Meal tips for parents feeding young children
Liz Weiss, a registered dietitian from Lexington, has been helping parents feed their children for more than a decade. Weiss, along with Janice Newell Bissex of Melrose, make up a duo called the Meal Makeover Moms. They are experts on family nutrition and cookbook authors. Weiss is the mother of two boys, age 13 and 16. Bissex has two girls, age 12 and 19. The four kids test all their recipes. Weiss recently spoke to parents at Healthy Habits Kitchen in Wellesley, helping them make over their mealtimes.
Boston.com Moms asked Weiss to share tips for ways parents can get kids to eat healthy and get picky eaters to eat.
Q: What is the best way for busy parents to streamline their cooking process in the evenings?
A: Plan your meals. Get a sense of what you will be cooking that week. It could be a loose plan or you could have a meal planner. One thing you can do the night before or the morning of is to measure out your ingredients. If you can be disciplined, then really all you are doing is assembling. Also, use your slow cooker! You just load it up, turn it on and go!
Q: What is the most common question you get from parents?
A: We get a lot of e-mails and the most common e-mail we get is: "My daughter is picky, my son is picky, help! I dont know what to do." When we hear about picky eaters, we always think the kids arent eating fruits and veggies. Surprisingly, we hear a lot of kids hate meat and (parents are) afraid they arent getting enough protein. I think the problem with the meat for most parents is they arent cutting it up fine enough and kids at a young age have issues with texture. So when it comes to chicken and meat and pork you want to make sure its soft and its cut up into very small pieces because that can really be intimidating to kids.
Q: What are some key ingredients parents should always keep in the pantry?
A: Twenty-five percent of the calories kids consume in the day comes from snack time. Snack time has really become junk food time in this country. I look at snack as the perfect opportunity to boost the nutritional status of a childs diet. Frozen fruit, yogurt, and 100 percent juice. Those are the three things I always have on hand because I like to make smoothies. They are a nutrient-rich beverage that's filling.
Q: How can parents sneak more fruits and vegetables into kids meals?
A: We don't sneak. I believe in full disclosure. We like to weave fruits and vegetables. What I do is fruits first. I always serve fruits first before all the typical starchy breakfast foods come out. All of a sudden it's 7 a.m. and you've already got fruits out of the way.
Q: What about getting kids to eat vegetables during dinner?
Present them in a way that is appetizing. Present the food in fun bowls and plates and utensils and then pass the food around. It starts to give everybody a little bit of control, and once kids feel in control, the battles start going away. So its serving food family-style versus plating it.
Q: How can parents get their picky little eaters to try new foods?
A: We have to understand that picky eating is normal. Once you normalize it and you set your expectations, its a lot easier to tackle. Patience, patience, patience is the key. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, present them in a way thats flavorful and playful. Add a tiny sprinkle of salt so it will enhance the natural flavor of the broccoli. You can add some parmesan cheese to the broccoli. You want to add things that make it flavorful. If you are cooking up baby carrots, you can drizzle a little pure maple syrup over them. Kale chips are a fun way to present a vegetable. Right now in the store you will find a type of kale called dinosaur kale. Now if youre the mom of a little kid, dinosaurs are where its at. So you go to the store and buy dinosaur kale. So now you have everything going for you, because what kid doesn't love dinosaur kale?
Q: Tell us a recipe or ingredient kids love that may surprise parents
Q: From all of your recipe testing, what have you found to be a deal breaker for kids?
A: A lumpy chunky tomato or pasta sauce is a deal breaker. Most kids are not going to eat a pasta dish if there are big chunks of tomato in it.