Introducing Babies to Solid Foods

By Kevann Jordan, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

When a baby is born its mother is able to provide for all of his or her nutritional needs through breast milk until about 6 months old. According to the La Leche League International, “The composition of human milk varies according to the time of day and the age of the baby, so that each mother provides the milk that meets her own baby’s unique needs.” But what comes after breast or bottle feeding? This can be an overwhelming question for many.

Once you begin to see the signs that your baby is ready to begin solid foods there are a few things you could start with, and the choice is all yours. You can either start with a rice cereal or with pureed fruits or vegetables. When first starting to introduce the solid food of choice to your baby, it is best to give a teaspoon or two after the first few feedings and gradually build up to more. You will want to use a soft-tipped spoon so that you don’t hurt their gums.

If you decide to go with rice cereal dilute it with breast milk or formula to a more mushy form so that they can transition to solids more easily. If you want to make home made baby food with fruits or vegetables, you will need to puree them. Start by cooking the vegetables and then simply put them into the food processor. You may also want to add breast milk or formula to make it a more liquid consistency. You can then either put the puree into containers and place them in the fridge for up to three days or you can freeze them for up to three months! Ice cube trays are a great way to freeze baby food into smaller portions!


Here is a great recipe for making your own baby food!


Apple and Pear sauce


Classic applesauce is a sweet and simple way to start your baby out on solid food. It’s also extremely versatile, once you get into flavor combos. Start with just two apples, try an apple and a pear, or mix it with other flavors, like blueberries or kale.


This recipe is intended for babies 6 months and up.




1 apple

1 ripe pear




Peel, quarter, and core the apple and pear. Cut the apple and pear into bite-sized chunks. In a saucepan fitted with a steamer basket, place the apple chunks. Pour in about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water. Place the pan over medium-high heat, cover, and bring to a boil.


Steam the apple for 2 minutes, then add the pear chunks. Continue to steam, stirring occasionally to help cook evenly, until the fruit is very tender, about 10 minutes longer.


Remove the pan from the heat and remove the steamer basket. Transfer the steamed fruit to a blender or food processor and let cool. Process the fruit to a very smooth or chunky puree, depending on your baby’s age and chewing ability. If needed, add a little water, breast milk, or formula to thin the puree.


Makes about 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml)

Recipe via Baby Center


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The Do’s and Don’ts of Meal Planning

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

You come home from work, tired, hungry, and ready to hop into bed. Your family members start coming from all corners of the house and they all have one question ‘What’s for dinner?’ Well, no one planned dinner so it looks like its leftovers or cereal…

This is no way to live! I mean, leftovers can be great, especially if they are from the day before and still fairly fresh. But reheating food every night of the week can get a little old. This is where meal planning comes in and saves the day!

Meal planning takes almost no time to do, and saves you time later on. There’s more good news: You can meal plan around everyone’s schedules so you’re not the only one doing the cooking! Here are some of my do’s and don’ts when it comes to planning out your meals in advance:

Do: Pick a day of the week to brainstorm meals for the coming seven days. When you’ve chosen your meals, write them out on a calendar and list the ingredients that you’ll need.

Don’t: Lose or forget the recipes. Get a small folder or binder and keep all your recipes there. You can even get crazy and have different binders for different kinds of dishes. (Example: Meat dishes, pasta dishes, desserts…)

Do: Buy your ingredients fresh the week of. Go shopping at the beginning of the week after you’ve planned out all your meals so you’ve got the freshest produce possible.

Don’t: Be afraid to leave a night for leftovers. Don’t feel like you have to have a meal planned for every single night of the week. Leave a night or two open for leftovers.

Do: Keep basic kitchen necessities on hand. Make sure you always have olive oil, salt and pepper, lemons and limes, herbs, butter, and other extras in stock. It is very inconvenient to plan a meal, shop for the ingredients, and then realize you’re out of butter once you’ve gotten home.

Don’t: Think you can’t plan for all three meals. If you’re already planning and already shopping, why not plan breakfast and lunch too?

Do: Plan meals around everyone’s schedule. Plan so that the kids get home from school, start dinner, and then you get home in enough time to help finish, or vice versa!

