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Mealtime Struggles Banished
We grew up in an era of TV dinners, Saturday morning cartoons, and drinking water from the garden hose. As our parents prioritized convenience over health, so too do we in our children’s world, which is an ever-on-the-go lifestyle. Combined with an innate preference for sweetness, today’s lifestyles can make it difficult to convince children (and adults, if we’re honest) to ditch the chicken nuggets for a variety of healthy food options.
So, how’s a parent supposed to win dinner-time battles when time and money are a premium?
Swap grease for the grill
There is no denying that grilled foods are healthier than those deep-fried and battered. Grilling, especially if you have a propane unit, may actually even be faster than frying and comes with the added benefit of exceptional flavor. When you grill foods, their natural flavors are more prominent and they will wind up juicier and more visually appealing. Be cautious when you fire up the backyard barbecue, however, as an unmaintained grill can cause injuries. Angie’s List offers grilling safety tips for both gas and charcoal grills.
Make each night unique
While leftovers are certainly a staple for lunch, avoid the temptation to overcook on Monday and eat the same thing throughout the week. Variety is the spice of life, and that’s not just hyperbole. Give your family a taste tour with themed dinner nights. And we’re not just talking about taco Tuesday. You might, for instance, plan a slow cooker Sunday, Mediterranean Monday, or sushi Saturday. Slender Kitchen offers more ideasand links to numerous healthy recipes, including baked blackened tilapia and roasted poblano cheeseburgers.
Visit the Farmers’ Market
Your farmers market has so much more than vegetables. These often open-air marketplaces will allow your children the opportunity to meet and greet the people that grow their food. They will be awarded an opportunity to taste new things, especially at the beginning of each season when farmers are more than happy to slice open a watermelon or dice up a few peaches to tempt tiny taste buds. Plus, it is a fun afternoon outing that will give you and your family a chance to unplug.
Go for diversity
It is not enough to swap up your style of cooking, if you want to truly enjoy health benefits, you need to include a diverse range of foods. In other words, beef tacos followed by Mongolian steak and noodles won’t cut it. Dr. Deanna Minich, author of The Rainbow Diet, explains that eating foods from a number of categories will enhance the diversity of your gut microbes, lower your risk of developing a food allergy or intolerance, and help reduce systemic inflammation that can lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Don’t skip the grains
Grains get a bad reputation. Foods such as white bread and flour-based cakes aren’t the best option for a healthy diet, but the Mayo Clinic asserts that a diet rich with whole grains is actually good for you. Sources of whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and pasta for you spaghetti lovers. Even more good news: popcorn is considered a grain. Just make sure you use an air popper and don’t smother it in salt and butter.
Let the kids lend a hand
Finally, if you want your entire family to eat well, you have to give even the smallest members of your pack a voice when it comes to what they eat. This does not mean you have to let your four-year-old dictate dinner, but listen to their concerns about the menu. Kids should also be encouraged to help out in the kitchen. One great way to keep them interested is to let them pair some of their favorite fruits and vegetables with things they may not like. For instance, raisins go quite well with hot oatmeal, and there are few things more delicious and refreshing than a strawberry and spinach salad.
End the Veggie Battle With Your Children
What’s the deal with vegetables and so many kids’ reluctance to eat them? If you, like millions of equally frustrated parents, fear that nary a leafy lettuce leaf or crunchy carrot ever will pass through your child’s clamped lips, do not despair! Try these suggestions:
Variety! Cooked vegetables don’t haveto be boring. Boiling a vegetable for 10 minutes in unsalted water and plopping them seasoned with just a bit of salt on a plate isn’t appetizing at all! To change things up, check out these recipes.
Get excited! You don’t have to hold a pep rally with every vegetable dish, but excitement’s contagious. Who wouldn’t want to see why you’re super excited about eating squash?
Be a role model.Set good examples with your own eating.
