What's the one food you could never live without?
There are so many different foods that I love and that I wouldn't want to do without! My father's meat sauce, my mom's banana bread, garlic and onions (which i put in pretty much everything I make), salad, pasta, ice cream...But I think I would be a bit heartbroken if I couldn't have avocados. I just adore their fruity creaminess, as well as their versatility. I often have one for breakfast, with just a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some sea salt. Plus, of course, I could eat guacamole with every meal! And if you've never had avocado in a smoothie, you're really missing something. The best thing about avocados is that, in addition to their heavenly taste, they are extraordinarily good for you. As someone who works with moms—many of whom are pregnant or breastfeeding—my blog focuses on whole foods that are not just delicious but also nutrient-dense. Avocados are about as perfect as a food can get. In fact, they were my son's first solid food!
What's a treat your kids love that's actually healthy?
Some of the things my son loves most are unquestionably healthy, like apples, blueberries, watermelon, and raisins—he gets excited about eating them and definitely views them as sweet treats! But he also loves things like cookies and brownies. I’m okay with that because I follow one of the directives from Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: Make your own junk food. When you make your own, you control the quality and quantity of the ingredients. For me, that means using organic ingredients; replacing white flour in recipes with whole wheat pastry flour; significantly cutting the amount of flour and sugar; using pastured eggs from a local farm; boosting nutrition by adding things like flax, almond meal and chia seeds; and avoiding artificial food coloring. These changes are easy—and make me feel good about my whole family enjoying these treats sometimes.
My family’s favorite cookie recipe is actually one that was originally intended for me: lactation cookies! These cookies—intended to support and boost milk supply through particular ingredients like oats, flax and brewer’s yeast—just happen to be super delicious. Even though it’s been a while since I breastfed, these are the cookies my family requests!
What's your best tip for feeding a picky eater?
I try to avoid the term “picky eater” because I think sometimes labeling it gives the situation more power than I think it should have. Kids have very sensitive taste buds; kids like to exert control where they can; kids will eat something one day and refuse it the next. In other words, kids can be frustrating! But, as parents, we still need to be in charge of offering our children foods that are delicious and nutritious.
My son is four, so he’s not always so excited about trying new foods. It’s my job to get him excited. I do this in a number of ways. First of all, I do some at-home marketing for healthy foods. My son is at an age (he’s four) where he’s very conscious of being strong and getting big—I tell him which foods help him get that way and what exactly they do for his body. When he eats carrots, he tells me he can see better; when he eats fish, he tells me he can feel his brain getting smarter; and he thinks that The Incredible Hulk is green and muscular from eating broccoli and asparagus and peas. Hey, if junk food companies can pitch their processed crap to kids, I can market veggies to my son!
Another way I introduce new foods to my son is by adding them to dishes he already enjoys. For instance, he loves chili, so I load mine up not just with beans, but with carrots, onions, zucchini, and mushrooms. And my son adores brown rice and peas—I replace half the rice with “cauliflower rice,” add broccoli and scallions, and he’s ready to eat three bowls! Sometimes you just need to deliver new foods in familiar packages.
I also put veggies in everything. I put pumpkin puree in muffins and pancakes, I start every sauce and soup and stew with mirepoix (onions, garlic, celery), I throw greens in grilled cheese sandwiches and smoothies. We would all—I’m talking adults, as well as kids—be better off if we added more vegetables to our daily diets.