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Metrowest Nutrition

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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

NEW location - Northborough

Saturday, April 05, 2014

We're very excited to announce our new office location at the Barrett Family Wellness Center in Northborough, MA.  Barrett is committed to providing a full spectrum of wellness services children, adults and families.  They specialize in pediatric occupational and speech therapy and we look forward to complimenting these services with nutrition counseling.

Our  pediatric dietitian, Ashley Bade Cronin will be at Barrett Family Wellness on Fridays starting April 4th.  We will open up more hours as needed.  It may be possible to set up a tele-counseling appointment if you aren't able to come in person.  Call us to find out more and to set up an appointment 617-332-2282.  Or, email Ashley directly at

Our services at Barrett are eligible for insurance reimbursement.   We accept most major plans including BlueCross BlueShield, Harvard Pilgrim, Tufts, Aetna, United and Cigna.  Nutrition coverage varies depending on your plan but we can provide guidance on how to determine if your session(s) will be covered.

You do not need to be a current client of Barrett Family Wellness Center to see us at this location.  If you haven't already visited the center, it's a great set up for kids.  There are plenty of toys and books in the waiting room and even more options for entertainment inside the center.  We will be seeing adults here as well so if childcare has been a barrier in the past, hopefully this will help! 

We look forward to seeing you at our new location soon!

Can I Stomach This Work?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I had a phone discussion with a mom last week that left me asking can I stomach this work?.  She called because she'd discovered that her (overweight) 7-year old daughter was hiding food in her room.  She went on to say that she was concerned that the pediatritian was too laid back saying "she'll outgrow it" and "eventually someone will say something and she'll lose the weight".  Mom appropriately expressed concern that a peer noticing would actually launch her daughter into a full-fledged eating disorder.  My heart went out to her as she grappled with how and when to set limits around food, whether or not it's ok to allow her daughter to keep food in her room and how to help her lose weight without creating a psychological disorder.  Although I've discussed this with many parents before, rarely have I done so with parents of a child so young at least since I have become a parent myself.  I recognize that kids are dealing with these issues at a much younger age these days but somehow I've been able to keep some emotional distance.  This brought it all closer to home; this child was only a few years older than my own.  I got off the phone with a sinking, helpless feeling in my gut that that lingered through dinner.    

Weight is too often used as the primary measure of health and beauty.  It's viewed as something entirely under one's control.  And let's face it, to some extent it is but not with out dire consequences not the least of which is diminished quality of life.  We often see the body and our natural drive for food as something to be tamed into submission.  Even at the ripe age of 7.  Sending home BMI reports, talking about statistics on obesity, dichotomizing foods into "good" or "bad" (as children will most certainly interpret as "I'm good" or "I'm bad") and feeling lost ourselves in this battle against the"obesity epidemic" as it's so frequently described serves to create fear and shame as opposed to actually healing this problem.

Thankfully, I let my gut reaction guide my response to this mother who was clearly scared and feeling helpless as well.  I suggested she explore this with her daughter.  Ask her what she's feeling and what led her to hide these foods; to dig a little deeper find out what's under the behavior.  Offer a safe place for her to share whatever she may be feeling.  Remain nonjudgemental.  And last, but certainly not least, give her a hug.  

The same visceral reaction arose yesterday when one of my colleagues was sharing an eating disorder case in our supervision group.  She started by saying "it all started at age 7 when....."  Is this really the age we're starting to see these body image and disordered eating issues pop up?  This is more of a rhetorical question because I know the answer but just honestly, can't believe it.  I'm trying to think back to what I was doing at that age... riding my bike, playing outside, birthday parties with cake and ice cream, roller skating and pizza, huge ice cream cones after the beach, ballet.  Dieting or body image issues were no where in sight.  This may not have been the case for everyone but shouldn't it be?   Isn't self worth and self-care more important than a number on the scale?  Let's start thinking of some ways to help our young girls (and boys).  Here are some ideas from a great psychologist Catherine Steiner Adair.  

