April 2012 Archives

Mac &Cheese small[1]crop.jpgMac ’n’ cheese continues to be one of the favorite American comfort foods. You can never have enough varieties to choose from of this cheesy, creamy family staple.

There’s not a kids’ menu in the United States that doesn’t offer some variation of macaroni and cheese — the favorite — if not the most popular — of American comfort foods. Kraft now sells more than one million boxes every day! The beauty of these easy mac 'n cheese recipes is that even the packaged version offers ample opportunity for Sneaky Chefs to slip in extra nutrition that even the toughest little critics won’t detect. Try to keep a straight face as your kids beg for more of these surprisingly healthy variations.

mac-n-cheese food dye.jpg

Note: Yellow macaroni and cheese usually contains yellow food dye (which has come under scrutiny for good reason), whereas the white version does not. If your child insists on yellow, you can add a slice of yellow American or cheddar cheese and a dash of paprika to the white cheese sauce, which will help safely change the color to yellow without affecting the taste.

Each of the nutritional boosters listed here are nutrient-dense superfoods and have been kid-tested and has proven to be undetectable in taste, texture and color. Start by adding the least amount recommended of just one of the nutritional boosters listed below. Add a little more each time you serve this dish (which is served in our house every day!).You can also mix two or more of thesuperfood boosters as long as the total is no more than about 1/2 cup total of puree per six ounce box of macaroni and cheese.

• 2 to 4 tablespoons butternut squash puree (frozen or baby food squash puree)

squash.jpg• 2 to 4 tablespoons Sneaky Chef Orange Puree (carrots & sweet potatoes) or the baby food equivalent)
baby food orange.jpg• 2 to 4 tablespoons Sneaky Chef White Puree (cauliflower & zucchini)

cauliflower smaller.jpg• 2 to 4 tablespoons Sneaky Chef White Bean Puree or hummus (more flavorful, so be careful)
white beans istock.jpg• 1 to 2 slices American cheese or 1⁄4 cup grated cheddar cheese - for extra protein & calciumshredded cheddar.jpg
What do you like to add to your family's mac 'n cheese? Please share with us!


artichokes steamed.jpgYes, I’m The Sneaky Chef and I’m known for hiding healthy foods in kids’ favorite meals…..however, this post is from my alter ego, The not so Sneaky Chef! There are certain fun, healthy foods that most kids will eat without any arm-twisting. This is probably the least sneaky of all of my tricks because most mothers have figured out which fruits and vegetables their kids will think of as snacks and not resist. More often than not, they are finger foods of some kind. For reasons child psychologists haven’t figured out, children like little foods they can hold in their hand and pop in their mouth. They provide kids with a kind of mini-adventure in the culinary realm. The moment they have to use a knife and fork, it isn’t so fun anymore.

Through experimentation, I have pinpointed the top 10 unusual, surprisingly popular fruits and vegetables that (most) kids will eat without a fight:

  1. Artichokes, whole
  2. Edamame (soybeans), in pod
  3. Strawberries
  4. Sweet green peas, in shell
  5. Grapes
  6. Cherries
  7. Pomegranates
  8. Popcorn
  9. Snap peas, raw
  10. Corn on the cob

cherries.jpgAnd just in case your kids aren't willing to try these new foods, here are my top 5 ways to entice kids to eat the above healthy foods in their natural, undisguised state:

  1. Offer the new food without competition - don't put out the snap peas you want them to try next to their favorite bowl of chips.
  2. Make sure the kids are hungry when you set out a new food.
  3. Don't tell them this new food is "healthy" or that they "must" try it.
  4. Eat it yourself - let the kids see you enjoying the food you want them to try.
  5. Call the new food a "special treat."

    What's your child's favorite fruit or vegetable?


Special thanks to Janet Lynch for this guest blog. Janet works with people to help them meet their weight-loss goals. Through a well chosen delivery diet many of the people she helps are able to easily achieve their goals.

