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Breastfeeding support on demand, through your phone. Yes, really!

September 29, 2015
Pacify logo

Disclosure: I am part of the Pacify provider network but was not asked to nor will I be compensated for writing this post. I work with brands and companies I believe in, such as this one. All views and words are my very own.

I consider myself lucky. My first child was delivered at a baby-friendly hospital which truly lived up to its distinction. There was breastfeeding support as soon as my daughter was born, and I wasn’t discharged until I had at least one visit from the lactation consultants.

Also available to me were weekly breastfeeding support groups at the hospital, as well as unlimited calls to the lactation consultant support line. I’d leave a message and get a return call within about 2 hours, or the next business day if it was late in the day. I used that line a lot, as I was a nervous first-time mom with a smallish little baby girl – the honor roll student in me did not understand how 30 percent(ile) could be considered “good” or “normal”,  but so goes the growth chart system! Thanks in no small part to the support of the lactation consultants, as well as to my support system at home and of like-minded mamas, I was able to reach my goal of breastfeeding for one year. (OK, 13 months. It’s that honor roll/overachiever in me!)

That’s why when I first heard about Pacify, I knew I wanted to get involved. Pacify is a new company, an app on your mobile phone that connects subscribers (usually moms) with health professionals. For a monthly fee you can have unlimited, on-demand access to nurses, lactation consultants and dietitians to answer questions when you need it, not to mention the support and reassurance from a qualified health professional quite literally right there in front of you (most calls are done via video chat). While a goal of Pacify may be to increase confidence in a mom’s ability to breastfeed which may also increase duration, Pacify providers like me may also help with non-breastfeeding-related questions like when to introduce solids and how to overcome picky eating in a toddler.

Like it or not, we are an on-demand culture: we want to binge-watch television shows, get questions answered by Google, and hate waiting for a call back or when business hours roll around. When it’s the middle of the night and baby is crying but won’t latch, mom wants help from a professional and needs it now. Thankfully, services like Pacify are now there.

D.C. area readers: Tomorrow you can meet Pacify directly! Visit the Pacify booth at the Big City Moms Biggest Baby Shower tomorrow, September 30, from 6:00-9:30 p.m. at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center. You can get $15 off (that’s one free month) with a special code. No obligation – just try it out. Makes a great baby shower present, too!!

Everyone else: If you’re interested in trying Pacify and you’re in the D.C. area, Maryland, Virginia or California, leave a note for me in the comments and I’ll email you the code. Pacify is quickly expanding into other states, so stay tuned.

I Love School Lunch (and So Do My Kids)

September 16, 2015
School Lunch

A version of this post originally appeared on Stone Soup, a blog written by registered dietitian contributors. 

For the past several weeks, my social media feeds have been flooded with tips, tricks and gorgeous pictures of nutritious and appealing lunches for kids. It seems like kids across the country will be plunking down properly insulated and portion-perfect bento boxes of adorable cookie cutter-cut sandwiches and sides of fruit in caterpillar-shaped cuteness served with a carton of organic milk.

Not my kid.

In our house, we nudge our school-age child toward buying a hot school lunch. If you haven’t been to a school lunch cafeteria in while, I urge you to visit with your child someday. You might be surprised. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 required for the first time in more than 15 years that school lunch standards conform to the latest dietary guidelines. This meant using only whole grain ingredients, serving more fresh fruits and vegetables, providing lowfat or nonfat milk only, reducing sodium and setting calorie limits, among other changes.

The foods served at my child’s school may look like normal kid fare, but they are made with better-for-you ingredients. Chicken nuggets and buns are made with whole grains, hot dogs are actually turkey dogs, and pizza is made with a whole wheat crust and lowfat cheese. All vegetables served on the side (and a child must take a vegetable) are either fresh or reduced-sodium if canned. There isn’t dessert served except on special occasions. Yes, not everything on her tray gets eaten and may end up in the trash, however more often than not the packed lunches I give her come home with untouched food as well. With lunchtime crunched into a 20-minute timespan, that barely gives enough time to get lunch, sit at a table, have some unstructured time to connect with friends, and, oh yeah – eat!

Another thing I like about having my child eat school lunch is that it allows positive peer pressure to work. If other kids at her table are eating the same thing and her good friend is gobbling up the pea-and-carrot cup with gusto, that may inspire her to give it a try. Exposure and modeling are powerful teaching tools, especially when it comes to trying new foods. It works great at my son’s preschool, where kids and their teachers are all served the same lunch and snacks. They even have paella on the menu, which apparently my son has gotten to like.

So parents, when you get tired of making broccoli tree and celery boat dioramas, packed lovingly but returned home as if an avalanche hit the scene, put some money in your kids’ school lunch account and send them off with a kiss and the knowledge that they’re getting a healthy lunch…served lovingly by someone else!

