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3 Key Principles To Help Make Your Family Meals Healthier - an interview with Dr. Maya Adam

child nutrition healthy eating parenting

3 key principles to making family meals healthier

We are competing with the fast food industry and the processed food industry when we are trying to get our children to eat in a healthy manner.  Here are 3 ways to make family meals healthier and how to compete with potato chips...

This is Part 3 of a series, "How To Feed Our Children More Nutritiously" from an interview with Dr. Maya Adam who is a specialist in child health from Stanford's School Of Medicine.  Dr. Maya Adam is a mom of three children ages 12, 9, and 7.

You can listen to the interview on The Parenting Journal Podcast on iTunes Here or Download Directly Here.

1. Vegetables first. Before you decide on the protein, think about the vegetables first and featuring the vegetables to take up half the plate.

Dr. Maya Adam says:

Think about the vegetables first. When you’re thinking about a meal, first, before you think about what’s the protein going to be, or what’s the starch going to be, think about what vegetables we are going to be eating as a family? 

Then, think how we’re going to feature that vegetable so that it’s actually going to be the star on the plate. Then, make sure it takes up about half of the plate. If you can make a delicious stir-fry and add a little bit of tofu for protein, and then brown rice on the side, you have a great meal there. Thinking about how your meal is going to look is very important.

2.  Flavor the food well. We are competing with the well flavored packaged food industry. 

Dr. Maya Adam says:

Then you have to flavor things well. If you’re going to try and sell steamed broccoli with nothing on it, and it’s overcooked and it has no flavor, that’s going to be rejected and then you’ve given broccoli a bad name in your family. You can’t afford to do that to vegetables. Use your olive oil and your onions and your garlic and whatever spices you like or your family likes to really make the vegetables like a party in your mouth because then they look forward to a well-cooked vegetable dish.

The power of a positive experience is huge because it will make you keep coming back for more. It’s the same principle that the food marketers use when they try and get us addicted to their packaged potato chips. They add so much flavor that the experience is so good that we keep craving more. I think that we have to do that for vegetables and fruits. Make them really flavorful. Choose good starting ingredients as much as our budgets will allow. Then, dress them up in a way that makes them unforgettable.

3.  Keep the whole family eating similar healthy meals.

Dr. Maya Adam says:

The more you can start to have the same thing being consumed at the dinner table, the better. When the children are very little they can’t chew and so they need their food to be pureed, but as much as possible if the family flavor profile can be similar rather than having the kids eat from the kids’ menu and the adults from the adults’ menu, that just keeps everybody going in the same direction in terms of the health of what they’re eating.

Recipe suggestions

  1. Chicken Stir Fry
  2. Quinoa Fried Rice
  3. Salmon With Veggies
  4. Have other suggestions? Post in the comments below!

More About Dr. Maya Adam

Dr. Adam also has a non profit Just Cook Kids where she also shares great tips and recipes for making healthy cooking easy!

Dr. Maya Adam currently is in South Africa leading an effort to teach mothers about child health and nutrition using engaging videos delivered to mothers in their homes on tablets.  You can see more about her initiative called Digital Medic here.  

More About Allie and The Parenting Journal

Are you a busy parent? Allie is one too. This is why she created The Parenting Journal weekday newsletter.  The Parenting Journal takes the latest scientific research and experts' findings on childhood development and creates quick to read and actionable parenting advice delivered for free to your inbox.  The Parenting Journal is making it easier to be a better parent in today's busy busy world.


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