Tag Archives: healthy food

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

Why Choose the Mediterranean Diet

Why choose the Mediterranean Diet? The answer is quite simple. You eat lots of fruits and vegetables with olive oil and feta cheese, plus red wine, hard cheese, salads, garlic, nuts and seeds, plus lots of fish. What can be better than that?

Explaining the Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

If you are unfamiliar with this diet, it may seem completely counter-intuitive when you think about dieting for weight loss.

Of course, eating fruits, vegetables and lots of salad, even fish makes sense; but how can adding fats (even healthy fats) and wine help you lose weight?  Also, when you read about the diet, there are no restrictions in quantities of food that you can eat.  Strange . . . right?

Let’s take a closer look to see exactly how this diet works.

The Origin

Unlike most of the popular (or fad) diets that are rampant on the Internet and through all types of media, the Mediterranean Diet was not created to sell a book or to make the author famous.

It is simply a natural diet eaten by people who live in Mediterranean countries. That alone makes it far more appealing than an extreme fad diet created by some unknown doctor, nutritionist, or health “expert” with specific (sometimes unusual) recommendations or restrictions that most of them include.

I love this quote from the NIH (National Institute of Health), “Mediterranean tradition offers a cuisine rich in colours, aromas and memories, which support the taste and the spirit of those who live in harmony with nature.”

Unfortunately, for some time, there were many who did not consider this a healthy diet primarily because of the olive oil and the wine, which are major components of the diet.  It wasn’t until some of the “experts” began studying statistics regarding the health of people who lived in the regions where the diet originated.

They quickly found the population had longer lifespans and a much lower incidence of  heart disease, diabetes and cancer!

The Science behind the Phenomenon

What is really going on?  It is not so strange when you take a close look. First – people in the Mediterranean enjoy eating more than most Western cultures like the U.S. and the U.K.

Sadly, the Western cultures see  preparation of meals and the necessity of eating are seen as more of an inconvenience than something to enjoy.  The majority of us eat to live – to fuel our bodies, nothing more.

We eat quickly with no thought about what we are eating – much of it extremely unhealthy. We eat large quantities of  junk food like Big Gulps, candy, cookies, potato chips . . . anything that can be purchased, opened, and gobbled, or chugged down.

It is no wonder so many people have serious health problems and that as a society we are on the verge of a pandemic of obesity

Delicious, Nutritious Food

In direct contrast to the way many Americans eat, the people of the Mediterranean region enjoy eating. They take the time to create and savour delicious dishes made from fresh fruits, vegetables, lots of fish and delicious cheese – cooked or topped with olive oil (not butter) and served with whole grain bread and red wine. That sounds like a great way to live!

It spite of what we have heard for years, fats are not bad for us. In fact, our bodies need some fat and healthy fats are good for us. When they are eaten with fruits and vegetables they actually help absorb the nutrients more easily.

When people embrace the Mediterranean way of eating, they learn to eat natural foods that strengthen and nourish their bodies – and – they learn to truly appreciate what they are eating. More time is taken to prepare and serve the food and it is eaten with much greater relish – all of which has a huge impact on health and well-being.

To me, it sounds like something everyone should incorporate into their lifestyle!  I challenge you to give it a try very soon. You have nothing to lose (except weight) and everything to gain

Chicken Salad – Cool and Healthy

Chicken Salad is a cool and healthy choice for a hot weather lunch or dinner and perfect for a potluck. There are dozens of recipes with all kinds of variations that you can make, but let’s start with a wonderful basic recipe that we have used in my family for years.

Image by Kathy Maister
Image by Kathy Maister

INGREDIENTS

  • Roasted or boiled chicken, chilled
  • Fresh crisp celery, sliced very, very thin
  • Onion, finely diced
  • Seedless grapes, stemmed, washed, dried and cut in half
  • Real Foods (or Hellmann’s) Mayonnaise
  • Mustard, regular
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Sliced almonds or chopped pecans (optional)

NOTE: I purposefully omitted measurements because this is a dish that is best made “to taste.”  My recommendation is to go easy on the celery, onion, and mustard until you reach a combination that works for your family.  Once you get a good idea of the amounts that please your palate, you can always double or triple depending on the number of people you will be serving.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the celery, onions, grapes, and nuts (if using) – set aside.
  2. Cut the chilled cooked chicken into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Gently mix in the chopped ingredients.
  4. Start with 2 tablespoons mayo and 1 teaspoon mustard – mix very gently and add more mayo as needed until all ingredients are lightly coated – (Do not overwhelm the salad with mayo.)
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: The nuts are listed as optional, but add a nice crunchy texture, if desired. You may also want to try other variations such as adding: hard-boiled eggs, avocado, seasoned brown or Basmati rice, or lemon juice for an additional tangy flavor. If you prefer, you can use low-fat, or light mayonnaise.

