Archive for the 'Feeding & Nutrition' Category

Roasted Brussels sprouts with apples: Your new Thanksgiving side

roasted Brussels sprouts and apples

image credit: Cooking Light

Why Brussels sprouts?

Brussels sprouts or “mini cabbages” are easy to cook and seriously good for you. Not only are Brussels sprouts a super food, but they make a delicious main dish or addition to any meal for any season! Whether you bake, grill, or sauté them, they are packed with flavor and nutritional benefits. They make a great side dish to any meal or special occasion.

Small, tender Brussels sprouts are usually sweeter and milder than larger sprouts, especially when cooked only until tender-crisp, not overcooked. Belgians traditionally season Brussels sprouts with nutmeg, but fruit, herbs and nuts also complement the flavor and balance the vegetable’s characteristic bitterness.

Nutritional benefits galore

Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, which means they are rich in vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin C. They’re also rich in phytonutrients — plant-based compounds that may help to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer. Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in fiber and low in calories, a combination that will help you feel full and satisfied without overeating.

It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits. Adults need at least 2½ cups of vegetables a day. One cup of raw and cooked veggies is equivalent to a 1-cup vegetable serving.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Apples


  • 1/2 cup diced apple
  • 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine apple and Brussels sprouts in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish.
  3. Add apple cider, olive oil, minced fresh thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper; toss well.
  4. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until sprouts are tender.


Makes 2 servings (Serving size equals 3/4 cup.)

Nutrition analysis per serving

  • Calories: 109
  • Fat: 9 g
  • Saturated fat: 7 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Carbohydrate: 8 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Sodium: 321 mg
  • Iron: 6 mg
  • Calcium: 47 mg



– Jessica Helmick, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center.

Have a fun and healthier birthday party

Closeup of "Happy Birthday" candles

Cropped image. Will Clayton, Flickr. CC license.

Pizza, soft drinks, candy and cake make their appearance at most kids’ birthday parties. While these foods can fit into a healthy diet as occasional treats, these days children tend to have the opportunity to go to more parties and activities making treats a big part of their life. As parents and caregivers, how can we offer more nutritious options for birthday celebrations and still make it fun for all who attend?

Serve a platter of sandwiches cut into fun cookie cutter shapes. Try sandwiches made with whole grain bread and turkey, chicken, cheese, or veggies (cucumber/spinach/shredded carrots). Use avocado as a spread to pump up the color. Another idea would be to cut up a wrap sandwich into pinwheels. Whole wheat lawash makes a good base for a wrap sandwich.

Other ideas to accompany the sandwich platter or offered on their own include:

  • Fruit smoothies in small cups
  • Peel-and-eat edamame
  • Whole-wheat pita triangles with hummus
  • Baked tortilla chips with bean dip and salsa
  • Watermelon slices
  • Apples slices with yogurt dip (mix cinnamon into Greek vanilla yogurt)
  • Clementines
  • Baby carrots, sugar snap peas and/or mini cucumbers with low-fat ranch dip

Turn food prep into a party activity. Not only is it fun, but kids like to eat what they have made. Try:

  • Do-it-yourself personal pizzas using whole-wheat English muffins or pita bread for crust. Top with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh veggies.
  • Taco/Nacho station. Children fill taco shells or top baked tortilla chips with taco meat made with ground turkey or fat free refried beans. Add reduced fat shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and reduced fat sour cream.
  • Make-your-own fruit kabobs.
  • Layered yogurt parfaits with berries, vanilla Greek yogurt and whole-grain cereal.
  • A rainbow salad bar. Let kids choose their own salad toppings from an array of colored vegetables, including shredded carrots, purple cabbage, sliced cucumbers, grape tomatoes, etc.).
  • Mini cupcakes with frosting instead of serving a large birthday cake to trim down portion size. Have the kids ice their own cupcake and include a sprinkle/topping station.

Avoid the fuss of take-away goodie bags filled with empty calorie goodies and/or plastic toys that will most likely end up in the garbage. Instead give the children an opportunity to share a special birthday wish with the birthday boy/girl as they‘re leaving the party. This can be done by writing a wish on an index card that is placed in a decorated birthday wish box or written directly on a blown-up picture or mat of a framed picture of the birthday boy or girl.

