have fun.  It’s a great opportunity to get your kids involved.  Find out what fruits they would like to try dehydrating, or have them blend up their own unique combinations for fruit leather.  If you do your shopping in the market, let your kids each choose a few pieces of fruit to dehydrate for snack that week.  Getting a dehydrator could become one of your most exciting purchases!

Pesticides & Herbicides are Poison

Pesticides & Herbicides are Poison

Organic food is controversial in the eye of the public debate. Some people love it and some people hate it. But regardless of what you feel about it, when it comes to feeding your kids, it is the safest and most nutritious option.  Giving your kids organically grown produce is really the only way to avoid feeding your kids the pesticides and herbicides that are so liberally sprayed on conventionally grown produce today.

The produce you normally buy in supermarkets is what is known as “conventional” produce. It’s grown primarily by really big companies who have forced small farmers out of business, largely by cutting their costs as much as possible. They do this by farming in bulk and by trying to get as many fruits and vegetables as possible to grow on their land.

There are three main ways these companies use to grow as much as they possibly can: 1) they use fertilizers and chemicals to make produce grow faster and bigger; 2) they spray plants regularly with pesticides to keep bugs from eating crops; and 3) they plant as much as possible, as frequently as possible. All three of these things conspire to turn otherwise healthy fresh fruits and vegetables into vehicles of poison for your children.

Just as we are what we eat, plants are also what they “eat.” The soil they grow in provides them with all the nutrients that are then passed on to us. If the soil is full of chemicals and toxins, the fruits and vegetables grown therein will be full of chemicals and toxins. And if the fruits and vegetables are full of chemicals and toxins, then by feeding them to your children, you are feeding your children poison.

The same goes for plants that are heavily sprayed with pesticides or are coated with preservatives. Certain crops, like corn, greens (such as spinach or lettuce), and soft fruits (like berries or peaches) are sprayed more heavily than others. Other crops, like cucumbers and apples, are often coated with a preservative layer of wax to help them last longer in the cold storage they sit in until shops get around to selling them to you (which could be months and months). Now, pesticides really are poison, in every sense of the word. They are put on crops to kill animals that want to eat them. Just because your child is bigger than an insect and won’t die (at least immediately) from eating them does not make them any less poisonous. Would you offer your child some candy, saying, “Don’t worry, honey, it only contains a little bit of cyanide”? Of course not! Nobody wants to feed their child poison. The big companies are just hoping you don’t realize that the products they’re selling you are coated in it.

As an example, one of the most commonly use pesticides is taken from a bacterium called bacillus thuringiensis (“Bt”) that contains a powerful insect-killing toxin. When mice were fed vegetables sprayed with this chemical, they not only had powerful immune responses,[i] but the chemical even damaged their intestines![ii] But not only do mice[iii] and rats[iv] react to this chemical, so do humans.[v] People exposed to the chemical exhibit allergy-like reactions[vi] – even if they’re only handling the plants, not eating them.[vii] Yet, you are feeding your child this toxin, or any number of other pesticide toxins, every time you feed them conventionally grown fruits and vegetables!

Not only are plants sprayed with pesticides, but they are also sprayed with harsh herbicides designed to kill weeds. The most common, and strongest, of these is called Roundup (you have probably heard of it). Tests reveal that this herbicide is incredibly toxic. When rats were given water with trace amounts of Roundup in it (the levels legally allowed in our drinking water supply), they suffered from a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors. When they ate corn with trace amounts of Roundup, they suffered severe organ damage, including liver and kidney damage.[viii]   But you are feeding this poison to your children whenever you give them any food not grown organically!

To make matters worse, processed foods are often made with genetically modified (GM) fruits and vegetables. Many of these, such as rice, corn, and soy, actually have the gene for the harmful Bt toxin and/or the Roundup herbicide coded into their cells! Rats that were fed the same variety of GM corn used in breakfast cereals, corn tortillas, and corn chips developed large tumors and more than half of them died early deaths.[ix] So if you feed your child genetically modified fruits and veggies, there is no physical way to wash it off. You are literally feeding your child poisonous plants.

Organic farms are not allowed to use GM seeds.  They might use some sprays, but they are all natural, not the harsh poisonous chemicals used on conventional produce.  Unless you can grow your own fruits and vegetables, organic food is the best and healthiest option for your kids.

