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Feeding Littles... with a little theatrical flair!!



Switching to healthier plant-based diets can be a challenge on its own, but when you throw in a few tiny humans it can feel nearly impossible!


The number one challenge voiced to me in individual sessions by moms and dads is how they can introduce new foods, especially plant-based choices, to their kids (or, if they’re honest - sometimes the spouses need the most convincing!)


Fortunately, novel ideas for kids are my specialty! Some of the best ways to help your family get on board with this new change is making mealtime a fun family event.


One of the biggest reasons you get pushback is your kids feel uninvolved to these new meals that have unfamiliar vegetables, they don’t feel like they have any say in what they eat. It's like going to a movie or a play your friend is a fan of, but you have no idea who the characters are or what they're like, or what the story is going to be about.


If you can give your child the choice of "this or that" and talk about the RESULTS food can help them with, you might have more luck getting them to try a new food.


For those of us who need sneakier measures, here are 4 of my most effective and theatrical ways to introduce healthy foods to your family that will have everyone hopping on board for mealtime.




Let this be the life-changing and memorable information you pass on to your kids, and them to their own kids, and so on, so that picky eating and mealtime struggles are a thing of the past!




  1. Let them pick the food with the lead role. BOTH adults and kids should be aware of the item bringing the most nutritional punch to the meal. Tonight’s meal is starring… VEGETABLES! My first piece of advice to 90% of clients is to highlight the vegetables of the meal in the way that they: plan for meals, think about how to dress up the meal with herbs/flavors/sauces, and plate the meal or set the table. Tip for tonight: let them select the vegetable they prefer and dress it up your way.

  2. Allow for “costume changes”. It’s hard to get out of a rut sometimes, but allowing your vegetables a role change or a costume change can make all the difference. Perhaps broccoli does not get eaten raw and plain, but they might inhale a marinated broccoli slaw with their favorite peanut sauce, a broccoli “cheese” cashew cream soup, pan-fried in a tofu scramble. Think: Texture, Taste, or a complete Transformation!

  3. Include “guest starring” roles! Show your family that healthy food can still be fun food! Make a healthy alternative to a favorite meal by including one new vegetable ingredient, or substituting whole-food plant-based choices for dairy, eggs or meats. You can introduce new flavors by using their favorite veggies to swirl into a new dip or sauce. Be theatrical with your introduction. Play makes everything better!

  4. Count it all as applause. If one of my kids touches a new food to their lips, I personally count it as a win. Food as culture is a lifelong journey for your children and in time, they will accept unfamiliar flavors. Even when they are adults, taste buds can change and accept new, nutrient-rich foods. Sometimes it takes up to 15 times or more for a child to be presented or try a new food or flavor before they accept and love it!






Kids can be hesitant to eat familiar veggies on a good day, and introducing something new with lots of veggies can definitely make them feel outside of their comfort zone. I hope these tips help you as you move forward in your family's health journey.


Here are a few recipes from the Forks Over Knives Family book that are seen as fun and familiar to help your little ones warm up to your new way of eating.


Chickpeazella sticks (active prep time: 20 min, total with cooking time:1hr and 40 min, makes 20 sticks)


INGREDIENTS


-1 cup peeled and seeded butternut squash cut into1 inch pieces

-1 cup cooked or rinsed and drained canned chickpeas

-1 cup cooked brown rice (¼ cup dry)

-1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

-½ tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

-¼ onion finely chopped (¼ cup)

-1 clove or garlic minced (½ teaspoon)

-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

-1 tablespoon lime juice

-sea salt and ground black pepper

-½ cup dry bread crumbs

-tomato ketchup or marinara sauce (optional, or you choice of dip)



INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Place a steamer basket in a large pot and add about 2 inches of water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Place the butternut squash in the basket, cover, and steam until tender when pierced with a fork but not too soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the pot and spread on a baking sheet.

  3. Spread the chickpeas and brown rice on the baking sheet with the squash. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool completely, 15 to 20 minutes.

  4. Transfer everything from the baking sheet to a food processor. Add the parsley, sage onion, garlic, nutritional, yeast, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste and pulse until the mixture is well blended into a slightly dry batter. (Alternatively, use a potato masher to mash everything together until well blended.)

  5. Scoop out 1 tablespoon of the mixture and use your hands to mold into a 3-inch-long, ½-inch-thick rectangle. Roll the stick in bread crumbs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining mixture and bread crumbs.

