As a parent, we need to empower our kids with the knowledge and space to have fun exploring and cooking with as many vegetables, fruits and whole foods as possible. But, as a parent, that can be challenging, especially if you have a child with a food allergy, are living in a food desert, or are still learning how to cook healthy yourself. To make healthy eating stress-free, here are six tips to get you started.
- When looking at recipes, remember that many ingredients can be easily modified to accommodate food allergies or specific eating preferences.
- Listen to your body. Even if a food is considered healthy. If it makes you feel bad, it’s not healthy for you.
- Cook with whole foods. Select foods that have as little processing as possible such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, rice, nuts and seeds.
- Buy meat consciously. If your protein source of choice is meat, be sure to make sure it’s free of hormones and antibiotics. When possible, pick one that is grass fed and humanly raised.
- Become a swap-out artist. When you’re learning how to cook healthy, start with your favorite traditional recipes and pick one or two unhealthy ingredients that you can swap for healthier versions (i.e. coconut oil for butter and maple syrup for sugar)
- Have fun in the kitchen. Smiles and laughter is contagious. The more fun you have the more other people will want to be involved in your new healthy cooking lifestyle. You’ll soon be sharing your healthy cooking passion with your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and friends – making this world healthier, one bite at a time!
Holidays mean time spent with friends and family. In order to get to those friends and family members though, many of us are spending time on the road. The effort is well worth it, but all that time on the road or in the sky make it challenging to stick to a healthy diet when the lure of the drive through beckons. Being on the go during holiday season does not mean you have to abandon all of your nutritional goals though. Simply do a little advanced planning and you’ll be able to keep you and your family on track throughout the holidays!
- Make it Part of Packing. Just like you pack clothes and other necessities, take some time to pack healthy snacks. Many people take snacks for the car ride, but consider packing enough snacks to get you throughout the duration of your trip. Make or buy a few of your family’s favorites ahead of time and you’ll be all set (hint: nuts and dried fruit travel well!).
- Do Some Research. A few minutes spent on the web can give you a wealth of information about the restaurants you’ll encounter en route and at your destination. Search terms like ‘best local restaurants’ and ‘farm to table restaurants’ or a specific diet + restaurants + city will give you plenty of options you may not come across otherwise!
- Think Outside the Box. When you pull off the interstate to find a snack on the road you aren’t limited to drive-throughs and conveniences stores. Oftentimes, a grocery store or supercenter is not far out of the way. Ingredients like sliced cheese, organic deli meats, carrot sticks, and more can make a quick, healthy meal for everyone!
- Give Yourself Grace. There will likely be times when even the best advanced planning can’t prevent your family from having to eat some junk food. In these instances remember what you are eating the majority of the time matters far more than the occasional exception!
“I don’t like this!” “I won’t eat that!” Anyone who has ever dealt with a picky eater knows how these complaints can make mealtime miserable for everyone. End the dinnertime battles with these strategies to encourage picky eaters to pick up their forks and put down the resistance!
- Limit Choices. Giving little folks multiple options can seem like a good idea when it comes to meal time complaints, and it can be, but giving too many choices can actually make things so overwhelming that it is hard for children to make a choice. Instead, offer just a couple of choices that stay within your nutritional goals for your children and fall within the choices you are already preparing. This strategy gives your child a sense of control without overwhelming him with too many choices.
- Keep the Big Goal in Focus. Don’t let little ones distract you from your main goal of getting nutrients into your kiddos. Diverting your attention over whether their entire plate is clean can create extra conflict and distract you from your ultimate goal. Choose your primary goal and don’t let superfluous details like a ‘clean plate award’ distract you.
- Consider Modifications. No parent wants to become a short order cook, but sometimes it is possible to modify what your little ones eat without much added effort. For example, if fajitas are too spicy for your picky diner’s palate, separate some of the ingredients you are cooking prior to seasoning for those who prefer plain. Your child is still eating what the rest of the family is eating, but in a manner more appealing to him or her.
- Use Guidelines to Give Control. If a power struggle is behind the picky preferences, set guidelines from which your child can choose his options. For example, he or she needs to eat a cup’s worth of vegetables, but he or she can fill that cup up with any of the available vegetables he chooses.
