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Do You Know What Your Children Are Eating?

Do You Know What Your Children Are Eating?

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The evidence is overwhelming. Not only are children unaware of where their food comes from — in some cases they don’t even know what it is. The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) recently conducted a study including over 27,000 children and found that nearly 20 percent of primary school children believed that tomatoes grew under the ground, that cheese came from plants, and that pasta was an animal product.

The study’s alarming results has served as a wake up call to educators and parents around the world and as a reminder of the importance of educating children about their food.

The upcoming Food Day 2013, then, couldn’t have come at a better time. This annual, grassroots campaign event was founded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and has a partnership with Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for better governmental food policies. Food Day 2013, currently scheduled to occur across the U.S. on October 24, will focus primarily on food education by teaching kids how to identify their food, cook for themselves, and thus, construct a healthy diet.

The Food Day campaign recognizes that, while schools “have the unique ability to educate children about food,” they are also where children feel most tempted to make unhealthy eating decisions. On the flip side of this, schools that provide healthy, balanced lunch meals often find that their students have improved school performance and behavior. The campaign suggests that teaching children how to cook and how to “eat smart” can facilitate other healthy lifestyle choices, as well.

Does this sound too good to believe? Here are some examples of how Food Day has enacted real change in schools around the world in past years:

In San Diego, public health professionals have teamed up with local businesses, farmers markets, and school administrators to organize an “Eat, Grow, San Diego” Challenge in which children and their parents could visit neighborhood farmers’ markets to learn about their food and meet the farmers.

Meanwhile, six Boston schools have opened salad bars in their cafeterias since 2012, and hundreds of schools around the world have implemented “meatless Mondays” into their weekly menu. St. Louis, Missouri public schools have started to teach their students about harvesting sweet potatoes and then facilitate cooking demonstrations featuring healthy recipes and nutritious vegetables.

The Jamie Oliver Foundation is merely one of many organizations concerned with food education. The BNF study’s distressing results coincided with the Princess Royal’s launch of Healthy Eating Week, which has called upon 3,000 participating UK schools to teach their students about healthy eating, cooking, and where food comes from. Like the U.S. Food Day, Healthy Eating Week hopes to begin re-engaging children with their food “so that they grow up with a fuller understanding of how food reaches them and what a healthy diet consists of.”

Food education efforts are most needed in developed countries, such as the U.S. and U.K., where obesity and diabetes rates have escalated to unprecedented, dangerous levels and where advertising is a prevalent part of a child’s daily life. Researchers note that the obesity problems are most pronounced in underprivileged areas.

With this in mind, individual schools around the U.S. have recognized that they can curb their high obesity rates by including their own food education programs into their curriculums — and by starting food education programs at a younger age. Central Avenue Elementary School in Kissimmee, FL has started a healthy eating club that gives lessons on kitchen safety, teaches the importance of reading nutrition labels, and shows children how to blend vegetables into smoothies to make them taste better.

Teaching children about their food — where it comes from, how it’s grown, how to prepare it, and what its nutritional values are — can help make them more independent and aware of their environment while also decreasing susceptibility to harmful advertising and temptations. The Food Foundation has also released a comprehensive guidebook that helps school administrators and interested participants implement Food Day in their own neighborhoods.

Inspired to get involved? Try integrating food education into your child’s daily routine at home. Practice identifying food groups with your youngest children as they learn the color wheel and times tables. With older children, encourage them to cook dinner with you and learn how different foods — especially vegetables and lean proteins — can be prepared.

Implementing quick and easy modifications to a child’s daily routine can help them grow into more savvy consumers as adults.

How to Get Your Kid to Eat Meat

This is part 3 in a series of “How to Get Your Kids to Eat ________”. The first two segments addressed veggies, click here to see what you missed.

Meat is tough for kids, literally! Parents often share their concerns with me about their child’s difficulty eating meat and it is often perplexing to them why it is so difficult. Try to sit in your child’s booster seat for a moment, figuratively not literally… meat is often dry, on the blander side, and requires a lot of chewing.

When you think about it, it really isn’t too surprising that kids often aren’t motivated to eat it. Of course, there are other protein sources such as cheese, yogurt, beans, tofu, etc, and if you’re a family of vegetarians, that works great. However, as a parent, if you are eating meat, it is a healthy expectation for your kids to eat it also.

