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The small, mundane things in life often have the biggest impact on a person — and that starts in childhood. Few things demonstrate this concept better than family meals. There is a lot of power in family meals!
The family meal can be a simple yet crucially important daily event in which family members bond, discuss the things that are most important to them, and in which kids learn about their cultural heritage. After all, there are very real messages in both what you eat and how you eat it.
There's one catch though. OK, a couple. Don't eat in front of the TV. That inhibits that good old communication we just mentioned. And don't eat take-outs, because they aren't healthy most of the time. Healthy eating starts at home, in the family — with balanced meals cooked from scratch. Balanced and healthy family meals don't have to take a lot of time to prepare, however, and if you have small kids who are picky eaters, they don't have to look healthy either.
I'm a second-generation vegetarian. I've been meat-free since birth, and so have my two kids, who are third-generation vegetarians. We're lacto-ovo, which means we enjoy eggs and dairy products on a regular basis. Still, most of our meals are very vegetable heavy. Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals, cheap, and easy to prepare.
I have a friend, also with two kids, who doesn't agree. Whenever she comes over for dinner with her little gang, she ends up having a pizza delivered to my house. My staples? Asian vegetable-fried rice, Middle Eastern style falafel, humus (those are both chickpeas), and baba ganoush (that's eggplant), and Mexican-style salads with home-made tortillas, salsa (that's tomatoes) and guacamole (that's avocados).
“Sorry,” she'll say as she phones the pizza place, which she has on speed dial on her cell phone.
“Your meals just look too healthy. My kids would never eat that.”
I have to say I was a little judgemental. And then, my younger kid — who used to scoop hot, and I mean hot Korean pepper paste right out of the jar and eat it — developed a vegetable phobia. What kind of mother has to hide vegetables in her kids' meals? This question crossed my mind more than once. Plenty of moms, it turns out. It can happen, even if you raised your kids on those “healthy-looking foods” my friend commented about so many times.
A life-long habit of eating healthy meals starts in childhood, at the family dinner table. But you may have to be flexible about what those meals look like. So, I've put together some tips. These are healthy foods that even my friend's pizza-loving kids enjoy, and that my veggie-phobic four-year old doesn't complain about.