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Metrowest Nutrition

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Great Gazpachos for Hot Summer Days!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

You can't have summer without cookouts, campfires and s'mores but on these hot summer days, let's face it, sometimes it's nice not to have to cook at all! 

BUT, before you cave and serve ice cream for dinner, try some of these refreshing, cool soups at the end of the day.  Served with some cold cut, chicken salad or tuna  sandwiches  or even crackers and cheese, they're a great meal and make use of summer's plentiful bounty.

Chilled Pea and Tarragon Soup
Cold Strawberry Soup
Melon Soup
Cucumber Soup and more!                


Watermelon Frenzy

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's finally feeling like summer and what's better in this heat than watermelon?  My kids and I had our fill yesterday and it got me thinking.  Watermelon is delicious simply on it's own but what else can you do with it?  Then I remembered this amazing salad I'd had at 51 Lincoln; Grilled Watermelon Salad.  Yum!  This is the perfect salad for a sunny summer day.  Grilling it gives the watermelon a completely different texture that is hard to describe and the balsamic glaze and feta offer the perfect balance for the sweet fruit.  You gotta try it!   Here are some other fun ways to use watermelon this summer. 

Watermelon Keg

Watermelon Slushie

Fresh Watermelon Cake

June is National Fruit and Vegetable Month!

Monday, June 02, 2014

To celebrate this delicious and nutritious time of year, here are a few of our favorite fruit and veggie activities for you and your family.

Visit a Farmer’s Market- have children be on the lookout for a certain colored new fruit or veggie to try or make a scavenger hunt to find a rainbow of produce.

Make Fruit Wands- Stack a variety of cut up fruits on a kabob stick and top with a slice of star fruit for a magical and tasty treat.

Plant a Veggie Garden- Planting vegetables can be a great way to increase your child’s interest in trying new, healthy foods. Take a look at some of our tips here for getting started.

Veggie Builders- Make a variety of veggie buildings, animals and people out of cut up vegetables, tooth picks and cream cheese for the “glue”.

Make Fruit “Sundaes”- Layer fruit, low fat yogurt and crunchy cereal or granola in a pretty glass and enjoy!

Gluten-free, Casein-free Diet for Autism Spectrum Disorders & ADD

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Gluten-free/Casein-free diet is a relatively new, popular dietary intervention used to treat symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  It involves of completely eliminating gluten and casein products from the diet. 

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, some vinegars and many processed foods. Casein is one of the proteins found in dairy products. 

Researchers hypothesize that children with autism are not able to completely break down foods containing the proteins gluten and casein resulting in opioid peptides (larger molecules than usual) being absorbed through the gut.  These opioid peptides may have an morphine-like effect on the brain, further exacerbating autism symptoms such as visual stimulation, difficulty with emotion regulation, poor eye contact and sensory processing disorder. The “leaky gut syndrome,” often present in children with autism (possibly related to earlier insults due to use of antibiotics, food sensitivities, etc), allows peptides to cross intestinal membrane, enter the bloodstream, cross the blood/brain barrier, and then affect neurotransmitter function. 

This theory would explain why a good number of children with ASD have GI symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and gastroesophageal reflux.  Another suggestion is that since these children often have difficulty expressing or pinpointing their pain, they can react with aggressive or emotionally expressive behavior.

Research is still mixed on this diet therapy.  Nonetheless, anecdotal evidence is abundant; just talk to any parent with a child on the spectrum or with ADD who has tried this diet therapy and you will hear amazing feedback.  Recently, a psychotherapist told me her friend was ready to put her son with ADD in private school until they tried removing gluten from his diet and saw an amazing transformation.

The GFCF diet has been the most frequently researched diet approach to ASD disorders in recent years. Some research demonstrates the diet's effectiveness, however, implementation of the diet is dependent on parental and physician support as well as socioeconomic status. This is a difficult diet to implement and maintain, particularly in older children who may have resistance to new foods.  It's also particularly challenging in this population where picky eating and feeding disorders are common.  It's also important to note that nutrient deficiencies and poor bone growth can result if appropriate substitutions to the wheat and dairy components aren't included.  Often supplements are required.  Make sure to consult a physician or dietitian prior to making any changes to your child’s diet. 

How are Your Bacteroides and Firmicutes?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I recently attended a great seminar on the microbiome - our microbiome consists of the microorganisms living in our gut, skin, lungs and other organs.  Did you know that there are 10 times more microbial cells than human cells in our body?  Pretty creepy huh?  These various microorganisms (or lack there of) have been linked to a number of current health concerns:


Allergies & Food Intolerances





Gastrointestinal Diseases

Health research is starting to look at the human body as a multi-organism colony as opposed to one.  What these researchers are finding is amazing.  For example, several studies including this one have shown an increased Bacteroide to Firmicutes ratio in the gut of obese individuals compared to lean counterparts. 

