Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Travel... Without an Extra 5 Pounds

The holidays are here, and many people will be traveling as a part of the holiday season. Try to avoid being in “vacation mode” in terms of your food and physical activity. Vacation splurges could quickly add up! Here are some tips on eating on the run.

Tip 1: Plan ahead. If you are traveling in the plane, train or automobile, plan to pack some snacks such as almonds, dried fruit, whole wheat sandwich thins and almond butter.

Tip 2: Do your research. Before you leave for your trip, find out what options are in that location. Check to see what grocery stores are near by, and restaurants you may find yourself going to eat. Once you know this information you can prepare properly. Many restaurants have menus online that will show you the nutrition information of their meals, and you can locate grocery stores for proper snacks or plan meals you will prepare on your own.

Tip 3: Watch your portions. No matter where you go, eating well is well within your capabilities if you simply watch your portions. Think in terms of moderation so that you still enjoy some of the holiday indulgences.

Tip 4: Get some rest. Vacations are meant to be restful, so rest! Give your self a break from your normal routine and try something new... yoga outdoors (weather permitting, of course), taking a hike or meditation.

Enjoy travels and holiday season!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Special Diet Restaurant Dining for Big and Little Kids

Family dining can be stressful. Let's ignore the emotional dynamics and just consider the food choice dynamics. If one person in the family has specific mealtime concerns whether it be physical such as allergies, sensory processing or oral motor issues OR ethical concerns such as local, sustainable or vegetarian; it is most likely that many people in the family has these issues.
Allergies, Celiac Disease, Sensory processing issues ALL tend to have a genetic component.
So... where to eat.

There are many local pizza restaurants that are now carrying gluten free and casein free pizzas.
In the Los Angeles area, local chains such as Pizza Cookery have these options.
Larger chains such as Z-Pizza, PF Changs, Olive Garden, Maggiano's and BJ Brewery also are gluten and allergy aware. Large chains and fast food restaurants do post allergen info on their websites.

But what about when you want something a bit more local, a bit more personable then the chain restaurants? A search on, and can help you locate smaller restaurants that are gluten free or allergy aware. These sites have personal reviews that usually let you know really how savvy the waitstaff and cooks are regarding special diets.

My newest surprising find was stumbled upon when asked to lunch by my mom, aunt and cousins. Often these lunches are difficult as due to my physical dietary restraints (gluten sensitive) and ethical choices (vegetarian), everyone worries about my food choice. I am usually fine but they aren't! Neiman Marcus Cafe not only had gluten free pasta and staff able to direct me to other gluten free choices on the menu ( three different desserts!), they also poured me a glass of gluten free beer which helped address the emotional dynamics of the meal! Highly recommended.

Friday, September 24, 2010

ReCall ReCalls

This year has seen recalls of trusted brands- Johnson and Johnson (Benydryl) and Abbott (Similac). We have had eggs recalled, spinach recalled, peanut butter recalled and meat recalled.

Many of the recalls are for poor manufacturing practices leading to bacterial contamination. Others are for products with unlabeled allergens. Many are for dietary supplements with scary sounding non-dietary ingredients ("6-Etioallochol-1,4-Diene-3,17-Dione, also known as ATD, an aromatase inhibitor").

How do you stay on top of all them? Try what I do, subscribe to the FDA recalls. I get an email once a day with product recalls. This is one way that you will hear about all recalls without relying on the news. This is especially important if you have kids with allergies as those labeling recalls don't make it to the press.

Go to and look to the right and you will find where to subscribe to email alerts.

How do you minimize your risk?
1. Avoid bagged salads. These veggies have a lot of handling prior to bagging and then those plastic bags work like little incubators to allow any bacteria to grow. Organic may limit pesticide exposure but it will not limit bacteria exposure.
2. Avoid sprouts in containers. These are favorites of bacteria. Sprout your own , super-easy. Get a jar, a piece of screen or cheesecloth. Put in a tablespoons of alfalfa seeds or beans (check your natural foods stores, many sell these for sprouting). Secure the cheesecloth or screen. Pour in some water, rinse daily and watch them grow.
3. Use a different cutting board for produce and meats/fish/chicken. Get those silicone boards in different colors and reserve boards for each type of food. Make sure to wash your hands after touching raw meat and use a different knife for raw meat, cooked meat and produce.
4. Eat only well cooked eggs. The days of eating raw cookie dough are over. If you need to use raw eggs in a recipe such as Aoli sauce, there are pasteurized eggs available in the refrigerator section at many markets.
5. Avoid raw milk. Raw milk may be a wonderful food with many magical properties but in our society today, it can also be a poison. Raw milk is from cows on farms and usually there is more than one cow. So just like in preschool, a couple of kids leads to infections, so is true with milk. More cows, more risk. Then the transport may allow for those bacteria to grow so by the time that milk touches your lips, it may be full of undesirables. As with eggs, you want raw eggs, buy a chicken you want raw milk buy a cow (or goat).
6. "Natural" or "Organic" does not protect you. Remember the recent peanut butter recall? That included products from Little Debbie cookies to organic and natural energy bars found at stores like Whole Foods. Unpasteurized organic juices also pose risks.
7. Refrigerate foods that need refrigeration. Don't leave foods out, bacteria love warm and moist.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jump Start the Day...