  6. Bake until lightly browned, 30-40 minutes. Serve hot or warm with ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce.

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.


Red Lentil Fries (20 min active prep time, 1hr ½ total with cooking time, makes 4 dozen fries)


INGREDIENTS

-1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and drained

-3 cups button mushrooms, cut into ¼ inch dice

-1 sweet potato cut into ¼ inch dice (2 cups)

-1 onion cut into ¼ inch dice (1 cup)

-4 cloves of garlic minced (2 teaspoons)

-1 teaspoon grated ginger

-1 tablespoon ground coriander

-¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

-⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

-⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper

-1 cup finely chopped cilantro

-1 cup finely chopped dill

- 1 cup finely chopped spinach

-2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

-1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari or soy sauce

-2 tablespoons lemon juice


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large saucepan, place the lentils, mushrooms, sweet potato, onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne, and pepper. Add ½ cup water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and lentils are completely cooked and tender. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan. Add water 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time only if necessary to prevent sticking.

  2. Remove the pan from the heat. Using a masher, mash the mixture lightly; you want a coarse texture.

  3. Add the cilantro, dill, spinach, ground flaxseed, tamari, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and set aside to cool completely

  4. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  5. Scoop up 1 tablespoon of the cooled mixture and roll into a stick about ½ inch thick and 3 inches long. Place the stick on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture.

  6. Bake the fries for 20 minutes, or until the undersides are crispy and brown. Flip the fries and bake for another 20 minutes, until firm and crispy all over. Serve hot with cheesy dressing, barbeque sauce, ketchup, or another dipping sauce.

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.


Baked Mac ‘n Cheese (30 min prep time on stovetop or 45 mins if baked, makes 10-12 cups)


INGREDIENTS

-5 cups dry macaroni

-3 1/2 cups cheesy dressing (recipe below)

-½ cup unsweetened, unflavoured plant milk (if needed)

-½ cup cashew crumble (recipe below)


INSTRUCTIONS

To make on stovetop

  1. Cook the macaroni according to the package. Drain and return noodles to the pot.

  2. Add the cheesy sauce/dressing and mix well. The mixture should be creamy; if it is too dry, add the milk a couple teaspoons at a time until the desired consistency is reached. If the mixture is too runny, cook over low heat until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

  3. Transfer the macaroni to a serving bowl and sprinkle the cashew crumble over it just before serving. Serve hot.

To make in the oven

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

  2. Cook the macaroni according to the package. Drain and return noodles to the pot.

  3. Add the dressing and mix well. If the mixture is too dry, add the milk a couple teaspoons at a time to achieve the desired consistency.

  4. Transfer the pasta to a 10-inch square or other 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the cashew crumble over the pasta. Bake until the crumble turns light brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Note 1: To use leftover pasta, place it in the baking dish and add a little plant milk or water, stirring to loosen it. Bake for 20 minutes at 350F. Alternatively, place the pasta and a little milk in a saucepan, stir, and reheat on the stovetop.

Note 2: To use bread crumbs instead of cashew crumble, place ½ cup coarse dry bread crumbs and 1 ½ tablespoons mild white miso in a skillet and stir until they form a crumble. Lightly toast over low heat until the crumble is light brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Then crumble over the pasta as directed.


Cheesy Dressing (30 min prep time, makes 3 ½ cups)


INGREDIENTS

  • 5 cups cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets

  • 2 cups yukon gold potato cut into ½ -inch dice

  • 2 cloves of garlic

  • ⅛ teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)

  • ½ cup nutritional yeast

  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram

  • ½ teaspoon mild white miso (optional)

  • ¼ teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

  • Sea salt and ground black or white pepper

  • ½ cup unsweetened, unflavoured plant-based milk, or as needed


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large saucepan, place the cauliflower, potato, garlic, turmeric (if using), and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside just until very warm.

  2. Transfer the cauliflower mixture with all its liquid to a blender. Add the nutritional yeast, vinegar, marjoram, miso (if using), mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until creamy and smooth, adding milk as necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Serve at once.

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. To reheat, place in a saucepan and stir in some milk or water to loosen, then heat over medium-low heat until hot.



Cookbooks: Forks Over Knives Family: Every Parent's Guide to Raising Healthy, Happy Kids on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet Paperback – May 5 2020 by Alona Pulde M.D (Author), Matthew Lederman M.D. (Author),




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