Multivitamins: are they necessary and do you need one?

Should you be taking a multivitamin?

Before you can answer this question, you need to first take a look at your diet and any health conditions you are currently experiencing.  

  1. Are you eating a well-rounded diet? Have you cut out any food groups?

It is important to first get your vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. You will get more nutrition from the diversity of the foods and more fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that you cannot get from supplementation. These elements of whole foods prevent diseases and improve bowel movements. However, no one person’s diet is perfect. Many people cut out certain food groups, such as dairy, for health reasons.  If this is true for you, a multivitamin may be beneficial to fill in the gaps. 

  1. Do you have a health condition that may cause you to not be able to absorb certain nutrients, or cause you to need more of a certain nutrient?

Many digestive complications such as Crohn’s disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease can lead to malabsorption of certain nutrients. Over a period of time, nutrient deficiencies can develop and cause various symptoms. Talking to a dietitian and your doctor about your disease and possible nutrient deficiencies that may result can help you decide which vitamins you should be focusing on.  Getting your vitamin and mineral levels checked can reveal if you need more than what a multivitamin can offer. If this is the case, you may be recommended to take individual supplements that have higher doses for what you need. In some situations, like being pregnant, you may need more of certain nutrients such as folic acid and iron. Pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin.

You can never go wrong with talking to your dietitian and doctor about taking a multivitamin or a specific vitamin/mineral supplement. Explain your current diet and any health conditions you are experiencing. Above all, focusing on eating more foods in their whole and natural forms will always benefit you. You cannot overdose on nutrients when eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and grains. However, you can reach a toxicity level from popping a higher dose of vitamins/minerals than you need. 

Above all, if you are eating a balanced diet and are not experiencing any health conditions that require you to need more of certain nutrients, you may be better off saving your money and continuing to focus on your diet!

–Tara Greenwood Penn State University Dietetics Student

Edible No-Bake Cookie Dough

Serving size: 1 piece; Makes about 15 pieces

  • ​1 cup oat flour (process oats in food processer until ground to a powder)
  • 1 cup protein powder of choice (I used chocolate plant-based powder)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (and 1-2 tbsp for topping)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Mix oat flour, protein powder, peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Add chocolate chips and stir to mix.
  3. Dump cookie dough in 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.
  4. Press down to flatten and put in fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Take out of the fridge, chop into bite-sized pieces and store in air-tight container. Throw back in the fridge to keep them fresh or store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  6. Enjoy bites of cookie dough for that afternoon pick-me-up or an on-the-go snack!

KP’s Tip: Adding protein powder is a great way to boost protein. Use whatever flavor you have. You could also use 2c oat flour if you don’t want to use a protein powder. Get creative and use different toppings as you see fit!

Recipe adapted from: https://www.mealswithmaggie.com/no-bake-cookie-dough-bars/#tasty-recipes-3743

Original & Maple Brown Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Serves 4-6 from each flavor

  • ​Pumpkin Seeds (extracted from 3 pumpkins)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp maple extract
  1. Separate pumpkin seeds from what I call “pumpkin guts” and rinse well in cool water in a colander. Make sure most of the pumpkin is off the seeds. 
  2. Preheat oven to 300⁰ and line cookie sheet with parchment paper, separated in the middle for both flavors. 
  3. Lay out a dish drying mat and lay pumpkin seeds in a single layer on mat. 
  4. Pat dry with paper towels and try to get as much moisture out of the seeds as possible. 
  5. In a bowl, combine olive oil, salt, pepper, half the amount of seeds, and mix. 
  6. In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, maple extract, and the other half of the seeds and mix. 
  7. Lay out pumpkin seeds on cookie sheet, in a single layer. 
  8. Roast in oven for 45 minutes or until crispy. 
  9. Take out of oven and serve immediately!

KP’s Tip: Pumpkin seeds are a great snack since they offer up a great deal of protein fiber, and healthy fats. Sure, you can buy store-bought pumpkin seeds, but the sodium content in them is extremely high. Making them yourself allows you to control the sodium content.

