~2 cups fresh strawberries/10 medium strawberries, tops cut off
Juice from 3 lemons
1/4 cup sugar
3 leaves of basil (I couldn’t taste these except in the last popsicle, so I must not have blended it quite thoroughly
This made 4 popsicles
You can of course, adjust the proportions to taste if you decide to make them.
1 serving of fruit in each popsicle
Strawberries: excellent source of vitamin C, and a pretty good source of fiber
With the lemon juice, you’ll get even more vitamin C – this is classically known for being good for immunity, but it also is a vital part of how your body literally holds itself together (it regulates collagen synthesis)
The American Heart Association recommends that adults limit added sugars to less than 6 (for women) to 9 (for men) teaspoons a day – if you make 4 popsicles from the amounts above, each popsicle will only have 3 teaspoons added sugar
Naturally dairy and gluten-free. Vegan depending on the sweetener you use.
My personal rating
A great way to use summer strawberries, a delicious serving of fruit, sooo refreshing, exactly what I was wishing for.
This is the first popsicle I’ve tried that I would neither recommend or make again. But in the name of science, I’m sharing all of my results
Leftover champagne + peach + honey popsicles
I didn’t use a recipe for these (which may have been part of the problem), I just googled to see if it was feasible to use leftover champagne as a popsicle.
I added some sliced peaches, a drizzle of honey and filled the rest of the mold with champagne. Thankfully, I only had enough champagne for 2 popsicles so we weren’t stuck with meh leftovers.
Meh because 1) the champagne just got really icy and made the pop taste mostly like alcohol, 2) because they were icy they just fell apart while we ate them, 3) the peaches were in big chunks and you definitely had to bite into them – not good if you have sensitive teeth.
Many of those problems might be improved if I had blended everything up? But I probably won’t try it again.
As peaches make up the majority of this popsicle, you will get a good portion of fruit
Peaches themselves are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A
As alcohol is not classified as a “food” legally, it’s hard to look up any micronutrients present in champagne. It will provide some carbohydrates and calories for energy. Moderate intake of alcohol which has been shown to have some benefits, but enough drawbacks that most experts won’t recommend starting to drink for the health benefits. Anyway. Don’t drink champagne for the health benefits 🙂
Technically dairy-free and gluten-free
My personal rating:
It gets a 1 instead of a 0 because it was edible, and I did eat the whole thing, plus, got to use up extra champagne? However, taste was very alcohol-y, texture too icy, made a mess and hurt my teeth. Would not make again
Feel free to try, if you’re of age, of course and share your results!
This has been my favorite popsicle so far. Ok it’s only the second one, but it’s good. If you like fudgesicles or if you grew up eating homemade popsicles made from chocolate pudding, you’ll probably like this one:
Chocolate Avocado Pudding Popsicles
The recipe, from Chocolate Covered Katie, isn’t even a popsicle recipe. It’s just for a chocolate avocado mousse, which is also delicious in its non popsicle form. But as a popsicle? It’s even creamier and richer than I remember fudgesicles being.
The ingredients are avocado, cocoa powder, sweetener of choice, and milk of choice, vanilla, salt. Blend them up and put them in your popsicle molds and freeze them!
This recipe involves 2 avocados, and for me, it made about 4 and a half popsicles. That means each pop contains about 1/2 an avocado, which you can totally count as a serving of fruits/vegetables
Avocados are a good source of unsaturated fat, which is known as heart healthy fat. The fat is also what makes these popsicles so creamy and rich
From my estimates (depending on the size of the avocados and how many servings are made), each pop could provide around 20% of your daily fiber needs for the day
These are made with fresh or frozen raspberries, coconut milk, and chia seeds (and sweetener; I used maple syrup). You can visit Happy Kids Kitchen for the recipe.
These interesting-looking popsicles have a combination of creamy, mild sweetness from the coconut milk, bright tart-sweetness from the raspberry, and an different but not unpleasant texture from the chia seeds.
Some fruit towards your recommended 5-9 fruit and veggie servings/day (raspberries) that provides a decent amount of vitamin C
Fiber from: raspberries, chia seeds, and even a little from the coconut milk
ALA (the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids) from the chia seeds
A little bit of protein from the chia seeds
Because it’s homemade, you control how much added sugar (and the type) you would like to add
Creamy without dairy, in case you’re lactose or dairy intolerant
also gluten free and vegan if that’s your jam (haha jam)
My personal rating:
Packed with nutrients, pretty tasty, easy to make, would probably make them a little sweeter next time, raspberries and chia can get expensive so probably wouldn’t make them often.
