I am the first to admit that I do not always eat the healthiest food. I applaud those who can stick to a regimented diet, but I cannot. Maybe because it’s not medically necessary for me to maintain a restrictive diet or maybe I just lack the will-power. Anyone who follows me on Instagram or Twitter knows that I made a chocolate, candy, peanut butter ice cream cake for my husband’s recent birthday. And I enjoyed every sinfully delicious bite of it.
Over the past year, my family has gradually adopted a healthier lifestyle and we do a decent job sticking with it. I like to use the word “lifestyle” instead of the word “diet” because eating healthy is more than dieting. From my experience, a diet comes and goes but a lifestyle is a part of your life. A healthy lifestyle for me is easier to maintain than any number of diets that I have tried (and failed).
Last summer, we joined an organic crop share that encouraged (almost forced) my family to switch our standard meals to better options. Our refrigerator over-flowed with kale, tomatoes, turnips, beans, onions, radishes, eggplants, cucumbers, and many more vegetables. With the amount of produce I received each week, I had no choice but to make more salads and more vegetable based meals. At first I worried the kids would not eat any of it. But they LOVED the fresh vegetables! Snack crackers were replaced with homemade Kale chips, sugar peas, berries, carrots and fresh peppers. I realized my kids liked eating healthy. Salad became a staple at our house for dinner. We experimented with adding different vegetables, meats, nuts, beans, eggs and/or cheese so it’s not the same salad on a daily basis. I can also personalize salads easily for the kids by adding extra toppings that they love or leave off something that is disliked. It works out really well for everyone and it is healthy!
Here are some tips that worked with my kids:
1. Chop up kale (I use a food processor) and add it to spaghetti sauce. Put the sauce with the chopped kale in a sauce pan and simmer it for about 20-30 minutes. You can also add chopped zucchini.
2. Thinly slice yellow squash and place in a cheese quesadilla. As you cook quesadilla, the squash becomes soft and blends into the cheese.
3. Add chopped spinach to Ricotta cheese and egg mix when making lasagna. And/or slice zucchini extremely thin and layer it into the lasagna.
4. Make soup. You can stash a lot of vegetables into soups and change the flavors with herbs and spices. Recently we tried chicken broth with garbanzo beans, minced garlic, onion powder, and I threw in chopped kale at the end. This simple crock pot recipe was delicious. You can spice that one up with red pepper flakes if you want an extra kick.
5. Substituting hummus for ranch dressing as a dip. Most kids like hummus.
6. Get Crunchy. Kids like to eat crunchy things. Kale Chips (rinse and dry kale, brush on vegetable oil, sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes) Sweet potato chips (melt coconut oil, brush onto thinly sliced sweet potatoes, squeeze lime on top with a little sea salt. Bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes). Plantain Chips (it works best before the plantain is ripe, slice thinly, brush melted coconut oil on them, and add sea salt. You could also squirt with lime if you want an extra flavor. Bake at 325 10-15 minutes)
7. Sometimes texture is the problem. My youngest flat out refuses to eat avocado. When I use avocado in recipes, I’ll typically keep it off her plate because she will refuse to eat the entire entrée if she can see it. Takes a few extra minutes of prep time, but it’s totally worth it.
8. Grow a garden or plant a few vegetable plants in pots. Kale and Sugar Peas are not a difficult plants to grow and both will grow in a large pot. The peas do require something to grow onto because they are vines. I planted the peas next to our screen in the garden and they grew up it. When kids help grow the food, they get another appreciation and are proud they helped. They also want to try the food they grew.
Do you have any tips that helped your family get on track for a healthier lifestyle? Please share with me in the comment section!