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Stefanie Tsabar

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With the school year getting under way, wouldn’t it make you happy to have a freezer full of healthy, homemade goodies to help you make lunch-packing, breakfast and snacks come together quicker?

Once a month, I spend a few hours on a Sunday baking 2-3 batches of muffins and granola bars so that they are always available to me when I’m packing my son’s lunch or prepping him a quick breakfast or snack.

I didn’t always bake so much at one time, though! I started small… just one simple recipe.

Then, I’d keep half in the fridge to serve during the week and freeze the other half for those days when I was tired, running late, or out of ideas.

Today, I’m sharing my son’s favorites (plus, a couple of recipes I can’t wait to test out).

I hope they inspire you to get started on filling up your own freezer with healthy goodies!

Quick breakfasts:

For breakfast, my main goal is to give my son protein, and these recipes deliver. They last in the freezer for a few months, so I always can rely on them in a pinch. I generally add fresh fruit and unsweetened vanilla almond milk to round out the meal.

Snacks and Lunchbox “sides”

Protein is also a priority for lunch, but in terms of healthy carbs and other “sides” I love packing my son one of these homemade healthy treats. Most of them are nut-free, so they are safe to pack for school.

Recipes I can’t wait to try!

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

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Over the summer, my son has been craving more autonomy with his food choices.

This is a normal part of development even if it comes in the form of whining: “Awwww, I wish you packed me grilled cheese instead of a turkey sandwich!”.

Giving him a few dollars to spend on a snack at the camp store is one way I’ve been giving him some independence.

Another way is letting him make his own lunch. (Yippee!)

While most of us parents view lunch packing as a chore, kids will experience it as a privilege if we use it as a method to authentically empower them.

Here’s what I said to my son (feel free to steal it):

“I know you’ve been wanting to make more of your own choices when it comes to food. So, as a first step, I’m willing to let you make your own lunch.”

He was ecstatic.

I gave him a few guidelines to make sure that it’s balanced and then gave him the freedom to dive in.

To make it even easier for him and other kids to use, I’ve created a Kids’ Lunch Planner PDF that you can download now!

The PDF is blank so that you can fill it in with your child’s own favorites. I recommend packing comforting foods for lunch boxes and saving new foods for family meals.

Here’s an example of one I created for my son.

StefanieTsabarsKidsLunchPlanner

Download a copy now and try it out! I think you and your child will love it!

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

 

Roasted butternut squash, broccoli and cauliflower

Roasted butternut squash, broccoli and cauliflower

“My son loves to complain about food.”

That is what a mom told me during consultation with me a few weeks ago. I wasn’t surprised because I hear this sentiment all the time.

Plus, my own son spent years whining about dinner, especially vegetables. I panicked and twisted myself into a pretzel every night trying to get him to try them.

It was incredibly stressful, and I hated every minute of it.

I’ve learned a lot since then, and now, my son is 9 years old and sincerely loves many vegetables (and herbs).

Recently, he was feeling particularly adventurous and ordered both basil AND cilantro on his pizza. It didn’t bother him when he realized the combination didn’t work. He simply picked off the cilantro and kept the basil.

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I’m still in awe how he used to throw a fit when he saw something green, and now he asks me to pass the veggies.

I want to give you a short cut by sharing what I’ve learned that works so you don’t have to go through years of struggle like I did.

The tools are very doable, will reduce your stress, and will set up your child to start trying those veggies in no time.

Here are 3 tools to teach your kids to love vegetables.

1. Serve vegetables that YOU like.

Children learn to eat by watching their parents eat.

This means that at a most primal level, children are looking to us to decide what is good and safe to eat. They want to see their parents eat it first. And, they want to know that their parents are really enjoying it.

And, as we all know, our kids can tell when we’re faking it.

Once they watch us enjoying it for a long time, they might put that food on their plate, but not taste it. Then, they might lick it, or eat it and then spit it out.

However frustrating it can be for us, these are actually real signs of success for them.

Bonus: Serving veggies that YOU like will help feel better knowing that they won’t go to waste, since you will be eating them.

2. Don’t pressure your kids to taste it.

Pressure can take many forms.

It can be a formal rule like the 2-bite rule or simply encouraging your child to taste something (e.g., “You never know until you try”).