(Also if you are looking for ways to get kids – even little kids – excited about cooking and food, spend some more time on Happy Kids Kitchen. Heather knows what she is talking about and has so many great ideas and tasty recipes! I will be probably trying several of her popsicle recipes which she has collected here)
I originally wrote this post before a class I was scheduled to teach at The Thinkery. I’ve updated the post with my online Mini Kitchen Explorers class in mind.
I’m pretty excited because I’m going to be teaching a series of food and cooking classes for preschoolers and their parents. It’s called Mini Kitchen Explorers, and it will be online August 5 or 6 (two different times offered). Kids and their parents will use all their senses to explore different foods in many different ways in a fun, interactive, low-pressure environment.
If you’re reading this before this class takes place, and you’re interested, you can learn more or sign up here:
Now, the reason I’m excited to teach this class is that it will just be fun. I mean, it’s not going to be easy. Maintaining a semblance of order and keeping things interesting for 3-5 year olds is no easy task (even if their parents are there too).
However. Right now, I spend a lot of my time talking to people about changes they should be making, changes they want to be making, or changes they might experience as a result of their current health condition. This is often hard (because change is hard) and is not usually fun. As much as I really try to make it positive and empowering, it often feels like telling someone the rules.
This class will be preschoolers and their parents doing fun activities that involve food.
Talking about food.
Playing with food.
Looking at food.
Or not tasting it if they don’t want to. This is a low pressure, relaxed environment. The goal is to give kids and parents lots of different ways to experience food and cooking together with no pressure to EAT VEGETABLES or TRY HEALTHY FOODS.
Lots of experience with any skill increases comfort and ability with it. This is no different for eating and being around foods, including unfamiliar foods.
A kid who says broccoli is gross and yucky and won’t eat it or anything remotely like it is really different than a kid who knows they don’t really like the texture of broccoli and can express that politely and clearly and also knows that trying a food and not liking it is not that scary because they’ve done it before lots of times and it was fine.
A kid who’s messed around in the kitchen and tried some cooking techniques and recipes (even a little) is going to be more comfortable eventually cooking or preparing foods on their own.
A kid who has learned a lot of value-neutral ways to talk about food (salty, fresh, rich, crunchy, colorful, high in protein) may be better equipped to have a nuanced understanding of nutrition and avoid black and white, extreme diet mentality around food.
Being comfortable around food and cooking doesn’t mean guarantee a person will make “the healthiest” choice. It does mean making a healthy choice (if they want to) is going to be way less difficult because they already have a basic familiarity with food.
They know what they like and what they don’t and why. They know how to choose and procure food, and how to prepare it. And if they don’t, they probably feel fairly comfortable learning how. They know at least a little bit about how foods affect them and what food can do for them.
They have a foundation from which they can make choices, rather than being hindered by fear of the unknown.
So I mean, I guess that’s my hidden agenda – remove barriers for future patients and make my future job easier. Or you know, prevent that they even have to come see me, because they have a healthy relationship with food and don’t even need my help.
Plus, seeing kids learn and explore anything is SUPER fun. They have such honest questions and interesting observations.
Or if it sounds good to you but your kids aren’t in the 3-5 age group, or you have other questions – talk to me about how we can design a learning experience just for you, your family, or your group. Let’s find a solution that will work for you.
Frozen fruits and frozen vegetables are good for you!
They are just as nutritious as fresh produce, and may sometimes be even a little more nutritious!
Because fruits and/or vegetables are processed (washed, cut, and frozen) very soon after being harvested, their freshness is “frozen” in place at just-picked quality! This can include ripeness (as they don’t have to be picked early to prevent spoilage on the way to the customer) and nutrition. Here’s how the process works:
Why are frozen vegetables and fruits are sometimes higher in nutrition than fresh ones?
Some vitamins and antioxidants degrade over time. Freezing a fruit or vegetable stops or really really slows down this process, so the vitamin content of frozen produce might be higher than one that has been sitting in the produce section (or in your fridge drawer) for a few days.