Disclosure: none. All opinions are my own.

A Family Who Eats Together…

September 9, 2015
FamilyMealsMonth logo

When our first child was born, my husband and I made a pact: we would always try to have dinner together, as a family. We knew so many young families who served two dinners: one for the kids, and one later for the parents after the kids had gone to bed. Being early-to-bed/early-to-rise people, dinner at 8pm or later just would not work in our house.

It wasn’t always easy. Those early weeks with our first child often had one of us eating while the other bopped around, trying to sooth the colicky child crying in the sling or baby bjorn. As our family grew and the kids got older, eating together was pretty easy. Highchairs were soon replaced with booster chairs which gave way to everyone sitting in the same type of seat. And dinnertime was always promptly at 6pm. It just was (and still is)…no questions.

As our children get older I worry about activities starting to encroach on our dinnertime. But for now I will hold onto the time we have for as long as I can.

September is National Family Meals Month, a time to commit to eating one more meal together as a family. It’s not just about nutrition – though there’s evidence that suggests home-cooked meals are healthier. Eating together as a family is a time to reconnect, to talk about the day, to do some subtle homework help, and to model good eating behaviors. Regular family meals may also help boost performance in school and help kids stay off drugs.

The dinner hour can be stressful, especially if family members had a hard day or the meal served isn’t a favorite. But here are some tips to make family mealtime enjoyable for everyone:

  • Take turns choosing the meal. This could mean macaroni and cheese one night and chicken curry another night. But giving everyone equal say in the meal decisions can help generate excitement.
  • Get kids to help in the kitchen. Even the youngest children can play with measuring cups or arrange vegetables on a tray. As they get older you can have them do simple tasks like measuring and mixing, and later graduating to boiling water or carefully slicing ingredients. Getting them involved gives them a sense of pride on the outcome.
  • Always serve something that each person would like with the meal. Not everyone in my house gets excited about Sloppy Joe’s night, but everyone will at least eat the bun and the carrot sticks. You never know when that bun may one day include a spoonful of Sloppy Joe meat.
  • Don’t force eating. According to Ellyn Satter, the expert on child feeding, it’s the parents’ job to choose what, where, and when to eat. It’s the child’s job to choose if and how much to eat. Maybe the Sloppy Joe meat will go untouched 9 times out of 10. But maybe, after a while, the child might be motivated to try it. Or maybe one day he’ll like it and the next day it makes him turn his nose. Either way, be patient and don’t badger.
  • Focus on the table. Even better, focus on the people at the table. Leave electronics turned off or in another room. Playing soft music is OK, but having the TV on as background noise is not. This is the time to truly connect with one another, without any outside distractions.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Not every dinnertime is going to lead to earth-shattering conversations or behavior breakthroughs. Some days having conversations may be like pulling teeth (anyone with teenagers know what I’m talking about???). It’s OK if dinner is 15 minutes one night when most nights it’s about 30 minutes. Just being together is what counts.

As I’m writing this, I just remembered: Growing up, there were three of us kids and a single mom. Eating meals together didn’t always happen – that is, until my mom instituted “Ritual.” Ritual was one night every week that we committed to eating together at home, all four of us (or three, when my older sister went away to college). The day of the week changed with the school years and around different activities, but it was usually a Monday or Tuesday. It was also a night that we ordered in dinner, so no one had to cook and everyone got to choose what they wanted. I don’t remember much about Ritual or whether it solved any major school-age crises for me. But here I am, a few decades older, and I’m still recalling sitting around that kitchen table, unpacking the takeout and eating together.

Disclosure: I learned about the Food Marketing Institute’s National Family Meals Month (#FamilyMealsMonth) and its campaign to #RaiseYourMitt to commit to one more family meal per week. I was not asked to write about this initiative nor was I compensated to do so. I just honestly believe in family mealtime and the bounty of benefits if can provide.

Field Notes: FNCE 2014

November 5, 2014

A few weeks ago I attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ (commonly referred to as FNCE®, pronounced FINN-see). This is the annual event in which 8,000 or so registered dietitians and others working in the nutrition field congregate and learn the latest nutrition science and research, sample new products, get a peek at the latest trends, and network like crazy. For me, FNCE is like an annual reunion, where I get to see – or meet for the first time – people I communicate with throughout the year on social media and via email. It’s fun, but hoo boy – is it exhausting!!

Which is probably why it took me this long to write up my FNCE recap. I needed the rest and recovery!