[i] Vazquez et al, “Intragastric and intraperitoneal administration of Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis induces systemic and mucosal antibody responses in mice,” 1897–1912; Vazquez et al, “Characterization of the mucosal and systemic immune response induced by Cry1Ac protein from Bacillus thuringiensis HD 73 in mice,” Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 33 (2000): 147–155; and Vazquez et al, “Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent systemic and mucosal adjuvant,” Scandanavian Journal of Immunology 49 (1999): 578–584. See also Vazquez-Padron et al., 147 (2000b).

[ii] Nagui H. Fares, Adel K. El-Sayed, “Fine Structural Changes in the Ileum of Mice Fed on Endotoxin Treated Potatoes and Transgenic Potatoes,” Natural Toxins 6, no. 6 (1998): 219–233.

[iii] Alberto Finamore, et al, “Intestinal and Peripheral Immune Response to MON810 Maize Ingestion in Weaning and Old Mice,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2008, 56 (23), pp 11533–11539, November 14, 2008.

[iv] Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. 2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health . International Journal of Biological Sciences 2009; 5(7):706-726; and Seralini GE, Cellier D, Spiroux de Vendomois J. 2007, New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified maize reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2007;52:596-602.

[v] See for example “Bt cotton causing allergic reaction in MP; cattle dead,” Bhopal, Nov. 23, 2005.

[vi] M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852; and M.A. Noble, P.D. Riben, and G. J. Cook, Microbiological and epidemiological surveillance program to monitor the health effects of Foray 48B BTK spray (Vancouver, B.C.: Ministry of Forests, Province of British Columbi, Sep. 30, 1992).

[vii] Ashish Gupta et. al., “Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers’ Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh),” Investigation Report, Oct–Dec 2005; and M. Green, et al., “Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86,” Amer. J. Public Health 80, no. 7(1990): 848–852; and M.A. Noble, P.D. Riben, and G. J. Cook, Microbiological and epidemiological surveillance program to monitor the health effects of Foray 48B BTK spray (Vancouver, B.C.: Ministry of Forests, Province of British Columbi, Sep. 30, 1992).

[viii] Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. 2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health . International Journal of Biological Sciences 2009; 5(7):706-726.

[ix] Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier and Gilles-Eric Séralini. 2009, A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health . International Journal of Biological Sciences 2009; 5(7):706-726.

Teaching Good Nutrition Begins in Infancy

Teaching Good Nutrition Begins in Infancy

We hear the mantra that the very beginning of life is when babies learn the most as the reason why we should focus on their education from the very beginning.  But we all know from personal experience that nobody actually remembers being a baby.  It’s hard to associate a period of our own lives that nobody can even remember with being the most ideal time for learning.  Yet, even nutrition needs to be taught from the earliest stages, even in infancy, before your child even reaches the age of one!

Late last year yet another study was released that confirms this once again.  What babies were fed in infancy directly correlated to what they consumed later in life, at age six.  Babies who were fed unhealthy foods in infancy grew into children who were more than twice as likely to consume unhealthy foods as children – and of course, many other studies confirm that behaviors cemented in childhood are carried through into adulthood.  In essence, what you choose to feed your baby directly impacts how they will choose to eat during the rest of their lives.

Did you know that over 30% of 6-year-olds consume fruit less than once daily?  Nearly 20% of 6-year-olds consume vegetables less than once daily.  (Personally, I do not even know what these kids could possibly be eating, since fruits and vegetables are virtually all my kids eat!)  Even the US government recommends a minimum five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, so these kids are definitely not meeting nutritional guidelines, not even nutritional guidelines I find sorely lacking.

This study, done by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), found that kids who were fed less than one serving of fruits and vegetables per day in infancy were more than twice as likely to eat less than one serving per day of fruits and vegetables when they were six years old.  No wonder the AAP is getting desperate to get kids to eat their fruits and veggies in any way possible!

Starting babies out eating fruits and vegetables is the easiest thing in the world.  Babies are a captive audience when it comes to food.  They only experience as much variety as you provide them with and their taste buds are uncorrupted by flavors like sugar and salt.  All babies naturally gravitate toward sweet flavors (actually, I think most people do), which makes it even easier to give them fruits and vegetables as kids.  I fed my babies a wide variety of sweet foods when I started them on solids: stewed fruits like apples and pears, mashed soft fruits like bananas (especially delicious mixed with some mashed avocado) and ripe peach flesh, and steamed sweet vegetables like purple and orange sweet potatoes or carrots.

