Not giving up on healthy eating

As a parent, it can be really hard to get your kids to understand the benefits of eating good food.  When I was six, I’m sure I wanted the doughnut over the apple.  The number of times uneaten vegetables sat on my kid’s plates after everything else is gone is countless.  The attempt at negotiation to swindle a treat into their day is funny but can be exhausting time after time.  The sighs, grunts, groans, etc. that can sometimes come with our after school snacks (“But I had vegetables at lunch today already!”) can be tiresome.

Sometimes I think they are never going to eat the healthy foods and be truly happy and grateful for the healthy foods they are able to eat.

Trying to inspire other parents who are having the same challenges is hard too.  When it’s a constant battle at the kitchen table over what is for dinner, it can be disheartening.  I can attest to how hard it can be to put together a healthy, hearty meal for a family of five then only to hear complaints of “I don’t want to eat this”.  It’s frustrating!

But here’s the thing.  I know.  I know, in my heart, that one day they will clean their plates consistently every meal.  They will appreciate the work and love that goes into their food.  They will understand why I choose to make healthy foods instead of resorting to easy, pre-packaged, processed foods that have no benefit other than maybe saving me effort in the kitchen.

So, when I logged onto Facebook the other day and saw this update from a practice member of ours, I was so excited for her.  Because I know the struggles parent go through when trying to change the eating habits of a family.  It’s not easy.  So kudos, Kristine, for this awesome update.  And kudos to the kiddos for being on board!!

I guess all our talk about “healthy food” is starting to sink in with the kids. Often they want me to quantify how healthy our meal is with a percentage. Like “This is 80% healthy because it has 3 colours of vegetables, but it loses 20% because I used a bottled sauce instead of homemade (too much sodium or sugar). Tonight after a long day and insufficient planning, I ordered chinese food for dinner. Son #1 asked “Is this healthy?” and the truth was NO. Not at all. His reply, “Then why are we eating it?” I nearly fell off my chair because he’s SO right! If it’s not helping to make healthy bodies, then why am I feeding it to the ones I love the most? Sometimes it takes these simple statements to remind me what my priorities are; a healthy and happy family.

Eat this!

Eat this!

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Fall Foodie

Oh how I love fall. I love everything about it. I saw a great Facebook update yesterday (the first official day of fall) that said “What does fall mean to me? It means a change in temperature. Switching from chilled white wine to room temp. red”.

I concur. Mmmmmm, red wine.

I also love the change in outside temperature too. The cooler weather means jeans and sweaters, which I love. I love throwing on the long pants and long shirt for a run. And in the early morning, I can even add a hat.

I love the changing colours outside too. There is the most beautiful maple tree on our street that changes to this vibrant red earlier than the other trees in our neighbourhood. It’s stunning against the blue sky. I look forward to it changing each year. And as the rest of the trees follow suit, and their leaves fall to the ground, I have such great memories of my kids throwing them up into the air.

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Fall also means fun in the kitchen. Being a fall foodie is the best. Apples. Squashes. Cranberries. Sweet potatoes. Pears. Pumpkin. And all of the flavours that go along with these foods – cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Soups and chilis are back in style. Apple crisps and ciders. Zucchini muffins. Comfort foods.

An easy fall recipe for you….

Baked Cinnamon Apples

Ingredients:

4 apples (diced)

3 tbsp butter

2 tsp Cinnamon

Method:

Dice up apples into bite sized pieces. Melt butter in pan. Add apples to pan and saute for about 8 minutes. Add cinnamon with one minute to go.

Serve up hot. To indulge, add a tough of high fat cream. Mmmmmm.

