Some MoreThoughts on Healthy Eating…for Summer-time and Beyond

Small child with head down on highchair.

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As parents, we are responsible for what our children eat…at least when they are little.

We plan the meals, shop for the ingredients, prepare the food and serve it.

So every young child should be eating a healthy balanced diet, right?

Unfortunately, many young children are NOT eating a healthy balanced diet because:

  • Many parents didn’t have a healthy diet themselves as children and don’t really know what to serve!
  • The media overloads us with commercials about fast food and sugary desserts!
  • Young children can be fussy about eating and concerned parents just want them to eat SOMETHING!

Here are some simple steps parents can take to help:

1.     Plan regular meal-times…if children know they can get something to eat at any time of the day or night, they will not be motivated to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And having family meals together provides so many other emotional and social benefits as well. 

2.     Snacks are important additions to a young child’s daily food intake… provide nutritious ones like veggie sticks dipped in hummus, cheese cubes with whole grain crackers and fruit slices in yogurt.

3.     Serve small portions…young children can be overwhelmed when a plate piled with food is put in front of them…for instance, if your child is having a sandwich, cut it in quarters and serve one quarter at a time.

4.     Use your imagination to make meals pleasing to the eye…attractive plates and servings arranged in an interesting way…for example, a small bowl of spaghetti with two meatballs for the eyes, a steamed baby carrot for the nose and several steamed green beans for the smile.  What fun!  You can always add a new “nose” and new “smile” when your child finishes the first ones.   Or how about using cookie cutters to make interesting shapes of sandwiches?

5.     Avoid processed foods as much as possible…they are usually filled with salt, sugar, preservatives and artificial colors and flavors.  When your children become accustomed to these, they can lose their appreciation for the flavor and goodness of wholesome natural foods.

There are many websites that can help with nutrition information and meal planning.

http://nutritiondata.self.com/

http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=4&tax_level=1

http://www.mealsmatter.org/

http://www.healthy-eating-made-easy.com/healthy-meal-planning.html

For more meal-planning tips, fresh ideas and simple recipes that your children can help prepare, you can get a copy of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking…now on sale for 50% off the cover price on my website.  For only $22.50, you will have 100 child-friendly recipes, 100 arts and crafts activities and 100 picture book summaries that all build self-esteem, develop pre-literacy skills and create a life-long parent-child bond.  Did you know that this great resource is also a memory book…with lined spaces on every other page for you to record your child’s highlights?

Super Foods for a Super You in 2011

This image shows a display of healthy foods on...

Image via Wikipedia

Next time you are shopping in your local supermarket, think about putting some of these super foods in your cart.  Each one on the list provides important health benefits for you and your family. 

  1. Apples
  2. Avocado
  3. Beans
  4. Broccoli
  5. Carrots
  6. Cinnamon
  7. Dark Chocolate
  8. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  9. Garlic
  10. Honey
  11. Kiwi Fruit
  12. Low Fat Yogurt
  13. Oats
  14. Onions
  15. Oranges
  16. Pineapple
  17. Pomegranates
  18. Pumpkin
  19. Soy
  20. Spinach
  21. Tea
  22. Tomatoes
  23. Turkey
  24. Walnuts
  25. Wild Salmon

If some of these foods are unfamiliar, why not resolve to try a new food every week.  There are many online recipe sites you can go to: http://allrecipes.com/Recipes/Main.aspx and http://www.foodnetwork.com/ are two excellent sites to start at.  Your local library probably has a wonderful selection of cookbooks that you can borrow for free.  Of course, there are some people who just LOVE cookbooks (like me and my sister) and enjoy collecting them because we love seeing how many ways there are to make a particular dish.   If reading this makes you smile in recognition, a trip to new and used bookstores, as well as garage or tag sales can result in finding a cookbook treasure.

How about a dinner menu that’s beautiful to look at, delicious to taste, and contains several of the super foods…so you know it will be bursting with health benefits for you and your family.  Let your children help you prepare the meal and you will reap several other benefits: fussy eaters often eat what they have helped prepare and children gain confidence and develop competence when they master kitchen tasks and skills.

 GRILLED SALMON WITH ORANGE SLICES

You will need: 1 lb salmon fillet, 1 Tb olive oil, 1 Tb dried dill (you can substitute basil or thyme), 1 Tb honey, 1 orange

  • Wash the salmon fillet and pat dry with paper towel.
  • Mix the olive oil, honey and dill in small bowl and brush some on the salmon, reserving the rest for basting.
  • Heat the grill and place the fillet, skin side up, on the grill.
  • Grill on low for 5 minutes, turn and baste with the oil/honey/dill sauce.
  • Grill an additional 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
  • Slice the orange and use it to garnish each serving of salmon.

