I’m not great with kids, and, disclaimer: I don’t have any. So on this mothers day,
I’m stealing some of my mom’s ideas. She raised two relatively functional
adults who maintain healthy weights, regularly feed themselves and have never been arrested,
so let’s call her the expert. She started early getting us involved
in dinnertime. Before we could us sharp knives or monitor hot stoves, we had important jobs like
mixing salad dressing and setting the table. But more than just
getting us involved, she ran with our creative silliness to let us own pieces of mealtime, too.
When my three-year-old self decided at bath time that my strawberry shampoo and vanilla conditioner combo
would make a really good dessert, my mom ran with it and took me for the ride. The adult in the room could figure
out how exactly to translate a random flavor combination idea into
a real, healthyish dessert, and I got to help. Strawberry vanilla pie is still an easy, delicious summertime staple,
and it’s still mine. The trick hasn’t gotten old, either. Just last month, she had her six- and nine-year-old grand nieces inventing their own, surprisingly healthy cole slaws. They gave their creations names, my mom
wrote down the ingredients they each wanted in their slaws, then went to the store and got everything. The result was a happy
half hour of chopping, grating, measuring and mixing. Dinner was filled
with “did you try mine yet?” “Don’t you like mine better?” and happy girls scarfing down barely disguised vegetables.
Ideally, you can get kids excited about eating healthy. At the very least, they can begin to think about what actually
goes into the food they eat. The first step to a healthy lifestyle is mindfulness about what you’re putting into your body.
Deciding for yourself what goes into the dish you’ll be putting into your body is about as mindful as it gets.
Let a child be a part of the fun, creative process. Start with the planning. You might not need a 5-year-old’s advice on how to improve a staple meal like steak and potatoes. But there is room to be creative, and unhampered
young minds town are full of more unique combinations than Pinterest.
Pasta salad is an easy blank slate. Start with a formula, and ask the kids to fill in the blanks. You’ll need a pasta or grain,
some kind of dressing, vegetables and maybe a cheese. Maybe your stand by is twists with Italian dressing, broccoli,
peppers and onions. Ask the kids their favorite pasta shape or grain – maybe
it’s bow ties, penne or even something you’ve never thought of making into a salad, like brown rice.
Let the kids pick the veggies they want to see in the pasta salad, then a dressing and cheese that you might not
have ever considered throwing together. Starting with healthy ingredients you’re all familiar with, you can throw together
something completely new and exciting.
It might not become a repeat recipe,
but when the kids have ownership from the beginning, they’re even more likely to dig into the vegetable medley
they helped create.
Or, if you need some inspiration, a take on my family’s staple pasta salad:
3 cups cooked whole wheat twists (drained, rinsed and cooled; stir in olive oil early to precent sticking)
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered and sliced
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh dill
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh basil
2 tsp. olive oil
Juice of one half lemon
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
If the kids are kitchen-knife- and stovetop-ready, they can practically handle the whole process. Otherwise, mixing dressing liquids,
rinsing pasta, combining, stirring and salting are safe, easy ways to let your child own a healthy meal.
& Happy Mothers Day!