Three Time-Saving Ways To Boost Your Children's Nutrition (And Your Own!)
I am the doting aunt to six nephews and two nieces, plus countless other "honorary" nieces and nephews, through friends. So I know a thing or two about kids, and how difficult it can be to get them to eat the food that you make them. It's enough to pull your hair out getting them to eat anything with the slightest hue to it, aka anything not from the bread and pasta family. So without trying to overhaul your child's palate, keeping in mind that you choose your battles wisely, here are my no-nonsense three ways to attempt to impart some nutritional value to their otherwise empty food diets.
1. ADD SEEDS
Hemp, chia, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, (beneficial) fat, fiber, calcium and other minerals. And pomegranate seeds are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, B5, and fiber, too!
Add chia seeds to: yogurt, cottage cheese, smoothies, oatmeal, pancake or any baked goods mix, PB&J sandwich, pudding, and anything else that's wet and mushy in texture.
Add hemp, flax (you can buy these ground so they are even less detectable), and other seeds to: smoothies, oatmeal, whole grain flake cereal & granola, pancake mix, as well as most entrees and soups. Sesame add a nice flavor to stir fry, provided your child eats this, or avocado toast! Yum, avocado....
2. MAKE SMOOTHIES
These are a great way to combine tons of healthful ingredients, quickly, with minimal preparation involved. And they are great to share together, after school or afternoon activities, with leftovers for another day. You can adjust ingredients based on taste & preferences, but I LOVE how many super-foods I can cram in a smoothie without my taste buds having a clue. Here's my favorite go-to; I promise it tastes like a decadent, sweet treat:
CREAMY BERRY-CHOCO SMOOTHIE
½ frozen banana (peel and freeze spotted/brown bananas to be stored & used for smoothies; I always have a supply)
2 scoops of your favorite chocolate or vanilla protein powder (watch sugar content! Contact me if you'd like some recommendations on brands)
2 heaping handfuls of spinach
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 tbsp of any other supplement powders you like to add, like spirulina, maca, cacao (if you have questions about these, please contact me, and we can chat about which ones might be right for you)
2 tsp of cinnamon (or more, if you like it)
1 cup frozen berries (blueberries preferred, but blackberries, strawberries, & raspberries are great too) **Make sure to always buy organic berries (they’re cheaper frozen), since they get loaded with pesticides.
1 cup nutmilk (cashew/coconut/almond/hemp, etc.), add more or some water, if you need more liquid
3. BATCH-COOK ONCE A WEEK
It’s impossible to find the time or energy to cook well-composed meals every night. To maintain sanity and feel good about your family’s nutrition, prepare meal components on Sunday (or whatever day works for you), and use a pressure cooker for convenience. Store in glass airtight containers, and make different bowls each night. Each bowl should have a healthy dose of vegetables rich in nutrients and fiber, a starchy vegetable or grain if you like, with lean protein & think of fat as a condiment (oil, avocado, etc.). When you have these components prepared, you'll be less inclined to heat up those "organic" chicken nuggets and "natural" brand mac & cheese, which, let's face it, is still just mac & cheese. Here are some sample bowl components:
GRAIN/STARCH: Sprouted brown rice; quinoa; barley; whole grain/quinoa pasta; millet; faro, etc. You can boil beets in water, then use the purple water to cook grains-- purple rice will be fun! Be sure to rinse or soak grains before cooking. This helps to break down some of the starch & other nutrients that make digestion difficult for some.
PROTEIN: lentils; pressure-cooked shredded chicken in lemon & garlic seasoning; boiled eggs (I like them boiled for 7 min for the perfect pudding-like yolk consistency); beans (garbanzo, white, black, pinto, etc.); organic tofu marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic & ginger seasoning; tempeh sliced & sautéed in soy sauce or miso broth; turkeyballs in tomato sauce, you get the idea...
VEGGIES: Sautéed red bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms & onions; sautéed leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard in olive oil & garlic); roasted root veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, beets); roasted or sautéed veggies in olive oil & garlic (broccoli; green beans; snow peas; asparagus; brussel sprouts; cauliflower)
MORE VEGGIES: Prep raw veggies: cut and slice carrots, celery, bell peppers for grabbing on the go, or eating with hummus or cottage cheese. Wash a bag of spinach and use it within the next few days. Same with other lettuce. You can also freeze greens, and keep them in a resealable bag to use in smoothies and stir-fries.
5 SAMPLE BOWLS:
Quinoa, lentils, sautéed chard, roasted sweet potatoes, with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon & hot sauce
Whole grain/quinoa pasta, white beans, sautéed broccoli & asparagus, with tomato sauce, + sprinkle of parmesan & fresh parsley
Barley, shredded chicken, bell peppers & onions, and roasted butternut squash, with a squeeze of lemon & tahini dressing
Brown rice (cooked in beet water), marinated tofu, sautéed broccoli & snow peas, roasted carrots, with soy sauce & flax seeds sprinkled on top
Millet, garbanzo & kidney beans, sautéed greens, roasted brussel sprouts, with fresh chopped cilantro & squeeze of lime, and avocado slices
At the end of the week, empty contents of each container, and make into a soup! Just dice up an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, sauté in oil, add a can of diced tomatoes, bring to a boil, then add all leftovers, followed by 1 cup vegetable broth or water. Add salt & pepper to taste, then simmer to mix flavors. Sprinkle with parmesan if you like! (Depends on flavors of the pre-cooked components.)
These "recipes" are not exact, since everyone's tastes are different, and I like to figure things out as I go. But the general idea is this: try not to overthink it, because you'll drive yourself crazy. And sneak those seeds and super-food powders in, whenever possible, because your children's cognitive, mental, physical, and emotional development truly does depend on it!