Give Your Children the Gift of Cooking! (And Never Pay a Penny)

By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

Today my twenty-three-year-old son moved to a new city eight hundred miles away for a

job opportunity. As a typical mother, I am going to worry about him adjusting well and

meeting friendly people, along with a dozen other unnecessary concerns. However, I will

never have to worry about whether or not he eats healthfully.

Without expensive lessons or significant input from me, my son learned to cook so well

that when he is home, our kitchen looks and smells like a five-star restaurant. My

college-aged vegetarian daughter also prepares meals for herself, such as soups and stir-

fry dishes that include tofu and vegetables.

While these culinary family moments make me feel proud, if I could do it all again, I

would teach my children how to cook for themselves at a young age. Cooking is an

important life skill that promotes independence, responsibility, and frugality (since it’s

less expensive than eating out every meal). Add to that knowledge about proper nutrition

and healthy eating and you have passed on a gift to your children that they will always

appreciate!

 Here are some important cooking and life skills that your child would benefit from

learning as it becomes age-appropriate:

  • Sanitation and food safety: Teach your child the importance of washing hands as

well as surfaces before and after meal preparation

  • Food quantities and measurement: Involve your child in using math and reasoning

skills as he/she figures out proportions in recipes

  • Cutting fruits and vegetables: Help your child improve manual dexterity as he/she

progresses from plastic utensils to regular knife skills

  • Respect kitchen dangers: Show your child how to respect hidden dangers in the

kitchen, including sharp knives, flames, and electricity

  • Menu planning: Involve your child in planning meals ahead of time as well as

cooking them, and watch him/her be receptive to trying new recipes

  • Research: Look for new recipes online, in cookbooks, or in magazines
  • Communication: Enjoy the closeness that only shared activities can bring!

 

Part of teaching your children how to cook is the skill of following recipes and the

excitement of creating new meal ideas. Here are two dishes my children learned to cook

on their own—without my assistance or input.

 

Tofu Stir-Fry Rebecca Style

Ingredients

1 package extra firm tofu

½ medium yellow onion

1 cup fresh broccoli

1 large red pepper

2 cups spinach leaves

2 tbsp. reduced sodium teriyaki sauce

1 ½ tbsp. sesame oil (or canola)

 

1.  Start by pressing the water out of the tofu. Place it between paper towels and put a heavy

pot or book atop the tofu. Leave for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables

into bite-size pieces.

2.   Slice the tofu into even squares and sauté in 1 tbsp. sesame oil over medium heat for

about 2–3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan. Sauté vegetables in ½

tbsp. oil, add tofu and teriyaki sauce, and simmer for one more minute.  Enjoy!

Robby’s Rockin’ Turkey Chili

Ingredients

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, diced

6 jalapeno peppers, diced (optional)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb. fresh ground turkey

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp. cumin

5 tbsp. chili powder

salt

pepper

1 16 oz. can black beans

1 16 oz. can pinto beans

 

1. Sauté diced onion, jalapeno, and minced garlic in oil until soft.

2. Add turkey and cook turkey until brown.

3. Add some chili pepper, cumin, and salt.

4. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.

5. Add more spices. Add black beans and pinto beans and bring from a boil to low heat.

6. Add more spices; simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

7. Serve hot with cheese, sour cream, and/or scallions. Bon appetit!

 

Having your children learn how to cook healthy and delicious meals offers one more

important benefit—you will have less worry as they learn to navigate the ups and downs

of adult living. I will always be assured that my kids are eating healthfully.

What we Learned at “Thinking Outside the Lunchbox”

By Nutrition Student, Deanna Ronne and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services

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Are you at a loss when it comes to creative kid friendly food? Well, Dishing with the Media gave Mom Dishes it Out some fabulous new recipe ideas! We attended the “Thinking Outside the Lunchbox” event in SoHo a few weeks ago, kid’s cooking expert and professional chef, Cricket, along with 15 year old Season One winner of MasterChef Jr., Chef Alexander Weiss, introduced us to some fabulous recipes and parenting strategies. They shared ways to incorporate nutritious foods into more common kid-friendly recipes, and some new recipes for them to try! Most importantly they shared helpful ways to get kids, as young as 2 years old, excited about helping in the kitchen!

