Should You Force Kids To Eat?

Should You Force Kids To Eat?

When I was a child, the expectation when my family sat down to dinner was that I should eat everything on my plate.

Whether that was really the expectation or what I perceived, it was the message I got.

Growing up in an Italian-American family, eating is what we did.

Sunday dinners with meatballs, pasta and coffee cake were such a big part of our traditions that it wouldn’t be a Sunday without it. 

When we visited family, the expectation was that we at least tried what the host took time to prepare.

Eating, and eating as much as you wanted, was always a good thing and praised. If you didn’t eat, everyone wondered if something was wrong and it was almost seen as an insult.

While I do remember being told to eat your vegetables, and take a bite, you might like it, I was never forced by my parents to eat although many parents of that generation did.

Surprisingly, it seems that the “clean plate” mentality when kids were told they had to eat before being excused from the table, is still at play today.

Recently, I’ve noticed some of my friends falling into this camp.

While having dinner, one waved a fork of food in his kid’s face and told him to take a bite, while another told his kid that she couldn’t be excused from the table or have dessert until she ate.

Research shows not only is this way of thinking still very real today, but it’s happening in households not with toddlers, but also teens.

In fact, a May 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics showed up to two-thirds of parents encourage their adolescents to finish everything on their plates.

We all have the best intentions and want our kids to eat healthy and eat enough, but when we force kids to eat, it can backfire.

Forcing kids to eat doesn’t help—and it may even hurt

When we encourage kids to eat—or do something we want them to do but they don’t want to do—, it doesn’t usually work.

According to an April 2018 study in the journal Appetite, researchers suggest that forcing kids to eat can create tension during meal times and even damage the parent-child relationship.

What’s more, forcing kids to eat foods they don’t like has no impact on their weight nor does it do anything to change their picky eating, the same study found.

Kids need to recognize their hunger

Kids will eat when they’re hungry so forcing them to eat when they’re not puts a sour taste in their mouths, so to speak.

Put yourself in your kid’s shoes: if someone put a plate of broccoli in front of you and told you to finish it when you weren’t hungry, would you eat it? What if the food was something you despised—how likely would you be to just try it?

The same goes for kids.

As toddlers grow and are exposed to new foods, they’re learning what it feels like to be hungry, satisfied and full.

Forcing them to eat doesn’t give them the chance to learn how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues and know when they’re hungry and when they’re not.

Studies show forcing kids to eat can even alter their internal hunger signals which in turn can lead to childhood obesity.

It creates a negative experience

Food is fuel but meals are meant to be enjoyed—both the food and the shared experience with family.

When each meal becomes a power struggle or rife with tension however, kids don’t have the freedom to make choices about what they eat and the whole meal time experience becomes an unpleasant one.

It may lead to bigger eating problems

When there’s a consistent message that kids should clean their plates, I’m concerned that it can become what a child starts to believe and continues to believe throughout adulthood.

Just look at the 93 million people in the U.S. who are overweight.

At the very least, eating everything on their plates can become a poor habit that started because they were taught to do so.

A better way to get kids to eat

Using pressure tactics to encourage your kids to eat makes you feel in control but it’s not a healthy, long-term strategy. Here are a few easy, effective tips to try.

Enjoy meals

Mealtimes should be an opportunity for kids to learn about healthy eating and portion control and an opportunity to explore new foods and have a taste—but only if they want to.

Meals should also be a way for your family to communicate, connect and enjoy each other. Instead of bribes, negotiation and pressure tactics, focus on the conversation and the food—not on how many bites your kid takes.

Model healthy behaviors

Teach kids that it’s OK not to love everything on their plates and the goal isn’t to leave the table with a clean plate.

Lead by example and teach your kids how to eat slowly and mindfully, taste the food, put your fork down every so often and savor every bite.


Offer choices

While something simple like scrambled eggs and toast is all you’ll be able to pull together for dinner some nights, try to offer a cooked vegetable and a salad and let your kid decide which he wants to try.

When kids feel that eating is in their control, they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices—as long as those choices are offered.


Stick with it

Kids who are picky eaters aren’t going to change their ways overnight—and we can’t expect them to. It can take between 15 and 20 times of offering a new food before they’re willing to try it.

Teaching kids about healthy foods and healthy eating habits takes consistency—and plenty of patience—at every meal.

10 Ways To Get More Plant-Based Foods To Your Kid’s Diet

10 Ways To Get More Plant-Based Foods To Your Kid’s Diet

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

Whether your family are vegetarians, vegans, pegans or full-fledged meat eaters, getting more plant-based foods into your kid’s diet is one of the best things you can do for their health.

Plant-based foods are packed with the nutrition kids need for their growth and development.

Most plant-based foods also have filling fiber to satisfy their hunger and prevent constipation.

