Good Nutrition

Good nutrition not only provides fuel for healthy, happy little ones, it's also the gateway to good dental health!

3 Questions to Ask Your Child’s Dentist

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Your child is a precious part of your family. You want to make sure he or she is as healthy as possible and since you routinely see your pediatric dentist twice a year, it’s good to express all of your concerns when you have the chance. Ask your child’s dentist these questions about your child’s oral health to get a clear picture of the situation.

How do his or her teeth look? Many times, your pediatric dentist will use simpler terms to avoid scaring your child and to help them understand what’s happening. For example, if your little one has a cavity, the dentist may explain that sweets have caused the problem. Letting you know about this in more detailed terms can help you change the factors at home that may be affecting your child’s health.

What needs to change? If your child is brushing too aggressively, not brushing enough, or eating a poor diet, these are all things that could impact his or her oral health. By talking to the dentist about what needs to change rather than what the problem is, you can get into a more productive dialogue.

Why does he or she have….? If your child has been complaining of an oral problem, bring this up with your dentist. You may notice that there is hot or cold sensitivity, pain, or other issues that your child has mentioned more than once. Take these matters to your pediatric dentist. They can look for potential causes of the problem and determine an appropriate solution.

When talking to your child’s dentist or hygienist, be sure to bring up anything that concerns your or that you would like to know. They are there to keep your child healthy and ease your worries, so don’t hesitate to ask any questions.

Foods That Naturally Strengthen Enamel or Whiten Teeth

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There are plenty of foods you come into contact with daily that can stain your teeth or weaken your enamel, making them an oral care faux pas. However, likewise, there are foods and beverages that do the opposite – strengthen your enamel and whiten your teeth – just by you consuming them. Many of them do both. Let’s look at a few of these foods and how they work.

  • Strawberries: These berries are full of malic acid, a natural substance that gets rid of tooth discoloration.
  • Nuts: The natural fats found in nuts coat teeth to protect them from plaque and cavities.
  • Apples: The crunch of an apple bite works as an exfoliator of sorts, an abrasive way to remove stains and plaque from your teeth.
  • Dairy: You’ve always heard that milk and cheese help build strong teeth and bones. Calcium strengthens the bones around the teeth and binds to enamel to prevent cavity-causing bacteria from lingering. It also helps to repair damaged enamel.
  • Tea: Many teas contain antioxidants and fluoride that help to protect your teeth enamel by blocking plaque from adhering to the surface of your teeth. Just be sure to opt for the unsweetened version to minimize the risk of sugar negating these properties.
  • Celery, Carrots, Broccoli: These crunchy vegetables scrape away the hard-to-reach plaque.
  • Animal Protein: Meats like chicken and beef contain phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium, which all promote the preservation of tooth enamel.

Many of these foods and drinks are great for weight management and have the added bonus of being great for your teeth. Start with fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid sugary treats, and you’ll be well on your way to better oral health.

Healthy After-School Snacks

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With the school year getting back into full-swing, you have plenty to do each day, from getting the kids ready and in the car to helping them with homework. In this daily chaos, healthy snacks may be the furthest from your mind but it’s easier than you think to work in a few fresh alternatives, even during your busiest days.

By preparing several snack choices ahead of time, your child will have grab-and-go options available throughout the day.

Fruit And Veggies

Apples and grapes aren’t the only fruits that make for tasty snacks. Pineapple rings, blueberries, banana chips, and more are all great options. For veggie options, try bell peppers, celery, and broccoli.

Include seasonal treats such as melons or squash as they become available and try different fruit and veggie dippers like caramel, cream cheese, peanut butter, or ranch.

Pre-packaging your child’s favorite fruit or veggie into snack-sized ziplock bags and having them at the ready makes snack time even easier.

Yogurt

Yogurt is a healthy and tasty alternative to sugary snacks like pudding and ice cream. By adding fresh fruits or granola, you can enhance both the taste and the nutritional content. Mix it with your child’s favorite nuts, try freezing it for a cool treat, or dip naturally sweet strawberries into it.