There is so much to do at FNCE, but my main job there was with Welch’s, working the booth and introducing its new Farmer’s Pick by Welch’s line of 100% fruit juices. Still, when I wasn’t at the booth I spent much of the rest of my time on the exhibit floor and came away with the following insights on the latest trends:

  1. We love our snacks! According to the USDA, about 96% of Americans reportedly snack at least once per day. That trend was certainly apparent at FNCE, with snack foods galore. And not only were these snack foods packed with nutrition and taste, the brands also wanted you to know what they didn’t have, like GMOs or nuts or gluten or high-fructose corn syrup.
  2. Kids are king! Maybe it’s the mom in me, but I was getting some good ideas for school lunches and snacks for my grade-schooler. With so many schools instituting no-nut policies, it was interesting to see all the nut-alternative products made with beans, peas and lentils, packaged in fun ways with kid appeal. But that’s not to say…
  3. We’re nuts for nuts! So many nuts were at FNCE (and no, I’m not talking about the attendees!) There were peanuts and almonds and pecans and so much more. Maybe it’s because…
  4. We’re also nuts for protein! Protein may be the one nutrient of which most Americans consume the right amount, but boy do we love protein! And there are myraid ways to get protein – not just the traditional sources like meat and dairy, but also protein-fortified bars and beverages.
  5. We like to mix things up! Setting aside the “yogurt gets a passport” trend (see previous blog post on that topic), we love customizing our own foods, mixing savory with sweet, crunchy with creamy. You could see that in action with yogurts (SO many yogurt options), cottage cheese – even strawberries.

Curious to hear from other RDs and the trends they picked up on at FNCE. Leave a note in the comments!


Disclosure: Welch’s is a client, but I was not compensated nor asked to write this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


October 15, 2014

Wow…I didn’t mean to take such a hiatus from my blog, but…gosh, where did the past 2 years go?? I can tell you one thing – I didn’t age one bit! Nuh, uh…no way!

Well, I’m glad to be back and to breathe some new life into this blog. I have a few fun features in mind to spice up Sprinkle of Sage, and don’t be surprised if we have a new look and feel coming soon! In the meantime, this is what I’ve been cooking up over the past two years:

  • My little preschooler has become a bona-fide grade-schooler! Her kindergarten year was a learning experience for both of us. She learned how to read and do math, and I learned that school lunch is so much different than what it was when I was a kid. It’s actually really good, and she was buying lunch more than she was bringing (which is a relief to me when my creativity wore thin!)
  • My newborn is now a preschooler! And so far, he is sailing through the so-called “food neophobic” stage (ages 2-5 typically) with little to no signs of the telltale picky eating that comes along with it. He still won’t eat eggs, but most other foods are fair game to this hearty eater.
  • I’m training for a marathon! This will be my fifth, but the first as a fundraiser. The past few years have brought with them many friends and family members – young, old and in between – being diagnosed with or affected by cancer. Somewhere along the way, I felt myself getting angry. A useless emotion, especially when it comes to cancer – so better to put that energy to good use and raise money so that we can find a cure, right?!? That’s why I’ll be running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26, 2014 with Team AICR – the American Institute for Cancer Research. Every little bit counts, so please consider supporting me:

As for this blog, you can expect more regular posts (no more 2-year gaps!) and a re-emergence of regular features, such as:

  • Digesting the News: as major nutrition-related issues come up in the news – like the proposed new Nutrition Facts label or changes to Dietary Guidelines for Americans – I will provide an overview and key takeaways that you need to know.
  • Sprinkles of Sage: inspirational quotes or articles to lift you up.
  • Dietitian Dine-Around: a feature in which I’ll profile more healthful options at the more popular restaurants.
  • Spotlight On…: I’ll highlight a favorite food or new product that’s come to my attention (I have to like it to review it!).

But first, I’m gearing up to attend the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Atlanta. Keep your eyes open for a post on fun food finds, trends from the expo hall, and hot topics from the sessions.

In the meantime, if you have issues you want to see discussed in this blog, or have products or restaurants to review, please feel free to comment or email me directly. I’m excited to be back!

Mythbusting: Fresh vs. Frozen

July 23, 2012

One of the reasons why I started writing this blog is because I wanted a forum to address the abundance of misinformation I see and hear regularly about food and nutrition. Last week I came across such an item in my daily newspaper – not some chump rag but the Washington Post, of all things – that was so misleading I was shocked that Post editors actually printed it. The main point – in fact, the headline – was to convince readers why fresh is better than frozen. However, the points made contained broad generalizations and half-truths, comparing the best of fresh with the worst of frozen.