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The event began with samples of a refreshing green smoothie, “Nutribullet University Blast #2”, a delicious and nutritious summer snack for you and your kids. Even if you are dealing with picky eaters, you can show them how great it tastes by drinking it yourself! Cricket reminded us that the best way to promote healthy habits is to model eating behaviors yourself.

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Another great way to include unfamiliar foods in your kid’s diet is to incorporate them in recipes they are familiar with. Cricket and Alexander introduced us to two creative recipes using foods kids know and love with others they might be less comfortable with. Cricket’s “Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese Cups” are the perfect way to sneak some veggies into a delicious bite of mac and cheese. They are fun to eat and easy to pack in a lunch box! You can even individually wrap them to freeze and use later on.

Tip from Cricket: Try cooking the broccoli in the same pot as the pasta (add it a few minutes after the pasta) to reduce dishes!

Chef Alexander uses a similar approach with his “Tofu Bao”, a recipe he created to mimic the Pork Sticky Buns many of us know and love. Instead of using pork belly however, he replaces it with tofu to create this tasty and easily packed lunch option.

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Chef Alexander explained how tofu is available in many varieties types of firmness, pre-baked, cubed, etc.  For those of you unfamiliar with tofu, it is a low calorie, high protein, soy-based product that can be used to replace protein and vegetables in many common dishes. Soft tofu can be blended and used to replace eggs in many recipes to make them healthier. (He advises not to use it in baking as it will make the desert too dense.) Because it is used to replace meat in this recipe, Chef Alexander recommends using a firm variety and to blot it to remove excess water before cooking. He also recommends a non-stick pan for searing tofu in his savory marinade. This sweet and salty dish was one definitely our favorite- delicious!

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Another one of our favorite recipes from this event is “Libby’s Veggie Confetti Dip.” It’s a great afterschool snack including a vegetable, protein, and dairy. Cricket showed us how Libby’s vegetable cups can be used to make a tasty dip using only a few simple ingredients: a microwavable Libby’s vegetable cup, yogurt, raisins, and herbs. During her demonstration, Cricket stressed the importance of getting kids involved in the kitchen and turning into a learning experience. Both Chefs agreed that “everyone can cook” so give your kids a task they can complete; an 8 year old can read the recipe out loud and measure ingredients, a 4 year old can use a plastic or butter knife, and even a two year old can help by tearing the herbs! Cricket believes that the more kids are involved in preparation, the more they will want to try the food. She also reminded us to give children “choice within your boundaries” by letting them choose the type of Libby’s vegetable cup!

Tip: This dip goes great with crackers, salmon, grilled chicken, burgers, and can also be blended in a Nutribullet to make a sauce.

We are so excited to get our very own Nutribullet and to recreate these recipes ourselves! All recipes from this event can be found here!

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

There’s nothing much better for breakfast than a hot fluffy muffin right out of the oven. The only thing that can make it better, is baking them with your children! With Mother’s Day coming this Sunday, we wanted to help you get the day off to a fun start with family time in the kitchen. For a twist, top each muffin with a dried banana chip for that extra special touch.  We’re sure that everyone will love these Whole Wheat Banana Muffins.

 

Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light
Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light

 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 dried banana chips, optional

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F; mist a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper or foil liners. In a large bowl, combine both types of flour with baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix bananas with eggs, sugar, milk, butter and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Fold banana mixture into flour mixture just until combined and batter forms; do not overmix.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin cups; place a banana chip on top of each one, if desired. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

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*The original post for this recipe can be found here.

