A few years ago, I co-wrote a book to help families eat and live better and manage their weight. Originally called Fitting Into Your Genes, my publisher nixed what I thought was a catchy title in favor of Feed Your Family Right!. Although I won't ever subscribe to the idea that there's just one right way for parents to feed their children, adopting certain eating and lifestyle habits—especially early in life—can help children grow optimally. It can also protect the health and well being of the entire family.
To help parents do just that, the new book, Get Your Family Eating Right, by Lynn Fredericks, founder of Family Cook Productions, and registered dietitian Mercedes Sanchez—provides a road map to help families spend more quality time in the kitchen. The book is jam-packed with recipes to make cooking and enjoying more family meals a reality, no matter how busy everyone's schedule is.
Here are some highlights of my recent conversation with Fredericks:
EZ: In your book, you recommend that families eat foods that come in all the colors. Why is that so vital, and how can families move in that direction?
LF: Colorful foods attract children, and focusing on color is a playful way to engage them with fruits and vegetables. Before modern food preservation and refrigeration, nature ensured that humans could ingest a healthy diet by providing a wide spectrum of colorful fruits and vegetables each season. Since nutritional science shows us more and more how the substances in plant foods benefit our health, paying attention to the colors in your diet is important. It's also a way to draw children in. I recommend that parents take their kids to farmers markets where the season influences the produce that's available. Usually, what's available changes weekly, and that helps parents stay out of a rut. Parents can keep small bowls of colorful fruit around the house. And at meals, they can serve two vegetables of different colors on plates whose color enhances the appearance of the vegetables.
EZ: Eating seasonally is another recommendation you make in your book. What are some ways families can do this come fall?
LF: Visit a farmers market. Foods don't come in cellophane there, so you can see there's dirt on roots or within the leaves. Seeing food this way helps kids realize that food actually needs to be grown! When at the market, parents can encourage their kids to pick out something that intrigues them. If they find that they've never used or prepared the food their kids pick, they can go online for preparation tips, or simply ask the farmer. One of my favorite fall vegetables are winter squashes, with their thick 'winter' coats. A simple way to prepare them is to scoop out the seeds and place a pat of butter and drizzle of maple syrup on each half and pop in the oven or microwave.
EZ: How do you suggest families eat well and, at the same time, save money when shopping for food?
LF: Our book shares a myriad of recipe concepts that can be varied by the season. Meat is also used as a condiment rather than the star of the meal. The recipes rely on legumes and other plant proteins to add flavor, fiber, and other key nutrients. Parents can designate a meatless day a week as one way to include more plant protein. They can also do tastings of various beans and salads with their kids to see which are a hit. Kids also enjoy shelling beans, and may find they love the sweet taste of freshly shelled legumes.
EZ: What are some ways families can enjoy whole grains?
LF: I like to recommend that parents incorporate underutilized grains like barley. They can add barley to salads, or have it (or quinoa, buckwheat, or steel-cut oats) for breakfast. They can also use brown basmati (instead of white basmati) in recipes and sprinkle it with cumin for a delicious side dish.
How do you feed your family 'right'?
Image of mother and her son buying fruits at farmers market via Shutterstock.
Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher.