15 Chef’s Ideas To Help Kids Love Healthful Foods

You can make all of the healthful dishes in the world, but if your kids don’t want to eat them, it feels like you are spinning your wheels. As the Chef and Founder of Food & Health Communications, Inc., I am keenly aware of what foods my son and I need to eat for optimal health. I also know that this is easier said than done, even for me as a chef because it is hard to find the time.

My son, Nicholas, was one of the pickiest eaters around as a child. He didn’t want any foods on his plate to touch, he wouldn’t try anything “mixed,” he didn’t like any kind of sauce, he only liked a few vegetables, he wouldn’t try soup, and he wouldn’t even look at a salad. At first, the whole thing was baffling and I didn’t know where to start. I ate a wide variety of healthful foods, and I exposed Nicholas to them at a very young age because I made a lot of his baby food from scratch so how could he be so picky? I felt that I should do something to help him expand his repertoire and enjoy more fruits and vegetables. I did notice that whenever he helped me cook something, he was more likely to eat it, so that is where I started and just expanded to these projects:

1) We started a simple, inexpensive herb garden. Nicholas and I spent quality time together learning about herbs, buying them, growing them, harvesting them, and using them in our cooking. During the evenings and on weekends, we would stop and look at the garden, pick some herbs, or care for them. Before bed, I would read him a funny cooking book called Warthogs in the Kitchen. Herbs are amazing because they have a wonderful smell. Mint was like his gum; rosemary is like a tree; basil smells like pizza sauce; thyme is a little like the woods. I used the herbs as a way to get Nicholas to try new foods, and I was met with instant success. We made herb-flavored vinegars that could be used on salad, which prompted him to start eating salads. I also used the herbs in new and healthful dishes like beans and rice, taco salad, tortilla pizzas, stews, etc. When herbs from our garden were in play, Nicholas would usually try the new food that featured them. He didn’t like every dish, but I?never gave up on getting him to try healthful foods.

2) We started doing more physical activities together. I noticed that whenever Nicholas’s activity level increased, so did his appetite! Instead of watching TV after dinner, we went for a bike ride or a walk with the dogs. Whenever I ran, he would ride beside me on his bike. When I swam, he joined me for the last few laps. He even did a triathlon and won first place!

3) Healthful food was always available. I kept 3 or 4 different types of fruit ready to eat in the refrigerator at all times. Salad was always cut and ready, along with potatoes, frozen vegetables, and baby carrots. And fruit was served in the most creative desserts.

4) No bribes, just snack platters slipped in. I never bribed him to eat healthful food. Food is not a reward. It is nourishment. But I did slip a fruit plate in his room while he was playing video games  (screen time was never in excess, though, because we always had a lot of fun outside toys plus dogs to walk). A bowl of baby carrots usually appeared on his desk during homework. The best time for fruits and veggies is when they are busy and you just “make them appear.”

5) Food and meals were always pleasant. I didn’t force him to eat anything he didn’t like nor did I punish him for not eating a particular food. I offered a wide variety of healthful foods and he chose what he wanted to eat. I did not keep a whole pantry full of chips, crackers, cookies, and sweetened cereals, either. When we wanted to eat cookies, we make them from scratch. I did buy cookies or crackers as an occasional treat. That way, we established that those foods weren’t forbidden — they just weren’t mainstays. I always make a big deal about dinner – it takes little effort to set a beautiful table with placemats, cloth napkins, nice water goblets and bone china or any neat china. We have a candle that is battery operated and it comes on every night!

6) Let’s cook! He helped me with meal preparation on most days. This is not always easy when you are tired or in a hurry, but it does make a difference. Here is our special chocolate chip cookie recipe along with age-appropriate kids tasks.

7) Backups count, too. The after school babysitter had a menu and recipes so that she could prepare healthful snacks and meals. Our babysitter really loved the cooking lessons and she just wrote that she is getting married and she is so happy she can make so many good things!!

8) Shopping is a fun activity. We grocery shopped together and visited farmers’ markets, too. The focus was what to put on our list and we always stuck to it in the store.

9) Dine fancy. I took him to fancy restaurants and let him choose whatever he wanted. This is a situation that really promotes the opportunity to try new things because it is their choice. He picked the most adventurous things like stuffed zucchini blossoms when we were dining in Greens, the famous vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco! It makes the child feel special when  you take them to a nice place to eat. When he was young we dressed up and I would talk about how he was expected to act. It wasn’t always perfect in the beginning but now he is a perfect gentleman.

10) Grow more. He planted a vegetable garden when he got older. The items to plant were his choice and he was so proud of his tomatoes, potatoes and huge zucchini.

