Healthy meal ideas from a former take-out queen

Kids are in trouble. In many parts of America, they will be the first generation not to live as long as their parents.

Anyone who’s been to Disney World or a county fair cannot be surprised. Fat kids are everywhere. They sit in front of the television all day, playing video games or mesmerized by a Vine loop, and by the fourth grade they’re embarrassed to put on a bathing suit.

This is a shame. Girls should be at least eighteen before they have body-image issues.

Like everything else, obese kids are the result of parents who should know better. Unlike everything else, this is not a complicated issue. When your kids graduate from breast milk or formula (don’t judge), you will be required to feed them something.

Here’s a hint: stick to real food, mostly fruits and vegetables, and reasonable portions.

If I can do it, anyone can. Why? Because I’m not rich, I grow weary in a grocery store, and I’ve always hated to cook. Toward the end of college, when Marc and I first shacked up together, loved ones would wonder why I never learned to put a meal together.

One early catastrophe involved a simple dish. Just a few bites in, my guests started spitting something into their plates.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“You’re supposed to take the sunflower seeds out of their shells before throwing them in the salad,” Stepdad said.

They learned quickly to take my brother’s advice and eat something a half hour before arriving at my house for dinner. After a while I gave up and started ordering out. I also discovered a much better use for my oven. It was a perfect size to store the really expensive vodka bottles.

Fast-forward ten years and there I was, in my new kitchen in a suburb, no less, making baby food for my twin sons.

I saved money and the guilt of giving them preservatives by mashing up and blending sweet potatoes, green beans, squash, zucchini and free-range chicken for protein. As they grew older, Jacob and Zachary learned to appreciate foods other kids would spit out – beets, lima beans, and broccoli.

I’m telling you, they could pass an entertainment center through their colon.

I also served organic milk.

Why organic milk?

It comes without pesticides or growth hormones; because first-graders don’t need boobs and acne.

My children were normal little kids who thoroughly enjoyed pizza and brownies. But they have always been made to eat a balanced meal instead because Marc and I are in charge, not them.

We serve real food, devoid of hard-to-pronounce ingredients. We eschew dead animals and concentrate on a plant-based diet. Copious amounts of fruits and vegetables are included in every meal.

And we think “1950s” when it comes to portion control, not “Texas circa 2010.”

I’ve never been domestically inclined, but found these ideas simple enough to execute – and no one went hungry.

Meals that won’t bust the bank or your children’s waistline.

Breakfast

Two eggs, with the yolks all runny and rich in iron, and an orange.

Oatmeal with raisins and maple syrup.

Pancakes with strawberries or blueberries.

Granola cereal and chopped up bananas.

Oranges with all the good pulpy stuff, rather than nasty juice, with a side of prunes…because constipation hurts everyone.

Almond butter, bananas, and whole grain toast.

Lunch

If your kids are in daycare or elementary school, please visit the cafeteria before deciding to chance it. Lots of what they serve isn’t even real food. I picked these ideas instead because they’re healthy and easy to make while writing, working, and answering hate mail.

Some acceptable alternatives to the crap at school include:

Homemade egg salad sandwiches, pretzels, and a bag of grapes.

Organic macaroni and cheese, apple, and yogurt tube.

Homemade pizza, pear, granola bar, and celery sticks.

Peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches (natural peanut butter, all-fruit as opposed to jelly, on whole-grain bread), carrots and a bag of strawberries.

Soft-boiled eggs, hormone-free cheese and crackers, cottage cheese and peaches.

Snacks

Cheese sticks.

Fig Newman cookies. (Not to be mistaken for Fig Newton cookies. I’m talking about the little bites of heaven from Paul Newman’s company.)

Sherbet

Fruit popsicles.

Grapes

Celery with natural peanut butter and raisins.

Hummus and veggies.

Protein and fruit smoothies.

Dinner

Salads with loads of vegetables and at least one cup of beans.

Falafel pita and potato salad.

Wild-caught fish, rice and vegetables.

Veggie burgers, baked beans without pork, and sweet-potato fries.

Homemade pizza with mushroom, onions, and spinach.

Lima bean parmesan and a Caesar salad.

Greek salad, with potatoes, and spanakopita.

Pasta, protein, and salad.

There are cookbooks, websites, and television shows out there for plenty more ideas, but you get my point. Sometimes we don’t have a lot of time and serving a quick, healthy meal doesn’t have to involve hours of prep time or leave you feeling exhausted.

Every once in a while, try seasonings from India, Asia, and Louisiana. Variety is the spice of life and the key to healthy bowel movements.

When the family is on vacation or the kids are hanging with their grandparents, give the okay for a treat. It’s good to be bad. No one is going to get morbidly obese from a few jelly beans.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed watching my little boys eat healthy and delicious meals. It felt good to help them appreciate different kinds of food and flavors. Meal time wasn’t so difficult after all.

Telling them to slow down and chew with their mouths closed? That’s a whole other story.