Back to school means getting back into a morning routine that includes a nutritious breakfast to jump start the day (and your metabolism)! (See our September Newsletter article about how "breakfast boosts brainpower" at Some kids (and adults) like to eat the same thing every day- it provides stability and many can't stand to have the same things two days in a row. Either way is fine, whatever works for you and your family- just make sure to offer something to get a jump start in the morning. Try these delicious Multigrain pancakes (make extra and freeze for school mornings). Top with peanut butter and sliced bananas or serve with a hard boiled egg or a glass of milk (or soymilk, almond milk, etc) for additional protein.

-3 1/4 cups dry mixture (make your own combination of the following: oats, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, rye flour, wheat bran, flaxmeal)
-1 tbsp baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
-3 eggs
-3 cups buttermilk
-2/3 cup honey
-1/2 cup vegetable oil
-1 cup nuts (optional)

1. Mix dry mixture, baking poweder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl
2. In another bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, honey and oil.
3. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overmix! Stir in nuts if using them.
4. Heat pan to medium/high heat and pour batter and cook.

Makes 12-16 pancakes, depending on size.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Guide to Avoiding Pesticide in Your Produce

Every year the Environmental Working Group publishes a list of the "dirty dozen" and the "clean fifteen". The "dirty dozen" are fruits and vegetables that either are highly treated with pesticides OR retain significant amounts of pesticide. These are the foods that you want to buy organic. Overall, they are fruits and vegetables with thin skins such as peaches, potatoes and berries but also include some leafy greens such as kale and spinach.

The "clean fifteen" are fruits and vegetables that retain little pesticide or are not treated with pesticide ( or a very small amount).
These are the fruits and vegetables that you can risk buying non-organic. Generally these have thicker skins like kiwi and melon. These also include grapefruit, eggplant and cabbage. Since organic is often more costly then conventional, you can save some money by buying conventionally grown "clean fifteen" and organically grown "dirty dozen".

You can also save money by buying organic frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen fruits are a great snack. Frozen vegetables can be even more nutritious then fresh as they are frozen right in the fields, retaining most of their vitamins and minerals. Fresh veggies often travel long distances and lose nutrients through exposure to heat and air. Just remember whatever you cook, frozen or fresh, use as little water as possible and cook for as short a time as possible.

And when you wash your fresh veggies and fruits, don't waste money on produce washes, plain water is more effective.

Find the guide at


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There is sawdust in my granola bar!

Yep, fish oil in your juice. Anti-oxidants added to your tortillas. What is going on with all of those extras in your food! Many are often marketing tools, that may be healthful in small amounts but lead to discomfort in larger amounts.

Nutritional additives are being added to everything and it can often lead to unplanned results.
Especially in young kids. Inulin is a fiber also often referred to as a "pre-biotic" otherwise known as food for the good bacteria, the probiotics, living in your gut. Inulin is a good thing, a health promoting fiber that may help maintain blood sugar, help battle constipation and increase calcium absorption.
But inulin can also cause bloating, gas and stomach upset- and it just may take one fiber bar to cause that icky feeling.
These types of food additives can be especially troubling when your child starts to complain about their tummy hurting. You rack your brain trying to think what they could have eaten that they could be allergic to. Or wonder if they have food poisoning but it might just be that added fiber to their granola bar, bread, cookie, cracker or pasta.

What to look for? Remember to read labels. Ingredients such as inulin, chicory root extract, oligosaccharide or oligofructose. For kids, it is best to limit those products where inulin is the first ingredient. When you offer foods high in added fiber, start slow, give your child's body a chance to adapt. While these "nutriceuticals" can provide health promoting ingredients, take a moment and think if your child might be able to get these nutrients "naturally", like inulin from root vegetables (onion or garlic) or a nice plate of jicama slices with some guacamole dip!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Uh OH- Spaghetti-O recall!