(This is not to say that fresh vegetables or fruit are devoid of nutrition if you don’t eat them right out of the ground or off the tree – it is only a very small portion that degrades. I just like to illustrate that you aren’t missing any nutrition by eating frozen produce)
Besides excellent nutrition, think of the other benefits of frozen produce!
No washing, chopping, slicing, peeling, needed – ready to use!
Most plain frozen fruits and vegetable products are just that – frozen fruits and vegetables. They don’t contain any added salt, sugar, fat, or preservatives! (You can always check the ingredients list if you want to make sure)
Sometimes they are more affordable than fresh, especially if it is a seasonal item (like strawberries or peaches) or one that does not grow where you live
Some vegetables are even packaged in a bag you can microwave directly so you don’t even have to get another dish dirty! (This is easy and pretty safe and a great way to get kids helping – just be careful with the hot package when it’s done!)
Some ways to use frozen produce besides steaming or making smoothies
Add frozen fruit to baked goods – blueberry muffins anytime 😀
Top a cereal or yogurt with frozen fruit
Cook frozen fruit with a few spoons of sugar to make a syrup that you can use on whatever you like!
Add frozen vegetables into the last few minutes boiling pasta to get an extra serving of veggies
Add frozen vegetables to a soup – again you can just throw them in the last few minutes
My New Year’s Resolution is to start writing titles that sound like Dr. Seuss books.
Haha not really.
I know there will be approximately 70,000 blog posts or articles about making New Year’s resolutions and why you should or shouldn’t, etc. I’m not here to convince you about whether you should make a resolution or not.
What I do know is that the beginning of a new year causes lots of people to think about goals and aspirations. And a lot of those goals will be related to nutrition, so I’m here to tell you what I know about nutrition goals.
Nutrition goals are hard.
Changing anything is hard. If you’re trying to start doing something that you’re not used to doing, it’s going to be hard. If you’re trying to stop doing something you’re used to doing, it’s going to be hard. It’s just the nature of making changes.
There are surely psychological and behavioral studies that will explain the how and why it’s hard, but look – you probably know that from experience. I know it from my own experience and from the experience of working with probably thousands of people trying to make nutrition changes.
So here’s two things I want you to remember:
Choose 1 or 2 small things that you are confident you can do. And by confident I mean, you are like 95% sure that you will do it. (I know I said not 2 in the title, but it just rhymed, just don’t choose too many) Something that even seems a little bit too easy is fine, especially if you are just starting this change.
If you have a big goal like “eat healthier” or “lower my cholesterol” or “cook at home more” or “run a 5k” – that’s good! You set those big goals as your end game and use them to decide what your small goals are.
Choose small goals that will move you toward your big goal.
Eat healthier -> eat a fruit with breakfast every day
Lower my cholesterol -> find a whole grain bread you like to eat instead of white bread
Run a 5k -> Commit to walking 10 minutes 3 days per week
Making these small goals gives you a hit of accomplishment along the way, before you make it to that long term goal. Kind of like a save point in a video game. This gives you more confidence and motivation to make new goals (a cycle of accomplishment) instead of making large unrealistic goals and feeling bad when you don’t reach them (a cycle of defeat)
Remember what I said just a few paragraphs ago? Making changes is hard. So give yourself credit when you’ve made a change, even if it’s a small one!
Did you hear that?
Give yourself credit for making even a small change!
If you eat a fruit with breakfast most days when you didn’t before, or you now cook two meals at home per week instead of one – good for you! You made a change! You are progressing in the direction you want to go.
If you’ve made progress – you eat more veggies, you drink less soda, you walk more often than you used to – give yourself a sticker*, or a pat on the back, or a little dance in your kitchen, whatever helps you celebrate
*The stickers thing is working for me right now. It gives me a small bit of childlike delight when I can mark that I exercised or completed a blog post with a pretty sticker hehehe
Then take that celebration energy and decide the next change you want to make!
Sometimes knowing what small steps to start with can be difficult – this is where a professional can be helpful. A good dietitian (or other professional if your goal isn’t nutrition related), can help you figure out the first steps to take to reach your big goal.
Imagine having your children by your side in the kitchen. You read the recipe out loud and they find the ingredients in the pantry. You show them how to carefully measure out ingredients. They stir the ingredients together, remarking about how good it will taste. Then you put it in the oven and you both excitedly clean up the kitchen waiting for it to be done. Then you laugh together as you eat. A picture-perfect scene.