Prep the kids!Don’t surprise your kiddos with something brand new on their plates, especially if they’re naturally suspicious of “new stuff.” Invite them to check out the vegetable before you cook it and then explain to them what you’re adding to the dish to make it taste good.
Invite them into the kitchen.Let your kids squash a tomato, peel a carrot, or slice a cucumber with a kid-safe nylon knife(yes, they really work). Give them a tour of your spice rack and ask them to choose the flavors to add to cooking vegetables (and other foods).
Go for raw! Many kids don’t like the texture of cooked vegetables, but a crunchy baby carrot or cauliflower florette tastes great dunked in a little hummus or veggie dip.
Introduce foods early.A baby’s taste buds are most receptive to change between age seven and 12 months. If you start with too-bland foods, introducing stronger flavors later can cause “taste bud overload.”
Don’t ask your kid to taste, eat, or try a vegetable. Instead — invite your child to interact with the vegetable in a different way. Create a contest to see which of your children can crunch celery the loudest.
Create a reward chart. If charts motivate your kiddos, use a reward chartfor them to track how many fruits and vegetables they eat each day.
Don’t force kids to eat what they don’t like. It can take eight to 10 (or more) times of presenting a new foodbefore a kiddo decides she likes it. Try the “one bite, chew & swallow” rule.
Disguise them!Puree vegetables like carrots and spinach and add them to spaghetti sauce. Dice carrots, celery, and leafy vegetables, and add them (with little beans) to chicken or other soups. Add to a smoothie. Sometimes changing the presentation’s all it takes.
Take him shopping.Spend time wandering through the produce section. Allow your kiddo to touch the different vegetables and fruits to feel the textures and check out their smells.
Visit the Farmers Market
Want your kids to experience shopping in a completely new way? Take them to the farmers market! They’re perfect for teaching your kids about food and its sources. Plus, many vendors offer samples and that encourages everyone to try new textures, flavors, and ingredients.
Often, you get to meet the farmers — and then the kids have a chance to ask a lot of questions. If your farmers market is open year-round, it’s also an opportunity for your children to see how local produce changes with the seasons. Make a game out of choosing one new vegetable or fruit to try each week. Encourage your kids to pick the new food and help you look for recipes when you’re ready to prepare it.
In addition to providing an opportunity to see food closer to its source, farmers markets reinforce the value of local food and community building. These markets thrive when they’re well-supported, because you’re buying food directly from the farmers.
The best advice? Approach vegetables with a new eye: relax your ideas of what vegetables should taste like. Try new presentations and new flavors. Add different spices, herbs, and other ingredients. If you’re having fun with vegetables, your kids will want in on that fun, too.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
Planning A Fruit-Based Bee Garden:
Tips For What To Plant And How To Support These Key Pollinators
Growing your own fruit is a great way to help your family maintain a healthy diet, and many fruit plants also help the bee population. Bees are essential pollinators for many of the food crops we rely on, but mites, pesticides, and environmental shifts are threatening many species of these helpful insects. If you would like to grow a fruit garden that is geared toward also helping the bees, you have plenty of delicious options to incorporate into the space you have available.
Fruit trees and shrubs tend to be bee-friendly
Fruit trees are very popular with many species of bees. You should try to plant at least two trees of any variety you choose, rather than singles of many different types. In addition, if you can, add multiple clusters of trees that bloom at different times of the year so the bees have a steady source of food, as this will entice them to keep coming back.
Pear trees are a great pick for a bee garden, and you can plant cherry and apple trees for the summer or peaches and plums for the fall. If you are looking for some non-traditional choices, consider planting quince or medlar trees as well. If full-sized trees feel like too much to tackle, look into dwarf fruit trees that will be somewhat more space-efficient. They will often bear fruit more quickly than their full-size counterparts, but they may also have a shorter life span.
Berries and more unique options work well too.
If your gardening space has room for shrubs or low-growing vines, you are in luck in terms of bee-friendly options. Almost all berries, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, are excellent choices. You may also want to branch out and try less common bee-friendly berries like gooseberries and elderberries.