My kids generally had one to two servings of oatmeal (cooked using expressed breast milk for added nutrition), one serving of a sweet fruit or vegetable, and one serving of a savory vegetable (such as pureed spinach or peas) per meal.  I would also mix savory and sweet vegetables together (such as peas and carrots or spinach and butternut squash/pumpkin) and might even add fruit (pears with peas and carrots, for instance).  For ideas, look no further than your local grocery store – what fruit and vegetables combinations are being sold in prepackaged baby foods?  Those foods are tried and tested, so you know the flavors go together well.

I always made all my own baby food, which is easier than it sounds.  I often made extra of whatever I was preparing for dinner and simply set it aside and pureed it.  Other times, I would specifically cook up a batch for the baby but I would freeze the majority of it in quarter-cup ice cube trays.  That way it took maximum a half an hour of time per week to make separate food for the baby.  Of course, you could just buy baby food! Today the range of organic baby food free of added sugar, salt, and preservatives is growing.

Studies like this one show just how important it is to start educating your kids about nutrition from the very beginning.  Their first lessons start when they first start solids!

Inspire Healthy Kids: Getting Toddlers & Children Involved – How to Get Kids to Try New Foods

Inspire Healthy Kids: Getting Toddlers & Children Involved – How to Get Kids to Try New Foods

Yesterday I spoke about how to talk to teenagers about the importance of a healthy diet. Today I’d like to share some ideas on how to get younger kids involved, too.  Here are some ideas on ways to inspire healthy kids from a very young age!

Feed Them Healthy Food

Toddlers and young children are very impressionable and generally really look up to their parents.  Ultimately, our kids will imitate many things we say and do, our mannerisms, our values, and even our diets.  We all do some things our parents did, even if we don’t realize it.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Also, remember that “comfort” food is the food we found comforting when we grew up.  If our childhood favorite was grilled brussels sprouts or kale chips, those are the things we will return to for good feelings later in life.  So just by feeding kids healthy food from the very beginning you are setting them up for a lifetime of returning to the foods you fed them as children.

Take Them Shopping

One great way to get your kids involved is to take them food shopping with you.  Show them the different fruits and vegetables.  Let them see different colors and feel different textures.  Smooth purple eggplant, fuzzy brown kiwi fruit, dimpled orange mandarin, bumpy green kale… There are so many types and textures of fruits and vegetables.

Next, help them decide on some items to buy.  Let them take control of the dinner menu by choosing fruits and vegetables to incorporate.  It’s fine if they choose the same old ones they already eat and enjoy.  If it’s fresh fruit and vegetables, it is still healthy!  This won’t 100% guarantee that they’ll eat it (kids can be so unpredictable) but as long as you have an adventurous spirit, too, at least you can eat it up, and they will see you doing so.  This will encourage kids to try and eat more in the future.

Encourage kids to select at least one new fruit or vegetable (but not more than one or two at a time, or it can be overwhelming… fun in the store might be overload at home).  If it’s new to you, then be adventurous and learn how to cook and prepare it.  Make it exciting and get your child involved, too.

Unfortunately, grocery stores can be quagmires, with lots of junk food and colorful packaging designed to appeal to kids.  So don’t take them to the supermarket.  Take them instead to the farmer’s market or a specialized fruit and vegetable stand.  This removes most of the junk food from the equation.

Get Them to Try New Foods

Many kids have aversions or fears of unknown foods.  It’s not good to force it on them, but at the same time, it is important that kids learn to try new foods.  It can be frustrating as a parent to have a child who will only eat the same two or three vegetables.  It also makes you concerned about how to make sure they’re getting the right amounts and combinations of vitamins and minerals.  Kids need a varied diet and a balanced diet.

There are some steps you can slowly take to expose your child to new foods:

