Top Food Challenge
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Iím always trying to find ways to get my kids to try new foods and develop healthy habits.† In January 2013 I came up with the Top Food Challenge and it was such a hit, my kids wanted me to do it more than once a month.† Unfortunately, because I like to do a lot of planning and researching, once a month is about all I can handle, but I was certainly excited about their enthusiasm.† Almost two years later, they still get super excited when I announce itís Top Food Challenge Day and they often ask me to hurry up as soon as a new month starts so they can try another new and healthy food!††
Has it been a full success for us?† Are my kids now reaching for the fruit bowl when theyíre hungry?† WellÖ.not as much as Iíd hoped, but the good news is Iíve found some new fruits to add in their school lunches and new ways to add nutrition to meals.† Instead of a veggie I sometimes make a fruit salad or some baked apple pieces to serve with dinner.
My basic idea was to highlight one healthy food a month, starting with fruits!† I wanted to prepare the food in a few different ways to show them that foods can vary in taste when prepared differently.† I am also trying to encourage them to eat foods as a complete bite instead of picking out all the peas in the pasta for instance.
I decided to make it into a bit of a judging thing to make it fun.† Iím not sure what this says about me or my kids, but we adore Food Network shows and watch things like Top Chef, Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen a lot. When I told them theyíd get to be the ďjudgesĒ and rate each preparation, they were keen to sample the foods.† I told them they only had to take one fair sized bite and if they didnít like it they could give it a 1 star rating, but if they did like it they could eat the whole thing and then rate it accordingly.†† There was only one occasion when my Youngest flipped out about trying a fruit.† Can you guess what it was?† I was a bit surprised myself, but he had a fit over eating raspberries!!†
Like all Family Theme Day ideas this can be adjusted and certainly made simpler.† You could choose less preparations, you could choose store bought preparations, you could get your kids involved in the cooking,† you could make it a 3 star rating instead of 5 (1 means you donít like it, 2 means it was ok,† 3 means you loved it), you could skip the nutrition talk and focus on flavour and texture (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, soft, chewy, crunchyÖ).† Make this a fun thing for your family and just enjoy the process of introducing healthy choices to your kids.† You could add vegetables into the mix. So far, Iíve stuck with fruit because fruit is generally sweet and much easier to convince kids to eat.
Step 1: Choose your fruit (or vegetable).† Hereís a list of the fruits weíve tried so far, you can use this as a checklist or to ask your kids which ones theyíd like to try first: Twenty-six Fruits to Sample
HINT: Some fruits are hard to find depending on the time of year.† Try to choose seasonal fruits!
Step 2: Decide on the ways you will prepare the fruit.† I usually serve the fruit raw, cooked somehow, in a drink, and in something baked like a muffin or cookie (I have fun searching online for recipes).† If you arenít much of a cook then find the fruit in juice form and as a jam /jelly for a simple preparation.† You can even just puree fruit and make them into popsicles or smoothies for another easy preparation.
Step 3: Buy the fruit a few days before you plan to use it. Most fruits arenít ripe and ready from the store or farmerís market and if thatís the case you will need to wait a bit until the fruit is ready to eat.† Most fruits are ready when you can smell their lovely scent and when a gentle push with the finger shows the fruit is soft.† Other fruits are good to go from the store or market (like apples and oranges).
Step 4: Print out my Top Food Challenge Worksheet or make up your own or have your kids simply write on a piece of paper (coloured paper is always fun).†† For younger kids you could always search online for a colouring page of the fruit as well and start with that while you prepare the food.†
Step 5: Prepare the fruit. I love to cook and experiment with recipes so some of my choices might not work for you, but if you look online or in your favourite cookbook you will find many wonderful and easy ways to prepare various fruits.† I will give some samples below (Keep scrolling down to find what I made for our Top Food Challenges).
Step 6: Talk to your kids about the fruit.† My Eldest is logical and loves science so I always list the basic nutritious elements of the fruit before they eat it.† I donít give a complete list of vitamins and minerals as thatís lost on them (and frankly to me) but I remind them of the basics...vitamins to help you grow and stay strong, etc.† Check out my Nutrition Matching Worksheet below for a basic introduction to nutrition key words for kids.
Step 7: Serve your kids.† When they are a bit nervous about trying a preparation I remind them that they only have to have one bite and that seems to help.† We all sample together as well.† I find it helps when they know everyone is trying the food.
