The number one problem with keeping your family healthy is getting them to eat foods that are good for them. With careful "tweaking and sneaking" you can get them to eat well and enjoy it. Here are some tips on adding body-fortifying foods easily.
Our kids have come by their eating habits honestly — they got them from us. In our process as intelligent, caring parents we're learning more about food and how to keep our children thriving. Oftentimes the dietary changes we'd like to make are met with a scrunched up nose and an "ew." If they've been taught good manners, that little scrunched up nose is followed by "ew, no thank you."
This calls for the "don't ask, don't tell" approach to dinner time. With some careful tweaking and sneaking to your menu plan, they'll be chowing down on nutrient-dense foods and not even know it.
Our taste is acquired. The good news is we can acquire a taste for new and different foods — it just takes time. Some foods are easy to adjust so your family can slowly come around to the different textures and flavors. Even a "two bites of green beans = small victory" is worth celebrating.
For example, my 3-year-old granddaughter Sophie can pick at a plate, nose scrunched up, "ew-ing" with the best of them. However, on a recent visit from Grandma Loa (that's my favorite title) I made a batch of kale chips. She loved them. Lots of kids do. They're salty and crunchy and are handled like a potato chip. Yet, rather than harmful, toxic ingredients worthy of lawsuits, she's getting health-benefiting polyphenolic flavonoid compounds such as lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and vitamins while she snacks away. The greater benefit and the bigger picture is that this enjoyable vegetable snack becomes a gateway food. This occasional appearance of a dark green vegetable in her diet will make her more likely to try other green foods as she grows up. Even if there are only two or three vegetables that your child will eat, keep offering them — it's a place to start.
Vegetables don't have to be boring, laying on the plate screaming, "I'm good for you." There are plenty of ways to secretly add them to meals that kids love.
Here are a few of my favorite "health by stealth" tricks that will keep your family eating well.
Veggies in spaghetti
When making spaghetti sauce, even if it's from a jar, start by sautéing finely chopped vegetables in olive oil and cook them down until tender, almost caramelized. They'll blend in with your sauce and the nose scrunchers won't know they're there. Try red and yellow peppers, onions, carrots (shred them), garlic and zucchini. If you chop them small and cook until tender, it will be your secret.
Kids and parents love a breakfast smoothie. Start with a base of 1 cup grape juice, 1 cup frozen strawberries or blueberries, 1 banana and add a handful of fresh spinach. Voila! You've alkalized their breakfast, added vitamin C, iron, and phyto-nutrients that have disease prevention properties all while they had no clue. The grape juice camouflages the green color. My grandson Bronx, another nose-scruncher, has this every morning and proudly sports his purple mustache after he drinks it.
When baking muffins or cookies, reduce the amount of sugar by 2-3 tablespoons. Try replacing a half cup of flour for almond meal. They won't miss the sugar. Overtime, they'll get used to a lighter sweet taste. Plus, you've added 12 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber and a small dose of leptin which helps reduce sugar cravings. Your family might not even notice a difference in the taste and hey, what happens in your mixing bowl, stays in your mixing bowl.
Before cooking white rice, replace one fourth the amount of rice you are preparing with brown rice and cook as normal. In a few weeks, replace half with brown rice. By slowly allowing your family to get used to the texture, they are more likely to make the transition without drama. Eventually, the goal is to phase out white rice and serve only brown rice. It's a better choice as it contains the endosperm which generates all of the proteins and 80 percent of the minerals, plus vitamin E.
This list will get you thinking about ways you can turn those little nose scrunchers into smiley faces that hug you and say, "Thanks, that was yummy!"
Loa is President and CEP of Haze's Beans, a charity dedicated to empowering women through health awareness. She is the mother of four productive, happy children who are engaged in making the world a better place and, cherishes her role as a grandmother above all else.