My kids don't like broccoli, my husband wants meat

food Mar 10, 2015

Participants of my raw food retreats are often parents concerned with the food their children eat. This usually leads to conversations about how to get children into better eating habits and also how to enrol the other parent into supporting healthy eating at home.

At one of my retreats a guest had recently decided to upgrade his family’s food intake towards higher nutrition after both his parents had been diagnosed with cancer. It was a wake-up-call for him and after a lot of research he came to the conclusion that the best he could do was to create excellent nutrition for himself, his wife and his young children. Now I usually have people in my class who are already quite familiar with eating raw vegetables and they really enjoy the foods I prepare. I was therefore particularly delighted that this participant openly stated that he didn’t like the food. ‘It all tastes really strange to me’ he said. But then followed it with ‘but I know this is the right thing to do and I hope we’ll get used to it as a family’.

How amazing is it to do something you have decided is ‘the right thing to do’ even if it is neither pleasant nor easy to do. That is real commitment and I have the highest respect for it. It was so easy for me to go raw. I already loved vegetables whether cooked or raw, I was used to intense and strong flavours given my Hungarian culinary background and I had a partner who not only supported the food changes but also wanted and appreciated them. It is sometimes easy to forget just how hard it can be for people to make a change to their foods and their lifestyle.

So in this blog I thought I'd bring you a few nuggets from my experience coaching both individuals and families towards healthier eating, whilst avoiding the aggravation this can sometimes bring.

Focus on crowding out 
This means, rather than outlaw the bad stuff, bring in the good stuff. The more good stuff you eat – and by good stuff I mean the stuff with high nutritional value – the less likely you and your family are to reach for the bad stuff. By ‘bad stuff’ I mean empty calories, those foods that are high in sugar, based on white flour, full of salt, preservatives and dubious ingredients.

Model healthy living 
There is no point in you trying to stop your kids eating super sweet chocolate bars and packets of Hula-hoops, while you are happily working your way through a couple of beers and a bag of crisps during TV hour. Model healthy behaviour without lecturing and your kids will be happier to follow. Have ready cut sticks of carrot, celery, apple and salt and sugar-free nuts and seeds available to nibble on.

Take your kids shopping 
Take your children food shopping but don’t just give in to their pressures. Read food labels together with them and discuss whether the package you've taken off the shelf is a good choice for the family. For example, check for ingredients that have E-numbers (usually colouring and preservatives) or names that you don’t know what they mean. Try to stick to foods that don’t contain more than 5 different ingredients (3 is even better!). Check for sugar content, which you find under ‘carbohydrates’ in the nutritional information part of the label and remember that 4g of sugar are 1 teaspoon. This measure gives you a good visual idea of how much sugar is in the products you and your children eat. Also check for sodium content. Table salt is a poison, void of any nutritional value and should be avoided wherever possible. Instead only have sea salt or other mineral rich natural salt at home and use it sparingly. 

Create a family strategy with the family 
This involves children and partners (and it also applies to couples). Don't create a war of different camps (meat eaters versus vegetarians), but allow everybody to voice their food desires and needs. Then come to a compromise. Perhaps you decide to eat healthy meals at home, but once a week you go out for a pizza as a 'treat'.

Have family meals 
This is probably one of the biggest reasons why eating has become such an issue in so many families these days. There aren’t enough family meals. The children are fed when they get home from school and the tendency is to feed them what they ask for. The parents eat at a different time. Try to have at least one meal a day together as a family. Don’t cook different meals and present them as such but rather have food that includes something for everybody and place it all on the table with equal value. You want to create a meal that doesn’t shout: the salad is for mum, the pasta for the kids and the meat for dad. Encourage children to try different foods, but don’t force them and most importantly, do not bribe your children with sweets to eat their vegetables.

I hope you try these ideas with your own family. I’m happy to help you through my family coaching programmes, so feel free to contact me if you feel you could do with a little support.

Courgette noodles with chunky tomato sauce


 

I've adapted this recipe from my Book Food Heroes to create a meal that you can serve to a family which includes various eaters (raw, vegetarian and meat eaters)

Base recipe (serves 4)

2-3 courgettes (choose fairly straight courgettes that aren't too thin!)

For the sauce

1/4 cup goji berries 

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes 

1/2 cup of walnuts 

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped (I prefer the sweet, pointed Roman peppers)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1 teaspoon paprika 

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 

2 teaspoons Tamari 

1 large handful of fresh basil(or 2 tablespoons frozen)

Soak the goji berries, sun dried tomatoes and walnuts for half an hour while you prepare the other ingredients.

Cut the courgettes into spirals with a spiral slicer or use a potato peeler to peel thin slices of the courgette length-wise, turning it as you peel creating long 'linguine' style peelings. If you have fussy eaters, they may prefer the courgette cut into linguine or even spiralised into Spaghetti. Visit my shop for spiraliser if you don't own one yet. It makes fab noodles from all sorts of vegetables.

Place the tomatoes, red pepper, olive oil, paprika, apple cider vinegar and tamari into the blender and blend until you have a smooth sauce.

Add the sun dried tomatoes and basil and blend for 10 seconds.

Then add goji berries and walnuts and process briefly until they are broken down but still chunky. 

Pour the sauce over the courgette spirals or noodles and serve raw with some 'Nut Parmesan' (grind nuts of your choice, nutritional yeast, and sea salt)

For vegetarians or vegans who don't want to eat raw
Warm the sauce to no more than 65ºC. This still keeps many of the nutrients intact but is hot enough to give the 'cooked' feel. Pour over the raw courgette and top with grated cheese or nut 'parmesan'. 

For meat eaters
Add some steamed meatballs to sauce. Steaming is a healthier option than frying, because frying burns the fats and creates carcinogenic substances.
There is also a lovely recipe for broad bean falafel in my blog posts, which would probably even be liked by a meat eater. 

There you go, a delicious, nutritious meal to serve the whole family!

Let me know how you get on with creating healthy meals for your family by posting on my FB page.

For more tasty raw, plant-based recipes, order my recipe workbook 'Food Heroes'. Over 77 recipes, nutritional info on foods used in the recipes, and tips on how to modify the recipes.

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