Healthy Nutritional Tips for 21st Century Families

Healthy eating and good nutrition are hallmarks of Maria Montessori's philosophy. In many Montessori schools and homeschool environments, children learn about nutrition and food preparation. Montessorian Kathy O'Reily was one of the first to recognize the need for a classroom based Montessori cooking curriculum. Her Cooking With Children Can Be Easy program is used worldwide in countless Montessori schools. Kathy has created a program that is both easy and fun for teachers and students to use. By becoming involved in hands on activities that include the study of food, children learn about the benefits of nutrients found in food and the fundamental relationship to healthy food choices.

Some advertisers try to entice our children with clever gimmicks and colorful commercials which tout the so called benefits of eating junk food. As educators and homemakers, it's important for us to continue to find new ways to make healthy food appealing to our children. This is not always an easy task, as most of us live a fast paced society which is filled with many demands for our time. Recently, I decided to set aside a few hours to see what new, healthy alternatives are here or on the horizon.

About three weeks ago, while attending a Sprouts Farmers Market seminar, I had an opportunity to discover additional ways to help our children make healthy choices. There, I was introduced to Travis Jones, a former executive chef, known for his work at the divine P.F. Chang's and other notable eateries. Like many parents, Travis found that he was spending less and less time at home. Because he was missing out on quality time with his children, Travis decided to make some important changes in his employment situation. Travis took the knowledge he gained from developing highly eclectic, nutritious meals for his own children and successfully multiplied this on a larger scale to offer healthy, organic meals to California's private and public schools. He discovered the best of both worlds as his work allowed him to spend more time with his family and develop a product line filled with organic, natural ingredients that would well serve both his family and school children.

Yes, that's right. Greenkidz was born out of a desire to create the best nutrition for his small children. Take a peek at the resumes of founders Travis Jones and Aimee Breen http://www.greenkidz.org/founders.htm and http://www.greenkidz.org/about_us.htm , and you will discover how these two brilliant minds collaborated to create what I feel is a fine strategy to help our children avoid the junk food trap.

Most successful independent entrepreneurs are enthusiastic about what they do, and Travis is no exception. His extensive cooking, food service and marketing background has been a big plus in helping him to establish a GreenKidz presence. What struck me, though, was Travis' passion for helping to keep children healthy.

Travis began the lecture by giving a brief synopsis of how GreenKidz came to be. He then transitioned into explaining how his children helped him to discover the way to finding nutritionally balanced, diversified meals that satisfied everyone. Isn't it inspiring that Travis's astute observations of his children's food likes and dislikes has actually allowed those children to play an important part in the development and success of this interesting business?

At this point, some may be thinking this is all fine and dandy in theory, but my child is a picky eater. Travis reminded the audience that the term "picky eater" may simply connote a sensitive palate. "Kids have more taste buds than adults do. Food tastes different to them. They pick up subtleties," Travis said. So, it's obviously important, when trying to introduce nutrition into the diet, that the food be palatable and that the children look forward to what they will be eating. That's also why it's important to have children involved in taste tests.

Travis notes that the more the children own their food, the more they will eat it. Anyone who cooks with their children knows this to be true. It was even more apparent to me during the demonstration. Children were asked to come to the table where they were each given a plastic knife and other needed implements and asked to make some delectable snacks. Each child seemed to relish in the opportunity to independently do so. Seeing these children engaged in this activity made me think of a quote by Maria Montessori. "Little children, from the moment they are weaned, are making their way toward independence."

Your family can repllicate the fun these children experienced by making your own GreenKidz SuperSneaky Cream Cheese recipe.

The ingredients are as follows:

GreenKidz SuperSneaky Cream Cheese

1/2 Cup Parsnips, Diced, Blanched
1/2 Cup Turnips, Diced, Blanched
1/4 Cup Rutabaga, Diced, Blanched
1/4 Cup Sweet Potato, Diced, Blanched
1/2 Cup Cauliflower, Diced, Blanched
1/4 Cup Non Fat Milk
1 Cup Lowfat Cream Cheese

1. Puree all vegetables together, in a food processor, until smooth paste is formed.

2. Add milk and cream cheese to food processor.

3. Blend until smooth and whipped into airy cream cheese spread. Add a tablespoon of salt for taste.

4. Put into an airtight container for up to one week in the refrigerator.

5. Enjoy and be creative with how you use this SuperSneaky spread.

Copyright GreenKidz, Inc. 2008. For permission, contact GreenKidz (877) 430-5632. http://www.greenkidz.org

Each of the individual ingredients of the SuperSneaky Cream Cheese is filled with beneficial nutrients. For example, the parsnips contain some vitamins and many minerals. Interestingly enough, they become very sweet when cooked. Likewise, the turnips, cauliflower, and rutabaga are also very nutrient dense and become quite palatable when blended together in this recipe.

