By: Ann Condon-Meyers, RD, LDN, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
March is National Nutrition Month, which is good news for licensed dietitian nutritionists (LDNs) because it gives us a chance to blog about our favorite subject … food! Now, to be fair, food is something we all love to talk about regardless of our age or expertise in the kitchen. Everyone has strong opinions about foods in my house and I’m sure in your house as well.
As the science of nutrition grows, our feelings about foods grow more complex as well. Unfortunately, foods often get a bad rap in these scientific studies setting off either fear or worship of specific foods. What to feed our families often seems unclear in light of the newest scientific studies.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week a proposal for new labeling guidelines that will attempt to assist us to make better food choices by giving us more useful information about the foods we buy in our grocery stores. Some of the changes include more realistic portion sizes, stating whether sugar has been added to a product and if so how much, and an update of the percentage of daily values based on current nutrition science.
First Lady Michelle Obama gave this statement to the press in regards to the FDA label changes proposal: “You as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family.”
I hope she is right. Most of us are looking for ways to improve the nutrition of our families and these new labels should help us make informed choices when we shop for our family meals. Unfortunately, the new label guidelines will not be finalized for another year and manufactures will have another two years to comply with the guidelines. What do we do in the meantime? Let’s apply what we currently know about nutrition to our family meals:
1. Research tells us that the simple act of eating together will have lasting positive effects on relationships in families and the nutrition we consume. Whether it’s “take-out” or Grandma’s recipes, the time together is priceless. Remember to turn off all electronic devices!
2. Variety is still the spice of life. Serving your family a variety of foods will go a long way in improving their nutrient intake. And if you have some picky eaters at your table, check out the book “Fearless Feeding” by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen for lots of sound advice on how to allow your children to “expand” their food choices.
3. Cook more often. Even if you only prepare and share one meal at home together each week, you will be setting a great example for your children. Most children love to make things in the kitchen and research shows they will be more receptive to new foods they have prepared themselves. Not a natural-born cook? Keep it simple. An easy recipe can be just as nutritious as one that takes all day to prepare.
Here is one of my favorite family recipes that is easy to prepare and good for you. It is an Irish dish that I always make this time of year. You can use an electric mixer to mash the potatoes but your kids might enjoy the challenge of “smashing potatoes” themselves! A quick substitute for the kale is a ½ bag of shredded cabbage and carrots sautéed in 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter.
This version of Colcannon is from EATRIGHT.org, the web site of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Colcannon (Mashed Potatoes with Greens) Recipe
Recipe by Roberta L. Duyff, MS, RD, FADA, CFCS
Tip: Either choice — kale or cabbage — is traditional, but kale makes this dish greener and more nutrient-rich.
2 pounds baking (russet) potatoes, peeled, cut in 3-inch chunks *
2 medium parsnips or carrots, peeled, cut in 2-inch chunks *
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or soft margarine, softened
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups chopped fresh kale
1/3 cup chopped green onion
1. Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until potatoes and parsnips are tender but not falling apart. Drain; add butter, milk, mace, salt and pepper.
3. Meanwhile blanch the kale in a medium saucepan by immersing it in boiling water for about 1 minute. Drain.
4. Mash the potatoes and parsnips with a potato masher or fork. Add kale and green onion; mix well.
5. To reheat if needed, cover mashed potatoes and place over very low heat for 5 minutes. Fluff with a potato masher or fork before serving.
* Leave peels on potatoes and carrots, if desired, for more fiber. Since parsnips typically have a wax coating, they need to be peeled.
Calories: 190, Calories from fat: 40; Total fat: 4.5g; Saturated fat: 2.5g; Trans fat: 0g Cholesterol: 10mg; Sodium 220mg Total carbohydrate: 35g; Dietary fiber: 4g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 5g