Category Archives: Health and Fitness

Don’t Forget Chicken – the Most Versatile and Healthy Protein

Baked Marinated Chicken

Our bodies need protein and if you enjoy meat in your diet, chicken is an excellent choice. You may enjoy red meat as much as I do, but chicken is an equally good source of protein,  easier to digest, much lower in fat and calories, and typically has a short preparation time.

When you add in its versatility, you have a winner. There are so many main course dishes based on chicken, you will always have new ways to serve healthy, delicious meals to your family.

As an important part of your chicken cooking repertoire, we recommend the following methods to keep the calories at a minimum and contribute to a healthy heart.

Five Healthy Cooking Methods

Steamed Chicken                                         

You can have a flavorful, tender dinner in 20 minutes or less when you choose steaming. The prep time for this method is minimal and each serving is much lower in calories and fat because oil is not required.

White or dark meat? That is the question. White is healthier (and my favorite) with less fat and fewer calories, but many people prefer the richer, more moist dark meat. Whichever you choose, we recommend you use skinless, boneless pieces.

The secret to amazing flavors when steaming is seasoning.

You can layer the chicken with herbs and citrus slices for a tasty, tender meal. The acidity of citrus (lemons, limes, or oranges) will tenderize the chicken as it cooks.

Salt and pepper both sides of 2 medium chicken breasts, lay them in the steamer and sprinkle with 2 cloves minced garlic and a light dusting of chili flakes (optional). Top with the zest of a large lemon. Add the leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and steam until chicken is tender.

A mixture of paprika, crushed red pepper, and chili powder sprinkled over the chicken works wonders for those who enjoy spicy dishes.

Steaming chicken retains all the nutrients, so adding your favorite vegetables to the cooker creates a lovely nutritious meal.

NOTE: Be sure to use fresh, young chicken. Don’t skimp on cost and buy less than prime or your result may be tough and not-so-delectable.

Boiled Chicken

Boiled Chicken SaladThis is one of my favorite ways to cook chicken because it makes fall-off-the-bone chicken that can be used in so many ways – chicken salad, chicken tacos, nachos, quesadillas, chicken-topped pizza, sliced chicken sandwiches, shredded chicken sandwiches, and many other possibilities.

Use boneless or bone-in – white or dark meat, they all work. Place the children in a Dutch oven or heavy pot, add one onion (sliced), a large celery stalk with leaves (cut in 2” chunks), one bay leaf, salt and pepper, and a large garlic clove. (These are my choices – you will find your favorites when you realize how easy this is.)

Add just enough water to cover the chicken (this is critical), bring the water to a boil, cover, drop to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, just until chicken is tender. Most of the water will be absorbed into the chicken and vegetables.

Remove, drain, slice, and serve with a side of vegetables and a small portion of whole grain pasta (or shred and use in any way you choose).

AND . . . Don’t throw away the broth, it is perfect for chicken soup, which cures all ails.

Baked Chicken

This is one of the easiest ways to prepare chicken and can be extremely tasty.

It is best to use boneless/skinless equally-sized chicken breasts – but dark meat can also be used if you prefer. Place the chicken in a lightly-greased oven-proof baking pan, season with your favorite seasonings and bake at 375° F. until chicken is tender and no longer pink in the center (~15 to 20 minutes).

When done, it’s best to remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Small potatoes and carrot sticks placed around the chicken during baking will absorb all the juices and make a complete meal when served with a crisp green salad.

Experiment with marinating the chicken overnight to add wonderful flavors to the meat – see the information below  – Learn to Marinate.

Grilled Chicken

Grilling is a delicious, low-calorie traditional American method of Grilled Chickencooking chicken – especially during the summer months. It can be grilled in the oven (under the broiler) or on a BBQ grill on the back patio.

Brush lightly with melted butter (optional), sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, a light dusting of paprika and the juice of one lemon. Voila! You have a lovely meal when served with grilled potatoes and fresh asparagus. Don’t overcook.

little more preparation but is worth it. I use chicken tenders and cut them into small pieces, so they cook quickly. (Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like it hot)

Stir-Fried Chicken

This method takes a little more preparation but is worth it. I use chicken tenders and cut them into small pieces, so they cook quickly. (Sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like it hot)

You will need a large cast-iron skillet, Dutch oven, or wok with a small amount of oil.