Step 8:† Step away from the table and let your kids rate the fruit.† I tell them to write what they feel and not to worry about hurting my feelings.† They are judging the fruit, not my cooking. I remind them that its okay to not enjoy the taste of something and that some flavours need to grow on people.† I myself hated tomatoes when I was little but I adore them now! I remind them that this will give me ideas on what fruits to buy for snacks and which ones to pack in their lunches.† If you step away from the table and let them write on their own, chances are they will be more honest than if you hover over them.†
Step 9: Let them read their reviews out loud.† Talk about what they liked and didnít like.† Some foods taste better when blended or cooked or when other spices or ingredients are added.† Discuss the differences.† Did one child dislike the seeds?† Does one child dislike sour fruits?† Did the fruit taste better when cooked? Learn about each otherís tastes!† Itís fun!
MORE IDEAS TO PROMOTE HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES:
HAVE A HEALTHY ME THEME DAY:
For additional family activities to educate your children about making healthy choices try our Healthy Me Theme Day.
THE FOOD GROUPS:
The best way to start your kids on a healthy path is to model good eating yourself.† Another way to help is to review a basic food guide as a family.
If you are looking for some information on the food groups try these sites:
Australian Guide to Healthy Eating
Older kids may be encouraged to eat better if they know what the foods they are eating do specifically to help their bodies.† Print out a copy of my Matching Nutrients Worksheet and work together as a family to figure out what each vitamin and mineral does to help your body.† Here is the Answer Key for Matching Nutrients.
NOTE: I made this worksheet a very basic thing.† It is not very scientific and I tried to simplify the answers so that kids can understand what each vitamin and mineral does.†
NOTE: Iím not a nutritionist and Iíve never studied food science or health or anything like that.† Iíve based this worksheet purely on research I made online and in books and cookbooks Iíve read.† I found a lot of information here: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits-why.html
Teach your kids how to read food labels to tell what a serving is and what exactly they are eating.
Try these sites:
For information about food labels for kids: http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/food/labels.html
For printables: http://www.nourishinteractive.com/nutrition-education-printables/category/6-food-labels-worksheets-printables-teaching-kids-reading-food-labeling-nutrition-facts-free-learning-printouts-activity
This website has ideas for teaching Nutrition in the Classroom but could also work for using at home, as well as great printable sheets with the basic nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, water, vitamins, fats, minerals): http://www.healthyeatingpei.ca/toolkit-section6.php
For more about teaching kids about nutrition: http://www.nutritionforkids.com/
This is the site I found the nutritional information to give to my sons: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fruit-nutrition.html
I plan on making some healthy food related Word Searches.† Check back soon.
For parents try these resources:
∑ Getting to YUM: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters, by Karen Le Billon, William Morrow, 2014óI liked her previous book† French Kids Eat Everything and found this one just as interesting, hopeful and useful.† For more information check out the website:† http://gettingtoyum.com/
∑ Itís Not About the Broccoli, by Dina Rose, PhD,† Penguin Group, 2014óIím reading this right now and find it interesting. Itís about teaching habit of good eating: proportion, variety and moderation instead of focus on nutrition.†
For cookbooks that offer healthy recipes I found these titles (I have not read them all the way through yet or tested any recipes but they look pretty good):
∑ Appetite for Life, by Stacey Antine, Ms, Rd, Harper one, 2012ó
∑ Real Food for Healthy Kids, by Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel, William morrow, 2008ó
SAMPLE TOP FOOD CHALLENGES:
I usually post the photos and links on Facebook on our Healthy Kids Album. Check there for recent additions.
Here are some of the Challenges Iíve given my Children with the links to recipes where applicable:
CHALLENGE 1: Pomegranate
This was our first challenge.† I had them sample pomegranate four ways: seeds, jam, juice and a smoothie.† I kept it pretty easy for the first one and only used one recipe.† For the Pink Smoothie I used this recipe:† http://www.superhealthykids.com/pink-smoothies/ Yes, I snuck tofu in them with this recipe.
