(Shhh…don’t tell them it’s healthy!)
Teaching children healthy mealtime habits doesn’t have to be a battle if what lies behind the refrigerator doors is quick, easy and ready when you are.
If you’re feeling like your pantry needs a makeover, start by eliminating processed, packaged foods and making the transition to whole, fresh vegetables, fruits and grains. Ease into this approach by talking to your kids about an exciting new way of eating to get them on board. Including them in some meal planning and snack ideas will help start your family’s journey with excitement, not resistance.
Here are a few tips I’ve gathered over the years from That’s Forkin‘ Amazing! parent-readers…
Mean and Green: A great substitute for a sandwich at a picnic is a salad-in-a-jar. Pack a wide-mouth canning jar with colorful veggies, whole grains and leafy greens. Just be sure to keep the dressing at the bottom and the greens and fresh herbs at the very top, so nothing gets soggy. Don’t forget to pack forks, but you can skip packing up a bowl, since the salad can be eaten directly out of the jar! Try apple cider vinegar with walnut oil as a dressing atop diced carrots, onions, tomatoes, oranges, avocadoes, and lemon. Add a few veggies your kids might not usually choose, such as fresh peppers or water chestnuts. Sealed tightly. These salads will keep for up to five days in the 7 refrigerator, so they’re perfect for a make-ahead lunch choice.
Grab ‘n Go: Quick-pack snacks are carrots and hummus, cucumbers and guacamole, celery stalks with almond butter, or even just a carton of grape tomatoes. Kids like to pop them whole into their mouths to experience the tomato “explosion.”
Monkeying Around: For infant feeding, peel bananas “backwards” the way monkeys do. Carefully squeeze, and it splits into three, perfectly-shaped “spears” for little ones to grab and eat. Make green smoothies or juices and freeze them as popsicles.
Not Being Corny: Popped amaranth is quick and can be packed into small bags. This gluten-free grain has protein and fiber to keep kids full, and it can also be used as a cereal with nut milks. Top it with fresh raspberries, blueberries or banana slices for a wholesome breakfast.
Pack It In: When road-tripping, take pistachios, granola and fruits to sustain you. For longer excursions, consider taking a Vitamix blender—along with a power adapter—to allow for extra flexibility.
Good Gulps: Green smoothies are a great way for kids to start consuming leafy, green vegetables. Mixing fruit and greens together into a delicious beverage packs a lot of nutrition into a single food. Start with 60% fruit and 40% leafy green vegetables. It takes only about five minutes and it can be eaten for breakfast, or—during the school year—children can eat it later for their lunch. (Bonus! Try our Pina Colada Smoothie recipe!)
Piña Colada Smoothie
1 ripe banana, frozen
1 big chunk of pineapple
1 generous handful of baby spinach leaves
1 cup coconut water
Blend everything together until smooth.