Recent studies show plant-based diets are also linked with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity.

When you have picky eaters however, getting them to eat more vegetables, plant-based proteins and different types of grains can seem impossible.

With a few tips and tricks however, you can add more plant-based foods to your kid’s diet. Here are 10.

1. Start small

If your kids already don’t love beans, you’re probably not going to get them to eat black-bean soup, no matter how different it may look.   

Instead, start out by introducing small—even minuscule—amounts like a teaspoon of peas they can munch on before dinner when they’re most likely to be hungry.


2. Blend it up


Every morning, I make this really easy smoothie for my kids and I in my Vitamix: one cup of almond milk, 2 cups of spinach, 2 stalks of celery, one banana, and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds.

I like green smoothies for kids, not as a way to sneak vegetables, but to get a bunch of vegetables and other plant-based foods into one meal.

Making smoothies with your kids is also a great way to teach them about healthy eating. When kids pick what goes into smoothies and have a hand in making it, they feel empowered and excited to try what they made.

3. Take advantage of snack time


Kids love their snacks but most kids snack up to three times a day on foods like chips, cookies and other junk food, which nets a whopping 600 calories, a March 2010 study in the journal Health Affairs found.

If snack time is when your kid is hungry and most likely to eat, use it as an opportunity to get more plant-based foods into his diet.

Serve cut veggies with a bean dip or hummus, fruit with a nut butter, chia seed pudding, a muffin with almond flour and flaxseeds, or homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds and raisins.

4. Put fruits and vegetables in plain sight


Kids will eat what’s visible and accessible so keep healthy options front and center.

Keep a fruit bowl filled with easy options like bananas, apples and pears.

Also, when you get home from the grocery store, wash and cut up fruits and veggie and store them in glass containers in the refrigerator. Most grocery stores also have grab and go containers of fruits and vegetables that are already washed and cut up, making healthy eating a no-brainer.

5. Serve frozen fruit for dessert

Frozen fruit is a great way to get more plant-based foods into your kid’s diet and it may pack more nutrition than fresh. In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Serve frozen fruit straight out of the package for snack time or add it to smoothies, yogurt parfaits or overnight oats. You can also blend it up with some almond or coconut milk for a delicious dessert.


6. Re-think recipes


When you do your meal planning, think about ways to swap meat for plant-based foods. Try zoodles, bean burgers, veggie burgers, black bean soup, vegetarian chili, or an egg “fried” rice with edamame.

7. Try new whole-grains


Most kids will eat pasta and rice but those with whole grains are the best. Whole grains provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Some whole grains like quinoa, (a seed), provides both protein and fiber.

Make meals interesting by switching up the grains you serve. Instead of brown rice, experiment with new types like farro, teff and millet.


8. Make “fries” and “chips”


There are so many ways to transform plant-based foods into foods kids already love like fries and chips.
Carrots can be sliced thin and roasted in the oven. Check out this recipe for carrot chips on Weelicious.

Or try kale chips, jicama and parsnip “fries,” or roasted chickpeas.


9. Make a vegetable hash

Kids may not eat leftover vegetables for breakfast but if they like hash browns, try substituting grated veggies like squash, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes or parsnips into a hash and serve them with eggs.

10. Think finger foods

Kids love finger foods and when you serve plant-based foods, there are plenty of options.

Offer small pieces of fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, edamame, small cubes of tofu or tempeh, nuts, seeds, and avocado.

How I Got My Kids To Eat Everything

How I Got My Kids To Eat Everything

When I tell people that my kids devour salads, love lentils, and ask for anchovies, they’re shocked.

During the holidays, at family parties and get-togethers with friends, when other parents are worrying what their kids will eat—and if they’ll eat—my husband and I never give it a second thought.

Our kids not only eat just like we do, but they’re little foodies who crave healthy food.

What may surprise you is that we don’t bribe them with dessert, negotiate meals or force them to eat.

They’re not easygoing kids who go with the flow either—it’s actually quite the contrary.

While it’s true that most kids, especially toddlers, are picky eaters, and they have their own food preferences and food aversions, it’s totally possible to raise kids who like to eat healthy.

Here’s how we did it and you can too.

Make homemade baby food

It’s rare that we ask my daughters if they want to try new foods. Rather, they have a natural curiosity and interest in doing so.

One of the reasons I think that’s the case is because I made homemade baby food for them.

Although store-bought baby food is easy and convenient especially when you’re on the go, we can’t expect our kids to prefer real food if we start out by feeding them food that looks and  smells anything but.

When you make your own baby food, you control the ingredients and can offer a wide variety of flavors and textures which helps kids develop their own preference for healthy foods. 

Stick with it

Parents often tell me how they’ve tried cooking with their kids, serving new vegetables, or making green smoothies, but nothing they did changed their kids’ picky eating habits.

