So what’s a parent to do to ensure their kids are eating healthy, even if mom and dad aren’t there to watch every bite they put into their little mouths?
We asked some of the nation’s top chefs and food experts for tips on how parents can encourage kids to eat healthily at school, and how families can cook up quick, healthy meals together amid their hectic schedules.
Susan Feniger @eatatstreet - Susan has been in the street food business forever and currently operates Susan Feniger’s Street and the Border Grill restaurants. The busy chef has appeared in hundreds of episodes of “Too Hot Tamales”and “Tamales World Tour” on the Food Network and recently was on the second season of “Top Chef Masters.” Here are some of her favorites…
Bermese Melon Salad – It’s not spicy but melon, lentils, Thai basil, and coconut come together for a yummy treat. Kids enjoy the crunch of a salad and the sweetness. Kids also find the salad interesting because it has melons but it doesn’t feel like they’re eating just a melon. You can use honey dew, cantaloupe, or other melons.
Yogurt Shake - At Street, the kids also love the mango and yogurt shake. Instead of a milkshake, the kids are enjoying a yogurt drink with no additional sugar. You can also use honey dews or other favorite fruits in season.
Watermelon lemonade - Puree watermelon with fresh lemon, no sugar added.
Dessert Filipino – This sweet, sticky rice tamale is made with coconut milk, sticky rice with crème on top and finished with fresh berries.
California avocado tacos – Black and white sesame seeds, quinoa and poppy seeds cover the avocado, which is then pan sautéed to make it crispy. Top with fresh corn salsa for an even healthier, yummier meal. Recipe here
Fish tacos – Made with salsa made from cucumbers, with the main ingredient being whatever your local fish market can provide – mahi mahi, salmon, etc…
As a kid Susan herself enjoyed:
- Peanut butter, honey and sliced bananas sandwiches
- Tuna salad with apples and sweet relish, hard boiled eggs with mayo and mustard, sliced tomato, celery, apples and eggs
- Green bean blanched and flavored with lemon juice, olive oil, and radishes
- Carrots and celery dipped in peanut butter
- Peanut butter, chutney and bacon on toast – a sweet and salty combination
But her absolute most favorite food was eaten on Sundays, when she would make fried chicken. Then eat the fried chicken cold with blue cheese dressing on the side for dipping.
Ming Tsai @chefmingtsai – Ming was raised in Dayton, Ohio, cooking alongside his mother and father at their family-owned restaurant. The award-winning chef opened Blue Ginger – rated among the Top 5 of Most Popular Restaurants in Boston by Zagat since 2002 – in Wellesley, MA, in 1998, focusing on East-West cuisine, then, in early 2013, he opened the Blue Dragon Asian gastropub in Boston’s Fort Point Channel area. Here are some of his favorites…
Ming loves his sandwiches. One quick sandwich he suggests for kids is using a multi-grain bread with sliced smoked turkey add Dijon mustard for a twist. Replace potato chips with carrots and celery sticks. Also, little packages of raisins, trail mix and whole fruits are great additions to a lunch box.
For dinners with a busy family, Ming likes to add a little brown rice into his rice dishes. He uses a 50-50 rice combo of brown and white rice both at home and in the restaurant – you really don’t even know the difference, and it adds a healthier punch.
Ming loves the ease of one-pot meals – clean up and cooking both become much easier.
A kid favorite is Asian Sloppy Joes – you can easily adjust this recipe to serve as sliders, which both kids and adults love! Kung Pao Chicken is another easy favorite for busy families.
Encouraging healthy eating habits at a young age is key to children developing similar eating habits when they get older. But with temptations like chicken fingers, french fries, soda and more fried and sugary stuff available at many schools and school-related events, it’s hard for many kids to opt for healthy over salty or sugary. That, in turn, doesn’t help our nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. School food revolution proponents, like Cook for America Co-Founder Kate Adamick, are working to change the way school food is prepared to make it healthier and empowering food preparers.
There are many ways you can make healthier foods fun and exciting for your kids – as well as delicious! Share with us your tips.
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