11) Teach them to cook. He learned a whole repertoire of items he can prepare that included: cookies, salad, pizza, macaroni, bean quesadillas, salsa, pasta and much more. I bought kitchen equipment like quesadilla makers, bread machines and waffle makers that help him succeed. His favorite dish right now is a vegetarian pannini.

12) Chef’s table. He created a chef’s table in his room for my birthday and he planned the menu and cooked!

13) Summer camps can enrich knowledge. His last summer camp was at Stanford for 2 weeks where he and his classmates at Stanford’s OHS worked on a multi-disciplinary topic, “The Problem of Food.” They were required to read “An Omnivore’s Dilemma”, plan menus, visit farms, calculate kitchen math and cook for an audience. Other summer camps have taught him to program iPhone Apps and he is the programmer for Salad Secrets and Holiday Secrets, two of the food apps we made together. The important thing is to find one that a child will love.

14) His list, too. Now he helps me with the meal planning and grocery list. We have a list that stays on the refrigerator and whenever he requests an ingredient, he puts it on the list and I buy it! Usually his requests include black beans, tortillas, salsa and bottled waters, because he is still riding his bike to the pool and swimming!

15) Have fun and don’t worry. When he was a toddler he would eat watermelon for 3 days in a row. I likened that to reading the same book over and over. And once, when I was practicing for the ProChef II test, he discovered chocolate eclairs and wanted them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He even put them in his lunch box. That was the only time I made them and it a good memory.

As you can see, the possibilities for kids and food are endless. It usually only takes 10 more minutes each day to make something special for dinner together and the memories are priceless.

If you have questions, please click “Contact Us” from the link below.

By Judy Doherty, PC II

Chef and Founder

Food and Health Communications, Inc.

Communicating Food for Health

NutritionEducationStore.com

Judy is a graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and the Fachschule Richmont in Luzern, Switzerland. She spent over 20 years in foodservice. She was the executive pastry chef for the Grand Hyatt Westshore in Tampa, FL and The Hyatt on Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, AZ. She has received the ACF Chef of the Year, ACF Bronze Medal and ACF Gold Medal. She holds the ProChef II Credential from the Culinary Institute of America. She has authored 12 books including Salad Secrets, Holiday Secrets, No Battles Better Eating, Cooking Demo Ideas and a new one coming up called the Art of the Lowcal Dessert. Her work has appeared in Chocolatier Magazine, Bon Appetit and Great Chefs of the West.

Summer Salad Coloring Page

It’s time for another fun and relaxing coloring page. This one highlights the joys of salad!

What do you think?

Our artist has also made a simpler one for kids…

These pages are perfect icebreakers! They’re also great as activities people can do while they’re waiting for class to start or if they’ve finished an assignment ahead of a group. They’re also fun prizes and take-home activities! How will these coloring sheets make your life easier?

Here are the printable PDFs!

Increase Engagement with a Healthful Eating Pattern Game

We’re all familiar with the benefits of building a healthful eating pattern, but sometimes actually executing on that plan is easier said than done.

Make a healthful eating pattern more compelling with this fun game that kids and adults alike will enjoy!

Food Group Tag!

Here’s how you play…

Game Setup:

Divide your group into two separate teams. One team needs to have five people. These are the taggers, who will work together to tag everyone in the other group. Assign each tagger one of the following food groups…

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Protein
  • Dairy

Everyone who is not a tagger is an empty serving. Each empty serving can work as a free agent. Their goal is to avoid the taggers.

Explain that the taggers are seeking food groups to make a healthful plate. If an empty serving gets tagged, he or she must freeze in place and announce their new food group (determined by the tagger, who represents one of the 5 food groups), and then think of a healthful food that fits that group, which they then announce as well.

The taggers must work together to create a balanced plate (so don’t let one tagger go crazy and tag all the empty servings, claiming them for a single food group).

Game Play:

Set a timer for four minutes and move your group to a location that’s conducive to running around.

Taggers must line up shoulder-to-shoulder. Arrange the empty servings five feet in front of the tagger line. Once “go” is called, the empty servings must evade the taggers for four minutes.

Once the game time is finished, “stop” must be called. At that point, everyone freezes.

Have the untagged empty servings move to one side of the game area, then arrange the tagged empty servings into their food groups. Did the taggers craft a balanced plate? Why or why not?

If the taggers managed to create a balanced plate, then they win. If the empty servings threw off the balance, then they win instead.

This active game offers a fun way to visualize a healthful eating pattern while providing an opportunity for some light physical activity as well.

