Franceen, America's Nutritionist of Choice, empowers busy Americans to make healthy, convenient choices from today’s marketplace. Today she focuses on making a healthy choice for Yogurts at your supermarket.

Quick Tips For Busy Moms Who Don’t Want Kids Wired On Sugar

I’m a mom of twins, so you can trust me when I say that NO ONE wants kids that are revved up on too much sugar. NO ONE.

The truth is, too much sugar revs kids up – and then their energy level crashes. Neither scenario is really what’s best for them.

On the other hand, I’m passionate about keeping food enjoyable, making meals pleasant, and giving my kids a healthy mindset about what they put in their mouths. So I’m not ready to take dessert off our family menu.

Here are some of the tips I use to find that elusive middle ground:

1. Eat dessert (seriously!)

Sure, skipping dessert improves the nutrition profile of many meals.

But our families enjoy having sweets at some meals. And studies tell us that deprivation just teaches our kids to sneak around to satisfy their sweet tooth.

We just need to unlearn the lesson that “dessert” has to mean banana splits, rich pies, cookies as big as frisbees, and huge slices of cake.

2. Use my insider tips to keep dessert healthy

As a dietitian who spent years developing truly healthy recipes for restaurants, that had to taste great to sell, I can tell you from experience that desserts CAN be prepared in a healthy and satisfying way.

  • Start by using fresh fruits and juices, yogurts, whole grain cereals and other wholesome ingredients.
  • Cut the sugar — recipes almost always call for far more than you need for great taste.
  • Make the dessert with vanilla and/or cinnamon, which bring out the sweetness without having to use as much sugar.
  • Sprinkle some of the sugar that was called for in the recipe on top of the dessert so your tongue gets an instant sweet taste rather than burying it all inside.
  • Serve smaller portions with a fruit on the side to fill you up more nutritiously while making it look extra-special.

See? You can create wonderful sweets your kids will love!!

3. Don’t worry as much about calories.

Kids really do need healthy, filling meals to grow. Give kids healthy choices and balanced food combinations, so they learn from experience that healthy food can be fun, delicious and satisfying.  Let them experience all the wonderful food combinations that they can love — and that will love them back!

And of course, that includes healthy desserts using the tips in #1 above.

4. Minimize sugary beverages

Sugary soft drinks, lemonade, fruit punch and sweetened iced tea really don’t do our kids any favors. They offer very little if any nutritional value while doing a number on their teeth.

Focus on sweets that they actually eat, as part of a meal. These are real foods, that offer real nutritional value and help show kids that healthy = tasty. I don’t demonize sugary drinks, but I don’t proactively suggest them to my kids. We offer sugary drinks only on occasion, while recognizing that there are times when that’s what they’re going to have because that’s what’s being served — and that’s OK, too.

Sugar isn’t bad, but moderation is the key. Instead of getting it from sugary beverages, where so much sugar is lurking, offer it through foods your family eats that also bring nutritional value such as desserts and snacks prepared with fruits and whole grains.  This will reinforce the message that healthy can mean tasty.

Yes, You CAN Take The Kids to McDonald’s & Here’s What To Order

Should you be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at McDonald’s?

Of course not… but you don’t have to avoid it 24/7 either.

There are some healthy choices, and these are my top picks.

Breakfast

Sausage Burrito

Not the best of my picks, but a better choice than most of the other breakfast items offered at McD’s. It ‘s quite high in sodium, but low in sugar and calories and it provides a decent amount of protein.

Per serving: 290 calories, 15 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 800 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (2 g sugars, 1 gram fiber), 13 g protein

Boost it for better nutrition:
• Add apple slices or clementine or low-fat strawberry go-gurt

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

Although slightly high in sugar, and low in fiber for a “fruit”-based item, it does provide some protein and is relatively low in calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium.

Per serving: 150 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 75 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (22 g sugars, 1 gram fiber), 4 g protein

Boost it with add-ons at McDonald’s for better nutrition:
• Add a cup of low-fat milk

Egg McMuffin

Yup – the classic. You get most the food groups in this breakfast choice. The only thing you’re missing is produce, and you can add a fruit to really boost the nutrient profile.
Although a bit high in sodium for a small menu item, it provides 18 grams of satiety-providing protein, with a low amount of sugar, and it is relatively low in calories.

Per serving: 300 calories, 12 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 730 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (3 g sugars, 2 gram fiber), 18 g protein

Boost it with add-ons at McDonald’s for better nutrition:
• Add apple slices or clementine

Egg White Delight McMuffin

The classic with a healthier twist! You still get most of the food groups in this but with less fat because they skip the egg yolk. That brings the calories down to 260 and also slashes the fat and saturated fat to a healthier level.

Per serving: 260 calories, 8 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 750 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (3 g sugars, 2 gram fiber), 16 g protein

Boost it with add-ons at McDonald’s for better nutrition:
• Add apple slices or clementine

Lunch & dinner

Chicken McNuggets

Without the sauce, these little guys aren’t as bad as you may think. In fact, they are one of the best of the fast food nuggets out there. It’s the sauce that’s very high in sugar and fat – the creamy ranch is the biggest culprit, offering more fat than a hamburger. Having them with ketchup is a better choice.

