Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Eve, Budget Finger Foods for Kids

Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Have Fun for New Year's. Keep kids healthy and happy during New Year's without the expense.

Kids tend to eat a lot during special events and that can lead to tummy aches from too many rich foods and headaches from not getting enough fluids.
Instead of filling that punch bowl with a lot of sugary fluids, how about filling it with ice and then placing several water bottles inside. Keep a marker handy to write the child's name on the bottle so you don't have community backwash. 
Kid's often complain of a headache near the end of festivities and this can be due to several factors, but dehydration may be one of them. Parties often have soda pop and juice boxes which only adds to the sugar load they're already receiving from food. This can shift the solute load within the blood stream requiring more water intake. If the body, especially that of a child, does not receive the water it requires, you can end-up with a nasty headache. 
Right now you can pick-up a 24 pack of water bottles for 3 to 5 dollars.
Finger Foods
Old fashioned popcorn can be popped on the stove and placed in individual baggies or containers. 
Place a small amount of olive or canola oil in a dutch oven and lightly heat on medium high, add 1 cup of popcorn kernels, cover, and shake the pot frequently (almost constantly) while gradually lowering the temperature on the stove top after it starts to pop. Remove from heat when popping starts to diminish. There really is no need to add salt as fresh popped popcorn has lots of flavor. 
You will get a huge bowl of popcorn that's inexpensive and not laden with preservatives and salt.
Fresh oranges can be rinsed, cut in half, use a knife to cut around the rim between the flesh and the rind, and then dig out with a spoon. This method is quicker and each child will receive at least half an orange (depending on how much you buy). This will help provide fiber (in addition to the popcorn), and vitamins A and C.
Wheat crackers that have at least 2g of fiber per serving tend be much lower in fat than some of the other varieties. You can pre-make a cream cheese dip with a low fat block of cream cheese, softened and whipped with a 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, dill, or whatever herb fits your fancy. Buying cream cheese by the block saves on cost. Be careful of "major-loaders"...kids who tend to have more dip than they do cracker.
Raw vegetables cut in small, bite-size pieces are always a winner. They're nutrient content is rich in many vitamins and minerals. You can choose which vegetables you want to serve based on current sales if you want to save on cost. Some ideas: broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, carrot chips. 
Low fat, plain yogurt used as dip is a healthier alternative to sour cream dips. You can serve the yogurt plain or add a small clove of crushed garlic and mix well.
Fun foods such as cookies and tarts can be added to the celebration, but place a limit on them. Save on expense by rationing out how many of the sugary or fatty foods each child may have. Or, instead of having dessert-type foods laying around for the quick grab, you can bake a cake. This way everyone gets dessert but the urge to graze at the dessert table is eliminated. 
If you want to place bowls of food around the house, use the popcorn for this instead of potato chips.
For adults, if you eat a meal before festivities, you're likely to eat less later. This is recommended for children too, but keep in mind that they tend to eat whatever they see just for the novelty of it. This is where those picky eaters are sometimes at an advantage.
Use your best judgment when it comes to kids and holidays and have fun! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Legumes or Dried Beans Are an Inexpensive Way to Add Fiber, Protein and Nutrients to Your Holiday Meals

On a Shoestring Budget? Just Want to Get Healthy? Incorporate Packaged and Canned Beans into Your Diet.
The easiest and cheapest way to add fiber to your daily diet is by incorporating legumes.
They are a low-fat, low-sodium product. Dried beans are a plant food so there is zero cholesterol.
But, they are high in fiber, amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and potassium.

Legumes include:
  • black beans,
  • garbanzo beans (chick peas),
  • chili beans,
  • kidney beans,
  • Great Northern beans,
  • split peas,
  • blackeye peas (cowpeas),
  • lentils,
  • lima beans,
  • navy beans,
  • pinto beans,
  • white beans
  • and more.....
The Cheapest way to purchase legumes is dried:
Before bed, pop a cup of rinsed, dried beans in a pot of water to soak over-night. In the morning, drain the water and cook according to package directions. Refrigerate or use immediately.

Don't want the fuss? Buy canned legumes. They are still inexpensive especially if you catch a good sale.
  1. Be sure to rinse canned beans in a colander to remove excess salt.
  2. Purchase refried beans that are labeled "vegetarian" or do not contain lard (of course, you cannot rinse refried beans so you may want to look for "low sodium" as well).
How to incorporate into popular foods: 
  • · Add black beans to spaghetti sauce.
  • · What's a good chili without beans?
  • · Add them to green salads. They add flavor, texture, color and a host of nutrients.
  • · Serve as a side dish.
  • · Serve as a main course. Just mix with fresh, chopped tomatoes and herbs such as chives and basil. Throw in a few cubes of mozzarella cheese.
  • · Blend into a chunky paste with onions, garlic and tomatoes for a bean dip. Options: add cilantro and fresh, squeezed lemon or lime juice.
  • · Top rice with your favorite legume.
The possibilities are endless! Be creative! Start a new habit. Research cooking sites for legume-based recipes.
Precautions: Consult with a physician and a registered dietitian if you have a special medical condition, such as: kidney disease, before incorporating legumes in your diet.