The fact is, there is a place in a healthy diet for all types of food: fresh, frozen, dried, canned, squeezed, juiced, etc. Since it’s now summertime, with fresh produce in abundance at farmers markets and on sale in grocery store, it’s easy to forget certain benefits of choosing packaged or frozen foods. I regularly dig into my freezer when I make a home cooked meal, no matter the season. But I digress – let’s tackle the issues:

  • I have not come across any scientific basis to support the author’s point about freezing decreasing the nutrient value of a meal, especially since her next few sentences are about vegetables and fruits. The frozen vs. fresh argument here is totally out of place and seriously misleading. Fresh in-season produce that’s picked and harvested at its prime do tend to deliver more nutrients than if the same produce is picked before it is ripe. But fruits and vegetables destined for the freezer case have been picked at their prime then flash-frozen to seal in the nutrients. So you might actually get more nutrients in your frozen blueberries than you would eating the same berries picked in the spring (blueberries hit their peak in July, typically). Just be sure your bag of frozen berries doesn’t have added sugar, or the box of frozen veggies doesn’t have added preservatives or artificial flavors.
  • Related to this point — did you know that canned pumpkin and tomatoes deliver more nutrients than their raw versions? That’s partly because the canning process involves heating the food at high temperatures, which makes nutrients such as lycopene in tomatoes, available to be better absorbed by the body. So chalk one up in favor of processed over fresh.
  • The point about fresh fruits having higher water content and are thus more hydrating is true – but it’s also true that dried fruits deliver more iron…so there’s that. If you’re really worried about hydration, drink an extra glass or two of water.
  • And while I might be inclined to agree that in theory a home-cooked meal is perhaps a better alternative to a frozen TV dinner, I would also agree that homemade spaghetti carbonara is less healthful than a frozen, portion-controlled meal. Though its true many packaged and frozen meals may have ingredient lists as long as the box they come in, there are many nutritious frozen foods and meals with wholesome, recognizable ingredients. Read the label.

The bottom line here, folks: don’t knock it because it’s frozen (or canned, or dried, or – gasp! – processed). Just know what you’re eating, even if it means looking at ingredients on the side of a box, can or carton.

Photo credits: iStockphoto

Dietitian Dine Around: Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt

June 28, 2012

It’s blazing hot out there! As an ice cream aficionado myself, one of my favorite ways to cool off is to indulge in a sweet creamy treat. And with National Ice Cream Month just around the corner (July), my latest Dietitian Dine-Around will be on self-serve frozen yogurt bars.

The fro-yo frenzy has only recently made its way to my area, but when I was living in Colorado two years ago these serve-yourself buffets were popping up everywhere. It’s like a candy-coated dream come true: a wall of a dozen or so frozen yogurt flavors, many of which tout “low fat,” “fat free” or “no sugar added” labels on them. Can’t be too bad for you, right? (eh…not so much)

Those fro-yo places are clever. First thing you do when you walk in is choose your bowl. Typically, your choices are: Big, Huge, and Ginormous. Seriously – the last place I went to had a bowl that could be used as a bucket to wash my car. Research by eating behavior expert Brian Wansink of Cornell University (author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think) shows that the size of the plate or bowl we use influences how much we serve ourselves. Typically, the larger the bowl, the more we take (and the more it costs – which means increased revenue for the franchisee. See, clever!)

Sure, you’re free to choose as much or as little frozen yogurt as you want, but with a myriad of delicious-sounding (and healthy-sounding) flavors such as nonfat Cookies N Cream or Greek Yogurt with a Touch of Honey or Soy Bean, it’s really hard to pick just one or two.

Credit: iStockphoto

Moving on to the topping bar – now THAT’s where things can get interesting. You can top your treat with everything from fresh cut-up fruit to Froot Loops; go traditional with Snickers crumbles or nostalgic with Nerds – the possibilities are nearly endless. Since you pay by the ounce, you might think it’s OK to allow yourself to go crazy on the flaked coconut but find yourself rationing yourself to one or two blueberries and other “heavier” toppings.

Now, I love a cool ice cream treat as much as anyone, but here are some tips to keep your waistline, wallet and taste buds in check:

  1. Choose the smallest bowl. Always. Even if you’re sharing. Believe me, it’s big enough.
  2. As with any buffet, check out your options first BEFORE you start piling on your plate (or in this case, bowl). Assess the flavors but also the topping bar. Think about what might go well together, and what would be overkill. A cookies n’ cream frozen yogurt flavor topped with crumbled Oreos sounds like overkill to me.
  3. Pick just one or two flavors of frozen yogurt to use as your base. Again, think complimentary, such as cake batter and strawberry, or peanut butter and chocolate.
  4. Practice restraint at the topping bar. Again, just a handful of toppings should be enough. Remember, soon this will all be a melted, gooey mess. Will you really be able to distinguish the Twix crumbles from the Kit Kat crumbles?

Otherwise, keep cool!


Disclaimer: The opinions on this post are my own. I was not compensated for writing this post, nor was I approached in advance by any of the companies or people mentioned within.


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