Thursday, February 16, 2012

Use High Antioxidant Grains for Cooking and Baking

By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

Antioxidants can reduce your child's risk of childhood diseases, including asthma, allergies, and cancer.

You can dramatically increase the antioxidant level of your child's diet by making one tiny change -- using high antioxidant grains!

Imagine Jason, a well-meaning parent who gives his daughter Ava a cheese sandwich made with white bread. Now imagine Greg, another parent who makes one small change: he gives his son Dylan the same cheese sandwich using whole wheat and buckwheat bread.

Believe it or not, Dylan ate a lunch that was seven times higher in antioxidants than Ava! Dylan is getting as many antioxidants in that one meal as Ava is getting in two days of refined, processed foods!

Whole Grains Are Higher in Antioxidants

Whole grains are always higher in antioxidants than their refined cousins. Whole wheat flour is three times as high as white flour. Brown rice is five times as high as white rice. Giving your child whole grains can make a huge difference in the antioxidant level of her diet.

Switching to Whole Grains is Easy

Making the switch to whole grains is very easy. Amazingly, researchers have found that children often don't even notice when whole grains are served instead of refined grains!  And they often rate the whole grain products as just as tasty as the refined grain products!

One of the easiest things you can do to increase the antioxidant level of your child's diet is to switch to whole grains.

Some Whole Grains Are Higher In Antioxidants Than Others

In addition to switching to whole grains, you can make a big difference in the antioxidant level of your child's diet by using high-antioxidant whole grains. Some grains are naturally much higher in antioxidants than others.

Here are some antioxidant levels in whole grains:

Buckwheat 1.99 
Barley:       1.09
Millet:         .82
Oats:           .59
Rye:            .47
Rice:           .36
Wheat:        .33

As you can see, buckwheat is a super source of antioxidants. Try to fit some buckwheat into your child's diet, in the form of pancakes, muffins, or noodles. You can buy buckwheat flour at a health food store and buckwheat noodles at an Asian grocery store. You can substitute a quarter or so of wheat flour with buckwheat flour in most recipes.

Quinoa and amaranth are also very high in antioxidants.

Some Strains of Grains Are Higher In Antioxidants Than Others

Grains can have different strains. A strain is a different type of grain, like breeds of dogs are different types of dogs.

There can be a huge difference in the antioxidant levels of different strains of grains.

In general, you can remember this rule: The darker the color, the higher the antioxidants.

Black rice is higher in antioxidants than brown rice.

Red wheat is higher in antioxidants than white wheat.

Some dark-colored grains, like black rice or black and red sorghum are as high in antioxidants as blueberries!

One Small Change for Mom, One Huge Difference For the Kids!

Switching to high-antioxidant whole grains is an easy change to make. You probably already make many dishes with grains -- muffins, pancakes, rice. Simply grab a box of black rice instead of white rice, or a bag of buckwheat flour instead of white flour.

If you give your child high-antioxidant whole grains early in her life, she will probably like them for the rest of her life. The food your child eats when she is young will be the food that she likes when she is an adult.

You are helping your child's health now by feeding her high-antioxidant grains. But you are also helping her health thirty years from now when she is an adult, on her own.

Recipe Tips

If you want to use buckwheat flour, you can add up to 1/3 of it as a substitute for whole wheat flour and still get good results in most dishes. Remember that buckwheat has no gluten, so it won't rise as high in yeasted breads. It works better in pancakes and muffins, which are made with baking powder.

Whole grain rice takes twice as long to cook as white rice. However, if you soak the whole grain rice for a few hours (or overnight), the cooking time will be the same as refined white rice.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feeding Your Baby Salt Can Make Her Crave It For the Rest of Her Life

 By Julia Moravcsik, PhD, author of Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food

A recent study found something remarkable about babies' taste preferences. Six month old babies who ate salty food like crackers loved the taste of salt years later! These babies grew to be preschool children who would eat, not just salty food, but plain salt! They happily ate plain salt sprinkled on a plate!

The remarkable thing about this study was that the 6 month old babies weren't given especially salty food. They were given food that many parents think is healthy for their children - crackers, bread, and other starchy snacks. Imagine a well-meaning parent giving her baby whole wheat goldfish crackers and thinking that it is a healthy food, not knowing that she is setting her baby up for a lifetime of salt cravings! Even bread, which people don't think of as a high-salt food, is actually fairly high in salt compared to the natural foods that people ate for hundreds of thousands of years.

Starchy Food Is a Bad First Food

Starchy foods are bad first foods for several reasons.
  1. Starchy foods have very little flavor, so they don't teach babies the flavors of real foods. 
  2. Starchy foods in our culture are associated with processed foods. The first flavors your child learns will stick with him the longest. He will be more likely to love these flavors later. If his first foods are starchy, flavorless ones, he'll learn to like the refined flour processed foods that food manufacturers create in their factories.
Now there is another reason not to feed your baby starchy foods. The added salt creates a long term salt craving.

Best First Foods: Meat and Vegetables

Some researchers are recommending meat as a good first food.  Meat is high in iron and zinc. Breast milk is low in both of these nutrients, so meat fills the gaps.

Vegetables are also a good first food. Teaching your baby the taste of many different vegetables at this early age can make her like them for a lifetime. Vegetables are also extremely nutritious. Your baby will get a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Fruit may also be a good first food, but there is still a controversy over whether feeding your baby fruit this early will program her to like sweet tastes. If you want to be safe, stick with vegetables for the first few months.

How to Make a Healthy Cracker

Parents like crackers because they're convenient. It's easy to grab a handful of crackers for baby to munch on a car trip to the grocery store.

There is nothing wrong with an occasional cracker or piece of bread. But try to make sure it is flavorful (like herb or tomato flavored) and unsalted.

If you want a healthy cracker, you can make it yourself. Follow these rules:
  1. Don't add any salt.
  2. Don't add any sweetener.
  3. Add other flavors by adding herbs and spices (preferably fresh).
  4. Don't taste it yourself! I'm kidding here, but if you do taste it, recognize that your adult palate, warped by years of salty, sugary food, may find the crackers boring. Don't worry - your baby will love them!
Recipe for Healthy Whole Wheat Herb Crackers

These crackers have no salt or sugar. They contain herbs, which teach your baby to like the taste of real food. Herbs are also extremely high in antioxidants.

1 cup whole wheat flour (or other whole grain flours)

1/2 cup oatmeal, blended until fine in a blender or food processor

3 tablespoons wheat germ (stored in freezer so it doesn't get rancid)

2 tablespoons sesame or poppy seeds

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, dill, oregano, thyme, cilantro, etc.)

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup olive or other oil

  1.  Mix together the flour, oatmeal, wheat germ, seeds, and herbs.
  2. Add the water and the oil. Mix together or process in a food processor. The dough should come together in a ball. Add more oil and water if it seems too dry.
  3. Roll out until as thin as possible on a floured surface. Cut into shapes using a knife or cookie cutter. 
  4. Place on ungreased baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Teaching Your Child to Love Healthy Food is NOT Intuitive!

When I see a surprising study like this one, which finds that a seemingly healthy food like whole wheat crackers can have huge impacts on children's eating preferences years later, I realize that using a parent's intuition is not enough. Many parents feed their children food that seems healthy, but years later their children are junk food junkies.

The only way to really teach your child to love healthy food is to follow the research on how children learn their food preferences.

Would you like a simple, easy-to-follow program that will teach your child to love healthy food? See my new book Teach Your Child to Love Healthy Food on

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