Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Children and Nutrition

I am often asked how my kids and their food preferences fit into the picture of a healthy home.  Just today, my friend Lisa Z. e-mailed me and asked, "Do your kids and Randy eat the veggies? I have a hard time getting Rob and the girls to try new healthy things."  I've got some thoughts on this issue and I'm sure you do too. PLEASE CONTRIBUTE YOUR STRATEGIES FOR COOKING FOR KIDS AS A COMMENT BELOW.

1. Make what your kids want and like . . .  I tried it the other way.  It didn't work.  My 5 year old started going to dinner every night at my neighbor's house, for months.  I was very sad. So I just started to make what her and my 2 year old son will eat, which is anything and everything with pasta in it.  Macaroni-n-cheese, spagetti and meatballs, cheese ravioli, noodles with butter . . . pretty boring after a while.  But they want it.  And I want them to feel like their needs are being met in their own home.  What I do make a point of doing is putting cut-up fruit and vegetables on the table along with their pasta.  Their favorite right now is strawberries, and they seem to eat a lot less of whatever pasta I make and a substantial amount of the fruit/vegetables . . . but serve it along with simple things that you want them to eat.

2. Disguise it.  This is a great way to introduce your kids to new flavors without them even knowing it.  My friend Jill K has been experimenting with this concept lately. "Here’s a smoothie I made for the kids (and me). I am not watching the sugar content, I just want to find a way for my kids to eat some veggies and more fruit. The kids had no clue that a beet was in it."

Can’t Be Beet!—a Smoothie

I raw beet peeled
½ cup apple juice
½ cup skim milk
I banana
½ cup blue berries
Vanilla yogurt (5 oz give or take)
Flax seed grounds
Maple syrup
About 8 ice cubes

This works!  There have been entire cookbooks written about it.  My kids are eating Dr. Fuhrman's Black Bean Brownies every night since I have made them, and I want them to eat them!  And I don't particularly like them.  When I tasted the batter I was worried that they wouldn't taste sweet, so I did add about 1/3 cup of agave syrup to the recipe to make them sweeter.

Black Bean Brownies

½ cup dark cocoa powder
2 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 (15 oz.) can of salt-free black beans (drain liquid)
1 large handful of sunflower seeds or 1 T. ground flaxseed
1 ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups pitted dates (chopped)
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup walnuts (optional)

Put the first six ingredients in a food processor. Turn it on and then gradually add the 2 cups of chopped dates, a few at a time until blended. Add the flour and continue to mix until everything is well blended. Turn off the machine, remove the blade, and stir in the nuts (if using).  Spread into a 13” x 9” pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Notes: Taste batter and if it is not sweet enough for you, add a little more agave syrup. You can double the recipe, put the batter into the 13” x 9” stoneware pan, and increase the baking time to 55 minutes. This will make 24, chewy brownies.

3. Your husband should eat whatever you put in front of him, or he needs to cook for himself.  I know this sound harsh, but you are already busy enough.  And don't use the excuse that if your husband and kids won't eat it then you can't take the time to make it.  If you don't take care of yourself, no one will.  Make yourself and your health your number 1 priority (I'll write a post about that later!).  If your husband has a hard time eating fruits and vegetables, do him a favor and get him a copy of either The China Study or Eat to Live.  After reading either of those books, you can't help but want to eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can.  It's healthy brainwashing!

4. As your kids get older, their tastes will change.  Yes, it will eventually happen.  My 10 year old daughter eats and likes just about everything that I make.  And you guys know what's in what I am making!  So it is important that you model for your children what healthy eating looks like.  If they don't see you doing it, how will they know what it is?


Kristen said...

Wendy, my kids or especially my son is HUGE on pasta and I do exactly the same thing. Put a veggie that he must eat. My daughter on the other hand wont touch her food until the veggies are done(she claims she wants to be a vegetarian and save the world - she is 6). Its great but we lack protein so its weird to say dont eat your veggies until you fish/chicken(we dont eat red meat) is done! Anyway, I have also noticed if they cook with you, they will at least try it.......They may not always love it but at least they have tried. And your right, their tastes do change as they grow.