Cut up the chicken and vegetables of choice (broccoli, zucchini, green peppers, diced carrots, garlic, onions, etc.)

Add all the pieces to the hot cooking pan, season to taste – stir and cook until meat is no longer pink and veggies are tender. (Do not overcook!)

Serve immediately with steamed brown Basmati rice.

Learn to Marinate

Good marinade tenderizers the chicken, keeps it moist when cooking, and adds wonderful flavor without excess fat.

Tips for Marinating

  1. To keep the dish as low in calories as possible, use skinless chicken breasts – dark meat is higher in fat and calories.
  2. The skin adds 20% more fat. If you prefer the added flavor of cooking with the skin, remove it before eating.
  3. Marinating for suggested times below allows the juices to be fully absorbed and makes the chicken tender. Over-marinating can result in a less-then-desired outcome.

Time Chart for Marinating Chicken

  Source: https://www.eatbydate.com/long-marinate-chicken/ 

  1. Always discard the marinade once you have removed the chicken. DO NOT use it for anything else or you risk salmonella poisoning.

Tasty Marinades

    • Teriyaki Chicken Marinade: a simple sesame-ginger marinade
    • Chicken Enchilada Marinade: a no-cook version of my favorite enchilada sauce
    • Tandoori Chicken Marinade: a simple curry marinade that is big on flavor
    • Honey Mustard Marinade: always a classic for you mustard-lovers
    • Pesto Chicken Marinade: pesto sauce works just as well as a marinade!

After trying some of the above recipes or others that you can find on the internet, tap you’re your creativity and experiment – create your own recipes. There are many combinations of ingredients that make healthy, delicious chicken dishes.

Check out this article, How to Make Your Own Marinades from TheSpruceEats.com.

If you are pushed for time, use one of the gourmet bottled marinades from your local grocery store – read the labels carefully and avoid those filled with unnecessary additives.

Read this article in Prevention Magazine, Marinades: Your Meal’s Healthiest Friend for healthy bottled choices.

Happy Eating!

 

Related Articles: 

Chicken Salad – Cool and  Healthy

Why a Healthy Diet Should Be Your #1 Priority

Uncertainty, isolation (social distancing), working from home, fear of illness, etc. etc. It’s all too much!

Living in a world that changed overnight and having no idea what is coming is terrifying and stressful – at least it has been for me. My emotions are all over the place. I just want it to be over, so we can go back to some sense of normalcy.

But – what do we do in the meantime? 

We take care of our minds and bodies  so we can stay healthy. That is more important NOW than ever!

Take Care of Your Body and Mind with a Healthy Diet

Young woman  stress eating cake
Image by Massonforstock

In this world of convenience and flavor-enhanced foods, it is very easy to indulge in foods that taste great but provide little nutrition.

When we get stressed or worried, that tendency increases and we fill our bodies with “treats” that make us feel better for a minute or two.

As difficult as it is – when things get tough, we must double down and focus on eating good nutritious foods that will keep our minds and bodies strong to face whatever challenges lie ahead.

Worry and stress take a terrible toll on the body. The two things that are most important to minimize the toll are exercise and a healthy diet filled with nutritious food.  

There is no reason not to exercise since the majority of us are restricted to our homes – indoors or outdoor – just do it! At least 30 minutes each day and in the fresh air is preferable. 

The Link Between Diet and Depression

We are living in a strange new world of isolation – or social distancing in the current vernacular – but, we haven’t lost the ability to be smart about what we eat – unless we let our worry rule our senses.

Your daily food choices directly affect the way you feel mentally and physically. If you are using fear and discouragement as justification for stress eating – stuffing yourself with sweets with little thought about nutrition, you are hurting yourself far more than you think you are.

Many ongoing studies are finding the link between diet and mental health. 

People who eat a steady diet of processed foods, added sugars and white flour/sugar products are more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression. 

Those who consume natural foods including lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – limiting their intake of red meat enjoy stable moods and are not as likely to suffer from depression.

It is difficult to stay positive, keep yourself busy, and take care of your loved ones when you are feeling down.