Don’t: Underestimate the power of coupons. Create a few meals around what you have coupons for and what the store has on sale.

Do: Food prep. If you plan to make salads on Wednesday, prepare the fruits and veggies beforehand. Shred carrots, cut up cucumber, dice onions, and put it all in easy-to-store containers. If you’re making spaghetti on Friday night, make homemade sauce and store it in a jar in the refrigerator until you’re going to use it.

Don’t: Get too overwhelmed. If you need to start out meal planning for only three or four days a week and work your way up to six or seven days, don’t sweat it! Don’t think you have to jump right into this creating huge meals with a million fancy ingredients. Start with what you know. Start with your favorite recipes and slowly incorporate new recipes as you get more comfortable in the kitchen.

Meal planning can really help to keep your family organized and save time. Whether you’re meal planning all three meals or just dinner, know that in the long run you are creating a healthier food environment in your home! Good luck on your meal planning journey!


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Teach Your Kids to Pack Their Lunch

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

Whether they take their lunch or buy it at school, making sure your kids eat lunch can be stressful for you. They don’t realize that you come home from work exhausted, and don’t want to make their lunch. Maybe the lunch plan at their school is not in the budget for the upcoming school year. Whatever is going on, there is an easier way: Get your kids to pack their own lunch!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I wasn’t the biggest fan of packing my lunch when I was a kid, and your child might not be either. First things first on this food journey, get your little one excited to pack a lunch!

  1. Make them feel important. Sit your child down and have a serious discussion with them. They are growing up and need to take on some big boy or girl responsibilities. Tell them you NEED their help because of how capable they are becoming.
  2. Get a new lunchbox! To create more excitement, let your child pick out their own lunchbox. Make sure it is something that will get them excited to put their lunch in it every day.
  3. Grocery shop together. When you can, take you little one grocery shopping with you. You make the list, but have them help find products and put them in the cart. When you get to the produce section, let them pick out one fruit or veggie for the week that wasn’t already on your list.
  4. Remind them of what a healthy lunch looks like. Kids are always going to want to stuff their lunch with cookies and other treats if they are available, and that’s okay! Just remind them that cookies are a special treat that they can pack so long as they also pack a fruit and a vegetable.
  5. Bags or containers. Have the appropriate food containers or plastic bags on hand and accessible to your child so they can portion out their food. Get specific containers for sandwiches, condiments, fruits, and vegetables.
  6. You’re the parent, teach your kids. Before throwing them headfirst into packing their own lunches, show your kids how to do everything. Show them how you make different kinds of sandwiches, and where all the ingredients go in the kitchen. Show them how to make a salad, or a turkey wrap. Then, teach them how to put everything into their lunchbox so that it all fits.
  7. Help them out. If you are so inclined, proportion out things that they might have a hard time with for them. They might make a mess putting ranch and ketchup into containers for the week, so have those ready to go if they are needed. The same goes for other condiments and liquids like soup.
  8. Set a lunch-making schedule. To make sure you child has their lunch all ready to go for the next day, set a time they have to start making it by. If their bedtime is 8 o’clock, have them do it at 7 p.m. If they get home from school at three and you want it done right away, have them do it at 3:30 p.m.

There is no right or wrong way for your kiddos to pack their lunch. Just give them the correct tools and help that they need and soon they will be doing it all by themselves!

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10 Thing I Learned About Food from U.S. Top Ranked Dietitians

By Ashley TenBrink, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

I just read a really great article that was previously published in the Wellness section of U.S. News, titled “10 Things Dietitians Wish They Could Tell Their Younger Selves About Food”. Writer, Keri Gans, interviewed her professional peers and compiled ten segments of very sound advice.


I was really drawn to the concept of this article, “what dietitians wish they could tell their younger selves” because I believe prevention can be the best medicine.

My mom has always emphasized to me the importance of not re-inventing the wheel.  Yes, we can learn from making mistakes, but when possible, why not absorb the wisdom that comes from someone who has already been there and done that.  By doing this we can learn more quickly and have a better chance at being prosperous in whatever we set out to do.


