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Posts Tagged ‘cooking with kids’

I have been wanting to make changes to how we are eating as a family for a while now.  For a long time, we were eating a nearly vegan diet, but life happens and we got off track.  In part, we had family members living with us while they worked to get settled here after moving from another state.  Then, my meat loving husband came home from the road and got a local job.  Soon, life became busy and I found it easier to just go back to the processed foods we gave up before.

Fast forward to today, I am not happy with my weight.  Nor am I happy with the way we are eating.  Thankfully, my husband is completely on board with me changing our diet back to a mostly vegetarian one.  The exception being that about once or twice a week, we might have some fish or other lean meat like grass fed beef.

With the way we had been eating, the kids were wanting to snack a lot.  Not because they didn’t have a good meal, but simply because we only ate the basic 3 meals a day.  With an average of 5-6 hours between meals, the kids got hungry.  This led to unhealthy snacking habits.  Instead of just wanting a little something to hold them over until the next meal, they would eat a much larger amount.  With the vegetarian diet, we eat 5-6 times a day.  It ends up with eating a small meal or healthy snack every three hours.  This allows us, including the kids, to not feel hungry from one meal to the next.  By having the meals and snacks scheduled, we have far less snacking issues.  They know that a snack or another small meal is coming, so are not fussing for anything.

One of the keys to making this work is that I am planning out all meals, including snacks for each day.  I am making healthy snacks to replace any unhealthy choices.  Where before the kids had a pantry shelf that contained a few snack options, they will now only have the one snack planned for that time.  This alone will help us out a lot.  Pookie is a kid who loves to graze between meals.  He goes into the pantry room and searches out something that he wants to eat.  It is frustrating at times.  Since the entry to that pantry doesn’t have a door, I sometimes want to buy a baby gate just for the pantry’s entryway.  I have raised older children and never had one who loves to eat the way Pookie does.  Think a teenage boy in a 6 year old body.  Funny thing is, he and Little Miss are thin like their Daddy’s side of the family.  I know that unless I can teach the kids to eat healthy now, there is a chance that the eating will become a problem later in life.

So, I started checking around.  Pookie is a carb fiend. He loves them.  Doesn’t matter what it is, bread or potato, he loves them.  I decided that the best choice that will fit the entire family is to do carb cycling.  We will be alternating between a day of having low/no carbs and a day of moderate/high carbs.  With this in our meal plan, along with eating smaller meals more often each day, it is a great way of eating for all of us.  The more frequent, smaller meal is something that is often recommended to those who are diabetic.  It keeps their blood sugar levels more consistent.  Both of my mother’s parents were diabetic, so that is always going to be a concern to watch out for.  With me wanting to lose some weight, the meals/snacks will help keep my metabolism at a good rate as well.  The one part that will take more effort for me is the high protein portion of the eating plan.  Some days, I will be using quinoa as a protein source.  On low carb days, I will be making a low carb protein bar, protein shake, or eggs to provide the protein that day.  The kids love the protein balls that I make using peanut butter.  I will be making a batch of those soon as well.

Something funny that happened with the kids today was that Little Miss was eating a chunk of lettuce as I was putting together our salads for lunch.  Pookie started following her around the room as though she were the Pied Piper and gesturing to her to give him a bite of the lettuce.  Such a good indicator that the kids will enjoy this new way of eating.  On a different note, I have been thinking about all the belly issues that kids like Pookie often have.  In blogs and autism related websites, I often read that kids with gluten issues will often crave them.  Pookie has never been diagnosed as having gluten intolerance or other problems by a doctor.  I have often noticed that he becomes very gassy when he eats too many carbs that are gluten based.  Too many is a relative term.  For him, it means that he can get gassy just from eating a plate of spaghetti.  I tested my theory once by making him spaghetti squash with the exact same spaghetti sauce as I typically use.  On that day, he did not get gassy.  Yet, when I made spaghetti with pasta, he did get a gassy belly.  For that reason, I think that the carb cycling will benefit him as well.  When he does get carbs, they will primarily be from sources that do not include gluten based flour or grains. If this helps him with his belly, then that is just one more plus to the decision.

I have been looking on Pinterest for healthy snack and lunch ideas.  The Bento lunches are a great idea for our meal plan.  You can always find ideas that use foods other than a sandwich.  I love how versatile the ideas are.  A Bento with rice can be made with quinoa or brown rice in place of the more starchy option of white rice.  Sure, you may not be able to make the cute shapes with it, but it is much healthier.

The best part is that you can get your kids involved.  At the store, give them some healthy options and let them choose what snacks sound good to them.  Once home, allow them to help measure out and pack the snacks into their baggies or containers.  Getting kids involved will help them to be less picky about eating the healthier snacks.

One idea that keeps popping up for me is to get some small serving size containers and fill them with fresh fruit or other snack item.  These can be stored in the refrigerator or on the pantry shelf, depending on the item.  Preparing the snacks ahead of time can be as simple as getting a box of the snack size baggies and filling them,  A snack size baggie will hold about 1/2 cup of food.  This is a typical serving size.  If what you are preparing has a 1 cup serving size, just use the sandwich baggies.  Here is a partial list of what we can put into our snack size baggies.

Trail mix
Homemade granola bar
Grapes or berries
Cut up fresh fruit such as a melon
Homemade Gorp
Pretzels (gluten free)
Homemade baked corn chips
bite size pieces of cheese
veggie crisps (see recipe below)

Homemade Veggie Crisps

These are one of our favorite snacks of all time. The instructions for the various vegetables are very similar. Just start checking them after 1 1/2 hours to test to see if they are crisp enough for your tastes.  This is a basic recipes that I have seen on so many websites that it is hard to know who originated the recipe.

Bag of frozen green beans, thawed and dry
Olive Oil
Sea salt

Toss the green beans in a bowl with just enough olive oil to coat them. Spread the green beans onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Place the baking sheet into a preheated 225*F oven. Bake until crisp, about 4 hours.

For veggies like very thinly sliced zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets, sprinkle the sliced veggies with a very small amount of salt to draw out any water (carrots won’t need this step). Let set for 10-15 minutes. Blot off the water and place the veggies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly brush the veggies with olive oil. If using seasoning, add it sparingly. They won’t need salt since you already salted them in the earlier step. Just remember that dried vegetables will shrink, which will intensify the flavor of the seasoning. Place into preheated oven and let bake about 2 hours or until as crisp as you want them.

Enjoy!

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Little Miss made homemade noodles for the first time yesterday. She did such a great job! Here is the recipe:

Homemade Noodles

1 cup flour
1 egg
Pinch of salt
Water

Place flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the egg and salt. Mix together adding a little water at a time until you have a soft dough.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until not sticky.

Roll the dough thin, about the thickness of a dime.  Cut into strips about 1/4″ wide.

Dust the cut noodles lightly with flour to prevent sticking together. Spread out on table or in a pan to dry or cook immediately. 

Recipe makes enough noodles for about 4 servings if used as a side dish or added to a soup.

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