Good vs. Bad Foods

I hear it ALL the time, “this food’s good for you” or “this food is bad for you”. But where do these definitions come from and why do we feel the need to place them in categories to make us feel a certain way about eating them? Defining a food as good or bad only puts the notion of how you’re going to feel after you eat a certain food. Are you going to feel good after eating a bagel and cream cheese if you consider it bad? Well, of course not if you’re defining these foods as bad. It’s time to throw away the idea that foods can be categorized as one thing or the other. It’s not about food being good or bad, it’s about what your body needs and wants and listening to it! 

So let’s explore what we consider “good” and “bad”. After a fun little Facebook poll, I was able to see what you think makes a food good and bad. 

Here are some answers for “good” foods:

  • A food in its natural state
  • Makes you feel good and does good things for you 
  • Grown from the Earth naturally 
  • Minimally processed
  • You know where it’s coming from (ie; produce stand or butcher)

And here are the answers for “bad” foods:

  • Makes you feel bad after you eat it 
  • Processed or injected with preservatives or dyes
  • Fried or really heavy meals
  • Foods high in sodium or fat 
  • Foods with a lot of ingredients or really shelf-stable

Now that we’ve identified the good and the bad, let’s throw this whole idea out and start thinking about foods differently. We need to stop villainizing foods and making ourselves feel guilty over eating certain foods. This pulls us away from listening to our bodies and eating intuitively, and closer to eating what we think we should eat rather than what we want to eat. 

In order to allow ourselves to stop categorizing foods, you need to start thinking about the foods you genuinely enjoy and how to incorporate them into your day to day. If you love mac and cheese (like me), it shouldn’t be something that you’re afraid to eat or only eat on special occasions. It should be a food that you have when you want it, and get satisfaction from. Allowing yourself to enjoy the foods you love can help limit the feeling of needing to over eat that food. The more you restrict, the more you want it; so why deprive yourself? Every fad diet out there will give you a list of “no” foods and a list of “yes” foods. All this does is reinforce the categorizing of good and bad foods. 

We give food way too much power than it deserves. We allow it to adjust our social life, make us feel restricted, and sometimes even affect the relationships we have with others. If you want to stop feeling so powerless towards dieting, you have to take the power for yourself. Stop being afraid of foods and start loving foods. Be comfortable, happy and confident with the choices you make. The more intuition you put into eating, the more empowered you feel and the more you’ll want to eat foods that make you feel better as a whole. 

Eating intuitively takes time, patience, and lots of rewiring our brains. Working with a Registered Dietitian can help you plan, strategize, and ensure you’re not overwhelmed with changing the way you see foods. Just remember that no one food is going to sabotage your hard work and the less stress you put on yourself, the easier the transition will be. 

Banana Sushi

Serves 1

  • 1 whole wheat wrap
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp chocolate chips
  1. Place wrap on a cutting board and spread wrap with peanut butter, spreading on only the left or right side of the wrap. Use a small dab of peanut butter on the opposite side of the wrap to help it stay closed once you roll it up.
  2. Top peanut butter with chocolate chips, banana, roll it up and cut up into bite-sized pieces for a perfect, kid-friendly snack!

KP’s Tip: Use other fun toppings like rice krispies cereal, berries, or chia seeds to add a crunch and different flavor to your sushi.

Bento Box

Serves 1, Serving size 1 box

  • 2 eggs, hard boiled
  • 1/4 cup hummus (flavor of your choosing)
  • 3/4 cup raw vegetables (carrots, celery, cucumber)
  • 1 cheesestick (mozzarella, cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup berries
  1. Place 2 hard boiled eggs in lunch container. Add in hummus cup, raw veggies, cheesestick and fruit.
  2. Repeat with as many containers as needed for lunches or dinner for the week.
  3. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Calories 402. Fat 21g, Protein 26g, Carbs 29g

KP’s Tip: Feel free to switch up the fruit, veggies and cheesestick you use to give yourself variety and change up the flavors.

