Healthy Kids    

Easy wholesome eating for kids

Start kids on healthy eating habits early for lifetime wellness

Start kids on healthy eating habits early

Radha Garvey shows off her homemade fruit pie, a birthday surprise for her mother, Padma Garvey.

If the American Medical Association is putting pressure on doctors to learn more about nutrition, what is the implication for us, as parents?

We've all heard that low-fat, plant-based meals with whole grains and unprocessed foods are healthy for our kids and families. Eating this way can help protect people from chronic medical problems associated with poor diets, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, not only promoting better health, but also helping minimize healthcare costs. Plant-based diets also have been associated with a lower carbon footprint, which can help offset global warming.

Go for good health and great taste with plant-based eating

But what does it really mean to eliminate animal products like meat and dairy from your family's meals, and avoid foods with added sugars? What about limiting salt and reducing oil consumption, including cooking with a minimal amount of unhealthy oils and bypassing fried foods? The good news is, it's not as hard or scary as it might seem. Plant-based eating is easy, delicious and nutritious.

It's always best to start early, so introduce your kids to healthy eating habits when they are toddlers to establish their taste preferences and train their palettes from a young age. Pull out your pressure cooker for quick, tasty and healthy meals. For instance, try a 30-minute mix of whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, millet, brown rice, or barley; legumes like split peas, brown lentils, black beans, or kidney beans; and chopped vegetables, including broccoli, carrots, beets, squash, sweet potatoes and white potatoes. Once the food has been cooked, it can be mashed to make it easier for your youngster to eat and seasoned with your favorite herbs, like thyme, sage, turmeric or rosemary. When my kids were toddlers, they enjoyed traditional Indian food that was seasoned lightly. Other favorites were peas and tofu curry with rice and tomato lentil stew with rice.

Grocery shop with your children

Teach your children about wholesome food choices. Bring them grocery shopping with you and show them the differences between processed and unprocessed foods. Go through nutrition labels on canned and pre-packaged foods and point out calorie information along with fats, salt and sugar content so they can make educated decisions about healthy food choices on their own. Together, compare a whole apple with a jar of processed apple sauce that doesn't include the apples' nutritious peel and contains added sugar. Or try looking at the differences between a natural apple and canned or bottled apple juice, many of which are glorified sugar-water because of their high amounts of sugar.

Another comparison could be about the differences between a natural potato, which has as much protein as a glass of milk, plus loads of fiber and vitamins and is cholesterol- and fat-free, with a bag of potato chips, some of which consist of 65 percent of unhealthy fat by calories. You also can talk about the how some seemingly healthy foods, like store-bought hummus, have a high fat content.

Then make a plan to make homemade hummus with your kids for a fun way to enjoy an even healthier option since you'd control the dish's ingredients.  

Cook together for fun and health

Bring your kids into the kitchen often. Have them keep a recipe box of dishes they've made to give them a feeling of accomplishment and encourage a joy of cooking. One of the first recipes my kids and I made together was an apple pie. They peeled the apples and mixed the ingredients, including the "secret ingredient" lemon juice, and were excited to have their father try their first-time creation.

Young children can wash vegetables, knead dough, peel garlic cloves and use a rolling pin. Older kids can chop vegetables and use the stove with supervision.

Easy-to-follow recipes for stir-fries, curry dishes, and pasta meals are tasty dishes and provide great ways to train young cooks.

Healthy eating doesn't have to be a special or restrictive diet. Show your kids how wholesome, nutritious food can be as delicious as it is fun to shop for and prepare.

Dr. Padma Garvey studied medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. A working mother of two, she enjoys creating new recipes, making old ones in new ways and showing people how healthy eating and is doable and fun. Visit her YouTube channel for cooking videos.

Recipe for wholesome macaroni and cheese

-With your kids, soak 1/3 cup of raw, unsalted cashews in water for 30 minutes.

-Cut two unpeeled large carrots, one large onion, and one unpeeled large red skinned potato into large cubes.

-Boil the vegetables in three cups of water until they are fork-tender.

-Separately, boil whole wheat penne or lentil pasta in water, then drain.

-Puree the vegetables and their cooking water with the soaked cashews, two tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast, and one low-sodium vegetable bouillon cube. 

-Mix with the pasta and season to taste. 

For more family healthy recipes, visit her YouTube channel.