Per serving (6 nuggets): 270 calories, 16 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 510 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (0 g sugars, 1 gram fiber), 15 g protein

Boost it with add-ons at McDonald’s for better nutrition:
• Add a side salad with low -fat dressing

Small Hamburger

A small serving, but a good size for a child and a lot lower in saturated fat than many other burgers out there!

Per serving: 250 calories, 8 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (6 g sugars, 2 gram fiber), 13 g protein

Boost it with add-ons at McDonald’s for better nutrition:
• Ask for extra lettuce and tomato
• Add a side salad with low fat dressing or apple slices or clementine
• Add low fat milk or strawberry go-gurt

Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich

This sandwich is a healthier choice than the other chicken sandwiches at McDonald’s and offers a whopping 37 grams of protein for only 380 calories and only 2 grams of saturated fat, but you also get a heavy dose of sodium. That comes mostly from the sauce- so for a healthier option, ask for it plain or with the sauce on the side (and minimize the amount you add).

Per serving: 380 calories, 7 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 1110 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (11 g sugars, 3 gram fiber), 37 g protein

Boost it with add-ons at McDonald’s for better nutrition:
• Ask for extra lettuce and tomato on top
• Add apple slices or clementine

McDouble Hamburger

Although still high in fat and sodium, it’s a healthier choice than some of the other burgers on the menu, clocking in at only 380 calories with a hearty helping of protein.

Per serving: 380 calories, 18 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 840 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (7 g sugars, 2 gram fiber), 23 g protein

Boost it with add-ons at McDonald’s for better nutrition:
• Ask for lettuce and tomato on top
• Add a side salad with low fat dressing or apple slices or clementine

Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad

The ingredients here are great- romaine lettuce, spinach, kale and red leaf lettuce with black beans, roasted corn and grilled chicken. It’s the dressing that adds all the sodium and fat. While still being high in sodium, swapping the southwest dressing with the low fat balsamic vinaigrette will save you some fat.

Per serving (with Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette instead of Southwest dressing): 390 calories, 13 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 1480 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (12 g sugars, 6 gram fiber), 37 g protein

Boost it with add-ons at McDonald’s for better nutrition:
• Add a cup of low fat milk

Desserts & snacks

Vanilla Cone

Not the most nutritious choice, with lots of sugar and corn syrup, but better than some of the other dessert offerings.

Per serving: 200 calories, 5 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 80 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (24 g sugars, 0 gram fiber), 5 g protein

Soft Baked Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

One of the better choices of dessert here, offering fiber, some protein and under 13 grams of sugar, which is good for a decadent cookie.

Per serving (1 cookie): 140 calories, 5 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (12 g sugars, 1 gram fiber), 2 g protein

Baked Apple Pie

When it comes to pie, delivering 4 grams of fiber and only 13 grams of sugar is a good sign that there are plenty of real apples in this dessert. Although higher in fat than the other choices on my snack and dessert list, it is lower than most other pies on the market.

Per serving (1 cookie): 230 calories, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (12 g sugars, 1 gram fiber), 2 g protein

What NOT To Say To Your Kids When You’re Dieting

It is SO important for us parents to understand which conversations can help or harm kids’ eating habits, and how to talk to our kids in a positive way about food and health.

Conversations about body weight and size can actually hurt kids, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School. They’re linked to an increased risk of unhealthy dieting and other unhealthy and inappropriate weight-controlling behaviors in children.

And those conversations don’t necessarily have to be about the children’s weight and size to be harmful. They can also be about the parent’s weight and size.

On the other hand, these researchers also found that parents who talked to their children about nutrition and healthy eating — instead of weight and size — were less likely to have a child with an eating disorder.
The bottom line:

  • Talking about nutrition and healthy eating in positive ways is a good idea.
  • Talking about weight, size and dieting is a bad idea.

Often, the best way to discuss weight is NOT to discuss it at all. Obsessing about your own or your kids’ weight and body size can give the subject more importance than it deserves.

Children get cues from their parents. If you want your kids to feel good about their bodies, don’t obsess about your own.

Pay attention to the actions you use around them and the words you use.

Never put yourself down in front of them for how you look and don’t let anyone else do this either.

Avoid comments like:

  • Let’s be good and skip the chips
  • I was so bad today — I ate a piece of pie
  • I’m so fat, I need to lose weight
  • No, I can’t have that, I’m dieting
  • No, don’t eat that, it has too many calories

Instead, say:

  • No thanks, I don’t want any (no reason is necessary)
  • This apple is so crunchy and delicious and it’s so healthy for my body
  • These delicious carrot sticks help my eyes stay sharp and focused
  • I’m eating healthier so I can have more energy
  • Drink your milk to help your bones and teeth stay strong
  • Eating healthy will help you excel in sports
  • Eating healthy will help you concentrate better to help you with school and homework

Remember, as nutrition expert Dr. Brian Wansick says: “If you’re a parent, it’s better to focus on the benefits of broccoli and not the harms of hamburgers.”

Focus on food in a fun and positive way and you’ll be teaching your kids the right lessons about healthy eating.