Hot ‘N’ Honey Turkey Meatball Skewers

Serves 4, Serving size 2 skewers

  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c Italian seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 4-5 large jalapenos, cut into chunk and deveined and deseeded
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 20-25 skewers
  • Skewer Glaze:
  • 1/4c honey
  • 1/4c Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  1. Line large plate with wax paper. Mix first four ingredients together in bowl.
  2. Form bite-size meatballs and place on lined plate. This should make about 20 meatballs. If you have more than one layer, be sure to separate the layers between wax paper. 
  3. Place plate in freezer and leave for about 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs are firm. 
  4. While the meatballs are in the freezer, chop up and prep all your veggies. Make sure the jalapenos are free from seeds and veins; otherwise they’ll be too hot! 
  5. After the veggie prep, combine all three glaze ingredients and mix well until blended. 
  6. Take meatballs out of the freezer when done and assemble skewers in the following order: meatball, jalapeno, 1 tomato and 2 pineapple chunks. Repeat until all skewers are completed. 
  7. Preheat grill to about 375⁰ and spray with nonstick grill spray. 
  8. Coat one side of the skewers with the glaze while still on the plate, and place glaze-side down on grill. Coat the other side with the glaze and let cook, about 10 minutes. Flip over and cook another 10 minutes. 
  9. Continue to rotate until skewers are completely cooked through. 
  10. Take off grill and enjoy!!

Calories 321. Fat 11g, Protein 23g, Carbs 33g

KP’s Tip: Pair with a side of brown rice or quinoa to complete the meal!

Grillin & Chillin for a Finger-Lickin’ BBQ

That first smell of a grill sparking up and searing meats or vegetables is one of the most inviting smells of summer. Not only is your grill an awesome outdoor cooking method, but it’s also a great party-friendly way to cook a ton of delicious food! Since we’re mid-grill season, I wanted to share some great tips and tricks to make the most of your grilling experience. 

So why can grilling your food be a better option than other cooking methods? Flavor, time, and efficiency are three of the most obvious reasons. Take grilled chicken versus baked chicken; the grilled chicken is going to have a more charred and smoky flavor without adding more calories or sauces to it than a baked chicken in the oven. This is the case with pretty much every meat; steak, sausages, hot dogs, burgers, etc. Not only is the flavor deliciously enhanced in a grill, but the time you need to cook the food lowers as well. Again, baking any meat can take anywhere from 25-40 mins, but cooking a burger or dog on a grill takes a mere 10 minutes! Not to mention, who wants to heat up the house in the middle of summer with an oven when you can grill outside. 

In addition to efficiency, the amount of food you can grill at one time increases as well. Grills typically have more surface area to cook food than an oven will. Of course it depends on what you’re making, but you’re typically going to cook more at one time on the grill than in the oven. We love to save time, so why not use the grill to help you? 

Are there any foods that you’ve always wanted to grill, but never knew if it could happen? I have personally been experimenting with different foods to see what works and what doesn’t. Wings, pizza, vegetables, onion, pineapple, and watermelon are a few of the foods I’ve tried lately and let me tell you, they’ve all come out delicious. 

Some other foods you can grill that you may not have realized include eggs (cooked in a cast iron skillet), bacon, meatloaf, lasagna, avocados, peaches, and bananas. I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to get creative! Anywhere from savory to sweet can work on your grill, it’s all about using the right tools and trying something new. 

Who doesn’t love a good hack when they see one? Some grilling hacks that I hope can make your grilling experience easier are below. 