It can happen. But let’s be real, sometimes it looks like this:
. . . like your toddler pulling snacks out of the pantry while you try to get them to stop so you can just get the ingredients you need. It looks like them dumping the ingredients into the bowl so enthusiastically that half of it lands on the table. It looks like your two kids fighting over whose turn it is to stir. It looks like you’re stressed because you’re trying to make this a positive experience, but your kid just licked their finger to taste the batter and then started stirring the sauce with their hand and the other kid keeps trying to touch the stove. Sometimes it looks like your kids not being at all interested in helping cook. It’s not always the warm happy Pillsbury crescent commercial. That’s for sure.
It’s often more work to have your kids “help” in the kitchen.
So why is it worth it? And how can you make it easier?
Why it’s worth it:
Kids who help with food preparation are more likely to try new foodsand eat more vegetables Research shows that helping to prepare a meal makes kids more likely to try new foods (1), more positive about unfamiliar foods (1), more likely to eat more vegetables (2), and more likely to eat more of the meal in general (2).
If kids are involved in the making process, they feel ownership and pride over the meal, so of course they want to try it and are biased toward liking it. Plus, they get to experience the food in an environment where there is no pressure to eat it. This can make new or disliked foods less intimidating. This does not mean they will magically like everything, but it will probably surprise you how much more likely they are to try something that they helped prepare.
If you have particular or picky eaters, this can be one way to help them be more comfortable in exploring new foods. If you’re worried that your kids don’t like “healthy” foods and only like beige and white foods, this is normal, BUT involving them in cooking can help expand their palate.
Kids who practice cooking are more confident in their cooking skills and are more likely to make healthy choices(3) The more kids cook, the more kids handle food, the more kids practice good food hygiene, the more comfortable and confident they are in their ability, and the more positive they feel around food(3). This seems pretty obvious. However, having confidence around food and cooking is a huge advantage toward choosing and eating healthy foods. It removes the barrier of not knowing how to prepare a food. And even if they don’t know how to prepare a specific food, they are more likely to feel confident that they can learn how. People who know how to cook and feel confident in this are more likely to choose and prepare healthy foods (3).
Practicing cooking and food skills doesn’t need to be learning how to julienne vegetables, sautee meat, or make a roux. It includes things like picking out foods at the store, washing vegetables, following a recipe, loading a dishwasher, measuring ingredients, learning what a spatula is, and using a microwave. It can of course include fancier skills as well, but you don’t have to and shouldn’t start there.
By helping your kids have food literacy, you are equipping them with vital tools they can use to be healthy which leads to the next point:
Cooking helps improve self-confidence and independence. Do you remember the first time you made a recipe all by yourself? My first memory of this is making the Kraft boxed mac and cheese. I was so proud! A kid helping with dinner feels like they are a contributing part of the family. As they get more comfortable with a skill and learn new skills, they gain confidence and independence.
This helps them grow in confidence while they still live with you, and equips them for when they are on their own as adults. Interestingly kids in a focus group about cooking at home counted learning cooking skills as a valuable part of helping in the kitchen, because they knew would need to be able to cook later in life (4). Future cooking skills is one thing at least on some kids’ minds.
Also, with enough practice, kids will eventually be actually helpful in the kitchen! It’s a long term investment – but it can pay off.
So, why is it worth it? Because even though it will be slow and difficult and stressful at times, you’re equipping them with really valuable life skills: not just cooking, but exploring new and different foods, the ability to choose and prepare healthy foods, and the confidence builder of mastering new things.
So, how can I make it easier? (and not want to shut everyone out of the kitchen forever)
I could talk forever about this because introducing kids to the kitchen is what I loooove to do. But here are a few ideas to start out:
Choose the right time. Don’t try this at a time when everyone is cranky and hungry and/or rushed. Choose a time when you can give your full attention and have no time pressure.
Make breakfast on a quiet weekend, do some prep work with them when they come to you bored (read the recipe and collect the non-refrigerated ingredients, wash and tear up lettuce leaves, mix spices, bake some rolls or biscuits), choose one afternoon a week when one kid goes down for a nap or is at school so you can focus on one child at a time, etc.
