People spend a lot of time picking my brain and asking me questions about how to get their kids to eat more fruit and vegetables so I thought I would breakdown this past year and reflect on how I made it happen. Granted, I had always served up fruit and veggies, but it was taken to a whole new level this year. My kids probably have 8-10 servings a day if I put them out for them. Some days are tougher than others to get perfect with everyone being on the run, but put the effort forth and you will be amazed at how nourished you all can actually be. Dr Greger has many videos on the after and cites some interesting an funny studies on how to get children to eat more fruit and vegetables.. put an Elmo sticker on broccoli and it is suddenly as attractive as a chocolate bar...
Here is a list of the things I think are most important in getting your kids to buy in:
1. EDUCATE. It is not enough to say, "Eat this, it is good for you." Sit down one night, put on Forks Over Knives and watch it with your family. It is a great place to start. It definitely kept my kids' attention and they wanted to try healthier foods.
2. EAT PRODUCE YOURSELF. Monkey see, monkey do. This works especially well when they are little, but definitely works as they are turning into teens as well. They are certainly not going to pound down a bunch of brussel sprouts while you eat a bag of chips. Add more produce to your diet, and I guarantee they will add more to theirs. Sounds like a win/win to me. Most people who tell me that their kids hate all fruits and veggies have not really given them a good try themselves.
3. BUY TONS OF FRUIT AND VEGGIES. Well this one sounds like a big duhhhh, but it is where most people run into trouble. They buy fruits and veggies, the kids eat them in a day of so, and they don't buy more for another week. So when the kids get home they eat Gino's pizza bites and Doritos instead of carrots, cukes, red peppers and hummus, or a strawberry banana smoothie. They can only eat what is there in front of them or in the fridge. If it ain't there they ain't eatin' it. Seems so obvious, but even I run into trouble with this one since it is not like you can keep this stuff around in a pantry for weeks and weeks. More frequent trips to the store are required. It is part of the price of keeping your family healthy. There are many Farm Fresh to You type delivery companies, and stores like Grow in Manhattan Beach that delivery fruit and veggies right to you door. Buying fresh at farmers markets versus from the supermarket ensures that they will last longer since they are just picked. A lot of times when you get them at the store they are several days old already. They will last longer if you get them from the farmers market. Also, Amazon fresh is another option that will deliver right to your door.
4. PUT OUT 3 DIFFERENT TYPES OF CUT UP FRUIT AND VEGETABLES EVERY SINGLE MEAL. EVERY SINGLE DAY. DO IT WHEN THEY ARE STARVING. It works. They get used to seeing them and actually decide to try them. Especially when they are hungry. Always serve a fruit at breakfast. You get one down early in the day and have a head start! Pick a few fruits and veggies that your kids like and put those out when they get home from school and are starving and every week add a new one. If your kids are little call them cute things like "trees" for broccoli, and "bunny carrots" for carrots. Make them try all of them. Even if it is just a bite. I am a big believer in the 15th try is a charm. I definitely felt a little relentless with this, but it paid off. Keep putting them out and, pick at them yourself and they will too. Don't make a big deal out of it. Put em out, eat some yourself and if they are hungry, they will pick at them too. My friend actually tried suggestion last week and emailed me the next day so excited that her kids actually ate the veggies that she put out,and the next day asked for an apple instead of junk after school. So simple. You just have to actually DO IT!
5. TRY DIFFERENT WAYS OF PREPARING. My older son is not into raw kale, but both of my kids love roasted kale. I take it out of the oven and it's gone in minutes. Same goes for roasted brussel sprouts. I tried steaming them once and wrote them off, then we were out at dinner and the kids tried them roasted (actually they were deep fried... whatever it takes to get them to try them I guess.)That translated into I like brussel sprouts because now I just need to roast them with a little olive oil and salt and they fight over them. Soups are another way to get them in big time.
6. BLEND EM. Put a ripe banana in most shakes and kids will drink it. Kids love shakes and smoothies. For years my son drank a shake made of oranges, bananas, strawberries and a ton of frozen broccoli. I put it in a colored glass so he didn't know it was green and he would pound it down. These days, green drinks abound so kids a lot of don't even flinch at the color if they taste good. I always put 2 T of flax or chia in every shake that I make and no one even knows. You can't taste it and if you have a vitamix it is ground up to nothing. I also make sorbet or acai bowls with strawberries, blueberries, mango, bananas, flax and acai in all dofferent types of combinations, with a little coconut on top and my little guys LOVES it. Invest in V-mix!!! I have used mine at least 2X a day for 14 years now and it is still going strong. Best investment ever. Here are some creative smoothie ideas that I have tried. Each one is better than the next!