All the SpaghettiOs with Meatballs, SpaghettiOs A to Z with Meatballs, and SpaghettiOs Fun Shapes with Meatballs (cars) produced since December 2008 should be returned to the store where purchased for an exchange or full refund.

The recalled products have "EST 4K," as well as a use-by date between June 2010 and December 2011 printed on the bottom of the can. They were manufactured between December 2008 and June 2010 and distributed nationwide.

So your child is not spaghetti-O deprived after the recall, make your own. Kids like Spaghettios because they are easy to swallow and fun shapes. Buy some fun pasta- look at TraderJoe's, Whole Foods or Cost Plus for great shapes, cook up some tomato sauce and then water down the tomato sauce just a tad or mix in a little milk to make the taste a bit sweeter and blander. For variety, toss in some chopped cooked veggies, chicken or fish. Toss with grated cheese and eat!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To Sip, Suck or Drink

Sippy cups with soft tops, with hard tops, with tiny holes, with one big hole. Stainless steel, BPA-free, toxic plastic. Straw cups, juice boxes.

What do you use? Why? Do you want a cup that won't spill all over the back seat? Want a cup that is almost just like a bottle? Need Dora, Diego, Elmo or Mickey?
Does it matter?

What matters most is that you introduce a cup, usually a sippy, straw or open cup (with assistance) starting between 6 months and 9 months. It will be messy. It will be ineffective BUT if you want to wean from the bottle or breast at about a year or just have another way to offer fluids to your breastfed baby, you need to introduce the cup.
Water is the best fluid to start with. Some kids just don't want to drink what they get from the breast or bottle in a cup, so you can wait until they learn the cup before giving milk. If you start with a sippy cup, babies often get confused about sucking from a cup. Just take out that sucking piece from the sippy cup or buy one without the piece. Despite the plethora of sippy cup choices, there is no one best cup and actually kids don't even need them to learn to drink but they are a convenience and DO allow your child to be more independent with drinking.

How about a straw? These are great for kids who may be having some trouble managing thin liquids, kids who cough often when drinking even small amounts of water (we all have trouble when we take TOO big a sip.) If your older infant or child, does cough most of the time with even small amounts of thin liquids, talk to your physician or other health care provider. Kids need to have the skills to close their lips around a straw and sometimes those larger straws with straw cups work well.

Open cup? These are great to use. Every notice how your infant is interested in whatever you are drinking? If it is not soda, beer, wine, mixed drinks or coffee- share a sip. It is a great way to introduce a cup. I love little shot glasses! They are the perfect size for little hands to practice and often have lobsters, cowboy hats or state flags on them (what could be more enticing on your cup!)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A spoonful of .....salt!

Salt is back in the news and worth reading about. Thirty years ago, clear links were made regarding salt and high blood pressure. At that time greater regulation of processed foods, which accounts for 80% of salt intake, was fought by large food companies. New research has confirmed past research and efforts are being directed again toward regulating salt.

Why regulate? Because between high salt intake and the rising incidence of obesity, high blood pressure is being seen at an increasing rate in children and reducing salt intake could save 150,000 lives per year.

You may have put your salt shaker away but the food industry has not. Just one cup of canned chicken soup has more sodium (salt) then you should have in a day. Just one cup! Adding salt to food influences flavor and texture. It allows cheaper, less flavorful ingredients to be used.

So what can you do?
1. Read the label of any processed food, you do want to have more than 1500 mg of sodium per day, the lower your intake the better. Processed food includes canned foods as well as crackers, cookies and breads.
2. Look for fresh, minimally processed food for snacks and meals. Think about fruit (dried or fresh), veggies, roasted nuts and seeds. When buying any processed or canned foods, look for the unsalted or low sodium options.
3. Make your own whenever possible. Invest in a air popper for popcorn so you can control your salt. Try your hand at making soup and freeze extras to use later. Use marinades made from simple ingredients rather than packaged or jarred marinades ( check out our newsletter archives, July 2009, for a marinade recipe).
4. When salty foods are eaten, make sure you monitor how much- don't eat from the bag, put some in a cup. Reduce the amount by mixing unsalted foods (nuts,tortilla chips, dried fruit) with the salted chips or nuts.
5. Use some flavorful substitutes for salt: paprika is great sprinkled on popcorn, add some fresh dill to stews and soups, a splash of balsamic vinegar wakes up roasted veggies.

Salt and sugar are primal tastes. We all are drawn towards these flavors. Although we naturally like salty foods, by avoiding or limiting highly salted foods, our kids will learn to prefer appropriately salted foods and ultimately enjoy the taste of real food- not the salt.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What IS a food allergy?

