Parents Need to Set Good Eating Example

I’m often asked: How can I convince my children to eat healthy food?

This clearly is a widespread problem judging by the great numbers of books on store shelves that focus on how to cook with your kids, kid-friendly recipes, not fighting over food with your kids and so on.

The first rule is to set a good example for your children. We took my daughter to a birthday dinner at a local restaurant.  At the next table was a family of a father, mother and two young boys.  When the salad came for the father, he took off the tomatoes and cucumbers and put them on a plate for the boys, saying, “I hate these things.  You eat them because they’re good for you.” Then he proceeded to dump a hefty pile of ranch dressing on the iceberg lettuce that remained on his plate.

First of all, iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value.  After ditching the tomatoes and cucumbers, this salad with dressing then consisted of 35 grams of saturated fat and an array of chemicals the manufacturer had mixed in as preservatives, etc.

The message the boys received was that tomatoes and cucumbers were good for them but not good enough for their father.  From the tone of the father’s voice, putting the produce on their plate was, in a way, a punishment.  As the boys grow up, eating vegetables with be thought of as a punishment.

Never give up on offering healthy food and variety of food to children.  It took me couple years of trying to get my daughter to enjoy olives, watercress, hummous and tofu.

Avoid stocking your pantly with junk food.  Chips, cookies and other fattening snacks are temptation, and children are better off if these junk food not available whenever temptation strikes.

Eating junk food on occasion should not be an issue, though.  If your child wants ice cream or French fries at a restaurant, it might be better to concede.  Your occasional allowance of junk food will, hopefully, reduce a craving that could result in binge eating of the forbidden food.

Most research shows that by the time children reach their early teens, their tastes are established, and they will begin eating a greater variety and amount of food.  Research also shows that when children see their parents eating a variety of foods, they will grow up as adventurous eaters.

Penne with Chicken and asparagus

serves 4

1     pound penne pasta

1     pound chicken breast, skin removed

1/4 cup olive oil

1    small onion, finely chopped

2    cloves garlic, mashed

10  fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces and blanched.

1     12-ounce can evaporated skim milk

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

2    tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

-In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil.  Drop in the pasta, and cook for 6-7 minutes or until pasta is al-dente.

-In a large skillet, heat half of the oil, and brown the chicken breasts on both sides.  Remove from heat, cool and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Set aside.

-Put the skillet back on the stove, add the rest of the olive oil, and cook the onion in the oil for couple of minutes.  Add the garlic, stir and add 1/2 cup of water.  Bring to a boil.

-Stir in the chicken slices and the asparagus tips.  Add the evaporated skim milk, half of the chopped basil, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

-Toss the pasta with the chicken mixture and the grated cheese.  Cook for 1 minute, and then remove from the stove.

-Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped basil, and serve hot.

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