Last month I joined forces with Karen Orlich, CEO of k.o. kidz, a green-living and organic lifestyle company, to compile some of the best tips (mom and kid tested!) to help you empower your kids to engage in healthy eating. Our tips included “encourage and reinforce” and “hosting ‘Lazy Suzan’ dinners” This month we’re at it again with even more tips!
Tip # 3: Have some fun at the grocery store with Grocery Store Games!
Getting our kids to eat healthy foods can feel like a chore, and so can grocery shopping! Yet it’s important we do both, so why not combine the two and make your next trip to the market both fun for the kids and an outing you can feel good about as a parent?
Yes, we know, it’s not always easy to keep your child calm in a crowded grocery store. But then again, it’s important to not disengage them from the process completely…kids need to learn about food!
So, rather than placing your child in the cart and handing him/her a box of cookies to snack on while you hurry through the store, think about the grocery store as a learning environment full of COLORS, PLANTS and READING materials! (It’s also a great place to learn manners when interacting with store employees!) It’s with this point of view you can challenge your child to engage in foods and learn about what’s healthy and what’s not. Try these games out the next time you’re at the store:
Search for the Colors of the Rainbow: Bring a picture of a rainbow to the store and ask your child to find fruits or vegetables for two or three (or all!) colors of the rainbow. With this game, teach your children that a healthy diet is a colorful diet. The more colors, the better!
Count the Ingredients: As Michael Pollan reminds us, when we shop for packaged foods, it’s important to choose options with minimal ingredients (he suggests 5 ingredients or less). For kids who can count or are learning, ask them to count the ingredient labels on food packages. If there are more than 5, ask them to put it back and then explain why. (As your kids learn to read, you can also challenge them to search for unhealthy ingredients like “sugar”, “high fructose corn syrup” or “trans fat”).
Tip #4: Make the ‘Common’ Foods Healthy
This is a great way to transition your kids to healthier eating. It’s helpful (and fun!) to include them in the food preparation while also teaching them what ‘healthy’ really means.
Personal Pizzas: Pizzas can be made from 100% whole wheat (always check the label for ‘whole’ wheat) sandwich rounds or tortillas (for a gluten-free version, check out Amy’s GF sandwich rounds or use 100% corn tortillas) with grilled onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc. Or, simply bake (we use our toaster oven) the veggies on the bread with tomato sauce. Olive oil with fresh basil and/or oregano is a delicious alternative to tomato sauce and herbs can be cut from a plant grown in your kitchen or garden.
Hot Dogs: The all American classic! Unfortunately, traditional hot dogs are loaded with sodium and fat. Try Applegate Organic Turkey hot dogs, rated #1 turkey dog by Health magazine. Avoid the salt and high fructose corn syrup, store-bought versions and have the kid help make homemade ketchup (and relish!) with these easy, 15 minute or less recipes from Wellness Mama and Eating Well.
Macaroni & Cheese: The ultimate comfort food for all ages. Have you looked at the chemical additives and preservatives in that powdered cheese pack? We know – you’re busy and don’t have time to make your own cheese sauce. Au contraire!
Start with GF organic brown rice pasta (for gluten-free version) or whole wheat macaroni (yes, your kids will eat it!). Grab a block of fresh organic cheese, cut into thin slices, and add to cooked, drained, warm macaroni (or any small pasta noodle) in pot. Add light coating of olive oil and mix well with pasta. Broccoli (or other veggies) can also be added to the pasta for flavor and an added health kick. We stand the broccoli up to make ‘trees’ and ‘stumps’ in the macaroni ‘field’. It’s ok to let kids play with their food once in a while if it helps get them to eat it, right?!
Dessert: Every kid wants DESSERT! So choose tasty alternatives like:
Greek yogurt (double the protein of regular) with fresh fruit, applesauce, baked apple with cinnamon and raisins (core apple, fill with cinnamon and raisins, add 2-3 tablespoons of water to microwave-safe bowl, and ‘bake’ in the microwave until soft), or fruit smoothies (easy to mix in veggies and the kids won’t even know it). Try one of these recipes from delish.com.
We also discovered several websites with recipes for homemade fruit and nut bars (similar to Larabars, which are great GF treat!) These are a great substitute for brownies and cookies! An extensive recipe list can be found here. Delicious and nutritious! Yum!!