Why Kids Are Going Hungry At School By Edan Goode

I was watching the news the other night while preparing a wonderful, well-balanced meal for my kids that included three kinds of vegetables. I knew they were going to try to pick out the veggies and sighed to myself about how hard it is to instill healthy eating habits into kids these days – even though fruit and veggies have been part of their diets since they were old enough to eat them smooshed.

A news story came on about kids in a school who were complaining that they are so hungry at school because of the new, healthier school lunches. These lunches now have about half the plate devoted to fresh fruits and vegetables. The famished kids were so angry, they created an elaborate music video to show how they were fainting during gym and the like.  Oddly, the amount of trash in the lunchroom trash cans increased by about 50% right about the same time. Hmmmm.

Yes, turns out that when they examined the trash that was being thrown out by the kids after lunch, it was made up primarily of the healthy stuff. So, it wasn’t that the lunches weren’t substantial enough. It was that the kids were rebelling against the healthy foods. One boy, quoted on camera said, “It’s just too healthy!” Click here to see the clip:

17333846http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/students-rebel-healthy-school-lunches-17333846

As I served up a healthy veggie-filled dinner to my family, I grew angry as a preparer-of-food and feeder-of-children. And, I grew more concerned for the health of today’s children. What’s going on here?

I know, I know. Kids have always rebelled against healthy foods, probably since  Adam and Eve’s kids whined, “But Mom, I HATE apples!”  Okay, well maybe that’s not such a good example. Still, we have to eat them. In fact, we have to eat lots of healthy things like whole grains and lean protein so that our bodies function as well as they can.

Initially, I felt self-righteous and said to myself, “well, if more parents put healthy foods in front of their children from the very first and limited their exposure to unhealthy foods, then eating healthy would come naturally to them!” But then I caught my self-righteous self and asked, “Who are you kidding? You did that and your kids would still choose a burger and fries over a plate of quinoa and roasted vegetables any day – EVERY DAY.”

I buy plenty of healthy foods and have fruit sitting out on the counter as an easily accessible food choice. But I’ve also given in and bought cheesy crackers and ice cream because they pleaded for it. “Oh, okay, but this won’t be a regular thing,” I say to them. “Right,” they say back, smirking under their breath because they know better. If I won’t buy it, they’ll get it from their friends at school or when visiting someone’s house or with their own money.

And so, my fellow parents, I don’t know what the solution is. Have any of you managed to really, truly instill healthy eating into your kids’ lives so that they actually eat it and, dare I say, enjoy it? If so, how did you do it? How do those of us who really want to help our children have life-long healthy-eating habits make it happen without them throwing that healthy food, and their own health, in the trash? Or, heaven-for-bid, making and posting a video about how hungry they are at home too!

Please share your tips below in the comments section! Let’s help each other help our kids.

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Take the kids to a beer garden? You bet! By Edan Goode

It’s great to be able to find a restaurant that is as appealing to the kids as the parents. Too often, the place the parents want to go isn’t really family-friendly and you spend the entire time trying to get the kids to behave like little adults. Or the places the kids love leave the parents feeling like they didn’t really have a treat of an evening out at all. The Lowry Beer Garden (yes, Beer Garden) is a great compromise.

The Lowry Beer Garden, 7577 East Academy Blvd., in the Lowry Neighborhood. Photo courtesy Larimer Associates.

Sitting right next to a popular family destination, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, is the Lowry Beer Garden, a new but already very popular hangout for cold brews and good food and a good place to bring the kids – if you come early.

Beer and wine gardens are not a new concept. They have existed in Europe for hundreds of years. But the concept is a fresh one for Colorado. Like its European counterparts, the Lowry Beer Garden is open air, casual and self-service with communal, bench seating. “You come as you are, bring a large group and it’s no big deal,” says Joe Vostrejs, one of the owners of the Lowry Beer Garden, and also COO of Larimer Associates, a successful real estate and restaurant development company.

