09/05/2012 10:40 am ET Updated Nov 05, 2012

Cooking Healthy for Kids

As a single father of 3-year-old twin girls and the founder and owner of the Madison Square Club and David Kirsch Wellness Co., staying fit and healthy is at the top of my list. I have always believed that nutrition plays a major part in one's overall wellness quotient. I have used the same philosophy in raising my daughters Emilia and Francesca. Eating healthy foods, making smart choices with what's available, and having a good relationship with both food and eating are lessons that I have taught them and that will serve them well throughout their lives. Living in New York City, I am surrounded by a myriad of healthy markets and restaurants. That is not often the case though, so here are my tips for preparing healthy meals for your children:

1. Plan Ahead -- Like my grandmother before me, I try to create a food calendar for every day of the week. Monday is turkey burgers. I usually make enough to last for the next day's lunch for me and my girls. Steamed fresh organic broccoli, carrots, green beans and Emilia's favorite, sweet peas, are just some of the sides that I choose to accompany the meal. At least one day a week, I prepare fresh wild fish -- salmon, lemon sole and halibut are our favorites. On other days, fresh soups, salads and other protein like turkey, chicken or the occasional lean filet.

2. Desserts -- To dessert or not to dessert, that is the question. Contrary to what my grandmother said, desserts don't need to punctuate the end of the meal. Weather permitting, I usually take Emilia and Francesca out to the playground for after-dinner activities, where we will also snack on some organic fruits -- berries, watermelon, apples... Dessert is not a given, rather a treat if they are still hungry and ask for it.

3. Kirsch-ing Your Kitchen -- Keep your refrigerator, pantry and cupboards full of healthy foods. Things not to have in your house:

  • Instead of packaged fruit juices, have plenty of fresh (organic) fruits and either a good blender (I love the Vitamix blender) or a juicer to make fresh pressed juices and/or smoothies.
  • Instead of butter, I use Olivo, which is a blend of butter and canola oil. It has less fat (0 trans fat), less calories and plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. It tastes great and it is definitely the healthier alternative to butter and margarine.
  • Stay away from white bread and anything other than 100 percent multigrain bread. If you are gluten intolerant, than gluten-free is also the way to go.
  • Sugar -- avoid processed sugar at all costs!! I have seen the evil that sugar does the few times that my girls have enjoyed an ice cream or a cupcake. The healthy alternative: all-natural ice pops (fruit, fudge or any creative combination you can think of). I have recently created a line of natural pops called Kirschpops made with fruits, David Kirsch Wellness Supplements, Zico Coconut Water and the Zoku instant ice pop maker.
  • Snacks -- avoid traditional potato chips, Cheetos and the like. Alternatively, keep things like cucumbers, celery sticks, baby carrots, and baked chips to satisfy the urge to crunch.

4. Snacking -- I am a fan of healthy eating. Some of the healthy snacks I prepare are low-fat hummus and fresh ground almond butter.

5. Healthy Cheats -- There are those days when pasta or pizza is craved. Rather than say no, I satisfy them with healthier options. For pasta this means either quinoa or kamut pasta. Both are very tasty and nutrient-rich. For pizza, our favorite is a place called Tappo that serves very thin nine-grain organic-crust custom pizzas that I always top with grilled chicken for a little added protein.

The trick with healthy eating for kids is to change it up often. Always try to include some green in your meal (broccoli, spinach) and last but not least, keep it flavorful.

For more by David Kirsch, click here.

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