Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries

Cookbook Review: It all beings with food.

It All Begins with Food: From Baby’s First Foods to Wholesome Family Meals: Over 120 Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating and Healthy Living – Cookbook review

Just a little over a month ago, the nutrifoodie in me was surprised when I peeked into my mailbox:  Food Bloggers of Canada had selected me to receive a copy of “It All Begins with Food” to review it.  I’m assuming they picked me, as my niche seems to constantly revolve around children and the parents who love them dearly (is that you?).

“It all begins with food” is one of the best introductions to this cookbook.  It really shares the viewpoint behind the vision of Leah Garrad-Cole’s mantra of healthy living and her company Love Child Organics.  Teaching them through my Nutrition Bites business services, this book has given me hope that there are cookbooks out there for the kitchen and not just the coffee table or pristine cabinet.  This is a cookbook that will get messy pages fast because you will probably want to use almost every recipe.

Being a nutrition expert myself, I am so happy that the author explains that this is from a mom to a mom.  Her expertise is in experience and she has certain views that might not be completely supported by professionals in my field.  Leah’s views on GMO and understanding of pesticides are one sided yet has made her baby food company known and very successful, as that is what Canadians are asking for.  She does a good job of explaining the organic movement but there are points missing that could only come from an education of sciences (nutrition, agriculture, etc.).  The repetitive “from a BPA-free can” in the ingredient lists should have been in the introduction in my opinion as more of an education rather than a constant stressor for parents that might not have that option.  I realize the health risks involved, so don’t misunderstand me.  I just think that it is very hard to tell when shopping since those aren’t labelled on most products, and could cause a reader to not make the recipe.  Being a Professional Home Economist, I am truly aware of what stops the average consumer from cooking at home. Ok, I’m done with the few warnings because the nutrition science nerd wouldn’t feel comfortable not ethically pointing these out to the average consumer.  It’s one thing to take with a grain of salt, and with this cookbook, you might really be looking hard to find another grain of it – because it’s that healthy!

Let’s start from the beginning.  The cover looks like natural and “normal” foods including burgers and pizza buns that kids would recognize – bonus!  Event the picky eaters will not have many complaints if you cook recipes from this book.

The first 81 pages consist of a guide interlaced with coloured charts, but not the obviously childish bright and primary colours, perfectly styled for the mom in mind (who needs Crayola colours – we are a bit more grown up than that!).  The ingredients are well explained but not always available.  It does offer a few substitution suggestions in one of the pages of the beginning guide, so be sure to look if you get stuck at home.  The chapter titles are simple and colour coded to allow any reader to quickly find what they are looking for.  On almost every page are tips and tricks to help too – it’s reminds me of Looneyspoons & Homegrown the Cookbook.  One example is providing complimenting foods that might pair well with certain recipes.


From a health perspective, I truly think the modern mom will appreciate the identifying icons with each title make it easier to identify which are free of wheat, dairy, eggs, etc.  I love that she lists key nutrients (but I did not verify them) and she also helps.  I highly recommend page 126: The Smooth O Matic graphics spread over two pages is perfect for busy mornings or trying to use up ingredients you already have on hand.


Her values of NOT hiding vegetables in kid foods is something that I would totally support.  I suggest parents to try many things before resorting to this tactic.  As a recipe developer, myself (I rarely have time in between teaching kids to cook with Nutrition Bites, raising my own growing daughters, and running my new Growing Up Healthy company), I absolutely am in love with her placing a space of every recipe for “Date Tried”.  Yet, this cookbook is so pretty I wonder if anyone would write in this gorgeous book – please do and just get a second copy when it becomes illegible or falling apart.  I guess based on the quality of cover and pages you will probably get 5-10 years depending on how much you make time for cooking (you should plan it into your schedule at least one day more than you are doing right now!).


The beauty of all the recipes is the simplicity of them that rely on the flavours and colours of food to make them irresistible to try. They are so gorgeous, you start eating you’re your eyes and any adult would be tempted to make most of these recipes for themselves.


