Feed Your Kids Well In A World That Doesn’t- Interview with Nina Manolson
Nina Manolson is one Smokin’ Hot Mom. She’s also a certified health coach with years of experience in the health and wellness field and a master’s degree in counseling psychology. When she isn’t working with clients through one of her trademarked programs, or creating new and delicious recipes in her kitchen, Nina is helping to promote nutritious eating for our children through her new e-book, Feed Your Kids Well In A World That Doesn’t: An everyday guide for busy moms to create tasty-wellness! Fortunately for us, Nina took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions and offer some smokin’ hot tips!
In your book, you refer to our present state of food as a “junk food culture.” You point out that it’s difficult to feed our kids well when we’re surrounded by junk food. How do you think we arrived at this point?
There’s two parts to our junk food culture – the producers (the junk food producers – like Coke and Hostess) and the consumers (the public – parents and kids). Now the producers are busy trying to make money, so they go for the cheapest sources of food and process them so they’ll last for the longest time on the shelf. Then, there’s the consumers who are busy parents who are on the run and are just trying to feed their kids cheaply without spending time they don’t have, in the kitchen.
So, we’ve got the combination of big business taking over food production and parents getting so busy that they don’t have time to be in the kitchen. It’s the perfect set up for a junk food culture.
That’s why I believe parents need tools to combat the cultural junk food machine, as well as be savvy in the kitchen. Feeding our kids healthy food is so important, but ultimately what we’re after is kids who can navigate their own way through the junk food culture and make healthy choices for themselves as they grow up.
What do you think is the biggest impediment for caregivers who want to feed their families well?
Aside from the fact that everywhere we turn there is food that has no nutritional benefit to our kids (aka junk food), I really see 2 pitfalls that parents fall into that keep them from feeding their family well.
The first is not taking food with you wherever you go. That may seem extreme, but really, when we take healthy snacks with us, we are taking a stand for healthy eating. When we bring a healthy trail mix, or a whole grain bread sandwich, we are not relying on the zoo, or the museum or the airport to feed our kids. It’s easy to think “oh, I’ll just pick something up for the kids when we get there” or “they’ll provide snacks.” Most businesses are not interested in making sure our kids have healthy food; they are interested in their profit margin. We are the arbiters of quality for our kids, so taking along a snack is taking a stand for our children’s health.
The second big pitfall that so many parents fall into when it comes to feeding their kids well is not taking care of themselves. Kids learn by example. When you walk the talk of healthy living, your children will follow.
I love that you suggest we be our own food marketers! Can you explain this concept and why it’s important?
Big business spends billions of dollars marketing food to our kids. They are constantly telling our kids that eating their product will make them cool or cute or bonded with some cartoon character. But here’s what you have that they don’t have. YOU! What you say and do as a parent is ultimately more powerful than advertising so use your air-time wisely and create a buzz around the healthy food you serve.
For example: If you serve your kids a healthy smoothie experiment with how you offer it.
“Here’s a smoothie I just made, it’s really good for you, I want you to drink it because you’ll get 4 servings of vitamin rich fruit at once.”
“I think I made my best smoothie yet, and I added a secret ingredient. Can you guess what it is?”
This second statement piques curiosity; it creates a buzz and interest around your new smoothie. When we market our own healthy food with fun and enthusiasm, we make it easy for our kids to try new healthy foods.
As health coaches, we stress the importance of mindful eating. How can we teach our children to be mindful eaters?
You’ve heard that great Gandhi quote – “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It’s like that.
If you’re standing at the counter eating; if you’re eating in the car; if you’re eating the kids’ leftovers; you are showing your kids that eating happens on the fly. If you sit down, take a moment to breathe, say a prayer of gratitude… your children learn that food is more than just something to fill their belly. It’s deep nourishment and connection to their family. Set the tone that you want to have at your table. Certainly kids will be silly and not zen at all; that’s fine. The important thing is to keep being the example of someone who slows down and enjoys food. Over time, they’ll get it.
In my family we have 2 minutes of silent meditation before dinner. Are my kids always perfectly quiet and meditating? Of course not! But those 2 minutes separate our family meal time from the rest of the hustle bustle day. It sets the tone for a more mindful relaxed meal.
I often talk with my 7-year old son about food and point out ingredients in packaged foods. Doing so has really helped to eliminate battles over candy and other shelf sweets. How can parents start talking to their kids in a way that won’t turn them off or create unhealthy relations with food?
Label reading is a fantastic way to get kids involved. It empowers them. Empowering kids by giving them information is a great way to start a healthy conversation about healthy food. Talk to your kids about where their food comes from. Get curious with your kids about the story your food tells. Did this food grow on a farm and then come straight to you? Was it sprayed or not? Did it live on a shelf for 6 months? What is an animal that was treated well? The story of our food tells the story of its quality and how nutrient dense it is.
Play with shifting the conversation from “good” foods and “bad” foods to the story of your food. Help your child learn to choose food that has a wonderful story.
Planning is a big part of feeding our families well. What planning strategy do you feel is most important?
The first and most important plan that helps families eat better is a grocery-shopping plan.
I know that sounds basic, but if you don’t have healthy food in the fridge and pantry, it’s impossible to put healthy food on the table for your family.
It’s essential to know who is going to do the shopping and when it’s going to happen. What’s on the list is just as important as what’s not on the list.
The easiest way to create a healthy shopping list is to plan the meals. When you are clear about what you are going to have for dinner each night, it’s easier to leave behind the “convenience – fast food meals” at the grocery store and stick to the whole foods.
You have so many delicious recipes in your book! Can you share your favorite kid-friendly recipe with us?
It’s impossible for me to play favorites with my recipes. They’re all so yummy and perfect for a specific moment, but I’d like to share a delicious and healthy treat for the morning. All the moms I work with love this pancake recipe because it’s easy enough for your kids to make and it’s a real upgrade from regular pancakes.
I’ve also got some healthy options for those maple syrup monsters in the house (you know, the ones that end up with more maple syrup than pancake on their plate).
This recipe is from Nina’s brand new e-book:
An everyday guide for busy moms to create tasty-wellness!
Super Banana Pancakes
I call these pancakes super because they are so nutrient dense and because they are super easy to make! Just mix them up in the blender.
These pancakes are also wheat- and dairy-free, which makes them perfect for kids with food sensitivities.
The bananas make them so sweet that they don’t really need any added syrup on top. However, I know kids love toppings, so I’ve included a list of healthy toppings.
1.5 – 2 very ripe bananas (depending on how much banana flavor you like)
1 cup almond milk or any other milk alternative
1.5 cups blanched almond flour
2 cups oat flour (put gluten-free, whole rolled oats in the blender to make oat flour)
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil for frying
Combine eggs, banana and milk in blender. Add flours, salt and baking soda and blend. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet, and make palm-size pancakes. Cook both sides until golden.
Toppings for pancakes
Kids love pouring oodles of maple syrup on their pancakes! But too much maple syrup takes our kids on the dreaded sugar roller-coaster – it makes them wired, then tired.
Try these alternatives to syrup:
*Grate apple right on top of pancake for a fresh topping.
*Apple Butter – Mmmm… luscious, sweet and rich, but still packed with nutrients.
*Blueberry Maple Syrup Sauce:
Heat together in a saucepan:
2 cups of frozen blueberries
1/4 cup maple syrup