Creative Commons License photo credit: Naomi Ibuki

When it comes to getting vitamin D from food, salmon is popularly known as one of the best sources. The Office of Dietary Supplements, a department of the National Institute of Health, lists a 3 oz serving of salmon (sockeye) as having over 100% of daily value of vitamin D. Salmon is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, one of the healthy fats your growing child needs for brain development.

I was, therefore, very surprised when I looked at the nutrition facts panel of a can of pink salmon at the grocery store this weekend. It did not list any vitamin D at all!

How can it be when the common knowledge is that salmon provides a high level of vitamin D?

Turns out that not all salmon is created equal when it comes to vitamin D, or even other healthful nutrients. The problem seems to be an abundance of farmed salmon in our food supply, both in the fresh seafood section as well as canned and prepared meals.

As I researched this issue further, I came upon a scientific paper by Dr. Holick and co-workers from Boston University, who actually measured the amount of vitamin D in both wild salmon and farmed salmon. They found that the farmed variety contained 10-25% of the amount of vitamin D available in salmon. Dr. Holick explains the difference in this video, simply in terms of what the two feed on:

While the wild salmon could have as high as 1000 IU of vitamin D, the farmed variety contains about 250. There is also considerable debate about PCB’s, dioxins, antibiotics and artificial colors in farmed salmon.

Looking at it from the lower nutritional value and health/environmental risks, I am not sure if low price of farmed salmon is a good reason to make the choice. Not saying you need to give up on farmed salmon, but you certainly need to factor these issues in your purchase decision.

Another thing to keep in mind, vitamin D in wild salmon can vary in a broad range depending on the source and type. Ask questions and read the nutrition facts label before buying.

Here is a nice summary of the amount of vitamin D from various fish sources (Source: Holick paper)

Type of Fish Vitamin D (IU)
Blue fish 280 ± 68
 Cod 104 ± 24
 Grey Sole  56 ± 36
 Salmon, Farmed  240 ± 108
 Salmon, Wild 988 ± 524
 Trout, Farmed 388 ± 212
 Tuna Ahi-YT 404 ± 440

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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All milk in the United States is fortified with vitamin D (1 cup = 25% daily value). So it is natural to think that yogurt and yogurt products should also have vitamin D. After all, they are all made from milk.

Not really.

Although, there is a trend now to add vitamin D to yogurt, there are still a lot of products out there with no vitamin D.  I decided to do a little research this weekend at the local Walmart. Here is a summary of what I found:


Yoplait original is the top of the pack with 50% DV of both calcium and vitamin D. The new packaging shows this fact prominently on the front of the box. Stonyfield is another good option but their Oikos brand organic greek yogurt does not have any vitamin D. Dannon, our long time favorite has a lot of catching up to do!

When I asked my Twitter followers about this, @peekababy informed me that the Yobaby and Yokids brands from Stonyfield also has added vitamin D. Sure enough, a quick check on their website showed that they have 25% daily value of vitamin D added to each serving.

With so much news on vitamin D deficiency, especially in kids, you would think that all yogurt brands would start fortifying their products with vitamin D.

What is in your yogurt? Take a peek inside your refrigerator and check if your yogurt contains vitamin D or not. Then leave a note below with the brand name and amount of vitamin D in each serving.

Disclaimer – I have not received any sponsorship or free samples of product for writing this review. For complete nutritional information check out the websites of these products.

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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Now that our herbs and veggie garden is beginning to produce, we decided to prepare one of our favorite recipes with fresh green peppers. It is very simple, yet quite wholesome. We make it quite often, but using fresh peppers from the garden really gave a nice flavor.

Here is the recipe:


  • 1/2 dozen medium sized green bell peppers
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped or crushed in a food processor
  • 1 tomato , sliced
  • 1 tomato, crushed in a food processor
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt, pepper to taste


Saute onion in olive oil. Add crushed tomato, salt an pepper and cook until onions are soft. Add ground beef and cook until beef turns light brown, stirring occasionally. Add rice and mix well. Cook for a little while more. Rice does not need to cook completely.

Wash green peppers. Slice off the cap but keep it aside for covering the peppers later. Remove seeds to create a cavity. Wash well.

Fill the pepper cavity with cooked beef and rice mixture. Don’t overpack but fill to the top. Cover with the cap and arrange in a deep pot. Arrange sliced tomatoes in a layer on top. Add warm water, tomato paste and remaining juice, if available, from the beef mixture around the peppers. Water level should be high enough to cover the peppers a little over half way.  Cook covered on low to medium heat until peppers and tomatoes are cooked to the desired softness.