Adapted from “Kids Eat Right” by Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD

– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center. Learn more about the Weight Control Center.

Swiss oats with apples and walnuts


Various breakfast foods and "September is Better Breakfast Month" text

image credit:


Breakfast is named such because you “break the fast” after a good night’s sleep. Eating within an hour of rising kick starts your metabolism, replenishes your body’s supply of glucose, and helps keep your energy levels up throughout the day.

Did you know that regularly eating a healthy breakfast may also help you lose excess weight and maintain your weight loss? When you skip breakfast, you may be more tempted to reach for a quick fix like doughnuts or Pop-Tarts; you’ll end up feeling hungry much sooner when choosing high sugar, processed foods, and that can lead to overeating throughout the day. If you start your day out with something healthy, you’re more likely to make healthy choices over the course of your day. The prolonged fasting that occurs when you skip breakfast can also increase your body’s insulin response, which can increase fat storage and lead to weight gain.

As you can see, breakfast is very important for our health and well-being!

Start the day out right with this autumn-inspired Swiss Oats with Apples and Walnuts recipe. The fiber from the oats and apples paired with the monounsaturated fat from the walnuts will help you feel fuller longer, which helps to maintain a healthy weight to lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.


  • 1 ½ cups dry oats (quick-cooking or old fashioned)
  • 1 ¼ cups skim or plain soy milk
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 cups chopped apples
  • ¼ cups chopped walnuts


  1. The night before; stir together oats, milk, honey and cinnamon in a large bowl. Allow to soak in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. In the morning, add the apples and walnuts.
  3. Gently mix together and serve.


Makes 4 servings (Serving size equals ¾ cup.)

– Kayleigh Delaney is a Beaumont Dietetic intern with the Beaumont Health Center’s Weight Control Center. Learn more about the Weight Control Center.


Orange-Pineapple Cake

Closeup of orange pineapple cake

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 package (16.5 ounce) white cake mix (e.g., Duncan Hines®)
  • 3 large egg whites
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 can (10.5 ounces) mandarin oranges packed in water
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Frosting Ingredients

  • 10 ounces crushed pineapple in own juice
  • ½ of a small box (1 ounce) instant sugar free, fat free vanilla pudding
  • 4 ounces reduced fat whipped topping (e.g., Cool Whip®)

Cake Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the cake mix, egg whites, applesauce, and oranges with juice on low speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Pour into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  4. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  5. Cool cake completely before frosting.

Frosting Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine the pineapple and pudding mix.
  2. Fold in whipped topping just until blended.
  3. Spread over cake.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.


Makes 16 servings (Serving size equals approximately 2 x 3 inch piece of cake.) Each serving counts as 2 starch servings.

Nutrition analysis per serving:

  • Calories: 180
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 240 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 34 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Sugar: 24 g
  • Protein: 2 g

– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D. is a registered dietitian with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center. Beaumont Weight Control Center offers free cooking demonstrations to the community. View a list of current demonstrations here.

The eating struggle


Angry child eating

Cropped image. Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr. CC license.

The toddler age is characterized by a constant recording of “No.”

“Sweetie, let’s play on the playground?” “No!”

“Honey, do you want to play with your brother?” “No.”

Sometimes the constant “no” makes us feel like we’re going insane. But nowhere is it more vexing than hearing “no” at meal times. No to veggies. No to chicken. No pasta. You get the idea. Ugh! As parents, we’re left in complete frustration and worry. We wonder how we’re going to get the right nutrients into our child. Grandma tries. Grandpa tries. The toddler wins with screaming and crying while our heads pound. Does this sound like you?

Picky eating is common

First of all, I want to reassure you that you aren’t alone. Hundreds of parents face the same struggle as you. Picky eating one of the biggest dilemmas parents face today.