Granola/Trail Mix

By mixing up your own trail mix and granola, you can choose just what goes into it and control the amount of added sugars. Design a special recipe for your little one and be confident in knowing that they’re eating a healthy snack you’ve prepared.

You can prepare all of these snacks ahead of time and keep them on hand in a designated snack drawer. By having such tasty choices ready for your child when they come home from a long day at school, you’ll feel great that your little one has a healthy snack as they learn and grow.

When Should Your Child Start Drinking Fruit Juice?

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You’ve studied for the first year of your child’s life and know when to bring in solid foods and healthy snacks. But what you may not know is what to serve your kids when it comes to drinks. Of course, you’ve been using formula milk, but what’s next?

The American Academy of Pediatrics is the well-known authority on these matters and they recently changed their stance on fruit juice for young children. Previously, it was determined that fruit juice could be given to children after 6 months, once they were starting to become interested in solid foods beyond formula or breast milk. However, the latest determination is that it should be a year or more before your child has fruit juice, water, or milk other than formula or breast milk.

Fruit juice is a sugary alternative to whole fruits and usually don’t have as many nutrients as is necessary for a growing baby. To avoid cavities in brand new teeth and a deficiency in vitamins at an early age, it’s best to mash up whole fruits from their natural forms rather purchasing juice-flavored alternatives.

Once your child turns one, he or she can begin drinking a limited amount of fruit juice, and there are a few things to remember when that time comes:

  1. Make sure you get 100% juice and avoid beverages with descriptive words like “fruit drinks” or “fruit cocktails”. Those sneaky alternatives are filled with sugar, and many of the nutrients have been stripped away.For children between the ages of 1 and 3, limit their intake to no more than four ounces of juice a day. After that, you can gradually go up a couple of ounces as they age.
  2. For children between the ages of 1 and 3, limit their intake to no more than four ounces of juice a day. After that, you can gradually go up a couple of ounces as they age.

The nutritional benefits of fruit juice are nearly non-existent, while whole fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals. Swapping out those fruit flavored bottles for mashed bananas, apple sauce, or mango puree will start your little one off right.

Why is Soda Bad for Your Teeth?

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We all know that there are healthier drink options available, but soda can’t be that bad, right? Well, not quite, and there are a few reasons why you might want to serve up juice or water next time the kids ask for this sugary pop.

There are two ingredients in soda that are especially bad for your teeth. Let’s look at them individually.

Sweetener

This usually means sugar or a sugar substitute. Sweeteners have a reputation of sticking to your teeth, becoming a breeding ground for those harmful bacteria. Those bacteria create acid that strips away your enamel, the coating that makes your teeth strong and durable.

Carbonation

Carbonated water is what makes soda so distinctly bubbly and fizzy, so in terms of ingredients, it’s essential. But acid is what gives that carbonation its effervescence and you’ve already gotten acid from the sugar in the drink. This means that what could have been a mildly harmful beverage is suddenly twice as threatening. Each can cause decay, but coupled, they provide corrosion that can severely harm your teeth, especially if you drink soda regularly.

What to do

The obvious answer is to cut out soda altogether but if you do want to drink one every now and then, rinse your mouth or brush your teeth after you do so, to wash out all of the sugar and acid that’s probably still sticking to your teeth. Also, make sure you keep your bi-yearly dental appointments as these will clean those spots your brush simply can’t get to.

The Benefits of Chewing Gum

Many think of chewing gum as a sweet treat, a way to freshen your breath, or something to do to avoid snacking. But in reality, it’s so much more than that. Most dentists would tell you to avoid the treat without a second glance but it’s being proven that chewing gum isn’t actually as bad as it seems. There are some health benefits that come with chewing gum that might earn you a free pass at a stick or two.

It protects your teeth.