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With today’s focus on better eating habits – and especially in light of the fact that the U.S. is estimated to have nearly 20 percent of its children in the overweight category – the upcoming Easter holiday could call for more healthy choices in kids’ baskets.
Yes, gone are the days of lining up the jelly bean trail and filling up the kids’ Easter baskets with chocolate bunnies and extra large Cadbury eggs – or at least those days should be gone in order to promote a healthier holiday as well as better overall food choices.
The truth is that the long term effects of eating sugary foods are not very sweet. Over time, an abundance of sugar in the body’s system can lead to reduced bacteria-fighting white blood cells and an overall compromised immune system. In addition, the blood glucose effect can even be a trigger for the onset of diabetes.


Some Healthier Alternatives
Although it may seem a bit out of the ordinary to forgo candy at Easter, there are a number of healthier alternatives – some that aren’t even consumable at all – that should be considered for kids today.
Filling Baskets with Treats You Can’t Eat
In taking the focus completely away from eating, there are a wide variety of items that can be used to overflow the Easter baskets of your little ones. In fact, many of these items may even be much more preferable and longer lasting than candy. Here are some suggestions:

● Small Toys – Depending upon the age of your children, small toys such as super balls, a set of jacks, or even a deck of cards can do the trick. For those with fancier tastes, gifts such as iPods or video games will also suffice.

● Movie Passes – Putting some movie passes or other types of gift certificates in kids’ baskets are another great way to say Happy Easter, without a lot of sugary candies.

● Money – For any age child, you would be hard pressed to find one who would not be happy to find money in their Easter basket. This can be cleverly disguised inside of a plastic egg or other similar item.
Good Tasting Treats that Won’t Cause a Sugar High
For those who simply want to keep Easter somewhat traditional in that baskets should be filled with something eatable, there are several suggestions that will help keep the tradition alive, while at the same time not spiking kids’ sugar levels. Some of these can include:
● Nuts and Seeds – Treats such as sunflower seeds, cashews, and pistachios can make for wonderful Easter basket treats, while also offering protein rather than a mouth full of sugar.

● Fresh Fruits – Fresh fruits such as blueberries, grapes, and strawberries can not only make for a healthy basket but can also add a great deal of color.

● Hard Boiled Eggs – Certainly, no Easter basket would be complete without some colorful hard boiled eggs. And, by adding just a touch of salt, these can be a much healthier alternative to the chocolate egg version.

Janet Lynch works with people to help them meet their weight-loss goals. Through a well chosen delivery diet many of the people she helps are able to easily achieve their goals.




I always draw a sharp breath when I see the school's number pop up on my caller ID in the middle of the day. I know I'm not the only parent who kisses their kids goodbye at the bus stop and silently prays it'll be just another normal, uneventful day. This time, it wasn't. My 11-year-old daughter, Samantha ("Sammy," as we call her), had fallen and hit her head on the pavement while playing touch football at recess. I asked all the questions moms ask -- is she OK, how serious do you think the injury is? The nurse told me Sammy seemed well enough to stay at school, but suggested I watch her carefully over the next few days to make sure she didn't show any signs of concussion. The hallmarks are headache, confusion, nausea or vomiting, slurred speech and fatigue. And they're often not immediately apparent. And with spring sports upon us, we should all be aware of these symptoms and how to treat them.

Sammy did, indeed, get increasingly dizzy, nauseous, confused (uh, even more than usual!) and complained of wicked headaches. She couldn't concentrate. And her vision became so blurred that she couldn't read a word. Her doctor diagnosed her with a mild concussion and prescribed both physical rest and "cognitive rest" for two weeks -- as in, no heart rate elevating physical activity of any kind -- and no texting, video games or any other kinds of electronic stimulation. Research has shown all of these things to be mentally taxing -- even more so than schoolwork -- which can slow the healing process. Sammy was allowed only one hour of TV a day, which had to be broken up into two half-hour sessions.