  1. Show them the uncut, uncooked food. Let them touch it, play with it, etc.
  2. Show them the cut, uncooked food.  Let them touch it, play with it, etc.
  3. If it is an item (like eggplant) that cannot be eaten raw, show them the cooked food. Let them touch it, play with it, etc.
  4. Give them a piece of the item and encourage them to lick it.  Remind them it’s not going IN their mouth and they do not have to eat it.  Show them a demonstration.  Perhaps make it part of an activity that involves licking many other items they already like.  Once they lick it, talk to them about it.  Ask them how they would describe it.  Is it bumpy or smooth? Hard or soft?  Wet or dry? The more non-taste adjectives you can come up with, the better.  Repeat step 4 as many times as necessary until the child is comfortable with the new food.
  5. Give them a piece and encourage them to take it in their mouth.  Remind them they are comfortable with licking it and they do not have to chew or eat it.  If they are completely unwilling, go back to step 4.  Once they have it in their mouth, have them roll it around.  Ask them lots of questions about it, as you did with step 4.  Ask them if it feels different in their mouth than when they licked it.  If they seem okay with it, ask them about the taste.  Repeat step 5 until the child is comfortable with the new food.
  6. Give them a piece and encourage them to chew it.  Remind them that they are comfortable with licking it and holding it in their mouth, and make it clear they do not have to eat it.  Provide them with a receptacle in case they want to spit it out.  If they are unwilling to do so, repeat step 5.  Once they chew it, ask them questions about it.  What kind of texture was it? What noises did it make when they chewed it?  Was it soft or hard? Was it easy to chew?  Ask them to describe the flavor.  Did it taste different from when they licked it and held it in their mouth?
  7. Give them a piece and encourage them to eat it.  Go through steps 4, 5, and 6 in order and then simply ask them to swallow.  If they are unwilling, stop at step 6.  If they do swallow it, congratulations! Your child just ate the new food!  Once they swallow ask them questions about it.  Did they taste anything when they swallowed it, and if so, what? Did they taste anything after they swallowed it?  How did it feel as it went down their throat?  Would they be willing to do this again?

I recommend doing one step per day for a one-week plan to introduce one new food per week until they’re comfortable.  You may find it takes much longer, especially if your child has serious food issues or texture aversion.  The slow introduction process will also make it easier for you to rule out any potential allergies, if that’s a big concern for you.  Of course, if you ask your child to lick it and she wants to eat it, then she’s definitely more open to new experiences and might breeze through the steps all in one shot.

The great thing is that once they learn that tasting new foods is fun, they won’t be afraid of it anymore.  Last night I gave my boys a new fruit, an achacha.  It is delicious, with a flavor reminiscent of mangosteen.  Of course they loved it (how can you not love something that tastes like mangosteen?!).  But they both tried it and loved it.  I didn’t have to force them.  They both wanted it.  Persistence and patience pays off.

Get Them Gardening

Kids who grow things are more willing to eat them.  Investing their time and effort in caring for a plant, watching it slowly blossom and then bear fruit, and then finally being able to pick it makes kids feel more connected to their food.

Remember, you don’t need to be a farmer to do this, and you don’t even need a backyard.  My brother-in-law grows vegetables in pots in his small apartment.  His two young daughters love it!  Most plants do not require a lot of effort, so you only need to devote a few minutes per day in giving the plant a bit of water, ensuring it is getting enough sunlight, and teaching your child about it.  Of course, the more your toddler or young child is able to be involved, the better.  Let her do the watering, sprinkle plant food on it, move it into the sun, and talk to her a lot about how the plant is growing food for her to eat.

I recommend starting with vegetables she can eat raw, right off the plant.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, capsicum/bell pepper, and even zucchini are good options.  That way when the first veggies are ready to be picked she can try some straight away.  Choose vegetables she can watch grow and get excited about.  So avoid things like onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots, or you’ll likely be answering the same questions about how big the vegetable is day after day.

Let Them Cook

Kids who get involved in cooking are more likely to eat what they’ve cooked.  As with the gardening option, they feel more connected to food they helped prepare.  Give toddlers and young children easy tasks like mixing things together or helping pour.  For example, if you want to make a dish of rice with vegetables, let her pour the cups of rice and water into the pot, bowl, or rice cooker.  When it is ready to be assembled, let her add the veggies/seeds/nuts/spices and stir them in (tomatoes are an amazing one, as are pine nuts, sesame seeds, and grated vegetables like zucchini or carrot… the possibilities with a dish like this are endless).

This technique can be applied for nearly any meal.  Of course it may slow down your cooking time as you supervise your little assistant.  But then again, it may not.  By getting your kids involved as you cook, you guarantee they won’t be interrupting you every five minutes, making a mess you later have to clean up, or clinging to your skirts whining.  It’s actually a great stimulating activity, so it could be a real win-win situation!


I hope these tips help you get your young children to be more involved.  The more involved kids are in their relationship with healthy food, and the more willing they are to try new healthy foods, the longer their relationship with healthy food will last.  This is how to set your kids up not just for a healthy childhood, but for a healthy life.

The (Healthy) Icing on the Cake

The (Healthy) Icing on the Cake

Icing in a bowl

Tomorrow is Australia Day, so in preparation for the celebrations I’ve decided to share a recipe for Lamingtons, an Australia Day tradition.  Lamingtons are basically a sponge cake, cut in squares, then covered in chocolate icing and desiccated coconut.  So before I share the lamingtons recipe with you, I want to share with you a recipe for a healthy, raw vegan, gluten free chocolate icing.