Additional options for your pollinator fruit garden include grapes, various types of melons, avocados, and tomatoes. Depending on your location, you could plant fruits like kiwi, passion fruit, apricots, currants, and loganberries as well. The more diversity you can incorporate, the more bees you will likely attract.
Try to avoid pesticides and herbicides
When planning your fruit-focused bee gardens, consider organic gardening (or, as Home Advisor defines this type of gardening: “a form of gardening that does not allow the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides”). Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are typically chemical-laden products that can do a lot of damage to the bees, but avoiding them can negatively impact the yield and quality of your fruits. Many families are anxious to avoid pesticides and herbicides for their own family’s health as well, and there are ways to rely on more natural options instead.
A homemade oil spray or soap spray can take care of some bothersome pests, and some gardeners use diatomaceous earth as a natural insecticide too. Garlic or chile pepper spray work in some cases, and you may find that a combination of approaches is necessary to get the desired effect. You can also learn to embrace predatory insects that will help rid your garden of problematic pests without causing damage to your fruit plants.
There are many ways that beginning gardeners can help troubled bee populations, and growing bee-friendly fruits in your home garden is a great place to start. There are plenty of options to try, such as apple or cherry trees and almost any kind of berry. By planting fruit in your garden, and avoiding herbicides and pesticides, you not only provide your family with healthy foods from your own backyard, but you provide opportunities for bees to gain much-needed support.
[Photo via Pixabay]
You may have heard the buzz about sugar not being that great for you. This is especially true for those already monitoring their blood sugar in response to having type 2 diabetes. Let’s be clear: sugar is not bad, but we have to moderate out intake of it. Excessive sugar in the diet has been linked with diet-related metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity/overweight, and metabolic syndrome. However, watching your sugar intake can be a little tricky these days when consuming foods that are pre-packaged. It may seem obvious that there’s a good amount of sugar in soda, candy, and ice cream right? Less obvious sources of added sugar include yogurts, frozen yogurt, iced tea, iced coffee, and breakfast cereals which are often marketed and sold under the guise of health.
This is why two things are important:
- Reading labels
- Check out the serving size. This is the one that gets folks all the time. Did you know a standard bottle (about 20 oz) of Pepsi is 2.5 servings? And who drinks only that amount, really? Be mindful when purchasing drinks, especially iced teas and fruit juices which can be loaded with added sugars and are often more than one serving per bottle. Similarly, if you eat breakfast cereal or snack food bought in bulk, you may want to measure what one serving really looks like.
- Read the ingredients. If one of the first ingredients is sugar, then reconsider the purchase. Sugar can be sneaky-honey, agave nectar, dextrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup are all sugars.
- Look for carbohydrates on the nutrition label.
- Make it at home
- You can easily make ices tea and flavored yogurt at home and packaging it as needed. This post is mostly about yogurt, as it’s such a common snack and meals for most Americans. Yet this can apply to many packaged foods and snacks (such as popcorn, salad dressing, oatmeal to name a few) that can be made at home with bulk ingredients to curb added sugars, and cut down on cost in the long run.
One primary offender of added sugars is non-fat yogurt with fruit added. One serving can have as much as 36 grams of sugar added. By buying plain, low-fat yogurt and adding a touch of sweetener (such as honey), local seasonal fruit, and some unsweetened cereal for crunch, you can re-create the yogurt cup with a fraction of the sugar and more protein and fiber.
We used in season blueberries and peaches for this recipe, but it’s completely up to your preferences and tastes. Adding chia seeds and no-sugar-added jam would be a fantastic alternative if you didn’t have fruit on hand, or for the winter. Adding a serving of walnuts or pumpkin seeds would be lovely as well!
Really, the idea is to be more mindful of what we’re eating and feeding our children. Reading labels, making what we can at home, and eating seasonally is conscious eating, and provides better food for better health.
How do you decide what to buy and how to make it? We’d love to know!