Better Together: Metrowest Nutrition Announces a New Partnership

Thursday, February 20, 2014
Peanut Butter & Jelly   
Bacon & Eggs
Chocolate & Anything…

There are some things in life that are just better together.  Metrowest Nutrition is excited to introduce you to our new partner, The Barrett Family Wellness Center where we hope to provide a “better together” approach to feeding your little ones.  The Barrett Family Wellness Center is a community-based, pediatric occupational and speech therapy facility. It was founded in April 2000 by Phyllis Barrett Samara, an experienced Occupational Therapist, who hoped to provide a family centered approach to patients’ care. The center is dedicated to enhancing the health and wellness of families and children affected by developmental problems including Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Nonverbal Learning Disability, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, Language Delays, and Articulation Errors and Apraxia.

Our resident pediatric dietitian, Ashley Bade Cronin RD, LDN, CSP will be starting office hours at the Barrett Family Wellness Center starting Friday April 4th.  Ashley hopes to bring her knowledge of pediatric nutrition and provide family focused care to parents and children struggling with picky eating, failure to thrive or any nutrition need at the Barrett Family Wellness Center. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Ashley please call 617-332-2282 extension 6. 

As a kick-off to our partnership, Ashley will be providing a free workshop, “Keep Calm & Feed On” on Tuesday March 25th from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Barrett Family Wellness center to review the basics on picky eating and offer many stress-free steps to feeding your child. Please call 508-898-2688 if you’d like to attend the workshop. 

Getting to Know Your Microbiome

Monday, July 29, 2013

A colleague sent me this great article  from the New York Times about the Human Microbiome Project.  The microbiome are the trillions of bacteria living on our skin and in our gut.  This article is a little lengthy but Michael Pollan gives a fascinating and in-depth look at the importance of these inhabitants to our overall health.  Learn how our microbiome may influence the development of allergies, asthma and other increasingly common health conditions.  Could we be accidentally killing off one of our greatest defenses with the wide use of antibiotics?  What is the long term impact?  Are babies born by c-section at an increased risk for allergies?  If so, is there anything we can do to prevent this?  Pollan discusses all of this in the article.  He also discusses how our microbiome could even be connected to obesity.  I highly recommend taking some time to read it.


Zinc: Is Your Child Getting Enough?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Zinc is and important yet often overlooked mineral.  Along with iron, it's one of the most common deficiencies in kids' diets.  Zinc is essential for growth and development but also plays a critical role in appetite and taste perception. 

As nutritionist and author Kelly Dorfman points out in her book, "What's Eating Your Child?", kids with zinc deficiency typically present as picky eaters with poor appetites and poor growth (although not ALL picky eaters have zinc deficiency).  Zinc is not a standard test on most pediatric lab panels so deficiency can easily go unnoticed.  If your child has a lackluster appetite, picky eating and/or poor growth it's probably a good idea to rule this out. 

Foods highest in zinc are beef and chicken.  Interestingly, those with zinc deficiency are often turned off by meat likely due to altered taste.  Other great sources of zinc include toasted wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate.  Fortified cereals are a great source of zinc for kids.  The #1 source of zinc (although not a realistic option for most kids) is oysters with 154 mg in a 3oz portion. 

The daily recommendation for zinc is 3mg for 1-3 years, 5 mg for 4-8 years, 8mg for 9-13 years and 11mg from 18 years on.  Zinc deficiency has been seen in patients with depression and eating disorders  and according to psychiatrist James Greenblatt, MD, repletion may eliminate the need for drug therapy in some cases.  For children with zinc deficiency, a therapeutic dose of 35mg a day is recommended.

Have a Picky Eater? Join us for Lunch!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Do you have picky eaters in your family? Are you concerned about their health but are unsure how to manage it? 

Join Ashley Bade, RD, LDN, CNSD of Metrowest Nutrition, and Healthy Habits Kitchen, creators of ready-to-cook, nutritionally-balanced meal kits, to learn how you can ensure your picky eater is getting the right nutrition by establishing a meal and snack routine, providing balance and variety, setting expectations and much more.

Plus, you’ll sample kid-friendly HHK dishes and learn how MetroWest Nutrition’s new food delivery service can help you save time and achieve your goals.


