“From now on, we’re going to eat healthy!”
To the picky child, no words are more dreaded than these. And who can blame them? Too often “healthy eating” is code for food that’s either boring and bland or spiced up and slimy. But getting kids to eat their lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to mean serving up hunks of raw broccoli on a bed of undressed spinach. There are plenty of creative ways to slip nutrition on those plates without anyone being the wiser. All you need is a good dose of trickery and the following five tools.
If only there were a tool that would slice healthy food to the point of being unrecognizable…Oh wait, there is, and it’s called a blender. While there are many ways to get creative with this tool, the smoothie is your best bet, allowing you to add everything from trusted favorites (bananas) to members of the unexpected no-go zone, like tofu, which will add a good dose of protein to counter fruit sugars while also thickening the consistency into something more like that of a milkshake.
Blackberry Mango Breakfast Shake
• 1 ½ cups frozen or fresh blackberries
• 1 cup frozen or fresh mango slices
• 6 ½ cups low-fat soft tofu
• 1 cup pulp-free, organic orange juice
• 3 tablespoons agave nectar (lower glycemic index than honey)
1. Throw it all into the blender.
3. As your new health buff comes around to the idea of drinking smoothies, let him or her add in his or her own fruit ideas for fun.
Ah, the crockpot. Is there anything better? Not only is this the ultimate convenience tool, enabling you to slice, dice, and drop your ingredients into its warm interior while it does the rest of the work for you, but it also is a crafty means for slipping healthy ingredients right beneath your picky eater’s nose. In fact, the more beloved ingredients you add — say, meat n’ potatoes — the more likely that finely shredded, nutrient-packed head of broccoli your child usually refuses will get lost in the mix. For the best results, choose anywhere from one to three healthy ingredients for your targeted subterfuge every time you make a crockpot, and see what you can get away with.
• 1 pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
• 3 medium carrots, cut however you think your child will be most likely to eat them
• 2 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. If you’re getting really adventurous, try swapping one white potato for a sweet or blue potato, both of which pack more of a nutrient punch
• 1 sweet chopped onion
• Your subterfuge item: E.g. Broccoli very finely chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 14-1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup loose-pack frozen peas
• Fresh parsley sprigs (optional)
1. Combine the first four ingredients and your subterfuge item(s) in the slow cooker, sprinkling with salt and thyme before adding the bay leaf and the tomatoes, juice included. Stir to combine.
2. Cover and cook on low-heat for eight to ten hours or on high heat for four to five hours.
3. Remove from heat, discard bay leaf, stir in peas, garnish with parsley, and watch the magic happen.
If your picky eater hates crunchy textures, then a steamer is just what the chef ordered. Kids will take on a whole new attitude when they start looking at vegetables as being more than what mom has in her salads, and you’ll find more ways to get creative as you heat. What’s more, steamed vegetables retain a higher nutrient value than their boiled counterparts. Here is just one recipe to steam those veggies into desirability.
• One pound baby carrots
• ¼ cup low-sodium, olive oil based butter substitute or margarine. Real butter is fine, too, if it gets your picky eater to actually eat the carrots.
• ⅓ cup <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_sugar” target=”_blank”>coconut sugar</a>, a sugar option that has a lower glycemic index than both white and brown sugar and that’s also packed with potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron.
1. Place your steamer over a pot full of cold water, add your carrots and boil until the carrots are soft, usually ten to fifteen minutes.
2. Pour the carrots into a bowl, add the butter substitute and sugar, and stir until everything is melted and thoroughly distributed.
<h2>4. Stand Mixer</h2>
Who said that baked goods couldn’t be good for you? You can up the nutritional value of those sweet goodies by replacing white flour with whole grain, or at least going half and half. Coconut sugar and agave also make for savvy replacements. And the best part of all? With a stand mixer, you’ll not only whip that recipe together in no time, but, just like with the blender, you’ll also be better able to slip in some veggies without anyone knowing.
• ¼ cup shortening. Or, again, think about replacing with a healthier butter alternative.
• ½ coconut sugar
• 1 egg
• ½ cup besan. Otherwise known as gram flour, besan is made from chickpeas and therefore adds a bit of protein. If you don’t find this in the regular baking aisle, head to one of the ethnic sections or an Indian specialty shop.
• ½ cup whole wheat flour
• ½ cup finely grated carrot
1. Using the stand mixer, mix and cream the shortening and sugar before adding and blending in the egg.
2. Add flour and baking powder.
3. Shred the carrot and blend into mixture until it’s thoroughly distributed.
4. Drop by the spoonful onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 375º for 10 – 13 minutes.
5. Panini Pan & Press
If your child is a big fan of grilled cheese, you’re in luck: it’s only a small step from there to a love of the more sophisticated (and potentially healthy) panini. And with a panini pan & press on your side, you’ll be able to sneak in flat, leafy veggies like spinach and press them so firmly, your child won’t even know it’s hiding amongst all of that warm, gooey goodness.
• 3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
• 2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
• 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
• A handful of spinach
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• Freshly ground pepper, to taste
• 8 slices whole-wheat bread
• 8 ounces thinly sliced reduced-sodium deli turkey
• 8 tomato slices
• 2 teaspoons canola oil
1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the first seven ingredients.
2. Spread the mixture evenly among the bread slices, adding several slices of turkey and tomato to each and covering with a second slice.
3. Heat one teaspoon of oil in the panini pan over medium heat, placing one sandwich in the pan at a time, using the press to weigh it down. Cook until golden on one side — about two minutes — before reducing the heat to medium-low, flipping the panini and repeating.
4. Continue until all sandwiches are cooked.
So you SEE? There are plenty of ways to get your little one to up the nutritional value on his or her plate. All you need is a mom-knows-best-trickster mentality and perhaps a minor obsession with spy or sabotage movies, and you’ll be well on your way.
*Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*