Transforming Our Family One Meal at a Time Pt. 2 + Veggie Chili Recipe

This is part of a series about changing one family’s diet toward healthier choices.  I am not a dietician, just a mom who wants to find out what works best for our family.  I hope this can inspire you to find what works for you.  Click here to read Part 1.

Healthy Additions

Sometimes I would add items to boost the nutritional value of a meal.  That way the family would get a dish that was familiar but with a twist.  I’ve added just about anything you can think of to pasta sauce, chili and lasagna.  I toss in fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, carrots, celery, asparagus, and zucchini.  These are also all great to be added to pasta with homemade cheese sauce.

My favorite thing to add veggies to is meatloaf.  I just love the comfort quality of meat loaf.  My whole family loves it, and there are never any leftovers.  So this was the perfect candidate for adding veggies.  I would grate just about anything and add it to meat loaf with no complaints from the family.  Except for when I added broccoli.  That was not what you would call a gastric success.  You live and learn.

Another easy addition is to place carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower into the pot of water during the last few minutes while cooking pasta.  The vegetables are then cooked perfectly and drained with the pasta.  Sure, some of the vitamins are lost in the water, but vegetables are added and hopefully become a more accepted addition to every meal.

Have fun with fruit by adding mandarin oranges, grapefruit or fresh blueberries to tossed salads.  Use pears, pineapples or berries in meat glazes.  Add texture and interest to your stirfry with some julienned green apples.

I’ve added nutrition to my baked goods by throwing in a touch of flax for omegas or wheat germ for vitamin E and folic acid.  Making cookies heartier by subbing oats for some of the flour makes me happy.  Plus the oats have a natural sweetness and flavor that help make cookies more dynamic.

Pancakes are great for trying combinations of healthy add-ins, because you can make each one a little different and let each family member personalize their own pancake on the griddle.  You could add carob chips, coconut, dried fruit, nuts or any little chopped up goodness you like.  Even grated carrots or zucchini would be a great addition if you’re up for some adventure.

We Quit Using Jarred Dressings and Seasoning Packets

Store bought dressings all seem to have some sort of sugar.  At least all the bottles I checked listed it.  My husband and I switched to oil and vinegar for salad dressings.  The kids enjoy a yogurt-based dressing on their veggies or salad.  These changes alone have made such a difference in the quality of our diets.  Why does dressing have to be sweetened anyway?

Another item we ditched was premixed seasonings.  Sauce mixes, boxed dinner meal starters, bouillon cubes, chili powders and most any packet we were using to season our foods was loaded with sodium.  I sometimes add salt to our foods.  But not that much.

Also, we have not had any negative reactions to MSG, but we figured that we didn’t really need to fool our bodies into believing that the food was good if it actually tasted good.  So we thought that it was a pretty good idea to ditch the MSG (which doesn’t even have to be labeled in foods anymore under many circumstances).

Increased Snacking

My kids are very active and have a high metabolism.  I think this is a good thing to be rewarded.  I don’t want their bodies to only have fuel three times a day, because then they’re ravishingly hungry at meal time and end up eating so fast that they over-eat.  I don’t want that.  So I choose to feed them between meals.

The trick is that I had to learn to be intentional and plan their snacks.  I had to put snack items on the list for the grocery store.  I have to keep the healthy snacks in stock and available.  I had to figure out the best schedule to keep their metabolism fueled, but still allow an adequate appetite for mealtime.

I decided that I would combine a little carbohydrate for quick energy with a little protein for sustained energy.   Our best snacks are bananas, apple slices with almond butter, cheese sticks and grapes, Greek yogurt and fresh berries, and other seasonal fruit/protein combinations.

For us it worked out great because it allowed me to fit more nutritious food into our day without gorging my kids’ stomachs at breakfast, lunch, and dinner just to fit in all the right number of servings.

Veggie Loaded Chili Recipe

Check out this wonderful recipe for the veggie loaded chili at the top.  This is very similar to the chili we make in our home.  We would also add either ground beef or turkey and diced bell peppers of all colors!  Enjoy.

Photo courtesy of Food to Glow.

Beth is a wife to Mike and mother to their five children who range in age from toddler to teen. She spends her days doing school and her nights doing laundry. Saving money in the meantime helps. Beth is learning how to live organically now in the hopes of one day being a successful homesteader.

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