Interestingly, when the gut environment changes via diet, the microbiome also changes.  How do you change it exactly?  Eat mostly whole foods, plenty of fiber, foods that contain naturally occurring probiotics (yogurt, sauerkraut, other fermented foods) and get plenty of healthy oils (i.e. fish, olive oil, nuts, etc).  You may also consider supplementing with a prebiotic.  Prebiotics, probiotics and other nutrition supplements might help restore lost microflora as a result of antibiotics and a long period of eating mainly processed food.




Should My Child Be On a Diet?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

First of all, N-O!

Now, let us elaborate... 

This can be a tough question parents may ask themselves after a visit to the pediatrician’s office, a BMI report from their child’s school or for some when their child asks about their weight and if he/she needs to lose weight. As adults, many of us think “diet” when it comes to getting to a healthy weight- as a pediatric dietitian; I’d like to ask that parents think of family change when it comes to helping a child get to a healthy weight.

Family change is far more effective than getting your child started on a roller coaster of fad diets where you’re cutting out carbs one day and trying weight loss shakes the next. With the support of a family that is working towards healthy change together, your little one can have the support he or she needs to achieve healthy behaviors that will last a lifetime.

Here are a few of my favorite lifestyle changes for families- all of them can be helpful for your children (no matter what their weights are) to instill healthy behaviors.

Supportive Food Environment: Of course with healthy change should come healthy foods, so stock up with the whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy and lean protein. More than just the obvious changes, it’s important to identify foods in the house that your child may struggle with.  If your child seeks out favorite snacks such as potato chips or cookies and struggles with portion size for these foods it can be helpful to buy those foods periodically, say once a month rather than weekly.
Calorie Free Beverages: For your supportive food environment one very effective change you can make is removing the calorie-filled beverages such as juice, soda and other sweetened beverages. These drinks provide empty, excess calories to your child’s day that can lead to weight gain. Offer water, seltzer or low fat milk for daily beverages and leave the sweetened drinks for special occasions.
Family Dinners: Studies show that children from families who share a meal together at least 3 times per week were more likely to be within a normal weight range and have better eating patterns consisting of healthier foods. Make an effort to gather around the dinner table with your family (without the TV please!) and reap the benefits of this shared meal. 

Activity Time: Physical activities such as hiking, bike riding, swimming or even a walk after dinner can be a great way to spend time together and start exercise as a regular part of your family routine. Obviously this can be a challenge when the week gets busy, but even something as simple as an after dinner walk or a quick toss around of the Frisbee can make a difference. Try to work in longer periods of time on weekends for a bigger family activity such as going for a hike or long bike ride.

Family Dessert Night: Many parents struggle when they are faced with the nightly question of “can I have dessert?” It can be a tough negotiation to face after a long day and can often lead to giving into your little one’s sweet tooth a bit too often. A simple solution can be to define a family dessert night (or two depending on what works for your family). Designate a day where the entire family enjoys a dessert and on the remainder of the week offer fruit after dinner if still hungry.

B6 and Magnesium for Autism and ADHD

Friday, May 23, 2014

Beyond a healthy, whole foods-based diet, there are a few nutrition therapies that work wonders for kids on the autism spectrum.  One of these is supplementation with B6 and magnesium.  The combination of these two nutrients in therapeutic doses (i.e. above RDA) has been shown to decrease self-stimming behaviors, improve eye contact and calm a "high engine".  This article details the mechanism of action. 

If you want to explore this option with your toddler or child (or even as an adult) it is important to seek the help of a qualified dietitian.  There are some (reversible) side effects that you will want to monitor as you gradually increase the dose.  A dietitian along with your physician can help ensure that you implement this nutrition therapy safely and help you taper off of it if and when appropriate.

More on nutrition therapy for autism to come. 

Dinner Switch Ups

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tired of the same old chicken every night? Shake things up a bit with our fun dinner switch ups!

Stir Fry Saturdays: We love this “take-out fake out” for weekends. Wok cooking can be a quick, fun and healthy alternative to make some of your favorite Asian cuisine favorites. Keep it healthy by limiting the oil and loading up the vegetables.

Breakfast for Dinner: An oldie but a goodie! Eggs can be an easy option to whip up during the week- make omelets packed with favorite veggies and low fat cheese. Pair with whole grain toasted English muffins and a fresh fruit salad.

Meatless Mondays: This is a great idea to bring into your weekly dinner line up. Vegetarian meals can be filling, tasty and a healthy alternative to your typical meat-lover choices. Check out this fantastic site:  for recipes and to learn about this health movement.