My friend Katie from On the Banks of Squaw Creek has a post up today about guilt free meat eating that is very informative. (Yes, this is the same Katie that wrote a non-sponsored review of a feeding consultation I did for her two sons.) Please know vegans and vegetarians, I respect your principles.

As adults, we often eat things like chicken breast, turkey cutlets, pork loins, and beef roasts. While I don’t advocate totally cooking “kid’s food” all the time for your family, having kids does change what we make for dinner.

The list I just mentioned are among the most difficult for toddlers to eat and often the least motivating for kids of all ages. Of course, I want your family to enjoy these things or whatever meats your family typically prepares, but you may need to do a little ground work first. Let’s move onto some specifics…

The Top 10 Healthiest Foods for Kids

You know it's better to feed your kids vegetables instead of ice cream. But, what are the healthiest foods for kids&mdashand how do you get them to actually eat them? Read on for tips from the experts, plus our top 10 healthy foods for kids.

Pictured Recipe: Kid-Friendly Salad

Anyone who&aposs ever tried to feed a child (something other than cereal or ice cream) knows that they don&apost always eat what you want them to. It&aposs stressful trying to figure out what to make to nourish their tiny bodies. Plus, just because it gets served doesn&apost mean your kids will eat it. But kids need nutritious food-healthy fats for their brains, calcium for their bones, and all the vitamins and minerals vegetables offer-and more. To take out some of the stress and make sure you&aposre offering your child the healthiest foods, we compiled expert tips for mealtimes as well as a list of the top 10 healthy foods for kids.

These 10 foods are not only super-healthy for your kids (and for you!), but are also versatile and easy to prepare.

1. Yogurt

"Yogurt is a wonderful option for breakfast, a snack, or even a dessert but you have to watch the added sugar content," says Katie Andrews, M.S., R.D., a childhood nutrition coach and owner of Wellness by Katie. "It&aposs a healthy, filling snack that checks the boxes on protein and vitamin D, a nutrient many kids lack in their diet." Yogurt also delivers probiotics, good bacteria that are important for maintaining a healthy gut. An easy way to pick out a healthy yogurt? Buy plain Greek yogurt, which has zero added sugars plus twice the protein of regular yogurt. Most yogurt that&aposs flavored has added sugar some new products are flavored with just fruit, but plain is always a safe bet. It&aposs easy to add flavor yourself by adding berries and sprinkling a whole-grain cereal on top or creating a fun parfait with fruit. Dress up yogurt even more for kids by turning it into frozen yogurt pops or frozen yogurt bark.

2. Beans

Beans are a humble superfood. They&aposre loaded with protein and fiber, plus they&aposre cheap and take little time to prepare. Buy low-sodium canned beans such as black beans, chickpeas or kidney beans. Simply open the can, rinse them to remove extra sodium and add to any dish. "Replacing ground beef with beans in a quesadilla or tossing beans with pasta helps maintain high-quality, lean protein while adding a key nutrient: fiber," says Andrews. There are pastas made from beans too, look for brands like Banza, Pow and Tolerant Foods. "Kids ages 4 to 8 need around 25 grams of fiber a day, and most products marketed directly to kids, like fruit snacks and cheese crackers, contain little if any. Fiber helps promote healthy digestion and helps your kids feel fuller, longer, so they aren&apost asking you for a snack 5 minutes after dinner ends," says Andrews.

3. Eggs

Pictured Recipe: Avocado-Egg Toast

One large egg has 6 grams of protein and delivers vitamin D, vitamin B12 and iron. Some eggs are also fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in kids&apos brain development. Don&apost worry about the cholesterol-saturated and trans fats have a bigger impact on raising bad cholesterol than eggs. At breakfast, skip the pastries, fried foods and processed meats and scramble some eggs for your kids instead. If your kids aren&apost fans of scrambled, try different presentations like egg salad or egg casseroles.

Eggs also make a great starter food for babies. Doctors used to recommend not giving eggs until babies were 12 months old, but research now shows that introducing allergenic foods between 6 and 12 months might help prevent food allergies.