One of the best ways to reduce plaque and strengthen tooth enamel is to increase saliva flow because saliva prevents acid from sticking to your teeth and causing cavities. Gum does just that. Chewing a stick of sugarless gum for about 20 minutes after you eat can increase that saliva flow and make sure none of the acid from your meal winds up adhering to your teeth long enough to cause damage. It can also effectively flush away food debris and other sticky substances that could cause damage if they hang around too long.

It freshens breath and whitens teeth.

Many chewing gums promote fresh breath but some are better at that task than others. The best ones have bacteria-fighting enzymes that eliminate that bad breath rather than just covering it up. While teeth whitening isn’t necessarily a major benefit of chewing gum, it can certainly help get rid of some of those properties that cause teeth yellowing. By preventing plaque from sticking and protecting your enamel, your teeth have less of a chance of being stained.

Now, you can avoid the guilt and pop a piece of (sugar-free) gum into your mouth with no regret. With benefits like these, you can be confident adding chewing gum to become a small part of your oral hygiene routine.

The Benefits of Dairy for Oral Health

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You’ve always heard that milk is a great source of calcium for healthy bones but it’s not just your femurs and tibias that benefit from a healthy dairy snack. Various dairy products, like cheese, milk, and yogurt, actually do a great job of protecting your teeth and making sure your mouth is just as healthy as your body.

Just like your bones, your teeth are actually heavily comprised of calcium and just like it does with your bones, dairy builds up the calcium in your teeth. The calcium in dairy, not to mention the protein and phosphorus, are all vital to preventing tooth decay.

Milk and other dairy products coat teeth and prevent acidic and sugary foods from causing damage. In fact, cheese stimulates more saliva than other snacks, which blankets your mouth and helps to avoid acidic reactions to your teeth from the foods you’ve eaten. It’s recommended that you drink milk to wash down sweet snacks because the dairy will neutralize those harmful acids that cause cavities, erosion, and other damage.

Trading in sugary carbonated beverages for a glass of milk can have incredible effects on your oral health, and even more so for young children. Not only is dairy great for following up those tasty treats, but they’re actually one of those tasty treats. Eating sugar-free or Greek yogurt, cheese, or other dairy products is a great way to stay healthy, in a variety of ways. Keeping cavities away, building strong bones, and enjoying a healthy snack are all benefits parents can keep in mind when reaching for a dairy-rich refreshment.

How to Help Keep Your Child’s Tooth Enamel Strong

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Your tooth enamel is one of the strongest materials in your body but it’s easy for daily habits to decay or soften those tissues. As baby teeth turn into adult ones, it’s especially important to get your children on a great routine for keeping their teeth and enamel strong from the beginning. But how do you go about that? Here are some tips to keep your child’s teeth healthy and strong.

Limit the Sugars

Aside from the “sugar makes them hyper” argument, sugar has a few other adverse effects. The sugar only feeds the bacteria already growing in tiny mouths and ends up eating away at the enamel. This can cause cavities and plaque buildup.

Build up the Calcium

Be sure that foods high in calcium like dairy, fish, or kale are a part of your child’s diet. Calcium protects and strengthens the tooth enamel and ensures that the sugars that sneak by are not causing cavity-level damage.

Use Fluoride

Toothpaste with added fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel and can even repair early signs of tooth decay. Be sure that the fluoride toothpaste you choose is approved by the American Dental Association (look for the seal) and that your child doesn’t use or swallow more than the recommended amount for brushing.

Don’t Over-brush

This one might seem a little confusing. You’ve taught your child to brush his or her teeth twice a day and that it’s a healthy routine to have. Now, you’re telling them that too much is a bad thing? Well, the sentiment here is that brushing too hard or too often can strip away that enamel that protects teeth. Limiting brushing to twice a day with a soft brush and a non-abrasive toothpaste can have the same healthy effects you’ve taught without the negative ones that come with over-brushing.

 

Healthy and Delicious Alternatives to Sports Drinks

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It’s certainly tempting to reach for a sports drink after exercising or playing a sport. They’re designed to be good for you, to replenish electrolytes lost during a workout, and they’re delicious.