The sweet potatoes, which many children seem to enjoy, are just naturally sweet and also filled with good nutritional value. One child seated behind me offered a valuable suggestion. He mentioned that his mother cuts the sweet potatoes, french fry style, adds garlic and a little olive oil and bakes them in the oven. Sweet potatoes can also be baked whole in the skin as an interesting, tasty and nutritious change from traditional russet baked potatoes.

To discover the actual nutrient values of the ingredients in this recipe, please visit http://www.foodfit.com/healthy/healthywinterfoods.asp and http://www.foodfit.com/healthy/healthyFallFoods.asp Jot down some notes about the nutritional values. This information will serve you well as you begin to add additional fruits and vegetables to your meal repertoire.

As you might imagine, Travis is an advocate of organic food. He feels that it is absolutely essential that children who can consume milk drink only organic milk so that they aren't exposed to hormones and other harmful elements. Using Google.com, I found that there are also some organic milk products for children who are lactose intolerant. Many non-organic dairies now offer rBST-free products as well, for consumers who are concerned about potentially negative effects of hormones in milk, yogurt, sour cream, etc.

When possible, Travis feels that it is also important to buy organic fruits and vegetables. This is especially true if produce is thin skinned. "Why", you ask? Pesticides which are used on many of the commercially grown vegetables and fruits can easily penetrate through the skin and enter deep into the fruit. When we ingest these fruits and vegetables, we may be consuming harmful pesticides as well.

While the discussion between Travis and the parents became more interactive, the children, for the most part, continued to create different types of snacks. I watched the children congregated at the table, happily and orderly, combining the SuperSneaky spread, whole grain tortillas and other nutritious ingredients into yummy snack creations. What was most striking, however, was that the children truly enjoyed what they were creating and eating. I, too, was delighted with everything that I tasted, including the Chia bar dessert. Chia, which comes from the Chia seed, contains the omega-3 fatty acid and helps with the absorption of the A, D, E, K soluble vitamins. I became interested in how Chia might be used to create tasty deserts, and during a Google search, I found a list of some recipes you might want to try. See http://chiaforhealth.com/chiarecipes.html for details.

Speaking of sweets, Travis limits the amount of sweets his children are given. For example, his children are allowed to eat three jelly beans at a time. Limiting sugar amounts in this way allows his children to have small amounts more frequently. Travis adds, "This is better than having them run all over the place on a sugar high after having one hundred jelly beans." Obviously, Travis would prefer that his children select nutritious snacks rather than fill up on sugary junk food; but, he is realistic enough to know that every healthy choice is a step in the right direction of better overall health and nutrition.

The principles of GreenKidz' philosophy are as follows:

They pack a full serving of vegetables into every lunch.
They use local produce whenever possible.
80% of their food is organic.
All of their food is low in sugar and fat and has no preservatives.
Their packaging is made from recycled materials and is biodegradable.
Deliveries are made in hybrid vehicles.

GreenKidz appears to be taking the lead in setting the standards for nutrition in the 21st century by providing valuable tools and ideas for families who are searching for ways to discern and implement healthy choices. To learn more about GreenKidz and how their school lunch program works, please visit the following links: http://greenkidz.org/nutritionals.htm and GreenKids

Are you ready to add some new healthy recipes to your meal planning? Visit Sprouts Farmers Market, and click on Recipes to access some delicious recipes your family will enjoy. You will find a lovely assortment containing featured recipes and a recipe archive of delicious drinks, salads and side dishes. You are likely to find one or more recipes that you can try this week.

Follow the lead of homemakers who are making a difference in the lives of their families. Talented Sara Ambarian is someone who can take something like home-grown sprouts and make mouth watering mahi mahi filets. In the article, Home-grown "Fast Food" for Busy Families, Sara shares how busy families can easily and conveniently add home grown sprouts to their food repertoire.

Sara embraces the philosophy of providing integrated lessons in gardening and cooking for children and teens, to help them become more environmentally aware, nutritionally informed and consumer savvy. Sara also shares how the family can become interested in growing different varieties, and how these sprouts add flavor and texture to various salads, sandwiches, etc. Visit http://www.amonco.org/ambarian1.pdf to access her gardening tips and recipe information.

If you are really ambitious, you can create your own garden by pointing your browser to Gardening Year Round - Tips from An Expert By reading this article, you will discover that with a little ingenuity, patience, tools and learned skills, you and your family can successfully grow some of your favorite foods.

Poco a poco (little by little), you can make changes that will influence the food choices made by your family. By doing so, your children will become active rather than passive participants in meal planning. You, in turn, will receive the satisfaction of knowing that your family is not only eating nutritious meals and snacks but developing the skills and knowledge that will serve them well now and in years to come.

This article was brought to you by Heidi Spietz. To learn more about Heidi, click here.

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