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Part 3: Cooking Kids Love Food, Knowledgeable Kids Make Healthy Menu Choices

Friday, November 09, 2012

Involve the Whole Family in Monthly or Weekly Food Samplers

Adventures into the Unknown: You know how popular the food samples are in the grocery store?? Well, I see tasting parties being a great way to expose the family to new things. If presented the right way, like cooking on an electric fry pay in front of the eaters, everyone will try anything that smells good at least once. You could each be a judge with rating scales to vote for all the choices on the menu. Judge on visual, aroma, texture, taste and score from 1 - 5 or 10, or whatever number is appropriate for your youngest. Toddlers could give Thumbs Up or Down.
And asking young children to give names to new foods is always interesting. Have you ever been around a toddler who named broccoli florets "Green Trees?"

1. Appetizers, Hors d'oeuvres, Horsey Dervers (Dad's expression)
Have the kids help prepare little bits with small samples of crunchy veggies like mini sweet peppers sliced crosswise into wheels, never tried foods, or pinwheels of wraps with new tasty fillings like yogurt and nuts. "Veggie Juice" served in fancy glasses with a sampling of cheese cubes or cheese ball or a home made bread which you pull off in hunks will make the kids feel very grown up. They will love serving the tray while you finish dinner prep.

2. The Tray Sampler

Recently I watched a food show on Create TV. The three chefs prepared a huge salad sampler tray with many small piles of different foods and a vinegar/oil/herb type dressing on the side. They then sprinkled the dressing over all and started sampling.

Ideas for Large Tray Samplers:

a. Cooked grain sampler for a cold morning: Cook 3-4 grains and serve in large bowls. Your oven will be your ally to cook 4 different grains at once. Provide 3-4 very different whole grain breads and/or nuts that you normally do not eat. Provide a couple of different fresh fruits like berries or stone fruits or grated apples, and a new dried fruit. For a savory change, prep some herbs, caramelized onions and garlic, and chopped tomato and peppers. Sweeteners might include a cinnamon sugar, maple syrup, and a fruited yogurt sauce. If you feel very ambitious, you could prepare a casserole of grain like rose brown rice, coconut, dried fruit and almond. And how about a sampling of "dairy" with Greek Yogurt, an almond based drink, and a rice or soy based drink for those who want something like that with their grains. Put small serving spoons in each bowl to encourage a true tasting party. If you have them, divided bowls work well for each participant. Otherwise, 3 clear plastic solo cups on a plate will encourage sampling different combinations. This is a nice breakfast for Christmas morning if you are not preparing dinner. Be sure to have the family help.

b. Brown Rice Pudding Sampler: Ahead of the meal, cook rice. Mix Non Fat Greek Yogurt with coconut oil, cinnamon, and sweetener like maple syrup. Prep fresh and dried fruit. I like to put out washed grapes, berries, and shredded apple. But also consider coconut, pineapple and strawberries. Everyone mixes their own dessert. Nuts, nut butters, and black beans or cooked chunks of winter squash or sweet potato could also be choices to add to the pudding.

It might help with amount of work for this if you planned to eat in sturdy paper bowls for ease of clean up after the meal.

c. Salad/Sandwich Sampler: I'm picturing a large tray with a couple of different cooked beans, nuts and seeds, fruits, prepped veggies, meats, hard cheese cubes or shreds, etc. Include unusual colorful salad greens. Include some veggies that have been prepped 3 ways: raw, steamed, and roasted. Have the kids sprout three different beans about 4 days in advance for this sampler. Have some familiar items, but also some things your family doesn't usually eat including wraps, pita pockets, and whole grain breads. You might have two types of dressing–one savory and one fruity in bowls on the side. The tray can become the appetizer for a meal or the party tray for the super bowl. It would be easy to replenish the items which go quickly.

You can just dig in or provide skewers, small plates or bowls and silverware or chopsticks.

Left overs can go into a crockpot for a stew or soup because you haven't put the dressing over everything. Be sure to follow food safety rules. The food should either be back in the refrigerator after two hours, or thrown out.

