Grow, cook and eat meals together as a family. Growing food together is such an important step in protecting your children against obesity. My children helped in the family garden and would pick, wash and eat raw vegetables right from the garden. They didn’t know if it had to be cooked or not. I’m proud to say both of my grown children have their own gardens today. My son lives in New York City and grows lettuce and different greens. His windows are filled with herbs! You don’t need a land plot to have a garden! Here are some great tips for starting a kid-friendly garden with your family.
Since I’m from India, I cooked Indian food while my children were growing up, so that they could learn about the culture. One of the dishes was rice and beans cooked together with a sauce made with yogurt and chickpea flour. I served it with a green vegetable, such as spinach or any green leafy veggie as well as a salad made with cucumbers and cabbage, seasoned with cumin, salt, cilantro, and hot chilies. The kids loved it!
Organization and planning are key! Have a plan in place. Use the weekends to plan the menu for the week. Shop according to what you are going to cook. Beans or grains are going to take time. Cook these staples for more than one meal then freeze the rest. Keep your fridge stocked. Also on the weekends, make sure you prepare one or two dishes for the week that are going to take time. Another idea is to delegate a chore to every family member to do the night before that involves getting something ready for the next day’s meal. Also, keep in mind that meals don’t have to be fancy. It’s OK to keep things simple! Here are our 6 Tips to Make Meal Planning Easier.
It is also very important to keep healthy, unprocessed and unpackaged foods around, lots of vegetables and fruits, and nuts and beans.
A few more tips:
Plant-based meals include foods prepared from the following categories: beans and legumes, grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices. Basically, anything that does not walk or swim. Meat lovers can enjoy more of these foods in all of their meals and snacks and can also enjoy several meatless meals (or entire days) each week.
Turn your favorite meals into plant-based meals.
Favorite foods can be changed into plant-based meals a couple times a week. Making this small switch can cut down on prep time and clean up.
“Moderation within variety and balance.” Focus on your whole week of eating. If you include a variety of vegetables throughout the week (green leafy veggies, root veggies such as beets, potatoes) and say you regularly have some fruit for dessert, occasional ice cream can fit into a diet that is full of healthy food choices.
Start early when they are young and let them have fun. Making bread, pancakes, pretzels are easy and my children loved to make the dough and different shapes. Helping wash the salad ingredients and playing in the water was also an enjoyable experience for my children. They always ended up eating the lettuce and vegetables as they were rinsing the vegetables. Here are some more easy ways to include kids in the kitchen.
Practice what you want your children to do. Set a good example. Enjoy eating a variety of healthy foods, meals, and snacks. Children learn from example and eating habits are formed early in life.
Gita Patel MS RD CDE LD, partners with individuals and organizations who desire the science of nutrition translated into a healthy vegetarian lifestyle. She was raised in a traditional vegetarian family in India and her first experience with food involved health and medicine. She has taught nutrition through vegetarian Indian cooking in a variety of venues including television. She is a Certified Diabetes Educator providing healthy solutions for people with diabetes. www.feedinghealth.com
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