Friday, September 24, 2010

Eat With Your Eyes

For ten years, I taught with a wonderful woman who was incredibly attuned with children. She was funny and witty, and always excited to work with her class. One of the things I learned from her, though, was the importance of the balance of color and texture when planning snacks for children. In fact, it became such a joke between us that I would call her up some evenings to announce we were eating a "yellow" dinner--chicken, macaroni, corn, and applesauce--just to hear her moan in pain.

She's right, though. As much as I spoke about nutrition in my last post, we do eat with our eyes. Good menu planning includes a colorful variety of foods. When we would plan snacks for the week, we would look at the balance of nutrients, colors, and textures we were offering. Was everything bland looking and tasting? Was it all crunchy? Did we have a variety of nutrients from different food groups?

Nutritionists will be quick to point out that it's overall balance in a diet that is important, not what a person eats in one day. Because of this, it's helpful to look at what you're feeding your family over time, rather than in just one day. Because my children are older, I can't control (nor should I!) everything they eat every day. But I can control what goes on my dinner table, and I try to make sure those things are well-balanced and appealing. A mix of colors, textures, familiar and unfamiliar foods are served on a regular basis. At least once a week, I try to make sure to introduce something new, and at least once a week each of my kids helps prepare dinner.

Here's a couple more simple recipes to try with the kids. Any of these can be teamed up with a drink or additional snack that varies in color or texture from the choice below. It's been great fun discussing food this week--I'd love to hear more suggestions from you about what you'd like to read and discuss in the future. You can leave a message here or email me at!

Tortilla roll-ups: combine a couple teaspoons of cream cheese with a teaspoon or so of salsa. Spread on whole wheat tortillas and roll up, then cut into bite-size pieces.

Fruit and cheese kabobs--chunk your child's favorite fruits and a mild cheese (such as mild cheddar). Help your child slide the fruit and cheese onto toothpicks, then prepare to eat!

Snack mix--This is a super flexible snack that you relies on whatever you have in your house! Combine items such as cheerios, pretzels, goldfish, raisins, or any other small snack-type food in a baggie. Shake and serve!

Banana rounds--Using ritz-type crackers, spread peanut butter on a cracker and top it with a slice of banana. These crackers now come in whole wheat, increasing your child's fiber intake.

Flavored couscous/rice--Using the directions on the box, substitute unsweetened apple juice for all or part of the water required for a plain rice or couscous. Throw in a handful of raisins and voila! a delicious breakfast or snack!

Tomato and mozzarella salad--This is especially awesome during summer months when fresh tomatoes are plentiful. Dice fresh tomatoes in a bowl, and add cubed pieces of mozzarella. Top with a fat-free italian or a mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Marinate the salad for a couple of hours, then serve.

Peanut butter/soy butter roll ups--Using a whole wheat tortilla, cover the tortilla with peanut butter and top it with the toppings of your child's choice. Apples, bananas, even shredded carrot can be delicious on this! Roll it up and cut into bite size pieces before serving.

Hummus and veggies/pita: There are a lot of tasty hummus brands on the market. In case you are unfamiliar, hummus is a combination of ground chickpeas and garlic, olive oil, and spices. It can be used as a dip with veggies or spread on pita bread. Yummy AND healthy!

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  1. I think you said on one of these to talk about what we want to hear about! I would love some conversations about
    -teaching autonomy and what that looks like on a day to day basis.
    -when its time to obey and how to enforce rules and such while still respecting the child, because problem solving and perspective taking doesn't always work
    -consequences... do we go with natural ones or the Alfie Kohn route (which in practice still remains just out of my reach)
    and speaking of consequences, finding the balance between understanding that they are children and being flexible and teaching responsibility.
    to name a few ;)

  2. Thanks for the terrific ideas, Jeanette! I'll definitely be writing about those things in the future. I'm also looking at putting together an e-newsletter that will allow me to go into more detail about some of the things you're talking about--the heart and soul of working with and rearing young children.