4. Avocado

Avocados are an easy way to get healthy fats into your child&aposs diet. They are high in monounsaturated fats, which decrease inflammation and keep cholesterol levels healthy. Fat moves through the digestive tract slowly, so it keeps kids full longer. But the best part of avocados? Their versatility. You can eat them with a spoon, mash on toast, throw into a smoothie, mix into chicken or tuna salad, or make a pasta sauce like avocado pesto. Avocados also make a great first food for babies.

5. Sweet Potato

Short on time and need something nutritious? Wash a sweet potato, poke some holes in it and microwave it for 3-5 minutes (depending on its size). Slice it lengthwise, let it cool, then scoop onto your child&aposs plate. Whether your kid is 6 months, 6 years old or 16 years old, sweet potatoes are appealing across the board (because they&aposre sweet!). They&aposre packed with vitamin A (over 300 percent daily value for an adult), fiber and potassium. Limiting salt and increasing potassium keeps blood pressure and hearts healthy.

6. Milk

Milk helps build strong bones because it&aposs full of calcium and vitamin D. One 8-ounce glass is also high in phosphorus, vitamin B12 and potassium, and has 8 grams of protein. Babies shouldn&apost have cow&aposs milk until age 1. Offer whole milk until age 2 but keep it under 32 ounces for the day or they might be too full to eat their food. After age 2, kids can drink low-fat milk with a goal of three servings of dairy per day-yogurt and cheese count too. If your kid doesn&apost like cow&aposs milk, there are a variety of alternatives on shelves today. But check the nutrition labels and choose unsweetened or plain varieties for your kids. Plain may have some added sugar to match the sweetness of dairy milk, which may be more palatable to tiny taste buds. Every alternative milk has a slightly different nutrition profile soymilk has the most protein. And you&aposll get the same calcium and vitamin D benefit as long as the milk is fortified.

7. Nuts & Seeds

Swap the low-fiber, crunchy kid snacks (you know the ones that are practically air) for nuts and seeds to deliver a healthful trio of fiber, protein and healthy fats. Mix it up by offering cashews, walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, chia seeds and more. If your child has a tree nut allergy, seeds may be a safe choice and a good way to get important nutrition. Nuts are high in magnesium, a mineral that&aposs crucial in bone development and energy production. Walnuts, pecans, chia seeds and flaxseeds are high in alpha-linolenic (ALA) acid, a type of omega-3 fat that the body can&apost make (so you have to eat it). Offer nuts alone or with dried fruit, throw flaxseed into smoothies, sprinkle chia seeds on peanut butter toast, use sliced almonds to "bread" chicken instead of breadcrumbs, or make your own granola bars.

8. Whole Grains

Pictured Recipe: One-Pot Greek Pasta

Whole grains deliver a nutrient seriously lacking in most kids&apos diets: fiber. Fiber keeps them full and regular. Kids need about 25 grams per day, but many snacks only contain 1-3 grams per serving. Look for 100-percent whole wheat or whole grain in the ingredients list (don&apost be fooled by front-of-pack marketing) and at least 3-5 grams of fiber per serving. Easy whole-grain foods for kids include oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta (try half whole-wheat, half white if they won&apost tolerate all whole-wheat), brown rice, and whole-wheat tortillas and bread. You can also use whole-wheat flour or white whole-wheat flour when making pancakes, cookies or pizza dough.

9. Berries

One cup of berries has 4 grams of fiber and is high in vitamin C and other antioxidants like anthocyanins. Blueberries, blackberries and strawberries are also lower in sugar than many fruits. Fresh berries make an excellent snack for kids or a great topping for yogurt. If berries aren&apost in season, buy unsweetened frozen berries and mix them into a jar of overnight oats or a smoothie.

10. Vegetables-Any Kind!

Kids and adults alike don&apost eat enough veggies. If you can get your kid to eat any vegetable-kudos! However, the more color and the greater the variety of vegetables, the better. Each color delivers different nutrients: leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in vitamin K, orange and red vegetables have vitamin A, peppers are packed with vitamin C, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower contain cancer-fighting compounds and feed good gut bacteria.

