When you cook healthfully for yourself, you’re also setting up your kids to eat well and in a way that can help them minimize their risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. But who has the time, right? It does take planning and prep. Writing out grocery lists and planning meals ahead can be big help if you can just set aside an hour a week to do it.
Here’s how I add good nutrition to foods that my 11-year-old loves while catering to my diabetes needs:
Frozen spinach, shredded zucchini, finely chopped mushrooms–To add more fiber-rich veggies to our foods, I often bulk out lean ground-beef (or ground turkey breast) dishes with low-cal, low-carb veggies. Spaghetti sauce, taco seasoning, etc., are flavorful enough to “mask” the taste of the veggies. My son gets a serving of veg and less saturated fat (from eating less meat).
Veggie bases instead of pasta, or at least mixed in with pasta: Spaghetti squash looks and feels quite similar to pasta. Plus, it’s fun to scrape out of the cooked squash. Mixing any sort of non-starchy veg with cooked pasta is a great way to lower the carb count. I look for whole wheat, fiber-rich pasta. Also, when it comes to other grain bases, I often substitute quick-cook barley for rice. Much more fiber in barley, but the consistency is pretty similar.
Reduced sodium everything: There’s WAY too much sodium in packaged foods. When I don’t have time to cook from scratch (and that’s often), I always purchase the low- or reduced-sodium version of canned veggies, flavoring packets, sauces, etc. We use lemon pepper or some of the Mrs. Dash spice mixtures to flavor up the food without added sodium.
Breakfast for dinner: This is always popular with kids, and eggs are a nice source of lean protein. You can eat more whites than yolks to further reduce cholesterol. Eggs can take the place of meat in burritos, on salads, on sandwiches.
I look for recipes that use beans. Although you do need to count the carbs in them, they are very fiber-rich, which means it’s easier to keep your blood sugar steady.
Dip night. This is a fun one! We make several dips (melted peanut butter, hummus, low-fat sour cream dip, low-fat cheese dip) and an assortment of cut up veggies, fruit, and strips of crisped whole-grain bread or crackers. No double dipping
I try to serve a lot of “build it yourself” meals. Sandwiches, pasta with toppers, thin-crust pizza (you can make it on small tortillas). Then several small dishes of cut up veggies. The rule is that my son must choose at least one serving of fruit and one of vegetable at each meal. Somehow, veggies are more enjoyable when you’re allowed to pick and choose.
When I’m able, I set aside Sunday afternoon to cut up and blanch veggies, make a couple of reheatable recipes, and make sure I have nutritious grab-and-go products on hand: low-fat yogurt, high-fiber cereal, etc.
There are many recipe sites online (of course I have to plug my magazine) that offer full nutrition info so you can count calories and carbs. As your kids grow up, they can help you cook and learn good nutrition along the way. When my son pointed out the other night, “There’s no dairy item with this meal,” I was pretty proud of him.