Raising Healthy Eaters

Five tips for rearing kids who prefer broccoli to Twinkies

Lofty January resolutions largely forgotten, parents see February’s busy schedules and convenience triumphs over healthy eating. Dr. Julie La Barba, director of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio’s new Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) program, says it doesn’t have to be that way. CHEF Program Director Maria Palma, Registered Dietitian Celina Parás and La Barba sat down with us to share some easy (but often not followed) steps for raising kids who will eat their vegetables, which La Barba, a mother of four, says can help prevent a whole host of diseases later on.

Chop Veggies Before You Need Them
Parás and Palma say a healthy diet begins with a prepared kitchen. With nutritious options waiting in the fridge and pantry, meals come together in minutes. Keep low-sodium canned beans on hand for an easy addition to salads, stockpile frozen fruit for smoothies and take the time to cut fruits and veggies after you shop so they’ll be just as easy to use in snacks and meals as pre-packaged foods that are higher in sugars and fat. “Being prepared and having a game plan for the kitchen can help save time,” says Palma. “By washing and chopping or slicing a few key items you are set up to throw something together in a pinch.”

Make Lunch Before Bedtime
Leaving lunch packing until morning is a recipe for disaster. Spend a few minutes before bed putting together a meal your child will look forward to—that way you’ll have time to pack something healthy and you’ll have time for breakfast in the morning. “(It) lessens that Grand Central Station effect we seem to experience in our home each morning,” says La Barba.

Start Small
Sometimes switching to a healthier diet is as simple as choosing wheat over white. “Try making a couple of small attainable changes at a time and stick to them for at least three months to allow yourself to get used to them,” says Parás. Eating whole wheat rather than white bread is a start. You can also flavor dishes with fresh herbs instead of extra salt.

Add Healthy Twists to Old Favorites
Have picky eaters? Serve what they like but with a healthy twist. Quesadillas can go from filler food to healthy meal with a few key changes. “Try choosing corn or whole wheat tortillas; add low-fat cheese and fruits and vegetables of your choice,” says Parás. Try broccoli, tomatoes, spinach or even fruits like apples.

Shop Along Store Edges
Grocery shop at the outer edges of the store first, where the produce department, butcher and other sections with fresh foods are usually located. Your cart will be filled with fresh foods before you can even consider other options. “Eat a variety of colored plant-based foods that are in their most natural form,” says Palma.

San Antonio Magazine – By Lauren Moriarty