The problem with drinks like Gatorade™ and Powerade® is that they’re not actually good for you. Unless you’re running long distances and are losing your electrolytes, you don’t need to replenish them. Sports drinks also have a lot of calories and added sugar that can, at best, negate the benefits of your workout. At worst, drinking a sports drink when you haven’t been exercising at all can add calories into your diet that you didn’t want or need.

Water is the best replacement for sports drinks. It will hydrate you without giving your body any extra sugar or chemicals for your kidneys to filter out. Drinking enough water will help your skin and your weight as well, giving it the advantage over any other beverages. But, we know sometimes water just isn’t quite a big enough reward at the end of the day.

Cutting up fruits to infuse into your water can help add flavor without sacrificing quality. You can combine any assortments of fruits to create unique combinations, and many stores sell reusable water bottles that have infusers built right into them. If you’re not sure where to start combining fruits, there are a lot of recipes online that can help guide you to finding the perfect flavor.

If you’re feeling a bit lightheaded after a workout, bananas and raisins are good options to add to your water. They keep well, are easy to carry with you and help balance your electrolyte levels and blood sugar with naturally occurring nutrients. You won’t miss the extra chemicals you find in sports drinks.

Chocolate milk is another surprising option that many people don’t consider post-workout. Even though it has some sugar, the calcium and vitamin D in milk outweigh the negative effects. Look for a chocolate milk brand that uses natural or organic ingredients because they will likely have less added sugar.

You don’t have to turn to sports drinks to help pick yourself up after finishing a workout. These snack and drink suggestions will help replenish your body without giving it anything it doesn’t need.

Best Foods for Healthy Teeth

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Everyone knows that sugary foods are bad for your teeth. They promote bacterial growth that encourage cavities and gum disease. Acidic foods and drinks, like coffee and soda, strip away the enamel that protects your teeth.

With all of these foods that can cause tooth problems, what are the foods that will actually help your teeth become stronger?

Cheese, Yogurt, and Dairy

These foods are rich in calcium and protein that help your teeth (and bones) become stronger. They’re also good snacks for that mid-afternoon slump when you really want a cup of coffee to help get you to the end of the work day.

According to EurekAlert, eating cheese raises the pH of your mouth, which reduces your risk of developing cavities. Yogurt also has probiotics, which reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth.

If you decide to incorporate more yogurt into your diet, choose a brand without added sugar to maximize its effects.

Kale and Spinach

These leafy greens are high in calcium and folic acid, which help build enamel and prevent gum disease. If you don’t like these vegetables, try to incorporate them into your diet by adding them to foods you already like. Put some leaves into a smoothie, in morning eggs, or on top of a pizza.

Even if you’re not worried about your dental health, eating leafy greens is good for your whole body.

Apples, celery, and carrots

Aside from being generally healthy, fruits and vegetables like apples and celery are firm and full of water. The chewing required to snack on an apple increases saliva, which discourages cavity-causing bacteria, and gently scrubs your teeth, preventing plaque buildup.

If a food is good for your body, it’s probably good for your teeth too. Healthy foods with low sugar, high fiber, and vitamins are your best bet for finding something to eat that will help you get healthy teeth and gums.

Eat Right, Now

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If the old saying “you are what you eat” is true, what does that make your kids? Are they a balanced plate loaded down with lots of colorful veggies and fruits, whole grains, lean protein and good-for-you dairy? Or are they a not-so-happy meal of burgers, fries, and super-duper-sized sugary soda?

March is National Nutrition Month®, an annual event sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, that focuses attention on the importance of making healthy food choices. For growing kids, that’s especially important. Poor nutrition can lead to a host of physical and social problems, including tooth decay. But even parents who know these facts are faced with tough choices—whether it’s too little time in the day to cook the wholesome dinner you want to serve or the temptation to give in to sweets-hungry kids just to get a little peace and quiet. Here’s a few Dos and Don’ts that will help you make the healthiest choices with a minimum of fuss.

Hungry kids, tired mom?