What is the difference between icing and frosting? Well, icing is thinner and frosting is thicker! At least that’s my definition!  This recipe is quite thin and so it is good for dipping, pouring, or spreading in a very thin layer.  It is really versatile, too.

Make sure the bananas you’re using are super ripe, as that is a big source of sweetness in the recipe, plus you want them to blend up nice and smooth.

Chocolate icing in blender

Healthy Raw Vegan Gluten Free Sugar Free Chocolate Banana Icing

This icing is amazing.  We just couldn’t stop licking our fingers, and of course the kids loved it!  It is primarily a chocolate icing but the flavors of banana and coconut do come through a bit.  To reduce those flavors, you can try increasing the amount of cacao powder and agave syrup you add, but as I’m happier with some subtle natural flavor coming through I haven’t tried this, so you’ll have to experiment and leave a note sharing how it worked for you!


3 small extremely ripe organic bananas
1/3 c. organic dates
2 tbsp raw organic coconut oil
3 tbsp raw organic agave nectar (honey also works fine)
3 tbsp organic cacao powder
1 & 1/2 tbsp raw organic almond milk


  1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend on high for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Pour into a bowl or container and spread on cakes, cookies, bread, or anything else you can think of!


  • For a less sweet variety, omit the agave syrup/honey.
  • For those allergic to nuts, substitute oat or coconut milk for the almond milk.
  • To remove the chocolate, substitute 2 tbsp superfine coconut flour for the cacao powder.
  • To change the flavor, remove the chocolate as per the above step, then add in a few drops of the essence of the flavor you want to add, such as vanilla, almond, or hazelnut.  Make sure it is the kind of flavor that is compatible with the flavors of coconut and banana, as these flavors will come through a bit.

Raw Vegan Strawberry-Banana Smoothie/Ice Cream

Raw Vegan Strawberry-Banana Smoothie/Ice Cream

My husband is the champion of finding amazing deals on fruit and vegetables.  In fact, he taught me how to shop, back when we were first dating!  There I was, buying whatever took my fancy that day, for full price, until he came along and showed me how to really shop the sales.  I’ve always loved farmer’s markets, but never did I truly know how to get a deal until I met him.  He is the master of getting lots and lots of something for nothing (or pretty close to it).

The result of this shopping strategy is that we often have far more of a given ingredient than most people would ever buy at once.  I once bought 13 kilograms (that’s just shy of 30 pounds) of bananas for $3.  Even my hubby was impressed with that one.  It’s not unusual for an entire case of mushrooms, tomatoes, or zucchini to find its way into our fridge.  The challenge then is to find a way to use it all up.


This morning, my husband triumphantly brought home some strawberries.  Over 50 punnets of strawberries, to be precise.  That’s over 10 kg of strawberries!  Of course, some of the strawberries weren’t in the best condition, but the vast majority were beautiful.  The question: How do I use them?!  Not only that, but strawberries go off quickly, especially the kind you can pick up on the cheap, so I figure I have just a day or two to use them up.  So I suppose for the next couple of days I’ll share some recipes with you!

Just some of the 50 punnets of strawberries my husband brought home this morning.

Just some of the 50 punnets of strawberries my husband brought home this morning.

Our instant go-to use for most fruits, when we have too much to handle, is to smoothie them.  Chuck them in the blender and whizz them up.  And what could be better than a strawberry-banana smoothie?!

Not only that, but we like having strawberries year-round in our smoothies.  We could just buy a bag in the grocery store’s frozen food section, but in my mind that’s not ideal.  Strawberries as a crop are very highly sprayed.  I always make sure to wash my strawberries really well before I use them (even if they are organic – organic crops are still treated, just with natural methods).  Frozen strawberries in the supermarket are not washed to my standards before being flash-frozen.  I also find they are not the highest quality.

How to freeze strawberries

To freeze strawberries, first wash them and dry them well.  Then cut off the green tops and any bad spots.  (Use the freshest strawberries you can find unless you also have a husband who brings home 50 punnets of them at a time.)  Line a baking sheet with wax/baking paper.  Then place the strawberries, cut side down, on the tray, ensuring that none of them are touching.  Put the tray in the freezer for a couple of hours.  Pull it out and place the strawberries in a ziplock bag, returning them to the freezer as quickly as possible.