Change It Up

Chicken salad has multiple uses. It is delicious on rich whole-grain bread for sandwiches; on a crisp lettuce leaf for a refreshing summer salad; or as a side dish with dinner or at a potluck. My chicken salad is always one of the first dishes to be eaten at a potluck, church dinner, or teenage gathering.

This can also be an economical dish – and who isn’t happy for those? Chicken is often sold in larger quantities for lower prices. Take advantage of those sales and have a prep day where you make a large batch of chicken salad that you place in a big bowl in the fridge for easy access. It is ready for quick packed lunches (sandwiches or salad); a last minute side dish for dinner – or a healthy snack after school.

Chicken salad is also wonderful wrapped in a fresh tortilla, in pita bread, or spread on crackers as a yummy appetizer. And . . . don’t forget to serve it on fresh croissants for a tasty lunch with friends.

Chicken salad is a healthier, more unusual choice than potato salad. It is an excellent choice for picnics, graduation parties, open houses, 4th of July celebrations, taking to the beach in a cooler, or any time you want to serve a nice, cool protein-rich dish that can be prepared in advance.

When served in a clear serving dish, it presents beautifully, especially when it includes deep red or black seedless grapes and avocados; then, trimmed with dark green lettuce leaves.

When you want to serve a rich, healthy, delicious meal, think Chicken Salad. Your family, friends, and/or guests will love it. If you are taking it “out,” be sure to prepare a little extra to set aside for your family.

Photo Credit: Chicken Salad Classics via photopin (license)

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Many Uses for Refreshing Iceberg Lettuce

You have many choices when it comes to lettuce at the local grocery store and the farmer’s market. Iceberg seems to have been relegated to second-class status in some circles, but should not hold that position for you and me.

Iceberg is the lettuce my mom used when I was growing up and along with Romaine, it is still at the top of my list.

The main reasons I continue to use it regularly are: it is the least expensive, it stays very crisp when handled properly; it contains a lot of water which is good for you; and, it has a mild flavor, which keeps it from overwhelming other ingredients in your dishes.

Yes, it does have fewer nutrients than some of your darker green lettuces; but, since it is often just a base for nutrient-rich dishes, that should not be a huge concern. Also, you can always mix in a little Romaine or Green Leaf Lettuce for color and a nutrition bump if you choose.

Preparing Iceberg Lettuce

Cleaning and coring iceberg lettuce is quick and easy.

To remove the core, hold the head of lettuce, core side down and gently, but firmly hit the bottom of the head on the counter. The core should break apart from the rest of the head so you can pull it out quite easily. Rinse the head thoroughly with cold water. Also be sure to rinse all the crevices. Wrap in a damp paper towel  and store in the fridge until ready to use. This helps keep it fresh and crisp for two or three days.

Below are some of my favorite ways to use Iceberg lettuce:

Perfect Crunchy Freshness on Burgers and Tacos

For me, a nice crispy leaf of iceberg lettuce with a slice of tomato and thinly sliced raw onion makes a hamburger complete. Iceberg lettuce gives the burger extra texture, color and flavor. Just before the burgers have finished cooking, I tear off nice-sized leaves from the head stored in the frig and dab them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture so the buns do not get soggy. Perfect!

When serving homemade tacos (one of my family’s favorites), I cut the crispy head of lettuce in half. I cut one of the halves into thin slices about 1/4″ thick. I then cut the slices in half  – and in half again. This creates perfect tiny strips for tacos. (I learned this from a wonderful Mexican cook in my home town years ago.) The lettuce adds a crunchy, fresh crispness to any taco.