Being located in the Lowry neighborhood, the varied clientele seem to follow a schedule. Retirees come really early for a bite before the families descend. Then they tend to be gone in time for both early bedtimes and the arrival of the serious beer drinkers. It works out perfectly.

Because of the casual, open-air, communal environment, kids may feel it’s okay to run around. While the Lowry Beer Garden loves kids, they also know that things could get chaotic for other diners if kids were getting a little wild so they offer board and card games to encourage kids to not only have a seat and enjoy dinner but to also enjoy spending time with their families.

The kids’ menu features burgers, a hot dog and chicken nuggets, each $5 although the Super Giant Pretzel, served in a pizza-size box for $13 on the appetizer menu is also hard for kiddos to resist. Same with the Chicken Wings which kids manage to keep snatching from their parents, but who can blame them. With three levels of heat in the sauce to choose from, there are options for all.  Cool things off with soft-serve ice cream.

For adults, the food menu offers lots of options and will be evolving and growing as time passes and seasons change. Currently, it

Two of Lowry Beer Garden’s burgers: Choose your meat (including vegetarian, shown top) and your toppings. Photo courtesy CDM Communications.

focuses on a wide variety of burgers, sandwiches, brats, salads and other beer-friendly foods. Soon, they will start offering healthy appetizers like scratch-made hummus, peel-and-eat shrimp and more salads. As the weather turns colder, they will add heartier fare that pairs well with beer as well as special events such as cooking steaks out in the garden.

When those fall and winter breezes hit (practically unthinkable as I write this on a 98 degree day) it will be no problem for the Lowry Beer Garden. Beyond the outdoor “garden” area at the front, the covered Pavilion sits on a concrete slab that is kept warm by hydronic heat via a solar array on the roof. Clear, plastic walls will come down, making a cozy room for a couple hundred people. Heat lamps will warm up the open air garden area for heartier souls who just have to be out under the open sky.

Grab the kids and claim your spot on a bench, enjoy good food and drink for the family and maybe meet other families too who are relieved to find a place that makes the gang happy.

The Lowry Beer Garden is located at 7577 East Academy Blvd., Denver, in the Lowry Neighborhood, off of Monaco and Quebec.

 

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Family mealtime a crock? Thank goodness!

A study recently came out from Cornell University questioning the benefits of family meal time. You know, that evening-time standard

upon which so many families, including mine, have based their parental success? That time of day that is supposed to increase family bonding, clue us in on what’s going on in our children’s brains and lives and is supposed to prevent them from getting into all sorts of trouble too terrifying to even think about. To this I say: What a relief!

I can’t tell you how many times I have stressed over making sure the whole family is together, gathered ‘round the table eating something fabulously healthy, engaging in worthwhile discussion and bonding. I have to confess, it hasn’t gone well.

Most nights, that lovely bonding experience collapses into cajoling them to try something new, eat their vegetables, stop tipping back in their chair, quit punching each other, don’t insult your sister, tell me what’s new in your life, etc. We can’t WAIT until dinner’s over! And now that it’s summer, we’re eating outside every night which, I’m sure, my neighbors just love. Maybe that’s why they started closing their windows and doors when they see the kids set the table…

Now before you think we are all heathens, I have to say it’s not like that every night (most nights, but not every night). Some nights, they eat what’s put in front of them. There are rounds of jovial laughter, thoughts are shared, people are happy and smiling and it’s almost like a Norman Rockwell painting. Why weren’t the neighbor’s windows open for those nights?!

Lest I feel like a complete failure as a parent because our family meal times are not all they are supposed to be, the Cornell study says all is not lost. They found that the association between family meals and kid well-being is due to other aspects of the family environment including economics, time spent together and the general closeness of the relationships.