Make Your Own Pizza: Another fun alternative to delivery foods- there are so many options to choose and everyone can make their own personalized pizza. For crust, there’s many options out there – you can get adventurous and make your own from scratch or take a shortcut by using pre-made dough from the grocery store (most stores even carry wheat dough now). If the thought of rolling out dough is too much at the end of a long day, buy pre-cooked pizza crust such as the Boboli individual crusts or try Naan flat bread (one of my personal favorites) from the bakery section. Get out everyone’s favorite toppings and start the pizza party!

Kiddos in the Kitchen: Getting your children involved in cooking is a great way to peak their interest in trying new foods as well as teach them a useful skill for lifelong healthy eating. Children can start with simple tasks in the kitchen and work to create their “signature dishes.” It can be a fun idea to have children create their own “restaurant” by decorating the table, designing their own placemats and even make menus for the night.

New Ideas to Avoid the Post-Lunch Energy Crash

Monday, April 14, 2014

Has post-lunch lethargy got you and your kids sleeping on the job?

In a recent article from Dr. Sears, it’s suggested to be mindful of the types of protein and the amount of carbohydrates we eat at lunch to keep our minds stimulated.  When it comes to kids lunches, Dr. Sears recommends packing protein foods that are high in the amino acid tyrosine such as seafood, turkey, tofu, legumes and tuna, to perk up the brain. Along with this he recommends that keeping the calories appropriate (for children 600-800 calories, for most adults 400-600 calories), keeping to 1-2 servings of a complex carbohydrate (such as quinoa, wheat bread or fruit), including to 1-2 servings of a healthy fat and aiming to eat the protein first, followed by the carbohydrates is the perfect recipe for a brain-stimulating lunch.  Foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid that sedates the brain, include eggs, milk, bananas, dairy, sunflower seeds and meat. These tryptophan-rich foods paired with a large amount of carbohydrates as part of a higher calorie lunch can lead to a sluggish child after lunch as tryptophan is able to get into the brain at a high rate with this combination according to Dr. Sears.   As all children, and adults, are different, use these recommendations only if you see an improvement in your child’s attentiveness/behavior.

For more tips on keeping your energy up throughout the day, contact Ashley Bade Cronin at or 617-332-2282 and make an appointment at one of our offices in Northborough, Framingham or Newton.

Packing a Healthy School Lunch

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

We have made it through this very, very long winter and although summer is in sight, there are still plenty of packed lunches left to put together. If you find yourself or your little one fatiguing from that go-to PB&J, here’s a few ideas to get you through the rest of the school year!

Remember the ABC’s of Packing a Healthy School Lunch:
Avoid lunch “burn out” by packing a variety of lunches
Balance your child’s lunch by including at least 3 food groups
Create a meal plan for the week and prepare lunches ahead of time

Go In With a Plan
-Ask your child for some input regarding what he or she would like for lunch
-Pick up foods you’ll need from the grocery store for the beginning of the school week. Cut up fruits and veggies and pre-portion snacks like baked chips or pretzels in bags before the week starts
-Take the 10-15 minutes to pack your child’s lunch the night before to avoid the morning rush.  

Variety is the Spice of Life
Spruce up your child’s usual sandwich with some variety:
-Vary bread choices for sandwiches- try pita pockets, wraps, English muffins, raisin or multi-grain breads or mini-bagels
-For younger kids- cut bread into fun shapes with cookie-cutters to keep lunches fun
-Try “filler” vegetables in sandwiches such as lettuce, tomato, peppers or cucumbers to help fit another serving of veggies into your child’s day
-Consider some unconventional sandwiches such as hummus on a pita, low fat cream cheese and jelly, sunflower butter or veggie and cheese wraps

Break the Sandwich Mold
As long as you provide your child with a balanced lunch it doesn’t always need to be a sandwich.
-Pack cheese and crackers, soup and a wheat roll, single serving cereal with fruit and milk or yogurt with granola as the main portion of your child’s lunch
-Dinner leftovers can be a great source for packing lunches. Add leftover chicken to a salad for the next day or use extra pasta to mix with light dressing, veggies and cheese for a healthy and filling pasta salad.

Mixing up the Sides
-Vary sliced fruits, vegetables, 100% fruit leathers, graham crackers, baked potato chips, granola bars, multi-grain tortilla chips or dried fruit to keep life exciting and offer a variety of different nutrients to your child’s lunch
-Desserts are OK for lunches- but may not need to be there every day. Try some alternative sweets such as yogurt, low fat pudding, fresh fruit or applesauce.


If you’re looking for further nutrition recommendations for your child, your self or your family, please see the contact information below for pediatric dietitian Ashley Bade Cronin RD, LDN, CSP to discuss setting up an appointment at one of Metrowest Nutrition’s offices in Northborough, Framingham or Newton.
Ashley Bade Cronin RD, LDN, CSP

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