Cooking heart-healthy meals can be a fun, collaborative activity for the whole family. Not only will your hearts thank you for the nutritious foods, you might even end up with a new hobby to bond over, experiment with and keep you constantly creating. Follow these tips to create heart-healthy meals — and make some wonderful memories.
Make Shopping for Ingredients Into an Event
Take your kids to a local farmer’s market to teach them where their food comes from while you shop for healthy ingredients. Point out the great variety in colors, shapes and sizes and talk about the health benefits of different fruits, vegetables and grains.
You can even have your kids pick out different produce and then build your meal around their choices. For example, choosing eggplant and tomatoes can turn into farm-fresh baked eggplant parmesan. This is a great way to involve your family, get them excited about cooking and eating healthy foods and teach them ownership over their diets.
Themed Meals Throughout the Week
A fun way to keep your family interested in their meals is to create themes throughout the week. While the options are endless, here are some ideas for a weekly menu:
- “Souper” Sundays: Each Sunday, make a nutritious and delicious pot of soup that warms the body, mind and spirit.
- Meatless Mondays: Encourage eating vegetarian more often.
- Taco Tuesdays: Everyone creates their own healthy tacos chock full of fresh vegetables, beans and rice.
- What-You-Wish Wednesdays: Every Wednesday, a different family member gets to choose what’s for dinner for a mid-week treat, as long as they keep it heart-healthy.
- Travel Thursdays: Each Thursday, showcase a different culture’s traditional dish.
- Family Fridays: Cook dinner together as a family every Friday.
- Salad Bar Saturdays: Put together a beautiful salad bar with lots of choices and a rainbow of colors every Saturday.
Ingredient Alternative Challenge
Replace less healthy ingredients with healthier ones in your cooking and baking, and see how delicious it still tastes. You can challenge each other to make the “best” alternative healthy items in place of the original less healthy ones.
Think cauliflower pizza, zucchini noodles, vegan broccoli “cheese” soup, black bean brownies, garbanzo blondies and coconut-milk yogurt smoothies as creative examples that taste great and are good for you.
Here are some easy heart-healthy swaps to try:
- Replace butter or oil with applesauce
- Replace dairy products with plant-based milks
- Swap out white sugar with maple syrup
- Trade out every whole egg with two egg whites
- Use less salt and more herbs and spices
Choose Whole Foods for a Whole Life
The closer your food is to the ground, the better. Opt for whole foods like fruits and vegetables in their original form rather than packaged, processed foods. A great example: it’s better for you to have a baked potato rather than potato chips.
Instead of giving your kids snacks that come in wrappers, cut up something fresh, when possible — like sliced apples with nut butter or sunflower seed butter.
Keep Your Heart Healthy Without Missing a Beat
At AdventHealth for Children, we understand that the body, mind and spirit work together to form the whole picture of your health. Lifestyle choices like choosing heart-healthy foods for you and your family make a difference in everyone’s overall health, and we’re here to guide you in making the best decisions.