The recipes are so kid and family friendly using whole food ingredients that I completely support this cookbook.  I encourage many of these simple but flavourful dishes. Working with kids in my business this is definitely a cookbook I will be using and recommending to parents.  It could have been a two volume book – one as a guide – one as a cookbook. Her passion for the healthiest options shines through.  Her use of nutrient-dense foods is obvious for us in nutrition and she is truly a visionary I can completely identify with.  We care about our children, your children and everyone’s daily health through delicious food that is easy to cook at home.

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Posted in Gluten Free, Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

I’m officially… a Love Bug. 

Being a mom of two girls has had its challenges. In the beginning, I thought if they could wipe their bum and sleep through the night it would just be smooth sailing from there.

HA HA!

It’s ok. You can laugh at me too. Every stage with child rearing has its benefits & struggles.

Starting daycare or school is thought to be the ultimate in breaks. We get our life back, we get to go back to work, no extra daycare costs …. um, no!

Having another set of hands and feet other than our own is even more complicated when we can’t be with them constantly to take care of them.

That’s when I discovered Lovable Labels. I purchased a set for each of my daughters.

img_9059

(And one package has lasted until now!)

It was a Canadian company that made my life easier.  No more worrying about what wouldn’t be making it home that day (1 mitten, new indoor shoes, the expensive lunch thermos, etc.).  With Costco dressing many kids in durable snowsuits and backpacks, there’s bound to be a mix up of who’s is who’s.

Lovable Labels are made for a lifetime of use and stand up against the toughest kids.  They are:

  • Waterproof
  • Dishwasher Safe (Tested and true by this Professional Home Economist!)
  • Microwave Safe
  • UV Resistant
  • Peel & Stick (Except for the Iron-ons & non-label products)
  • Laundry Safe (Clothing labels only)
  • Bleach Safe

So I’ve been using these labels ever since. Well, mostly my kids’ stuff but there are tons of uses for adults too including work lunch containers (no missing leftovers from the lunch room fridge!), seniors in long-term care/nursing homes, sports (hockey, soccer, basketball, etc) equipment, students sharing dorm rooms/bathrooms etc.  Plus there are household labels (see my Top 5 list below!) that help homes stay organized inside (kitchen, office, crafts) and outside (recycling, compost & garbage bins!).

I even used them to do a fundraiser for the charity I work with, NSTEP, a few years back.

Recently I wanted to run a free promotion for my business, Nutrition Bites. As a Mompreneur, I have a home-based business but use expos to showcase as my temporary storefront. This season I was booked back to back at VegFest London and Whoa Mama! Marketplace. Many of my clients are parents & children. So what better way to advertise & market healthy eating to kids AND help out parents than to offer customized Lovable Labels to them as they walked by!!!?  I thought it was a very useful idea!

Here’s what my custom Nutrition Bites Lovable Labels looked like:


I attached them to a sheet explaining what they were & how to use them. You should have seen the kids light up! FREE stickers for their lunches? One girl took a few extras to share with her friends.

It was my little part to be marketing HEALTHY messages to kids and go up against the giants that unethically use millions of dollars trying to get low-density nutrition/foods into your kids all day long! (Can you tell I’m a bit passionate about health for kids & communities?!)

One of the best parts of ordering from Lovable Labels was their personalized touches:

A handwritten note to me!


After that I couldn’t help but be even more of a “Love Bug” unofficially of Lovable Labels.  Who takes the time to appreciate a customer’s orders?  This small, Canadian company sure does!

So I decided to support their company by registering to be an official Lovable Label Love Bug.  It was pretty easy, and within a few weeks my  Welcome Package arrived so I could share my love. All I do is be me: share my love of Lovable Labels with others.

What do you get?

  • Giveaways (FREE stuff for you!) – Seasons, themes, etc.
  • Cool ideas on how to use Lovable Labels from me, Sandra, aka Nutrition Bites

What I get?

  • Monthly Incentives & Free Products to review – No clue what these are yet but I plan on sharing them with my followers & Nutrition Bites customers somehow!  (Check out #1 on my Top 5 list below!)
  • Welcome Package to launch my love to you and the rest of the world – GIVEAWAY from me!
  • Content ideas for my blog, social media and home to get creative with Lovable Labels

So with all of the uses for Lovable Labels, I’m going to share with you MY list of the top 5 products I love.