Although there were definitely occasions where we’d offer a new food and my kids were willing to try it immediately, getting them to eat everything took a concerted effort at every meal, every day.

As parents, we always want a quick, easy fix, but a one-time effort isn’t going to transform your kids into foodies overnight.

Whether it’s potty training, getting your kids to sleep through the night or changing an annoying behavior, everything takes time, effort and consistency.

Keep meals interesting

I’ve found that eating the same foods every day has been key for me to lose the baby weight and maintain it.

Although this also makes meal planning easier for my family, I often fell into the same pattern with my kids and I realized there were so many more foods they could try.

So I decided to switch it up a bit.

When I’d bring my kids to the grocery store and they’d spot dragon fruit, star fruit or something they had never tried before, I’d buy it for us all to enjoy at home.

My husband, who also sensed our food rut, would cook new types of fish and vegetables and add new types of spices to our meals.

Although we never forced our kids to eat, we always encouraged them to have a taste of what was being served so they’d have opportunities to figure out which foods they liked and which ones they didn’t.

Cook meals together

Cooking with my kids has proven to be one of the best ways to get them to eat healthy.

Kids want to be just like their parents and my daughters were always excited to learn how to peel and chop produce, mix ingredients, stir on the stovetop and use the oven.

When kids help to prepare meals, they feel empowered and proud and are more likely to eat what’s being served.

Forget the kids’ table

When we had dinner with our extended family, were invited to a friend’s house, or attended a party or celebration, my kids always ate with the adults, unless of course, the host had a kids’ table set up for them.

I never brought a separate meal for them and we didn’t ask the host to prepare something different. They could eat what was served—or not—but that was the only option.

Don’t order off the kids’ menu

Most kids’ menus at restaurants are all the same: hot dogs, chicken fingers, burgers and fries.

It’s rare that you’ll find salads, green leafy vegetables or roasted salmon, for example.

When we went out to eat, we’d usually order an entree my daughters could split, modify an item such as adding broccoli to pizza, or order appetizers and salads we all could share.

4 Reasons Your Kid Is Always Hungry

4 Reasons Your Kid Is Always Hungry

My daughters love to eat and almost alway ask for seconds or something extra, like a piece of fruit after dinner.

Since obesity, high cholesterol, type-2 diabetes and heart disease all run on both sides of the family, and because I’m also an emotional eater, I often worry that they eat too much.

At the same time, I’m very careful about what I say to my kids about food and try not to make it an issue.

Most kids like to snack but if they’re not torching major calories on the field, you might be wondering why your kid is always hungry or asks for something to eat after he ate just an hour ago.

It’s always a good idea to check in with your kid’s pediatrician since an increase in appetite can be a sign of type-2 diabetes, digestive conditions and thyroid dysfunction, to name a few.

If everything is normal however, here are some possible reasons your kid is always hungry.

1. A lack of nutrient-dense foods

My daughter often complains that her school lunch—usually lentils, veggies and a piece of fruit—isn’t enough. 

She wants more choices like the other kids have, but I try to explain that the foods they’re eating, things like white bread, “veggie” sticks and “fruit” gummies aren’t nutritious or filling.

Most of the kid-friendly foods like granola bars, pretzels, and fish-shaped crackers are made with refined carbohydrates that kids burn through quickly and don’t have the fiber and protein kids need to feel satiated.

At each meal, aim for whole foods: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, clean sources of protein and healthy fats.

Healthy snacks should be made up of both protein and fiber, like celery and hummus or an apple with almond butter.

2. Dehydration and thirst

According to an August 2015 study in The American Journal of Public Health, more than 50 percent of children and teens don’t drink enough water each day.

If kids aren’t hydrated, it can also affect their mood, brain function and athletic performance, and lead to headaches, dizziness and constipation.

Since being dehydrated can often be mistaken for hunger, it’s always a good idea to offer water before offering a snack.

Encourage your kids to drink water first thing in the morning too, when they’re most likely to be dehydrated, and sip throughout the day.

Drinking water before a meal can also prevent them from overeating or asking for something to eat.

Stick with water instead of juice which is high in empty calories and sugar, spikes blood sugar and may encourage cravings for other sugary fare.

If plain water is hard for your kids to swallow however, add sliced cucumbers or strawberries for some flavor.

Young kids in particular, usually have to be reminded to drink up and sometimes a new sippy cup or water bottle is the key to get them to drink up.

3. Growth spurts

When it seems like your kid is always hungry no matter how healthy the food is or how often he eats, he may be having a growth spurt.

According to KidsHealth.org, kids grow about 2 1/2 inches per year until they become teenagers. Growth spurts also happen between ages 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys.

Interestingly, they grow more during the spring time than at any other time of year.

Instead of processed, packaged foods, support your kid’s growth with nutrient-dense, whole foods as much as possible.

