Healthy Snacks for Children with Rebecca Marder

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Healthy Snacks for Children with Rebecca Marder

By Rebecca Marder
WebMD Live Events Transcript

Restaurant owner Rebecca Marder will discuss and prepare a number of healthy snacks for children in this special SLIDE SHOW and AUDIOCAST event

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live's Pregnancy and Parenting Auditorium. Today we are presenting a live cooking audiocast and slideshow, Healthy Snacks for Children, with Rebecca Marder.

Rebecca Marder and her husband Bruce own three of the top restaurants in Los Angeles. They are all located in the Santa Monica area and feature a variety of excellent foods. The Capo Restaurant is one of the most visually beautiful, alluring and grown-up restaurants to open in Santa Monica. Designed by chef-owner Bruce Marder, it's full of warm, rough wood, and furnished with classy, comfortable chairs and lots of good art by mostly local artists. Capo seems invented for the pleasure of civilized adults. The showstopper is their aged New York steak that Marder mastered years ago at the West Beach. Many ingredients are straight from the Marders' own organic vegetable garden.

Rebecca, welcome back to WebMD Live. Why did you choose to make a pumpkin soup?

Marder: Because that was actually truthfully what was fresh at the market that day, and I've been excited about these Moroccan pumpkins. Yes, fresh vegetables, organically grown and what's in season. I do the seasonal soups.

Moderator: What would you pack for your children?

Marder: I've been partially steaming broccoli, carrots, or asparagus... and sometimes I put a little salad dressing dip, and the kids dip that. I like to give the kids almonds or nuts with that, peanut butter sandwiches, since I'm big on protein. My daughters are picky like most children, so sometimes we have leftover chicken. I put that in a little container.

Moderator: That's a great idea...

Moderator: Are string cheese snacks healthy for my kids?

Marder: I've heard that the harder the cheese, the easier it is to digest. I give the kids parmesan cheese, because I also do give string cheese because it's so convenient. I think it's dependent on the child's tolerance for lactose, but I think it's a good, nice healthy snack.

Moderator: My husband and I try very hard to maintain a healthy diet for our kids. How can I monitor what they eat when I'm not around, like at a birthday party or after school?

Marder: I think that it's real important to educate them, and tell them that we know that they'll make good choices when we're not around, but to always remember that they need to give their bodies healthy food. I think it's okay, particularly in society today with all the fast food junk available, but I think it's okay that they have junk food in moderation, meaning, birthday cakes, or snickers bars, cheetos, whatever they're having in a group situation. I think it's less neurotic to teach them that they can eat those foods that taste delicious and are popular, and less neurotic to teach them moderation instead of abstinence.

Moderator: What do you recommend for people who don't have time to cook? How can they stay healthy?

Marder: They can get food at the market. There are salad bars, prepared chicken, fish, a tremendous array of food that's healthy, and geared towards the non-cooking family.

Moderator: You spoke earlier of peanut butter. Do you recommend people making their own out of raw peanuts?

Marder: Absolutely, if they can.

Moderator: How important are vegetables to optimum health?

Marder: They're vital. They have all the nutrients, and people are finding many properties in vegetables that are missing in all the processed foods. They have the natural antibiotics and blood builders, and there's just tremendous benefit from eating live greens, like antioxidants, and the whole movement today with vitamins, it's all in the vegetables.

Moderator: Many users are unable to go to a market every day to choose fresh vegetables. For those who only get there on the weekend, how should they choose their vegetables and store them for optimum freshness and nutritional value?

Marder: The first choice would be to go to a local farmer's market if they have one near them, once a week. Keep your vegetables in the vegetable bin drawer in the refrigerator, to keep them in a dark place that doesn't get too much air coming in. Most of the vegetables, you can tell which are the most resilient, like broccoli and asparagus and carrots, cucumbers. My kids love cucumbers. They eat a lot of celery, but I think its pretty evident which vegetables are the most resilient and will last until the following farmer's market. The grocery store also has organic food.

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.

Quick GuidePortion Control Tips: Lose Weight and Stick to Your Diet

Portion Control Tips: Lose Weight and Stick to Your Diet

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.

Moderator: Both you and your husband are well-known chefs here in the Los Angeles area, so who cooks at night at home?

Marder: My husband is a much better cook; he's more of a chef. He's more of a much better cook, and when he's here, he cooks, and I'm the prep cook. He's mostly busy at the restaurant at night, and he cooks and comes home. But he has Sunday and Monday night, so Sunday night is family dinner. Monday night, sometimes we cook or go out for food.

Moderator: It must be great food if he's cooking.

Marder: It's divine. Not only that, but we grow our own produce, and we have a really good garden, so again, it's about getting the kids involved, so they pick the fruits and vegetables.

Moderator: Tell us about that. You live here in Los Angeles, and are cramped for space. How do you grow a garden?

Marder: What we did was we have a little ravine on our property, and we just did the railroad ties and tied it down, and utilized every space. Some friends of mine have a very small corner on their property, and we're helping them set up a garden. All of us have room for a garden, even if we have to do it in pots.

Moderator: Any tips on what's easiest to grow that you're able to use a lot in your home, everyday?

Marder: Tomatoes are a must, and herbs. Rosemary, basil, thyme -- all the herbs, I get a lot of use out of those. If you can only grow one thing, I'd say tomatoes.

Moderator: Garden-grown tomatoes are so much tastier than store bought ones...

Marder: They're so good; there's nothing like fresh picked fruits and vegetables.

Moderator: Back to children, as we run out of time, have you any other advice regarding snacks and meals that are healthy to feed our children?

Marder: Children really like pasta, so I try to be creative. One of my kids loves top ramen noodles, so when I boil the water, I put a little broccoli in it, and we just have this rule, that they have to eat their vegetables. So I'll make them eat their broccoli first before their food. I try to capitalize on any opportunity I can to get those vegetables in. I have 4 children, so they're all different.

Quick GuidePortion Control Tips: Lose Weight and Stick to Your Diet

Portion Control Tips: Lose Weight and Stick to Your Diet

Moderator: For the working moms, do you have any suggestions of meals or snacks that they can take with them to work that are nutritious and healthy?

Marder: I always have a bag of almonds, or pecans, or some sort of nuts in my bag, because I like to have a little snack throughout the day. I think it's good for our blood sugar, and we need a lot of protein in small amounts through the day.

Moderator: Most people are concerned about the fat content of nuts. What are your thoughts on that?

Marder: I read something somewhere that said that when you eat nuts, they metabolize really well, and aren't as fattening as people think. I eat them all the time. I live on them. I eat sunflower seeds on my yogurt, and I'm not overweight. I'm not talking about salted peanuts. I'm talking about almonds. The snacks I suggest are leftovers. Chicken and rice -- I'll throw them together with vegetables. Or salads. Sandwiches with leftovers. I'm not really a big person on what to do for work, because I do eat in the kitchen at the restaurant. I only know about feeding the kids during the day.

Moderator: And you have an unfair advantage over us, with access to excellent take-out. (laughs) Thank you so much for joining us today. We and the listeners have enjoyed this. Will you come back sometime?

Marder: Absolutely. And we need to remember to take good care of the children, and feed them right!

Moderator: Thanks for joining us, and stay hard!!

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Reviewed on 6/4/2004 1:33:25 PM

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