This is a FREE event and will be held on Thursday, May 30th from 11:30-1pm.  Feel free to come for the whole time or just drop in!  Please register below so we know how much food to have available.

Eventbrite - Managing a Picky Eater

Protein Boosts for Limited Diets

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Protein Boosts for Gluten/Casein/Soy Free Diets

For children with multiple allergies or sensitities, getting adequate protein can be a challenge.  Although the typical American diet includes plenty of protein, it's the protein in foods that cause allergic reactions and food intolerances.  Take dairy for instance - there are 8 grams of protein in a glass of milk but only 1 gram in rice or almond milk.  Protein is important for growth, brain function and energy.  An average 2-3 year old needs 15-20g of protein.  This is no problem for the adult who easily consumes this in a single meal.  But for a picky toddler with food allergies, it's another story.  Here are some easy ways to add a little protein to your child's selective diet.  Note, I've included some food allergens so just focus on the items your child CAN eat.

1.  Add peanut butter to smoothies, toast and homeade baked goods
2.  Add egg white protein (Deb-El Just Whites) to milk alternative of choice, smoothies, coconut  or almond milk yogurts
3.  Substitute 1/2 the flour with chia powder in baking
4.  Use almond or bean flour in baking
5.  Opt for quinoa pasta which has 8g of protein per cup versus 2g in rice pasta
6.  Make homeade snack bars with nuts seeds and high protein flours like this recipe for  Gluten-free & Vegan Breakfast Bars
7.  Brush egg white onto homeade pizza dough or bagels
8.  Mix beans, pea protein or vegetable protein powder into pasta sauces, stir-fry or other mixed dishes
10. Make popsicles out of frozen fruits & juices blended with various milks and protein powder

Shoot for (2) 8g servings of protein a day for toddlers or check out this formula to calculate your child's individual protein needs How Much Protein Does Your Child Need?

Belly Hungry versus Mouth Hungry

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Ashley Bade RD, LDN, CNSD

Children come with varying appetites; there are the big eaters that seem to be bottomless pits and the little eaters with small bites throughout the day.  While it’s important to honor your child’s appetite, sometimes with children that are frequently seeking food it may be a sign of non-hunger eating.

Non-hunger eating can stem from a variety of sources such as boredom, emotional coping or just the enjoyment of the taste of food. At birth, we are all innately given the ability to regulate our intake based on hunger and fullness ques. This however can quickly go away as our relationship with food is formed in our younger years.  

For children that may be exhibiting non-hunger eating, I like to introduce the idea of “belly hungry” versus “mouth hungry”.  Belly hungry, I describe, is when your belly is growling and has space for food. Mouth hungry on the other hand is when our mouth wants to have a good taste in it, but there isn’t space in our belly.  This is a simple concept that parents can use to defer non-hunger eating by little ones.

If you feel your child may be exhibiting non-hunger eating; here are a few tips for avoiding over-eating while nurturing a healthy relationship with food.

• Introduce the concept of belly hungry and mouth hungry to your child.  Give examples of times when you personally feel belly hungry versus mouth hungry periodically and talk to them about what you do when you are mouth hungry. Bringing up personal examples from time-to-time can help to role model healthy eating behaviors to your child.

• The kitchen/pantry should not be a self-service operation for younger kiddos- try to keep your child on a meal and snack schedule with roughly 2 ½ to 3 hours in between food offerings. This can generate enough appetite to encourage good intake at the balanced meals and snacks you provide without leading to an overly hungry child.

• If your child is asking for food in between planned meals and snacks and you suspect it is non-hunger eating, ask your child if he is belly hungry or mouth hungry. If the answer is belly hungry- it may be best to offer a choice between a fruit and vegetable option.  If he refuses the options given and requests a typical favorite food such as chips or cookies, keep with the options you offered and he will choose one if belly hungry.

• If your child is mouth hungry- have a plan of five different activities he can do instead of eating. With some of my patients it has been helpful if I have them come up with a list themselves with common activities like coloring, playing with a favorite toy or arts & crafts time on the list. By being able to offer a list of alternatives,  you can quickly find something enjoyable for your child to pass the time with until it’s time for the next meal or snack when true belly hunger is likely to be there.


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