 

 

 

 

A Conversation with Kia Robertson from "Today I Ate a Rainbow"

A Conversation with Kia Robertson from “Today I Ate a Rainbow”

Early last week, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with founder and president of Today I Ate a Rainbow, Kia Robertson. Today I Ate a Rainbow is an interactive program, developed by Robertson, working to increase daily consumption of fruits and vegetables by encouraging children—and parents—to attempt to consume a full rainbow daily.

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Here is some of our conversation:

 

LC: First, why don’t you tell me a little bit about your philosophy at Today I Ate a Rainbow?

 

KR: Our main goal is to help parents set healthy eating habits for kids. Healthy eating is this big idea and everybody has their own opinion, so we decided to focus in on just fruits and veggies—that is one thing we know that everybody needs. And, let’s be honest, most of us are not meeting the daily requirements—especially our kiddos. We really want to make it fun and easy. So the concept of a rainbow, thinking of the colors, is so simple. Even for little two year olds to grasp. We made it really basic.

 

I started out doing this for my own daughter when she was four years old. We started doing chore charts, and she loved it—and I love charts—and so we just whipped one together to see how many colors we were eating. I had just come across a little text somewhere saying that kids should be eating a variety of colors, and I had never thought about it like that before. We quickly discovered that she was eating a lot of green and orange, but that was about it. It was a really great eye-opening thing for our whole family to start tracking what colors we were eating; and Hannah, being four, was all of sudden saying, “Mommy, I need some bananas. I need to get my yellow!” or “Blueberries so I can get my purple!” It was so cool to see a little kid taking interest and ownership. So that’s how it all started and we really feel like its something simple, because parents are so busy, we want to put something out there that is quick and easy for parents and for the kids.

 

LC: A lot of what you talk about it taking “ownership” and “responsibility” over your body as a child. Can you say more about that?

 

KR: Yes! Usually, [kids] are just going to eat what is put in front of them. They don’t usually have that active role in, say, going out and picking the food at the store or farmers market or deciding together “what should we eat.” Whereas, when we are thinking about the rainbow and the rainbow chart, it really gets everybody thinking about it. I’ve heard from so many parents where they are just like, “My kid is asking for things. This is so weird!” It’s such a strange thing, especially with little ones when they say, “Oh, I need an apple!”

 

The earlier we can get kids understanding [the importance] of eating these fruits and vegetables and that it feels so good and makes them feel strong and helps them to be smarter—whatever it is—the better; because it is harder to create those habits, or try and recreate habit, as an adult. So setting them when they are really young, I think is fabulous. And connecting the dots for them that the food they eat is going to impact the way they feel and how they go about their day.

 

LC: As a parent, have you seen any differences in your diet since starting Today I Ate a Rainbow with your daughter?

 

KR: Oh, yes! Personally, just to give you a little backstory, I was a super picky eater my whole life. As a kid, I would pick out carrots in the carrot cake—I was dedicated to not eating vegetables at all. So, when Hannah came along, I really didn’t want her to go through the picky eater struggles because it’s actually very hard and socially limiting because you don’t want to go to new restaurants, and it’s stressful to go to other people’s houses because you don’t know what they are going to serve.

 

Being a recovering picky eater, I honestly have a hard time getting all my colors if I don’t do a smoothie. Because it is still not something that is natural for me to do—to just grab an apple or a piece of celery. Whereas, for my daughter, who has grown up with this, it is such a normal thing, and it’s so easy for her that in just two meals a day her chart is filled! It’s such a simple thing for her!

 

It has really improved my diet a lot because when you have the chart up and you have one magnet and your kid has five already… it’s a little embarrassing! Let’s be real. The competitive side of me is like, “Oh! I need to get some more colors in!” And the really cool thing is, with all these colds going around, we rarely get sick anymore; eating all these fruits and vegetables have just boosted our immune system so much. There have been benefits for the whole family.

 

LC: Would you say, and I think I know the answer to this one, that your daughter is a more fearless eater than you are?