7. SNEAK EM IN..... ADD VEGGIES TO PASTA SAUCES. I will always great a couple zucchini, carrots, red peppers, some onions, and broth sauté them till they are very well done, blend them up with a blender or hand held immersion blender, then add them to my sauce. They don't even know they're there and they're getting a ton of veggies this way.
8. GET IT IN YOUR HEAD THAT EATING MORE FRUIT AND VEG TAKES A LITTLE MORE TIME AND EFFORT, AND DEAL WITH IT!! Yes, it is easier to pop open a bag of chips than it is to cut up red peppers and cucumbers. It is also easier to use a jar of sauce than grate zucchini carrots and other veggies into the sauce. But what you get out of it is superior nutrition for your kids and that carries over it later in their lives by preventing diseases like cancer and diabetes
I always start celebrating my new year and start my resolutions after my birthday which was Jan 12th. Christmas, New Years, my birthday, THEN the resolutions start. My friend asked the other day how I was going to have any resolutions since I already "eat perfectly all the time." She had no
idea that from Christmas to my birthday I had become a junk food vegan.
I was still plant based but the holiday crap creep had been in full effect. It started on Christmas with a bag of gifted vegan cookies and continued through Jan 19th when I finished the last of the vegan ricotta I had made (one of my cheese loving friends had a field day making fun of me for this one…. it was SO good by the way). I have finally decided that I am done celebrating my birthday and jumping back on the whole foods (as in umprocessed foods... not the store...although I should move in there since I am there so much) horse. I have to say I felt like a fairly large hypocrite for a few weeks there as I ate handfuls of Hav'a Chip tortilla chips ( why are they so freaking good???)with lots of guac, and downed a bunch of very creamy vegan cheese at a great vegan restaurant in Santa Monica, and added more oil to my recipes. I sincerely felt that I deserved a holiday treat just like everyone else, and like everyone else, I took it too far. I realize that my slip is not too shocking or appalling, but I do write a whole food plant based blog and like to practice what I preach! Granted, I didn't eat a huge steak, and my dalliance was vegan, but there is a lot of vegan junk food out there! I dabbled, and my jeans are pretty tight right now, and my energy level sucks.
My resolution is not food based. I do pretty well in that arena set the holiday junk fest aside, so it would be a bogus resolution to say, I will eat better this year. The one resolution I am going to share, because I believe it is important for just about anyone of any age, but especially those over 40, is my resolve to go back to strength training. I am a cardio junkie and can kill intervals, and force others to join me all day long as I teach spin and as I run. I also love yoga, but even the power classes, although they are crazy hard, were not giving me a well rounded kick ass strength work out that I need right now. I need to hit the weights and hit em hard, because I can feel my muscles going away and I am determined to fight this tooth and nail. Weight training is so important as our muscle mass naturally declines with age. Boooo! Only way to fight it, is to fight back with really loading that muscle. There are plenty of moves against gravity that work really well to strengthen, but I feel I need more than that. We really need to load the muscle and break them down a bit to build em up. The workout needs to be tough. Weight training keeps our metabolism roaring and our bones strong. Use em or lose em, baby. I am not naturally muscular, so I need to work to keep them. I definitely envy my friends with the ripped arms who do NOTHING to strengthen them! I could have blamed going plant-based for my muscle loss, however I have not consistently lifted weights in about a year.
As I have been adding weights, and working on building muscle and strengthening, I started thinking about what I will need to do to adjust my diet. Muscle building and weight training require more calories and as a result more protein. I love the no meat athlete site. It, and other sites like it, all reinforce that to build muscle we do not need to increase or protein intake above 10-12%. There are other plant-based diet sites that advise more protein. Probably taking it up to 15 to 20% plant-based protein. I feel perfectly good doing what I'm doing. I'm just trying to get a little muscle back and then maintain. In order to keep the protein percentage the same, I just have to eat more food and by doing this on a plant based diet, I eat more protein. I have been consistent with lifting over the last three weeks and I can already see a difference. I can also feel a difference as I'm able to handle heavier weights without getting fatigued. The power yoga class that usually kicks my ass was kind of easy this week.
On the days where I feel that I did not get my 40 to 45 g of protein, I add a protein shake. I like Vega or Sunwarrior protein. A scoop is about 15 g of protein and of course they are plant based. I do not drink these on the days where I can concentrate on my diet and have my nuts, seeds, beans or tofu with my meals. I would much rather get my protein from food sources and not supplements or shakes, but some days I'm on the run and it just doesn't happen. I talk to people all the time who eat meat-based diet AND they're drinking tons of protein shakes. It's such overkill and so detrimental.
Off to a stair mill workout, then body pump class. Get your butt to the gym and add some weight training to your workouts!!