Iceberg Lettuce Wedge Salad

Image by Tavallal
Image by Tavallal

This a classic traditional steak-house salad and always delicious when the lettuce wedge is fresh and crisp. It is usually served with a quality creamy Roquefort or Blue Cheese dressing – with or without additional toppings depending on the steak house, or personal preference. It is the perfect side dish for a good steak and potatoes dinner.

Traditional Tossed Salads

Of course, anytime you mention a dinner salad, Iceberg lettuce comes to mind. With fresh veggies, it makes a light, healthy first course or side dish for almost any meal.

I always chop my vegetables first – using a combination of any or all of the following: tomatoes, onions, green peppers, avocados, and cucumbers. I place them in a bowl and add a little vinegar and oil-based salad dressing to add flavor.

Then, I remove my crisp head of lettuce from the refrigerator and tear into bite-sized pieces, placing the lettuce on top of the marinating veggies (but do not toss). If not serving immediately, I cover the lettuce with a slightly damp paper towel and store in the fridge until ready to toss and serve.

When the time is right, I serve in individual bowls with dressings on the side; plus, croutons, bacon bits, sliced mushrooms, grated cheese, or other family favorites.

Main Dish Salads

The above traditional salad can also be used as an entrée – a great way to serve a low calorie, highly nutritious meal for lunch or dinner. I simply add a little more lettuce – usually a darker green type for color – and some grilled chicken or steak, cut into strips, and placed on top.

When serving guests, I put all the extra toppings in small serving bowls so they can create their own finished salad.  To keep the calories down and to savor the wonderful mix of flavors, I typically eat mine with a light vinaigrette or balsamic dressing

Substitution for Bread

Try this healthy, tasty twist for sandwiches. Use two large crispy leaves instead of bread for your next sandwich. Place your favorite sandwich meat or sliced leftover roast chicken or turkey, a slice of cheese, a slice of tomato, strips of raw onion, and a little mayo between two iceberg lettuce leaves for a tasty, crunchy and healthy meal. Tuna salad also tastes great when served between two crisp leaves.

You can either serve the “sandwich” open-faced using a leaf or two of crispy iceberg lettuce as the base and enjoy with a fork. Or – create your layers and do a roll-up.

Base, Garnish, or Decoration

One or two crispy Iceberg lettuce leaves make the perfect decorative base under any meat or rice dish. Since it is so inexpensive, it is great to use decoratively for almost any meal.

For example: place it under a scoop of chicken, tuna, or egg salad for a healthy lunch; or, place it under a bed of couscous or seasoned brown rice as a side dish.

This is only a tip of the “iceberg” (LOL). The next time you are shopping pick up a head of this wonderful lettuce and let your creativity take flight.

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Eating Well – One of Life’s Great Pleasures

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Eat Foods that You Enjoy

It is not uncommon to read about the need to eat nutritious food to keep your body healthy; but there is another component of eating well that is not often discussed – TASTE. Some people believe that healthy food doesn’t taste good. Not so!

Our amazing digestive track includes taste buds that are designed to enjoy healthy, nutritious food. The problem is that if you have spent your entire lifetime eating “fake foods” that are heavily processed and filled with additives, your taste buds may not be working well.

It is time to bring your taste buds back to life. Let go of your unhealthy eating habits and give your taste buds a chance to recover and function as they were meant to function. Very quickly you will find yourself falling in love with natural wholesome food.

Once your taste buds have recovered and are working at peak level, if a particular food tastes bad to you, choose an alternative. There are so many choices, especially in the vegetable family, that you should not have a problem finding foods you enjoy.

Always keep in mind that eating should be a pleasure; so, it is important to love the food you eat. The goal is to fill your diet with nutritious, healthy food that tastes good in order to sustain a healthy diet that will build a healthy body to serve you well for many years to come.

Unfortunately, there are some foods that have been genetically engineered and no longer taste the way they should. My recommendation is to buy organic foods as often as possible. Morgellons Aid tells us that, “Natural/Organic” foods…are minimally processed and do not contain any hormones, antibiotics, sweeteners, food colors, or flavorings that were not originally in the food. This includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and meats. In the Western Countries, especially the U.S., it becomes important to seek out organic foods. Processed organic food usually contains only organic ingredients. Label reading becomes a mandatory skill.” For more information, read the entire article.