Toddlers go through a normal stage of development called neophobia. In this stage, a toddler will reject foods for no particular reason or pattern. As adults, we take this refusal as preference, but it is a real stage of development. The rule of thumb is to offer a food item to your child at least 10 times. This gives your child the ability to distinguish taste and develop true likes and dislikes. Also, give your child the chance to play with food. Present them with frozen foods such as green beans, corn or peas, and then move to items such as cheese sticks, celery or carrots. Activities with pudding and yogurt are also fun! For most children, if they can play with food then they can accept food.

That’s great advice, but my child is still picky.

If your child continues to reject foods and is at a stage where he or she will eat 15 foods or fewer, it’s time to seek help. It’s important you work with a professional who is a trained feeding therapist. A feeding therapist can be an occupational therapist or speech therapist.

A therapist first checks to see if a child has good strength in the jaw, lip and tongue. If a child doesn’t have that strength, it’s hard to chew or bite food, or even keep food in her mouth. Further, a child with a weak jaw, lip or tongue is at risk for choking. It is likely that she has already choked and remembers.

For some children, their pickiness surrounds delayed eating patterns. Children with delayed eating patterns will not be ready for foods as fast as the charts on Google say they are. These children struggle with the different levels of food and will get stuck at one certain stage. For example, they will only eat Stage 2 foods and not 3, or they will only eat biscuits that breakdown in saliva. They have figured out what is safe.

For other children, it is about the taste, smell or texture. These children are your sensory eaters. They may have different sensitivities throughout the structures of their mouth. They have learned to reject everything except soft foods like cheese pizza, chicken nuggets, and mac and cheese. They become resistant and will limit their diet to less than 10 foods. They will not eat no matter what. These children could require intensive therapy.

Help is available

Picky eating can be helped. There is a solution; it doesn’t have to be a lifetime of struggles. Start by talking to your doctor. If warranted, see a therapist. Trust your gut instinct as a parent. The person who knows your child the best is you. Know that we are there to help you if you need us.

– Magda Girao, OTRL CST-D, works in pediatric rehabilitation at the Beaumont Health Center.

Chickpea cucumber tomato salad – “Chole chaat”

Dishes of cucumber tomato and chickpea salad

Cropped image. Noblepig.

Born and brought up in India, I was raised a vegetarian and have never tasted meat in my life. In India, with a population of over 1.1 billion, more people are vegetarians than anywhere else on earth. Vegetarianism is more than a way of life; it is a kind of tradition.

You might be surprised to know that vegetarians can get more than enough protein from many sources, such as black beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), etc. Pick one and watch the protein grams add up.

To get my daily protein, I add one of the above sources to my diet and make sure that I get my required amounts.

Here is one of the quick recipes I usually make with garbanzo beans/chickpeas. I always keep canned garbanzo beans (use ones marked low sodium or no added salt) in my pantry. We call it “chole” in India.


  • 1 can (15 oz.) Garbanzo beans
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 1 English cucumber, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped red onions (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt (to taste)


  • In a large bowl, gently toss together all the ingredients and serve.

Protein content

  • One cup of cooked garbanzo beans contains about 15 grams of protein.

– Pooja Rampal is a Beaumont Dietetic intern with the Beaumont Health Center’s Weight Control Center. Learn more about the Weight Control Center.

Baby’s first super food

Mom nursing baby and older daughter practicing with doll

Cropped image. Leigh Blackall, Flickr. CC license.

Despite fears of toxic chemicals such as lead polluting breast milk, it undeniably remains the most important first food for babies.

Breastfeeding. If you’re one of the millions of moms who breastfed, you know there are challenges. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes your workplace, family or community-at-large aren’t supportive. And sometimes you just want your body back after nine months of sharing it with another human. It’s easy to feel discouraged.

Countless other reasons can tip the scales in the other direction: cost-savings, convenience (no need to go to the kitchen and make a bottle at 2 a.m., then again at 4 and 6), and the benefits of bonding and skin-to-skin contact. But above all are the health benefits for mom and baby.