QZB said...

I don't have children, but I absolutely agree about Eat to Live getting husbands on board! Which absolutely has to happen to be successful. When I first went back to eating pesci-vegetarian, Scott was resistant and difficult about working with my diet. Then he read Eat to Live and finally got why it made sense! Now he lives on green smoothies, is converting his colleagues, and is actively seeking out new reipes and health information.

I LOVE the new look of the blog! Keep up the good work, I absolutely love this blog. :)

Sindy said...

My 6 year old is vegetarian and incredibly picky. It's pretty much pasta with grated cheese most nights. But she sees me in the kitchen a lot, cooking and eating healthy, and I think it is having an impact. I was sneaking spinach into her smoothies for a while and she loved them. One day she saw my throwing some spinach leaves in the Vitamix and asked me what it was. I told her and she was like, "ok, I like spinach in my smoothies!"

Ditto on the blog. Made the aduki bean soup last night and LOVE it.

Jessica said...

Hello all,
My girls are each very picky in their own way - one is a vegan/vegetarian depending on the week (and has been a fish only vegetarian for about 9 year - she is 19)who is lactose intolerant, allergic to all tree fruits and many raw veggies, one has a list a mile long of things she DOESN'T LIKE on the fridge in Sharpie marker - celery, carrots, quinoa etc. etc. and she is 16, and my 12-year old will try most things except fish - but would live on noodles and cottage cheese or cooked spinach if that were an option. So, I cook a meal, and I hope there is something that everyone can find to eat. If not, there is always PB and J or cereal or oatmeal in the cabinets.

I will say this - I learned from my oldest that witholding sweets until "dessert" does not work. SHe literally could not eat her dinner knowing that there was ice cream in the fridge. So I started putting a small ramekin of ice cream at the table with her meal - and she ate it all. That being said, my youngest likes to eat real food for breakfast - leftovers from the night before, chicken noodle soup, tuna on crackers etc., and I have been known to let her have ice cream for breakfast if she wants it. My main goal with the girls is to offer lots of things, so that nothing is off limits- in the hopes of avoiding any disordered eating.

And so...I make what I want. And they do or don't eat it. Last night was tilapia with capers and dijon mustard, sauteed pea shoots, roasted brussels sprouts and whole wheat couscous. Alan tried it all but didn't love the fish. Kari had the brussels sprouts (her request) and pea shoots, but hates cous cous and fish, Jamie had couscous and pea shoots (her request). And that was that.

Love the blog, love the recipes, love the community!

Wendy said...

Jessica--I'm going to make the Talapia with mustard and capers tonight and I'm worried--would you recommend doing anything differently?

Jessica said...

Alan just thought it was a little salty - but he had been sick and he may have been overly sensitive. I loved it and had the leftover last night and it was just as delicious.

wife2abadge said...

I don't make my kids a separate dinner, but I don't force them to eat either. They won't starve. They have to eat one "no thank you" bite of everything, but then can fill up on the vegetables, fruit, bread, or grain they DO like. My dh eats whatever I put in front of him. He may not eat a lot of it (and will be getting popcorn later when he's hungry again), but he will eat it without complaint. Amazingly, they do actually like some of the things they were reluctant to try - kale chips and black bean soup recently.

Anonymous said...

My mother gave me great advice when my kids were little. No matter what you make for dinner, make sure there is at least one dish that they will happily eat. Then they must 'try' everything else. As they've gotten older, I've expected more 'try it' bites of them, the same number as their age - 4 bites for a 4 year old. And I walk away and don't stress over the size of those bites. And everyone in our house is allowed that one or two foods or textures they just can't eat. Cooked broccoli and bananas for one child, pineapple and spice for another. Now at 10 and 11 years old, I think they are pretty adventurous eaters. And while arguments at the table aren't eliminated entirely (the phrase "this isn't a diner!" has been uttered more than once), they are seriously much less disruptive than before.

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