In the June edition of the Journal of Marriage and Family, Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell and lead author of the study says “Meals may afford a regular and positive context for parents to connect with children emotionally, to monitor their social and academic activities and to convey values and expectations. This is what we suspect is driving any causal relationship between family dinners and child well-being. But family dinners also appear to be part and parcel of a broader package of practices, routines and rituals that reflect parenting beliefs and priorities, and it’s unclear how well family dinners would work unbundled from the rest of that package.”

This news takes so much pressure off of family meal times. They don’t have to be the be-all and end-all of success as a family anymore which is great because I always had my doubts as to their magical powers. My husband and I have often talked about the unplanned, magical moments that happen when riding in the car with one or more of the kids, or walking with them to school, sitting next to them on the couch watching a movie or even while we’re doing chores. All of the sudden, completely unprompted, they’ll open up and divulge something and a conversation starts. At those times, we know we have to bite our tongues and remain calm and cool even if what they are telling us is worrisome or goes against our very grain. We have to let it unfold and then let the conversation between us flow as calmly as we can so that they will want to do this again and again. That’s where our closeness and, I believe, the reinforcement of our family values are strengthened. And broccoli had nothing to do with it.

Where to “Use Your Noodle”: In Search of Pasta Restaurants for Kids By Edan Goode

Kids and pasta are a natural combination. Maybe it’s that spaghetti noodles look like worms. Or that you can slurp them. Or that they are bland. Or that they come in lots of interesting shapes with interesting names that are fun to say like “fusilli” and “rigatoni”.

Although pasta is one of the easiest things in the world to cook at home, it’s a lot of fun to go out for pasta because you know there won’t be any arguments from the kids about what to order.

Here are a few of my childrens’ favorites:

  1. The Old Spaghetti Factory –   With its interesting décor and train theme, including

    An example of a birthday balloon hat you can get at The Old Spaghetti Factory.

    an actual box car you can dine in, it’s an event to go to Old Spaghetti Factory. For a birthday, count on the staff singing to you and the balloon artist coming ‘round to make a fanciful and wonderfully embarrassing hat for you to wear.  Meals are a good deal with the price including soup or salad (salad or applesauce on the kids’ menu), drink, entrée and dessert.

    (Read a review of  The Old Spaghetti Factory).

  2. Noodles & Company – The Wisconsin Mac and Cheese is, hands-down, my childrens’ favorite dish in the world with its mixture of creamy cheese sauce, topped with two kinds of shredded cheese that melt over the whole mess as you eat.  My youngest says the plain buttered noodles with herbs and parmesan is “the best thing ever”.
  3. Pei Wei – Because noodles aren’t just Italian, the Lo Mein noodles with chicken on the kids menu are a big hit with my kids. They also like the Dan Dan Noodles from the main menu for something a little spicier. With soy sauce, chicken, scallions, garlic, bean sprouts, cucumbers on egg noodles, it gets them out of their simple pasta rut, for which I am grateful.
  4. Olive Garden  – These folks are smart. They give kids a sense of control while keeping them within the confines of the kids’ menu. One of their most popular menu items is the “Create Your Own Pasta” where kids pick the kind of pasta they want, then the kind of sauce and finally the protein they want to add like grilled chicken, Italian sausage or a meatball.

Where are your favorite places to take the kids for pasta?  I’ve only mentioned chains here, unintentionally, only because we haven’t discovered any “mom and pop” places yet. Have you discovered any? Let us know!

Comment below and share your favorite spots for pasta with the family. Mangia!

Plant a garden for dinner By Edan Goode

You’d think it would be easy to get kids involved in gardening. After all, it involves dirt, digging and water – three of the requisites for fun when you’re a kid. Yet gardening takes patience and isn’t immediately gratifying which can be frustrating.

Gardening teaches wonderful things from how plants grow to that all-important skill of learning to be patient. Make the end result more rewarding by having a very specific goal waiting at the end of the growing season: dinner!