 

 

Making Lunch Fun

So after yesterday’s post, I hope it’s made it is easier to imagine how to create a healthy, by design lunch for kids.  Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s make it fun for kids. Remember, the basics are protein, veggies, fruits, and fats.  It can maybe appear boring but there are lots of ways to make food combinations and/or create funky ways for the food to be presented that makes the kids smile when they open up their lunch box. Here are some ideas:

  • Roll up the all-natural cold cuts with avocado, Julienne vegetables, cheese (if you choose to eat that, we rarely do), mustard, or other fillings.  Think of ham & pineapple, chicken & guacamole, turkey slices rolled with red pepper, or more.
  • Skewers.  Pick up some of the fun sword skewers at the grocery store and then cut up veggies, fruits, and meats and make kebabs.
  • Dips.  Other than my kids, most little people love to dip their food.  Make guacamole, homemade ranch dressing, homemade mayo-based dips, homemade condiments, or salsas to dip foods into.
  • Turn veggies into fun shapes.  I made a heart-inspired lunch for Caleigh on Valentine’s Day this past year.  Just start practicing with a knife and carrot peeler.  Here is a tutorial to get some idea for fruit, it would work well with vegetables too.
  • Use lettuce leaves (if your kids love them) to make sandwich wraps in lieu of bread.  We use collard greens because they hold up better.  Fill it with tuna, salmon, all-natural cold cuts, vegetables, etc.  There are wraps that are made from coconut meat & coconut water that mimic tortillas but I haven’t tried them to know how well they work.

Hopefully this post gets the creative juices in you flowing.  Share your ideas!  You can check out my Facebook page and as people send me their brilliant lunches, I’ll post them there. I do love sending notes to my kids while they are at school.  I don’t remember every single day but Caleigh loved it when she could read something from home.  AND it was cute because she started writing back to me.  (“I love you too mama!”).  Here are some pics from the web for inspiration.

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Fruit or veggie kebabs. Add in some pork and chicken and it’s a meal! Smaller skewers for kids lunches.

Pic from the great NomNomPaleo.  Use sunflower butter!

Use sunflower butter!

Skip the crackers and put some vegetables in there. I'm not big on plastic bags but this is darn cute!

Skip the crackers and put some vegetables in there. I’m not big on plastic bags but this is darn cute!

Choose heirloom carrots for different colours than just plain orange.

Choose heirloom carrots for different colours than just plain orange.

Kids love cauliflower?  Mix it up with different colours!

Kids love cauliflower? Mix it up with different colours!

Zucchini noodles with meatballs.

Again, from NomNomPaleo, zucchini noodles with meatballs. Get a spiralizer to make the noodles. It’s my new favourite kitchen tool!

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Meat skewers

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Sweet potato fries. Spice them with s&p or cajun spices.

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Zucchini pizzas. Add whatever topics you want!

Eggs, sausage, tomatoes & grapes.  Does it get any easier?

Eggs, sausage, tomatoes & grapes. Does it get any easier?

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Kale & sesame chips. Google it and discover a new way to add greens into your kids lives.

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Cut hardboiled eggs! Or devil them with homemade mayo or avocado mayo. Delicious!

Sharpen your culinary skills!  Make stars, moons, hearts, and flowers!

Sharpen your culinary skills! Make stars, moons, hearts, and flowers!

Rolled meats & veggies tied with chives and mustard to dip.

Rolled meats & veggies tied with chives and mustard to dip.

Swap out the hummus for guacamole.  Delicious!

Swap out the hummus for guacamole. Delicious!

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For a fun treat, try russet potatoes.

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Can’t wait to make these for Blake! Apples & grapes with tooth picks.

Chicken salad.

Chicken salad.

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A favourite breakfast repurposed for lunch. Ham slices in a muffin tin and pop in an egg. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes and your’e good!

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Write a note in the skin of a banana with a tooth pick. It will turn brown through the day!

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Cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of fruits & vegetables.