 

KR: Oh, absolutely, yes. Her attitude, just a willingness to try, is so good and just so much better than mine. She totally is. One time, we were with our good friends and they offered Hannah some octopus. [She ate it!] And there is no way I would, even now. Not happening.

 

LC: There are a lot of resources on your site for parents. Do you have any tips or advice for emphasizing positive change to your child when you’re exhausted, and tired, and at the end of a long day and just at your wits’ end?

 

KR: Just to go with really small steps. Ridiculously small steps that seem silly. It’s a slow process; don’t expect them to go from picky to adventurous right away. It takes a lot of time and patience. If they are willing to have that grain of rice or that half of a pea, celebrate that because one day, they are going to eat a lot more.

 

There are going to be some foods that people just don’t like – and that has to be alright. But what we have learned is that a lot of dislike comes down to texture. It’s easy to give up because it’s hard and its frustrating to make something for your kid and they don’t like it—especially if they reject it over and over again, you kind of start to take it personally. Studies show that it takes at least ten times to try something before they accumulate a taste for a new food.

 

LC: You spoke about texture and how that is a trigger for a lot of people. What are some other food sensitivities that you see with kids?

 

KR: Visually, they will just refuse to eat something if it doesn’t look good. Or if it’s green, in a lot of cases. I don’t know what it is about that color, but a lot of kids are just not into it.

 

If you look at it sensory wise; the way things look make a difference, the way things smell, that’s a really big thing. If you look at it from the perspective of sensors, that can be helpful when trying to feed a picky eater. You can see, based on the sense, what may be triggering it for them.

 

LC: You also say on your site not to overdo it, in terms of modifying a food. What would be a good example of this?

 

KR: I always suggest breaking it down. If eating a rainbow in a day is too much or too overwhelming, make it a rainbow a week. A color a day!

 

We don’t want to vilify food, that “good” and “bad” stuff – kids can really play into that. It’s more about asking how it makes you feel and not so much about what the food is. I think parents have so much on their plate already that adding that extra stress of “my kid isn’t eating right” is so hard, and it’s such an emotional thing – feeding our kids.

 

LC: It sounds like patience is a huge factor here.

 

KR: Yes, absolutely. Patience is huge. And persevering. You know, don’t give up. Don’t give up on your kids.

 

 

 

 

For more information, or to contact Kia and the Today I Ate a Rainbow team, check out their website at todayiatearainbow.com.

 

Also, stay tuned for the exciting new Eat a Rainbow project coming out of the Today I Ate a Rainbow offices. It is an integrative program connecting teachers and parents, the two biggest role models our kids have, to get one another on the same page while encouraging healthy eating habits!

Chewy Coconut Granola Bars

We know how hard it can sometimes be to please the palates of your kids.  Sometimes thinking of a new recipe to make for your kids can be put on the back burner because of other things that might come up.   Luckily, we have asked our friends at Cooking Light for some inspiration.  Their Chewy Coconut Granola Bars are a fantastic recipe.  It’s a new and refreshing recipe and you can even get your little chefs baking with you in the kitchen!

Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light
Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light

Ingredients

Cooking spray

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)

1.6 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons fat-free milk

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups whole-grain granola

3/4 cup chopped dried mixed tropical fruit

1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Coat a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour.
  3. Weigh or lightly spoon 3 ounces all-purpose flour and 1.6 ounces whole-wheat flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine sugar, oil, milk, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in granola and fruit. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with coconut.
  4. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

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Easter Egg Cookies

Easter is only 10 days a way!  Besides your traditional Easter egg hunt and dying of Easter eggs, what do you have planned?  Have you ever thought about starting a new tradition with your family in the kitchen?  Don’t just create Easter eggs with your family this Easter, establish the new custom of designing your own Easter egg cookies!  Let your imagine go wild with the unique designs and vibrant colors of spring.  Share your creations with us on Facebook or Twitter!

