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Mother Knows Best

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Bring the kids into the kitchen and cook healthy meals together 

Mark your calendars: May 10 is Mother’s Day. Getting kids to express their appreciation for mom is a great excuse to have them help out in the kitchen! This is a fantastic opportunity to teach children about healthy eating as well as inspire interest in preparing delicious and nutritious meals together as a family. Involve them in the process and they will likely want to taste and take pride in the healthy dishes they’ve prepared. 

Getting started. Take kids on a trip to the grocery store. Begin in the fresh produce section and let them select the colorful fruits and vegetables that appeal to them. Encourage an array of brightly colored ones that will provide the best nutrients. girl with apple

Guide them in choosing lean meats they prefer, such as 93 percent lean ground meat for burgers, center-cut pork chops for grilling, chicken or turkey breasts to barbecue. 

Teach them about whole grains. Look for breads, cereals and crackers with at least three grams of fiber per serving. Avoid tricky marketing lingo such as “enriched flour” products. Look for whole grains or whole wheat flour as the primary ingredients.

Prep time. 

Match tasks to appropriate age. Kids can wash lettuce for a salad, cut up veggies, mix ingredients, set the table. This will make mealtime fun while teaching new skills. 

Healthy, kid-friendly meals. 

Try chunks of veggies with lean beef, pork, chicken or shrimp placed on a kabob skewer to grill; mini-meatballs with whole wheat pasta; lean, ground meat hamburgers on a wheat bun. Add sliced raw vegetables as a side dish and dip in low-fat salad dressing or a ranch dressing season mix stirred into plain yogurt. If your kids turn up their noses at vegetables … serve extra fruit. Many of the same vitamins and minerals are present in vegetables and fruit. 

A few tips for parents of picky eaters. 

Getting your picky eater to try new foods can be a daunting task. Surprisingly, it takes an average of 8 to 15 times of introducing a new food to entice kids to sample it. It may take even longer for them to actually acquire a taste for it. 

  • Always introduce a new food along with a favorite. 
  • Bribes don’t work: “Eat your broccoli and you can have dessert” only reinforces that what is on the plate is not as tasty as dessert. 
  • Don’t become a short-order cook. Prepare one meal only. If a child refuses to eat, older children can make themselves an appropriate alternative to the meal, such as a sandwich. 

Kids may never acquire a taste for certain foods, just as adults have food likes and dislikes. However, it is important to be consistent in offering a variety of foods, exposing children to new flavors and textures. 

Remember, make mealtime pleasant. Incorporate friendly conversation and do not overly focus on the food. It is never a good idea to force kids to eat. That will only lead to power struggles between parent and child. Children like routine. Eating at the same time every day may be beneficial. 

Bottom line: 

Encourage healthy choices in the grocery store, limit junk food, involve kids in the kitchen, and most important … remember you are their most influential role model. 

Smart Snacking

A good nutrition plan includes a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a couple of nutrient-packed snacks in between. If you’re going more than three or four hours between meals, try to grab a small snack to maintain decent energy levels. Eating frequently throughout the day is the best way to rev up the metabolism, as well. Here are a few suggestions on healthful snacks for you and your kids. Cheese: Deli slice of cheese or snack-size cheese. 

Whole wheat or peanut butter crackers: Top with low-fat cheese or peanut butter for added protein. For a different take on nachos, melt cheese on Triscuits or Triscuits Thins. 

Beef jerky: Dried, in bags, about one- quarter of a bag at a time. 

Nuts: About 15 cashews, almonds, peanuts or pistachios yields about 100 calories. 

Canned fruit: One cup, packed in juice (not syrup) with 1 ounce of cheese. Fresh fruit: Add a source of protein and/or fat with nuts, cheese, peanut butter. 

Baked chips with salsa: Top with a little 2 percent shredded cheddar for more protein. Also try a small bag (or about 10) Sun Chips. 

Fold-over sandwich: Whole wheat with turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken. Fun treats: 12 peanut M&M’s or one Fun Size candy bar (they have only 100 calories)! 

Smoothie King: Small Myoplex Light with a banana. 

Applesauce (Mott’s or Musslemans): Try a 1/2 to 1 cup of “no sugar added” applesauce with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or 1 ounce low-fat cheese. 

Yogurt (Blue Bunny Light or Carb Freedom): 1 cup with 1 tablespoon peanut butter. 

Smoothie: Take 1 cup of low fat (1 percent) or skim milk, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and one piece of fresh fruit: Mix in blender and serve. You may need to add extra water. Fresh cut-up veggies: Dip in low-fat ranch dressing, salsa or hummus. 

Fresh fruit dipped in yogurt: Greek yogurt is loaded with protein! Or try cottage cheese. 

Tortilla roll-up: Fill a wheat tortilla with peanut butter and sliced banana. Protein bar: Try one with at least 10 grams of protein and less than 10 grams of sugar.