Eating Right for the Whole Family

Whole-foods versions of old favorites and new techniques for introducing healthy foods

The age-old dreaded question: what are we having for dinner tonight?

If we buy into what the junk food industry tells us, we don’t have time to cook a healthy, dinner. Healthy foods are expensive and no one in the family likes them anyway. Better find something quick and easy that will fill the voids in our bellies so we can get on to other things. Better find something that won’t be a struggle and that everyone likes. Like pizza. Or Mac n Cheese. Or Subway. Actually, Subway’s healthy, right?

As informed consumers, we know that everything the food industry tells us is for the purposes of selling us their products. We have all fallen pray to the false notion that cooking healthy meals should be at the BOTTOM of our list of things to do, rather than our first priority. In the busy lives that we set up for ourselves, it is far too easy (and encouraged) to fall into bad habits around meal times. Bad habits lead to poor nutrition, poor nutrition leads to poor health, poor health leads to lots of sickness, lots of sickness leads to many doctor’s visits and medications. As consumers of both junk food and healthcare, we fuel this for-profit machine that is growing larger and larger. Its time to reverse this trend and reclaim our health. Its time to get back in the kitchen and take pride in preparing healthy meals for ourselves and our families.

When we think about what’s for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch, or snacks), we want to consider the following checklist:
Is there a source of protein?
Is there any roughage?
Is there any fat?
If there are starchy carbohydrates, are they well balanced?

Protein, fiber and fat are the nutrients that are actually necessary to sustain the biochemical reactions that keep us going during the day and allow us to build healthy tissues. Carbohydrates make up the base of most meals consumed in the United States and are usually in an unbalanced state. Large amounts of flour and sugar have the effect of spiking our blood sugar and over time lead to fat storage and over-secretion of insulin and lead to the pathologies of obesity, Diabetes and cardiovascular disease that affect up to 50% of American adults and children. When a carbohydrate is balanced, it is in whole grain form (think brown rice and steel-cut oats) and is consumed with some protein, fat and fiber to balance it.


Strategies for introducing whole foods to picky eaters:

Make healthy versions of old favorites:

The Paleo Mom chicken fingers we are having today are a great example of how to put the nutrition back into an unhealthy standard. As a rule, all people who eat meat like chicken fingers and this is a go-to staple for the majority of kids. In this re-invented recipe, the usual refined white-flour breading is substituted with egg and almond-flour mixed with sea salt and garlic powder for flavor and are baked instead of deep-fried.

Paleo chicken-fingers, adopted from the Paleo Mom
1 lb chicken tenders
1 egg
1 cup almond flour
salt, pepper, garlic powder and other spices to taste
olive oil
optional: parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 F
Line a large cookie sheet with unbleached parchment paper, drizzle parchment paper with olive oil
Beat the egg in a shallow bowl
Mix the flour, spices and optional cheese in another shallow bowl
Dry the chicken tenders with a paper towel, dip each in egg until coated, then in the almond flour mixture until coated
Repeat until all tenders are coated, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25-30 minutes, turning once

Include recognizable foods in new places:

Today we are using a peanut sauce and a Quinoa salad to demonstrate this concept.

Peanut butter is another kid favorite and if there are no major digestive disorders or allergies present, natural peanut butter is a good way to get some fat and protein into kids and also to convince them to try new things. This peanut sauce can be used for dipping (as with chicken fingers) or over new forms of noodles (like zoodles, or zucchini noodles).

5-minute peanut sauce
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 8-ounce can coconut milk
¼ cup wheat-free tamari (or if soy allergy present, sub 1 tsp sea salt)
1/3 cup lime juice
¼ cup coconut nectar or honey
optional spices: ginger, garlic powder, red pepper flakes

Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until a smooth consistency is achieved

Festive Quinoa Salad:

Quinoa is a spectacular whole grain that contains tons of protein, vitamins and minerals. The brown version tends to have a nuttier taste and is more appealing to sensitive taste buds. This recipe includes dried cranberries and feta cheese for recognize-able flavors.

2 cups brown quinoa
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup dried naturally-sweetened cranberries
¼ cup minced red onion
½ cup minced curly parsely
1 cup crumbled or diced feta cheese
1 cup pecans (not included in this preparation)

½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Bring 2 cups water and 2 cups broth to a boil
Add quinoa, wait until a second boil is achieved, then reduce heat to low and simmer (covered) for 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the ingredients
Once the quinoa is ready, put it in a wide bowl and allow to cool
Add the other ingredients and toss with the dressing


Play with your food

Whether we are cooking for ourselves or ourselves and a family as well, recipes that are fun to make will always stick around. Our massaged kale salad that we are demo’ing today is a great example

Massaged Kale Salad, adapted from Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family”
One large bunch kale, washed, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tsps coarsely-grated salt
Juice of one large lemon
1 large tomato, diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 cup sunflower seeds, pan-toasted and salted
Optional: parmesan cheese to taste

Place kale in a large bowl
Add lemon juice, olive oil and salt
“Massage” until fibers of kale are broken down into an edible state
Add the remaining ingredients and toss

Take away messages:

Taking the time to shop for and cook whole-foods based meals is possible if we make it possible and has its own reward of creating and maintaining a healthy body

Re-invent old favorites, use recognize-able staples, make cooking-time fun and most-importantly EDUCATE yourself and your family about WHY you are putting more thought and love into your kitchen creations.