Back on Track: How To Get Your Family Eating Healthy (Again)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on January 09, 2014 0 Comments

how to eat healthy again

Establish a new set of healthy habits for your family—the easy way.


It's that time of year, again. Time for resolutions. Most people make resolutions that they don't keep. I was one of those people, until I discovered a simple way to establish a new set of healthy habits for my family. It didn't take a heroic effort. We didn't have to give anything up. Instead, we focused on growth, exploration and trying new things. Small steps led to big changes. I share the secrets to our success in the James Beard Award Winning magazine, Edible. Be sure to check out the Winter Issue, which you can find at Whole Foods Markets.

Ready to Recharge?

Pushing a rock up an icy hill: That’s how I feel about getting myself, and my family, back on the healthy eating track in the New Year. Like most families, we enjoy the holidays with all of their pleasures—including the sweet ones. Come January, we’re ready to recharge. Here’s what we do to get back on track:

1) Set One Simple Goal, Together

If I had a dime for every resolution I’ve made, and broken, I could buy a lot of lattes. Each year, I would dutifully add “eat healthy” to the top of my list and fail by February. Then I stumbled on a way to get myself, and my family, eating healthier without a struggle. The secret was simple: one resolution, taken on together. For my family, trying one new food each week was the catalyst for all sorts of fun food adventures and a big shift in the way that we eat. It could just as easily be cooking together or shopping the farmers' market as a family every weekend. The key is to pick one simple goal that you can work on together.

2) Focus on Process, Not Product

Saying that we were going to “eat healthy” felt enormous, and amorphous. Even worse, I was focused on the wrong thing. What I learned from our experience trying one new food each week was a helpful reminder: The journey makes the difference. It didn’t matter whether we liked the new food or not. The point was that we enjoyed seeking out new foods together, and cooking new foods together and talking about new foods together. It was about the process, not the product—the journey, not the destination. Another important thing to remember is that any change worth making takes time. It’s a setup for disappointment if you expect to change your family’s eating habits in a week, or a month. Take the long view. Think about working towards your goal over the course of the year. There will be twists and turns along the way—and that’s fine! Know that when you reach your destination, there will be more to discover. There is always more to learn.

3) Set Up for Success

As you roll into the New Year, make it easy by setting up for success. Stock your fridge full of colors. Even the bleak winter months deliver loads of colorful produce: deep green kale, purple cauliflower, colorful rainbow carrots, juicy pink grapefruit, mellow yellow pears. Head out to your local farmers market to load up on your colors—along with a new food, or two, to try. Then try your best to start each day on the right foot with a healthy, colorful breakfast. What your family eats in the morning will set the tone for the day. Try something simple like broiled grapefruit with a drizzle of honey and a dash of ground ginger or Greek yogurt with homemade pear sauce. Carry those colors right through to dinner, along with a conversation about where your food adventures will take you next.

Jennifer Tyler Lee is the creator of the award-winning healthy eating game, Crunch a Color, and author of the forthcoming book, The 52 New Foods Challenge (Penguin/Avery 2014). Jennifer’s weekly new food adventures and easy recipes are featured at Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and The Huffington Post.

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Healthy Halloween: Treats, Tricks and Tips

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on October 31, 2013 0 Comments

Halloween treats are about to descend on our house. But this year I've got a plan for how to make Halloween a little healthier.


This week on the Huffington Post I'm talking about easy ways to make Halloween a little healthier. One easy strategy that we plan to try is to trade treats for treasures:

Five candies buys you a pack of hockey cards or a take-apart eraser. Twenty-five candies gets you a bucket of balls at the driving range. One hundred candies can be redeemed for tickets to the local college basketball game.

Visit The Huffington Post for more healthy Halloween treats, tricks and tips to keep your little ones healthy and happy this holiday.

A mother of two, Jennifer Tyler Lee is the creator of the award-winning healthy eating game, Crunch a Color®, and author of the upcoming book, The 52 New Foods Challenge (Penguin/Avery 2014), a week-by-week playbook to get your family eating healthy, one new food at a time. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game and she’s giving back to support non-profit kids’ nutrition programs. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color® has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Rachael Ray's Yum-O!, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods. Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.

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High Protein Snacks that Satisfy (52 New Foods, Week 41)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on October 15, 2013 0 Comments

high protein snacks nuts 52 new foods

Bring on the snacks! But when you do, make them high protein snacks.


Should I limit snacks to once a day like the French? Or serve them up every few hours to beat back mid-afternoon meltdowns? Debate on this topic is fierce. After many trials, I’ve found it’s best for my kids (and me) to snack—with a caveat. When we snack, we choose high protein snacks.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts may be high in calories, but they are also a great source of protein. They have an added benefit as well. They’re packed with omega-3 fats—the kind of fat that healthy bodies need. Although it’s better to source your omega-3 fats from fish, nuts provide another helpful source according to Walter Willett, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

Walnuts top our list, and we usually enjoy them with something equally crunchy like an apple. Our visit to the market this week uncovered an apple the size of a walnut, which made for a fun and nutritious snack. Simple and easy.