4. Boredom

On the weekends or on snow days when there’s no school, your kids will probably ask, “can I have a snack,” several times a day.

When my kids ask for snacks just a few hours after eating lunch, it’s usually because they’re bored. 

I try to explain that eating isn’t an activity and food is fuel.

Another ongoing conversation we have is about recognizing their hunger cues. I explain that when you’re hungry, your stomach growls and we eat to not feel hungry, instead of eating until we feel full. 

Having a schedule of meals and snacks with some flexibility throughout the day can help ensure your kid is actually hungry and eating enough each time.

If your kid still asks for a snack but you think he’s actually bored, telling him to wait until the next meal or snack time time teaches him that it’s ok to be hungry—a lesson even adults need.

Is your kid hungry all the time? What strategies have worked for you? Leave me a comment.

7 Budget-Friendly Healthy Foods

7 Budget-Friendly Healthy Foods

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.


Although there are ways to eat healthy on a budget, there’s no denying that buying fresh, whole—even frozen—foods is pricier than processed, packaged foods and fast food.

In the last decade alone, the cost of food has increased by 26 percent and the average grocery bill for a family of 4 is anywhere between $129 and $285 per week, according to the USDA.

The good news is that your family can eat healthy and save money without sacrificing nutrition or taste.

Here are 7 budget-friendly healthy foods to fill up your grocery cart with each week.


1. Bananas


A great source of potassium and vitamin B6, bananas are also a good source of fiber: 1 small banana has 2.6 grams.

Since they’re not considered part of the dirty dozen, you can buy conventional  bananas which are more affordable.

In our home, we go through at least two bunches of bananas a week. I add bananas to oatmeal, overnight oats, green smoothies, and use them as a replacement for oil in bread, muffin and baking recipes.

When the bananas start to over-ripen, throw them in the freezer and whip up a frozen, non-dairy faux ice cream to stretch your food dollars even more.

 

2. Eggs


Eggs are often dubbed “a perfect food” and for good reason.

An excellent source of protein, eggs are also high in lutein, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs make the list of budget friendly healthy foods because they’re so versatile.

Hard-boiled eggs can be served for breakfast, added to salads, transformed into egg salad or packed for snacks when you’re on the go.

My kids eat eggs almost every day whether it’s scrambled, in a frittata or a quiche, or incorporated into an egg “fried” rice.

Pasture-raised eggs and organic eggs are ideal because they’re raised humanely, treated without antibiotics or arsenic, and their nutritional profile is better than white eggs.

Although they’re more expensive, I’ve noticed prices come way down in recent months.

Something I also discovered at my local grocery store is that organic eggs are found in two areas of the store: the organic/natural section where they’re more expensive and the regular eggs section which are more affordable.


3. Broccoli


Since they’re high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, green leafy vegetables are some of the best vegetables to feed your kids

Broccoli in particular, is high in vitamins C, K, and folate.

It’s also quite affordable and can be served cooked or raw, and for meals or snacks.

Add broccoli to stews, casseroles and salads, as well as egg, pasta and rice dishes. 

Or use your blender or Vitamix to blend the florets and the stems into a healthy, delicious soup.


4. Rolled oats


Rolled oats are low in sugar and a good source of whole grains and filling fiber, iron, selenium and manganese.

I use rolled oats practically every day in oatmeal, overnight oats, energy bites, cookies, breads, pancakes and muffins.


5. Frozen peas


With 5 grams of fiber and protein per 1/2 cup, peas are also a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, K, folate and magnesium.

While fresh peas are in season in the spring, you can stock up on frozen peas all year long.

Peas not only make for a great first food for baby, but they can be added to practically every dish including soups, stews, rice dishes, pastas and salads.


6. Sweet potatoes


An excellent source of vitamins A and C, and fiber, sweet potatoes are not only healthy, but a food most kids like and one that can stretch your food budget.

I love roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon and sea salt but you can also pop them in the microwave when you’re tight on time or grate them into a hash and serve them with eggs.


7. Beans and lentils


Beans and lentils are high in both protein and fiber and excellent sources of iron. Also, since you can buy beans in bulk, a little goes a long way.

Add beans to rice and pasta dishes, incorporate them into soups, stews and chilis or serve them as an appetizer that your kids can munch on while you’re cooking dinner.

6 Crazy Easy Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy

6 Crazy Easy Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

All parents want their kids to eat healthy, but when it comes to actually making it happen, most are left feeling frustrated, stressed out and exhausted.

Perhaps you’ve tried to make vegetables into fun shapes or works of art.

Or you’ve pureed and snuck them into meals.

I bet you’ve also begged, bribed and negotiated with your kids but all of your efforts fell flat.

Although it can be really frustrating to get your kids to even take a bite, it actually doesn’t have to be.

Here are 6 crazy easy ways to get your kids to eat healthy.