A full fridge

There is a great sense of contentment with a full fridge.  Full of healthy, colourful, filling, awesomely delicious foods.  Part of my Monday routine (switches to Sundays in the fall but I’m still on summer time for one more week!) is to get the fridge stocked.  There are few worse moments in our home when we hear “Mom?  Dad?  I’m hungry!” and there is either nothing prepared (easy to throw together) or worse yet, nothing available.  Even harder is when Tom decides he’s hungry and there’s nothing to eat.  So I’ve created a weekly routine that gets me ready and minimizes complaints in the kitchen.  As it has saved me a ton of time and headaches over the last year, I thought I’d share it with you.

First of all, the night before I plan out 7 days of meals and determine what I need at the grocery store in order to make those meals.  I get inspiration from my family (they tell me what they absolutely DO want each week) and from some of my favourite “eat by design” websites and blogs.

Before leaving for the grocery store, I’ll clear out the fridge of anything that either can’t or won’t be eaten.  Part of the pleasure of this ritual for me is clearing out of the old and bringing in the new. It also makes it a lot faster when I get home if I don’t have to wait to put food away because I haven’t dumped out any leftovers from the week prior.

I go to the grocery store and get what is on the list, rarely anything more.  Even better is if you can do this sans children.  That’s not always the case for me but it’s a treat when it happens.  If I had a choice between an uninterrupted night of sleep and grocery shopping on my own, I’d be hitting up Zehrs solo in a heartbeat.

I get home, unpack everything, and I start the biggest part of the job which is to do meal prep ahead of time.  Essentially the goal is to not only have easy access to snack foods that the kids or us can grab in a pinch but I also want some meals done in advance.  For example, yesterday I sweated beets (for beet salad), roasted brussels sprouts (for brussels sprouts & pancetta salad), roasted two fresh ham roasts, and BBQ’d 8 chicken breasts to be used as a meal and as an easy protein snack through the week.  I cut up veggies for snacks and pre-wahsed the fruit so the kids can just grab as they want it.  One batch of morning glory muffins and one batch of grain-free granola later, I was ready for the week.

Beets & brussels sprouts with pancetta prepping in the oven.

Beets & brussels sprouts with pancetta prepping in the oven.

My fridge was packed.  I was happy.  And I know that there is next to nothing I have to do (other than cook up a couple of proteins here and there) to make meals for the next 4 days at minimum.

Some other ideas for pre-made meals:

  • bake salmon in advance to make salmon salad (great for lunches) or make salmon cakes with them
  • chili (football season is around the corner!)
  • anything in a crockpot, if not two separate meals at the same time in two crockpots.
  • BBQ steaks, chicken, pork, (insert favourite meat here) and cut up ahead of time.  Keep in containers in fridge so that they are easy add-ons to salads or on their own
  • pre-cut vegetables for different reasons (small for omelettes, larger for dips and lunches)
  • pre-make dressings and marinades so that they can be used on the spot versus making them last minute
  • I make one “treat” a week – banana bread, muffins, cookies, etc. using “by design approved” ingredients such as almond or coconut flours – which I find is crucial for the kids to keep them happy.  The key here is not to go overboard with the treats and instead focus on whole foods.  A loaf of banana bread lasts us a week, not a day.

Around Barrie, I get most of my food from Zehrs.  I do hit up the Farmer’s Market (Innisfil Farmer’s Market on Thursdays in the summer and Barrie Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings during the rest of the year) and Nicholyn Farms (on Horseshoe Valley Rd) when I have the time and need different proteins (elk sausage for example is so delicious and Nicholyn stocks them).  I go to Bulk Barn for almond and coconut flour as it seems to be the most affordable there.  I go to Nature’s Emporium in Newmarket once a month for staples (cacao powder, flours, coconut cream, and other specialty items).  We have a patient who supplies us with grass-fed chickens, pork, and beef when we need it and we keep it in a large freezer in our basement.  She also brings us free-range, grass-fed eggs every two weeks.  And my friend, Karen, has just sent me a link to the Ontario Natural Co-Op which I’ll be joining for staples as well.   So there are a ton of sources that I draw from to feed my family.  Can it get overwhelming?  Maybe it was in the beginning but the more organized I am, the easier it becomes.  And there is something so satisfying about providing my family with delicious, satisfying, healthy meals.