And the next time you try a Food Sampler Tray, involve the kids in the shopping. Each one should have to find a new or little used food to include.

d. Dueling Crock Pots
Get your hands on two or more crockpots and divide up into two teams and challenge to make the best soup or chili or stew. If you have a large family with at least one teenager who could become a team captain, AND you can get a third crockpot from your family or a neighbor, go for a third team. After dinner the night before you plan to do your grocery shopping, pull out all of the left over containers and available veggies, beans, bean sprouts, meats, herbs, etc. Harvest the herbs from your garden or kitchen window or set out a few bottles of dried herbs. Remember the onions, garlic, and celery for lots of flavor. Everything is fair game for each team to use to dump into their crockpot to make their creation. They can make broths using the juicer or blender. Then plug in the soup pots and let cook over night.

I guarantee everyone will want soup for breakfast!! You can all have a taste to determine a winner (a tie) but save it for the meal just before you leave for the grocery store, or after you come home when everyone is tired.

e. You get the Idea
Have a family brainstorming session to come up with other sampling ideas: pasta bar, omelet station, raw bar perhaps for Halloween, . . . or to list items which could be included in a new sampling bar or tray.

If you encourage your whole family to participate in these healthy food adventures, everyone should become more knowledgeable about the textures, flavors, and identifications of new foods.


Part 2: Cooking Kids Love Food, Knowledgeable Kids Make Healthy Menu Choices

Thursday, November 08, 2012

How do you get kids to choose healthier foods?

My sister makes very healthy food and activity choices now. But if we had allowed her to plan our menus when she was eight, we would have had a steady diet of macaroni and cheese. How do we get kids or even ourselves to sample AND eat a variety of healthy foods? Here are a few thoughts.

Set a rule for 6 fruits and vegetables every day. (or whatever number you truly believe will bring health to your family) And then say, "No nutrient starved snacks until you have tallied 6 fruits and vegetables." And then everyone lives by that rule, even you. That might mean you all need to find two or three fruits and vegetables you actually DO like. I could probably tell you what every child going into Wal-Mart for family grocery shopping will tease for. If that happens to you, too, say, "No snacks until we have 7days X 6 fruits and veggies X _____# of family members in the cart. Insert the number in your family into the blank. Then have the kids help choose the fruits and veggies and tally the servings. If you really do this, you will probably need an extra cart. Or three. And an extra refrigerator and freezer.

While doing Eat to Live I needed 4 fruits and 2 pounds of veggies daily. I set a goal of having 4 fruits and 6 veggie servings daily as minimum. My weekly grocery list planning for one looked something like this:

1. Bag of apples (7 minimum)
2. Bag of oranges (7 minimum)
3. Bunch or bag of bananas (7 minimum)
4. 7 total servings of fresh, dried without sugar, or frozen berries, grapes, stonefruits, or other seasonal choices.
1. 4 onions, 3 bunches scallions
2. large bag of mini sweet peppers and a bunch of broccoli crowns
3. 4 sweet potatoes
4. 4 bags of a variety of salad greens, at least 28 cups (2 cups for lunch, 2 cup for dinner)
5. 2 lb. carrots, 1 lb celery
6. 7 servings of a variety of veggies to cook like mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, edamame, winter squash, or seasonal choices.

That's a lot of food. Multiply a list like this for your family and you will fill a cart for everyone by the time you add the beans and nuts and paper products. There won't be any room for those nutrient-weak snacks.

When it comes time to choose a low nutrient or sugary snack, you can set a rule that it must have 5 grams of fiber or whatever number you choose. Or you can limit the sodium, calories or total fats, or for older children, the percentage of calories given to fats. This will almost guarantee some healthy choices. Because most available snack choices will NOT be high in fiber or low in fats, you are automatically limiting the snacks that go into your cart without having to play the teasing game. Who knows. They might even figure out that they could choose veggie sticks or a piece of fruit for their snacks!! Or Shredded Bran and Wheat Cereal (9 g. fiber) with no-fat Greek Yogurt and berries. (4-6 g. fiber)

Which is better: Home Cooked, Processed and Packaged, Restaurant?

Do some comparison and evaluation of meals at home, from the box, or at the restaurant. Ingredient lists and nutrition reports on labels and on line will help young and older inquiring minds determine which menus are healthier based on criteria your family decides is important to track.

An overweight family might track calories or fiber or tally vegetables and fruit.

An unhealthy family might track calories or fiber, or fruits and veggies, or SALT, or graph percentages of carbs, fats, and proteins, or another nutrient bloodwork has shown deficient.