At this time in my life, I have the ability to make decisions that will lay a solid foundation for my future.  As I have mentioned before, I believe that health and nutrition can act as a springboard for success in all areas of a person’s life. That is why I am thrilled to share with you what I learned from these dietitians!


  1. The first concept, presented by Elisa Zied, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Younger Next Week: “Drink more water.”


I love that this was number one on the list, not just because it also ranks in my 4 major keys to unlocking your health, but because it is often so easily overlooked!  Zied says that she would make water her number one go-to drink because of its “ability to hydrate, eliminate waste, moisturize the skin, and protect the body’s tissues from injury, aid in digestion and fill us up before meals.”


  1. Second: “What you eat affects how you look”, says Lisa Drayer, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of The Beauty Diet.


Oh, how true this is!  As someone who struggled with moderate to severe acne for more than 12 years, I can more than relate to this concept! Limiting my intake of processed sugars has cleared my skin like never before!


Drayer says she would have focused less on external beauty treatments and focused more on the nutrients that can benefit your skin, hair, and nails.


  1. Third on the list, advice from Lisa R. Young, registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice, author of The Portion Teller Plan and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University: “Don’t diet.”


Did you read that and think, “What?! A nutritionist advising me not to diet?”  However, her advice is psychologically sound. I am a big believer in focusing on what you “can” eat, instead of what you “can’t”.  I feel that a person develops a “scarcity mindset” when they attempt to demonize and avoid certain foods or food groups.  When we have a scarcity mindset we end up feeling deprived and desperate, and eating healthy becomes unsustainable.

Embracing nutritious foods, paying attention to food portions and enjoying the variety of what I could eat is what helped me overcome the binge eating disorder that haunted me for so long!


  1. Moving on to number four: Learn to cook.”


Needless to say, I am going to have to spend some more time on this one.


Kathleen M. Zelman, registered dietitian nutritionist, and director of nutrition at WebMD, stresses the importance and value of sharing the love and joy that comes from preparing dishes with friends and family.


I want nothing more than to share happiness and value with people around me, so I am going to tackle this with a little more zeal in the weeks to come.


  1. Joan Salge Blake, registered dietitian nutritionist, clinical associate professor at Boston University and author of Nutrition and You brings us our fifth tip: Get more sleep.”


Yes, yes, and yes!  I agree whole heartedly, even though it is so hard for me to do!  Even as I write this article it is almost 11:00 p.m. at night.  I long for more hours in a day and just love staying up late working on projects and waking up early to go walking with my dog, Mari.


The problem with this scenario, as Blake explains, is that research correlates sleep deprivation with higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger.  Research also shows that being tired lowers levels of the hormone leptin, which suppresses appetite.


Why make maintaining weight harder for ourselves?  Is that extra hour or two worth being “hangry” all day?


  1. Coming up with number six is Tara Collingwood, registered dietitian nutritionist and sports dietitian in Orlando, Florida, who advises us to: Be a food snob.”


I don’t know if your parents were the type that made you eat what they set in front of you, or if you were spoiled (um, I mean “well taken care of”) like me, and got to choose what you ate at almost every meal, but I could get behind this tip.


Collingwood says that “Food is meant to be enjoyed and life is too short to eat something that isn’t fantastic and worth the calories, or that’s packed with good nutrition.”  I agree with this.  We get to make the choice of what we put into our bodies.


However, Collingwood also mentioned, “Deciding in the first bite whether it’s worth it or not to continue eating.”  I have a slight problem with this because I do not like to waste food or money. If I made a bad choice then that’s on me, I own it, eat it, and try to do better next time.


  1. Number seven brought to us by Jackie Newgent, registered dietitian nutritionist, culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook: Toss out the scale.”


Keeping it real and relatable, Newgent says “weight is just a number on a lifeless piece of equipment! If your jeans start getting tight, go play more or take longer bike rides.’”.

While I agree with the overall premise here, especially adding in more movement and play, I think too much or too little of anything can be a problem.  I do not think it is a good idea to weigh or measure yourself every day, however, I think body stats can be a useful benchmark for setting and achieving health and body composition goals.  These goals just need to be realistic and productive.  Stat taking sessions should also be limited and taken at pre-determined points to track progress.