Short on time? Watch my video where I give you my 3 top tips.

 

1. Start early


If you have an infant, making homemade baby food and exposing him to a wide variety of flavors and textures is an almost sure-fire way to get him to enjoy eating healthy now and throughout his life.

In fact, studies show that children like and consume foods that are familiar to them and the earlier and more foods they’re exposed to, the healthier their diets will be.

I’m convinced that’s one of the reasons my kids eat foods like lentils and broccoli today because I served them up regularly from the moment they started solids.

2. Give kids choices


Whether it’s a toy, a favorite pair of shoes, or which apps they’re allowed to use, kids love choices and food is no different.

Food choices make kids feel empowered and in control—even when you’re the one calling the shots and deciding which foods to buy and when to serve them.

I’d argue that it’s the lack of choices at meals that makes them such a big power struggle with our kids.

While I’m not suggesting you let your kid decide what he’ll eat for dinner, you can give him plenty of opportunities to make choices you both can live with.

For example, offer broccoli and cabbage and let him pick one or both. Or put out a few types of vegetables for him to choose from and do a make your own pasta or taco night.

3. Go shopping together

Another way to give kids choices is to bring them to the grocery store or the farmer’s market and let them pick out a new vegetable they’d like to try.

When you come back home, wash, prepare and cook it together.

They’ll be more like to eat (or at least try) what’s being served because they had a say and a hand in making it.

4. Get cool gear

Teaching your kids how to cook is an easy way to get your kids to eat healthy.

According to a November 2014 review in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, kids who cooked at home or took cooking classes consumed more fiber-rich foods and fruits and vegetables, were more willing to try new foods, and had an increased confidence in their ability to prepare meals.

What’s more, a May 2018 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior  found young adults who had cooking skills and felt confident in the kitchen were more likely to be healthy eaters. 

One of the best ways to make cooking with your kids fun is to get some cool gear.

Whether it’s a kid’s personalized apron, a chopping board and safe, kid-friendly knives, or a cool chef’s set, your kids will get excited about cooking.

5. Make smoothies or juices


I don’t advocate for hiding vegetables in meals, but making green smoothies or juices is a great way to get several servings of fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet and because they’re green, it’s a non-sneaky way to get your kids to eat healthy.

Even better—let your kid choose the types of green vegetables and fruits and let them help you blend it up.

6. Keep it small

When you were a kid, how likely were you to sit down to an entire plate of asparagus—or worse—Brussels sprouts and eagerly eat it up?

I didn’t think so.

Although it’s true that kids don’t eat enough vegetables, it’s unrealistic to expect kids, especially toddlers, to eat an entire portion of a new food, or a food they’ve previously shunned.

Kids need to have the freedom to smell, taste and explore foods without feeling pressured so serve a teaspoon of broccoli florets or a few baby carrots, for example.

Stay consistent and continue to serve small portions at every meal, every day, and eventually your kids may surprise you.

6 Reasons Cooking Can Save Your Kid’s Life

6 Reasons Cooking Can Save Your Kid’s Life

When it comes to cooking healthy, homemade meals, most people aren’t on board.

They either don’t like to cook, or think cooking is too difficult, too time consuming or isn’t worth the effort especially after factoring in work, kids’ after-school activities and sports, and everything else that has to get done each day.

In fact, according to data collected by Eddie Yoon, a researcher and consultant for the consumer packaged goods industry, a whopping 45 percent of people hate to cook and 35 are lukewarm about it.

Our dislike for cooking however, is surprising considered the surge in meal kit subscriptions, food delivery apps, restaurants who offer on-the-go ordering, the popularity of cooking shows and Tasty-style videos and the rise of cookbook sales in 2018.

Despite our near-obsession with food and cooking, Americans still spend more money eating out than they do on groceries.

Dining out and ordering in may be quicker, easier, and tastier, but the reality is that doing so is slowly killing our kids.

Not only are we facing a childhood obesity epidemic and more kids than ever are being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, but studies show our kids will have a shorter life expectancy than older generations.

Fat or skinny however, all kids are at risk.

According to a May 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics, 37 percent of kids who have a normal weight have one or more cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar.

One of the reasons kids are sicker than ever is because they’re not given enough opportunities to learn how to cook and actually see what a healthy meal looks like.

The truth is that cooking can save your kid’s life. Here’s why.

1. Cooking makes kids healthier—physically and mentally

Studies show kids who consistently eat meals with their families are healthier kids overall.

In fact, according to a February 2018 study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, kids who share family meals together have higher fitness levels, drink less sugary soft drinks, and seem to have better social skills.

Studies also show that kids who eat with their families are less likely to have an eating disorder or become obese and family meals are linked to lower rates of depression, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, better grades and higher levels of self-esteem.