A family with a member with a food allergy might be detectives and find that food hidden in different choices. Okay, so Johnny has an intolerance for corn and corn products. Is there any corn in a value meal or or the frozen package of macaroni and cheese, or the family favorite home made dinner entree or dessert? or salad? Hint: Johnny could become symptomatic with any processed food or homemade food made with corn oil or corn syrup.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IAM_HIS2 11/9/2012 8:00AM


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MRSTABER 11/8/2012 10:17AM

    Great blog! Thanks!

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Part 1: Cooking Kids Love Food, Knowledgeable Kids Make Healthy Menu Choices Introduction

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A featured article today on Spark People at:

encourages families to involve their children in cooking and offers suggestions for kid-friendly recipes AND ways to make your kitchen safe for them. The point is made that cooking kids will grow into cooking adults who understand that "food is supposed to be healthful–and made at home." I agree that kids who cook will love cooking. But they won't necessarily make healthy choices or believe it should be cooked at home as kid or adults.

As a teacher, I understood how important this was, and took it further into the planning stages: Planning for nutrition, budget, amounts needed, and preparation time. My elementary students were involved from start to finish. So when I read the article, I couldn't help feel this piece could easily be left out as parents work to teach their children the fine art of cooking delicious healthy food. So I wondered how the kids could be involved in nutrition planning at home.

Spark People and the Nutrition Tracker

Older children could do that at Spark People using the nutrition tracker. They could enter favorite fruits, veggies, etc. into their favorites, inventory the refrigerator and pantry, and search for recipes that use available ingredients. They could start out planning a healthy meal, entering it in the Nutrition Tracker, and then evaluating the report for the meal. If they have questions about different elements of nutrition, they can use web search to find their answers. They could track the menu for the whole day for the family, and tally fruits, veggies, dairy, carbs, calories. They could graph on a wall chart the number of fruits and veggies eaten by the family daily. And finally, a meal report could become part of the family dinner ritual.

Magnetic Nutrition Cards

Younger children can also be involved. I see a lot of benefit in helping them make magnetic raw food picture cards. They can use magazines, or the family camera to actually take pictures of raw foods at home or at the outdoor market. Paste pictures of raw fruits, veggies, dairy products, meats, fish, nuts, beans and favorite family dishes onto index cards cut in half, and apply a magnet to the back. The free e-book at has lots of wonderful pictures which could be used for this project. You could probably try to buy a kit like this; however, I believe kids will learn more if they make it themselves.

The cards become their magnetic refrigerator menu planning kit. They can group the pictures into food groups. They can group pictures into meals. Then, after the day is planned, they can move the items into a picture graph that shows the number of servings that are planned for each food group. You will need to be ready to prepare some of these menus and involve the creator in the prep and clean up. Use pictures to show the number of each food that they should set as a goal to eat before adding snacks with no food value. As they learn the meaning of numbers, they can start to count fruits and veggies planned for the day to determine if they met the goal.

Stars on a calendar for every day they eat the goal for fruits and veggies will go a long way toward building kids who truly understand what healthy eating means as they learn to cook those healthy meals and snacks.

What about those snacks? Snacks which are made with healthy whole foods: grains, fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, fish, or meats will find a home in the chart. Snacks which are mainly sugar or chemicals won't find a home.

Calories in/calories burned is another area of planning which older children can graph and monitor in their menu planning. SP Fitness Tracker will also be helpful here. Learning their daily base line of calorie requirements, and the number of calories they are actually consuming via the Nutrition Tracker, they can decide what kind of effect their food choices have on their health, from a calorie perspective and also nutritionally.

Tomorrow: Part 2; How do you get kids to choose healthier foods?


Long Lines at my Polling Place

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

I got up early and walked to a beautiful sunrise that changed to rain within 20 minutes. I took shelter under a carport, and ran home when it let up slightly. I was thankful the cold front had only brought temps down into the fifties.

After I warmed up, I decided to go vote. At 7:15 the line was all the way outside with those people standing in the rain. I wasn't patriotic enough to join the line and get cold and wet all over again. So I went home.

I decided to go again at 2:00 so I wouldn't be adding to any long lines which might occur when working people arrived later. So the line was even longer then, out in the hot sun. It took me an hour to get my ballot and 1 minute to mark it and get out the door again.