Peppers are  a good source of fiber, vitamin C, iron, calcium and potassium.

Biber Dolma is the Turkish name for this recipe!


©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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The Allergic March

by Naveen Agarwal

in Food Allergy

Source: The LEAP study

Did you know that nearly 30% of children in the United States have some form of allergy and that the rate of allergic disease in children is on the rise?

I found this fact quite interesting – and troubling – as I read this article about childhood allergies. What is even more interesting is that the progression of allergic disease in children appears to follow a predictable pattern called the Allergic March.

It goes like this – first it starts with dermatitis (eczema), then to chronic gastrointestinal (GI) issues, then to chronic serous otitis media (ear infections), then to chronic rhinitis (stuffy nose) and finally to asthma.

The problem is that allergic disease doesn’t have a cure, and that is why, prevention is the only smart choice. It helps to know that the pattern of allergic disease is predictable, which is why, early signs of allergic symptoms like eczema and food allergy or sensitivity should be considered seriously.

Most babies in their first 1-2 years of life show sings of food sensitivity to certain foods such as egg, dairy, soy, rice and wheat. This is because their young immune systems are yet to mature and sometimes they get confused by different proteins in these foods. Good news is that, most children do grow out of these early issues by the time they reach age 5.

The news is not so good if there is a family history of allergy, which is why getting to know the allergic march is quite important. If either mom or dad – or both – have a history of allergy, the chances of their child developing an allergy can be as high as 50 -80%. If not diagnosed and prevented early, the allergic march is likely inevitable.

We have been interested in food allergy here on Littlestomaks, because it affects so many babies and toddlers. Although there is no reason to hit the panic button over a few episodes of vomiting and reflux, it is prudent to take them seriously when allergy runs in the family. Same goes for ear infections, which again are quite common in children. A link between milk allergy and ear infections, for example, is being reported in many cases. Talk to your doctor about the history of allergy in your family on a routine visit to treat an ear infection. For all you know, it might be the first step on the allergic march, which you can avoid with early intervention.

Here are a few nice links for more information:

The LEAP study
The Allergy March
Food Allergies on About.com
Pediatric food allergies on Today’s Dietitian

Do you have a child with food allergies? Share your story, we would love to hear from you!

©2011 Littlestomaks.com


Mom, I Cherish You

by Naveen Agarwal

in Miscellaneous

What would the world look like without Moms?

A profound question, one which most of us will have a hard time answering. Check this out:

I am so glad my daughter decided to write this note to her mom on the card I helped her prepare last night:

I think CHERISH is the right word for Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!

©2011 Littlestomaks.com


Happy Easter

by Naveen Agarwal

in Having Fun,Miscellaneous

We enjoyed a beautiful sunny day to celebrate Easter Sunday!

After an early morning egg hunt with other toddlers in the neighborhood, the twins played hard in the backyard. As the morning turned into noon, it was time for lunch, which they insisted on having outside as a “picnic”!

Here they are,  munching on a turkey-cheese sandwich and cheesy cauliflower. A strawberry-banana fruit/veggie punch from V8 (12 g sugar per serving) went along as the drink.

Hope your family had a wonderful Easter today!

©2011 Littlestomaks.com


Spring is here, which means it is time to start planting again. This year, we have decided to plant new tomatoes, beans and sweet peppers in our raised bed vegetable garden. And a few of our favorite herbs separately in pots.

Here are few pictures of herbs – parsley, cilantro, Thai basil and mint.

It is great to see green around us in the backyard once again. What are you planting this year?

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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As we drove back home from daycare today, my daughter made an interesting remark.

“Dad, this fruit juice is very healthy”, as she sipped the last of her fruitablesTM juice.

“What makes you think it is healthy for you?”, I asked, expecting her to read the nutrition facts label on the box.

Yes, ever since we had our small breakthrough when she discovered the word “sugar” at the back of the box of instant oatmeal, she has been reading labels and other information on food packages.

“Fruitables..a juice beverage that is packed with fruits and veggies but has less sugar than other juices and juice drinks”….she read out loud the marketing pitch on the back panel.

“Really?”, I exclaimed hiding my surprise.

“This is one refreshing way”, she continued, “to get healthy nutrition you need every day!

“Very interesting”, I thought. She was reading the whole thing…

“And daddy, long time ago, someone said fruits and vegetables weren’t delicious!”