Conversations had around the table may even improve a child’s vocabulary and help them become more resilient.

2. Cooking puts an end to picky eating

If your kid is a picky eater, eating out may seem like an easy solution especially if the restaurant you’re dining in has a kid’s menu.

But feeding kids what they want instead of what they need only reinforces the picky eating pattern.

We tell ourselves (and others), “my kid will only eat X,Y, and Z,” or “there’s no way my kid will eat that,” and that’s exactly what ends up happening.

Dinner may not always be peaceful but when your kids eat a homemade meal and there are no other options, it’s one of the best ways to get them out of their picky eating behaviors.

The more opportunities kids have to enjoy healthy meals and the only choice is what’s being served, they’re more likely to at least try it.

3. Cooking shows kids what real food looks like

Instead of eating out where French fries is the side dish, meals aren’t served with vegetables and everything is smothered in cheese or a sauce, cooking at home gives kids plenty of opportunities to learn what real, fresh food and healthy, balanced meals actually look like.

Cooking means meals are healthier and portions are smaller

A December 2016 study in Nutrition Today found most items on kid’s menus at the top 200 restaurant chains in the U.S. contained 147 more calories than what experts recommend.

When you eat out with your kids, you could avoid the kids menu and instead order a salad and a healthy appetizer, for example.

But since most restaurant meals are 2 to 3 times larger than what they should be, chances are the portions will still be too large. What’s more, most restaurant meals are high in calories, sodium and unhealthy fats. 

Cooking at home lets you control the ingredients, the cooking method and the portion sizes.

4. Cooking strengthens family bonds

Life gets hectic when you have kids and families don’t spend nearly as much time as they’d like.

In fact, a March 2018 study commissioned by Visit Anaheim found Americans spend just 37 minutes of “quality” time together during the week.

The more time you spend together around the dinner table, the more opportunities there are to share stories, resolve conflict, share positive moments from your day and strengthen family bonds.

5. Cooking prepares kids for real life

You may not like to cook, but cooking is a life skill your kids will need, just like doing laundry and cleaning a home.

Sure, you can hire someone to do just about any errand or chore, but if you want to raise kids who are self-sufficient and not lean on mom or dad for everything, teaching them how to cook is key.

Teaching kids basic cooking skills like how to measure ingredients, chop vegetables, use appliances and follow a recipe, are skills that will carry them through life and ensure they’ll put their health first.

6. Cooking keeps kids with food allergies safe

If you have a child with food allergies, you know that going out to eat—or eating anywhere other than your home—is seriously nerve-wracking.

Although you’ll tell your server about your kid’s food allergies, ask the kitchen to use a clean pan and urge them to avoid cross contamination, anything can happen and unfortunately, you can’t put the onus on the restaurant.

When you cook at home, you don’t have to worry about food allergies, and you know your kid will be safe.

7 Best Healthy Foods To Buy In Bulk

7 Best Healthy Foods To Buy In Bulk

Cooking healthy meals for your family doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.

In our home, we keep things really simple.

Each week, we buy the same staple foods and make many of the same meals. Between working full-time, writing this blog, my kids and everything else that has to get done, there’s no time for guesswork or experimenting with new recipes.

And buying foods in bulk is one way we’re able to make sure we always have ingredients on hand to make healthy meals.

Although we don’t have a membership to a wholesale club because it doesn’t make sense for our family of 4, we stock up on sale items and buy foods that stretch our food budget. 

Buying in bulk can save you money, but you’ll need to watch your kids’ portion sizes or you could end up spending even more. On the flip side, if you don’t consume it in a timely manner, it can spoil and create food waste.

The key is to stock up on a few key ingredients—fresh, frozen, and non-perishable—

so you’ll always have what you need.

Here are 7 of the best healthy foods to buy in bulk.

1. Beans and Legumes

If you’re trying to get more plant-based foods into your kid’s diet, buy beans and legumes.

Black beans and lentils are two of my favorites to stock up on because they’re high in both protein and fiber and excellent sources of iron.

Black turtle beans in particular, are high in calcium: 1/2 cup provides 160 milligrams.

I prefer to buy dried beans and then soak and cook them because they’re more robust and lower in sodium than canned but canned beans are just as healthy and delicious.

Swap beans for meat in Mexican dishes, add them to soups, stews and chilis or as a replacement for eggs and oil in your favorite baking recipes.

2. Cinnamon

When it comes to healthy foods to buy in bulk, cinnamon is at the top of my list.

High in antioxidants, cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties and studies suggest it’s  beneficial for controlling blood sugar, improving LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. 

I keep several containers of cinnamon in my home because it’s so delicious and can be used in a variety of meals.

I add cinnamon to oatmeal, pancakes, muffins and desserts and sprinkle it on roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

I also like to mix cinnamon into my coffee grounds which adds a robust, delicious flavor to my morning cup.