Top 5 List of Lovable Label Products

From a Nutrition Consultant & Professional Home Economist

1. Lil’ Dose of Love Labels: Tutti Frutti

An extra little gift for being Customer of the Day (another sweet thing Lovable Labels does that I had no clue about – who doesn’t love FREE stuff and surprises!?) were these amazing labels.  Their website talks about giving kids positive messages in their lunches & backpacks but I thought – wow – exactly what I believe in – using FRUIT, not candy, to market to kids.  Plus the punny food humour is sure to make any kid-at-heart smile!


2. Allergy Alert Labels

Food allergies can be deadly for some.  Most are aware of this fact as schools, daycares and camps are trying to protect those that have severe allergies.  These labels help to remind others when you can’t be there, to not give your child certain allergens.  Allergy Alert Labels can also just be used for those wanting to have a certain lifestyle – like vegetarianism, veganism, gluten-free, etc.  And if your child has diabetes or other conditions that require a modified diet or lifestyle, the medical alert label will help you define that for others simple with a “peel & stick”.

3.  Canning LabelsPantry Labels 

Keeping healthy can start by being organized in your kitchen.  With personalized Canning Labels (which also help to make great gifts or for small farmers’ markets!) and an extensive pack of 88 Pantry Labels (almost ALL are very healthy staples to have in your home!), you’ll be sure to stock your home and others’ with healthy foods to nourish your bodies and busy lifestyle.

 

4.  Date It! Labels  & Write-On Labels  

These labels allow you to write & personalize AFTER you receive them in the mail.  Date It! Labels are perfect for food safety at home. Ever ask yourself (or someone else asks you), “When were those leftovers made?  Are they still good?”.  Well less work for you and this way you can customize with some Retro, Mayan, or Country styles without having to personalize before you actually make those pickles, roast or banana muffins.

5.  Outdoor Bin Labels 

As a person that has moved a lot in my life, these stickers were my gift to me (along with a local newspaper subscription) when I began my new life as a single mom.  No more chasing a black garbage can down the street to wonder if it was actually mine (Notice how almost everyone has the same one these days!).  No family name needed, just the address to keep your identity private but your bins easy to identify. It’s kind of like a “Return To” if found, during windy days.  And it looks way better than the spray-paint or sharpie method that’s bound to wear off during our harsh, Canadian winters!

 

fruit-starter

BONUS #6 – Don’t forget where Lovable Labels started – their personalized labels great for lunch & drink containers as well as clothes, shoes and bags.  I suggest their healthiest theme, Fruition, to (subconsciously) market fruits & veggies to your kids (and maybe you or your spouse!)

 

A LOVABLE GIVEAWAY FOR YOU!!!

I thought I’d start it of right by sharing the love right away with fellow bloggers & Nutrition Bites followers.


I’m giving away THREE different items from my Love Bug Welcome Package & my Nutrition Bites Promotion:

  • “Blogging is Bliss” & “I love Blogging” Labels/stickers
  • Lil’ Dose of Love Labels: Tutti Frutti (A sampler!)
  • My “personal”-ized favourites #NutritionBites Lovable Labels

Visit my Nutrition Bites Facebook Page to comment to win!

Find the blog post and follow the easy instructions! (Contest not in affiliation with Facebook in any way.  Open to age of majority in Canada. Contest deadline: December 18th, 2016 at 11:59pm.)

Stay tuned for more creative ways to use Lovable Labels and giveaways for my followers – YOU!

Follow me on Social Media:

Facebook:   NutritionBitesCanada

Instagram & Pinterest: @NutritionBites

Twitter:  @NutritionBites8

Blog (this is it!):   nutritionbites88.wordpress.com

Website:   www.nutritionbites.ca

Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries

“Handy” Guide to Serving Sizes

There’s a reason Nutrition Bites tag line is “helping you get healthier in little bites” 🤓 Well many actually but here’s one:
Many people struggle with their personal nutrition and healthy eating. The information is out there, but not marketed well (free resources backed by the government rarely get promo book tours and spots on the Shopping Network). 

