For this month's Veggies You Never Thought You'd Love recipe post, I wanted to share not only a quick and easy veggie recipe but also share how bite by bite, I'm finding my way to food freedom.
This picture makes a momma heart proud. It’s a picture of progress. It’s a picture of healing. It’s a picture of food freedom.
Although you may just see a toddler’s plate for a mid-afternoon snack, what I see is tiny taste buds that have shifted sloooowly with tons of love and guidance. Not just talking about my son’s taste buds but mine. Yes he went through the developmentally normal toddler picky phase but his started to go deeper than that. I couldn’t see it at first because I was blinding by the ease of serving him what I knew he’d eat. I saw it though after I slammed the fridge door frustrated that I had served him the same meal 2x that day not counting how many times that week. I saw it as I watched the meltdown at the table when daddy offered a bite of carrot. I saw it when I looked in the mirror.
You see this plate is really a mirror. He eats what I eat, that is, what I eat now. Food and I go way back. Back to a time of constant tummy aches in the morning before school. Back to grocery aisles arguing with my mom that Campbell’s Grilled Sirloin Steak with Hearty Vegetables Soup was not the same as Campbell’s Chunky Sirloin Burger with Country Vegetables Soup nor was it acceptable! Back to eating the same couple handful of foods day after day. My childhood was riddled with picky eating and upset tummy’s. Years of battling with gagging at the sight of certain foods and writhing in pain after eating left me fighting food. I didn’t want those battles to transcend the next generation. Looking at this picture you’d think maybe I got what I wanted. But I am a creature of habit. I like to eat the same things over and over because they are familiar and safe. Toddlers are very good at mimicking this though. It wasn't enough to introduce a few healthy options, we both needed to make tasting new foods part of our weekly routine.
Again, this picture shows progress. I’ve made progress with learning what foods nourish my body (and tummy) and which ones hurt. I’ve learned how to try new foods without gagging (most of the time). And I’ve learned how to lovingly encourage my son to explore food for what God made it to be: nourishing to your body.
See that little piece of food on the upper right side of his placemat? It’s a piece of sautéed onion. It’s on his plate as a reminder that he can taste foods that are “not his favorite” but he doesn’t not have to eat it all. This is how most of the main foods on his plate started. Bite by bite. One tiny bite, multiple exposures, and lots of love and encouragement.
We recently had to make some modifications to his diet under the direction of his pediatrician. I had become so proud of the veggies he was eating--carrots, broccoli, spinach, pickles--that when I found out we needed to remove most of those temporarily I was devastated. Those nutrient-dense veggies needed to be removed for a short season but it seemed like eternity to me. The nurse causally said, "try making kale chips," as this was a new veggie that he could have. I replied, "Yeah we've tried those and he won't eat them." Ugh...this would be impossible.
Well it would have been if I would have kept that attitude. If I would have limited my son by what he would eat and not by want he could "explore." Bite by bite, I found a whole new level of food freedom: freedom from my own food past and freedom from watching it repeat itself.
We've been able to reintroduce those veggies but even those required an adjustment phase complete with "I don't like carrots!" This plate shows progress. My son now asks me to make Kale Chips...the food I said he'd never eat. Who is the one that needs to change? :) Bite by bite.
Light & Crispy Kale Chips
Author: Caitlyn Hanson -- Living Wellness, www.lwgg.org
Servings: 4 servings, double recipe as desired
Category: Side-dish, Vegetable
Time: Prep- 5 minutes, Bake- 12-20 minutes
Calories: 65 calories/serving
- 1 bunch green kale (approx. 5.3 oz/6 cups packed)
- 1/2 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
- 1 tsp fine ground sea salt
- My go to mix is: 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1 1/2 teaspoons Kirkland Organic No-Salt Seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- Yoginifoodlove on Instagram shared that she likes to combined the basic ingredients with roasted pepper, garlic, & nutritional yeast
- Living Wellness's Ashley Darkenwald loves do to a combination of curry powder and fine ground sea salt
- Here are 19 other spice blend ideas!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash kale paying attention to the ribs because this is where lots of dirt likes to accumulate. Rip off bite sizes pieces from the ribs/stem. Thoroughly towel dry or dry in salad spinner ***DO NOT skip this part (you'll be left with soggy kale chips)***
- Place in gallon baggie and drizzle olive oil inside baggie. Squeeze the air out and toss the kale in the bag, rubbing sides of the bag to coat all leaves with oil. Note: you can do this in a bowl if you'd prefer but the baggie option makes it easier/less mess.
- Add seasoning to kale in baggie or evenly spread kale on baking sheet and then season.
- Bake for 12-20 minutes based on how crispy you like your chips (and how consistent the temp is in your oven). I find they turn out most evenly when I stir them around 10 minutes.
- Add additional seasoning and oil as you prefer. Enjoy!
Healthy Eating Tip for Healthy Families:
Bite by bite, smell by smell, taste by taste-- Explore your food
How do you talk about trying new foods? This is one of the first things I talk about in my work as a pediatric occupational therapist. "Just try a bite. It's not going to kill you" is one way to direct a child to take a bite, but do you really think this is going to inspire a child to take a bite let alone two? I like to take a different approach.
As I type this, the doorbell rang and a new vitamin arrived for my son. Without thinking, I opened the bottle and handed him to one saying, "here's a new vitamin." He brought it to his mouth, took a sniff, gave it two licks and popped it in his mouth and chewed it up. He's not the same kid he was six months ago. Without prompting he slowly exposed himself to the new food: smelling it, then licking it, then chewing it. Trying new things, trusting momma, has started to become routine, but it wasn't always this way.
Foods or medicines that are a little more "threatening" take a little more help from me on how to "taste" or "explore" them. He turned to me and said "hmmm that was good." I praised him with, "I'm so proud of you for trying something new" and he responded with a song I've grown to love from Daniel Tiger, "you gotta try new things cause they might taste good."
My son (and myself) has not and is not always willing to trying new things, but he's grown to know his limits and grown to trust me. He knows Mom won't force food in his mouth, or force him to try it, but that I will ask him to use at least one of his senses to "explore" it.
So this month's healthy eating tip is to consider how are you talking about eating food, especially new ones? Instead of demanding or even asking your child (or yourself!) to take a bite, consider if "exploring" that food with one of your senses would feel less threatening first and allow your child (or yourself :) to feel comfortable with trying a bite or even two. Can you touch it? Can you look at it? Can you smell it? Can you hear it (listen to it before eating and during)? Can you taste it (a lick, a kiss, a bite)? Describe what you are feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting. "Exploring" our food gives us more information about what we are eating, helps us to eat more mindfully, but also helps us temporarily be distracted from the anxiety of trying something new.
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any illnesses or disease. Please always check with your doctor before beginning any new nutritional or fitness program or before making any nutritional/fitness changes.