AUSTIN, Texas (July 26, 2004) Making the time to sit down together and enjoy meals at home allows parents the opportunity to ensure their children are getting the nutrition they need. While a healthy and well-balanced lunch is important to keep kids energized and focused on learning during the school day, breakfast and dinner are a great time for parents to encourage kids to follow their healthy lead.
Whole Foods Market Nutritionist and Quality Standards Coordinator Jody Villecco, C.N., recommends starting out the day with “before school fuel.” This could include the old time breakfast favorite oatmeal, an excellent source of fiber, B vitamins, and minerals that help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Serve warm oatmeal with raisins, currants, or fresh diced fruit, mix it with fruity yogurt, or add to muffins. Beyond breakfast, this whole grain can also be added to cookies or even meatloaf for added fiber. Whole Foods Market offers bakery items with oatmeal and oatmeal in the bulk foods area, along with rolled oats granola for cereal.
Colorful fresh fruit also imparts many health benefits beyond providing vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The naturally occurring colors in various fruits are important factors in supporting overall health, including mental, visual, vascular, and skin health. The standard American diet, however, is primarily brown and beige, according to Villeco. Adding natural, vibrant colors to the breakfast plate offers a head start on meeting the recommended daily requirement of five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables in addition to nourishing the body with the positive effects of phytonutrients and antioxidants such as flavonoids, anthocyanins, and carotenoids. Eating colorfully goes beyond fresh fruits and vegetables-look for dried fruit, bottled juices, frozen berries, and all-fruit jams. Experiment with popping fresh fruit into a blender with yogurt and a splash of juice for a quick, healthy breakfast. Since Whole Foods Market does not offer any products with artificial colors, there is no need to read labels. Fruit that is already washed or peeled should be a snack staple in the home.
“Fruit salad is big in my house, and shapes are important. If I'm cutting up a melon, I will ask my son whether he wants circles (melon baller) or trapezoids (cut in slices, then in chunks),” said Allison Land, production artist for Whole Foods Market private label foods and the mother of two boys. “His response: 'More trapezoids, please!'”
Families can also celebrate natural and organic foods at dinner time with new twists and alternatives such as lamb, an often overlooked but flavorful and nourishing red meat that is an excellent source of vitamin B12, iron, and zinc-good for growth and development. Parents can serve ground lamb burgers, grilled lamb, or lamb in meatloaf and slow-cooked crock-pot dinners.
“I was pretty skeptical of lamb until I discovered just how easy and delicious it is,” said Kate Lowery, national public relations director for Whole Foods Market and mother of a 17-month-old boy. “I take the shoulder chops and pan sear them with a little salt and a hint of olive oil, or I broil them in the toaster oven for six to eight minutes with just a little salt. They come out juicy and tender with great texture for my little one.”
Whole Foods Market offers only natural meats that are free from added growth hormones and antibiotics, and they come from animals that have been fed an all-vegetarian diet. There are very affordable options such as fresh ground, shoulder chop, center cuts, lamb sausages, and stew meat.
Whole grains are another great dinner staple to provide starch, fiber, protein, and nutrients. Examples include whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, bulgur wheat, and whole wheat couscous (a snap to prepare). Refined and processed grains, such as white flour, white bread, white rice, and white pasta, have had the fiber and most nutrients removed so are a nutritionally inferior choice to whole grains. Cook grains in vegetable soups, make grain burgers or grain salads, or add to curries and stir fries. Whole Foods Market offers multiple varieties in bulk; in prepared foods, try the grain salads and grain patties.
“For dinner, we eat a lot of whole wheat pasta, and I always keep some frozen peas or other veggies (my kids actually love the 365 Organic Everyday Value™ Shelled Edamame) on hand to throw in with the pasta when I boil it. Fresh broccoli works, too,” said Land. “The pasta and veggies cook at the same time; then, I add sauce and some cheese.”
Dark, leafy greens are also an excellent nutrient powerhouse to add to the dinner plate. An excellent source of vitamins A, C, and folate and an easily absorbable calcium source, many leafy greens, like spinach and kale, also rate high on the antioxidant scale as they contain lutein, beneficial for eye health.
Greens can be a difficult food to convince kids to eat. An easy way around this challenge is to add them to other dishes-finely chopped greens slip easily into soups, wraps, sandwiches, meatloaf, hamburgers, or quiche. Whole Foods Market's prepared foods integrate various greens into some of its offerings, and in produce-a wide variety of greens can be found.