Welcome to another week of Mama Monday where I introduce you to mamas from all over the world that are passionate about feeding their families healthy, nutritious food. They’ll be talking all about their top tips for healthy family food on a budget.
This week meet Anne from Under a Lemon Tree, a mama of two living in sunny California. Anne is a registered dietician and a vegetarian who is raising a vegetarian family, she has some seriously amazing plant-based recipes over on her blog that are perfect to help you introduce more plant-based meals into your family’s diet or give you some awesome inspiration if you’re a fellow vegetarian family.
I’m a French Canadian registered dietician, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a second one in nutrition. I have a strong interest in young picky eaters, allergic and special needs kids. I’m now a stay-at-home mom of two amazing kids. Noah is my curious 4-year-old boy and Mila is my sweet baby girl who just turned 15 months. We moved almost a year ago to live in Northern California! So here we are now, living in this marvelous state, surrounded with organic food markets, beautiful beaches and the incredible warm weather.
What is your food philosophy?
I’m a lifelong vegetarian and I am raising my kids the same way. My daily mission is to make my family feel like they’re allowed to eat treats every day while keeping them away from the junk that is out there! I also try to make sure they don’t feel too different or deprived. I like to pack as many super foods as possible in a same recipe. I’m a strong believer of “food is your medicine” and I love to include superfoods in my recipes whenever I can. I never calculate anything on a daily basis. I just make sure my pantry is always loaded with natural, organic and healthy foods and I try to vary my proteins, fruits, veggies and nuts during the week. I really don’t have an all-or-nothing attitude. At home we avoid gluten, refined sugar and dairy as much as possible. But when we go out, we enjoy regular pastries, ice cream and cakes and w don’t even feel a tiny bit of shame nor guilt! I would classify my family as a “foody” family; we love to try new restaurants (especially farm-to-fork and healthy places) or chasing food festivals.
What do you love most about raising a healthy family and why is it important to you?
What I love the most about raising my kids the way I do is to see them eat and enjoy food that most adults out there never tasted (or would never taste!). I couldn’t be prouder when they ask for more sprouts or greens! In my opinion, if they’re exposed at a very young age to “adult food” (I’m a strong believer of the Baby Led Weaning method), they will very likely appreciate uncommon ingredients like hemp seeds, cacao nibs, tahini butter or greens. I always serve them the same food we eat, meaning that I never make a special “kids meal” for them. As a result, they just eat everything I put in front of them! I also love the fact that my son inspires me with his (surprisingly!) good ideas for recipes and that he is so knowledgeable about good ingredients and health.
What’s your best tip for getting kids to eat healthy?
I try to show my kids the importance of having a healthy relationship with eating and to appreciate natural, real, wholesome ingredients. I try to take each and every opportunity to teach them where their food comes from (we visit a lot of U-pick farms) as well as the ingredients, the colors, textures, shapes, names and uses. I’m very passionate about it. Here are my professional and personal tips for getting your kids to eat healthy on a daily basis :
- Be a good role model: The most important thing is not what you put in front of them, but what you actually eat yourself. You can’t expect your child to eat food you’re not even willing to taste or that you don’t love. You’d be surprise about how they listen at every single reaction or comment we make about food.
- Experiment with different shape and textures: When my kids don’t like a particular food, I try to cook it or present it in a different way. Changing the shape, the cooking method, the marinade, or even the utensils can totally change their appreciation of a certain food. Just try to think about their favorite food: what do they like about it? Is it the crunchy texture? The sweet touch? The soft creamy side? When I discovered that my son preferred crunchy food, I tried to add a crunchy touch or garnish to our meals and the results were great!
- Make trying food a rule: I never force my kids to eat something they don’t like, but they have to at least taste it. I often discuss with my son about the fact that he used to hate certain food that are among is favorites now (like chocolate!). This way he understands that he could’ve lost something THAT important if he didn’t tasted it!
- Perseverance: it can take as much as twenty times for a kid to love a certain food. Continue to serve it before saying they don’t like it. The results are very much worth the effort. Don’t assume they won’t like a certain food. I started to offer (little by little) to both my kids foods like black ground pepper, spicy food, bitter chocolate or greens when they were babies and they are now very used to those ingredients. Noah’s even asking for more chili sauce in his plate! Remember that kids go through a normal developmental phase called the “neophobic phase” that makes them want to doubt and be scared of every new food we put in front of them. If they’re frequently exposed to healthy food, those same foods will appear less frightening after a while.