This should feed 4 people…add some steamed broccoli and multigrain rolls for a Super Food Extravaganza!

Tomorrow…some more reasons to serve your family Super Foods…and the best Carrot Cake recipe ever!

Cooking With Preschoolers

Cooking is one of the best activities for preschoolers.  It builds their self-esteem as they master tasks and skills, mixing and measuring the ingredients.  It teaches them about the foods they eat so they can make better food choices as they grow up.  It encourages them to try new foods as they prepare various recipes, expanding their food horizons.  Most importantly, they love to do it and cooking with your preschooler helps create a life-long parent-child bond.

Cooking with preschoolers is a passion of mine which is why my  new parenting book provides 100 child-friendly healthful recipes and 100 age-appropriate, eco-friendly craft projects, in addition to pinpointing 100 picture books every young child should hear.  The cooking experience is crucial because with each recipe your preschooler helps prepare, he gains confidence and competence and his sense of self-worth grows. 

What ingredients should we use?  The best that we can, of course!  If you are able to purchase organic, locally grown, in-season produce…I’d encourage you to do that…I believe such ingredients will add immense benefits to your entire family while creating a less damaging impact on our planet.   Organic or not, just make sure everything is fresh (check dates on dairy and other items…sometimes stores miss removing out-of-date stuff) and whether it is a snack or a meal, we want to provide low-fat, low sugar and high fiber combinations that are packed with nutrition.  It’s important that they taste good also.  However, taste is learned and we need to be careful of what we say and of our facial expressions when we are eating…many children develop food dislikes when they see a parent shunning a particular food. 

Cooking with preschoolers is a great time to teach proper hand washing procedures.  Make sure hands are washed before and during the food preparation process, especially if hands have touched raw meat or poultry.  And definitely exercise caution during the cooking experience…preschoolers should be pouring and mixing the ingredients in the bowls, not stirring the pot on the stove.  Any cutting with sharp knives needs to be done by the parent or other responsible adult.

I just came back from a wonderful week in New Hampshire…the New England fall foliage was at its peak…but the best part of the trip was the four days I spent with my two-year old grandson, Jeremy.  We walked down to the pond every day to see the ducks, skip pebbles over the surface of the water, and collect leaves of scarlet, gold, green and brown to use in craft projects.  He loved cooking in the kitchen…I’ve included one of the recipes below, along with the craft activity we did and the title of the story we read. If you’d like more story/craft/cooking ideas, you can go to the activities page of my website: http://www.positiveparentalparticipation.com/News.php 

CHILD-FRIENDLY HOMEMADE CHUNKY APPLESAUCE

You will need: 3 lbs tart cooking apples (peeled, cored and quartered), 1 Tb honey, 3/4 cup water, 1 pinch cinnamon or nutmeg, and a large saucepan with a lid.

  1. Combine the apples, water and honey in the pan, cover and bring to a boil. 
  2. Lower the heat and simmer till very soft and mushy, about 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon or nutmeg and serve hot or cold.
  4. Store in covered container in the refrigerator.  Use within a few days.  Makes about 4-6 servings.

The story suggestion for the above recipe is THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD.  This classic tale of a little engine with a positive attitude helps preschoolers believe in themselves and encourages them to keep trying, even if they don’t succeed at first.  Jeremy loved the story…he is excited about all trains right now…when I finished, he said, “More book, Nanu!”

A container train with moving wheels is a craft project will enable your child to have a whole fleet of trains…if you both have the time and patience.   For each train car you will need: 1 clean quart-sized cardboard milk or juice container, construction paper, paste, scissors, markers and metal paper fasteners.  When we finished the train, two-year old Jeremy exclaimed, “My train, my train!”

  1. Depending on which train car your preschooler wants to make, cut the container appropriately (for example, for a coal car  – lay the container on its side and cut off the top).
  2. Cut a piece of construction paper to fit over the outside of the container and paste it in place.
  3. Cut out 4 wheels from another piece of construction paper and attach to the container with paper fasteners.  The wheels will be able to turn!
  4. Ask your child what the name of his train is (for example: Jeremy’s Express), and write the name on the side of the train.  Use the markers to add details to the train.

 For more cooking with kids in the kitchen ideas, check out http://kidsparties.about.com where Megan Cooley, kids’ parties and celebrations guide for about.com is hosting a blog carnival for the month of November.