With the New Year comes the inevitable resolution to live a healthier lifestyle over the coming months. If you are a parent, you may also have resolved to try to get your kids to eat better as well. I have set this goal for myself many times in the past, but have been stymied by the time and preparation needed to get there. No matter how good my intentions, I quickly fall back into my old habits.
Mai Trinh Joubert giving a wellness presentation
I want this year to be different, so I sought out professional advice and turned to the Alexandria-based founder of Mai Health Now, LLC, Certified Health Counselor and Wellness speaker Mai Trinh Joubert. Like me, Mai is a harried working mother of three young children. However, unlike me, she is able to prepare healthy meals that her children actually eat and enjoy every day. So, I knew she was the right person to consult to get practical advice on how to prepare quick and easy healthy meals and snacks that appeal to young children on the go (and their busy parents.)
As a mother, Mai is able to test her recipes on her family to be sure they will be a hit with children and parents alike. Mai offered a sampling of recipes that are both kid-approved and quick to prepare.
Oatmeal is a fast and easy breakfast to prepare that will give your kids a good start to their day. You can even prepare a big batch on Sunday night then heat up smaller portions every morning during the morning rush. Preparing your oatmeal with milk instead of water gives your kids some extra calcium. Although the old standby for oatmeal toppings is raisins with a bit of brown sugar, you can change what you add to your oatmeal every few days so your kids don't get bored. Some options are dried apples, dried coconut, walnuts, raw almonds and omega-3 rich chia seeds. Fresh blueberries with a dash of almond milk and a dash of raw local honey is a winning combo most kids will love. 100 percent maple syrup with generous helping of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg is another combo that is a hit with kids.
Wraps make a quick lunch that kids enjoy. This one is a hit in Mai's house.
Mai's Sunflower Wrap
Spread sunflower butter on a whole wheat, brown rice, or gluten free tortilla. Add a touch of raw honey with a sprinkle of chia seeds for crunch and a dose of mega 3s. Roll it up. Serve with an organic cheese and a side of fruit. Clementines or fresh grapes are healthy choices kids love. This lunch is easy to prepare and packs well.
Kale is a nutrient-dense food that packs a lot of punch. It is a great choice for all kids, but works especially well for those kids who pick at their food or prefer to snack. Rather than asking kids to scarf down another green, you can sell this recipe to your kids as chips, which most kids think of as a treat. It takes very little time to prepare and can be stored after baking, giving you a week's worth of snacks to pack for lunch.
Mai's Asian Baked Kale Chips (small children approved)
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rip stems off a bag of fresh Kale. Tear Kale in small pieces. Throw stems away. Drizzle sesame oil on foiled baking pan. Place kale pieces on pan. Drizzle sesame oil and Braggs Amino Acid (naturally fermented soy sauce -- a little goes a long way) on kale pieces. Mix sauce and kale with hand so that kale is evenly covered. Bake for eight to 12 minutes depending on your preference of crunchiness. Serve and eat!
This is a quick and easy, and totally yummy, kid-friendly dinner recipe that serves up veggies and protein in way kids will love.
Mai's Banging Black Bean Quesadilla Recipe:
Total Prep And Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Yield: 4 Servings or 4 quesadillas
• 1 can or 2 cups of cooked black beans*
• 1/8 tsp of cumin
• Squeeze of lime (optional)
• 1/3 cup salsa, as you like it
• 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
• 2 small Roma tomatoes, diced
• 2 cups of chopped baby spinach
• 1 cup shredded cheese or non-dairy cheese
• ½ cup of cooked brown rice (optional)
• 4 burrito-sized tortillas (can use gluten free tortilla like brown rice tortilla)
1. Mash the beans, brown rice (optional) and stir in the salsa, cilantro, and tomatoes
2. Squeeze lime in mixture (optional)
3. Spread 1/2 cup of the bean mixture on one half of each tortilla
4. Top each tortilla with spinach and cheese
5. Fold each tortilla in half
6. Cook on medium heat, one or two at a time on a large skillet, turning to brown both sides.
7. The quesadillas are done when they are browned on both sides and the cheese is melted
*Note: If you're going to soak and cook beans, do this overnight and save the rest for soup later!
Mai feeding a smoothie to her son
All kids love smoothies and they are a quick and easy way to get lots of fruit (and even some veggies) into your kids at one time. Smoothies make a great snack and can be served as breakfast in warm weather. Fresh or frozen fruit can be used. Here are two recommended by Mai especially for kids, but you can experiment with different combinations. Try giving your smoothies fun names like the "Punchy Purple Monster" for a smoothie that features blueberries or "Razzle Dazzle Red" for a smoothie made with strawberries. A green smoothie could be sold as Yoda's favorite drink for Star Wars fans and or one of Tinkerbelle's favorites for fans of the green-clad fairy. A little marketing goes a long way with kids.
Mai Blue for You Smoothie
Total Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Yield: 2 Servings
• 1 cup blueberries
• 7 oz organic vanilla yogurt
• 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
• 2 tbsp orange juice
• ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp raw local honey
• ½ cup ice
Place everything except ice into a blender and pulse a few times until blended. Add ice, cover and blend on high until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Mai Brocco Power Berry Fruit Smoothie
Total Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Yield: 2 Servings
• 1 cup frozen berries
• 1 cup steamed broccoli (Steaming mellows out the taste and it is sweetened by fresh fruit!)
• 1 cup 100% cranberry juice
• ¼ cup organic plain yogurt
• 4 ice cubes
Place everything except ice into a blender and mix until well-mixed. Add ice, cover and blend on high until smooth. Add honey or agave nectar if you want more sweetness or use vanilla yogurt instead of plain. Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Yummy Orange Smoothie
Hopefully these recipes will give you a good start on getting your entire family on the path to healthier eating. If you are interested in learning more about how you can make sure 2013 is the year your family eats better, visit Mai's website at www.maihealthnow.com for more recipes and tips. Mai is available for consultations or to help you plan meals even the pickiest eaters will enjoy. She also speaks to groups throughout the D.C. Area about eating better and boosting energy. For those who need a little more help in the kitchen, Mai conducts cooking demonstrations.
Focusing on making changes that are sustainable will help ensure that you and your family can enjoy the benefits of healthy eating throughout 2013 and beyond. With just a little guidance and a little effort, you too can get your kids to trade in cookies for kale and put them on the path to a lifetime of healthy eating.