Alison Sweeney Takes “One Giant Pledge” to Eat More Veggies
On October 2, actress and The Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney joined Green Giant in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal to take a pledge for veggies!
Sweeney promised, on behalf of her family, to eat just one more vegetable per day–and encouraged all of the young school students in attendance to do the same.
(Families can also take the pledge on Green Giant’s Facebook page.)
Parents.com had a few moments to chat with Sweeney, mom to Ben, 7, and Megan, 3, about how she helps her kids make healthy food choices.
How do you encourage your kids to eat their vegetables?
We always come up with new, different ways to be healthy, like trying different recipes. There are a lot of ways to be creative and include vegetables. There’s the French fry approach, where I let them eat green beans with their hands and sometimes we dip them in stuff. Some veggies are great raw. My son doesn’t like bell peppers when they’re cooked, but he loves them raw.
What are some veggie meals you make that are good for kids?
I love to make a veggie stir-fry for my kids because I think it’s a great way to get tons of vegetables in a meal. People always think they need a cup of rice for every stir-fry portion, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I think people’s proportions get all skewed. You can do a quarter cup of rice, have mostly veggies, and add a protein. Stir-fry is also good because it can be made with whatever vegetables happen to be in the fridge, so I pull out what I have in the freezer and my kids love it.
What do you make stir-fry with?
I stick to a healthy oil, like a safflower oil or something light. I do find healthier stir-fry sauces and ingredients, but as long as kids are getting their veggies, keep sauce to a minimum for just enough flavor. A lot of the time parents end up making bad choices. When you’re tired or the kids are tired, you don’t want arguments about dinner, so kids end up getting used to eating delicious but bad-for-you food. I can’t just let kids eat chicken fingers or Pop tarts every day. My kids do eat mac ‘n’ cheese, but in smaller portions with a lot of veggies.
You mentioned your son loves bell peppers. Are there any other vegetables that are great for kids?
Carrots, snap peas, and peas. Also broccolini and broccoli. (Green Giant has a great vegetable medley that kids love.) My kids love edamame. The veggies that are hard to sell kids on are asparagus and Brussels sprouts. My son’s teacher told me that it takes 10 tastings for someone to get used to a flavor, to know whether he likes something, so I’m still working on 10 tries for some veggies.
Do you have any tips for parents of picky eaters?
Picky eaters are a really hard thing, but you can use hunger as your ally. It’s okay to let them get a little hungry so they’re more likely to eat. Then you only offer them veggies. Kids are not going to starve. Also offer veggies as a snack when your kids get home from school, and have them prepared and ready to go in little bags. There are great reusable bags now at Pottery Barn Kids; I stuff them with carrot or bell pepper sticks and sugar snap peas. You really have to set boundaries on what’s allowed. With my kids, we work with set rules. We have Mac ‘n’ Cheese Monday, so they get mac ‘n’ cheese only on Monday. For Taco Friday we do taco wraps. My kids love using lettuce as wraps. You just have to put the taco mix inside. Often we think kids need basic or bland foods, but it’s really not the case. I put cinnamon in my kids’ oatmeal when they were around 6-8 months old and they loved it. I don’t want them getting used to tasting really starchy, bland food. I want them to expect flavor and texture. I use agave nectar with carrots and a little rosemary, and it’s delicious and sweet. I think there is a world of options out there.
What are other things you do with your kids to promote healthy living?
I think it’s super important to let your kids know that you’re active, too. You have to practice what you preach. I’ve been super successful at explaining why I need to work out. I tell my kids, “Mommy needs to get her exercise and go to the gym.” They see me making exercise a core part of my life, so that’s going to help them down the road. We do a lot of stuff that’s active as a family, like going on hikes with our dog, flying kites, and running into the ocean. I burn a lot of calories swimming with my kids and playing baseball with my son. With my daughter, we run around and dance. We have so much fun. You can find ways to be challenged by your kids and encourage them in the process. You have to commit to it.
What’s the best or worst parenting advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I got when I had my first child was: Imagine if you were holding an 18-month-old child when you hear your other child, an infant, crying. You would have to do something, but you can’t just drop your child and run to the baby. You would have to put your kid down, give him a toy or something to do, and then go tend to your infant. There’s no need to panic. Just take a breath instead. So many new parents feel everything is very high-stakes, that they have to run off to the infant, but it’s good to just wonder, what if there was a sibling already? It’s okay to just take a minute, take your time.
What inspires you as a parent?
My kids’ smiles inspire me every day. When you become a parent, all your decision-making changes. Every decision I make now is based on how it will affect my children. Sometimes it means having to discipline them or to make tough choices that will make them unhappy, but I have to do what is best for them their whole life.
For more about healthy eating and living, check out the following on Parents.com:
- Alison Sweeney’s Healthy Family Recipes
- The 35 Best Foods to Stock in Your Fridge and Pantry
- How to Sauté Vegetables
- 12 Ways to Stay Active as a Family
Image: Alison Sweeney, center, poses with stilt walker Michael Schruefer, left, and Sprout at the Green Giant event. Courtesy of Green Giant.