Do: Head for the deli instead of the hot bar in your favorite grocery store. A rotisserie chicken can make quick-fix soft tacos on whole-wheat tortillas or low-sodium deli meats and cheese on whole-wheat bread served with veggies and low-fat ranch dip is a dinner that practically makes itself. Greek yogurt, granola, and fruit parfaits are a great, easy dessert.

Don’t: Resort to processed,”dinner-in-a-box” options—they’re loaded with sodium and usually fats. If you need to cut down on cost as well as time, canned tuna, frozen veggies, whole wheat pasta, and a little cheese or spice mix is inexpensive and tasty, or substitute ground turkey for beef in burgers or sloppy joes. It’s cheaper, leaner, and kids will never know the difference.

Is Pizza night ok sometimes?

Do: It is—with the understanding that the meat-lover’s special is not the best option. Load up on veggie toppings, ask for light cheese, and whole-wheat thin crust and you’ll be okay.

Don’t: Order delivery pizza. For the healthiest option, make your own. Here’s a great recipe for the dough — it’s less expensive too!

Not enough time for breakfast?

Do: Opt for easy healthy choices like avocado and a sprinkle of seasoned salt on whole-wheat toast, overnight oatmeal in a travel-friendly jar, or a banana smoothie.

Don’t: Let little ones skip breakfast entirely or opt for sugary bars or cereals in the rush to get out the door. Over-consumption of sugar and tooth decay go hand in hand.

 

30 Healthy Snacks in 30 Days

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There’s no better time than the start of a new year to start making healthier choices for your family, including taking a long, hard look at what your kids are snacking on in-between meals and after school. But getting kids to reach for what’s good for them can be challenging. If you’re hungry for good ideas, you’re in luck. We’ve got a wholesome new snack idea for every day of the month! Each is super-good-for-you and easy to assemble.

From the Freezer

  1. Berry Good: Dip fresh whole blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries in vanilla Greek yogurt and freeze on a cookie sheet, either as individual berries or in mounded “bites” for small berries. Store in individual plastic freezer bags in 1/2 cup measurements, so kids can grab-and-go.
  2. Say Cheese Sticks: Cut string cheese stick in half, then freeze. For snack time, Place frozen cheese sticks in a plastic bag with flour and shake to coat. Then dip individually in beaten egg, and roll in seasoned bread or Panko crumbs. Spritz with non-fat cooking spray and bake on a non-stick cooking sheet at 425° for 5-8 minutes on each side.
  3. That’s a Waffle Idea: Cook frozen whole-grain waffles in a toaster oven according to package instructions. Sandwich with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese, sliced bananas or mini chocolate chips, and a drizzle of honey. Quarter and serve.
  4. Monkey Business: Soften chocolate chips in microwave at 30-second intervals on HIGH until melted; stirring at intervals. Sandwich banana chunks with creamy peanut butter. Spear with a wooden skewers and dip into melted chocolate. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze overnight
  5. ’Naner-nutter Pops: Pierce banana halves kabob-style with wooden grilling skewers. Dunk in vanilla Greek yogurt and roll in peanut chips. Freeze overnight.