A new study by the NIH (National Institute of Health) released May 16, 2019, finds that ultra-processed foods cause overeating, weight gain and an increased risk of depression.  Don’t let any of that happen to you. 

First and foremost . . .

Pay Attention to What You Are Eating

Nutrient-rich foods are necessary for good health and must be the bulk of your diet. Focus on eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible!

Junk foods, fast foods, and packaged processed foods are filled with added sugars and empty calories (little or no nutrient value). They may taste good, but when eaten as part of your regular diet, they cause weight gain and damage your body. They should be eliminated or eaten rarely in very small quantities.

Healthy Diet Foods in Fridge

Healthy Eating Guidelines

  1. PROTEIN – Be sure you eat enough protein. Eggs, beef, fish/shellfish, chicken, pork (including nitrate-free bacon, sausage, ham), lentils, beans, nuts, and some grains, i.e. quinoa.
  2.  DAIRY (Another good source of protein) –  Milk, cottage cheese, all varieties of cheese,  and non-fat Greek yogurt.
  3.  FRUITS & VEGETABLES –  You can eat unlimited amounts of vegetables and a generous amount of fruits every day – but be aware that some fruits are higher in calories than others.
  4. CARBOHYDRATES  – Provide necessary fuel for critical processes in your body – especially the central nervous system and brain; they also lower your risk for disease. It is never a good idea to stop eating healthy carbs.   Healthy Carbs – whole grains such as whole-wheat flour, quinoa, oatmeal; popcorn; nuts and seeds; beans and lentils; and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables such as berries, bananas, apples, pears, avocado, carrots, broccoli, artichokes, kale, sweet potatoes, and beets. Bad Carbs (avoid) – All processed and refined foods such as white flour, rice, pasta, bread, crackers, cereal, and refined sugars like table sugar and added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, etc.
  5. FATS  are necessary for vitamin and mineral absorption, blood clotting, building cells, and muscle movement. Healthy Fats (unsaturated) – These can be found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils (olive, avocado, and flaxseed). Unhealthy Fats (trans-fats – AVOID Completely)

Foods to Avoid (or Eliminate)

  1. SUGAR AND SUGAR PRODUCTS – These are empty calories; the refining process essentially removes all nutrients.  Includes most sweets, ice cream, candy, doughnuts, cookies, cake, pie, desserts.  Anything made with white flour, processed sugar, added sugars of any kind, and high fructose corn syrup, etc. If you enjoy desserts – make your own from scratch so you control the ingredients and avoid the additives.
  2. FAST FOODS – Avoid or. . . indulge RARELY and choose carefully from the menu.
  3.  JUNK FOOD – Snack foods made of white flour, added sugars, and high sodium content such as Pop-Tarts, chips, crackers, pretzels, Cheetos, Packaged Fruit Pies, Snack Cakes, donuts, chocolate, candy bars, etc.
  4. FLAVORED BEVERAGES – (AVOID or consume rarely) – Sodas, coffee, tea, energy drinks, processed fruit juice, hot chocolate, specialty beverages like lattes and Frappuccinos, etc.  Sugary drinks and energy drinks (high caffeine content) should be avoided completely. An occasional cup of coffee or herbal tea is acceptable, just don’t fall into the habit of drinking many cups of fully caffeinated coffee every day.
  5. PREPACKAGED/PROCESSED FOODS – (AVOID COMPLETELY) These are loaded with poison additives and added sugars. Don’t eat them.  More and more studies are finding that consumption of heavily processed foods contributes to heart disease and early death.   

Be Sure to Get Enough of the Following:

  1. WATER – Keep your body hydrated. Listen to your body, if you are thirsty  – DRINK water!  
  2. FIBER  – Vital for a healthy digestive tract and helps with weight loss (makes you feel full).  Fiber can be found in all types of fresh whole berries; dried fruits; fresh whole pears, apples, grapes; vegetables such as corn, sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and zucchini; whole-grain bread, cereals, and pasta; seeds, all nuts (especially almonds),  and legumes (chickpeas, lentils, peas, and all types of beans).
  3. MINERALS – Necessary for regulating metabolism, staying hydrated, and building strong bones and teeth. If you eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables,  in most cases you will get all the minerals you need.