 

Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light
Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light

Ingredients:

Cookie:

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour (about 6 ½ ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
Icing:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Food Coloring Optional

 

Preparation:

1. To prepare cookies, spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

2. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla and egg. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

3. Place dough between two sheets of plastic wrap. Roll dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Chill 1 hour.

4. Preheat oven to 375°F.

5. Cut dough with a 2 ¼ inch egg-shaped cutter. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375°F for 8 minutes or until edges of cookies are browned. Cool cookies 1 minute on pan. Remove cookies from parchment; cool completely on a wire rack.

6. To prepare icing, combine powdered sugar, milk, and ¼ teaspoon vanilla; stir until smooth. Add food coloring, if desired. Stir well. Spread or pipe icing onto cookies.

The recipe and photo used in this post were courtesy of Cooking Light. To see the originally posted recipe please click here.

Scheherazade Casserole

In the midst of figuring out my nutrition beliefs, I went from picky eater to vegetarian to vegan to omnivore.  While vegetarian and vegan, my two favorite cookbooks were “A Celebration of Wellness – A Cookbook for Vibrant Living” and “Moosewood Cookbook”.  I wanted to share with you what remains one of my favorite recipes from Moosewood Cookbook.  Scheherazade Casserole is a delicious recipe, which includes bulgur, onions, bell peppers, and soybeans (just to name a few ingredients).  I hope you enjoy this satisfying dish just as much as I do!  Maybe it will become one of your favorites too!

 

Photo Credit: Emily Barney via Compfight cc

 

Scheherazade Casserole

Makes 6-8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw bulgur
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups minced onion
  • 3 larges cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons basil
  • black pepper and cayenne to taste
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • ¾ cup dry soybeans, soaked
  • 1 14 ½ oz. can tomatoes, drained
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup (packed) finely minced parsley
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups crumbled feta cheese

 

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Lightly oil a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
  2. Place the bulgur in a small bowl.  Add boiling water, cover with a plate, and stand at least 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add onion, garlic, salt, and seasonings.  Stir occasionally as you sauté over medium heat for 5-8 minutes.  Add bell pepper and sauté about 5 minutes more.
  4. Drain the soybeans, if necessary, and place them in a blender or food processor with 1 cup fresh water.  Grind until the soybeans resemble a coarse batter.   Transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Add the soaked bulgur and sautéed vegetables to the soybeans,  Stir in the tomatoes,  breaking them up into bite-sized pieces.  Add tomato paste, the parsley, and 1 cup of the feta cheese.  Mix well.
  6. Spread into the baking pan and sprinkle the remaining feta chees on top.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 375°F, then uncover and bake 15 minutes more with the oven turned down to 350°F.  Serve hot.

 

 

Expanding Kids' Autonomy with Food

Expanding Kids’ Autonomy with Food

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

Photo Credit: Tetra Pak via Compfight cc

 

Parenting is all about guiding, providing, teaching with unconditional love.  And it’s also about allowing our kids the space to try, explore and figure things out so that they can eventually trust themselves to make supportive choices.  Not only these overall developmental themes, they are also completely relevant as kids personalize their own relationship with food, eating and connection with their bodies.  When our children are young, we are the gatekeepers of the food:  providing, preparing and presenting it in a reliable, and consistent manner 1.  And while we may still be paying the grocery bills and answering the age-old  question, “What’s for dinner?!” as long as our children are under our roofs , our kids pretty quickly begin to practice more and more independence and autonomy with their food.  Imagine, if you were still cutting your 15 year olds steak at the dinner table!  That seems ridiculous, yet we want to make certain that we are also giving our kids the space to explore and take charge in other ways with their eating experiences.  Particularly as our children explore the middle- and high-school years, there are endless opportunities for us to give them room to make more of their own food decisions.

Give suggestions not solutions

Our hormonal little teddy bears (often disguised as grizzly bears), typically don’t respond well when we try to solve things for them.  They may ASK us for the answers, but they really want to be able to make their own decisions, and yet know they need some input from us.