"Really it is about taking the &aposfear&apos away from veggies-while a slice of pizza is very approachable, a stalk of broccoli can seem intimidating," says Andrews. "So make veggies easy and accessible. Wash and cut celery, carrot and cucumber sticks and keep them in the fridge for snacking. If you have some green space available, plant a small garden with cherry tomatoes and sweet baby peppers when kids grow their own food they are proud of the results, and therefore more willing to indulge in the bounty." Andrews also recommends introducing new vegetables along with ones that your kid is already familiar with: "Make-your-own taco bars or pizza night at home is a great way to encourage young chefs!"

Don&apost give up after offering a vegetable a few times. It takes repeated exposure. Switching up how you serve the vegetables can help too. Some kids won&apost eat raw tomatoes but will eat cooked diced tomatoes in a pasta sauce.

Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthy Foods

How can you actually get your kids to eat more of these super-healthy foods? Try these ideas.

Use MyPlate as a guide. Aim to make half of their plate fruits and vegetables, one-quarter whole grains like bread or whole-wheat pasta, and one-quarter protein like eggs, meat, cheese, beans or nuts.

Remember that your job as the parent is to offer a variety of food, it&aposs your child&aposs job to eat it.

Get your children involved in the cooking and they&aposll be more likely to try the food. Try these 10 easy dinners that kids can help cook.

Serve food family-style so that kids can choose what and how much they would like to eat from the food on the table, recommends Emma Fogt, M.B.A., M.S., R.D.N. "Always have one food on the table that the limited-eater child likes," she says. "The child may eat a lot of bread, but you will also have your other foods on the table for them to try."

"Be a healthy-eating role model," Fogt also recommends. "Kids are watching your every move! For example: Sit down with your kids, eat every 3-4 hours yourself, enjoy healthy snacks and meals, make mealtimes fun and relaxing, play games at mealtime, get chatting, get rid of phones at mealtimes, take the pressure off the food and make it a time to connect. Because in our busy lives this downtime is sacred and it&aposs not about the food."

Take off the pressure. Research shows that kids who were forced to eat certain foods as kids often grow up to dislike or avoid those foods as adults. Coercing kids to eat foods makes mealtime stressful for them and you. "Keep calm and carry on," says Fogt. "It&aposs a long process-I hate to say it, but often can be years-as parents. You have to be so &aposchill.&apos No pressure on the child to eat and no pressure on you to force-feed."

Remove negative language from the dinner table, says Andrews. "Saying &aposyou&aposre probably not going to like it but give it a try&apos tells a child that the food isn&apost worth trying!" she says. Introduce new foods along with those with which they are familiar.

Remember you&aposre not alone. Seek help if needed! Registered dietitians, pediatric psychologists, pediatricians and feeding specialists can help.

Find Nutrition Experts

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Dinner recipes

We have more than 30 delicious, flexible dinner ideas with step-by-step and instructions to help you make quick, healthier family dinners.

And to get you started, we have a special selection of recipes for each day of the week all updated to include just the essential ingredients.

It only takes around 30 minutes to get food on the table for many of them, and we've made it easy to see which ingredients are "swaptional", so you know when you can swap ones you don't have for ones you do, or just leave them out entirely &ndash perfect for when you need a quick dinner with what you have to hand.

Teaching Kids to Cook

The best way to teach kids about eating right is to get them into the kitchen to prepare healthy meals together. Cooking is a valuable life skill that teaches children about nutrition and food safety, as well as building math, science, literacy and fine motor skills.

Encourage your child's interest and excitement in healthy foods by teaching them how to cook safely with this guide of age-appropriate kitchen activities.

Food Safety Basics

Before you enter the kitchen, cover the ground rules with children first:

    in warm, soapy water before and after handling food.
  • Pull back long hair, off the shoulders.
  • Keep counter tops and working surfaces clean.
  • Teach children to wait until food is cooked before tasting. Don't let them lick their fingers or put their hands in their mouths, especially when working with raw foods such as cookie dough and raw meat or poultry.
  • Avoid double dipping or putting spoons back into food after using them for tasting.
  • Remember, young cooks need supervision.
  • Follow the four simple steps:
    • Wash hands, surfaces and kitchen utensils.
    • Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from cooked and other ready-to-eat foods.
    • Cook to proper temperatures.
    • Refrigerate promptly to 40°F or lower.

