Dr. Michelle Jorgenson, a dentist in Highland, Utah, is one of our three winners of the “How to Teach Kids to Eat Right” contest. Her comments here, and the recipes in my next blog, will be featured in my upcoming book, How to Eat Right In the Real World.
I’ll share the inspirational story later, of how Michelle adopted her sickly son Luke at 2 ½ years old and shifted him from chicken nuggets to her whole-foods, plant-based diet, where he is now thriving at 7 years old and loves greens and vegetables and most everything she serves! Here are Michelle’s thoughts on how you raise healthy eaters, enjoy!
First question I always ask parents and kids is, “Do you think there are any kids in China that don’t like Chinese food?” The answer is no! Kids eat what you feed them. Maybe not the first time, but if that’s all they get, they will eat almost anything. [Note from Robyn: Research says it takes 10 exposures to a new healthy food, for a child to embrace it.]
I think there is an order to things:
1. You decide why you want to change what your family eats. Make sure you really believe it, because they will ask, and test, and push you, and you will cave to the pressure, if you’re not strong and committed!
2. You decide where you want to start. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t change your family’s diet in a day either. Decide what will make the biggest splash with the smallest change. Maybe it’s getting rid of white sugar, maybe it’s putting a big bowl of fruit on the counter all the time, maybe it’s a green smoothie in the morning! Do a step at a time.
3. Don’t make the change a democratic process. This is how you are doing it now. No debate, no confusion. Remove all of the thing you are changing. I know it hurts to give away or throw away food, but if it’s there, you are showing that you really aren’t that committed after all. Your family will sense this weakness, and pounce!
4. Give a reward for making the change. I know this sounds awful, but they don’t understand the health reward they will get. You do, as an adult who has a well developed sense of “delay of gratification,” but the kids aren’t the ones wanting to make the change. Give them something they can see or feel or hope for. A fun outing as a family, dinner at a favorite restaurant, a small reward (toy, etc.). Set a time limit and make it conditional: you eat this for 30 days without complaining and we get to go to the movies, you choose the movie.
5. Expect setbacks. You will have times that are tough and you will want to give up. Plan for it, and plan how you are going to handle it when it hits. Give yourself a break now and then and you will be stronger for it.
6. Make things that taste good. I’ve made “healthy” things that taste terrible. I don’t even want to eat them, so why should they? But healthy doesn’t have to taste bad, and I think that is a myth a lot of people believe. Make good food. Make it with real food, not things in boxes. It tastes better, is much less expensive, and your family will actually ask for it again!
Some of our favorite, easy meals:
• Fried rice. Use leftover brown rice and any veggies you have. Add a couple of eggs and season with nama shoyu or Bragg’s. Serve with a side of cucumbers or a green salad and you have a meal. 30 minutes start to finish.
• Mexican roll-ups. You can use a tortilla or lettuce or cabbage for the wrap. Again, use rice and any veggies on hand, add salsa, corn and black beans. Fruit salad could finish out the meal.
• Hawaiian haystacks. Put brown rice on the bottom, and any veggies or crunchy things you have on hand, to put on top. Coconut and pineapple are yummy. Scramble an egg or add some beans for protein. Make a peanut miso sauce to serve over top. [This and other recipes Dr. Jorgenson references are at the end of her explanation. She notes that she uses short-grain brown rice for Mexican or American food, and long-grain jasmine rice for Asian and Indian cooking. She uses a rice cooker, but you can also wash brown rice well, and cook 1 part rice to 2 parts water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.]
• Miso soup. Make a simple kombu broth, then add whatever you want. Veggies, tofu, rice noodles, wakame (seaweed). When all cooked, whisk in miso to taste, but don’t boil, just warm. Eat with a side of edamame and this can be a meal. [Usually rice noodles, found in the gluten free section or in Asian markets, are made from refined white rice. But you can find brown rice noodles at health food stores.]
• Spring rolls. Use a spiralizer and cut up a bunch of veggies: zucchini, beets, carrots, jicama, turnip, etc. Roll up the veggies along with some rice noodles, lettuce, herbs (mint or basil), whatever you have. Eat with Asian Nut Sauce made by blending almonds (or almond butter), tamari and agave, maybe a little ginger. Add fruit for a meal.
• One dish pasta. Sautee veggies (onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, tomato, etc) in a large wok-style pan. Boil rice noodles in another pan. When noodles are about 2 minutes from being done, add them to the veggies, along with enough of the cooking water so they are saucy. Continue cooking together until noodles are done. Top with spicy pumpkin seeds or a little parmesan. Great with flax crackers and a green salad.
• Crockpot soups. Make a veggie and bean soup the night before or the morning before you want the meal. It cooks all day while you are gone. Some easy ones: taco soup with black beans and corn and tomatoes, lentil soup with carrots and tomatoes and lentils, easy chili with three different cans of beans, green chilis, tomatoes and chili powder. Serve with tortilla chips and fruit.
7. Involve your family in planning, shopping for and making the food! If your daughter makes the salad, she’s much more likely to actually eat it. Your goal is to make Healthy Adults, not Healthy Kids. What?! It doesn’t do any good if they stop eating the way you’ve taught when they leave your home. You need to be teaching skills that will serve them well while they are in your home, and especially after they have left your home. They need to know how to throw a quick dinner together, how to shop, and how to plan inexpensive, healthy meals on their own. Otherwise, vending machine and McDs, here they come.
My next blog entry will share all the recipes Dr. Jorgenson refers to in her comments!