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FEATURES Jan 14 2013 10:42PM

Getting your Children to Eat Healthier for the New Year

By Wendy Lopez of Food Heaven Made Easy.
New Years is right around the corner, and many of us are working on setting goals that revolve around improving our nutrition and health for 2013. This can be especially challenging for parents because when switching things up in the kitchen, one has to consider whether kids are going to enjoy the foods being prepared. Many children have picky palates, and it’s no walk in the park trying to motivate them to eat healthier. The good thing is that the earlier on you instill healthy eating habits in the home, the more successful you will be at getting your kids to see nutrition and health as a lifestyle norm. Here are five tips and tricks to get your children eating healthier for the new years!
1.     Eat family dinners together.
With our busy schedules, this is a tradition that has unfortunately lost its touch in many households. Research has shown that children who eat dinners regularly with families at home have healthier nutrition patterns. It can be hard to do this on a daily basis, but aim to eat together at least 3-4 days a week. Not only does this foster healthier eating habits, but it also promotes communication between parents and children. Making this a routine will give you and your children an activity to look forward to regularly, and you can use this time to talk to your children about the importance of food, cooking, health, and most importantly, family.
2.     Ask your children what foods they enjoy.
Limiting your child’s choices will only cloud their perception of what “eating healthy” means. There are tons of healthy options out there, so don’t force any particular food onto your child. It will make them shut down even more. Make a mental inventory of your child’s favorite fruits and vegetables. Find creative ways to incorporate them into snacks and meals, and ask your children if they prefer a particular way of preparation over another. It’s all about communication!
3.     Make the kitchen an interactive space.
Many times kids see a meal in front of them, and have absolutely no clue what went into making it. It’s so important to involve your children in the cooking process. Children get super excited when they are given the opportunity to help chop, peel, and stir. They know what goes into making meals, and when they see the end result, there is a sense of pride knowing that they contributed.
4.     Reinforce healthy behaviors.
Commend your children when they make healthy food choices. It can be especially hard for children and teens to change eating habits. By giving your kids affirmations and words of encouragement, they’ll know you have their back and are proud of the steps they’ve taken. Don’t bash children for going with unhealthy food choices. Instead offer alternatives and substitutions. Instead of potato chips, offer popcorn or tortilla chips. Instead of French fries, offer roasted sweet potato fries.
5.     Get creative.
Incorporating art into cooking is so important, especially for younger children. Have your kids build shapes and objects out of fruits and vegetables. Come up with activities that involve creating edible crafts. You can make animals out of vegetables and then have them eat it. One of my favorite activities is making whole wheat pizza from scratch with my niece and nephew, and then having them create silly faces with vegetable toppings. See what works with your children!
Here’s a child-friendly recipe that has been a hit in my home. It’s a sneaky way to get your kids eating cauliflower without them even knowing it. Enjoy!
Vegan Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
What you need:
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 3 cloves of fresh minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of reduced fat Veganaise
(or substitute with 3 tablespoons of olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped scallions
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
What you do:
·      Bring a pot of water to a boil
·      Chop potatoes and cauliflower 
·      Add potatoes to boiling water for 15 minutes, add cauliflower and cook an additional 10 minutes
·      Sauté minced garlic and onion in olive oil
·      When cauliflower and potatoes are cooked, drain and mash in a large bowl
·      Add Veganaise, sautéed garlic and onion, garlic powder, and scallions 
·      Stir until Veganaise is evenly distributed throughout dish
·      Add salt and pepper to taste
·      Enjoy this low fat, vegetable-based alternative to traditional mashed potatoes!


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