“A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”

I’m back. I’m healthy. And I’m sharing dinner.

All week, I would look at my blog and draw a blank.  I had NO IDEA what to write about.  I had lots of amazing things happening but I didn’t feel like I had much to share.  So I went with the thought that “no post is better than a pointless post” and chose to give it a break for a week.

A week and a half ago, I had the 12 hour gastro “thing” that is going around.  I usually pride myself on the fact that I rarely get sick.  I get adjusted.  I eat well.  I move regularly.  I get my sleep.  I take my vitamin D and other supplements that I know support my body.  I manage my stress well and don’t let it overwhelm me.  So, rarely do I feel run down and I have never had any form of the flu virus take over in my body.

Well, apparently I dropped the health ball at some point because the gastro “thing” won.  And then it was if we were in the movie, “Contaigon”.  It went through our home pretty quickly and pretty violently.  It took out my daughter, my son, and then finally my husband.  Maggie, the monster breast feeder, didn’t succumb and I credit the lifestyle of a breastfed baby to that fact.  Breast milk (hello to the best immune system support food!), getting adjusted, sleeping when she needs to, smiling all the time, and getting lots of love.  A pretty good life, if you ask me.

It may sound silly but each time I had a date with the toilet (or a bucket if I couldn’t make it to the toilet), I would afterwards recite over and over to myself the following affirmation “I am so grateful for my body’s ability to heal”.  Because that’s what it was doing.  It was choosing the best response to  the stress that it was faced with.  Gastro “thing” = upset stomach = puking = get rid of gastro “thing”.  Pretty smart of the body, right?  I love how it all works.  (Follow up thought – why would anyone take a drug to stop the body from puking?  Sure, it’s unpleasant but it’s your body’s innate intelligence working beautifully to rid the body of an unwanted stress.  Don’t fight the natural inborn brilliance of your body!)

In continuing with the theme of listening to my body’s needs, I took the next three days off from my regular schedule.  I slept until 6:30 (forgoing my power hour), I didn’t eat much at all (body wasn’t hungry, why force it), and didn’t work out.  Basically other than playing with my kids and working, I chilled out and rested my body.  On day four, I was ready to go again and have been back at my normal routine for the last six days or so.  It makes a huge difference in my productivity.  When I am able to wake up early and get my day started on the right foot, the rest of it unfolds the way it should.  When I was off my game, the lack of efficiency was creeping into areas of my life I didn’t realize I had been executing so well lately.

Onto something fun, I am shamelessly taking this next idea from Happy Is the New Healthy. I share with you “It’s What’s For Dinner Wednesday”, a version of her “What I ate Wednesday”.  I’m only sharing what I ate for dinner because it’s the only thing I took a picture of.  And it was really really delicious.  My leftover chili for lunch and my three fried eggs and green beans at breakfast would not have cut it.  And while all of you would love a pic of my By Design Starbucks (grande Americano misto using heavy cream), I will keep it to dinner alone.

By Design Sausage, Shrimp & Veggie Stew - with kale, tri colour peppers, onion, garlic & chicken stock.

By Design Sausage, Shrimp & Veggie Stew – with kale, tri colour peppers, onion, garlic & chicken stock.

Ingredients

6 sausages, cut in 1/2 inch pieces

20 shrimp (tails off)

2 cups kale

1/2 large red onion, chopped

3 small peppers (red, yellow, orange), chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

4 cups chicken stock

Details

Sautee the sausages, onion, peppers, and garlic in a large stock pot.  Add chicken stock and kale and bring to a boil.  Add in shrimp.  Let simmer for 20 minutes and serve.  Top with a dollop of full fat greek yogurt.  Enjoy!!

I also want to say a big thank you to the random emails, discussions in the grocery store, and comments from those of you who read my blog.  It means a lot when I hear that I’m reaching out to different people and that you’re enjoying it.  Thanks!