Hi there! My name is Sivan Greenspan and I’m a teacher-turned SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) of three kids and one puppy with voracious and varying appetites. My household is (usually!) happy and busy. One of the many projects I’ve undertaken during the COVID-19 era is learning more about nutrition in an effort to make healthier meals and snacks. It’s a steep learning curve and there’s still much more food science to understand. I’ve succeeded, however, in overhauling our former staples of pasta, pizza, cereal and high-carb snacks to healthier, tastier and shelf-stable alternatives.
I want to preface this by saying that I’m not a physician or a nutritionist and the following ideas are only suggestions. They are the best I can find from studying with a registered dietician, talking with like-minded friends and scouring online resources.
One of the first things I’ve learned is to examine nutrition labels and ingredients. Did you know, for example, that one average slice of plain pizza has about 250 calories, 640 mg of sodium and 40 grams of carbohydrates? Standard pizzas are also typically highly processed, contain artificial preservatives and have added unhealthy fats.
I used to chalk pizza up to having good nutritional values because of the tomato sauce (vegetable!) and cheese (protein!). Except when I looked at how much of these ingredients actually counted toward one slice, I was humbled by how little of them that were actually in it.
Pasta, a quick and easy meal, is also an empty meal by itself. An average bowl is 212 calories and 41 simple carbohydrates. That’s before adding any flavoring like tomato sauce, salt, cheese and/or butter.
One of my family’s go-to breakfast cereals, Honey-Nut Cheerios, which is widely thought of as one of the healthier choices, turns out to be not as wholesome as advertised. Only three quarters of a cup yields 102 calories, 172 mg of sodium and 23 carbohydrates. See ya later, Buzz Bee!
After examining more of our favorite foods, I realized a complete overhaul needed to be made, and donated lots of non-perishables items. I reorganized our fridge so that fresh fruits and vegetables would be eye-level and therefore easily accessible to my kids.
The following is a typical day of my kids’ meals:
Breakfast: Kid 1: fruit smoothie using almond milk
Kid 2: apple and cheese stick
Kid 3: scrambled egg sprinkled with turmeric
AM snack: Kid 1: apple slices
Kid 2: MadeGood balls and SkinnyPop popcorn
Kid 3 (my most active and therefore most hungry!): MadeGood chocolate chip balls, MadeGood bar, Pirate Booty, fruit strip, apple crisps, Trader Joe’s manzanilla green olives
Lunch: Kid 1: Hard-boiled egg, baby carrots, black olive, orange
Kid 2: school lunch (because sometimes Mom needs a break).
I print out the menu and review healthy food choices with my kids before the start of the school year.
Kid 3: green olives, cucumber, pepper, Kodiak waffle
PM snack: Kid 1: Quest nacho cheese chips
Kid 2: Seaweed
Kid 3: Chobani low sugar yogurt
Dinner: Thankfully, all three kids get the same dinner. Inevitably, one or two will reject an item on the plate, so I substitute that for a different protein, veggie or complex carb. Tonight, for example, they had sheet-pan turkey with green beans and minestrone soup with cauliflower rice instead of pasta.
Bedtime snack: (I allow for three and then tell them the kitchen is closed!)
Kid 1: small cup of Fairlife milk
Kid 2: muenster cheese, apple and Rocky Mountain toast using one slice
of Trader Joe’s 7 grain sprouted bread
Kid 3: cucumber, cheddar cheese, apple
Sometimes this is followed up with a cup of chamomile tea which helps them to (finally!) fall asleep.
One last tip that’s helped save meal planning time and effort is a sign I made and posted in our kitchen with different choices for each food group. That way, if a child says s/he is hungry and doesn’t know what to eat, I direct them to the sign for ideas. It’s also useful for packing lunches and making grocery lists.
Bon appetit, sweet dreams, and stay safe!
Sivan Greenspan, MSEd, is a mom with three kids + one pandemic puppy. She’s frequently learning to adapt from her country-bumpkin childhood days in Youngstown, Ohio, to her current fast-paced East Coast home in Teaneck, New Jersey. Greenspan used to be an early-childhood and elementary-school teacher in New York City. When the global pandemic hit, she transformed into an informal health and parenting coach for her fellow homebound friends and family as near as Westchester, New York to as far as Anchorage, Alaska. She is grateful for coffee, podcasts and Zoom.