Health benefits for mom

Breastfeeding reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The American Institute for Research on Cancer found breastfeeding to be “convincingly linked to protection against all-age breast cancer risk.” Research also shows a decrease in ovarian cancer risk for breastfeeding moms. In both cases, the longer a woman breastfeeds, the greater the reduced risk.

Breastfeeding moms also tend to lose baby weight more easily and have a 10 – 20 percent lower risk of diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high fat levels in the blood), and cardiovascular disease as compared to moms who birthed but never breastfed, according to a review in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Health benefits for baby

In 2005 the American Academy of Pediatrics declared, “Human milk is species-specific, and all substitute feeding preparations [formula] differ markedly from it, making human milk superior for infant feeding.”

The list of known health benefits is long and includes a reduction of the incidence of pneumonia, inflammation of the inner ear, SIDS, stomach flu in infancy, childhood obesity, hypertension, asthma and some malignancies. Breast milk also contains substances “… that appear to influence brain development and increase resistance to chronic diseases such as asthma, allergies, and diabetes,” according to a 2002 mini-monograph on chemical contaminants in breast milk, which appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Wow! A reduction in SIDS and serious illnesses as a baby and preventing diseases in the future? That’s nothing to sneeze at. And speaking of sneezing, breastfeeding can help that too. Tiny amounts of a baby’s saliva (and germs) are passed back to the mother during nursing, enabling the mother’s body to customize antibodies in the milk to fight off the baby’s cold or infection.

Lead in breast milk

What about moms exposed to contaminants such as lead? The lead crisis in Flint raised questions about the possibility of mothers passing undesirable substances onto nursing babies.

In response to the ongoing crisis, the non-profit Michigan Breastfeeding Network (MIBFN) released the publication, Breastfeeding & Lead Exposure: Issue Statement and Recommendations. The co-chairs of the organization and authors of the statement (and medical professionals) note that, “Lead in maternal plasma is indeed transferred to breast milk, however, the most recent studies indicate that very little maternal plasma lead is actually transferred to the milk…”

Therefore, only nursing moms with exceedingly high blood lead levels (BLL) of above 40 mcg/dL are encouraged to temporarily interrupt breastfeeding (but continue to pump and dump) and resume when their BLLs are 40 mcg/dL or below. This level, however, is extremely rare; no one — man or woman — during the Flint crisis recorded a BLL higher than 27 mcg/dL. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and MIBFN encourage parents to have their nursing infant’s blood tested for lead levels as well if the mom has a BLL of 5 or higher.

Other toxics

We are exposed to other environmental toxic chemicals every day. Things like Bisphenol A (BPA, a plastic component), PBDEs (used in flame retardants), perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs, used in floor cleaners and non-stick pans), phthalates (used in plastics) can end up in our blood, tissues, and even in mother’s milk. But medical associations and researchers agree: The benefits of breastfeeding are so vitally important that they outweigh potential risks from environmental toxics.

Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, puts it this way: “Given the documented short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice. The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with the continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant. Medical contraindications to breastfeeding are rare.”


Formula contains contaminants too, sometimes at levels much higher than breast milk. A 2011 study tested 437 individual samples of infant formula, oral electrolytes, and 5 percent glucose solutions and found average levels of aluminum to be about 9 – 14 times higher than the highest levels found in human milk. Researchers found levels of cadmium, a heavy metal, to be slightly higher in milk-based formula than in human milk, while lead levels were on average, marginally lower. BPA, perchlorate and phthalates have been found in infant formulas too, and all without the immune-boosting benefits of breast milk.


For some families, however, breastfeeding may simply not be an option. The Ecology Center’s First Food program suggests prioritizing secondary feeding options in this order:

  1. Mother’s own expressed milk
  2. Screened and pasteurized human donor milk
  3. Infant formula

To learn more about human donor milk visit Human Milk Banking Association of North America or read Sharing Breast Milk: Donation and Co-Nursing by What to Expect.

Learn more about how the Ecology Center’s First Food and Healthy Stuff programs are working to keep toxics out of breast milk and consumer products.

– Melissa Cooper Sargent, Environmental Health Educator with LocalMotionGreen at Ecology Center. For more information, you can email her at or visit



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