Start with a salad!
There is no reason children can’t like salad and getting your kids to eat more green veggies is one of the most important nutrition steps you can make. Greens are jam-packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. The phytonutrients are what protect the plant but they also protect the plant-eater (you and your little kiddies!!) by supporting a healthy immune system, reducing inflammation, etc.
Calorie for calorie, dark leafy greens deliver the most abundant, broadest spectrum of nutrients of just about any food in the whole world. For example, did you know dark leafy greens contain hefty doses of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium?
As a mom I know how difficult it can be to introduce raw dark leafy greens to kids but mild tasting raw greens, like romaine lettuce, are very kid-friendly (as long as you dress it with a yummy dressing!) A simple chopped fresh salad with a healthy dressing (preferably one that also delivers omega-3 essential fats, like the recipe below) is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to get your kids to eat their greens. And, in case you’re wondering, here’s how salad greens rank, from most nutritious to least: spinach leaves, arugula, watercress, endive, romaine, Bibb, Boston, and iceberg—basically, the darker the green the better.
As mentioned above, a yummy dressing is really the key to getting kids to eat their greens. I’m not a huge fan of store-bought dressings because 1) they are typically made with highly refined empty calorie vegetable oils and 2) they usually just don’t taste all that good. Making your own salad dressing is incredibly easy and SO well worth it when your kids actually eat their greens! I’ve posted the recipe for my omega-3 rich Caesar salad dressing before but it’s such a hit with my son I just had to post it again. Although romaine is the traditional lettuce served with Caesar feel free to serve it with any green you like.
P.S. One of the ways to make a Caesar salad more “kid-friendly” is to add fruit…dried cranberries and sliced pears are especially delicious!
Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe…with Hemp Seeds!
- 2-3 whole garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon organic Worcestershire (such as Annie’s Naturals)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup hemp seeds (such as organic Nutiva brand)
- Himalayan salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (leave this out if you want it to be 100% vegan)
Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender (such as a Vitamix) or food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Note: Dressing will keep in refrigerator for 3 to 4 days if stored in a covered container.
Make Some Healthy Mac and Cheese!
Creating a truly healthy mac and cheese recipe that actually tastes good is easier said than done. But it can be done! I’ve played around a lot with trying to make a healthy mac and cheese and this one is by far the best as far as good taste and good nutrition. It’s very low in cheese (believe it or not, it has less than 2 tablespoons of cheese per serving!) and it is loaded with phytonutrients from the cashew nuts and butternut squash. Best of all, is super easy to make!
I use truffle oil in this dish because my little guy loves the stuff, but if you have very picky eaters who like ultra mild foods you might want to substitute the truffle oil with cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.
If you aren’t familiar with nutritional yeast in the healthy mac and cheese recipe below you can buy this nutrient-packed super healthy food at any natural foods store or in bulk from Whole Foods Market.
Nutritional yeast is different than baking yeast because it is inactive, meaning that it does not feed on sugars in your body or promote candida albicans, which is a yeast-like fungus that lives in the digestive tract. For this reason, those who are advised to avoid yeast (most always this refers to “active” yeast) can almost always tolerate nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is a vegan source of complete protein and a rich source of B vitamins (including vitamin B12, which is extremely difficult to get from plant foods.) And, it tastes delicious! Nutritional yeast melts and has a mild cheddar cheese flavor, perfect for a healthy mac and cheese recipe (it’s also super yummy in soups, sprinkled on kale chips, mixed in sauces, dips and salad dressings.)
You’ll notice this recipe makes a great big batch and the reason is it’s just as easy to make a big batch as a little batch. Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
P.S. Moms, if you want this healthy mac and cheese recipe to be super figure-friendly try mixing in a half portion of dark red beans to your serving!
Healthy Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 1 cup roasted butternut squash (see notes below)
- 1 cup raw cashews (to enhance nutrition, soak cashews for 2 hours in water)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon truffle oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
- ½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast (see notes above)
- ¼ pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 6 cups cooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
- 1 cup shredded organic cheddar cheese (preferably grass-fed/ pastured cheese)
Roast butternut squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butternut squash on a baking sheet, skin sides down. Rub the flesh with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt to taste. Roast butternut squash for about 35-40 minutes, or until flesh is fork-tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, scoop out 1 cup of pulp and set aside (reserve leftover roasted squash for another dish or eat as-is.)
Place cooled roasted butternut squash, cashews, lemon juice, water, truffle oil, salt, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, and paprika in a high speed blender. Process until smooth and creamy.
Place the cooked macaroni in a large heavy saucepan. Stir in the butternut squash cashew “cheese” sauce and heat over medium high. When pasta is hot, add the cheese and stir until well combined. Serve warm.
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup wheat germ
- 3 tablespoons shredded organic cheddar cheese (preferably grass-fed/ pastured)
In a small bowl, mix together the extra virgin olive oil, wheat germ and shredded cheese.
Transfer mac and cheese to an oven-proof casserole. Sprinkle topping on top. Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Give Me Something Sweet to Eat!
I’ll be honest. Sweets are my biggest vice. And I know I’m not alone! The thing with kids is that you just can’t get away with banning sweets in the “real world” because just about every kid in the universe loves sweets. However, just because it’s a sweet treat doesn’t mean it has to be a total nutritional nightmare either.
In our house I serve a sweet treat dessert every night. But I never ever make a dessert the “normal” way…it’s always spiked with as many healthy things as I can cram in without my son noticing (and yes, sometimes I go too far and the sweet treat ends up tasting not so treat-like!) However, along the way I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks for making sweets healthy and tasty.
One of the easiest things to do is sneak in fruit whenever and wherever possible. Fruit is incredibly nutrient-dense and fiber rich but it is also super sweet…so the more fruit you add the less empty calorie sugar you need to add. In the recipe below the vast majority of sweetness comes from prunes! These treats are easy to make and guilt-free too.
Gluten-Free Chewy Flourless Chocolate Cookies
Yields: 14 cookies
- Extra virgin coconut oil (such as Barlean’s brand) for greasing the baking sheet
- 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons raw honey
- 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 1 cup raw walnuts
- 1 cup raw pecans
- 1/2 cup raw prunes
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (look for a high quality one like Ghirardelli or Green & Black)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with the extra virgin coconut oil.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, egg whites and salt.
Place the walnuts, pecans, prunes, sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor and process into fine crumbs. Transfer the “crumbs” to a large mixing bowl.
Add the wet ingredients in with the dry; mix well. Using a tablespoon as a measuring device, form 14 small round cookies. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until done but still chewy. Cool completely before serving.
Note: If you want these to be super low in sugar you can eliminate the sugar and just use raw honey.