Eat Well and Stay Healthy!

The grocery stores are open! Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, chicken, etc. are available – so shop for the good stuff and eat right.

If you don’t want to go to the store – have it delivered, or order and pick up.  

If we take care of ourselves and each other, we will get through this!

 

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Want to Feel Better? Lower Your blood Sugar Now!

It’s Simple — Take Care of Your Body Every Day

You recently found out that you are prediabetic or moving in that direction with higher than acceptable blood sugar levels.

You are concerned and do not want to go on medication.

You have heard that blood sugar can be controlled through diet and believe it is worth a shot.

Your intel is correct. The most direct way to impact blood sugar levels is through a healthy diet.

Rather than think in terms of “diet” think it terms of “lifestyle.”

Make Smart Choices

Living a healthy lifestyle and making smart food choices will minimize the risk of high blood sugar and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Making smart choices is not complicated. All that is required is a commitment to taking care of your body so that it can serve you for many years to come — as it was meant to do.

The following are seven important pieces of information to remember.

All Carbs Are NOT Created Equal

Blood sugar or blood glucose is directly affected by the foods you eat — especially carbohydrates. They are converted into glucose and enter the bloodstream as blood sugar.

Because carbohydrates have the largest impact on blood sugar levels, it is important to be aware of your intake.

When you consistently consume large amounts of sugar, the pancreas will secrete extra insulin. Eventually, it won’t be able to produce enough to keep blood glucose at normal levels.

Sometimes carbs get a bad rap, but they are actually good for you and necessary for the body as fuel. They also protect against disease and help control weight.

But . . . all carbs are not created equal.

Each carb has a Glycemic Index (GI) or ranking based on how they affect blood glucose. Carbs with a GI index of 55 or less digest slowly, creating a lower and slower rise in blood glucose. These are called “complex carbs.”

Carbs with a GI index closer to 100 are broken down and enter the bloodstream quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar. They are called “simple carbs.”

Consuming low GI carbohydrate sources can keep blood sugar levels within the normal range.

Foods with a low Glycemic Index (GI) include:

  • Meat
  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Legumes
  • Sweet potatoes and yams
  • Corn
  • Some fruits (cherries, apples, oranges, plums, grapefruit)
  • Vegetables (celery, asparagus, broccoli, avocados, cauliflower)

Choose wisely the types of carbohydrates you include in your diet.

  1. Eat fiber-rich, whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables without added sugar.
  2. Always eat whole grains. Refined grains (white flour and white flour products) are stripped of most of the nutrients and fiber.
  3. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein, plus many other vitamins and minerals. Watch for added sugars like sweetened yogurts.
  4. Legumes — which include beans, peas, and lentils — are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. They are typically low in fat and high in protein (making them a good substitute for meat), folate, potassium, iron, magnesium, and they contain beneficial fats and fiber.
  5. Read labels carefully and avoid added sugars – less than 10 percent of calories you consume every day should come from added sugar.
  6. Avoid processed foods of any kind as much as possible. Processed, sugary items have been stripped of all-natural fiber, leaving it to be rapidly metabolized into glucose.

Fiber Is Critical

Fiber in your diet is a big YES — it is good for you for many reasons.

— Feeds gut bacteria.

— Nourishes the colon wall.

— May help you lose weight.

— Lowers cholesterol levels.

— Decreases the rise in blood sugar after high-carb meals

There are 2 different types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Both are important for health, digestion, and preventing diseases.

Soluble fiber slows the absorption of sugar and improves blood sugar levels by controlling glucose and insulin spikes. Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables.

Insoluble fiber helps the food pass quickly though the stomach and intestines. It is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.

High fiber foods include — pears, berries, apples, bananas, carrots, broccoli, beets, legumes, quinoa, nuts and seeds, oatmeal, popcorn, and dark chocolate. (Great Choices!)

National fiber recommendations (for individuals over 50) are:

— 30g to 38g daily for men

— 25g per day for women.

Another guideline is to simply consume 14g of dietary fiber per every 1,000 calories in your diet.

The bottom line is . . . More fiber = lower blood sugar.

