Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Healthy Eating for Kiddos

I'm blessed with a not-too-picky eater, but I still have to sneak healthy foods in amidst the lunch meat and cheese slices he loves to devour. And while I'm no expert on healthy eating, we've learned a few tricks of the trade to help our toddler eat well. Maybe they can be of use to you, too!

Secret #1: Chocolate

These chocolate chip muffins taste fantastic and my toddler has no idea that they're made with pumpkin and bananas. There's still chocolate involved, so it's possible to over-indulge, but they make for a much better option than cookies or other sweets.

You can find the recipe for the above muffins in Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious. Last time I glanced through our local used book store, there were approximately 1645 copies available for half the retail price. Not all of the recipes are home runs for our family, but her premise of sneaking in pureed veggies and fruits has been my staple for adding nutrition to our plates in addition to the plain veggies and fruits I offer up at mealtime.

Secret #2: Cook from scratch

Don't hate me. I served a frozen pizza last night. It happens. But from time to time I'll invest an afternoon to make a large serving of something my family will eat - from scratch. No preservatives. No food colorings. Just whole food. The chicken nuggets above are an example of one of my favorite from-scratch recipes. It's not perfect, or super low in fat (it would be better had I baked them), but it's missing all the additives that frozen foods often carry. You can see my recipe for chicken nuggets here.

Secret #3: Add sprinkles

Any pasta I serve my son is almost always accompanied by "sprinkles" of broccoli. I started this when he was old enough to eat solids, but not really old enough to chew bites of broccoli. Even now that he's old enough to have actual bites, I still trim the edges of broccoli florets into his sauce. That way, even if he balks at eating his peas (or broccoli bites), he'll still receive additional nutrition.

Secret #4: Lead by example

There are days when the only thing that will get my son to eat is by laughing and saying, "Look! Daddy's eating the same thing you are!" or "You take a bite, and Mommy will take a bite." He wants to be just like us, and that means we need to be eating well, too.

Secret #5: Pick your battles

I don't want mealtime to be any more exhausting than it already is. And I want my son to grow up enjoying his time around our table. When I look back on my time around my parents' dining table, it was filled with laughter, a few sermonettes from my father, and looking forward to the eldest child moving out so you could scoot up one chair closer to the best seat (the one next to Dad, of course). And while kids absolutely need good guidance and instruction, I don't want my kids to look back and only remember me harping at them to eat their veggies. That's why I use veggie/fruit purees. It may be culinary fibbing, but if I've already mixed half a cup of squash into the sauce of the chicken pasta (this works, by the way, and tastes fantastic), then if one night my toddler just cannot stand the thought of putting a spoonful of peas into his mouth, so be it. No big deal.

Secret #6: Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins

Maybe you don't agree with me on this one, but our pediatrician is all about the liquid vitamins. My son absolutely refused them when I tried to give them to him straight (have you smelled that awful stuff?!) but he has no problem when I mix it with juice. My bestie's kids love gummy vitamins, other moms swear by the chewables. Find what works for your kiddos and go with it. Some days are filled with ball games and birthday parties and the closest to a vegetable they're going to get is ketchup. On those days, I just take a deep breath and say, "Well, at least he's taking his vitamins."

What are your healthy eating tricks?

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