Getting your kids involved in the process of prepping food is a great way to introduce them to the basics of cooking, nutrition, and good eating habits. It can even help some kids overcome picky tendencies when it comes to foods being served to them. When my oldest daughter started developing the “I don’t like that” bug, my husband and I found it was really helpful to explain the nutritional benefit of the food(s) in question. Let’s use peas and carrots as an example of what we would say, “Peas are an amazing source of fiber and plant-based protein. Protein helps our bodies grow, develop and it also provides our bodies with energy to get us through the day. Carrots are heart healthy and loaded with beta-carotene and antioxidants. When we eat foods with antioxidants, our bodies are less likely to get sick.” It can be as basic or in-depth as you want to make it. Our daughter is four years old, so we keep it fairly basic and relatable.
The process of involving your kids can start from meal planning, grocery shopping and be followed up by some age appropriate help in the kitchen. My two girls are still young, so they mostly help measure, add ingredients to the blender, sprinkle seasonings, mold patties or cookies or stir ingredients together. As they grow the tasks can become more involved– chopping, stirring food on stove etc. We have seen great success with getting our picky eater to try new foods if she was involved in the process of preparing the meal.
I have found this to be extremely helpful as our daughter grows and finds herself in situations where she sees others eating foods, especially at school, that are less healthy than what she finds in her lunch box. Kids are born with a natural curiosity and desire to fit in with their peers. Because of these two factors we knew it was that much more important to give our daughter the knowledge she needs to make healthy and smart decisions when we aren’t around. We have open discussions about never making others feel badly about what they are eating, but stress the benefits of eating non-processed foods, only eating naturally colored foods and shying away from too much sugar.
Many families have made the pledge to pack a healthy lunchbox and are spreading the goodness of whole delicious foods. Check out the Power Your Lunchbox Pledge, and find ideas/tips and recipes to help you pack healthier school lunches for your little ones.
And here are three healthy meals to make with your kids. Even if it means they are the ones selecting what apples to buy at the store, or mixing the ingredients in a bowl while you chop and prepare the next step!
RASPBERRY APPLE BREAKFAST BAKE
4½ cups diced apples
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
⅓ cup + 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup quinoa; cooked
1 cup walnuts
4 tsp oat flour (or almond flour)
1 tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp ground ginger
⅛ tsp ground cloves
Juice of 1 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Wash and dice apples (I use this fruit and veggie chopper).
3. Fill large stock pot with water and bring to boil. Blanch diced apples for 45-60 seconds, drain from water and place in large mixing bowl.
4. Add ½ cup unsweetened applesauce, ½ cup walnuts, ⅓ cup pure maple syrup, cooked quinoa, oat or almond flour, cinnamon, ground ginger and ground cloves. Ask your little one to help you mix well!
5. Fold in raspberries and place into a 2-3 quart casserole dish.
6. Place 1 cup rolled oats into the mixing bowl, add remaining applesauce, maple and walnuts and mix. Option to add a dash or two of cinnamon to topping as well.
7. Before covering fruit filling with oats/nuts, squeeze juice from lemon evenly over the top.
8. Spoon out evenly over the crumble and press down to evenly cover top.
9. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until top layer is golden brown and fruit layer is slightly bubbly.
10. Let cool and serve!
Cooking tip: This bake can serve as a delicious dessert as well. Simply add a scoop of vanilla ice-cream for a healthy alternative to a fruit crumble!
Serves: 4; 6 fries per serving
1 tube organic polenta
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Himalayan salt to taste
Garlic powder (optional)
1. Slice polenta in half lengthwise, then slice each half one more time lengthwise again.
2. Then take the 4 halves and slice each half into 3 fries (see photo below).
3. When all cuts have been made, your yield will be 24 fries.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a cast iron skillet, set heat to medium low and let oil heat for about five minutes before placing fries into oil.
5. Place fries in oil and let cook for about two minutes on all sides, rotating with tongs or kitchen tool of choice.
6. While fries are cooking on the stove, preheat oven to 375°F.
7. Once fries are finished cooking for two minutes on each side on stove–take cast iron skillet and place in oven. Cook for 15 minutes, then take out and rotate once more and cook again for another 15 to 20 minutes.
8. Remove from skillet and please onto a cookie sheet to cool for about 5 minutes.
9. Then add nutritional yeast and Himalayan salt by sprinkling desired amount over fries and tossing with tongs or fingers to evenly distribute flavor.
10. Serve while hot!
Cooking tip: For best results, place polenta in fridge for at least 30 minutes prior to cutting.
These fries are best consumed within a day of cooking. They can be reheated but don’t taste as good as when they are fresh out of the oven!
BLACK BEAN BURGERS
Serves: 4 regular burgers or 8 sliders
2¾ cups black beans; cooked
1/4 cup almonds
1/8 cup rolled oats
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red onion; diced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2½ Tbsp coconut oil; melted
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
Himalayan salt to taste
Burger buns; regular or mini (slider) size
1. Dice red onions and garlic, add to a pan with a drizzle of coconut oil and sauté until lightly golden. Set aside.
2. Place almonds, rolled oats and nutritional yeast into a small food processor or blender and blend all ingredients into a powder/flour.
3. Add in black beans to food processor with cooked onion and garlic, Dijon mustard and melted coconut oil- pulse until combined. Mixture should be slightly chunky.
4. Taste, and if needed, add in any additional seasoning + Himalayan salt to taste.
5. Get your kids in on the fun and mold bean mixture into 8 even patties.
6. Cook on stove top or griddle at medium-high heat, flipping patties occasionally to ensure even cooking- total cook time is about 10-12 minutes.
7. Toast burger buns and add toppings to your liking (suggested: onion; grilled or raw, arugula, pickle, tomato, avocado, condiment(s) of choice.
– By Hailee Fleming of Cuckoo Kitchn
Take the Power Your Lunchbox Pledge to eat a healthier lunch and grab money-saving coupons! For every pledge taken, our partners will make a collective $1 donation to Feeding America® to provide 11 meals to families in need.
Have you made any of these recipes? Share your notes with others!