Summer Food Fun for Kids

Summer is a wonderful time to be creative with food for kids of all ages and to get them to try new things.

fruit on bagel halves

We all have our favorite summer foods – meat on the grill, fresh corn on the cob, berries and other fresh fruits. Summer is also a wonderful time to be creative with food for kids of all ages and to get them to try new things. From trips to the farmer’s market to harvesting a backyard garden, there are a ton of ways to introduce children to the variety of nutritious foods available in the summer. The next time you are in the fruit and vegetable section, let the children pick out a new food to try. Here are some other age appropriate activities to help children learn about food and nutrition.

Toddlers like to play with food and it teaches them fine motor skills. So, it’s fun to transform eating healthy a craft project. Cut various fruits and vegetables into different shapes and let the children create art on their plate. You can use various things for the base – try bagels which can bet cut and laid out to form a “snake” and decorated with cream cheese, peanut butter, fruit, seeds, and nuts. Then, take a picture to show off their work! While creating and after it’s complete – let the kids dive in a try the various parts of their art project!

Preschool children can create their own shapes, letters, and numbers from various fruits and vegetables. Grab the cookie cutters (the metal kind are best) and make stars from pineapple slices and hearts from watermelon. Use wooden skewers and create ‘stick people’ or kabobs from apple slices, carrot sticks, and cherry tomatoes. When grilling, let the kids pick the vegetables that will be grilled with the meat so they each have their own personalized veggie side. Kids are more likely to eat vegetables they picked out.

Older children usually love smoothies. Have a selection of fruits and vegetables available. Encourage the children to try new combinations and analyze the ingredients with respect to nutrients to develop healthier smoothies that they love to drink. Carrot juice may sound funny to kids but when mixed with bananas and strawberries, it can add some healthy nutrients to the natural sugars in the fruit. Not all smoothies have to be sweet and full of fruit. Encourage the use of vegetables such spinach and kale to increase the nutritional value and expose the children to different tastes.

4th of july themes popsicles

Everyone loves dessert and summer is the best time for frozen goodies! Home-made ice cream is always a huge hit and each person can add their own toppings. You can also make your own yogurt pops with berries or nuts. Fresh lemonade can be frozen as well as low sugar grape juice. Let them freeze and enjoy a special cold treat on a hot summer day.

I Got a New Nanny Job – How Do I Manage a Special Diet?

Everyone eats several times per day, but do you feel like you have a firm grasp on the inner workings of nutrition?

Everyone eats several times per day, but do you feel like you have a firm grasp on the inner workings of nutrition? If your answer is ‘no’, you are absolutely not alone! Half the time we are not sure if a food is healthy or going to kill us. It’s such a confusing topic with tons of conflicting information, it’s no wonder that there are so many diet plans! But which one is the right diet plan? Nutrition is an ever-growing and fluid field; the “right” diet for you may not work well for others.

Some people require a specific diet due to cultural and social influences, to manage a medical condition, or to accommodate preferences within the family. Regardless of the reason for dietary modifications, it is important as a nanny or sitter to adhere to any requests made by a child’s guardian. Sometimes special diets can be intimidating, especially if you’re managing one for a child. Take your time to understand the special diet, prepare for anything (including a back up plan), have patience, and be a great example, and you will set yourself up success when leading a child through modifications to their diet. Here are four things to remember when a child has special dietary needs.

meat and veggies in portable containerUnderstand the special diet. Say you start caring for a child and the mother informs you that he follows a strict low FODMAPs diet. You think to yourself, “What in the world is a FODMAP?” When we know absolutely nothing about a situation we’re getting ourselves into, it’s scary, isn’t it? You have no idea what this child can eat, what you have to avoid, or what would happen if you missed something and he ate one of these mysterious FODMAPs. Your research will tell you FODMAPs are carbohydrates that include fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols. Make a list of the foods that are low FODMAPs and a cheat sheet of safe foods for the child to eat while you’re out. Research will also let you know that people who are on a low FODMAPs diet generally experience gastrointestinal distress if they have one of the forbidden carbs, and you can confirm with the parent if the child ends up with a horrible stomach ache. You’re no longer flying blind! Information can go a long way to help you get comfortable with a special diet.

Prepare for anything. Once you have your cheat sheets, you’ve taken the first step in knowing what to do to manage this special diet. Now, what else can you do to be ready to manage a low FODMAPs diet while you’re out? Pack appropriate snacks for the child and have them with you every time you leave the house. But what if you run later than expected or run out of snacks and it’s time to eat? Eating out can be a challenge for any special diet. You need to know what to look for on ingredients lists, what questions to ask at restaurants, and what foods to check for on online menus. If medication is needed to combat symptoms, be sure to always have it with you. Proper planning, and knowing what questions to ask, allows for more flexibility in your day and less worry about managing the child’s dietary needs.

