by Christine Wong
As soon as my first child was born, I knew that one of my priorities in raising children would be to ensure a good foundation of healthy eating. It's never too early to start!
So ever since they started eating solids, they have consistently eaten pretty much the same real foods that we do—without any of the processed baby stuff.
With children testing boundaries as they grow and thinking that they know what foods are best for them, I know it's not always easy. You want them to eat, preferably without a conflict, so there are bound to be times parents get into a rut of preparing the same foods day in and day out—or just succumbing to "what works."
It's happened to me. Although my children have always been fine with eating vegetables, I found that I was always serving some form of wheat and dairy for breakfast, lunch and dinner—every single day. It has been said that everything is OK in moderation, but when I took a step back, I realized this certainly wasn't moderate.
I knew it was time to make the shift into incorporating more whole-ingredient, nutrient-dense foods into each meal. I've taken gradual steps to stop turning to those "go-to" items merely by incorporating more vegetables first.
I can see the benefits of the changes I've made by observing my children's steady moods, their clear skin tones and the fact that they're not hungry all the time. They do still eat dairy and wheat occasionally, especially when out and about, so I try and keep our home-cooked meals more plant-based. This will continually guide them to listen to their bodies and know how to make good food choices that help them feel great.
Here are three of my favorite recipes that just happen to be meatless, dairy-free and gluten-free. Even better, kids of all ages can help to prepare these meals. And they're flexible so you can add any personal favorite flavors and ingredients. Most importantly, they're so fun to eat!
1. Chia Pudding Parfait
These mighty seeds are packed with protein, complex carbohydrates (the good ones) and a plethora of other nutrients. Easy-to-digest and high in antioxidants, they provide energy to both the mind and body—a perfect start to the day. These can be prepared the night before with layers of homemade granola and fresh fruit. Besides, what kid wouldn't love to have dessert for breakfast?
2. Eat-a-Rainbow Chili:
This recipe is so substantial that even the most adamant of meat-eaters won't notice that this is a vegetarian dish! Not only is eating a spectrum of vibrant vegetables appetizingly cheerful and beautiful, it also ensures that your body is getting all the right nutrients.
3. Ratatouille's Ratatoullie:
Inspired by the Pixar movie, this is such a fun dish to prepare with children during the bounty of the summer. The final dish is so impressive to the eye, kids always take pride in having had a hand in preparing it.
Christine Wong is a certified health coach based in New York City who empowers people to take charge of their health with food through private coaching sessions, cooking workshops and 10-day detoxes. Visit her website: consciouscooking.studio/ or Instagram: @conscious_cooking.