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Healthy Grilling Recipes

May 21, 2015

By Jessica Vician

Healthy Grilling Recipes for Memorial Day Weekend | Most people love good barbecue. On this Memorial Day weekend, expand your repertoire to include healthy grilling recipes that will have the kids begging for seconds. | A family gathers outside at a table in the lawn while kebabs are cooking on the grill.

It's (unofficially) barbecue season, when evening walks around the neighborhood are highlighted by smoky smells wafting from grills.

Most people love good barbecue, and I’m sure your family has a few treasured recipes that you cook throughout the summer. This weekend and throughout the summer, expand your repertoire to include healthy grilling recipes that will have the kids begging for seconds.

Skewers are a great way to grill your protein and vegetables at the same time, making for a quick and easy well-rounded meal. These marinated Greek chicken skewers feature lean chicken protein and multi-colored vegetables from red and green peppers and red onion.

Food on a stick
Instead of eating the fried food on a stick at fairs and festivals, try a few of these 38 healthy foods on a stick that may or may not require grilling, but still represent a slice (or stick) of summer.

Grilled seafood
Salmon on the grill is one of the best ways to enjoy this rich and flavorful fish, which is full of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, it keeps your kitchen from stinking for days. Try this honey soy grilled salmon with edamame for a satisfying dinner.

If your kids prefer shrimp to salmon, there are a myriad of grilled shrimp recipes available. As long as you avoid sugary marinades, shrimp are healthy and easy to grill quickly.

Alternative burgers
Turkey, salmon, and even portobello burgers are all protein-rich and leaner alternatives to beef burgers. The next time the kids ask for burgers, try this California turkey burger recipe or this grilled portobello mushroom burger and see if they prefer it to hamburgers.

Barbecue Sauce
Did you know that most store-bought (and even homemade) barbecue sauces have lots of hidden sugar? From molasses to brown sugar, the added sweeteners can dose your kids with a sugar high (and subsequent crash).

Play around with your own homemade barbecue sauce, using as little added sugar as possible. This recipe from Whole Foods only uses chopped dates for the sweetened effect, which is a fiber-rich alternative to other sugar forms.

Grilled corn is so delicious. If you’re in the Midwest where there is sweet corn a-plenty, your family won’t even need to add butter—the fresh sweet corn flavors develop nicely when heated on the grill. The kids will love the slight charred look and sweet taste.

What are your family’s favorite healthy grilling recipes? Share them with us in the comments below.

For a complete guide to raising healthy, well-developed kids, check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon


Quick + Healthy Toddler Breakfasts

January 7, 2015

By Jennifer Eckert

Quick + Healthy Toddler Breakfasts | forks hold up an orange slice, cherry, tomato, and strawberry

Last month I wrote about preparing nutritious toddler dinners after a long and busy workday. At the other end of the spectrum, a healthy breakfast is just as important. But again, if you’re a working parent like me, you need to find something quick and easy before you dash out the door. Here are some (toddler-approved) ideas that can be prepared in minutes and combined to form a wholesome breakfast:

Protein. Frozen fully-cooked turkey or veggie sausage patties are both good options. They can be heated in the microwave in about 45 seconds and cut up into toddler-sized bites. (Note: Some of the veggie sausage I’ve tried is truly terrible. However, Morningstar Farms makes a sausage patty that both my son and I find quite delicious.) A sliced, hardboiled egg is another good source of protein. Simply boil a few on Sunday night to grab and go on weekday mornings. (Hardboiled eggs will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.)

Whole grains. The key here is to look for sources of whole grains that contain at least three grams of fiber and fewer than six grams of sugar per serving. Some quick and easy options include whole wheat frozen waffles (such as Kellogg’s Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat waffles), whole grain English muffins (such as Thomas’ Light Multi-Grain English muffins), and instant oatmeal. (It might be difficult to find flavored instant oatmeal that meets the sugar requirement. If so, just buy the plain packets and stir in some fruit to add sweetness.)

Dairy. For breakfast, yogurt and milk are good options. Check with your pediatrician to see what type of milk your toddler should be drinking. For example, once my son turned two, our pediatrician recommended that we switch from whole to skim milk. With regards to yogurt, look for low-fat plain Greek yogurt (flavored yogurt usually has way too much added sugar) and sweeten with fruit or a bit of honey.

Fruit. Fruit is great on its own or mixed with hot cereal or yogurt to add sweetness. Berries are always a good option because they provide additional fiber. Go for fresh when they’re in season and frozen when they’re not. Another fresh option for the fruit-barren winter months are clementine/mandarin oranges (marketed in the U.S. as Halos or Cuties).

Choose one option from each of the categories above and you can be sure your toddler starts the day with enough fuel to get him or her through a busy morning.

Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.


Recipe: Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

June 26, 2014

By Ana Vela

A plate of rice, beans, steak, roasted corn on the cob, and a whole wheat tortilla.

Growing up in Texas, I can’t remember any of my mother’s homemade Mexican meals without accompanying flour tortillas. Flour tortillas are a tradition in my family, and as a child I looked forward to assisting my mother in making them every Sunday. Although flour tortillas are not the healthiest choice, it seems you can’t eat any Mexican meal without being given a generous portion of them.

According to the National Diabetes Education Program, 11.8 percent of Hispanics/Latinos are diagnosed with diabetes. Unfortunately, like so many other relatives in my family, my father was diagnosed with diabetes last year. At that point, my mother decided to make adjustments in her cooking to accommodate my father’s new diet restrictions.

What was the first recipe to change? It was our beloved flour tortillas. My mother adjusted her over 30-year-old recipe to make whole wheat flour tortillas by swapping refined flour to whole wheat. Why? Whole wheat flour is one of the best choices a diabetic can make for carb consumption. Eating whole wheat tortillas have other benefits as well. They can help you control your weight, are a good source of calcium to keep your teeth and bones strong, and can keep your heart healthy.

Of course, my mother made this change for everyone in the family. We eat them so often now that my 3- and 6-year-old nieces refer to them as “brown tortillas.” It just goes to show that family recipes can be made healthier and still be delicious.

Here is my mother’s recipe for whole wheat flour tortillas. She and I both hope you enjoy it.

Yields: Approx. 20 whole wheat tortillas

Prep Time: 15 minutes for mix, 60 min to roll and cook tortillas

6 cups of whole wheat flour

¾ cup of vegetable shortening

1 tbsp of salt

2 ¼ cups of hot water (not boiling), approximate

Hand mix flour, vegetable shortening, and salt.

Hand mixing the ingredients together.

Slowly add hot water as you continue to hand mix the ingredients to ensure consistency is doughy, not watery.

Kneading the dough.

Knead the dough.

Begin plucking off 1-inch diameter balls. Knead each of these into a ball with your fingers until it is shaped like a fat disk.

The bundles of tortilla dough sit.

Let all the bundles sit for 5-10 minutes.

Heat up an iron skillet on low setting (higher setting will burn the tortillas).

Rolling out the dough with a rolling pin.

Using a rolling pin, stretch the dough into the round, flat shape of the tortilla.

The flattened dough sits on the iron skillet.

Place the flattened dough onto the skillet.

Let the tortilla cook on each side for about 2 minutes. Flip as needed until it is well cooked and has a nice brown color to it.

The cooked tortillas sit on a paper towel and cloth napkin to cool.

On a cloth napkin and paper towel, place all the cooked tortillas to let them cool off.

Enjoy these tortillas with any meal – breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

A tortilla sits on a plate with roasted corn, steak, rice, and beans.


Healthy, Energizing Snacks for the Family

January 14, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Healthy, energizing snacks include oranges, cherries, tomatoes, strawberries, and pickles

Winter can be a drain on your child’s energy levels. Between colder air and less sunlight, it’s hard to stay alert. Keep your family’s energy levels up with healthy snacks throughout the day. If you plan ahead, these snacks can be fun and inexpensive.

You should offer your child snacks in between meals. They should be packed with energy-rich nutrients and have a low calorie count in order to keep a child satisfied until the next meal. You can find packaged snacks at your grocery store or make your own at home, which is healthier and inexpensive. Just remember to package the snacks in small grab-and-go containers for quick access at any time.

Here are some tips on making healthy snacks for your family that will not break the bank.

  • Provide healthy, easy-to-eat foods. Cereal, pretzels, sliced bananas and apples, and raisins are great finger foods for young children. Be sure to include fruits and vegetables when possible for nutrients. Foods with protein will keep your child fuller for a longer period of time, so try foods like peanut butter, Greek yogurt, and cheese.
  • Prepare safe food. Slice everything small to avoid choking and teach your child to sit every time he or she eats. Cook together. When you do have the time, prepare the snack with your child to make healthy eating a family experience.
  • Model healthy eating. Eat the same snack with your child if possible. It would be unfair for your child to see you eat something unhealthy and different from what you are offering him or her.
  • Go green. You can now find snack-size containers and bags at stores to package food. Be eco-conscious and buy reusable containers.
  • Reduce serving size for children. Remember that the serving size on the nutritional information on all food packages reflect a serving size for an adult so limit the amount served to your child.
  • Practice portion control. Do not offer a big snack for your child because he or she will not be hungry to eat the next meal.

By following these suggestions, you can prepare healthy, energy-rich foods that your whole family can enjoy, keeping them alert for any activity.