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Healthy Recipes for Kids from a Top Vegan Blogger
When I saw a picture of a fruit and veggie platter in the shape of the faces of Sesame Street characters, I had to find out who created it—to be able to meld such creativity into a healthy recipe for kids takes real skill. The mastermind mom behind that artful platter is vegan blogger and mom of four, Neeva Kedem. Her blog, Never Meat Again, is chock-full of healthy vegan (natch!) recipes for the whole family.
Besides being a fabulous chef, her other talent is getting her kids excited about eating their greens. My kids, like many, are not so compliant (they’d rather clean up their toys than eat broccoli). So I spoke to Kedem about how she tricks her kids into thinking healthy food is fun, and nabbed her favorite healthy smoothie recipe.
Elizabeth Street: We love your sesame street veggie and fruit platter. Can you please give us an easy way to replicate it?
Neeva Kedem: The idea is to play with the food. When I started my vegan way, I was very worried about the kids. I knew they must get all the nutrition they need in order to grow strong and healthy, so I just had to be creative with their plates. I gave a character to every plate—mostly funny faces at the beginning and then trains, cars, et cetera, but faces were always a favorite. My advice is to let your imagination play. Go back to your own childhood. Think of how the carrot can be cut into a nose, and how any food can be chopped in so many different ways.
ES: What are some other fun ways to present healthy food at birthday parties?
NK: Create something that the kids like out of fruits instead of serving cake. One little tip: when I really want the kids to eat, I make the whole thing sweeter by drizzling maple syrup, agave syrup, or even honey on top of the fruit platter right before serving (make sure to have many napkins around!). Just don’t add sugar! Adding syrup or honey will make the platter way sweeter and therefore more appealing to some kids. Just don’t forget that, unfortunately, most kids are used to high-sugar foods, and the natural fruits may not be sweet enough for them.
ES: How do you get your kids excited about eating healthy foods?
NK: I admit that it’s not easy. In today’s world, when you are bombarded with junk food, it’s a great challenge. I try to educate them in many ways. With my five year old boy, for example, I go for the “become big and strong” thing. He already knows that certain foods make you “big and strong,” and that some do the opposite. And don’t get me wrong—my kids enjoy lots of sweets like cookies, cakes, chocolate and ice creams, but they’re all natural and healthy, and either homemade or purchased from health food stores. The good thing is that taste buds can change with time, so once the kids get used to specific kinds of food, they start liking them. Funny anecdote: one day my boy asked me if I would also become bigger after eating so many vegetables. I found it hard to explain why a food that makes him big will actually make mommy smaller!
ES: Can you share a favorite healthy smoothie recipe with us?
NK: Here’s a morning smoothie recipe that kids love:
1-2 Kale leaves
1-2 spoons raw pumpkin seeds
2 juicy dates
½ c. almonds milk
1 ice cube
Mix it all in a blender and enjoy! This smoothie is packed with iron, calcium, potassium and much more—I call it an “energy bomb.” Young kids tend to follow their parents, so try to make smoothie drinking a family morning ritual. Drink it with joy, and they’ll want to do it too—this is true for the morning smoothie and pretty much everything else!