Eating Can Be a Social Event

Unfortunately, when people decide to “go on a diet” or to change their eating habits, they decide to avoid social events because they typically revolve around food. Food and socializing seem to be the norm in most societies. Remember you always have choices regarding what you eat – simply learn to choose wisely. If you are committed to eating well, it will become less and less difficult to eat only foods that are good for you. In fact, throw your own party or intimate gathering and serve the delicious, nutritious discoveries you make as you travel the road of pleasurable and healthy eating.

Slow Down and Enjoy

Busy schedules and demanding lifestyles have created a monstrously bad habit – eating too fast! SLOW DOWN! Do not rush through your meals. I know it can be difficult when you are continuously under a time crunch.

Most businesses allow only half-hour lunch breaks and even schools are shortening the lunch period – in some cases it has been cut to 12 minutes. That is horrible! Those kinds of mandates are exacerbating the problem we have in helping children to develop good eating habits. The last thing we want is to have them associate food with stress. Forcing them to eat lunch in 12 minutes will reinforce that issue, not alleviate it. If you are a parent whose children are dealing with this, I encourage you to fight it.

If you have only a half-hour lunch at work, at least try to slow down and enjoy the 30 minutes as much as you can. Then, make your evening meal a leisurely, enjoyable time for everyone.

Eating Should be a Mindful Experience

Break yourself of blindly stuffing yourself with whatever is most convenient and easy to prepare (and all the addictive foods like McDonalds and packaged foods).

Educate yourself. Learn where food comes from, how it grows, what is in everything you eat (learn to read labels), notice how it is prepared and how it literally “feeds your body” (or not). Be thankful for the food you have. Savor the flavors and textures of different foods and appreciate the presentation. Make eating a sensory delight – which BTW can only be done with natural foods.

If you take the time to do all of the above, you will begin to naturally make healthier choices. It is much more difficult to choose poor quality, empty-calorie foods when you take the time to know what you are eating. At the very least, learn to read labels!

Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Healthy Breakfast
Image by urbanfoodie33

Another bad habit that has become the norm, especially in the U.S. is skipping breakfast. I have heard many people say that they do not like to eat when they first get up. Frankly, that is also a habit – they have trained their bodies to feel that way. Waiting a little while is OK, as long as you don’t wait too long (no more than ½ hour) before you eat something healthy – and, I don’t mean a cup of black coffee.

Start with a big glass (or bottle) of water – then, have a piece of fresh fruit (or make your own juice); enjoy a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, organic raisins, a little honey and cinnamon (or scrambled eggs and multi-grain toast) – and finally have your coffee or tea (if you must).

If you can’t, or choose not to find the time to prepare an actual breakfast – a good shortcut is to learn to make nutritious smoothies. (Check out my cookbook, Breakfast and Brunch for some great recipes.) Whip them up and start your day right!

After sleeping through the night, the body needs to be hydrated and nourished. The statement, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” is not an old wives’ tale. Adults need to eat in order to maintain energy and be productive. Children need to eat to support their rapid growth and in order to learn. They cannot and do not perform well when they have not eaten breakfast.

People who want to lose weight may decide to skip breakfast, but that choice can backfire because they either nibble on high-calorie snacks because of hunger pangs, and/or they eat more at the next meal.

When you eat breakfast, you kick-start your metabolism, recharge your brain and your body, and have the energy and ability to stay completely focused on everything you do.

Never Eat After 8:00 P.M.

When people decide they want to change their eating habits, some of the biggest challenges are:
1. Learning to eat at regular intervals.
2. Stopping when you are full.
3. Never eating at night (after 8:00 p.m.)

There are differences of opinion about whether night-time eating will prevent you from losing weight, or not, but it is bad for your digestion and can interrupt your sleep cycle.

Night-time eating is a habit. It is not about hunger. It is more likely the result of loneliness, stress, boredom, or fatigue. It is quiet, no one is around to give you a hard time, and it always tastes so good (but it is not good for you).

The truth is that it is important to learn when enough is enough – and a healthy, nutritious dinner should quell your hunger and be enough for the day. In order for your body to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from your food, your digestive system must work efficiently. It must have a chance to rest. Give it a break each night from dinner-time – overnight – until breakfast.

Make eating a pleasurable event. Eat well, share the bounty and your new habits, and enjoy a healthier lifestyle that is easy to sustain and rubs off on others.

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