Excess Weight Must Go

Being overweight or obese has been clearly linked to high blood sugar and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Even though you may not like the idea and consider it a “pain in the you-know-what” — the surest way to lose weight is by eating fewer calories than you burn (calorie counting).

The perfect partner to calorie counting is portion control, which is not easy to do when everything these days is “oversized.” Think about often are you are served enough food to feed two people.

Portion control is not a precise science, but it has been proven to be an effective way to lose weight.

For more information on portion control, check out my book, WOW! You Look Fantastic(available through Amazon).

The best ways to make counting calories and portion control easier are:

  • Use a food scale: it can be difficult to accurately determine caloric intake without determining precise serving sizes
  • Use an app: there are several easy-to-use free apps that will record calories and servings.
  • Learn to read food labels: They provide calories per servings — but the servings can be misleading (you think a package is one serving when it’s actually two or three.)
  • Eat slower: Studies have shown the speed at which you eat can have a direct effect on obesity, BMI, and waist circumference. Eating slower may also prevent weight gain.

Four Additional Steps

Diet may be the most direct and obvious way to keep your weight within healthy levels and help you control blood sugar.

But, there are four other factors in the success formula for building and sustaining a healthy body and help prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

Sleep More

Getting enough good rest is essential for overall health and well-being.

Sleep lowers stress, strengthens your immune system, and decreases blood pressure. It is also critical for good mental health including alertness, memory, and mood regulation.

Poor sleeping habits also affect blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

Studies show when people do not get adequate quality rest they have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The benefits of a good night’s rest are important for maintaining hormonal balance and glucose regulation.

Exercise Regularly

The most important part of exercise is making the time to do it. Regular exercise (at least 5 days a week) in conjunction with a proper diet can help you maintain or lose weight.

When you exercise, blood sugar is more effectively used for energy and muscle contraction. A single bout of exercise can increase insulin sensitivity for up to sixteen hours.

Monitor Blood Sugar Levels

Glucose levels can vary significantly depending on many outstanding factors, like diet, sleep, and exercise. It’s important to continually monitor levels on a regular basis to get a clearer picture of health — especially if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels will help determine where you stand. If you are pre-diabetic, it’s important to get levels down to the normal range to prevent full diabetes from occurring.

If you already have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes you must regularly check and log blood sugar levels to prevent seizures or a diabetic coma.

Discuss monitoring your blood sugar levels with your doctor and select the best method for you.

In Conclusion

Keeping your blood sugar within normal recommended ranges is important for everyone’s overall health.

By effectively controlling these levels you are less likely to develop diabetes.

Make smart lifestyle decisions — maintain a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.

There are no acceptable excuses when it comes to your health.

Stay healthy.  Stay strong.  Stay happy.

 

Additional Reading:     Are You at Risk for Diabetes?

This article was originally published on MEDIUM – it has been removed from that platform.

Are You at Risk for Diabetes?

Diabetes Testing
Free photo 82963377 © creativecommonsstockphotos – Dreamstime.com

You haven’t been feeling very well the last couple of days, and have had trouble concentrating.

You’re always thirsty and constantly running to the restroom.

And . . . the headaches are driving you crazy.

What’s Going On? 

The quick answer is that it may be high blood sugar. But before you panic, ask yourself some questions about the last few days. 

  • Are you under an excessive amount of stress?
  • Have you been eating a lot of unhealthy foods?
  • Did you stop exercising?
  • Have you eaten an excessively carb-heavy meal?

Any of these can lead to a blood sugar spike.

An occasional spike doesn’t mean that you are immediately at risk for poor health, but consistently high blood sugar is serious.

It is often related to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

Two Types of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, known as juvenile or childhood diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin – and requires insulin injections.

Scientists think it is either genetic or caused by environmental factors like a virus that can trigger the disease.

Type 2 diabetes is more common and typically develops in older children and adults, but can occur at any age.

With this type, the individual’s body does not  respond to insulin as well as it should and in advanced stages, the body doesn’t make enough insulin.

Type 2 can often be controlled by diet and lifestyle changes.

Primary Risk Factor

The primary risk factor is obesity – which afflicts more than 1 in 3 people in the U.S.

