The Training-Wheels Guide to Improving Family Nutrition
Sausages fried in butter. Sugar-coated cereal. Strawberry milk. Sometimes a toaster pastry. That was the breakfast that many of us in my generation routinely had each morning, and no one gave it a second thought. And if you did, you were probably in the minority; a “health nut.”
Superfoods: How can anyone stand this stuff?
Jump ahead to today. Whether we’re successful at it or not, most of us are at least trying to look more closely at the nutritional value of what we’re putting in our bodies. Breakfast? More likely avocado toast than pastry; chia seed pudding instead of sugary cereal. It’s no wonder, then, that superfoods like kale, quinoa, and kombucha have become more mainstream for their nutritional punch. But here’s the rub: to the uninitiated palate, these unfamiliar foods can be too much to swallow. Literally.
A tip for improving family nutrition one step at a time
Despite their seeming strangeness, completely ignoring superfoods and their associated health benefits doesn’t seem like the right approach. So here’s my thinking. If you cook the classics — say, a roast with a side of potatoes and maybe some salad — jumping straight into Kale and Quinoa Terrine with Pomegranate Tapenade might be a little . . . um . . . optimistic? After all, you don’t just jump on a bike and ride away. It takes time, effort, and, yes, training wheels.
Because no matter how delicious the next Food Network star proclaims them to be, trying all those new things together might not encourage food bravery…it might just set off your picky eaters’ alarm bells. What if you started off with the training-wheels equivalent of a superfood recipe instead? Skip the fancy recipes and try a superfood recipe with enough familiarity to taste like home.
Repeat after me: “Change is good”
Nothing beats the ease of salad. Start with a green leafy thing and throw in whatever else you’ve got. But what if instead of romaine every time, you sometimes switch up your “green leafy thing” for kale? Ounce for ounce, kale offers more protein, iron, calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and cancer-fighting antioxidants than lettuce.1,2
If you’ve tried kale before and are not a kale convert, it might be because, eaten raw, it can be a bit bitter and fibrous, with a mouth sensation similar to chewing banana peels. If this sounds like your experience, make way for a life-changing tip, below (hint: it involves oil and a massage).
3 Reasons why this training-wheels version might work for you:
- You’re training your taste buds to accept something new by easing into it in a familiar format (in this case, a green salad).
- If your first experience is positive, you’re more likely to stick with it, and that’s the goal, amiright? Maybe soon you’ll be ready to try another recipe that’s a bit further outside your comfort zone. Next thing you know: Kale and Quinoa Terrine!
- Kids are more receptive to a beginner’s recipe, too. I know mine are. Because let’s face it: if you want to permanently incorporate a new ingredient into your cooking repertoire, it has to appeal to everyone who shares your house. I know I’m not keen to be the mom cooking separate meals for everyone.
Ready to ditch the training wheels and go for the nutrition overhaul at full speed? Independence Blue Cross can help connect you with the experts! If you’re a member, your plan may include six free visits with a registered dietitian each benefit year. Check to see if your plan covers nutrition counseling.3
Easiest Kale Salad
Ever since this salad entered the rotation a couple of years back, my seven-year-old son has asked for seconds and thirds. Granted, he knows he’s expected to eat his veggies, but asking for more is totally up to him.
- 1 bunch of kale (any sort will do: curly leaf or the flatter-leafed lacinato/Tuscan/dinosaur kale)
- 1 lemon
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (see Recipe notes, below)
- Sea salt
- Remove and discard the thick, fibrous stalk from the center of each leaf of kale. Wash and dry the kale leaves and then slice them into thin strips. The easiest way to accomplish this is to make a stack of leaves and then slice through the stack. Place the sliced kale into a large bowl and set aside.
- Squeeze the lemon into a small bowl and add the minced garlic. Let this mixture sit for about 10 minutes, and then whisk in the olive oil.
- Dress the kale with the lemon-garlic dressing to taste. I like it quite lemony and garlicky, but you may like it subtler. Use the amount of dressing that’s right for you. Now here comes the life-changing bit! Once the greens are dressed, massage the dressing into the leaves. Squeeze, mix, really massage the kale. This helps to break down the fibrous structure of the leaves, making them nicer to eat.
- Season with sea salt to taste. Finish by sprinkling with nutritional yeast flakes.
If you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s a vegetarian nutritional supplement high in B-complex vitamins. Added to food, it imparts a mild, cheesy flavor. If this feels too far out, you can also replace the nutritional yeast with a small handful of high-quality, shredded parmesan cheese. Nutritional yeast is available at most health-food stores and some supermarkets like Whole Foods and Wegman’s (common pre-packaged brands are Bob’s Red Mill, Braggs, and Red Star; you can also look in the bulk-food section).
1. Nutritional info of: “Kale, raw vs Lettuce, cos or romaine,” SkipThePie.org | The Nutrition Search Engine, accessed April 15, 2017.
2. “Kale, The World’s Healthiest Foods“, accessed April 15, 2017.
3. To find a participating registered dietitian, primary care provider, or another network provider who offers nutrition counseling, search our Provider Finder Tool or call 1-800-ASK-BLUE (1-800-275-2583) (TTY: 711).
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