Eating Right for The Whole Family

Whole-foods versions of old family favorites & new techniques for introducing healthy foods.

The age-old dreaded question, what’s 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 and Cheese. Or Subway. Actually, Subway’s healthy, right?

As informed consumers, we know that everything the food industry tells us is to sell us their products. We have all fallen prey to the false notion that cooking healthy meals should be at the BOTTOM of our list of things to do rather than our priority. In the busy lives that we set up for ourselves, it is far too easy and encouraged to fall into bad habits around mealtimes.

Bad habits lead to poor nutrition. Poor nutrition leads to poor health. Poor health leads to lots of sicknesses. Lots of sicknesses lead to many doctor’s visits and medications.

As consumers of both junk food and healthcare, we fuel this for-profit machine growing larger and larger. It’s time to reverse this trend and reclaim our health. It’s time to get back in the kitchen and take pride in preparing healthy meals for ourselves and our family.

When thinking about what’s for dinner, consider this 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 nutrients necessary to sustain the biochemical reactions that keep us going during the day and build healthy tissues. Carbohydrates make up the base of most meals consumed in the United States. They are usually in an unbalanced state.

Large amounts of flour and sugar have the effect of spiking our blood sugar. Over time, they lead to fat storage, over-secretion of insulin, and the pathologies of obesity. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease affect up to 50% of Americans. 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.

Introducing Whole Foods to Picky Eaters:

Make healthy versions of old family favorites.

The Paleo Mom chicken fingers we have today are a great example of putting the nutrition back into an unhealthy standard. As a rule, all people who eat meat like chicken fingers. 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 almond flour mixed with sea salt and garlic powder for flavor. They are baked instead of deep-fried.

Paleo Chicken Fingers, from the Paleo Mom

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. chicken tenders
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and other spices to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Line a large cookie sheet with unbleached parchment paper, drizzle parchment paper with olive oil.
  3. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl.
  4. Mix the flour, spices, and optional cheese in another shallow bowl.
  5. Dry the chicken tenders with a paper towel, dip each in egg until coated, then in the almond flour mixture until coated.
  6. 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. 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 to convince them to try new things. This peanut sauce can be used for dipping (with chicken fingers) or over new forms of noodles (like zoodles or zucchini noodles).

5-Minute Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 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

Directions

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 recognizable flavors.

Ingredients

  • 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 parsley
  • 1 cup crumbled or diced feta cheese
  • 1 cup pecans, not included in this preparation

Dressing

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

Directions

  1. Bring 2 cups water and 2 cups broth to a boil.
  2. Add quinoa. Wait until a second boil is achieved.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
  4. Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the ingredients.
  5. Once the quinoa is ready, put it in a wide bowl and allow it to cool.
  6. Add the other ingredients and toss with the dressing.

Play with Your Food

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

Massaged Kale Salad, from Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family.”

Ingredients:

  • One large bunch of kale washed, stems removed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. 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

Directions:

  1. Place kale in a large bowl.
  2. Add lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.
  3. “Massage” until fibers of kale are broken down into an edible state.
  4. 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. It 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 your family about WHY you are putting more thought into your kitchen creations.