It’s one thing to tell a child you’re going to grow healthy veggies. They won’t really care. But if you tell them you are growing pizza or spaghetti sauce, THAT gets their attention.  Here are some ideas for making the gardening experience really come to life for kids:

1.       Plan a space of their own

Section off a small, manageable area of your garden, or even just a collection of large pots you can let your child decorate with paint, that are designated just for them.

2.     Give them the tools of the trade

These days, it’s easy to find child-size gardening gloves and tools.  Give them a tote bag or some other container that will hold their tools and seed packets for easy storage.

3.      Figure out how you can grow the veggie ingredients for one of their favorite meals and then make your gardening plan from there. For example:

Pizza – Plant a tomato plant, basil and garlic which can be placed together in one pot.

Spaghetti sauce – Tomato plant, basil, oregano, garlic and some spinach to add to the sauce.

Salsa for chips and salsa – Tomato, cilantro, peppers and garlic.

Salad (for that rare child who loves their greens) – Various kinds of lettuce, spinach, parsley, tomato, carrots, cucumber and green peppers.

Go for plants and seeds that have a reputation for growing well in Colorado so as not to disappoint your junior gardener. Garden shops can give you recommendations on which ones to choose.

4.    Don’t forget side dishes

You can also grow things that your child can measure themselves by like corn (Who grows faster? You or the corn?) or watermelon (Can you carry that big watermelon all by yourself?)

5.     Make sure they tend their garden

Once the excitement of planning and planting wears off, it can be excruciating waiting for things to start growing.  Make sure your child doesn’t lose interest in caring for their garden. It’s a good lesson to teach that things need nurturing every day. Child-size tools and watering can will help. Once things start to shoot up, it will be easier to hold their interest.

6.    Incorporate the science of it all

Explain what seeds are and why they need dirt, water and sun to grow. Point out that the pretty yellow flowers on their tomato plant are soon going to become tomatoes.  Show how some foods grow down into the ground like carrots while others grow above ground like lettuce. There are many good books and websites out there that explain it all.

7.    Show what you grow

  • Using paper, laminating sheets and popsicle sticks, let your child make signs for their garden to let others (and remind themselves during the growing season) what they are growing, such as “I’m going to be spaghetti sauce”.
  •  Encourage the kids to show visitors the progress of their garden.
  • Take pictures every week and make a scrap book of your child’s garden, whether homemade or with the help of a computer program.      

8.     Reap what ye sow (i.e. Eat it up!)

  • When everything is finally ready to harvest, let your child do the harvesting (with some guidance) and help prepare the meal they have waited so long for. Let them taste a nibble of their harvest raw before it is cooked to taste the difference.

Sit down to a delicious meal and let your child revel in their gardening skills. You can pat yourself on the back, too for providing a wonderful way to learn about nature, science, eating about as locally as humanly possible and eating really, really well!

Bon appetite!

Let’s Talk Turkey – Win $5 Off Coupon By Edan Goode

Jennie-O Spicy Sloppy Joes – Even better than the ones I loved back in elementary school.

Like most parents, I am forever struggling to put something on the table that everyone in the family will like, that’s healthy and that doesn’t keep me slaving in the kitchen either with the preparation or cleanup.  In my efforts to get some new ideas, I came across the  Jennie-O Turkey Store website, www.jennieo.com, which was chock full of recipes that are far from a typical turkey dinner.

My kids are big fans of bratwurst so the Jennie-O Turkey Bratwurst with Cucumber and Onion Relish caught my eye. It

Jennie-O Turkey Bratwurst with a Cucumber/Red Onion Relish

sounded like it would make the brat-lovers happy but would also appeal to an adult’s more sophisticated tastes with that relish. They were really good and I’ll be using that relish with other dishes.  Toasting the buns was a good, crunchy foil to the juicy brat and cool relish.

Another night, I made Spicy Turkey Sloppy Joes (see photo above). I have fond memories of Sloppy Joes in elementary school so I was interested to see how a turkey version would taste.  The recipe was super-easy and came together in one skillet (easy clean-up for  the cook).  I served them with tomatoes, lettuce and red onion slices for those who wanted it, plus veggies and fries.