Start with hand washing This should always be the start of any cooking session. It teaches food safety and hygiene right from the start and can make them feel like they are really cooking (because everyone, even a chef, needs to wash hands before cooking). Be sure to model this behavior as well as speaking about it 🙂
Use an easy recipe you are really comfortable with. Don’t make it harder on yourself by trying to involve kids with a new or tricky recipe that requires brain space. This might mean that they help you make box macaroni and cheese – this is perfectly fine! After washing hands, and before you start, read the recipe out loud together. This is a good cooking practice to establish and it makes sure you know what you’re doing, and depending on the age of the kids, helps them get a big picture as well.
Start small. It may be overwhelming and taxing for you and your kids to expect them to help you with a whole recipe or a whole meal, especially if they are small. Involving them in meal preparation can start with as little as having them put silverware on the table, having them help you wash vegetables, helping you get out ingredients, or having them shuck an ear of corn.
In the mac and cheese example, this could be that they get to use a measuring cup to help fill up the water to boil or dump in the cheese packet. Keeping it short at first makes it a positive experience even with a short attention span. Obviously if they want to keep helping, that’s great, but if not you can build up little by little.
Repeat Kids thrive on routine. If you have a weekly repeating meal (Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday, etc.) this is a great time to involve them because you and they know what to expect and you will both get lots of practice making it together. Kids can get familiar with the steps and gradually grow in their abilities.
My earliest memories of cooking are making pancakes or waffles on Saturday mornings with my dad. I grew from helping him mix to proudly learning how to flip pancakes (this was over a matter of years, I was not a preschool pancake flipping prodigy)
Narrate If they’re with you in the kitchen (even if they’re not actively helping), just talk about what you’re doing like you’re on a cooking show. If they ask questions, answer them. Offer to let them help with a specific task or to let them taste or smell an ingredient. You can also talk about where the recipe is from or tell a story related to the recipe.
Let them help you pick what to make This is especially good if you need help getting your kids interested in the first place. With your guidance, kids (especially older kids), can help choose foods to make. Use cookbooks, or magazines, Yummly, or Pinterest to find a recipe that looks interesting to them. Sources with pictures are really great, because we eat with our eyes, and for a kid not familiar with many foods or cooking techniques, it may be hard to image what a food would be like from just a text recipe. Start with a category that you choose (soup, breakfast, broccoli, chicken, etc.) to narrow down options and make sure you aren’t always making desserts or pizza rolls.
Have them help with clean up It is good for them to learn to clean as they go and really good for you to have them clean as they go. You can start small with this too. Kids can help put wrappers or food scraps in the trash (you can also use a garbage bowl on the table to reduce trips to the trash can), they can put dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher, help put ingredients away, and wipe off a table when they are done.
This obviously isn’t comprehensive. How you involve your kids in cooking will depend on them and you and that’s fine! But I hope these ideas provide some comfortable ways to get started and some encouragement to keep going if you already have.
If you are you reading this and going, wait, I don’t even feel comfortable in the kitchen myself. How can I teach my kids? I don’t feel confident in my ability to prepare balanced and meals, but I want to, and want my kids to have that ability. I wish I just had somebody who would just walk me through the process, make it a little less overwhelming, who could be my coach and cheerleader
That’s me! I can do that! I would love to work with you at your current level of cooking/food comfort to develop a tool kit of meals, skills, recipes, so you can feel confident in the kitchen and pass that along to your kids. If this sounds like something you want, learn more here
In other words, a snack is any food you eat that you don’t consider a meal.
Cubed watermelon on a hot afternoon? A refreshing snack
Those chocolate-chip granola bars you keep in your car? Snack
Your post-workout protein shake? Snack
An evening bag of popcorn? A delicious snack
A little bit of salad leftover from lunch? Also a snack
An apple with peanut butter? Snack
Bag of chips from the vending machine at work? That is a snack
Leftover rotisserie chicken you eat cold right out of the refrigerator because you needed a little something? Definitely a snack
Cup of milky tea and a muffin in the afternoon? One of my favorite snacks
What should you eat for a snack? That depends on what you have available, why you’re eating a snack, what sounds good, so many different factors. We can talk about that more later. But don’t worry about if foods fall into the “snack” category.
Snacking for real humans part 1:
Any food can be a snack
Don’t overthink it 🙂 What do you like to snack on?