Send Kids Back to School with a Healthy Diet

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The school year is in full swing. So what does that mean for your child`s diet? Hopefully not a strict diet of fast food five days a week as you run to football practices and dance lessons


The
school year is in full swing. So what does that mean for your child`s diet?
Hopefully not a strict diet of fast food five days a week as you run to
football practices and dance lessons. The start of the school year can indeed
be a busy time for families, but it is possible to make healthy meals even with
time constraints. It just takes a little know-how.

 
According
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The percentage of children who are overweight has more than
doubled, and among adolescents the rates have more than tripled since 1980.”
Being overweight can be associated with diabetes and other physical and mental
health issues for young people such as bone and joint problems, sleep apnea,
and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor
self-esteem.

 

 
Whether
or not we want to hear about it - and most of us don`t - we need to start
thinking about what we feed our kids.

 

The
CDC found that 4 out of 5 teens don`t get enough fruits or vegetables, over
half get too much saturated fat, and most adolescents, particularly girls,
don`t get enough calcium in their diets.

 

Research
is now showing that the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals contained in
fruits and vegetables may protect against everything from cancer, heart
disease, and stroke to cataracts, chronic obstructive lung disease,
diverticulosis, high blood pressure and a multitude of other diseases. Even
chronic grown-up immunologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis and
adult-onset diabetes may benefit from a varied diet rich in plant-based foods.

 

 
A
diet based on whole foods rather than the packaged, processed, synthesized
foods we have become dependent on, can be an effective long-term strategy to
combat excess weight. Weight loss and maintenance become delightful
side-effects of eating right, instead of the main and perhaps, somewhat
distorted, focus. And best of all, by offering real food we are modeling great
lifelong eating habits for our kids!

 

The
major emphasis of the idea of eating for better health is on dietary patterns:
what kinds of foods (processed or whole) we eat on a regular basis. This
approach is extremely effective not only because it is easier to implement than
calorie-counting for the individual and/or family, but also because a varied
diet of whole foods provides a wide range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals
for energy and health.

 

 
According
to the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), “Every new vegetable,
fruit, whole grain or bean that finds its way onto your plate contributes
disease-fighting power. And all the fat and calories you save may make a real
difference on your waistline.”

 

Many
of today’s adults were raised on the “meat-and-potatoes” diet that
included only a smattering of side-dish vegetables smothered in cheese,
drenched in butter or deep-fried in lard. The idealized mother of the past
built a meal for her family based around a hefty serving of meat followed by a
large dose of processed starch (white rice, mashed potato flakes, packaged
stuffing, etc.) with a few overcooked vegetables on the side, often smuggled
away in napkins or under the table to the helpful family dog. It was cool eat
food that came out of a box rather than from a farm, and to not like eating
vegetables.

 

 
The
time has truly come for us to change our ways and return to eating a diet based
in whole, unprocessed foods. That means feeding our kids real fruits and
vegetables, meats, whole grains, and legumes instead of fruit chews, lunch
meats, processed cheeses and white breads.

 

Even
a subtle change in diet can positively impact health and weight for the whole
family. Knowledge is the key to making healthy food choices, and understanding
that eating healthily is a lifelong opportunity may empower all of us to begin
choosing healthy options of whole foods more often.

 
Here`s
an easy recipe that uses whole foods in a cast iron
 
Dutch oven to create a
kid-pleasing meal that is both nutritious and delicious. Real cheese, whole
wheat pasta, and a variety of vegetables make this meal a healthy and tasty
choice for dinner.

 

Use
any combination of cheeses you desire, or even a cheese substitute (soy or rice
cheese), to make this a mac-and-cheese you can feel good about serving.

 

Glorious Macaroni & Cheese

Serves
4

 

Ingredients

4
cups macaroni-shaped whole grain pasta

1
1/3 cup water or liquid from canned tomatoes (see below)

6-10
drops olive oil

16-24
oz. cheese, sliced or grated

4
carrots, sliced

2
Tbsp. oregano, fresh chopped, or 1 tsp. dried

salt
and pepper to taste

1
cup broccoli florets, halved

1-2
cups spinach, roughly chopped

4-6
tomatoes, chopped, or 2 14 oz. cans, drained

 

Instructions

Preheat
oven to 450 degrees. Spray inside of 3 1/2 or 4-quart cast iron Dutch oven and
lid with olive oil, taking care to fully coat all interior surfaces.

 

Place
dry noodles in pot. If using canned tomatoes, drain and reserve the liquid and
use to make the 1 1/3 cup of liquid, adding water as needed. If using fresh
tomatoes, use all water. Add olive oil to liquid, stir and pour over pasta. Mix
gently and spread pasta evenly across bottom of pot.

 

Place
a layer of cheese over pasta. Add carrots. Sprinkle with half of the garlic and
half of the oregano. Lightly salt and pepper.

 

Layer
in broccoli and cover with a blanket of cheese. Sprinkle rest of spices and
lightly salt and pepper. Top with spinach and fresh or drained canned tomatoes.

 

Cover
and bake for 30-35 minutes, or about 3 minutes after the aroma of a fully
cooked meal escapes the oven.

 

 
Tips

 
Overcooking
this recipe may cause the noodles to clump and a crusty layer to form along the
bottom and lower sides of the pot. While these tasty strips are fun to crunch,
you can avoid this effect by paying careful attention to when the aroma first
escapes the oven and announces that the meal is ready.

 

 

 

 

 
About the
author:
Elizabeth Yarnell is a Certified Nutritional Consultant  and the author of Glorious
One-Pot Meals: A new quick & healthy approach to Dutch oven cooking
,
a guide to a guide to preparing quick, healthy and balanced one-pot
meals. As a mother of young children, a diet
of whole foods is an important strategy in her battle with Multiple Sclerosis.
Visit Elizabeth
online at www.GloriousOnePotMeals.com
to subscribe to her free newsletter. The Glorious One-Pot Meal cooking method
is unique and holds US patent 6,846,504.

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