Any family knows of the woes that fussy eaters and kids can bring. Often working parents are at their wit’s end trying to cater to everyone’s preferences; sometimes, health can take a backseat just as long as everyone has eaten. Here are a few handy ideas for getting your family healthier and happier.
Hide and seek: the secret to healthy eating
Very few households don’t struggle to get the whole family to eat fruits and veggies. This trick is not just for toddlers and fussy kids. Some families use the hide and seek technique on adult family members, and it works beautifully. The idea is to ‘hide’ additional vegetables into meals. If done correctly, the family won’t even tell the difference or spot the sneaky greens added to their meals. Smoothies are also an excellent place to hide veggies like spinach and beetroot.
Blending vegetables into sauces or grinding them into burgers is a quick and easy method of making classic favorites healthier. Starting by blending the veg as finely as possible and slowly blending them less and less until they are whole pieces of vegetables is a great way to introduce them to fussy eaters. Try not to make a big fuss about what’s inside the meal, as long as the family enjoys the meal.
One meal at a time to help your family.
Family meals can often be a mixture of different dishes to suit everyone. Trying to prepare four different kinds of foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is not always easy. Experts suggest starting with at least one healthy meal a day; trying to change your entire family’s diet all in one swoop can lead to the headache of an upset household. Pick a meal that you feel would be easiest to change, slowly introducing the concept of healthy eating.
Try making healthy food swaps in your family’s favorite meals. Some toddlers and young children might benefit from a bigger cooked lunch at school packed with nutrients and veggies and a lighter dinner in the evenings. Take into consideration that cranky and tired kids are less likely to want a full meal. A wise parent once said, pick your battles. If your child has eaten a healthy lunch, dinner doesn’t need to be a battle.
The ultimate meal prepping guide.
When switching your family over to a healthier diet, you might feel a little overwhelmed at first. If you are a working parent, it can be tough to make sure you have time to cook. Healthy meals don’t have to be complicated if you meal prep them in advance. It only takes a few hours a week to meal prep a few meals in advance for the week.
Meal prepping takes the stress out of making healthy choices. It is only too easy to throw processed chicken nuggets and oven bake fries together with a dollop of ketchup for dinner if you are pressed for time. While that is a meal on its own and is okay on the odd occasion, there are healthier alternatives. Try making a menu for the week ahead. Chop and prep the ingredients needed and store them in the fridge in glass containers. When you are ready to make your meal, all you need to do is last-minute assembly and cooking.
Here are a few healthy meals you can prep in advance:
Tagine with couscous/quinoa and vegetables
Healthy, tasty, and exotic, tagines are an easy all-in-one meal that requires very little attention while cooking. The natural sweetness and inclusion of vegetables make this meal healthy without tasting ‘green.’ You can cut and clean the vegetables and meat in advance; alternatively, an entirely vegetarian option is also just as tasty with a little less prep.
Place all the ingredients into the tagine (like Uno Casa’s) and put it in the oven to bake. Choose recipes that call for honey or agave nectar instead of sugar. Serving your hearty stew on a bed of quinoa or brown rice instead of couscous is a healthier and gluten-free option. Simple changes like that can pave the way for healthier eating habits overall.
A healthy breakfast starts without stress. It is always a bonus when breakfast tastes like dessert! The combination of fruits, seeds, and oats make this a health-conscious meal. The base of any overnight oats consists of raw rolled oats soaked in nut milk overnight. It lasts for up to three days in the fridge. Sweeten with agave nectar, honey, or chopped dates if needed. However, the addition of chopped fruits and berries make this a sweet enough breakfast without the addition of refined sugars.
Readily available and prepackaged instant oats are often packed full of unhealthy preservatives and sugars that overshadow any health benefits. Cereals are often marketed as containing ‘whole grains and added calcium’; however, it might not be as healthy as advertised with sugars and additives. Kids love overnight oats as they can be eaten warmed up or cold with their favorite fruits added in.
If your kids love chicken nuggets or crumbed strips, these are the next best thing. Prepping your strips in advance makes this a quick healthy cheat meal. Prepare your chicken strips as you usually would, coating them with egg and panko crumbs. While they are raw, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet that fits into your freezer. Freeze the prepped strips for 2 - 3 hours until frozen solid. Store in a ziplock bag or an airtight container with the date marked on it.
You can prep a few portions in advance. Taking the stress out of quick dinners while keeping them healthy. Swapping out your traditional from a bag fries with fresh-cut sweet potato wedges tossed in light cornflour and seasoning, baked alongside your chicken strips is a better food choice.
Healthy fruits and vegetables
Better food choices start with small steps. It is a well-known fact that fruits and vegetables are essential to good health. There are a few swaps that you can make or try to add to your meals for an extra health boost.
• Sweet potatoes - contain high amounts of vitamin A and beta-carotene, which help reduce and protect against inflammatory diseases.
• Avocados - these fruits are excellent substitutes for butter in baked dishes and mousses.
• Spinach - full of iron and calcium, Pop-eye wasn’t wrong when he said it makes his bones strong!
• Brocolli and peas - these green veggies are packed with plant proteins and calcium. Perfect for children that are lactose intolerant. Add them to burger patties and blend them into stews or lasagna.
• Berries and citrus fruits - are all full of vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Whole fruit offers dietary fiber and roughage that is needed for optimal gut health.
Eat together as a family.
Life is so busy that we often forget to sit down and enjoy a meal as a family. Making mealtimes a family event is one of the best ways to ensure that everyone is eating a healthy meal together. Children are like sponges; they will mimic your behavior. Try eating anything in front of your tots; the curiosity will only intensify if they don’t have it on their plates, always offer them what you are eating, if they really don’t enjoy it, don’t make a fuss.
Setting the table without salt to access helps reduce sodium intake. Skip the fruit juice, serve dinner with infused sparkling water. If parents are eating the same food as everyone else, it will encourage them to eat. Listening to your children and observing their reactions to foods will indicate what they enjoy and what they don’t enjoy.