Game created by Sean Tuohy

Displays for High School

It’s been a while since I shared a reader request in this space, so today let’s talk high school.

Sucu reached out to me recently, and here’s what she wanted to know…

Hello: Do you have any resources or suggestions for a nutrition message for a high school bulletin board you can share asap. Thanks.
Healthy Regards,
Sucu

What fun!

I initially pointed Sucu to a few things we’d already made. There’s a fantastic high school poster set in the store, and a whole 12 lessons for teens program that is chock-full of display ideas for a bulletin board. My team and I have been polishing a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) collection that could come in handy too.

But then I thought I’d get more specific.

So, here’s a how-to for two different bulletin board displays for high schools.

Display #1: Skip Sugary Drinks

Teens are drinking a lot of sugary drinks these days, and that can be bad news for their health, both in terms of displacing more nutritious calories and adding excess empty calories to their eating patterns. To help educate teens about what they’re drinking, start with a bright, eye-catching poster that can make up the center of your display. This Are You Drinking Candy? poster is a particularly compelling one, and Beverage Better and Sugar Math are two other good choices, so go with whatever best fits your aesthetic.

From there, take a look at the sodas, energy drinks, and sport beverages that are available at school. Take photos of the Nutrition Facts labels on each one if you can, or print off some labels for equivalent products and highlight the sugar content of each one, along with the serving size. Scatter these images around the poster. You could also measure out the equivalent amount of sugar into these great test tubes and attach the tubes to the board near photos of each drink and its Nutrition Facts.

Fill in the remaining space with more information about the impact of sugary drinks on health. This tearpad has great handouts, and this blog post about energy drinks comes with a free printable handout that would be a good fit for this theme too.

Take a look at our collection of prizes for other resources to make your bulletin board display as engaging and memorable as possible.

Display #2: Nutrition Facts Panel

The Nutrition Facts label is changing, and there’s no reason for teens to stay in the dark. To help them learn what they need to know to use this resource to improve their eating patterns, put together a Nutrition Facts bulletin board!

You can pull a lot of inspiration from the New Nutrition Facts Label Display post that we put together in the spring of 2016.

Combine this Nutrition Facts Poster with a Food Label Handout to center your bulletin board display. Or, if you have more space, this 48-inch by 36-inch Nutrition Label Vinyl Banner would be a great way to draw people over to your display. Add a few different Nutrition Facts labels to the bulletin board, highlighting elements that are either good or bad for the kids’ health (perhaps color-coding would come in handy). Highlight only one or two aspects of each label so that they don’t get overwhelming.

Finish off the board with a few Nutrition Facts Stickers and Nutrition Facts Bookmarks to fill any empty spaces.

I hope this comes in handy for you! Keep those requests coming!

 

Feeding Baby Safely

One of our Food and Health Communications team members is expecting her first baby in the next few months, and we all have babies on the brain! Mom’s milk or formula will be the mainstay of baby’s diet for the first several months, but by four to six months, the baby’s energy needs may increase and solid foods may be recommended.

Don’t rush to add solid foods! Until this age, babies usually don’t have the control over their tongue and mouth muscles to enable them to safely eat solid foods.

Here are a few key points for keeping baby’s food safe:

  • Never give babies dairy products made from raw or unpasteurized milk, as they may contain bacteria that could cause serious illness.
  • Do not give honey to babies who are under a year old. This can put the baby at risk for botulism. This includes baked goods or other foods that contain honey,
  • Don’t give babies raw or partially-cooked eggs. This includes soft-cooked eggs or poached eggs with “runny” yolks. The yolks and whites should be firm. Serve only the yolks to babies less than one year old, because egg whites may cause an allergic reaction.
  • Don’t serve babies mixed-ingredient foods until they’ve had all the individual ingredients separately. This will help you to makes sure that they are not allergic to the individual foods. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it doesn’t matter what solid foods are offered first. Many doctors recommend cereals first and often suggest rice cereal because it is not likely to cause food allergies.
  • Don’t give babies unpasteurized fruit juices.
  • If heating baby food or milk in the microwave, make sure to stir it to ensure that there are no “hot spots” within the food so that you don’t burn the baby.

And here are a couple other basic thoughts on feeding baby:

  • Do not allow food or formula to stay at room temperature for more than two hours. This is enough time for any bacteria that may be in that food to multiply to unhealthy levels.  Start off with small amounts of solid foods and throw away any uneaten food from the baby’s dish — don’t save it for another meal.
  • Remember, a baby’s immune system has not developed and they are more at risk for foodborne illness than older children or healthy adults.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here are some other wonderful resources for feeding babies, kids, and families…

And here are a few more great options for Nutrition Month!