CHALLENGE 2: Dragon Fruit
I ventured to unknown territory here with a more daring choice, and a fruit I had never tried before.† My boys sampled dragon fruit three ways: raw fruit, sparkling drink and salsa.† I used orange juice instead of tangerines in the drink recipe, which I found here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Dragon-Fruit-Shake/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Thumb&e11=dragon%20fruit%20shake&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page&soid=sr_results_p1i1.†† I used green onion instead of chives in the salsa (sparingly) and served on top of corn chips instead of scallops: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/seared-scallops-with-dragon-fruit-salsa-recipe.html
CHALLENGE 3: Grapes
This one was the easiest challenge to prepare for as I didnít do any cooking!† For this one I wanted my kids to try both green and red/purple grapes to see which one they preferred. I really wanted to start including grapes in their school lunches.† I discovered they like green grapes better (and I actually prefer red ones so I guess I lose out when grocery shopping).† I was fortunate enough to have homemade grape jelly (a gift from one of my lovely aunts) so I used that for this challenge and then finished the challenge with white grape juice and golden raisins.†
CHALLENGE 4: Papaya
I was more experimental with this fruit.† I served it slices and also found some papaya juice at the store, but then I made a salsa (since my kids love eating corn chips) from this recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/papaya-salsa-29333?layout=desktop&oc=linkback. I also made an easy smoothie recipe found here:† http://www.smoothieweb.com/papaya-smoothie-2/† Lastly, I experimented and made up my own creamy yogurt ice-cream.† I froze some small chopped pieces of papaya ahead of time and then put them in a food processor with a small can (not regular sized) of coconut milk and about† a quarter cup of non-fat Greek yogurt.† I whizzed it in the food processor and it turned into a creamy soft ice cream.
†CHALLENGE 5: Raspberries
This was the one my youngest son dreaded the most as he has an aversion to these lovely berries for some unknown reason.† When he was a toddler he loved berries and used to steal them from my cereal bowl but for some reason he now hates them.† Go figure!† Anyway, I† served the berries alone, topped some little pieces of buttered bread with raspberry jam, and in advance I made some raspberry oatmeal cookie bars (which were delicious but stuck to the tin foil. Next time Iíll try parchment paper: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/delicious-raspberry-oatmeal-cookie-bars/ ). I also† made a wonderful and quick raspberry sauce (I found the recipe for the Raspberry Sauce in Jamieís Food Revolution cookbook (page 326) by Jamie Oliver. It was very easy, just a handful of raspberries and one tablespoon of sugar scrunched together with my hands in a bowl.)
CHALLENGE 6: Apricots
This was an easy one as well.† I served the fruit freshly cut, some dried apricots (FYI: excellent for putting in kids lunches), and jam on small pieces of buttered bread cut into stars.† I also found some apricot juice at the grocery store so we sampled that and then I made some apricot granola snacks, which were a variation of a recipe I found online.† I used cashew utter instead of almond butter and dropped the ingredients into cookie sized shapes to freeze on wax paper instead of trying to set them in a pan.† I would also recommend using less almond extract as I found the taste quite prominent.† Hereís where I found the recipe: http://www.superhealthykids.com/almocot-almond-apricot-snack-bars/
CHALLENGE 7: Strawberries
It was summer and we had a little pot with strawberries growing in it so that was the perfect time to try this fruit.† I served the berries alone, then some strawberry jam on buttered bread, and made some creamy popsicles by mixing 1 cup of berries with 1 cup of low fat honey Greek yogurt 9whcih made 4 small popsicle).† My recipe was inspired by this one but I didnít have the patience to make a strawberry puree before hand so I just mixed my ingredients together to make a pink popsicle instead of the red and white ones as per recipe: http://www.superhealthykids.com/homemade-strawberry-creamsicles/) .† I also made this strawberry milkshake (without the waffle on the side): http://www.thedailymeal.com/sneaky-chef-strawberry-short-shake.† As this is another berry, my Youngest wasnít thrilled with the challenge.† He wrote on his sheet that it was ďhaf good haf bade.Ē† He only enjoyed the creamsicles and the jam.† This still perplexes me as he used to eat strawberries with lunch every day when he was in preschool.
CHALLENGE 8: Watermelon
†We had this challenge in the summer as well .† I served the melon the old fashioned way as slices, which gained 5 star ratings from my kids.† The other preparation that was enjoyed by both boys was watermelon ice: http://greenlitebites.com/2008/05/28/watermelon-ice/.†† My Eldest and myself liked the watermelon salsa, the feta wasnít a hit with my youngest: http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2011/06/watermelon-feta-salad-with-mint/.† And Iím sad to report that my Youngest saw me add strawberries into the smoothie so he only gave it 1 1/2 stars. Sigh.† The Eldest gave it 5 stars though.† Try the recipe here: http://www.superhealthykids.com/watermelon-s-tasty-little-secret/
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE REST OF MY TOP FOOD CHALLENGES?
If so, please drop me a line at email@example.com or on Facebook or Twitter (@CRKWwrites) and Iíll happily add some more.
Look for new additions to my Healthy Kids Album on Facebook.
Keep the Fruit bowl full!
A Top Food Challenge Worksheet
The First Four Top Food Challenges
Photo: C Wright
Twenty-Six Fruits for your kids to try...
Nutrition Matching Sheet for Older Kids
Four More Top Food Challenges
More Top Food Challenges
Fruity Top Food Challenges