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Big Green Cookbook

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Super Kids Nutrition caught up with chef and nutrition expert Jackie Newgent, RD, author of Big Green Cookbook. We heard Jackie has a specialty for making nutritious food naturally delicious and wanted to learn firsthand how to cook low-carbon, high flavor health foods that please the palate and the planet.

What are 3 simple ways to include meatless meals throughout the week?

  1. Write down a list of your favorite foods then view the list to see which ones are vegetarian. You might be surprised at the number of meatless meals that you already enjoy.  Perhaps spaghetti marinara, veggie pizza, and bean burritos made the list? Start including these plant-based favorites more often.
  2. Turn some of your veggie side dishes or appetizers into entrees, like beans-n-rice or hummus with pita. Keep it simple. The easier you make it for yourself, the more likely you’ll be to keep following a meatless or semi-meatless lifestyle.

Would you share a few activities parents can do with their children to cook or live in an eco-friendly manner?

Plant an herb garden-even if it’s on a windowsill inside. The kids can choose one of the herbs to take care of all by themselves. They can also pick some of the leaves as they choose for flavoring their greener meals. See this month’s featured interview with Joe Gardener.

Visit a local farm-especially one where you can pick some of the food to take home, like an apple orchard or strawberry farm. Then you can cook something together as a family with the food you just picked.

How can parents overcome the influence and appeal of popular packaged foods (fruit chews, goldfish, and chips) that compete with foods that come in their natural package (bananas, oranges) or home-made snacks?

Start reducing their influence by trying to incorporate small amounts of some popular packaged foods within healthful meals so that there is no special emphasis on these convenient foods. Sometimes by avoiding them all together, it may make kids desire them more. When you do include packaged foods, choose ones that are as natural as possible-preferably organic, low in added sugar, and high in whole grains.

Do you have a favorite home-made snack you find yourself frequently packing for on-the-go outings?

A very simple snack mix! I make it differently all the time. One of my favorites is a combination of Kashi Go Lean! Crunch cereal, peanuts, dried tart cherries, and a few semi-sweet chocolate chips.

What are your top 3 tips for achieving a healthy weight for you and your family?

  1. Include a fruit or veggie in every meal and snack.
  2. Always start dinner with a piece of fruit-even as much as 30-minutes ahead of serving time. You’ll be less likely to overeat.
  3. Stay active every day. Walking is enjoyable. It not only burns calories-it’s an eco-friendly activity that the whole family can participate in together!

Can you explain how eco-friendly cooking translates into healthy eating?

Eco-friendly eating means many things … following a plant-based eating plan is the main part of a “green” food philosophy. That means you’ll likely be eating more fresh veggies, fruits, and whole grains by “greening” your diet. These foods are synonymous with healthy eating and are naturally nutrient-rich. My book, Big Green Cookbook, expands on this greatly.

What are 3 tips on green cooking for families on a budget?

  1. Consider ways that you can prevent having excess food waste. One way is by “green-sizing”
  2. Aim to mostly use produce that’s in season in your own local area (or, better yet, your own garden!) for the greenest fruit and veggie experience. When in season locally, produce is at its peak of nutritional value and flavor-and at its cheapest!
  3. Since the microwave oven can reduce energy use by roughly two thirds compared to a conventional oven, use it to do more than just reheating and making popcorn. Reduced energy use means reduced cost and a reduced carbon footprint-or “food” print!

How can parents successfully introduce foods with new textures and flavors like soy or kale to children?

When possible, have your children help you pick and prep new foods, like kale or soy. Then incorporate these foods in familiar, tasty ways. For instance, shred or tear kale and use in place of lettuce in a wrap or burrito. Grill or zap a soy burger and serve on a whole wheat bun with favorite toppings, or puree canned organic soybeans to create a homemade hummus.

Jackie Newgent is a well-respected chef, registered dietitian, eco-cuisine expert, and author of Big Green Cookbook: Hundreds of Planet-Pleasing Recipes & Tips for a Luscious, Low-Carbon Lifestyle (Wiley, 2009). Like a hybrid of cookbooks, Big Green Cookbook is designed with a fresh-is-best approach so that all consumers can deliciously reduce their carbon “food” print. It features simple, clever, eco-friendly cooking techniques developed by Newgent to save energy, time, and even money. Plus, Newgent shares hundreds of useful tips in her book to help consumers easily prepare plant-based meals, eat by season, and buy locally when logical.

For even more great book idea, check out our Recommended Reads!

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About the Author

Sahar Rahimi, MS, RD

Sahar Rahimi, MS, RD

Sahar is a Registered Dietitian in the San Francisco bay area and serves as a Public Policy Representative and Legislative Ambassador for the California Dietetic Association. Though she specializes in clinical nutrition, she also has more than four years of experience in health education, counseling, advocacy and public speaking.

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