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.
Michele and her husband currently live in Winter Park, FL, with their 9-year-old son. Michele is a fellow registered dietitian and a “foodie,” so I was excited about her tips for getting a nutritious dinner on the table with her family’s busy schedule.
Q: You’re a dietitian, and many people tend to think of us as the food police. So, what is your food philosophy when it comes to feeding your family?
Michele: Nothing close to perfection. But, here are some rules that work in our kitchen…
- First and foremost, we try not to put too much attention on what our son’s eating or not eating. Do NOT get into food battles. We employ Ellyn Satter’s philosophy most of the time… always offer and let him choose. He’s had weeks of choosing mac’n’cheese, but we always offer vegetables and fruit. It’s there if he wants it.
- We let him make his own snacks. Fruit is always readily available, so he grabs an orange or an apple most days. He’s starting to experiment with [age-appropriate] cooking, which allows him some freedom.
Q: I know some RDs don’t like the word “picky.” But, it is more challenging to get some kids to eat real food. Any tips for those parents of “challenging” eaters?
Michele: Avoid power struggles. As my son gets older, he knows what triggers me and he plays that. If he knew food was a trigger for me, he would use it. Never let food get into power struggles. If my husband gets anxious about food and says “He needs to take a bite,” our son automatically says “No” to a new food. I’ll often say “Your loss” when he doesn’t try a new food, and two minutes later he’ll try it… most of the time. If he likes it, he can have more. If not, he doesn’t have to eat more.
Q: What are your favorite tips for getting dinner on the table?
Michele: We love Way Better foods. They’re fabulous and great for people with GI issues. We’ll build a meal around those in a pinch. (See some of Michele’s recipes for quick dinner and snack spreads below!)
Q: You are busy. How do you manage to take care of yourself?
Michele: I’m constantly trying to find balance! My husband is very supportive, and that’s key to allowing me to find balance. Beyond that, I find these are the three best ways I take care of myself…
1) Girlfriends. Finding other moms that I connect with or that one girlfriend I can talk to.
2) Planning a get-away. Doesn’t have to be expensive or long, just getting out of my element and demands of everyday life with my family.
3) Staying in touch with myself so I know when I’m out of balance. Consciously try to check in… where am I with myself today? I constantly watch to make sure I feed myself well and take care of myself.
MY TAKE-AWAY: I love that Michele gives her son freedom to make his own food so feels he has some control over what he eats. And, her ability to keep food out of power struggles is key to helping her son develop healthy eating habits down the road. (Remembering to keep food out of power struggles is something I work on daily with my almost 5-year-old, so I applaud Michele’s success in this area!) Michele has such a calm and down-to-earth presence, and now I understand why—she employs some great tactics to achieving self-balance! Building a positive support system and taking care of ourselves are two vital things all of us parents should do regularly… so that we can recharge and be our best selves and, perhaps most importantly, so we can be positive role models for our children.
MICHELE’S RECIPES for FAVORITE DINNER and SNACK SPREADS
BEAN LAYER DIP
Best paired with: No Salt Naked Blues, Unbeatable Blues, Simply Beyond Black Bean, Simply Sunny Multi-Grain, Simply So Sweet Chili, Simply Sweet Potato
1 cup of black beans or black refried beans
2 avocados, mashed
1⁄2 cup cheddar cheese
2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup of Greek yogurt, 0% or 2% fat
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1⁄2 cup Monterey Jack cheese or shredded Mexican-blend cheese
Black olives (optional)
Layer all ingredients, chill and serve.
ROASTED GARLIC-PEA PUREE
Best paired with: Simply Sunny Multi-Grain, Simply Tangy Mustard + Onion, Simply Beyond Black Bean
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 large heads of garlic
1⁄2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1 (10 ounce) packages of frozen peas, thawed
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 400 F. Wrap each head of garlic tightly in foil and roast until tender, about 50 minutes. Carefully unwrap garlic and let cool for 10 minutes. Separate cloves and squeeze garlic out of skins into a bowl.
Cook peas in 3 tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer peas to a food processor, add garlic, grated cheese, lemon juice, 1 tbsp. oil, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper, and puree until smooth. Transfer puree to a bowl and let cool completely. Top with grated cheese, olive oil and garnish with arugula leaves (optional).
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 provide 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.