The Real Happy Meal

We should feel good about what we eat and we serve our families, because those foods are our true “value meal”. It’s not about buying the cheapest food we can find, but the value of what our body receives from the foods we consume. We need to be aware of what we are eating because everything we eat contributes to being fat or fit, lethargic or full of energy.

The star attraction of any meal should be whole grains and fresh, seasonal vegetables with lots of color and variety. Use meat as a side dish only. Most of the processed foods we eat are studded with mysterious additives designed to extend shelf life or imitate real food by creating artificial flavors, colors and textures. Eat fewer prepackaged foods, knowing these additives don’t do great things for our health.

If a breakfast of bacon and eggs, cold cereal, a donut and coffee seems normal, be creative and think outside the box. A different mindset will see meals and snacks as healthier options. If oatmeal gets boring, think of other whole grains such as brown rice with blueberries, quinoa and cheese casserole, pasta with peppers or tomatoes and cheese, and top it with a poached egg.

Instead of a juice box, try a fruit or vegetable smoothie, and trade in the toaster pastries for open-face sandwiches, breakfast tacos, baked stuffed tomatoes, miso soup, tomato soup, chilled fruit soups, grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, homemade granola bars or a trail mix of dried fruits, seeds and nuts and fruit kebobs. Most of these breakfast ideas can be made the night before and warmed up just before breakfast, if needed.

Instead of sugary, nutrition-free treats from a box or a bag, think of snacks as a prelude to dinner—cherry tomatoes, carrots, celery and sliced avocado, or perhaps a dip like hummus, guacamole, white bean dip, fresh fruit or vegetable salsa.

The real fun comes from sharing a meal together as a family and not because there is a toy. If the family is too busy to eat dinner together every night, make breakfast or dessert a family meal. Even if everyone is at the table for only 15 minutes, they will have a chance to check in and connect.

Kimberly Wechsler is an author of family fitness books, a natural foods chef and meal plan designer for families. For more information, call 214-407-8865 or visit CookingLessonsFromHome.com or FitAmericanFamilies.com.

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