I found that very funny and laughed out loud because I had not seen the whole message myself. Surely, she made it up I thought.

I decided to take a closer look at the juice box when we reached home. The marketing message was clever, and she did indeed read pretty much the whole thing verbatim. Except the part at the end, which she tweaked a little based on her interpretation.

Clearly, fruit juice is not equal to real fruit in terms of overall nutrition value. The marketing message is clever, no doubt, as it attempts to separate this product from other juices which have added sugar.

One box of Fruitables (200 mL) has 9 g sugar only 66% juice. Quite close to “empty calories”, but not a bad alternative to other beverages when used in moderation.

Clever food marketing messages and package design can attract a child’s attention and curiosity. I think it is good to let them absorb these messages, but very important to help them interpret correctly so they don’t fall for them.

What do you think?

Disclaimer – I have not received any sponsorship or free samples of product from Apple & Eve, LLC  for writing this review. For complete nutritional information and other products, visit Fruitables website.

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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We continue to try various soups from a recent New York Times magazine! Recently, we made this hearty tomato soup.


  • 3 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped or crushed finely in a blender
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • salt, pepper to taste


Saute onion in olive oil; add carrots, garlic and tomato paste. Add chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and water. Mix well and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil.

Serve hot with pita bread or naan.


©2011 Littlestomaks.com


Ask The Expert is a weekly column on Littlestomaks.com. The idea is to have a reader-submitted question answered by a nutrition expert or a pediatrician. Feel free to submit your question in the comments section below.

This week Registered dietitian Jill Weisenberger offers ideas for foods that can help your child build a stronger immune system.



Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE 

  • Education: M.S. Food Science & Human Nutrition, University of Florida
  • Degree in Communications, University of Florida
  • Nutrition consultant, writer, speaker, educator
  • Expertise in diabetes nutrition
  • Writer for Eating Well, Diabetic Living, Her Sports and Fitness magazines
  • Twitter: @nutritionjill
  • Website: All That’s Nutrition
  • LinkedIn Profile
  • Contact via email: jill@allthatsnutrition.com

Question: What kinds of foods will keep my child’s immune system as healthy as possible?


Winter colds and flu are making the rounds. In some households, it seems that just as one family member is well, another gets sick. A well-running immune system can mount a powerful attack against viruses and other invaders, so paying attention to diet is especially important now. An apple a day is a good start to keeping the doctor away, but it’s the total diet – not any individual food or supplement – that stokes the immune system and keeps it humming.

The types of foods your child needs to fend off colds and illnesses are the same ones you need. Don’t fall for the hype of immune-boosting supplements and fortified foods. Simply eat a balanced diet. For most, that means a stronger emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Try to eat a whole grain and at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal. Here are a few to try, but again a balanced diet is required – not any specific food.

Beans: Baked beans, kidney beans and others are a powerhouse of nutrients including zinc which may reduce some upper respiratory infections. Smash up some white beans to thicken soups and stews. No one will ever know they’re there. Add red or black beans to salads and pasta.

Oats: another good source of zinc and a perfect breakfast food. Instead of using breadcrumbs, you can also add oats to meatballs and meatloaf.

Bell peppers, broccoli, citrus, kiwis and berries: These are all good sources of vitamin C. Research isn’t clear that extra vitamin C helps treat or prevent colds, but vitamin C-rich foods are packed with other antioxidants and nutrients, so it’s a good idea to include them daily. Clementines are especially nice for children because they are small, seedless, easy-to-peel, delicious and not as messy as other citrus fruits.

Mushrooms: Researchers at Tufts University suspect that the simple white button mushroom may enhance immune function by increasing the production of antiviral compounds. If your kids aren’t used to eating mushrooms, introduce them with foods they already like such as pastas and casseroles.

Finally, don’t forget that frequent hand washing and other good hygiene habits are also necessary to protect your health and your family’s health. Oh and get outside in the sunshine too.

©2011 Littlestomaks.com. All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer – Information provided in Ask The Expert column on Littlestomaks.com is intended to give you general guidance on a question related to toddler nutrition. It is not meant to be treated as medical advice. You are welcome to contact this expert for a detailed consultation on your specific situation to determine what actions, if any, you should take regarding nutrition and health of your toddlers. We do not recommend you to take any action based solely on the information presented in this column. Experts have agreed to provide their professional opinion on toddler nutrition related questions on a voluntary basis and no compensation is offered to them by Littlestomaks.com.