Since the modernization of our food industry it has been harder and harder for parents to control the types of food our children eat. This multi billion dollar industry and their marketing practices target our young children with messages to eat the wrong kinds of food. We, as parents, instinctively know what is best for our children. We have choices and what we choose to put in our shopping carts and on the ends of our forks are powerful tools to help achieve overall health for our families.
4 Powerful Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy Foods:
1. Take advantage of the times kids are most hungry:
Like first thing in morning and after school.
Have fruit cleaned, chopped and ready to eat out on the counter in the morning before they eat breakfast. Kids are hungry when they get up and while you are making breakfast they can munch on fruit and start packing some fruit in their lunch for the day.
When they get home from school have a plate of their favorite cut up veggies and dip. Serve it on a fancy platter. Kids love to feel like they are just as special as adults. When kids are hungry you will be surprised what they will eat. Also, I have found when I present it as an “appetizer” before dinner they are more open to eating what you have prepared.
2. Provide snacks with high nutrient density and lots of taste:
Make them a smoothie for breakfast or after school snack. Include whole fruit and some green leafy veggies. This snack is packed with nutrients, tasty, and will get them through till the next meal. The more nutrient dense a snack is the more satiated and satisfied your child will be which means they won’t be back in the kitchen looking for something else a ½ hour later. Use smoothies to add-in veggies, fruits, and yogurt to provide whole food nutrition to your child’s diet. Limit the high sugar drinks and processed foods which will fill the child up with “low nutrient” foods leaving less room and desire for the “high nutrient dense” foods that will sustain and fuel the body for longer periods of time.
3. Get them involved and give them some control and options:
Kids love to be creative and have control around mealtime. Try serving salad using mixed greens and romaine and putting all the toppings in little bowls on a “lazy susan” (you can find them on Amazon). Put a variety of cut up veggies, black olives, hard-boiled egg, croutons, avocado, feta or goat cheese, walnuts, craisins, cherry tomatoes, whatever your family likes. Take this opportunity to expose your kids to new raw veggies. Consider using a box cheese grater to “shred” some of your veggies like raw carrot, zucchini, beets, or cauliflower. Place items in little bowls and put on the lazy susan then place that on the table. There is something about this method that kids love and makes them want to try everything you are serving.
Other “lazy susan” meal and snack ideas:
Taco or burrito night
Old-fashioned oatmeal breakfast with healthy toppings
Make your own pizza night
Salad bar night
Make-your-own yogurt parfait for a snack, breakfast or lunch
Build-your-own rice bowl with healthy add-ins
Get kids involved! The more kids help the more they are willing to try the food they helped prepare. My kids love getting out the bowls and putting all the different foods in the bowls. Kids can shave carrots, grate veggies or cheese, cut up olives, get items out of fridge and place them in bowls. I know sometimes it can be easier just to do it ourselves but after the kids do it a few times they become more self-directed and better at what they do which really helps us out and gives them an appreciation for what goes into preparing for meals.
4. Lead by example:
Lastly, the single most powerful tool we have to get our kids to start and continue on the healthy path of choosing whole nutritious foods is to lead by example. We cannot expect our kids to eat their veggies and stay away from sugary drinks and snacks if we aren’t willing to do it ourselves. If we do this for all the young people in our lives we will create a legacy of health for generations to come!
Here are a few recipes of some of the foods I mentioned above:
Green Smoothie Delight
1. 1 cup almond milk (depending on how thick you like it)
2. A couple handfuls of spinach leaves
3. 1 frozen banana chopped
4. 1 heaping Tbls. of almond butter or peanut butter (Earth Balance is a good brand without any added refined white sugar, HFCS, or hydrogenated oils)
5. 1 Tbls. of ground flax seeds (they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, omega 3’s and fiber)
6. A scoop of Vega protein powder (optional—Vega is a complete meal protein powder available at Whole Foods)
7. About 3-5 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. The Vita Mix blender works best but any high-speed blender will do.
Power Energy Balls
1. 1 Cup old-fashioned oats (Bob’s Red Mill is a good brand)
2. 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
3. 1/3 cup finely shredded coconut flakes (I use Let’s Do Organics brand-available at Whole Foods)
4. 1/2 cup peanut butter (If there are peanut allergies you could use Sun Butter which is made from sunflower seeds)
5. 1/3 cup honey
6. 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped up raisins
Stir all ingredients well and chill dough for at least 30 minutes.
Make into balls using an ice cream scoop or just eyeball it and use your hands.
Makes 12-14 balls
Best served chilled!
These are great for a lunch box treat, snack before running out the door to a game or practice, or late afternoon snack for mom or dad at work.
1. Plain yogurt (I use goat milk yogurt or Greek yogurt)
2. Chopped up fresh strawberries and blueberries
3. Granola (optional)
4. Sprinkle of ground flax seeds (optional)
5. Drizzle of honey or agave nectar
Start with the yogurt, drizzle of sweetener, fruit, granola, then repeat. Kids can make this one themselves and when it is all assembled it is pretty to look at—kids will be proud of their creation!
Cucumber and Avocado Sandwich
Cut Avocado in half lengthwise. Score avocado right in the skin long ways then across. Then scoop out avocado chunks. Roughly shave your cucumber and slice into rounds. Season with an herb sea salt blend (I use Herbamare or Herby-available at Whole Foods).
Assemble an avocado chunk on top of cucumber round and using a fork smash the avocado onto the cucumber then place another round on top to make a “sandwich”. This can also be served open face. This is a great before dinner appetizer served on a fancy platter!
Avocados add a nutritional kick to any snack. They contain 20 essential nutrients making it a super star food for kids. They are especially rich in E, B-vitamins, folic acid, omega 3 fatty acids and beta-carotene.
Cucumber is rich in vitamins A, B1, B6, C, D, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium.
Homemade Lemon Vinaigrette
1. Juice of 1 lemon
2. 2 tsp. regular or honey Dijon mustard
3. 2 tsp. olive oil
4. 4 drops liquid Stevia (available at Whole Foods) Adjust to desired taste. You could use a drizzle of honey here as an alternative.
5. Add your favorite seasoning fresh or dried (I use Herby which is a herb sea salt blend –available at Whole Foods).
Whisk and taste—adjust ingredients to desired taste.
Makes enough for 2-3 people.
Cashew Cream Ranch Dressing
1 cup raw cashews
Place raw cashew in a glass bowl with water to cover the nuts and cover with towel. Soak nuts for 2 hours. Pour out water and rinse.
1. 1 cup soaked raw cashews
2. ½ cup filtered water
3. ½ tbl. fresh lemon juice
4. ½ -1 tsp. mild curry powder to taste
5. ¼ tsp. onion powder
6. ¼ tsp. garlic powder
7. Pinch of sea salt to taste
8. Black pepper to taste
9. Add a couple tsp. of either fresh or dried herbs like parsley, basil, and dill. Use less if using dried herbs.
Using a high-speed blender or food processor blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. If sauce is too thick add a bit of water to thin as needed.
Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Store in covered container. Best when chilled for one or more hours.
This can be used as a salad dressing or a dip for veggies.