It can be creating the scarcity effect by pretending to take the last one (and thereby manipulating your child into eating something), or it can be praising them for trying a new vegetable.

The problem is that pressure backfires by creating the problems you were trying to avoid in the first place!

Bonus # 1: You no longer have to play food cop. Once you sit down at the table, give your child the autonomy to decide whether or not he wants to try the vegetables and then redirect your focus.

Bonus # 2: When we let kids move at their own pace, they will begin to venture out and taste new foods, including those pesky vegetables!

3. Rotate and repeat.

Once you have identified the vegetables that you sincerely like eating, start serving them regularly… once a week or every few weeks.

Of course, make sure not to fall into the trap of doing so with pressure (e.g., I must serve them 33 times before she’ll eat them!).

Serve them with the knowledge that kids simply need time to get comfortable with eating new foods, especially veggies.

Even though your child probably won’t taste it right away, she is still learning to like it. Also, seeing it appear regularly tells your child implicitly that you believe in her ability to eat it one day.

Then, without pressure, she is more likely to start tasting and liking veggies sooner rather than later.

Bonus: Success is no longer determined by what your kids eat, but rather what you serve at the meal.

So, again, the 3 tools to teach your kids to love veggies are:

  • Serve vegetables that YOU like.
  • Don’t pressure your kids to taste it.
  • Rotate and repeat.

You might be thinking: this sounds great, but I’ve tried some of these and they haven’t worked.

But, have you ever done ALL THREE of these things… every night? That’s my challenge for you today.

Try all three of these tools tonight or tomorrow night and then come back here and leave a comment and let me (and other readers) know how it worked out. Did your child try a new veggie? Did you feel less stress? We want to know!

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

A few weeks ago, no one (except for me) liked the new dish I served.

The strange thing is that instead of feeling frustrated and resentful, as I would have a few years ago, I actually felt pretty neutral about it.

I remember thinking: “What’s wrong with them? This is so delicious! How can they NOT like it?”

There are 2 things that have taught me how to turn my dinner fails into successes:

  1. I no longer place greater value on a new dish, but rather I take ownership – and pride – in the entire meal.
  2. I’ve learned how to prepare a meal that everyone likes without catering.

Below, you’ll see 3 meals that I served this summer that traditionally would have felt like failures, but instead actually were totally successful!

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Comforting: Roasted veggies, rice, peaches, grapes, cashews
New: Chickpea Curry

Since the new dish was the “main” dish, I made sure to include a few extra comforting sides. I’m so glad I did because neither my husband nor my son liked the curry at all. I, however, LOVED it, and was thrilled to have leftovers for lunch all week 🙂

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Comforting: grapes, peanuts and edamame
New: Veggie pasta salad

I made this dinner on a night that my husband was traveling. I really thought my son would like it, but he took a small bite and said softly “Whoa, NOT my taste.” As you can see from the picture, though, he was happy to fill up on the other sides.

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Comforting: Rice, Israeli salad and homemade tahini sauce, roasted mushrooms
New: Orange Ginger Glazed Carrots, Curries.

This summer, my son has been looking through my cookbooks because he was getting bored with the same dishes I kept serving!

One of the first recipes he chose were these Orange Ginger Glazed Carrots, which we all loved. He and I also loved the new curries from Trader Joe’s, but my husband wouldn’t touch them! He was happy to stick with the salad.

[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

My Son’s Meals and Snacks

20150403_103434 (1)Have you ever calculated how many times you feed your child in a month or year?  

If you are serving them three meals plus two snacks each day, then that comes out to 150 times every month and 1,825 times every year!

That’s a lot of time spent planning, shopping, chopping and serving food.

Today, I’m sharing the meals and snacks that I prepared for my 9-year-old son on Sunday to show you that meals can be fairly simple and straightforward.

I follow two simple rules to help me out:

  1. Serve comforting foods throughout the day and save new foods for dinner time.
  2. Include protein and fat at every meal and snack.

Breakfast, 8:00 am

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Morning Snack, 11:00 am

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  • Peppermint Luna bar (I kept this snack on the light side because it was close to lunch).

Lunch, 1:00 pm

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Afternoon Snack, 3:30 pm

These are the vegan cookies from another day's snack.

These are the vegan cookies from another day’s snack.

Dinner, 6:30 pm

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[Did you like this article? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

There are 3 main rules for feeding kids that I prioritize when working with parents.

