This reader, Ann in Ohio, gave us a great entry in our recent contest sharing ideas about How to Raise Healthy Kids. It qualifies as a “runner up,” and we’re going to give her a prize, too. I have adapted her recipes, using my 6 baking tips to make a recipe healthier:
- Replace sugar with raw coconut sugar, and you’ll never know the difference.
- Replace vegetable oil with extra-virgin coconut oil.
- Use sea salt (or Original Crystal Himalayan Salt, best of all!) instead of refined salt.
- Use a Tbsp of chia soaked in 3 Tbsp of water, instead of an egg.
- Use aluminum-free baking powder found in health food stores.
- Use whole-grain, organic pastry flour instead of white flour.
Enjoy these ideas and recipes from Ann W. in Canton, Ohio:
Thank you for this opportunity to shine a little bit of light on what has helped grow my two little beauties into healthy, vibrant, and smart young ladies. From the get-go, our family focus has always been the whole body. When my girls were babies, I tried to provide for them wholeness in mind, body and spirit.
Fast forward to today: I have two beautiful daughters, age 9 and 11, who are both in gifted programs academically, and they are healthy eaters physically, as well as spiritually grounded.
In helping them grow nutritionally, I have incorporated a varied “green” diet with minimal processed products or meat. Most of our focus is on fruits and vegetables and whole grains. One way I have helped our girls widen their palates is by offering the “two bite” concept.
When I bring a new food to the table, my girls have learned to refrain from the sometimes irresistible urge to say, “Ewwww!” at the food presented to them. Instead, they know to take a bite to taste, and another to make sure.
This has always worked in our house to make meals more adventurous. It is also a contagious concept to some of their food-finicky friends. Moms are always questioning: “My daughter ate WHAT at your house? Are you sure? How’d you get her to taste that?!”
Somehow saying a child will only have to try the new food may reduce the pressure of cleaning a plate of unpalatable food for kids. So yes, that means that the ball, for the most part, is in their court. If they truly hate the taste of a food, I will never force them to eat it, but always have plenty of healthy alternative sides to choose from.
[Note from Robyn: I agree that in general, it’s not a great idea not to “force” kids to do much of anything. That said, since it takes 10 or more exposures to get a child to embrace a food, having them eat some is a good idea, in my opinion. In the home I grew up in, my mother didn’t want to be a short-order cook to 8 picky kids. Who can blame her? So each of us was allowed ONE food we didn’t have to eat. I still, to this day, remember the foods each of my brothers chose! Mine was spinach soufflé, a bizarre and yucky entrée my mother purchased at the military commissary. We felt like we had some choice, to get to say no once in a while! I don’t endorse allowing a child’s uninformed choices to let him or her out of eating entire classes of the most nutritious foods, though. For instance, while I wouldn’t make my son eat Brussels sprouts, I also wouldn’t let him refuse to eat all vegetables, or all greens. That seems very unwise to me, since it’s counter to his best interests.]
Three recipes have allowed me the peace of mind to know that my girls have gotten good nutrition each day. I love these recipes because of how healthy they are, but also how for how versatile they are. These are great recipes that are easy enough for the kids to help out with.
For example, my girls love collecting things from the garden, like kale, and watching as it transforms to the “Green Drink” in the blender. Both the Hermits and the Granola are fun for kids to help with, and nothing can compare to the yummy smell while they’re baking! The Hermits and Granola are hard to keep around because they get gobbled up so quickly, but they are great for school lunches if you make a big enough batch.
This recipe is a tweaked combination of a few I have tried over the years [adapted by Robyn].
1 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup milled flax seed
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped walnuts
8 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup raw coconut sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup raw honey
1 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups dried fruit
- Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 325.
- Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, seeds, and nuts in a large bowl. Stir together salt, sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat.
- Spread the mixture out evenly on two baking sheets.
- Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Stir once halfway through baking. Cool granola and stir in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.
Hermits [adapted by Robyn]
Makes about 32 bars
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (extra, if needed)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted organic butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed raw coconut sugar
1 Tbsp chia seed soaked in 3 Tbsp water for 20 minutes (or 1 organic egg)
4-5 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (walnut, almond, peanut, etc)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup milled flax seed
1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, etc.)
- Use two 11 x 17, or larger cookie sheets. Lightly oil each pan or cut a piece of parchment paper to fit each sheet. Preheat oven to 375°
- Sift two cups of flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside. In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer to soften the butter. Slowly add the sugar to the butter, beating at medium-high speed for 1 minute. Add the chia/water (egg replacer) and beat for another minute. Add the molasses and the vanilla, beating for 1 minute longer, until the batter is smooth.
- Stir 1 cup of the dry mixture into the creamed ingredients. Stir in the nuts and the dried fruit. Slowly add the remaining cup of the dry mixture, stirring after each addition. The dough will be dense and hard to stir. If it seems a little soft, mix in another 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour. Turn out the dough onto a well floured surface and divide it into 4 equal pieces.
- flour hands and surface to roll the first ball into a log about 12 inches long. Roll the log onto one of the pieces of parchment.
- Place the log (with the paper) lengthwise onto the cookie sheet, leaving room for a second one beside it. Slightly flatten the log into a rectangle about 3/4 inches thick and 1 1/4 inches wide
- Repeat with the second log.
- Bake the bars on the center oven rack for 11 to 12 minutes. Prepare the second baking sheet or thoroughly cool the pan if only using one. Do not overcook the bars! They will have flattened and will continue to cook and get firmer as they cool.
- Allow the bars to cool for 10 minutes, and then place them onto a large cutting board.
- While the bars are still warm, cut them into 1 1/2-inch-wide sections. Cool the bars thoroughly. Store in an airtight container.
3 handfuls greens (combinations of kale, spinach, collard greens, etc.)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen mango
1 frozen banana
2 Tbsp. chia seeds, soaked in 6 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup flax
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth, adding more liquid if needed. Enjoy!