From the Fridge

  1. Hummus Among Us: Spread hummus on whole-wheat tortilla or flatbread and layer with deli turkey and Provolone cheese. Roll up and cut into pinwheels.
  2. Bagel Bites: Spread toasted bagel with light cream cheese and mashed avocado. Top with turkey bacon and sliced tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cut into bites.
  3. Do You Like Black Bean ‘Chiladas: Spread whole wheat tortillas with refried black beans, chopped green onion, and low-fat cheddar cheese. Broil until cheese is melted. Dollop with salsa and low-fat sour cream.
  4. Are You Nuts Roll-Ups: Sandwich toasted whole-wheat bread or waffles with almond butter. Layer with thinly sliced crisp apples, dried cranberries, and a drizzle of honey. Quarter and serve.
  5. Apple of Your Pie: Line lightly greased pie pan or muffin cups with whole wheat tortillas. Top with diced apple, a generous sprinkle of brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, walnut pieces, a pinch of sea salt, and dot with low-fat margarine. Bake at 375° until lightly browned. Serve with a scoop of low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt.
  6. Muffins, Topped: Toast English muffins halves until golden. When cool, top with low-fat cream cheese, pecan pieces, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  7. Mango-Tango Smoothie: Add 2 cups milk, 1 fresh pitted mango, 1 frozen banana cut into pieces, 2 tablespoons honey, ice cubes in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
  8. South of the Border Pinwheels: Top large tortillas with cream cheese, drained canned corn, chopped green chilies, chopped tomatoes, and salt. Roll up tightly; slice in 1-inch slices and serve.
  9. Cran-Fruity Smoothie: Combine 1 cup cranberry apple juice, 1 cup plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt, and 1 cup frozen sweetened berries. Blend until smooth and combined. Serve immediately.
  10. Yum-Noodle Salad: Combine peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and a drizzle of sesame oil in a blender and blend until smooth. Toss with spaghetti, shredded carrots, and diced green onion. Chill overnight before serving.
  11. Mama Mias: Press store-bought or homemade pizza dough into greased muffin tin wells. Add 1 teaspoon pizza sauce to each, your choice of pizza toppings, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake until crust is golden brown.
  12. S’mores Parfaits: Layer crumbled graham crackers with chocolate pudding, mini marshmallows, and mini chocolate chips.

From the Blender

  1. Orange You Yummy Smoothie: Combine ½ cup fresh orange juice and 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt. Blend until smooth and combined. Serve immediately.
  2. Banana Split Smoothie: Combine 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt, 1 banana cut into chunks, 1 cup chocolate milk. 1 cup frozen strawberries. Blend until smooth and combined. Serve immediately.
  3. Rise and Shine Smoothie: Combine frozen peach slices, orange juice, lemon Greek yogurt, and ice. Blend until smooth and combined. Serve immediately.
  4. Nutellin’ Me Something Smoothie: Combine 1 cup frozen vanilla yogurt, 2 tablespoons Nutella®, and ½ cup milk. Blend until smooth and combined. Serve immediately

From the Pantry

  1. Milk & Honey Bites: Mix 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup peanut butter in a stand mixer. Gradually add 1/2 cup dry milk and mix well. Chill 2-3 hours. With greased hands, form into small balls. Roll in crushed corn flake cereal. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving.
  2. Hit the Trail Mix: Combine honey roasted peanuts, milk chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries , bite-sized pretzel. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container.
  3. Everything But the Kitchen Sink Mix: Combine pretzels, corn, rice or wheat cereal, Goldfish® crackers, raisins, dried pineapple, chopped dried apricots, dried banana chips, and salted peanuts. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Store in an airtight container.
  4. Peter Pumpkin Eater Dip: Blend canned pumpkin, softened cream cheese, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Serve as a dip with fresh apple slices, gingersnaps, or graham crackers.
  5. Elvis Has Left the Building Sammies: Split a whole banana and spread with almond butter. Top with toasted coconut, muesli cereal, and a drizzle of honey.
  6. Granola Bites: Mix peanut butter, a drizzle of honey, powdered milk, granola, and chopped dates. Shape into balls, chill, and serve.
  7. PB and ‘Dillas: Sandwich tortillas with peanut butter and apple or peach fruit butter. Warm slightly in a skillet sprayed with non-stick spray. Let sit 2 minutes, quarter and serve.
  8. Gobble Gobble These Up: Sandwich sliced mini cranberry muffins with deli turkey, white Cheddar, and a gloss of orange marmalade.
  9. All Bark, No Bite: Melt dark chocolate chips in a microwave on HIGH at 30-second intervals until melted. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salted almond slices and shredded coconut. Refrigerate and break into shards when cool.
  10. Beantastic Dip: Blend a can of drained white Northern beans, a drizzle of olive oil, a little minced garlic, sea salt, and cumin. Chill and serve with carrot or celery sticks, pita chips, or bagel chips.

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