Getting kids to eat takes creativity, patience and, sometimes, a bit of luck. 52 Moms Talk Food is my exploration of how inspiring moms make it happen.
It’s been a little while since I’ve updated my 52 Moms Talk Food series, but I am so excited to post my 52 Moms chat with Heidi, a wellness coach and organic gardener in Minnesota. She and her husband have a toddler. Heidi took a few minutes to share with me some tips on how she gets her daughter excited about eating a sustainable and local diet.
Q: What are your favorite tips for getting nutritious food on the table?
Heidi: We are very committed to eating sustainably-produced food, so we tend to eat seasonally and organically. We have a large garden, and I spend a lot of time chopping, stewing, freezing, canning and drying all types of produce to last us through the winter and spring. In the fall, I do a lot of freezing and dehydrating to use up our harvest, which helps us throw healthy meals together quickly during the cold Midwest winters. I do spend a few mornings each week making larger batches of soups and casseroles to eat later in the week or freeze for those hectic days. We keep fresh, frozen and dried fruits, granola, yogurt, cheese and whole grain crackers on hand for snacks, and enjoy eating–and making–most of our meals at home.
Q: What’s your feeding philosophy? How do you get your toddler to eat her fruits and vegetables?
Heidi: Our food philosophy: Offer healthy foods at all times. Our daughter doesn’t always want these foods, but they are always available to her. This summer, she happily ate peas straight out of the pod and raspberries off the brambles. One of the advantages of having a garden is getting to see where your food comes from, and this has encouraged our toddler to eat well. We have very few processed foods in the house (though we do like Annie’s organic graham crackers and Annie’s organic cheddar bunnies), and I continuously remind myself that if she doesn’t eat something today, she may like it tomorrow or in 3 months. I tend to believe that by surrounding a child with wholesome and real food, they will (eventually) come to appreciate the value of eating in a way to support their health and the earth.
Thinking back on my childhood, I vividly remember a time when I wanted nothing to eat but cheese bagels and boxed mac and cheese. Since my parents were also committed to eating sustainably and seasonally, I imagine that they were not thrilled with my diet choices. But, I believe their choices and the environment they created are the main reasons why I eat the way I do now, and why I am committed to providing the same for my child.
Q: Between working, gardening and raising a toddler, how do you find balance in your life?
Heidi: My husband does the bulk of the shopping–usually with our daughter in tow–while I’m at work. We share household tasks… I do most of the gardening and cooking, he does most of the wood chopping and home maintenance. Sharing responsibilities and being open to doing things differently when needed is essential to finding that balance for everyone in the family. I get up early–always before everyone else–and go for a bike ride, practice yoga or work in the garden. This alone time helps me stay grounded and cultivates excitement about the day ahead. I am very intentional about what I allow to dictate my days, and I do my best to keep healthy boundaries and commit only to things that truly mesh with my values.
MY TAKE-AWAY: Healthy living and eating whole foods are in Heidi’s DNA, so it’s no surprise that she is raising her daughter to have a healthy and wholesome appetite. I love that Heidi grows her own food (she’s an inspiration to this wanna-be gardener!) and that she spends a little up-front time early in the week to prepare meals for later in the week. That is KEY to eating healthy meals, and preventing the what-do-we-eat-tonight dilemma. Two other things Heidi does that help to encourage healthy eating… she continues to offer vegetables to her daughter even if she doesn’t like them the first time and she keeps mostly whole, minimally-processed foods in her house. That’s another key that’s important for the whole family… don’t keep foods in the house that you don’t want your kids (or yourself) to eat. Oh, and I’ll be trying her recipe for Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese (see below) tonight!
HEIDI’S RECIPE for BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC & CHEESE
One of our 2 year old’s favorites is Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. I usually assemble the casserole in the morning and then we bake it in the evening for dinner. You can also freeze the baked casserole. As for the squash, I bake several squash after they are harvested (roast cut side down in a shallow baking dish until you can pierce skin with fork) and freeze the puree into 1 cup zip lock bags for later use.
8-12 ounces whole grain pasta shapes (spirals or penne work well)
1-2 cups chopped veggies (any vegetable that you have on hand)
1 cup pureed butternut squash
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
½ cup cheddar cheese
Panko or breadcrumbs
½ cup mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Add vegetables (if using raw) to the pasta pot a few minutes into cooking. When noodles and veggies are tender, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour to make a paste. Gradually add the milk, whisking as you add. Continue to stir occasionally until the sauce thickens (about 10 minutes). Add the butternut squash and cheddar cheese and stir until incorporated.
Combine all ingredients, mixing well, and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with panko or breadcrumbs and top with the mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Remove foil and broil for a few minutes to crisp the top if desired.
SEEKING MORE MOMS (AND DADS!): Do you have some great ideas to share with other parents? Or, want free family nutrition advice? Share your story and I’ll offer you a free nutrition consult!
So, if you’d like to be featured in 52 Moms Talk Food, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.