 If you are extremely overweight and have been for a while, you should have your blood sugar levels checked regularly. Once diabetes develops, other health issues with the heart, kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels can appear.

In 2017 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes,

Medical News Today recently reported that 9% of the U.S. population have diabetes and it is the 7th leading cause of death.

Even if you are not diagnosed with diabetes, having higher-than-recommended blood sugar levels can be dangerous and indicate a condition known as “pre-diabetes.” An additional 38% of the population has been diagnosed with this condition.

What Is Blood Sugar?

The terms “sugar” and “glucose” are used interchangeably, but they are slightly different. When sugar is consumed it is converted to glucose (blood sugar) as a fuel source for the body. 

The brain prefers to burn glucose for energy, which means it is reliant on carbohydrates. But, the rest of the body can also burn fat for fuel in between carb-rich meals. Glucose storage is low in comparison to fat storage in the body.

If you do not eat enough carbs, small amounts of glucose can also be made through non-carbohydrate food sources. The body can also slowly learn to make ketones from fat, which can be supplementary brain food, if necessary.

Glucose Levels Must Be Controlled

Glucose powers the body, but uncontrolled levels can be dangerous.

Diabetes is uncontrolled high blood sugar (glucose) levels.

When you are healthy, blood glucose levels are controlled by the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Insulin is a regulator that lowers blood glucose levels, as needed.

When certain foods cause blood sugar levels to rise, insulin is secreted from the pancreas to normalize the levels and all is well.

With Type 2 diabetes, the cells don’t respond correctly to insulin and high levels of blood sugar occur which is called hyperglycemia.

Impact of Weight Gain and Weight Loss

A definite link has not been established between weight gain and increased blood glucose. However, one study showed weight gain increased the risk of diabetes.

Studies have also shown that weight loss can have major beneficial effects over time. Every kg of body weight lost annually was associated with a 33% lower risk of diabetes.

Even modest weight gain can have a substantial impact on the risk of diabetes.

Careful monitoring and maintenance of weight are important for overall health. This is particularly important if diabetes runs in your family or if you have been diagnosed with “pre-diabetes.”

Are You at Risk?

It is important to listen your body – to pay attention to how you feel. Headaches, feeling thirsty frequently and have to pee a lot are indicators of potential problems and should be discussed with your doctor.

American Diabetes Association offers a quick Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. The link will take you to the site.

Your health is your most important asset. Take good care of it! A few simple steps to keep you are track and ensure a long, healthy life.

  • Eat a healthy diet, be sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
  • Avoid junk food/fast foods – the additives and sugar content are harmful to your mind and body. 
  • Exercise regularly – to keep everything working as it should.
  • Have a complete physical checkup every year.
Fruits and Vegetables
Image by by Erdosain

Eat Well – Stay Well – Live Well.

I know you can do it.  

Adapted with permission from an article originally published on HVMN by Ryan Rodal

Related Articles: 5 Simple Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

7 Ways to Teach Your Children to Eat Healthy

Eat Healthy
Image by monkey_business

It is so frustrating.  I want my children to eat healthy, but the only vegetable Johnny will eat is raw carrots.

My youngest wants chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

I try to get my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, but it seems like an uphill battle.

I talk to them about eating right all the time, but they just don’t seem to listen.

Children are visual learners — they watch, they see, they do.

So . . . let them “DO.” Turn your kitchen into a “learning lab.”

Cooking with Mom or Dad can be one of the most fun and educational experiences possible for children. And . . . it will create memories that last a lifetime.

Once you get them started, my guess is they will want to do a lot of cooking on their own.

My mom was a great basic cook — and never used a recipe (at least not that I can remember). It was her ability to cook delicious meals so effortlessly that inspired me to develop my own skill set.

Her gift to me was free rein in the kitchen to experiment and cook as often as I wanted. That freedom developed my passion for the art and an appreciation of what it takes to create good meals for the family.

If you want your children to enjoy long, healthy lives that are sustained by healthy eating habits, now is the time to start them on the right path.

Seven Ways to Inspire Them

One-on-One Time

Work with one child at a time. Let him/her be your partner in planning a healthy balanced dinner. When you finish planning, make a list of the groceries needed and take him/her shopping with you.

