I am the last person to be giving advice when it comes to getting children to eat more healthy foods as I have no children of my own, but what I do know is that there are chefs inside of us all regardless of our age. Foods is what brings people, families, and friends together. It’s all around us. In our grocery stores, farmer’s markets, on television, on social media, in restaurants, and in our homes, so it would seem natural that creating meals from scratch would be easy for almost anyone.
What isn’t easy, is breaking our habits of eating familiar foods and training our taste buds to try new and unfamiliar ingredients. With the new changes being implemented to Canada’s Food Guide (the first change since 2007), in early 2018, people are going to be seeing a much different version of what a typical plate is going to look like. It’s going to involve more whole foods including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It will be shifting more to a plant-based meal. So how do we get children and teenagers to start changing the way they eat? Use these tips to get you started.
Going plant-based or at least eating more plant-based meals doesn’t happen overnight. Start slowly. Start by incorporating one meal a week as a ‘meatless’ meal. Let children and yourself get use to the fact that there is no meat or fish on your plate. Once you get comfortable with the idea, then start to incorporate a second meal, and then a third meal, and continue with this trend. It’s all about changing the way we think about food on our plate. If taking this step is too hard and you’re using to having meat or fish on your plate at each dinner, then cut back on the serving size of the meat or fish. Make the vegetables the ‘main attraction’ on the plate by strategically placing them on the center of the plate. Surround the vegetables with a smaller portion of fish or meat and some grains. Gradually decrease your portion size of meat and fish until you no longer see it on the plate. You can use this same method when trying to decrease your dairy consumption or processed foods.
Be the Example
If you want your children to start eating more greens, then it will have to lead by example. You can’t expect them to eat more plants while you have something different on your plate. Eating greens can be tough for many people, especially if you’re not using to consuming them. A great way to get more greens into your diet is to hide them in your food. Start out by putting some in some stir fries or even a lasagna.
Replace the Junk with Real Food
Our habits are hard to change but if we don’t have any junk food in the house, we simply can’t eat it. Place a bowl of fruit on the center of the kitchen table so when they come home from school, it’s the first thing they see and if there is no junk food in the house, they are more likely going to eat the fruit as they are hungry. Children love smoothies so try to use real fruit with water instead of milk and you can always sneak some beans, seeds, or even a few greens into the smoothie without them noticing. Start with one or two kale leaves (as to not change the colour of the smoothie), let their taste buds adjust and then start adding a couple more leaves every week. Before you know it, they love the taste of kale. Another way to sneak fruit into their diet is in pancakes or cereal. Get into the habit of cutting up some fresh fruit the night before so when it comes to breakfast time, they can just pick and choose which fruit they want to top off their cereal or pancakes.
Get Children Involved
Have you ever asked your children to help you cook? There is no law against having children help out with cooking so why no get them involved with not just cooking of the meals, but meal preparation, take them grocery shopping, and have them help you with a meal plan. Create a fruit or vegetable platter together to put on the table after school every day to snack on. Use different colours and make a design out of it. Exposing them to more plant-based foods through grocery shopping, planting vegetables, or farmer’s market visits will increase their lifelong appreciation of healthy foods.
Stop Rewarding with Junk Food
By getting children to see junk food as ‘special treat’s’ only encourages the to want it more. Plant-based desserts can be incredibly tasty if you only give them a chance. The great thing about whole foods is that the recipes don’t have any refined sugar so children can enjoy a delicious dessert without you having to worry about them getting too hyperactive. Many whole foods desserts contain wholesome fruits mixed with other whole ingredients so not only are they getting nutrients but fiber as well.
Take Note of Favourite Foods & Cook Together
If you take your children grocery shopping, get them to smell different fruits and vegetables and feel the texture of exotic fruits and vegetables. Have them pick out a favourite plant food or even try a new one. Give them the opportunity to create a meal or cook with them and create something together for the entire family. Give them permission to try new fruits and vegetables so that you are incorporating lots of colour into their diet.
Grow a Garden Together
Children love to see something start from a seed and watch it grow into something that they can actually eat. Make a list of all their favourite foods, go buy the seeds together, plant them together, and take care of the garden together. There is nothing more rewarding to see a child grow their dinner from scratch and make a meal out of it.
Healthy Plant-Based Recipes for Back – To – School
So as promised, here are some recipes for the meals and snacks that I posted this week on Instagram. Remember, there is no refined sugar, no oil, no animal products or processed foods contained in these recipes. The only sweetener that I use is sucanat or maple syrup. They are very basic recipes for delicious plant-based snacks.
Banana Crumb Muffins
INGREDIENTS – Muffin:
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 cup non-dairy milk (rice, soy, almond, etc.)
- ¼ cup sucanat
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
INGREDIENTS – Topping:
- 6 tbsp sucanat (raw sugar)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup raw oats
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
- Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- In a separate large bowl, mix together bananas (you can mash them right in the mixing bowl), milk, and sucanat.
- Pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and stir until well mixed. Add the walnuts, and spoon the mixture into the muffin cups.
- For the topping, mix together Sucanat and cinnamon (and oats, if using) in a small bowl. Combine with a fork until crumbly. Press on top of muffins.
- Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool slightly before serving.
Pasta Skillet Sensation
- 2 onions, peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 4 sweet peppers, chopped
- 1 zucchini, chopped
- 2 cups tomatoes, chopped and cubed
- 1 cup, mushrooms
- 1 cup, artichoke hearts
- 1 tbsp, paprika
- 1 tsp, tumeric
- 1 tsp, oregano
- 1 tsp, pepper
- 2 1/2 cups, vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp, vegetable stock for sautee
- 1 green onion and parsley for garnish
- 1 package of whole wheat pasta
- In a large skillet, add 2 tbsp of vegetable broth. Add onion and sautee for 3-5 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, paprika, turmeric, oregano, and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the pasta and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
- After reaching a boil, turn down to simmer and cook for 20 minutes with the lid.
- Garnish with green onion and fresh parsley.
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
- 2 dates, pitted
- 2 large ripe avocadoes, peeled and pittled
- ½ cup, raw cacao
- 1/4 cup, maple syrup
- ½ cup, non-dairy milk
- 2 tsp, vanilla extract (optional)
- Pinch of salt
- Add all the ingredients together in a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
- Serve with fruit
BBQ Black Beans with Quinoa
- 1 cup quinoa or whole grain
- 1 small onion, peeled and chopped finely
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 15 ounce can of black beans or beans soaked overnight
- 2 cups of corn (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup of BBQ sauce (homemade or low sodium/no sugar) – add more sauce to taste
- Cook quinoa or whole grain according to directions. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, cook onion for 3-5 minutes, then add the garlic.
- Add the beans, whole grain, and BBQ sauce and continue to cook for 15 minutes on simmer.
- Serve it up with a green side salad.
Eat Well – Move Well – Live Well
Your Compassionate Coach,