This method ensures that next time you want strawberries in your smoothie, you won’t have to hack them off from a giant frozen strawberry block.  They’ll each be nicely individual and not stuck together!  By placing them on baking paper, you will find they are extremely easy to remove and also, you won’t really need to clean the tray when you’re done. Just rinse and repeat!  If you plan to do this multiple times, you can even reuse the same baking paper.  Waste not, want not!

Smoothies are a great way to get extra vitamins and minerals into your kids.  Use a higher proportion of frozen ingredients to get a more “ice cream”-like consistency.  My toddler is an easy sell.  If it looks like ice cream and tastes like ice cream, he doesn’t need to know it’s pure fruit.  In our house, smoothies are more than just “breakfast” – they’re a “treat” our boys look forward to!

Strawberry Banana Smoothie/Ice Cream


1 large banana
1 punnet (250 g) strawberries
Juice of 1 freshly squeezed orange


  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Enjoy!


  • Use frozen bananas and frozen strawberries to turn it into ice cream.
  • Substitute whey for the orange juice for a protein boost.
  • Substitute plain yogurt for the orange juice for a probiotic boost.
  • Vary the amount of strawberry and banana to suit your tastes.  I like to add a few extra strawberries because they’re so delicious (and I feel like the flavor of banana is really strong).
  • Use a very ripe banana or substitute apple juice for the orange juice to make the smoothie sweeter.

Enjoy your strawberries!  Coming up: gluten free strawberry pancakes and sugar free strawberry frozen yogurt.

Health Benefits of the Paleo Diet for Kids

Health Benefits of the Paleo Diet for Kids

For the past couple of days, I’ll admit it, I’ve been pretty hard on the Paleo Diet.  Could it be more obvious that I’m not a fan of low-carb diets?  I believe that the key to inspiring kids to eat a healthy diet is an appropriate balance of healthy foods.  The Paleo Diet never claims that foods like whole grains and legumes are unhealthy – it merely claims they make you fat.  And because the Paleo Diet is a low carb weight loss diet dressed up like an ideological attempt to get in touch with our cro-magnon roots, its true goal is not to get adherents to eat healthy, as one might first assume, but rather to get adherents to lose weight through carbohydrate deprivation.

Fresh fruit - banana, strawberry, pineapple, blueberry

Statements like this one, from

Eat high-sugar fruits in moderation. They’re great for you, but it’s easy to overdo it. Remember, your caveman ancestors didn’t have access to Florida’s orange groves 24/7, so you probably shouldn’t try to eat a bushel of oranges in your next paleo diet meal.

bring to light this wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing issue with the paleo diet.  My friends, our caveman ancestors would have eaten a bushel of oranges a day on days when oranges were in season. Of course they would have! It would have been folly not to.  Our ancestors would also have dried fruit and eaten it all year round.  But when it was in season, they would have eaten as much fresh fruit as they possibly could have. And it’s healthy for your kids to eat lots of fruit!  It’s far better than sweets and the sugars it contains won’t make your kids fat.  They can eat as many bananas and oranges as they want and as long as they’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, they won’t get fat from fruit.  (Incidentally, there is even a whole group of fruitarians out there who eat only fruit, but the health impacts of this kind of extreme diet on children is a post for another day.)  Don’t kid yourself, folks – the paleo diet is a low-carb weight loss diet and nothing more.

Having said all of that, the paleo diet does have some good points, some things that do make it advantageous for children’s health.  It advocates completely eliminating all sweets and processed meats.  This is fantastic! And by cutting out carbohydrates on the Paleo Diet, potato chips, French fries, white bread, and white rice are no longer being consumed.  These are really fantastic steps.  If more people would adopt these basic tenets of the paleo diet it would go a long way to reducing the obesity epidemic among our children.

But these benefits do not outweigh the health dangers of putting your child on the paleo diet I have explored in the last two days.  Cut out the processed foods, the white grains, and the sweets, and you’ll start seeing some of the paleo diet benefits over time.  But if you cut out the good stuff, too, like legumes and grains, restrict the vegetables your kids can eat, and increase their meat consumption, you are putting them at risk of serious health problems.  As adults, we can make the decision to put our health at risk.  We can decide to do foolish things that we know will make us sick.  But should we really enforce these decisions – which we know will have negative consequences – on our children, too?

I think not.

Take the good parts of the Paleo Diet and apply them in your kids’ diets right now.  I promise they will do a world of good.  But leave the rest behind.

Read more about the Paleo Diet:
What is the Paleo Diet?
Is the Paleo Diet Healthy for Kids? (Part 1)
Is the Paleo Diet Healthy for Kids? (Part 2)