  1. Barbara Baron, registered dietitian nutritionist and family meal specialist in New Jersey has one of my favorite tips on the list: Choose nutrient-dense foods.”


Nutrient density is defined as the amount of nutrient value (including vitamins, minerals, and fiber) divided by the energy content (number of kilocalories).


For instance, a glass of soda is high in calories but low in nutrient value.  Soda is not nutrient dense, even though it is calorie dense.  Fresh spinach, on the other hand, is a nutrient dense food because its nutritional value is high while the amount of calories in spinach is relatively low.  Spinach is very nutrient dense.


This may be an extreme comparison, but it illustrates the idea.  If you choose nutrient dense food you can give more value to your body while consuming fewer calories.


  1. Next, on the list: Cut the low-calories.” says Patricia Bannan, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight, for the ninth piece of advice.


If you’re wondering if I favored this tip, you are right!  Bannan says she wishes she would have focused more on the quality of the ingredients in her food choices, even if that meant eating a small amount of higher-calorie “real” foods as well as nutrient-dense foods.


An example of this would be eating nuts or avocado.  These foods are high in calories, but they are real, natural and contain healthy-fats.  Bannan says the low-calorie foods she now chooses to consume are naturally lower-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables.


  1. Finally, coming in at number ten: Stop striving for perfection.”


Ellie Krieger, registered dietitian nutritionist, host of “Ellie’s Real Good Food” on public television and award-winning cookbook author says, “Don’t strive for perfection in the way you eat or in your body image. There is no such thing! Instead, honor and respect your body and enjoy food in a way that supports all it does for you.”


So well said!  We are so lucky to be given the chance to experience this life in the body that we have.  Whatever place you may be at in your own journey, you can embrace where you are at today!


Don’t get down if you’re not where you think you need to be, embrace the journey and the transformation that is happening both on the inside and the outside of you.  Pick one of the ten things mentioned in this article and implement that today.  Continue to implement it this upcoming week, and stick with it until it becomes a habit and you find consistency.  Then add another one of the ten tips next week and so on until you’re on your way to the healthiest you can be!

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Delicious Overnight Oats

By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern

A few weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house, and as we hung out in her kitchen she began to prepare her and her family’s breakfasts for the next day. She apologized for doing so while we were hanging out, but she’s a busy lady and needed to get it done, and I didn’t mind.

She started cutting up different fruits and placing them together into a container. She sprinkled a little lemon juice and honey over it all, put the lid on, and shook it up. That would be her kids’ breakfast.

My friend then pulled a mason jar out of her cabinet and began adding ingredients that I at first thought were very random. She filled the bottom of the jar with oats, added the same amount of plain yogurt, poured in some milk, a spoonful of chia seeds, and a dash of vanilla. She closed the jar, shook it up, and then put it in the refrigerator alongside her children’s fruit.

She must have seen the puzzled look on my face, because she began explaining to me what she had concocted before I could even ask.

Every morning for breakfast my friend eats overnight oats. She mixes all the previously mentioned ingredients together and in the morning tops the oats with whatever she feels like. She said it keeps her full until lunchtime and, of course, is full of some very healthy ingredients!

Overnight oats can be customized to fit your personal flavor preferences, which is why I can’t wait to try making this for breakfast this week!


  • 1/3 heaping cup of oats
  • 1/3 cup of plain yogurt
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla
  • A dash of salt


My friend’s way: Add all ingredients to a mason jar, mix with a spoon or shake to combine ingredients, place in refrigerator overnight.

A second way: Put all ingredients into a bowl, mix thoroughly, carefully pour into a mason jar, place in refrigerator overnight.

Toppings to try:

  • Sliced apples, walnuts, and cinnamon
  • Bananas and peanut butter
  • Mixed berries like raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries
  • Sliced mango and coconut flakes
  • Dark chocolate pieces and pomegranate seeds
  • Cherries and almonds
  • Strawberries and bananas
  • Dark chocolate and peanut butter
  • Peanut butter and your favorite jam

What is your go-to topping for overnight oats? Share your tips and tricks in the comments. For more delicious breakfast recipes visit Fill Your Plate’s recipe section!

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