- Keep calm: I know it can be difficult sometimes to accept, but as parents we have a lack of control over what gets into our children’s mouths. What we do have control over is to offer a variety of healthy foods. As I said, you shouldn’t force your kid to eat, neither become too emotional when the kid refuses to eat. Try to avoid making a big issue out of your child’s refusal to eat something. You’ll do your child and yourself a big favor by staying calm and nonchalant about their protests. Normally, when a child is hungry, he or she will eat (except if they are sick or have a real eating disorder).
- Get them involved in the kitchen: ask them for meal ideas, bring them to the farmer’s market and grocery shop and involved them in the process of choosing the ingredients for the week. I never say no when they want to try something new… if it’s healthy! If it comes from them, they will be more likely try it and enjoy it! Also, get them to cook with you! As soon as they are able to hold a kid’s knife or spoon, they can help (or at least think they are helping!). I give a cutting board and a kid’s bamboo knife to my 1-year-old daughter. Cutting fruits or soft vegetables like mommy is one of her favorite activity!
- Finally, to build a healthy relationship with food, try not to use food as a reward or a punishment. I always offer a healthy dessert even if they don’t eat their meal.
What’s your advice to other mamas on the best way to feed your family healthy food on a budget?
Having a maximum of healthy ingredients on hand is the best way to start adopting a healthier and greener lifestyle. In order to do so, I suggest buying in bulk whenever it’s possible, it’s way cheaper in the long-term. If you have access to a farmer’s market, you can often find seasonal ingredients at a good price.
I also try to stay away from the processed food. For example, gluten-free “packaged food” can be super expensive and aren’t very nutritive at the end.
Finally, the last advice I would give is to accept that sometimes, eating healthy can be more “pricy”. My husband and I made a conscious choice a couple of years ago to cut back on other expenses to prioritize a healthy lifestyle.
What’s your favourite thing to do to relax?
I’ll be honest, being a stay-at-home mom of two young kids and running a food blog on top of that doesn’t leave me much space for relaxing. We spend almost every weekend at the beach. I’m also a paint-artist and I have an obsession with cookbooks.
I’d love for you to share one of your favourite family-friendly recipes.
These granola bars are the perfect go-to snack for little ones (and adults too!). Most of the brands you can find in stores are made with preservatives, refined sugar like high fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy ingredients. Homemade granola bars are super easy to do. My version is loaded with nutritious seeds (hemp, chia, sesame), nut butter, cranberries, almonds, dark chocolate chips, oats and puffed rice. If you’re looking for a nut-free bar (especially for the school lunchbox), you can customize this recipe. For example, try sunflower seed butter instead of almond butter and omit the almonds (or substitute with roasted soy beans or pumpkin seeds). As for the sweetener, I use local honey, but you could also use rice syrup or agave nectar if you want.
- 1 ½ cup oats (you can use gluten-free oats if you want)
- 1 cup puffed rice
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- ¼ chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup honey (or agave nectar or brown rice syrup)
- ¼ cup almond butter or peanut butter (or nut-free butter like sunflower seed butter)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup unsulfured dried cranberries
- ¼ cup dark chocolate chips + ¼ cup more if you want to drizzle chocolate on your bars
- Line a rectangular pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap.
- Preheat you oven at 350F. In a bowl, mix the oats, puffed rice, chopped almonds. Pour on a parchment covered cookie pan and cook for about 7 minutes. Note : you can skip this step if you want and do a no-bake version.
- In a small saucepan, stir the nut butter, vanilla and honey and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Mix the oats, puffed rice and almonds with the seeds (hemp, chia, sesame) and salt. Pour the liquid mixture on top and mix well to combine with a spatula. Set aside and cool down for about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the cranberries and chocolate chips and combine (you may use your hands if you want).
- Transfer the mixture in the pan and press down with your hands to even it out (especially on the edges). You can drizzle some melted chocolate on top if you want. I prefer my granola bars as is. Set in the fridge for about 1-2 hours.
- Cut the bars with a sharp knife into 12 bars or 24 mini bars.
A Little Bit About Anne and Where You Can Find Her
Facebook: Find her here