These rules have been proven to help kids learn how to self-regulate their own eating, learn to taste new foods and stop grazing/begging for snacks between meals.

However, sometimes we are faced with a unique situation, and we can feel confused as to whether or not stick to the rules or make an exception.

In today’s video, I share how I’ve handled these exceptions with my own son and how you can do so with your child.

Here are the 3 rules and some exceptions. In the video, I explain the reasons for each rule and offer more exceptions:

Rule # 1: Create a daily schedule for meals and snacks.

Exceptions include allowing your child to have the samples at the Farmers Market or a Popsicle at camp.

Rule # 2: Parents choose the “what” of feeding kids and kids decide how much.

Exceptions include allowing your child to help make his own lunch. My son loves having this responsibility, and feels so proud! I’ve taught him to include protein, carbs, fruits/veggies and a small treat. (In his lunch below, he chose organic beef jerky, Sriracha chips, grapes and gummies.)

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Rule # 3: Serve dessert with the meals.

Exceptions include being guests at a friends’ house for dinner.

[Did you like this video? If so, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

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Imagine this: It’s 4 pm and you’re already feeling annoyed by thinking about dinner.

You want to make a healthy meal that your kids love, but you know that they will probably reject the new food and you’ll end up with a ton of waste (and resentment).

You are far from alone, and since it’s my job to help parents bring peace to the dinner table, I created something to help you reduce waste/leftovers, help your child try new foods, and help YOU feel more confident every time you serve dinner!

I’m so excited to introduce my brand new (and free!) Family Meal Planner PDF!

Final Family Meal Planner

It is based on the principle that serving meals family-style with both comforting AND new foods is the best way to teach kids to self-regulate their eating and try new foods.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step #1: Make a list of “comforting foods” that your kids already love. These don’t have to be actual recipes. They can be as simple as pasta, strawberries, peas or hot dogs.
  • Step #2: Make a list of “new foods” that your kids don’t like or have never tried.
  • Step #3: For each meal, choose 2-3 comforting foods. Then, choose 1-2 new foods.

IMPORTANT: Prepare larger portions of the comforting foods and smaller portions of new foods to reduce waste and help kids relax. When kids are calm, they are more open to trying the new foods.

Keep in mind that kids naturally want to try new foods, just like they want to have new experiences in other aspects of their lives. However, it takes time.

Before they actually taste a new food, kids learn to like it by getting used to the smell, having it on the table and watching the adults eat and enjoy them.

One day, when you least expect it, your child will reach out to sneak a bite of the new veggie dish. In the meantime, don’t pressure them AT ALL to eat it. It will only backfire.

Ready to serve dinner with confidence? Download your free Family Meal Planner PDF now!

[If you love it, I would be so grateful if you would share it with all of your friends!]

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As a parent, nothing is more infuriating than hearing “yuck” from your child the second you put a dish on the table. Don’t you agree?

I mean, it’s stressful planning, shopping and cooking every day when our kids complain about the food.

You can probably relate to a mom who once told me that she starts dreading dinner time at 4 pm – when she’s still at her desk at work!

However, there are 6 magic words that stop kids’ whining at the table dead in their tracks:

“YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT IT.”

Say these 6 words to your child before dinner, during dinner and anytime they let you know that they don’t want to eat something. It will help you:

  • Immediately dissolve any tension at the table (e.g., whining!).
  • Teach your kids to learn how to self-regulate their own eating by choosing how much and whether they want to eat anything at all from what’s been served.

Essentially, these words remove ALL pressure for kids to eat something they don’t want to eat. And, that’s the point. Research tells us that any form of pressure to eat backfires.

So, make sure that when you say it, you mean it. Otherwise, it won’t work.

Also, it’s vital that you have at least one or two comforting/familiar foods on the table. If kids don’t see any comforting foods, they can have a “fight or flight” response, which leads to anxiety, whining or loss of appetite.

So, try it out tonight! Tell your child, “You don’t have to eat it,” and then let me know how it worked! I’d love to know.

[If you liked this post, I would be so grateful if you shared it with all your friends.]

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A lot of parents worry that serving meals “family-style” will take too long to prepare and could waste a lot of food because their “picky eater” won’t eat that much.

I can totally relate! But, over the years, I’ve learned how to make healthy meals that everyone in the family loves – in just 15 minutes.

