Happy Earth Day! As a mom, I’ve always believed in the importance of teaching my children about the benefits and gifts we receive daily from our planet. Although Earth Day is an ideal time to recycle and make steps to take better care of the environment, it’s also a perfect opportunity to teach our kids the difference between real, whole foods from nature, and overly-processed foods that are often filled with chemicals and fake ingredients.
Taking the time to enjoy foods that are as close to their natural form like, fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains and lean proteins, can be a delicious and eye-opening way to celebrate Earth Day with your children, and all the bounty our planet provides us.
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to teach my kids the difference between foods from the earth and heavily processed items is by taking them grocery shopping with me. It can be fun and educational to walk the perimeter of the store where the fresh produce is, and then show them a few examples of unhealthy packaged foods. I know how hard it can be to convince kids not to go for the super sugary cereals and fruit roll-ups, so here are a few different techniques to try:
1. Read them the nutrition labels and ingredients list. I like going by the rule of “if you can’t pronounce it; you probably shouldn’t be eating it.” Let them give it a try too! Reading labels will help set healthy habits for the rest of their lives early on.
2. Try explaining how natural foods are changed by other ingredients to become something different that is less healthy for our bodies. Although some processed foods can be a part of a healthy diet, try to go for those that still have real ingredients in them (that you can pronounce).
3. If your kids aren't impressed by Earth's natural bounty, try this win-win approach: make them my Earth Day Milkshake (recipe below) but don't tell them what's in it. About an hour later, ask them how they're feeling: good? sleepy? sugary crash? Now tell them that you made it really easy for them to eat their veggies today by putting them in the milkshake. Point out that you balanced out the sugar with the high quality nutrition of spinach. This is the classic "sneak and teach" approach. Kids get to experience first hand the energy and mood benefits of the veggies in a way that's completely easy and delicious for them. What's not to love about spinach when it tastes so good? Try this and my other free recipes for kids' favorites including: Sneaky Chef mac n' cheese, Speedy Stovetop Lasagna, chicken nuggets, Brainy Brownies, spaghetti and meatballs, Power Pizza, etc!"
My Earth Day Milk Shake features one of my all-time favorite whole foods, spinach. This green superfood has countless nutritional benefits, and the green color makes it fun for the kids on Earth Day.
I hope these tips and recipe helps you celebrate Earth Day with your children in a fun and delicious way!
Earth Day Milk Shake
Yes, it’s bright green, but so are mint chocolate chip and pistachio ice creams and that never stood in anyone’s way. Tell the kids you’re celebrating Earth Day or just having fun. They will gobble it up and you’ll be amazed. The key is to start with a really good tasting vanilla frozen yogurt or light ice cream; the vanilla extract will help its flavor shine through. Each tablespoon of Spinach Juice is the equivalent of eating about 1/4 cup of spinach, so you can feel great about serving this delicious treat. Start with the lesser amount of juice called for, and work up to more over time.
Makes 2 servings
• 2 cups vanilla low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt
• 4 to 6 tablespoons Spinach Juice (See Make-Ahead Recipe below)
• 1/4 cup milk
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Serve in tall glasses with a quick squirt of whipped cream and a straw.
The Sneaky Chef Green Juice
Makes about 1 cup of juice
• 3 cups raw baby spinach leaves
• 1 cup water
• Thoroughly wash the spinach, even if the package says “prewashed.” In a medium-sized pot, heat the spinach and the water to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into a fine mesh strainer over a container or bowl, pressing the green “pulp” with the back of a spoon until all the liquid is released.
• This recipe makes about 1 cup of juice; double it if you want to store another cup. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or you can freeze ¼ cup portions in sealed plastic bags or small plastic containers.