We're not all that big on screen time in our house in the first place. But take away that and reading and anything active and I couldn't help but think: What the heck is she going to do for the next 14 days? Sammy is super athletic -- not the type of kid who would be content to just blob around in bed. This was all completely new and eye-opening to me. No one ever talks about how to handle that aspect of helping a kid with a concussion, right? I'll tell you two key things that worked for me -- about how to pass the time, as well as how to actually speed the healing process.

Considering that nearly half a million kids are admitted to the ER each year with a traumatic brain injury -- and many more cases of concussion are diagnosed by pediatricians -- this advice may come in handy someday. (Of course, I do hope you won't ever have to use it!) First, Sammy and I raided the craft store. It was a goldmine. She spent hours and hours making friendship bracelets -- and have you seen all the other cute projects and kits that are out there, too? And since Sammy couldn't actually read, I got her a bunch of audio books (the entire Hunger Games book series downloaded from iTunes). Baking -- muffins, cookies, you name it -- also helped pass a lot of time. And we took a lot of nice, easy walks together.

What made the biggest difference, however: Her diet. A few days into Sammy's recovery, I remembered my New Year's Eve dinner partner, Dr. Michael Lewis, a physician who, after retiring recently following a career in the Army, started the Brain Health Education and Research Institute to continue his work on the role of omega-3s and concussions. Michael makes the case that omega-3s are the foundation of the brain and, if they are essential for the brain to develop, maybe they would help the brain heal when it gets damaged. There's some evidence that healthy doses of it may reduce inflammation in the brain and could even help it recover faster from an injury. Omega-3s are good for so many other reasons, anyway -- like heart health and mood -- that I thought why not give it a shot.

tuna in pita.jpgI mashed sardines into Sammy's beloved tuna salad. They don't really alter the flavor, but they do boost -- by a ton -- the amount of Omega-3s you get from just the tuna (while reducing the mercury). I fed her edamame, put extra beans and veggies in the muffins we baked, and sprinkled flax seed on her morning cereal -- all foods rich in Omega-3 fats. And I whipped up a batch of what I dubbed "concussion chowder," made with clams, sardines, broth and veggies. 

Within 7 days Sammy felt better, and by day 10 she was able to read again. The doctor had told me the symptoms would probably last two weeks -- and that Sammy wouldn't be able to read or concentrate until the tail end of that time. I have no way of knowing for sure if Omega-loading my daughter helped her recover as fast as she did. But I believe it did make a big impact. I'd tell any parent to give it a try. At the very least, you'll have a kid who is happier and heart-healthier. And who doesn't want that?

autism awareness.jpgThe following story was reprinted from The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue. I wanted to share it with you in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day.

“I am a mum of six children ranging from 19 to 8. My three youngest have autism.
Finding food that they would eat is hard enough but healthy food is even harder. We decided to take out a lot of the preservatives in their diet as well as getting them to eat healthier.
Finding your
book was a Godsend. While making up the purees, I despaired getting them to eat them. Then I stood in awe as my 9-year-old took off with the bowl that I had made the "Brainy Brownies" in and began to lick it. I can make up food now knowing that in most things they are getting such wonderful vegetables. Putting your White and Orange Puree into plain baked beans and watching them eating it is incredible.

My son’s teacher came up to me after two weeks and asked me what I had done. She told me that my son was now working alone without needing much help and his spelling and English had improved dramatically. My 9-year-old daughter is amazing. Since starting with the purees and other things in the book, her speech has improved dramatically and she had now at least twice the amount of words. When she got out of the car the other day, and just before she ran off to school, she turned and called out. "I love you mummy." I sat and cried because that is not something she says. If I could meet Missy I would give her the hugest hug because without this book I would definitely not have the kids I have today. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving my kids back to me.” Tina E., Australia (mum of 6)

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