- Use Natural Consequences. Punishing a child over food choices can set a bad precedent for later in life, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t let natural consequences take effect. A conversation explaining the natural consequences of picky eating might sound like this, “I’m sorry you’re missing out on this grilled chicken kebob tonight, but I’m sure tomorrow morning’s oatmeal will taste extra good to you. If you change your mind, your dinner is right here.”
- Establish Some Non-Negotiables. Even as adults, there are some foods we just don’t like. If there are some foods your child genuinely doesn’t care for after tasting them, respect that choice. Seeing that you respect his preferences will help him build a trusting relationship with you at the dinner table.
In a perfect world our kids would all beg for healthy foods and turn their noses up at junk food. In the real world, even kids (and adults for that matter) who eat a pretty a healthy diet could benefit from added nutrients in their diets. While encouraging kids to try new foods is a big part of raising healthy eaters, adding extra nutrients to almost anything you cook can also go a long way in improving their nutritional intake. Try these super foods that easily blend easily into many foods and pack a healthy punch with each bite!
- Flaxseed. Flaxseed ups the fiber content of anything its added to as well as delivering a substantial serving of the essential fatty acid omega 3, which is good for both brain and heart health. Note that it is more easily absorbed by the body when it is ground, so buy pre-ground versions or grind yourself. Sneak it in-Stir a spoonful of flax into scrambled eggs before frying to start the day right!
- Nutritional Yeast. The natural cheesy flavor of nutritional yeast makes it easy to mix in anything you’d add cheese to ordinarily, but with nutritional yeast mixed in your dishes you’ll also be adding a terrific source of B vitamins. Sneak it in- Sprinkle nutritional yeast on popcorn or stir it in with your macaroni and cheese.
- Chia Seed. Chia seeds have earned their super food reputation for good reason: they offer omega 3s, calcium, fiber, and protein in just a couple of tablespoons. Sneak it in- If your kids balk at chia seed pudding, try giving them a serving of chia seeds in their smoothies or mixed in the batter of your favorite quick bread.
- Any Spice. You may already be using this tip without knowing all the nutritional value you are adding in to each bite. With each shake of spice you add to your food, you are adding a serving of antioxidants. Cinnamon, pepper, and turmeric rank as top choice, but any and all natural spices offer benefits. Sneak it in-Your kids may know you add spices to most recipes, but don’t worry; you can still keep their nutritional value your little secret!
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is one of nature’s little secrets. Credited with aiding in digestion and healing, apple cider vinegar tops many health experts lists of kitchen must-haves. Sneak it in-Try blending apple cider vinegar into a homemade salad dressing or dilute it within a strong flavored all natural juice.
Having little helpers in the kitchen may take a little longer than if you were doing things on your own, but the payoff is well worth it. Working together in the kitchen creates memories, provides learning opportunities, and sets the foundation for a lifetime of healthy cooking and eating. Like with any other task though, the right tools can make all the difference. Take a look at our favorite kitchen gadgets for your own healthy little cooks.
- Kid-sized kitchen tools. Full-sized kitchen tools can be awkward for little hands to maneuver. A wide variety of kid-sized kitchen tools are available to make the job easier and more fun. The best part is these tools are not toys; they are the real deal made in miniature. Choose from versions that look identical to yours or pick bright options to add whimsy and fun to the kitchen.
- Non-slip bowls. This kid-friendly item doesn’t have to come from the children’s department. Just look for any mixing bowls with rubberized grips on the bottom to help prevent slips and spills.
- Disposable knives. Those little plastic knives that come with takeout food are a great way to let kiddos feel like they are making a contribution to the prep work, but with far less risk of injury. Save some the next time you get to-go food then let your little ones cut soft foods like cheese. For older kids, sturdier plastic knives are available in cookware stores and online. Remember both options require adult supervision.
- Immersion Blender. Even though the amount of help small hands can do with an immersion blender is minimal (let them help you press the button to activate the blender), the immersion blender makes the list because it makes fast work of making kid-friendly recipes like smoothies. As an added bonus, the immersion blender is perfect for making baby food in a snap if you have healthy little babies at home too.
- Custom Aprons. Admittedly a personalized kid-sized apron is not an essential, but it sure can make cooking time extra special. Check out sites like Etsy to find one your kids will love or buy a plain one and spend an afternoon decorating it with your kids!