    These basics are helpful guidelines for children and adults of all ages.

    3-5 year olds

    Young children love helping out, but need very close adult supervision since their motor skills are still developing. Teach these youngsters the importance of washing produce and using clean appliances and utensils.

    • Wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Make it a game by singing the "Happy Birthday" song together twice as you wash your hands.
    • Wash fruits and vegetables in the sink with cool tap water.
    • Wipe up tabletops.
    • Mix ingredients like easy-to-mix batters.
    • Brush (or "paint") cooking oil with a clean pastry brush on bread, asparagus or other foods.
    • Cut cookies with fun shaped cookie cutters (but don't eat the raw dough!).

    6-7 year olds

    Most 6-7 year olds have developed fine motor skills, so they can handle more detailed work, but they will still need food safety reminders.

    • Use a peeler to peel raw potatoes, ginger, mangoes and other washed fruits and vegetables.
    • Break eggs into a bowl and remember to wash hands afterwards.
    • Scoop out avocados after sliced in half by an adult.
    • Deseed tomatoes and cooled, roasted peppers with a spoon.
    • Snap green beans.
    • Load the dishwasher.
    • Shuck corn and rinse before cooking.
    • Rinse and cut parsley or green onions with clean, blunt kitchen scissors.

    8-9 year olds

    There is a wide range of skills in this age group, so tailor your tasks to each individual's maturity level. Teach the importance of wiping down all surfaces and refrigerating perishables, such as eggs and milk, right away.

    • Open cans with a can opener.
    • Put leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate within two hours (one hour if it&rsquos warmer than ninety degrees).
    • Pound chicken on a cutting board. Note: Always use a separate cutting board for ready-to-eat and raw foods, and be sure to wash hands with warm, soapy water after handling raw meats and chicken.
    • Beat eggs.
    • Check the temperature of meat with a food thermometer &ndash it's like a science experiment!
    • Juice a lemon or orange.

    10-12 year olds

    For the most part, kids ages 10 -12 can work independently in the kitchen, but should still have adult supervision. Before letting these kids do grown-up tasks on their own, assess whether they can follow basic kitchen rules such as adjusting pan handles over counters to avoid bumping into them, unplugging electrical appliances, using knives and safely using the oven or microwave.

    Appropriate Tasks (with adult supervision):

    • Boil pasta.
    • Microwave foods.
    • Follow a recipe, including reading each step in order and measuring ingredients accurately.
    • Bake foods in the oven.
    • Simmer ingredients on the stove.
    • Slice or chop vegetables.

    Cooking together can be a fun way to teach your child valuable skills, promote good nutrition and make long-lasting memories in the process.


    Go, Slow, and Whoa! Flashcards (2.4 MB PDF)

    These We Can! flashcards help you and your children learn about GO, SLOW, and WHOA foods to make healthier food choices.

    Portion Distortion Quiz

    This interactive two-part quiz from the NHLBI tests your knowledge about how today's portions compare to the portions available 20 years ago. It also tests your understanding of the amount of physical activity required to burn off the extra calories provided by today's portions.

    Portion Distortion Slide Sets

    The NHLBI offers these slide sets for public use. The slides can be downloaded for use in computer slide shows, conventional slide presentations, or for online viewing via the website.

    Healthy Adventure Infographic (572 KB PDF)

    This infographic illustrates some options that parents and caregivers have in the steps they can take to help their families be healthier.

    Take Charge of Your Health: A Guide For Teenagers

    A booklet from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases that is designed to help teenagers take small and simple steps to keep a healthy weight. It provides basic facts about nutrition and physical activity, and offers practical tools to use in everyday life, from reading food labels and selecting how much and what foods to eat, to replacing TV time with physical activities.

    Tips for Teens with Diabetes: Make Healthy Food Choices

    This tip sheets provide useful information about diabetes and encourage teens to make healthy food choices in order to better manage their disease for a long and healthy life.

    Let Go of Nutritional Perfectionism

    The first salads your kids may eat might not be the ideal nutritionally-balanced meal. They might be heavy on the fat and/or calories and light on dark leafy greens and vegetables. That's okay. The goal here is to raise a lifelong salad-lover.