Instead of“Why don’t you ever eat breakfast in the morning? “

Try“I notice you’ve been talking a lot about how tired you are, is there anything you think might make getting up less brutal?” .   Then, rather than firing off 5 things you know would work, simply ask if he would like some suggestions.  Not only does this give you an opening to discuss simple breakfasts that can be ready crazy fast and keep his energy up, it also gives you some space to discuss time management and ways the family can work together to support each other.

Capture teachable moments

We may be acutely aware that certain patterns aren’t working well for our kids.  An extremely common pitfall is the post-school slump.  Not only do our kids come home worn out from thinking, they’re also really, really hungry.  Getting them to connect how the first half of their day plays a role in the second half is a really big deal.

Instead of:  “How come you’re raiding the pantry the second you walk in the door?” which is not only shaming, it completely cuts off communication.

Try:  “I’m not going to bombard you with questions since you seem like you don’t want to talk right now.  Do you need any help putting together a snack?”  Then once she has some food in her system, you might explore the timing of lunch and foods she could add to it or to breakfast to keep hunger from building to the tipping point after school.   Discussing food or patterns that aren’t quite helpful will NOT go well, if her brain is irritable and famished.

Give options and reinforce you trust them

If you have a child who struggles to make her own decisions, or turns to you for permission, practice turning the question back on her.  Remembering that there is no perfect eating choice can really take the pressure off.  If she asks, “Mom, can I eat something else?”….

Instead of:  And absolute “yes” or “no”

Try:  “You’re the best one to know if you’re still hungry, so go ahead and listen to what your body’s asking for.  There is absolutely more food, so help yourself.”

Photo Credit: adwriter via Compfight cc

Get curious

Encourage your kids to take an attitude of curiosity.   Since we know that calling foods good or bad creates an onslaught of judgment and distorted eating, it’s helpful to teach them to explore what’s working for them or not so much.  This can include them choosing a different / new food from the grocery store or getting curious about how long a bowl of cereal satisfies after breakfast, and how that’s different than eating an egg sandwich.  Their first-hand experience is priceless and will speak volumes over our well-intended lectures.  And this experience is precisely what helps them launch as well-adjusted, balanced and connected young adults.

1.  Division of Responsibilities, Ellyn Satter, RD

Greek Turkey Burgers

Are you day dreaming of warmer weather?  If you are, we have the perfect recipe for you.  This is one of our favorites.  Put a new spin on Turkey Burgers with Dill Yogurt Dipping Sauce.  It’s a great way to get your kids to try new foods and an even better way to get your family to sit down for dinner together!

Photo Credit: amesis via Compfight cc

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, minced (optional)

Serve with dill yogurt sauce:

  • I cup fage yogurt
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh minced dill
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

 

 Method:

  1.  Mix ground turkey, chick peas, fresh spinach, crumbled feta, salt, pepper, oregano, ground cumin, and fresh dill.
  2. Shape into patties.
  3. Cook in 1 tbsp olive oil on med-high heat for about 20 min, flipping half way.

 

Something More Than Fish

 

Charlie tells his younger sister: “These are not fish sticks. These are ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea—mermaids eat them all of the time.”

—I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

As you know, I’m not perfect. Rather, I’m the real deal! I am the dietitian with the picky kids. My children definitely give me much practice about what I preach. And then, thank goodness, there are other times. I continue on this long journey of exposing my children to foods and trying my best to allow them to develop positive relationships with eating and neutral relationships with food. Mind you, this is no easy task. It’s a difficult balancing act. 

Our latest feat was fish sticks. Just remember that when we talk about fish sticks, we are really referring to something of a metaphor for life. Read on to learn more.

