Perhaps the coolest muscle in the body is the heart. It is always working and keeps us going. Treating it well contributes to a longer and a higher quality life. For adults, taking care of the heart usually involves cardio workouts, trying to get 8 hours of sleep, and eating foods that may not be the tastiest, but helps keep the heart healthy. Good meals can be an important part of being a responsible adult. Families face the unique challenge of creating meals that encourage heart health their little ones will eat as well. Our kiddos can be sensitive to textures, tastes, and smells that put them off to eating. Sometimes they’re also just being picky and want to skip over the protein and veggies and get to the sweet, sugary dessert options. It can be tempting to make two meals, or just something the kids want, or to engage in a battle of wills trying to make the kids eat their broccoli. Creativity and a little flexibility in the kitchen can be the key to reducing stress at meal times, and keeping the heart in prime condition.
Instead of a chore, here’s three versatile recipes that are both heart healthy for the adults, but tasty for the little picky eaters.
- Steel Cut Oatmeal may sound boring, but it is an incredibly flexible meal option. It can be cooked to different levels of viscosity, or thickness, and topped with chia seeds, fruit, and even chocolate chips! Take your family’s favorite milk or milk substitute, cook the oatmeal, and let every member of the family have fun by customizing their toppings. If one child likes coconut, but the other prefers cinnamon, they can indulge in a nutritious breakfast while the adults can top theirs with antioxidant rich blueberries. Steel cut oats have fiber that contribute to a reduction in blood sugar and cholesterol. A bonus benefit is the can be prepped the night before, saving time in the morning.
- Tomato soup can be a comfort food, especially when the weather is cold. Thanks to slow-cookers, you can prep your ingredients the night before, throw them in your slow-cooker, and come home at the end of the day to hot soup. Like any good soup recipe, the spice profile is entirely up to the tastes of the family. More basil? Less pepper? Entirely chef’s choice. Tomatoes are famous for being high in lycopene which is believed to contribute to lower LDL, or bad cholesterol, and some studies indicate that cooking it helps release the nutrient in greater quantities. While soup can be tricky to get picky eaters to try, tomato soup pairs famously well with grilled cheese which are quick to make. Parents can have both if they want, as can the children if they’re willing.
- Stuffed Sweet Potato is a classic dish that is full of potassium, a nutrient that helps the body excrete more sodium, which can lower blood pressure over time. Plus, potatoes are tasty, and kids love them! They can be stuffed with baked chicken, hummus, olives, beans, spinach, kale, and whatever other healthy foods your family likes. The pickier eaters can also opt not to have certain foods stuffed into their potato, or better yet, hidden amongst foods they prefer. There are ways to dice leafy greens, cauliflower, or other foods that may not be agreeable to younger palettes so they are not easily detected. Get creative with spices and sauces, and enjoy!
Eating heart healthy doesn’t have to be hard or boring, nor should it be, especially when there are kids in the household. Start with an ingredient, and build a recipe from there the whole family will love!
What are your favorite heart healthy ingredients? What creative ways do you get your kids to try more nutritious meals?
By: Bethany Verrett