    Just as you don't expect a 5-year-old to learn to swim in the deep end, you wouldn't expect a 5-year-old to eat a radicchio salad with olive vinaigrette.

    Start the kids off with something they like—iceberg or romaine lettuce with ranch dressing or blue cheese dressing usually works well for kids—and gradually, expose them to new flavors over time.

    PediaSure 3+ Recipes

    Today nutrition disorders can be found at both ends of the eating spectrum. Eating too much leads to obesity, this can seriously jeopardize long term health. Eating too little or eating the wrong foods – these are the problems at the other end of the spectrum, and one of them is "Picky Eating"

    “Picky eating” is a common but often underestimated phenomenon among children everywhere in the world and it can jeopardize a child’s health in both the short and long term. Picky eating also makes problems for parents and caregivers which know that good nutrition is vital for healthy growth.

    Teaching children to eat nutritious foods in the right amounts can be arduous and tedious, and turn meal in to battlefields. Parents are anxious and concerned when they know their children are not eating well.

    Here we provide you with fun filled, creative recipes with PediaSure 3+ to provide good nutrition as well as good taste and interesting presentation. This will help your child enjoy their food and improve their eating habits.

    For more details and information, don’t hesitate to consult your pediatrician.


    Using PediaSure 3+ to prepare recipes with heating will result in the loss of the viability of Probiotics. However, all other nutrient and caloric values will remain the same, We advise to go for heating only when its necessary for your child to try different taste.

    Food Safety Tips for Young Children

    Safety is a major concern when it comes to feeding infants and toddlers. Both food poisoning and choking can have serious consequences. Staying informed and following a few guidelines can help to make meal time safer.

    Foods Young Children Should Avoid

    Infants and young children tend to have weaker immune systems than adults, which makes food poisoning very dangerous for this age group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report those under 5 years of age as being at high risk, with increased rates of infection and serious complications, such as kidney failure.

    By making use of safe food handling and preparation guidelines, you can help reduce the risk of spreading food poisoning.

    When feeding young children, avoid:

    • All unpasteurized foods and beverages, including raw milk and unpasteurized juice and ciders
    • Raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs
    • Raw or undercooked meat and poultry
    • Raw and undercooked fish or shellfish
    • Raw sprouts
    • Honey, until after the baby's first birthday because it can harbor spores of toxic bacterium that can cause botulism, a severe foodborne illness caused by a bacterium which occurs in soil.

    Avoid feeding young children straight from a container that is going to be stored again for later use such as a baby food jar. The "double dipping" from spoon-to-mouth and back to container, introduces bacteria from your child's mouth into the rest of the food. This bacteria can continue to grow in the leftovers and may cause food poisoning. A safer method is to spoon baby food from the jar into a separate dish and then feed from the new dish instead. Throw away all uneaten food from the dish. Food that has not been in contact with the child&rsquos mouth can be stored in the refrigerator according to the guidelines below.

    For safe food storage, reseal the container of food that has not been used to feed the child and store it in the refrigerator (at 40°F or below).

    • Opened containers of strained fruits can be saved for up to three days
    • Strained meats can be stored for one day
    • Vegetable and meat combinations can be kept for two days
    • Unopened jars of baby food have the same shelf life as other canned foods. Check out the Is My Food Safe? app for a complete guide to the shelf life of foods.

    Risks of Choking

    Young children also are at a high risk of choking. Just because they have teeth does not mean they can handle all types of foods.

    In order to avoid choking, don't offer these foods to children younger than four:

      Small, firm foods: including nuts, seeds, popcorn, dry flake cereal, chips, pretzels, chunks of raw vegetables, whole cherry tomatoes, whole kernels of corn and whole olives.

    Note: Vegetables, such as carrots and corn, can be cooked and cut up.

    Note: Meat, poultry, hot dogs and other protein foods should be well-cooked and can be cut lengthwise or chopped up into smaller pieces (less than ¼-inch in size). Grapes should be cut into quarters.

    Note: smooth nut butters should be spread in a thin layer on a food, such as bread they should not be given straight from a spoon or a finger.

    Watch the video: What Do You Want To Eat? Song for Kids. Food Song. Learn English Kids (August 2022).