On those nights, I don’t use recipes and rely heavily on the freezer and pantry staples. It’s just about assembling a variety of mostly “favorite” foods that go together to create a great meal. No catering to picky eaters necessary!

It might seem daunting at first, but it’s worth trying.

Research tells us that serving meals “family-style” with comforting and new foods is the best way to teach our kids to self-regulate their eating AND try new foods.

Below, I break down three 15-minute dinners that I made last week to show you how you can do the same thing for your family’s meals.

You’ll notice that the bulk of each meal is based on comforting foods for my son, which keeps kids calm and more likely to try the new foods.

Also, I tried to have at least one new (or not-a-favorite) for him to try when he’s ready. For example, roasted veggies were not always something he would eat, but now he loves them, so they’ve moved into the “comforting” category.

Monday’s Dinner

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  • Comforting: Best Black beans (I don’t consider this a “recipe” because I’ve made it so often, I can make it with my eyes closed), steamed brown rice, cherries, sprouted tortillas (not pictured)
  • New / Not-a-favorite (for my son): Israeli salad with Tahini sauce (from Trader Joe’s), quinoa
  • Toppings: salsa, hot sauce, avocado

Tuesday’s Dinner

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  • Comforting: Burgers and whole wheat buns (all waiting for me in the freezer), pretzels, bowl of cut-up plums, carrots with a few dips.
  • New / Not-a-favorite (for my son): No time, so no new dishes tonight!
  • Fixings: tomato, avocado, cheese, ketchup and mustard (forgot to buy onions… oops!)

I prepared the fixings while the burgers were cooking. I cook the turkey (for my son) and Mahi Mahi (for my husband) at the same time in one pan, and I pop my veggie burger in the toaster for just 5 minutes.

Sunday’s Dinner

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So, this one took a little bit longer because the veggies were roasting for 35 minutes. But, actually, assembly/prep of the entire meal took only 15.

Also, I always make a few trays of roasted vegetables on Sunday nights. Depending on the type, I’ll use the leftovers in quesadillas, on tortilla pizzas or topped with tahini as a great side dish.

  • Comforting: Brown rice & Quinoa Pasta with sauce on the side, roasted veggies & butternut squash (all pre-chopped from TJ’s), cut-up mango.
  • New / Not-a-favorite (for my son): zucchini “noodles” with pesto (I made the pesto a few weeks ago and froze the leftovers in cubes, so it took just 2 minutes to heat up).

 

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If you’ve ever watched and worried about your child going crazy with sweets, whether at parties or otherwise, then you’re not alone.

Most parents dread the day that their child discovers “real” desserts instead of fresh fruit or the day at camp when they get tons of candy.

A few years ago, I was knee-deep in this issue, too. I used to wish that I could resolve it overnight, but after years of working through it one dessert at a time, I now understand that true, internal, lasting change takes time. A LOT of time.

But, now that I’m finally starting to see the light, I can tell you: it’s worth it.

On Friday afternoon, I took my son to Yogurtland for “treat snack,” and as always, he was ecstatic. However, after having a few tastes, filling up his cup and adding some toppings, he said,

“I’m actually not hungry. My body tricked me into thinking I was because I was so excited.”

Then, he asked me to save it for him for another time.

This particular scenario had never happened before, so I wanted to make sure I handled it gingerly. My main goal was:

To show him that it was safe to pass up on his treat snack in the moment because another opportunity would be just around the corner.

That’s why I decided to give him his Yogurtland at his 10am snack the following day, which he loved.

If I had waited any longer, he would have felt like he’d lost his opportunity. In fact, I regret not explicitly telling him my plan because he did end up worrying about when he’d get to have it.

The reality is that so many kids go crazy over sweets at certain times because they perceive those moments to be their only chance in the foreseeable future to eat them, and they want to get as much as they can.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait until your child passes on dessert to use this strategy to help them.

Instead, you can tell your child in advance that if she’s too full to eat dessert, you’ll save it and give it to her at the next meal, the next morning, or whenever might feel “soon.”

That’s what I’ve been doing my son for years.

So, keep in mind that teaching our kids how to regulate their own eating with sweets takes so much time and patience. At the beginning, we just need to have a lot of blind faith.

If you’d like to read more, here are specific strategies to end kids’ obsession with sweets.

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