Healthy Snacks for Children with Rebecca Marder (cont.)
Moderator: What is your favorite recipe to cook? What is your favorite recipe to eat?
Marder: This is a funny, very easy recipe that I use, and my babysitters do it for my kids when I'm not around. I make a pasta with ground turkey, almost like spaghetti and meatballs... and what I do is saute the turkey, or chicken breast, or mixed brown and white meat, depending on your goal with the fat of the meat. And I take the ground meat, and I saute it with garlic and onions. And then I get tomatoes, and I puree them in my blender. So it comes out like tomato juice, and I add that to the cooked meat, garlic, and onions, salt and pepper. And I put fresh basil leaf, and if you don't have that, you can use a mixed dried herb formula, like oregano and thyme. And I let that simmer for about an hour. Another thing to do in a pinch is get one of those canned or bottled tomato sauces, and you can add that to the fresh tomato you've pureed, to give it a little boost. It's an easy recipe that my kids like, and its easy for the babysitter to do, or for you to do when you want a balanced meal. The garlic, onion, and meat all work together for a balanced meal. And then I put parmesan cheese on it when I serve it.
Moderator: That sounds wonderful. Do you get your children involved in the cooking process? Any tips on how to do that?
Marder: Absolutely. I just put a chair up, and we have a cooking island, so I put up a barstool. My youngest daughter sits there, and I give her a knife not too sharp, and I let her cut the celery or tomato for the salad. My older daughter can use a slightly older knife, and she loves to make this pasta sauce that I'm talking about, and she'll help with the cooking of it. And it gives her a lot of pride, and it's good for her self esteem. One thing noted about children, is if you want to build their self esteem, let them be the teacher in any occasion possible. So it's almost like I let her pick a recipe for the salad, or let them be the leader in the cooking. But really, I am. (laughs) But they love to think that they're designing and creating this whole meal for the family.
Moderator: Do you allow them to come up with their own recipes and ideas?
Marder: Absolutely -- they love to make smoothies. They make smoothies all the time, depending on the fresh fruit. And sometimes we'll put ice cream or frozen yogurt in it, or we'll put fruit yogurt that's not frozen in it. Or milk or orange juice, and we blend it with fruit. Maybe one kind of fruit or many kinds; blueberries and strawberries are very healthy. Blueberries have many medicinal and nutritional properties, so we've been big on blueberries lately.
Moderator: To kind of put you on the spot, do you have prepared cereals in the house? Chips, and sodas and things like that?
Marder: Yes, I have boxed cereals, sodas. I always get the chips at the health food store, and I'm sure they're probably just as bad as the chips at the regular market, though they don't have preservatives in them. I do try to get the low-fat Cheese Puffs.
Moderator: Do you have any other cooking suggestions for healthy lunches or snacks for children?
Marder: Lunch is always a big challenge for mother, because no matter what you put into their lunch, they most of the time come back half eaten. But my children do love leftovers, like we'll have brown rice and chicken, and I'll put it into a little container and give them that. We make a lot of soups, and some of the soups I do add the rice into them, so the next day, it's almost like a risotto when I scoop it out for their lunch. I add more rice and broth, so its like a risotto with chicken and vegetables. I think it's just really important to make sure they have not junky choices, because that's what they'll eat first and get full on it. I know it's not easy, because their friends mostly have a lot of junk foods, but my kids are really educated and conscious about what they eat. Although they do eat junk foods like other kids, but I don't think its their main diet.
Moderator: Do you have any cookbooks or recipes available?
Marder: I have recipes, but I don't have a cookbook yet. My husband and I are working on one.
Moderator: What is your opinion of vegan diets? How can someone survive without dairy or any other animal by-product?
Marder: I love the vegan diet... I think it's a wonderful commitment to nature and health, and I think it's not easy for children, because it's not as popular as junk food or this kind of American fast-food trend we're in. But I think it's a real positive way to go.
Moderator: My wife and I disagree on what are "appropriate" snacks for our children. What would be a good compromise?
Moderator: If a husband and wife disagree on what is a "healthy" snack, what would you suggest?
Marder: It's better to just dish their food up, and everyone has their food, rather than putting on the big bowl of pasta on the table, and everyone keeps reaching in for more. That way you can control their portions, without having them singled out and feeling deprived. It's a better habit. Other people have the opposite; their kids don't eat enough, so that's a matter of finding what they'll eat, and giving it to them. But that's the same thing I'm saying about not having so much junk food, because they fill up on that, and they don't want to eat the other foods. They lose the taste for it.
Moderator: I feel like a short order cook. Each child gets a separate meal..Do you have any advice?
Marder: That's a discipline thing, almost a personal, philosophical decision. I have the same thing at my house, and we've tried where we have, "This is dinner. You eat what I cook and we all eat together." If they go away from the table hungry, night after night, they'll learn to eat what you serve. But it's not easy. The kids will test the parents, and throw tantrums, and how hungry they are. And then the guilt sets in. Any mother resonates with the guilt the kids throw out. Or find something when you're cooking, that there's something there for everybody, like if you're making macaroni and cheese and broccoli. Maybe one kid likes the salad, and the other likes the mac and cheese. We've slowly worked on this, and gotten her to pretty much... I'd say she eats about 80% better than she was. She's always been like this, but it grew more intense since she was in her pre-teens. She's 10 now, so it was a little more difficult.