E. Coli and Raw Flour: The Risks Are Real

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Food safety experts have been preaching for years about the potential risk of licking the beaters or eating raw cookie dough. Their concern was the possibility of consuming harmful bacteria in raw eggs.

Now there’s another “red flag” related to raw batter and dough.

E. coli has been linked to flour.

We don’t usually think of flour as a “risky” food and it’s rare for someone to get sick from flour, but there is a chance and it has happened. Since flour is made from wheat that is obviously grown outdoors, it does have the potential to contain bacteria. A foodborne illness from flour usually doesn’t happen because flour is primarily used in foods that are cooked and bacteria are destroyed by heat.

The concern about the flour in raw cookie dough is a deadly bacteria called E. coli.

Typically, E. coli causes bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and dehydration. Most people recover within 3-4 days. While even that can be a long time when you’re the person who is sick, some strains of E.coli can be much more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Seniors, young children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to any foodborne illness.

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So, how do people get sick from eating flour? Raw dough and batters are the biggest opportunity. When using baking mixes and other flour-containing products, be sure to follow proper cooking temperatures and bake the food for the specified times.

When else might you run across an uncooked or undercooked raw flour product?

Think about other uses for flour such as thickening sauces—make sure you heat these foods completely.

Take extra care when it comes to children. Kids love to play with food like raw pizza dough, pie crust and cut-out cookies.  Kids tend to put everything in their mouths, and in this case, that behavior could lead to an illness. There are also lots of recipes and ideas for craft projects, glue, or “clay” that could expose you and children to uncooked flour.

Cross contamination is also a possible problem. Flour dust spreads easily. Do you empty and completely clean the flour container when you buy new flour? Do you always wash your hands and work surfaces and utensils after handling flour?

I know I’m being a “spoilsport” and this is not something most of us usually think about… but maybe we should.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a free printable food safety handout that outlines the highlights of this post!

flour e coli

And here are a few of the newest resources to hit the Nutrition Education Store!

Spotlight on Breakfast

My team and I just updated the Breakfast Poster that comes with the 12 Lessons of Wellness and Weight Management program, so today I want to preview the free PDF handout that comes with it!

Take a look!

Breakfast: Start Your Day with a Healthy Meal

Make Healthy Choices!

Eating breakfast is a good way to get the energy you need to face the day, while also making sure that you get some key nutrients that will boost your health and help you feel full until lunchtime.

Many participants in the National Weight Control Registry, a large investigation of long-term successful weight management, begin each day with breakfast.

Make healthy choices, building a breakfast that is nutrient-dense and low in empty calories.

Kids and Breakfast: Fun Facts

Did you know that, according to the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA, “Children who eat breakfast are more likely to behave better in school and get along with their peers than those who do not.” They continue, “Breakfast helps children pay attention, perform problem-solving tasks, and improves memory.”

Breakfast is also a great opportunity to help kids get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. These include…

  • Calcium
  • Fiber
  • Folate
  • Protein

Multiple studies also indicate that breakfast can help kids manage their weight successfully, reducing their risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Here’s the printable handout — how will you use your copy?

breakfastposterhandout-copy

Want more breakfast resources? Check out these options…

Sneak Peek from the Member Site: Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Today I want to share one of my favorite articles from the member-exclusive October edition of the Communicating Food for Health Newsletter.

In this handout, Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD and Lisa Andrews, RD team up to offer fun ways to help your clients improve their eating patterns and eat more fruits and vegetables. Check it out!

Are you in a fruit and vegetable slump? It’s easy to get stuck eating the same things over and over. Green salad, tomatoes, carrots. Apples, bananas, grapes. Sound familiar? It may be time to mix things up!

Make your own salad bar. Buy at least two kinds of salad greens (baby spinach and romaine, for example) and an assortment of other raw veggies. If time is an issue, go with pre-washed, pre-cut items. Every night at dinner, bring out the assortment of greens and veggies and let everyone make their own salad.

Roast and grill. The pickiest of eaters become veggie-lovers when they try something like oven-roasted Brussels sprouts or grilled fresh asparagus. Roasting and grilling bring out flavors and textures that raw or steamed vegetables just don’t offer.

Embrace the exotic. While we usually recommend that you buy local produce that’s in season, there’s a world of produce out there (like cardoon!). Trying something more exotic once in awhile won’t hurt. Ask the produce manager where you shop to point you toward unique items. Stop by ethnic grocery stores to see what they offer. Where I live, there’s a huge grocery store that carries an endless array of fruits and vegetables from all over the world. Take a short “field trip” and bring home something new to try.