So what is so phenomenal about this is I've never seen such lines in any precinct I've voted in, in any election, ever. I hope that means that there will be an unprecedented record turn out, and not just a snaffooo because they were working with only 2 sign in machines instead of 3.

We'll see.

I'm also interested in learning if NY and NJ and other storm-bothered areas have been able to vote??

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SAGELADY2 11/7/2012 6:28PM

    It was long at my polling place as well. Took me almost 2 hours to get through. Parked about 4 blocks away as well.

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1_AMAZING_WOMAN 11/6/2012 9:21PM

    Our area was having very high turnouts at the voting booths by noon already, and the booths were open until 8pm.

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CBRINKLEY401 11/6/2012 6:39PM

    I have read that they are making special provisions for those in the storm damaged areas. Bringing polling machines to the temporary shelters, providing transportation to alternate polling sites for those in areas where the original polling sites were inaccessible, etc. It's good to hear that they are doing all they can to make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote if they so choose.

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#4 YDNAC & Desiring to become addicted to nutrient dense food and sweaty workouts

Saturday, November 03, 2012

No wonder we're addicted to ydnac and other unhealthy things. That weird word is spelled backwards. Because if I spell it forwards the ydnac advertisers will plaster visuals of ydnac all over my blog page like they have done at

And just in case you visit and they aren't there anymore, you missed 3 ads for ydnac whos name is 2 identical letters of the alphabet with a & in the middle.

And if anyone says you can eat that ydnac, as long as you do portion control, I'll spit wooden nickels. I wonder what they'll advertise for that one--buffalo wings?

If I am working to become addicted to nutrient dense foods, I want visuals of fruits and veggies around me, NOT ydnac!!

TV commercials have gotten so bad that I flip the channel everytime I see a food commercial. I hope I don't have to do the same thing at SP. I must be in the minority because advertisers are even worse now on the internet.

We pay about $60 a month to access the internet so that we can provide the advertisers with an audience with rudimentary tracking going on that inserts pop up ads for key words they tag.

If the word ydnac appears, then up goes an ad for ydnac, even if the page ays someone committed suicide because they had eaten too much ydnac.

Thirty days until I'll return to NC where I have no TV or Internet or Television. Will I survive, or am I totally addicted to these technologies. If I AM addicted to internet and TV, stop the world NOW. I want to get off.

My quest to become addicted to nutrient dense foods and sweaty workouts seems a little more sane now, right?

We pay $60.00+ a month for cable to be entertained and informed and to be forced to watch advertising at least 20 minutes out of every hour.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BRAVELUTE 11/6/2012 8:00PM

    I DITTO Blah to TV!! I keep cable in FL because I think I'm still saving money for internet and phone with cable bundled in. If I went to Dish satellite internet, I'd still have to do something else for phone.

However, I COULD turn off cable more often. Do I leave the noise on just because I've paid for it? Kind of like eating something/anything because it's there?

Well, now I bet I get ads for televisions on my blog page. I was so enjoying the eye-ydnac!

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KAREN608 11/6/2012 6:08PM

    I got rid of cable TV when it got up to $21. That was a long time ago.
But the over the air TV just as commercial laden. DH watches it,
I hear it. Blah to TV.

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BRAVELUTE 11/4/2012 5:29PM

    Christina, this is exactly what I've been pondering, coming up with my working definition of addiction as it could work FOR me. I'm not quite there, but will be soon. And I guess that definition won't be written in stone, but will be modified as I learn more.

I'll post it soon.

Comment edited on: 11/4/2012 5:29:54 PM

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CHRISTINASP 11/3/2012 5:02AM

    I've read through your 'addiction' blog entries... I'm intrigued because I wonder what you mean by 'being addicted to workouts and nutrient dense foods'?
I think you mean that you want to start liking them very much and doing / eating them a lot?
Because to me an addiction is always a very negative thing. It means doing something that is bad for me, in order to escape from something (like 'negative emotions' or 'being in the now'). Sweaty workouts can be very harmful if you do to many of them! Nutrient dense foods can still be a burden to the body if overeaten.
On the other hand one can feel quite good after a nice workout and after a healthy meal.

Comment edited on: 11/3/2012 5:02:43 AM

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