My youngest son Billy has been picky and often frustrating about food since the day he was born. At one point he loved Dr. Praeger’s Fish Sticks; he would eat four or five of them in one sitting. Billy’s enjoyment was of brief duration and he never seemed ready to reincorporate these ocean nibbles onto his personal “I really like this!” list despite our best efforts. Well, for some reason, this week was different. Once again, we offered fish sticks to Billy. To be exact, I made both boys fish sticks—a very child-friendly food—and put them on their dinner plates. However, I put only one fish stick on Billy’s plate. My husband and I were eating kale salad, herbed pork tenderloin and roasted potatoes. I know the boys won’t eat this dinner and I don’t make a big deal about it. This frustrates my husband, especially as the boys get older. However, when we push, like I did with the sweet potato puree (Read my recent blog, The Imperfect Food Mom), the boys push back.

In recent months, I’ve seen Billy eat a fish stick. I’ve actually seen him gobble it down! I can’t remember the specific circumstances around that particular meal. The one thing I realized was that he’s been playing us with the darn fish sticks. The way he scarfed down that fish stick made it clear that he really likes the taste or, at least, doesn’t mind the taste. Lately, I’ve been telling the boys how important it is to try new things whether they are sports activities or different foods. I have also been telling them: “You don’t need to eat your favorite foods every night. Mommy and Daddy sometimes make a meal that we don’t particularly enjoy, but we eat it anyway. Every meal doesn’t have to taste great. We just need to get nutrition from eating it. Eating our favorite meals happens just some of the time.”

So Billy looked down at his fish stick and immediately said: “I don’t like fish sticks.” I don’t recall my exact response at that moment, but by the end of our conversation, Billy was expressing his desire for Smart Puffs. (Note: I’m not a fan of Smart Puffs, but I do buy them on occasion because Billy is!) So I clearly told him: “You need to eat something with nutrition. You need to meet your body’s needs for growing. You can have Smart Puffs, but you haven’t eaten enough protein today.” As you might imagine, the little gamer asked: “Can I have some Smart Puffs if I eat my fish stick?” Well, of course! And he did. He happily ate his fish stick and then his Smart Puffs.

The next night we found ourselves with the same situation. This time, however, I put two fish sticks on Billy’s plate. He asked for his Smart Puffs and he got them after eating one and then the other fish stick. Please understand that this was not a food reward. I was not rewarding Billy for eating his fish stick. Rather, I was letting him know it’s okay to have all foods some of the time. You can eat foods lower in nutrition but not at the sacrifice/cost of a more nutritious food when growing…or just on a regular basis. 

After two consecutive nights of fish sticks, Billy asked if he could have fish sticks every other night rather than every night. Sure he can. I wasn’t planning to put fish sticks on his plate every night or even every other night. But since he thought I was—and he now thinks he made the decision about when to have them—I went with it!

I realize fish sticks are not the most nutritious nor desirable food one would want their children to eat. But when you have a picky eater, you must start somewhere. Knowing whether your child is playing you, knowing when to push, and knowing when a child is truly revolted by a food is a hard task to tackle. I choose to walk this line very carefully…and without any rush factor. I choose to do so because I clearly see the negative effects of creating power struggles around food between parents and children in my office. I successfully used this approach with my oldest son Bobby. He has become the best intuitive eater—slowly but surely reincorporating familiar foods and trying new foods almost daily now that he has turned six.

I do believe in the process of food exposure and sometimes even giving a little push. I remember my personal pickiness when I was a child. I actually think my vegetarianism and then veganism in high school and college were in part to send a direct message to my family. My message said: “You made me eat meat…and I didn’t like it!” It also said I am different from you because I eat different foods than you. The same things happen with my clients. I have teenagers either refusing to eat anything at all, or eating only certain foods. And they’re doing this partly to control their parents or get their attention. 

I don’t want to have power struggles about food with my children, so perhaps I am a bit more relaxed with food than others would think. As a parent, this is your decision too. Just recognize that feeding and eating isn’t simply a straight forward matter. Ultimately, it’s how individuals identify, label and communicate their inner selves to the world. This is the metaphor: What happens with food typically represents what’s happening with life at that time!