The New York Times, May 11, 2010, published a great article highlighting the lack of consensus about what IS a food allergy. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have organized an expert panel to "impose order on the chaos of food allergy testing". The goal of the panel is to clarify diagnosis, definition and testing. Conclusions of the panel will be presented by the end of June 2010.

Until then, some interesting information cited by the panel include:
  • People who test positive for allergies either by skin prick or blood test have less then a 50% chance of actually having an allergy!
  • Having IgE or IgG antibodies does not necessarily mean you are allergic to specific foods. The presence of the antibodies can be transient and rather meaningless.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baby led weaning... what's for lunch?

Your six to nine month old is starting to enjoy food! But she wants to feed herself, what to do?
Find soft foods to grab and enjoy. Steam up some sweet potato, carrot, broccoli and cauliflower. How about some dissolvable crackers like graham crackers or Ritz crackers (try the whole wheat). Cheerios or other cereals such as Chex, Shredded Spoonfuls or Mighty Bites are fun, avoid the sweetened varieties. Summer fruits are also good choices- apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. Remember to buy organic when buying soft skinned fruits. Noodles are good choices and can be finger foods. Toss the noodles in a little pesto or olive oil for flavor.

What NOT to have for lunch? Avoid sweetened foods and salty foods. Highly processed foods don't belong in a baby's diet.

The following are "choke" foods, meaning due to their size and texture they can be dangerous to kids under 3.
Avoid or CLOSELY supervise grapes, olives, hot dogs, pickles, popcorn, nuts, chewy meats, spoonfuls of peanut butter (peanut butter should be mixed with applesauce, smashed banana or spread thinly on bread/crackers). Cut all round food lengthwise. Avoid hard candy.

And remember to include your baby in family meals as much as possible.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Gluten free play....

There is controversy regarding the need for children with allergies to wheat (gluten) or with Celiac disease to avoid skin contact with these allergens (the substance that causes the reaction). Common medical thought is often that it is okay to have playdough, lotion or shampoo with allergens as these are not eaten. Well, for those of us with kids or working with kids, we know that anything can be eaten, purposely or accidently (puradently?). We also have all seen kids develop rashes from milk-based or wheat-enhanced shampoos and lotions.

There are many shampoo and lotions WITHOUT allergens, read the labels and avoid those. What to do then when presented with play dough? Make your own.
Here is a recipe adapted from for cornstarch/baking soda play dough.
Hints for natural food colors are listed at the bottom and how great would it be to eat beets and then dye your play dough purple.

2 cups baking soda mixed with 1 cup cornstarch in a saucepan
1 1/2 cup warm water * (see below for scent and color)

Add water to the cornstarch/baking soda. Mix until smooth, then gradually bring to a boil over medium heat, mixing all of the time. Remove from heat and put on a board. When cool, knead smooth. Store in a covered containe
* Color and scent : Add a few drops of food coloring to the water. Want it "natural",
use dark brewed tea instead of water, add beet juice (steam up some beets and
use the water). For scent, use spices such as pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon.
Try liquid extracts like peppermint, vanilla or lemon. Use unsweetened Kool Aid or
Sugar free gelatin to both color and scent.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Easter Baskets for Special Diets

First a disclaimer.....see past blogs about sugar and behavior and sugar and heart disease... (and lets not forget tooth decay).

Sometimes, though, candy is going to be in the picture so what do you do when you need a candy that is gluten free or casein free or dye free or soy free or (fill in the blank) free?
This website,
allows you to search for candies that meet specific dietary criteria. In addition to candy they also have toppings and baking supplies (sprinkles!). After you search, you can view the ingredients before you place your order.

While filling your basket (or party bag or whatever) think about other special items to toss in OTHER than candy. Playdough, whistles, balls, a "coupon" for an outing, bubbles, seeds or little plants for spring planting (try sweet peas, for an easy veggie to grow).
Adding an orange, kiwi or little apple can even make the fruit look more appetizing (humor me!)

Enjoy the spring!


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Buyer Beware, Part one.

A lot in the news today to remind us to take care with our food and supplement purchases.

The FDA, after a number of years of very lax enforcement, is heroically tackling mis-information on labels.

Does Beechnut DHA Plus Apple Delight, really have no added sugars as the label suggests?
Is Pom juice a food or a drug? The FDA thinks perhaps it is a drug since it is advertised as curing plague buildup in arteries, curing prostate cancer and improving erectile function!
Does Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening really contain less saturated fat then butter?

The FDA is questioning these claims, as well as others. Read all of the letters sent from the FDA to food manufacturers


Allergies: It is all upside down.