  • Using grill mats to keep foods cleaner and falling through grates.
  • Brushing ½ an onion on your grill grate to prevent sticking.
  • Grilling corn on the cob in the husk for maximum flavor and steaming, cutting off and squeezing out the corn while it’s still warm. It’ll keep the silk from sticking too!
  • Always soak your skewers in water for 10-20 minutes before using to prevent burning. 
  • When grilling fish, leave the skin on for more flavor and nutrient value (vitamin E, D, Iodine, Selenium, and healthy fats). 
  • Using tin foil to make “packs” and combo dishes. 
    • Cheesy vegetable packets
    • Mixed chicken and vegetable packets 
    • Loaded “smashed” potato packets 
    • Banana, chocolate and marshmallow packets
    • Smore’s packets

These are just a very few examples of recipes and foods you can make on the grill. If you’re not a big grill person, I hope this helps give you ideas and new ways to start utilizing it. I myself was always timid of the flames and heat, but it’s such a great way to kick off summer, and even use it all throughout the year! Check out my personal recipe for delicious turkey meatball skewers to make for your family, or for your next party. Have a wonderful summer! 

Grilled Street Corn Salad

Serves 6-8, Serving size 1/2 cup

  • 5 ears of corn in-husk
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup feta cheese 
  • ½ tsp Cilantro
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Preheat grill to high heat. Once heated, place ears of corn in the husk on the grill. Cook for 10 minutes, rotate to the other side and cook another 10 minutes. If the husk gets burned, not to worry. It will only give your corn more flavor on the inside. 
  2. After corn is done, place on a heat-safe plate and let cool. 
  3. While corn is cooling, slice the cherry tomatoes in half lengthwise, and then into thirds. 
  4. Slice the avocados into bite-sized pieces and combine with the cherry tomatoes in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Once corn is cool enough, cut the thick end of the corn off where the husk is (making sure to cut into the cob itself). You will then be able to squeeze the corn out, holding the top (hairy end) of the corn and slowly pushing the ear of corn out. 
  6. Once you have done that with all of your corn, slice the corn right off the cob and place into the mixing bowl.
  7. Slice your lime in half and squeeze the juice into your bowl. Add feta and cilantro.
  8. Mix well to combine and eat up! 
  9. Slice your lime in half and squeeze the juice into your mixing bowl. Add feta and cilantro.

Calories 145. Fat 7g, Protein 5g, Carbs 18g

KP’s Tip: This is a great starchy side to have with dinner. It works great with kabobs, since the grill will already be used for the corn!

TODDLER TIPS: How to encourage your littles to try new foods and eat more balanced

Let’s face it, when you’re trying to feed your toddler, it can be very challenging to say the least. It changes on a daily basis, and they’ll do anything NOT to try something new. So in this blog, I’ll provide some tips to help encourage your littles to try some new foods, and provide some fun recipes that will excite them and get them involved in the kitchen. 

PUREES FOR DAYS

Purees are one of the easiest things to not only make ahead and freeze, but to hide in a large variety of foods. From cauliflower, butternut squash, broccoli, and carrots, you can puree literally any vegetable to throw in different foods. A great example of this is butternut squash mac and cheese. Reflecting back to my childhood, mac and cheese was one of my favorite foods. If my mom hid pureed butternut squash in there, I never would have known the difference. It’s the same color, and gives it a nice creamy texture. You can also use puree cauliflower as an “alfredo sauce” for veggies or noodles to give them a nice, creamy texture. The key is taking the time to make the purees and having them in your freezer at the ready. It can be simple, but what the littles don’t know won’t hurt them! 

MIX-INS

I suggest this not only with toddlers, but adults as well. Mixing healthier foods in with our regularly consumed foods can help add veggies without sacrificing taste. An example of this is adding cauliflower rice to regular rice. Again, it’s the same color and they have a similar texture, but you’re still eating rice. Meatloaf is another way to hide some veggies. Throw in a mirepoix mix (carrots, celery and onion) to your meat mixture but make sure to finely mince the veggies in a food processor so you can’t even see that they’re in there! Try throwing really finely chopped spinach into eggs, as it wilts perfectly with eggs and doesn’t change the taste. If they ask what the green is, make it a positive addition (green to help your muscles grow, keep your body strong and give you energy). 

FUN SHAPES 

Ants on a log, apple donuts, fruit kabobs, and heart-shaped sandwiches are all great ways to put foods into fun shapes to encourage our kids to eat or even try foods. The more fun a food is, the more they’ll be willing to try it. See the recipes at the end of this post for ideas, but getting creative is key. The more you respond positively, so will your toddlers. 