When was the last time you looked at Canadas’s Food Guide? After so much misinformation (too much information is now confusing us!) and distrust, what do you believe?

Studies show that there is an obvious overconsumption of food and calories in many countries (North American one’s topping the list). I believe one huge factor is the lack of knowing what true recommended servings sizes. (Another is the psychology behind why we eat… to be continued in another blog post). 

Here’s a picture perfect, “handy” guide to teach you. And you can keep it “on hand” when you are eating out too! (No measuring cup or scale required.)

Here’s a guide by Eat Right Ontario that’s backed by Registered Dietitians, nutrition professionals (like me – PHEc extraordinaire!) and organizations (like ‘NSTEP). It makes it simple and once you see how much you are eating, you might want to take a look at how many servings are recommended again (I’ll give you the benefit that you’ve looked before…..hoping!). 

The link for the full guide is here

Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly

A Crusty Idea for your Clumpy Brown Sugar

We baked carrot muffins (from scratch of course) tonight since my little one wants to be cooking as well as her big sister. 

I love having the girls make me re-realize how to teach cooking to kids for my job(s). I also love how it brings out the kitchen, food and nutrition facts and trivia I’ve collected in my head after over 3 decades. 

So I thought I’d share what lesson I taught (or the trivia that is filed in my head) tonight:

What happens when you have discovered your brown sugar is in a huge lump? Or you can’t even just scrape a bit of what you need out?

Kitchen Cupboard Problem: Clumpy brown sugar.

 
I’ll share two ways to fix this:

Old school or newer/modern. 

1. Old school. Use a slice of bread in a closed container with the brown sugar. 

2. Modern day. Use a clay disc that can be bought in most general merchandise stores or food stores. Soak in water first, pat it dry, then place it in the closed brown sugar container. 

 

Two ways to reverse clumps in brown sugar: slice of bread or clay disc.

 
Both work well. One is more frugal and one is more food safe & gluten free. 

So take your pick ….. Which do you use or want to try?

Or if you use a different method, share what you do to solve this crusty problem with me in the comments below. I’d love something new to try in my kitchen. 

Clay disc in brown sugar container to avoid clumps.
Posted in Fruits, Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly

Playing with your food

In the popular Pinterest era, most people post amazing creations of culinary arts for kid lunches and snacks in bento boxes and other environmentally friendly containers. 

Well some do. Others try their best. I’m in the latter part of that. Honestly, I just am happy to get those busy mornings finished with the kids at school with a healthy lunch and two snacks and my sanity (And they usually beg to have a “treat” for last snack to fit in with the other kids). Are you one of those parents?

I’m creative. But in different ways. I can’t reenact Disney scenes in cheese, fruit & crackers. Most can’t so don’t feel bad or try to keep up. 

I prefer to use simple methods to teach an appreciation for healthy food AND cooking. Meet: The Hedgehog. 

  

Start with a mango!

  
Then wash the outside (just in case, for food safety reasons). 

Slice it in two large pieces following close to the pit. There will be a bit extra you can munch on and use too. 


Then cut several equal slices in both halves. Rotate each one 90 degree turn and slice again several times to make a grid. Be sure to not slice through the skin. 

  

Add 2 blueberries with toothpicks (if kids are old enough to know not to play with sharp objects) into 2 of the cut mango sections. 

Watch the video to see how easily it is to pop out the hedgehog snack – very kid (and adult) friendly!

   
Mango Hedgehog YouTube video
So hopefully after meeting my Mango Hedgehog, you have either gotten inspired to play with your food and kids OR you feel better about your bento box mishap- at least you tried! 

And if you can recreate the Last Supper in lunch box contents, please do not comment with huge expectations of my art skills. I’m just trying to feed the kids with a little healthy fun munching on mangoes. 

Just wondering…. What simple tips do you actually do to make food fun on a regular basis for you or your kids?

 (Cue the “cooking with wine” comments …)

  

Posted in Healthy, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries

A (weird) “healthy” plate. 

