I stood there with my mouth agape at a recent convention, when a boy, who couldn’t have been older than four, chose – on his own – to scoop a spoonful of fresh, crushed California heirloom garlic into his mouth and responded with a, “Yummy!”
To that, his mom shrugged and said, “I’ve cooked with garlic a lot ever since he was a baby, so he’s used to it.”
As I stood there pondering what had just transpired, my belief that habits are developed and cemented at a young age was verified. This little whipper snapper has been treated to fresh garlic – and likely other fresh vegetables and fruits – since birth, practically, and, therefore, actually prefers to eat fresh garlic. Now, his fresh garlic affinity might scare his fellow toddler friends away, but his heart will thank him in the long run.
This incident also underscored the fact that the dangerous issue of rising childhood obesity can be reversed. Childhood obesity is not necessarily linked to kids disliking fresh fruits and vegetables – it’s a matter of minimal exposure. What is required to combat childhood obesity are such preventative measures as enforced healthy eating habits, awareness and equipping people with the information necessary to make more educated eating choices.
The government is making preventative strides with its push to bolster the Child Nutrition Act, granting money to schools to remove fatty foods from cafeterias and vending machines and replace them with more fresh fruits and vegetables. This also means altering the current food distribution system that encourages cheap, convenient fatty foods, by better enabling schools to efficiently and inexpensively receive fresh produce. See article.
Awareness has been pivotal at the White House under Michelle Obama’s watch, with the newly planted kitchen garden ( see video) that receives frequent visits from grade-school children. This influential move by the first family will hopefully set the precedent that fresh fruits and vegetables are a critical part of a child’s diet and should be included at home, as well as school cafeterias. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests a diet of 9 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, yet fewer than 10% of Americans meet this recommendation.
Unfortunately, we at Christopher Ranch can’t pass legislation – though there’s much we’d like to – and we aren’t quite as authoritative as the White House, but we can provide nutritious cooking tips (including California heirloom garlic) and suggestions for healthy, kid-friendly recipes (also including California heirloom garlic).
Such healthful tips, according to the American Culinary Federation Chef & Child Foundation and Clemson University, include:
– Choose cooking methods that maintain flavor, color and nutrients of fresh produce, such as steaming, instead of boiling. Avoid cooking at high temps – except for stir-frying – and for long periods, as extended heat and liquid can eliminate essential nutrients.
– Try stir-frying – a low-fat alternative that cooks foods quickly using small portions of oil.
– Try steam-frying – minimizes fat, as it involves sautéing food quickly in a small amount of oil and then adding water, stock or wine to the pan. Cook food until it’s almost done, uncover and boil off the excess liquid.
– Substitute applesauce, pureed prunes, mashed bananas or yogurt for up to half of shortening, when baking.
– Use vegetable salsas and fruit chutneys as complements to meat or poultry, rather than heavy gravies or sauces.
– Replace sodium-filled spices like salt, with fresh herbs, such as California heirloom garlic. The American Heart Association and United States Department of Agriculture recommend a healthy adult should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams daily. Most Americans consume an extra 2,000 to 4,000 mg daily – mainly from processed and prepared foods.
When it comes to kids, the above healthful cooking techniques can be applied, but keep two things in mind…when trying to make healthy food appealing, it’s gotta be kid friendly and a variation of something they’re used to. Don’t freak them out with a tofu, veggie soufflé.
For example, kids love finger foods – take chicken fingers, for instance. Rather than deep frying, lather chicken breasts in fresh crushed garlic, then bake or grill, and cut into bite-sized pieces (try this Lemon and Basil – and Garlic – Chicken Breasts recipe). Or, try kabobs with chicken, seafood or veggies (like this Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken Kebabs recipe).
Kids love pizza, so make it a nutritious one – take whole wheat crust and, instead of tomato sauce, lather Extra-Virgin olive oil and low-fat mozzarella on the crust. As far as toppings, add turkey sausage, turkey bacon, shrimp and any desired fresh veggies, like California heirloom garlic (try this Pizza Bianca recipe).
Instead of a cheeseburger, cook a turkey burger or veggie burger (such as this Turkey Burger recipe) on a whole-wheat bun and, rather than deep-fried French Fries, roast red, fingerling or sweet potatoes (try this Roasted Garlic Fingerling Potato recipe), doused in Extra-Virgin olive oil and fresh garlic. Throw in a little low-sodium Ketchup for dipping, and, perhaps, a toy, and you’ve got yourself a nutritious Happy Meal.
When it comes to hot dogs, also a kid favorite, there are low-fat chicken, turkey and soy options. Again, place on a whole-wheat bun, and use such toppings as fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro and California heirloom garlic – thus, the flavorful benefits of a loaded hot dog, without the heart attack. Lightlife, Ball Park, Applegate Farms have healthy alternatives.