Our hypothesis is that by introducing the food into the diet early on, the body will see it as normal and won't become allergic to it. We're questioning a fundamental preconception," -Graham Roberts, MD, pediatric allergist at King's College London.

The annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology is occurring right now and research is being presented that challenges early feeding recommendations. About two years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics tossed out the notion that holding back on introducing specific foods will prevent allergies. Although that recommendation was made, most pediatricians are still telling parents to wait until 2-5 years of age to introduce common allergens such as nuts, fish or even eggs. But according to recent research, holding back on these foods may actually increase the risk of allergies.

What to do when your 9 month old is staring at that peanut butter Ritz Bitz? At this point, the answer seems to be pretty controversial. Ask your allergist or pediatrician what s/he thinks about this research.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Keeping on Top of Product Recalls

As a parent of a child with food allergies, I am so careful about label reading, calling companies and ensuring that my child's foods are safe. On almost a daily basis, I receive very helpful emails from the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network regarding products that have been recalled due to undeclared allergens. I recommend signing up for these free email alerts as they are very helpful in the management of food allergies.

Go to and sign up for the alerts either via email or RSS feed.

Happy & Safe Eating,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Plastics? To use or not to use.

Today as I was following my home ec background, yes my COLLEGE degree was in Home Economics, and recommending cooking double batches of food and freezing in plastic containers, I was challenged about the safety of plastics. So here goes:

1. Look at the bottom of the container it will have a number, the "good" numbers are#1 -PET or PETE and #2 (HDPE). These are the types that are used for some soft drink (okay the soft drinks are not "good"), peanut butter, salad dressing, ketchup, milk bottles, yogurt/margarine tubs, cereal box liners and water bottles. These are not known to leach out any nasty chemicals.

Those with #4 (LDPE) and #5 (PP) are not known to leach out chemicals but they do contain some nasty chemicals and are not widely recycled so skip those. These are used in bread and frozen food bags, some ketchup bottles and yogurt/margarine tubs.

Avoid those with #3 (PVC), #6 (PS) and #7 ("other" usually polycarbonate). Polycarbonates, often found in microwave ovenware, disposable utensils and baby bottles contain biphenyl A which is the chemical thought to interfere with our hormones. #6 contains benzene and used in some hard cups and #3 is the cling wrap around meats and cheeses from your deli.

2. If you use plastic, best to use #1 or #2. Best NOT to use any plastic with heat as that can raise the risk of chemical leakage (note above "known" is in italics because we often don't "know" everything). Avoid cling wraps if possible, especially in the microwave. Use "safe" plastic containers or wax paper bags for lunches (hard to find, locally in Los Angeles, Gelson's carries wax paper sandwich bags.)

Avoid plastic bottled water if possible, toss any scratched or damaged plastic containers and don't wash plastic with harsh chemicals.

3. Don't just think about your food containers but also think about toys your child may chew on and those really cute plates you bought at the 99 cent store or Toys R Us. Be an informed parent and read those little numbers on the back of the product. If there is no number, don't buy.

4. If you want to be 100% safe, save or buy glass containers and use those to store, freeze and microwave.

AND always recycle your plastic.

More info?

PS and yes it is a good idea to double your recipes and you can freeze in #1 or #2 plastic, just don't heat it up in plastic.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Consensus report on Autism and Diet

A new report was published today on Autism and Diet. The lead author is Timothy Buie, MD a pediatric gastroenterologist at Harvard Medical school who runs a clinic at Massachusetts General for kids on the autism spectrum. The report, published in the January issue of Pediatrics includes the views of more than 25 experts who met in Boston in 2008 to write the consensus report after reviewing medical research. The Autism Society and other autism groups funded the report but did not contribute to the discussion.

The panel concluded that there is no rigorous evidence that digestive problems are more common in children on the autism spectrum compared to other children, or that special diets are successful. They do conclude though that digestive problems can trigger problem behavior in children with autism and these digestive problems should be treated medically.

Another point that Dr. Buie makes is that kids on the spectrum often do not get the "right" kind of attention when visiting the doctor's office as the office may not be friendly enough for the child to feel comfortable or equipped to make adjustments to provide care. In addition, he points out that many doctors are also uncomfortable addressing GI issues and autism due to many of the theories that have been discredited with newer researcher.

So what does this mean! While the panel does not support global dietary recommendations, it does support further research and addressing each child's needs. If your child is doing well on the diet they are following, keep it up. If your child does not appear to have benefited from restrictive diets, give it up. Each child is unique and the approach should be tailored to your child's individual picture.
Dr. Buie does recommend seeing a dietitian if your child has a limited diet to help expand the diet and look for any deficiencies.
To view the article, look for the January issue of Pediatrics.