If you follow me on Instagram (@Nutritionbites), you are probably here to find out what was on the “healthy” plate my daughter surprised me with. 

 
It was after I asked her to find me something healthy to eat. 

It was a protein bar, bran cookies, meal replacement bar (given to me as a sample), rice cracker, hemp hearts and a Hershey kiss! 

Hmmmm definitely not an appetizing plate. The only thing I ate on the plate was the bran cookies and one piece of the protein bar (wasn’t mine even!). And she even stole my kiss! 

I am healthy but let’s just say that kids are funny and healthy is defined differently for each person. Food is personal. Now where is the spinach and hummus, Special K? 

Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Recipes

Meal Preps aren’t just for Gym Junkies

So I think everyone talks about how there is “no time” to eat healthy, home cooked meals. 

Really? (Ok, no guilt trip here about time management pitfalls in life.)

Solution: Meal Preps

The problem is I don’t see families doing it enough unless someone is a regimented gym go-er with some “fitness” or weight goals. (No lecture either on healthy body image here…. today anyways.)

So how about a three hour family party cooking on a weekend?

And if one week, Emma has to go to dance and Martin is at hockey – start scheduling a time or swapping meal prep weekends into your iPhone or Google calendar – putting it in their makes it more likely to do it. And “inviting” people (even roommates or friends) makes you more likely and accountable to do it. (Everyone seems to have a fitness buddy, why not have a healthy meal prep buddy too!?)

The more members participating the more hands to help and the more recipes that can be made. 

The idea is, cook once, eat twice (or even 4 times)!

 

Turn one big recipe into…

 
7 individual meals to eat later.
  

And once you start seeing the ease of reheating frozen meals YOU MADE, you will keep with your values of a healthy lifestyle when time runs away from you. 

Meal preps are just as good for single adults and retired or widowed folks. Imagine you creating your own “meals on wheels” program for yourself and others (share/exchange with friends). 

 Just make a double batch (for families especially) and divide into reusable containers to freeze as individual meals.  The more recipes you make, the more selection you have. If using a smaller recipe or living alone, immediately serve one portion into a container when putting some on a plate for yourself. 

Being that I can be alone at dinner sometimes when the kids are with the ex and Mr Ginger is working, I tend to not value cooking for little, ol’ me. It’s not healthy, so these are care packages I make myself so that I get an amazing home cooked dinner when sometimes I don’t feel like I’m worth the effort. (I know, I know…..I’m getting better at it but successes are along the journey not just the final destination/goal, so I’m celebrating my advances). 

I also find this handy for when everyone wants something different for dinner:

Mary wants pasta (yes cooked pasta and sauce can be frozen!),

Emily wants pulled pork (usually matched up with a whole wheat bun),

Mr R Ginger loves my chilli,

And sometimes I feel like homemade chicken soup (bone broth, veggies & meat with or without noodles). 

Round your meal out with extra vegetables and everyone is happy with no one stressing with the question “What’s for dinner?”.

Benefits:

  • Saves time
  • Healthier eating
  • More time during busy periods in your schedule 
  • Less stress/arguments
  • Goals/values are easier to achieve
  • Family time
  • Trying new recipes (especially if exchanging with friends or other families)
  • Perfect way to use up bulk store purchases
  • Saving money by making something with sale or discounted items
  • Emergency meals when budget gets tight or an unexpected event happens (someone gets sick, extra meeting/appointment)

Cons:

  • 2-3 hours a week is required
  • Freezer space is needed
  • Requires patience and team work when allowing all family members (young, old, less skilled) to help

Great Recipes to Split:

  • Chilli
  • Pasta sauce – homemade
  • Soups/broths made from previous roasted chicken or turkey dinner
  • Stirfries
  • Crockpot meals
  • Roast and veggies 
  • Hot appetizer dips

Any meal you can think of that would be great to make ahead?

Don’t forget that the bonus is you’ll already have a meal for that night as well! Or maybe a buffet!

Make home cooking a reality by scheduling it into your calendar for next weekend (and grocery shop accordingly – plan 2 to do) right now!  Go ahead, I’ll wait…..