EATING THE RAINBOW

Often when I see kids in my office I always use the rainbow approach. Sit down and show your kids the colors of the rainbow, have them even do a coloring activity of the rainbow and see if they can name just one fruit or vegetable from each color. The more involved they are and learn from you, the more eager they’ll be to try different colors. They often want to try each color rather than the actual food, but it’s a start and gets them excited to try something new. When they come up with the idea of the food they want to try, they’re much more likely to try it as well. 

IMMERSION BLENDERS ARE LIFE 

When making a simple dinner like spaghetti and meatballs, there are a ton of ways to sneak in those veggies without the kids realizing. With your sauce, add as many vegetables as you can that won’t only enhance flavor, but will puree very easily with an immersion blender. Throwing celery, onion, carrot, butternut squash, even cauliflower in a red sauce and blending it up so you don’t even see it is a great way to hide those veggies but also boost fiber. With your meatballs, you can do the same thing, like the above mentioned “hiding them in foods” post. Remember, using seasonings are always helpful to keep the flavors alive as well. 

Immersion blenders are easy to clean, don’t take up too much space and keep dirty dishes minimized since you can blend it up right in the pot that the food is in. You can also add parsnips to mashed potatoes, butternut squash to sweet potatoes, or even cauliflower to an alfredo sauce. Use your imagination! 

TRY EVERYTHING MANY TIMES OVER

They key to truly seeing if we like or don’t like a food is to not only try it multiple times, but also try it in different ways. When I was a kid, I hated brussel sprouts and now they’re one of my favorite veggies. I discovered that getting the shredded version and roasting them with olive oil, salt and pepper was the most delicious way to make them! I could eat them like that every night if I had to. My point is that it’s not always about the food itself, but the ways in which you cook it. Your little may not like broccoli cooked, but may love it raw with ranch, so try it in it’s different forms. 

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Always remember how your attitude is towards certain foods. Let’s say you hate spinach. If you constantly talk about how gross spinach is or how it’s something you just need to eat to be healthy, you’re not setting the best example for your little one. When they see you not having a positive attitude towards trying new things, they won’t either. The more fun, exciting, and new you make trying a new food, the more your toddler will want to play along too! 

NOW FOR SOME INSPO…

See below for some great recipes that you can make with your little ones and also some great ways to sneak more nutrition into foods as well! 

HONEY MUSTARD HUMMUS 

Honey Mustard Hummus Recipe

This is a hit with kids and if they like honey mustard flavored things, they’ll love this hummus. It takes about 5 minutes to throw together and pair with a side of carrots, celery, or pretzels. Check out the recipe here.

APPLE DONUTS 

This is such a fun snack to make with your kids!! It’s so simple and who doesn’t love sprinkles? Simply cut your apple in thin slices, cut out the core with the tip of a spoon, top with your favorite greek yogurt, sprinkles, and devour!! 

BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP “NICE” CREAM 

Who doesn’t love ice cream? Frozen bananas whipped into a puree go a long way for a healthier sweet treat. Simply add chocolate chips, cinnamon, almond milk, and you can even try to add different extracts to change up the flavor. Get your kids to pick out the toppings and switch it up every time. Check out a great recipe here.

ICE POPS

Just like ice cream, popsicles are a great frozen treat in the summer. Skip out on all the high fructose corn syrup and get the kids to make their own! Another strategy to get them to try their own creations. The possibilities are endless, but check out a great recipe here and the ice pop molds on my favorite things list under “Kid Stuff” from amazon here

PALEO PANCAKES 

These pancakes are SO good and so versatile. Ingredients are simple and you can add things like frozen berries, chocolate chips, fruited greek yogurt, you name it!

  • 1 banana
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together until well combined. Spray and heat pan over medium heat and pour mixture into pan. Flip when edges are firm and flip until golden brown. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!