3. Chia seeds

An excellent source of protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are by far one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids.

I keep a large mason jar of chia seeds in my pantry and incorporate them into pancakes, breads muffins and overnight oats, add them to smoothies and use them to make chia seed puddings.

4. Berries

Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak freshness and flash frozen so they may be healthier than fresh varieties.

In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases, frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are some of the best frozen foods to buy in bulk because they’re high in fiber and antioxidants, and low glycemic so they won’t spike your kid’s blood sugar.

Add frozen berries to smoothies, use your blender to whip them up into a healthy dessert, or serve them as a snack—something my kids loved when they were toddlers.

Or add berries to oatmeal, yogurt and baked goods for extra fiber and a natural sweetness.

5. Quinoa

High in both fiber and protein, quinoa (a seed), is one of the best healthy foods to buy in bulk.

Quinoa is a gluten-free, whole grain carbohydrate that’s high in fiber and a good source of B vitamins and magnesium.

I love keeping plenty of quinoa on hand because it cooks super-fast and it’s so versatile.

Swap it for oatmeal, add it to a fruit parfait, incorporate it into green salads or serve it as a side for dinner.

6. Olive oil


Whether you’re roasting vegetables to make them healthy and delicious for your kids, making your own salad dressing or coating a pan to scramble eggs, olive oil is a necessity when you’re cooking healthy meals.

High in monounsaturated, healthy fats and vitamin E, olive oil also makes food delicious and satisfies hunger.

Store olive oil in a cool, dry place away from the sunlight to prevent it from becoming rancid.

7. Rolled oats

Another whole grain option that’s high in fiber, rolled oats are also a good source of iron, selenium and manganese and are low in sugar.

Oats are naturally gluten-free but because of cross-contamination, look for brands that are labeled accordingly. I like Bob’s Red Mill

Swap rolled oats for recipes that call for flour or use them to make oatmeal, overnight oats, cookies, energy bites and protein bars.

Which foods do you like to buy in bulk? Let me know in the comments!

5 Kitchen Gadgets I Can’t Live Without

5 Kitchen Gadgets I Can’t Live Without

Before I got married and had kids, food and nutrition weren’t nearly as much of a focus in my life as they are now.

As a single woman living alone, I relied on quick and easy meals like scrambled eggs or pasta and broccoli.

If I cooked, it would have been something like a piece of pan-seared salmon but snack foods like hummus, crackers and cheese sticks for dinner were just as good—seriously!

Of course, Chinese take-out was always an easy option too.

When I met my husband however, I became more interested and inspired to cook healthy, delicious meals.

Since he works in the restaurant business and even worked as personal chef, he taught me how to use a knife and cutting board, how to roast a whole chicken and how to prepare a real meal from scratch.

Although cooking techniques like blanching still throw me off and I’m not all that adventurous with herbs and spices, I can hold my own in the kitchen today.

Of course, having kids has also been a driving force behind my motivation to cook. Between making homemade baby food, preparing their school lunches and cooking dinner almost every night, I’m always in the kitchen.

But let’s be honest: cooking takes time—time I don’t always have.

So over the years, I’ve found some amazing kitchen gadgets that have helped make meal prep easier, helped me pull together meals faster, and saved my sanity.

Here are 5 kitchen gadgets I can’t live without.

1. Vitamix

I recently received the Vitamix as a Christmas present from my husband and after getting over the initial sticker shock, I was hooked.

Unlike the small blender I was using, I love that you can put several types of vegetables for a smoothie in the Vitamix and it blends up everything into a super-smooth consistency, much like a juicer, but the fiber is still there.

The other great thing about the Vitamix is that it isn’t just for smoothies. You can use it to make homemade nut butters, dips and spreads, soups, frozen desserts, flours and dough and non-dairy milk.

2. Solid Wood Chopping Bowl

This solid wood chopping bowl and mezzaluna knife is hands down, one of my favorite kitchen gadgets and a tool I use every day.

There’s nothing more delicious than a chopped salad and with this bowl, you don’t have to drop $10 at your favorite lunch spot to get it. I simply add salad greens, onions, carrots and avocado and chop everything up in the bowl. I add dressing and a protein and lunch is ready in minutes.

If you want your kids to eat more vegetables, it’s also a great tool to get them in the kitchen to prepare—and get excited about—healthy meals too.

3. Pampered Chef Pan

Pampered Chef is known for their stoneware and for good reason.

I use this Pampered Chef pan most days of the week to roast vegetables and make sweet potato fries, and meatballs. Everything you make with the pan is evenly cooked, crispy on the outside but moist on the inside and bursting with flavor.

It’s also a breeze to clean and doesn’t require any soaking or scrubbing.

4. Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner


If there’s one kitchen gadget that ensures you’ll always have a quick and easy meal on hand, it’s the Oxo good grips salad spinner.