Find fancier frozen veggies. If your freezer is full of peas, carrots, and corn, branch out to other vegetables! Again, this is where an ethnic grocery store comes in handy. They might have things you don’t usually serve. Some specialty stores, like Trader Joe’s, have items like frozen grilled cauliflower. Give these new tastes a try!

Get out of your fruit and veggie slump today by trying something new!

By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

BONUS: Kids in a Slump? Getting Your Kids to Eat More Fruits & Veggies

We asked Lisa Andrews, a registered dietitian and mother of two, how she gets kids to eat more produce. Here are a few of her tips:

1. Take your kids when you buy food. While most parents cringe at the idea, it’s important for kids to know where their food comes from. Take them to farmer’s markets and have them help select beans, tomatoes, corn, peaches and other seasonal fruits and vegetables. They may be more likely to try it if they picked it themselves.

2. Invite your kids to help you cook. Kids can clean and snap beans or rinse fruit to be served. This may help them become more confident in the kitchen and more likely to eat food they have prepared themselves.

3. Don’t force food. Encourage your child to try one bite to see if he/she likes it. Don’t reward with treats as it may set up emotional eating later, or your child may feel obligated to eat the new food just to get to dessert.

You can find more from Lisa at www.SoundBitesNutrition.com. Look for her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/soundbitesnutritionllc) and Twitter (@nutrigirl).

Here’s a free PDF handout of this article that you can use however you’d like!

fruitvegetable

There are lots of great materials that would work in tandem with this article. For example, check out this Rainbow Salad Health Fair Display Kit — it’s a perfect way to capitalize on this lesson and get your clients to make healthful choices!

Here are a few items from that kit…

Make Your Salad a Rainbow!

Did you know that four final rules for implementing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) were just announced?

In a nutshell, the USDA finalized its rules for nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, including breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

According to a press release sent out by the USDA, “As a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to raise a healthier generation, the rules will ensure that children have access to healthy snacks and that nutrition standards for the foods marketed and served in schools are consistent. The rules will also promote integrity across the school meals programs.”

Want to help communicate the key nutrition lessons that are central to these new rules?

Check out this fantastic new salad bar sign!

After all, making healthful food available is only half the battle. We need to make it appealing to kids too.

 

This new salad bar sign is a better design and at a lower price than the previous version, and the video above offers some great inspiration on how to use it.

And that’s just the beginning. Here are some other “eat from the rainbow” resources that can help make healthful foods appealing to kids of all ages…

And here’s a free printable handout about eating a variety of healthful foods…

Rainbow Salad Handout

Food Safety at Pick-Your-Own Fields

I can make a long list of why pick-your-own fruit and vegetable fields are great. After all, they provide local foods that are as fresh as possible. Other positive aspects include exercise, family activities, fun, education, great prices, and a chance to teach children about where our food comes from.

I could also add a couple negatives to the list. For example, you could be exposed to bacteria and microorganisms that can cause foodborne illnesses. The last thing you want to do at a pick-your-own market is pick up your own (or your neighbors’) germs along with the produce.

GAPs

One way that pick-your-own fields are helping to reduce foodborne illness risks is by putting up a sign that recognizes Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).  The signs encourage customers to do their part in keeping the food safe. Specifics included:

  • Wash your hands before you pick
  • Make sure children wash their hands, too
  • Wash the fruit before eating it

These tips may sound really simple and basic, but washing your hands both before and after going into the field can help prevent contamination.

Most people think to wash after, but not before picking. Washing your hands before going to the field helps keep the produce clean and avoids possible contamination from hands that have not been washed after going to the bathroom, after smoking, after sneezing, blowing your nose, or coughing. All of these things could make your hands contaminated and then unknowingly you could contaminate the produce. It’s not just your food you’re protecting, but it’s the next customers’ food too!

Wash Your Hands

I made a comment to one of the women working the scales at the market, telling her I thought that that was a great sign and that I appreciated the efforts made to keep the produce safe.  I asked if many folks did wash their hands. She said “sadly, most don’t and it’s really important, but [she] can’t make people do it.”

Some savvy farmers (like the one I visited) are also providing portable sinks that make it easy for folks to wash their hands.

To me these signs and the sinks are sending a positive message about this farm — a message of concern for our health. Contamination can take place anywhere along the field-to-fork continuum. By following GAPs during growing, harvesting, sorting, packaging, and the storage of fresh fruits and vegetables, our farmers are working to keep our food safe.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a printable handout with the key points of today’s post…

PickYourOwn

And if you’d like more resources to support food safety lessons, don’t miss the following options…