Shopping provides a first-hand experience for buying healthy foods like organic produce, pastured eggs, and grain-fed beef. They can also learn how to read labels to avoid dangerous additives (If they don’t know what it means, or can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.)

Keep a Stool in the Kitchen

Invite the children to watch while you cook. In the beginning, you can explain what you are doing, why you chose the foods you are using for good nutrition and how the flavors and textures make more interesting meals. Make the explanations fun and interesting.

Let them help whenever possible — reading the recipe, helping you measure, mixing dry ingredients together, tossing the salad, etc.

Kids are also great taste testers, which is a smart way to get them to sample new foods.

Start Them Early

How early? As soon as they show interest. Many four-year-olds love being in the kitchen.

Start with fun, easy foods like healthy snacks, breakfast meals, and sandwiches. Making cookies was a family favorite for my kids. Even with desserts, you can impress on them the importance of making foods from scratch — so they have control over the ingredients.

Depending on age and ability when preparing full meals, let them do as much as possible. Teach them how to peel and cut up vegetables, break lettuce leaves for the salad, combine and toss the salad, place chopped veggies in the steamer, wash the potatoes for baking, layer the foods for a casserole, etc.

As early as possible, teach them how to use knives safely. The younger ones can use kitchen scissors. It is easy to teach kitchen safety when they are cooking with you.

Introduce them to healthy cooking techniques: steaming, sautéing with healthy oils, baking, roasting, and broiling.

Family Night Cook-Off

This can be a wonderful family activity. One night a week have everyone help prepare dinner.

Each week have a different family member (including mom and dad) plan the menu, which must include a main dish, a vegetable, and dessert.

There should be no restrictions as long as the dishes are made from scratch with healthy ingredients**.

Before you start preparation, be sure everyone is clear about his/her responsibility. (Don’t forget setting the table, and clean up.)

A Family that Eats Together . . .

Always sit down together for dinner (and for breakfast as often as possible) The old adage, “A family that eats together, stays together” is still very true.

Sitting down to a healthy, delicious family dinner every night to eat, talk, and laugh is a powerful glue for holding the family together.

This has never been more important than it is today. Unfortunately, eating together is becoming less and less common. Don’t let that happen to your family.

Be Subtle When Introducing Habit Change

We live in a world of “super-sized” everything and frequent mindless eating, which makes portion contol more difficult.

Over the years, the average size of a dinner plate has increased from seven or eight inches to 12 inches.

Rather than preaching portion control that may or may not work, buy and use smaller plates (nine inches max) for your meals so the plate looks full, with less food.

You will probably have to buy “lunch” plates in order to get a smaller size. They can be purchased on Amazon and Target.

It would be wise to fill the plates and serve (rather than having people serve themselves). Keep the serving sizes reasonable — leave a little white space around the portions — avoid stacking.

Also, discourage mindless munching of unhealthy snacks when sitting at the computer or while watching TV.

Always have healthy snacks available. For example, fresh fruit (washed and ready to eat), plain yogurt topped with fresh berries and drizzled with a little honey, or real cheese and 100% whole-grain crackers.

Create Eating Adventures

Introduce new foods often. Make it fun. This helps develop a willingness to try new foods.

If you have a picky eater, adding something new to the menu with foods they already like can increase their repertoire of nutritious foods.

The rule in our family was they must each one bite of everything served. It worked most of the time. As adults, three out of four of my children eat almost everything.

If over time there are foods that several family members really dislike, don’t worry about it. There are enough healthy foods available they can still maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

The habit of healthy eating begins early — at home. As a parent, it is important to take every opportunity to help your children develop a positive attitude toward healthy eating so they can live long, productive lives.

Final Factors to Consider

Are you setting the example you want your children to follow? What changes do you need to make?

By implementing any or all of the above suggestions, you will be helping you children to enjoy preparing and eating healthy foods. 

Adventures in the kitchen and eating well will become family traditions. 

**When you prepare meals from scratch, you have full control over the ingredients and you know that your family is getting the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.

We recommend TWEENS and TEENS, A Cookbook to Get You Started, as a useful tool to use with those just learning to cook.

Related Article:  Stock Your Kitchen with Healthy Foods