With both meals, I didn’t advertise to the family that we were having turkey instead of beef or pork. I didn’t tell them that we were trying out turkey because it’s healthier for them. Just mention the word “healthy” associated with any food and my kids will refuse to eat it. Instead, I just served it up and they *ahem* gobbled it up. (Sorry just couldn’t resist!)

With a wide variety of turkey from deli meat to sausage to turkey breast slices, you could translate most of your favorite recipes to use turkey instead. I’m going to keep giving it a try.

To give readers of the E.A.T. blog an opportunity to try one of the many products from Jennie-O, I have two $5 off coupons to give away to two blog readers.  To enter for your chance to win one of the valuable coupons:

1. Subscribe to the E.A.T. blog (see “We deliver to your inbox” above, right) and then leave a comment telling me that you did (or let me know that you are already a subscriber).   

OR


2. Add a comment telling us about a recipe in which you have swapped turkey in place of beef , pork or lamb.

Sick of making the same things for dinner? Get a little help from your friends. By Edan Goode

We all get in a cooking rut. We find a few meals that are relatively easy to make and that the majority of the family will eat without a lot of complaining. And so we fall back on it until we start hearing “that, again?!”  Instead of saying what you’re really thinking, which is usually something like, “Look people, I’m busy all day and do my best to come up with something tasty and healthy for you night after night so don’t give me any of your guff!” try bringing some variety into your kitchen, with a little help from your friends.

Remember, your tired, old, stand-by meals are new and exciting to someone else and vice versa. So consider getting together with a group of neighbors, co-workers or friends to create a cooking co-op. This can take many forms:

1.     Conduct a cooking class: Get a group of people together and rotate cooking at a different person’s house. Have everyone bring an ingredient toward the meal you are going to jointly prepare as well as containers to take them home in (or buy 8 x 8″ foil pans at the dollar store to keep all portions even). Have copies of the recipe available for all and then conduct an informal cooking class. Everyone leaves with a meal ready to cook or just heat up. You could also have participants pitch in money toward the ingredients the host already bought but agree on a per-person budget everyone is comfortable with. Also, set guidelines if needed such as, no peanuts,  low fat or vegetarian. With all of these ideas, provide the recipe so everyone can make it on their own (and thereby add it to their repertoire).

2.  Create an office dinner club: Keep it to a manageable number of co-workers, like four. Every week, prepare a meal to share that people can heat when they get home from a hard day at work. Casseroles, soups, stews or even pasta sauces would work well. Take the food in a cooler if there won’t be room in the company fridge. Bring the food in disposable containers with each person’s name on it.

3.  Host a family dinner for friends or neighbors:  Take turns doing the cooking at your home and invite a small group. Add some wine, a movie for the kids and you have a great evening for everyone. You’ll know that once a week, you’ll get together with friends, get a break from cooking and come away with a new recipe to try. Keep it simple like pizza, tacos, chili or pasta with a few topping choices.

4. Learn how to cook a new cuisine: Ask around the office or in your neighborhood for people who specialize in cooking a certain cuisine. See if they would be willing to come to your house and show you (or others) how to cook one of their specialties. This is a great way to broaden your cooking repertoire and encourage the family to step out of their comfort-food-zone. Then return the favor. That person might be thrilled to learn how to make some American standbys like the roast chicken and potatoes or mac and cheese you take for granted.

5.  Trade recipes: If the idea of involving multiple people is too much, keep it simple. Get together with one friend (who you know can cook) and share favorite recipes with each other.

6. Equal opportunity kitchen time: Cooking isn’t just for women, of course, so get the men involved. All of these tips can include men. In fact, I’m getting visions right now of a group of men gathered in the kitchen, cooking away, while the ladies enjoy a cocktail. Ahhh.

Now, to come up with a way to share in the clean-up!