“Back to School” Recommendations for Healthy Eating Habits
Working with parents to help them instill in their children healthy meal habits can be challenging. This is a big issue during “Back to School” month, as school programs often offer micro-waved, highly processed, nutrient poor, previously frozen lunches to kids. It is not hard to imagine the impact that such a menu has upon children. The ability to concentrate, learn, play hard, sleep well and maintain an active immune system are profoundly affected by such low quality foods. Worse yet, kids think these foods taste good, relegating broccoli and carrots to the proverbial “back burner”.
Encouraging children to make healthy eating habits can be a complex and difficult process. I certainly do not have the answer for every situation, but here are a few guidelines to help parents improve your child’s eating habits and overall health.
First, I recommend that parents involve kids in the meal preparation process. The earlier in life a child becomes excited about healthy food choices, the more willing they will be to eat that food. Encourage them to take pride and ownership in the cooking process. Extend this further by getting children involved in gardening. Even time-constrained parents can fill a pot with soil and grow a tomato or 21 day radishes.
Second, I paraphrase the advice from Ellyn Satter (check out her institute on line). “Your job is to offer your child the food you want, at the time you want him or her to eat it. The child’s job is to decide what and how much of it to eat.” In this way, a dynamic is developed that leaves both the parent and the child with a degree of decision making power.
Third, get rid of any food in the house you do not want your child to eat.
Fourth, I strongly urge parents to assemble the family together for a daily meal.
Finally, I would like to offer parents a tasty option: Zucchini-Cauliflower crust pizza. I chose this one because pizza is one meal that gets most kids excited. Because I am adversary of the mainstream dairy industry (although I find raw milk, especially raw goats milk to have fewer deleterious health effects), I am recommending a pesto recipe. This recipe takes me about thirty minutes to make, but a food processor can cut down that time.
The benefit of this recipe lies in the fact that avocado is very high in essential fatty acids. Basil is an excellent source of Vitamin K and manganese and very good source of copper, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate and omega-3 fatty acids. Zucchini is high in Vitamin A and cauliflower, being in the broccoli family, is extremely supportive of the detoxification pathways. The lack of processed flour places this rendition of pizza very low on the glycemic index, making it a meal of choice for those who struggle with blood sugar issues.
For the crust: 6 cups of raw shredded zucchini, 4 cups of minced cauliflower, 1 beaten egg, 2 Tbs ground flax seed, 1/2-1 cup coconut flour, salt and seasonings to taste. Steam the cauliflower until soft and press all the water and juice out well using cheese cloth. Do the same with the shredded zucchini. Mix all the ingredients together, and spread them out (about 1/2 inch thick) on a pizza screen (a perforated pan). This removal of water from the vegetables and the use of the pizza screen is imperative if you want the crust to be firm. Bake 40 minutes at 400̊ F.
For the pesto: 1 large bunch fresh basil, 2 ripe avocados, 1/2 cup walnuts or hemp seeds, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Blend ingredients together in a food processor, adding water or oil to desired thickness. Once the crust is done cooking, spread the pesto on the crust. Add your desired toppings. Cook briefly to warm the pesto. Remember that the oils in the avocado rancidify in heat; I do not recommend leaving the pesto in the oven for very long.
Dr. Daniel Smith is a naturopathic physician who works at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic in Medford. His new office is at 2612 E. Barnett Ave. He specializes in naturopathic oncology but is a family practitioner who addresses virtually any health concern from both a mainstream and alternative perspective. He can be reached at 541-770-5563. Please ask specifically to see Dr. Smith.