Have patience. You understand your role as a nanny or sitter with respect to special diet management, but let’s not forget that we’re dealing with a child. This child may not appreciate that he can’t eat ice cream. Why would he want the meat and vegetables that you’ve prepared for dinner? He doesn’t care that it will make his stomach hurt; he wants ice cream! Patience and positivity will be crucial to successfully implementing the dietary guidelines, especially if they are recent changes. Don’t push, and don’t force. If the child is included in preparation of the food and exposed to new foods regularly, they are more likely to accept these guidelines.

woman eating berries and yogurtSet a good example. You can also influence a child’s feelings about food. Children pick up habits from the people they spend the most time with, so be a positive part of developing their dietary habits. Let the child see you eating things that they are able to eat. Don’t eat ice cream in front of a child that can’t have it. Also, encourage children to eat a variety of foods by preparing and showing that you eat a variety of foods. By displaying healthy habits, you’ll encourage children to develop their own healthy habits that will stick with them through adulthood.

Nutrition is so important to our daily life, so don’t let it become a source of confusion and stress! If you ready yourself to manage a special diet through knowledge, preparation, patience, and your own lifestyle, you will be much more confident and successful as a childcare provider.

To learn more, a Special Diets course is available with enrollment in the Specialist Childcare program.

About the Author: Allison Markham Winkelmann has a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States and a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Texas. She also holds a Certificate in Nutritional Therapy from the Health Sciences Academy. She is a youth soccer coach, youth and adult fitness trainer, and wellness coach. Allison Markham Winkelman is an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute and has worked with children extensively in fitness centers and preschool. She uses her educational background and experience to help others live a healthier life.

3 Types of Food Contamination and 3 Ways to Prevent Them

People can become ill from food borne illnesses in a number of ways.

No one likes experiencing nausea, vomiting. diarrhea, or abdominal pain, but according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention*, an estimated 48 million people in the US get sick from a foodborne illness every year. This results in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Since children under 5 have less-developed immune systems and lower body weights, they experience high rates of food-borne illnesses. People can become ill from foodborne illnesses in a number of ways.

1. Biological contaminants, which include bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, and fungi, can grow in foods that are not kept at proper temperatures. Some of these bacteria are familiar to you from the news – Salmonella, E Coli, Listeria. Food left out at room temperature allows bacteria to grow to levels that can cause illness. Avoid the ‘Danger Zone” (temperatures between 40°F to 140°F) where bacteria multiply and grow faster.

2. Chemical and physical contaminants can also cause foodborne illnesses. Chemical elements include cleaning products and pesticides that may contain harmful ingredients. Physical contaminants include glass, wood, hair, and metal, among others. If you drop a jar of jelly on the floor and it cracks or breaks, don’t try to save any of the jelly as there may be tiny pieces of glass in it.

mushrooms3. Cross-contamination is the unintentional transfer of contaminants to a food, a food preparation surface, or an object such as a knife. Cross-contamination also occurs when one food gets contaminated with traces of other foods in processing plants. For example, if someone cooked fish sticks in oil using a deep fryer they should not cook French fries in that same oil. The fries will get contaminated with traces of seafood left in the oil and this might cause an allergic reaction to someone allergic to seafood.

Often, contaminated food does not look bad or spoiled and does not taste different. This makes it more difficult to identify when food has been contaminated and may make us or others sick. We can prevent or reduce contamination with proper hand-washing, proper cooking temperature, and proper storage temperatures. When in doubt, just throw it out!

1. Cleanliness. First, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and often. Hand washing should occur before, during, and after preparing foods, after using the bathroom or changing diapers, after touching or handling garbage, and when you are sick or are caring for someone who is sick. Hand sanitizers are a great way to keep your hands clean, but they are not as effective when hands have visible dirt and sanitizers do not eliminate all the germs that cause foodborne illnesses. Remember, kitchen surfaces and equipment must be thoroughly cleaned as well.

2. Cooling temperatures. You can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it as some meats can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. A food thermometer will help ensure that meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods reach a safe minimum internal temperature. Ground meats should be cooked to at least 160°F. Fresh beef, veal, and lamb should be cooked to at least 145°F after resting for 3 minutes. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk and white are firm with any dishes that contain eggs should be cooked to at least 160°F. Poultry should be cooked to at least 165 degrees and pork should be cooked up to 145°F after resting for 3 minutes. Fish should also be cooked to 145°F. Shellfish such as shrimp, lobster, clams, scallops, and oysters should be cooked until the flesh is opaque or until the shells open.

pot of miso soup3. Food storage. When entertaining, keep hot foods hot (at or above 140°F) by using chafing dishes, preheated steam tables, warming trays, or slow cookers. You can keep cold food cold—at or below 40°F by placing food in containers on ice. To safely thawing meats and other products, use the refrigerator or in the sink under running water but never thaw by putting food out on the countertop. When food is served, it should not be out of refrigeration for longer than 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90°F, do not leave the food out for more than 1 hour.

Every year, millions of people around the world fall sick after the ingestion of contaminated foods, beverages or water. Use the tips in this article to keep yourself and children in your care safe from food illnesses.

For more information about the food preparation, a Food Safety course is available within the Basic Childcare Certification Program from Amslee Institute.

* Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.

About the Author. Dr. Jennifer Rodriquez-Bosque is a registered dietitian with over ten years working with children in clinical and community settings in Puerto Rico. Dr. Rodriquez-Bosque earned a Doctor of Health Science from Nova Southeastern University, a Master of Science in Nutrition and Wellness from Benedictine University, and a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Puerto Rico. Dr. Rodriquez-Bosque is also an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute, an organization dedicated to professional training and certification of elite Nannies, Au Pairs, Babysitters, and other childcare providers.