It’s a totally old-school kitchen gadget but it’s a must-have to wash salad quickly and keep it fresh all week long.

5. Cuisinart Stand Mixer

Another classic tool, the Cuisinart Stand Mixer is a kitchen gadget I’ve had since I got married and it’s become quite useful throughout the years.

If you love baking as much as I do, the mixer is a must-have.

Although it’s not in my regular daily rotation, it’s come in handy for making breads, my nana’s famous Christmas cheesecake and my kids’ birthday cakes.

What are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets? Leave me a comment! 

10 Simple Meal Prep Hacks For Busy Moms

10 Simple Meal Prep Hacks For Busy Moms

I wish I had better news for you, but the truth is that getting healthy meals on the table takes time.

Time to plan what you’re going to cook, time to shop for the ingredients, time to do the actual meal prep and cooking, and (ughh) all the clean-up.

When you’re rushing to get out the door in the morning or get dinner on the table at night and everyone is exhausted or having their own meltdown, pulling together healthy meals can seem next to impossible.

That’s where meal prep comes in.

With some simple strategies, you can plan ahead of time and have a system in place to get breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table every day.

Here are 10 simple meal prep hacks to try.

1. Pull out the iPad

When you’re trying to get something done like make an important phone call or make dinner, do your kids swarm to you like a hive of bees?

I hear you. In my house, dinnertime is prime time for meltdowns, siblings fighting and bad behavior.

Although I try really hard to limit my kids’ screen time, I’ve come to realize that strategic use of the TV and the iPad can come in handy especially when I’m cooking.

My kids get to decompress after-school and have some fun, while I’m able to get dinner on the table without feeling totally stressed out.

2. Store food in airtight containers

Clear glass, airtight food storage containers are your secret weapon for meal prep.

They not only keep all of your produce fresh and in clear sight but they help prevent food from spoiling, drying out, getting soggy or absorbing odors from other foods in the refrigerator.

Glass containers also cut down on time because they go from the fridge and the freezer to the microwave or the oven which makes cooking dinner a breeze.

Carve out some time on the weekends—or whenever you can—to wash, cut up your fruits and vegetables and store them in individual containers so you’ll know exactly what you have on hand.

Cut-up veggies also do double duty for quick meals, after-school snacks and school lunches.

3. Use ice cube trays

To prevent food from spoiling and make cooking quick and easy, freeze small portions of leftover ingredients in ice cube trays and then re-heat them when you need to.

Store homemade baby food purees, leftover stock, smoothies, pasta sauce, pesto and herbs—even coffee for a quick and easy cup of cold brew.

4. Make overnight oats


Mornings are hectic whether you have little ones you need to get to daycare or big kids who have to catch the bus.

Instead of serving cereal or instant oatmeal which are usually low in fiber, high in sugar and highly processed, fill mason jars the night before with oats, fruit, nuts or seeds and milk for a quick and easy breakfast.

5. Cut, then wash vegetables

Washing vegetables before you cut them up makes sense, but you might discover hidden dirt on the inside of produce like mushrooms, celery and broccoli and end up re-washing them again anyway.

Instead, chop everything first, then give your fruits and veggies a vigorous wash under cold, running water.

6. Slice it in


The thinner you slice vegetables and protein sources, the quicker they’ll cook whether you’re sautéing or roasting them.

I slice foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and tempeh super-thin and they cook in minutes flat.

7. Offer an appetizer

Your kids may refuse to eat all day but right before dinner is when they’re most likely to ask for a snack—so give it to them.

Offering an appetizer won’t spoil their dinner and if it’s a healthy choice, it can be a great way to take advantage of their hunger and get them to eat more vegetables and try new foods.

Letting them munch on something small can also help you buy some time while you’re getting dinner ready.

Serve roasted root vegetables as “fries,” hummus or a bean dip with cut up raw vegetables, or kale chips, for example.

8. Pre-heat your pan

Sheet pan meals already make dinners quick and easy, but you can save even more time by heating up the pan while your oven is pre-heating and you’re finishing up any meal prep.

Pre-heating the pan will cook everything evenly and speed up your cook time.

9. Pre-portion smoothie ingredients


Smoothies can be a quick and easy breakfast option for you and your kids, but the key is that it’s simple.

After you go to the grocery store or at the beginning of the week, wash and prep all of your fruits and vegetables and store them in individual Ziplock bags. In the morning, you can pop everything into your blender for a no-brainer breakfast with minimal clean-up.

10. Use your appliances

Chopping, slicing and dicing are seriously time-consuming especially if you’re using fresh garlic or cutting up vegetables that need to be peeled and sliced like butternut squash, for example.

If you don’t own a basic food processor, consider purchasing one that can do all the work for you and slash some serious time off your meal prep.