For kids with nut allergies, seeds can offer similar benefits. Our school is nut free, so our healthy protein snack of choice is an easy no bake cookie made with sunflower seeds, honey and oats.

More High Protein Snacks

Nuts are a great high protein snacks, but there are many others. Here are a few more favorites that regularly appear on our family table:

Beans: Edamame and chickpeas are great sources of protein. Try them in a healthy homemade hummus.

Greek Yogurt: Go Greek and nearly double your protein. Try it with homemade granola and a drizzle of maple syrup or blended into a pineapple smoothie.

Which are your favorite high protein snacks? Share your ideas!

A mother of two, Jennifer Tyler Lee is the creator of the award-winning healthy eating game, Crunch a Color®, and author of the upcoming book, The 52 New Foods Challenge (Penguin/Avery 2014), a week-by-week playbook to get your family eating healthy, one new food at a time. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game and she’s giving back to support non-profit kids’ nutrition programs. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color® has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Rachael Ray's Yum-O!, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods. Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.

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Figs and a Fulcrum: Rethinking Balanced Meals for Kids (Week 39, 52 New Foods)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on October 03, 2013 0 Comments

An unexpected scenario in our kitchen when we decided to try something new: cooking with figs.

Balanced precariously on a block of cheese was a ruddy wooden plank, two stainless steel bowls, a package of unsalted butter and a big batch of freshly picked figs. It was an unlikely scenario in our kitchen—one that I hadn’t expected when we decided to try cooking with figs.

A humble and unassuming basket of figs from a friend’s garden was the catalyst for our food experiment. When they arrived on our doorstop, we couldn’t ignore the signs. A new food for my kids, a relatively unfamiliar one to me, and a hallmark of the season, it seemed only natural to welcome figs to our family table and make it the food of the week in our 52 New Foods Challenge.

So together as a family, we talked about the ways we might like to try figs. I was happy to simply eat them straight from the basket, or tossed in a salad. My husband voted for an Italian-inspired recipe, prosciutto-wrapped figs with a blanket of basil. My son suggested trying them with a familiar favorite, yogurt and honey. My daughter took it up a notch, to a deliciously sinful fig bar recipe reminiscent of her favorite cookies: Fig Newtons. We had our plan, figs four ways.

It was that last recipe that inspired the makeshift scale that was constructed on my kitchen counter. The recipe called for a pound of fresh figs. Without a kitchen scale, how were we to know how many figs to use?

My six-year old son James is studying balance in his first-grade science class this semester—perfectly synchronous timing for our fig conundrum. He started by suggesting that we could just hold a package of butter in one hand and a bowl of figs in the other and guesstimate. But in action he discovered it was harder to decipher the difference between the two sides.

“We could make a scale!” he suggested, surprising even himself. “We need something long and straight for the arms.” He scurried to the garage, with my husband, to source materials for his contraption. The oversized ruler he used in his first try proved to be too flexible, which led him to the sturdy wooden plank. A block of cheese from our fridge served as the fulcrum. With the package of butter on one side, he started adding figs to the other—one by one—until he achieved the balance he was seeking. About 14 figs.

Google could have easily answered our question. Or I could have just bought a basic kitchen scale. But those solutions would have lessened the learning that was at hand. By letting James experiment, and figure out a solution for himself, he had the opportunity to learn much more than how many figs are in a pound. He exercised his creativity in coming up with a solution, constrained by the materials at hand. He encountered failure (albeit a small one) and modified his method to find a new path, instead of just giving up. He worked persistently to find a solution and felt satisfied with himself at the end—a much different kind of satisfaction than the one he would have felt with a set of search results.

Yes, searching for the answer on Google would have been faster, easier, simpler. But like so many things in our 52 New Foods Challenge, the journey is about so much more than the destination.

A mother of two, Jennifer Tyler Lee is the creator of the award-winning healthy eating game, Crunch a Color®, and author of the upcoming book, The 52 New Foods Challenge (Penguin/Avery 2014), a week-by-week playbook to get your family eating healthy, one new food at a time. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game and she’s giving back to support non-profit kids’ nutrition programs. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color® has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Rachael Ray's Yum-O!, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods. Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.

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Basic Knife Skills: Hulled Strawberries (Week 24, 52 New Foods)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on June 27, 2013 1 Comment

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 1

Experimenting in the kitchen, my six-year-old discovers an easy way to hull strawberries.


Strawberry season is here! Our weekly visits to the farmers’ market always include a stop at the strawberry farmers’ stall. My kids happily fill up on samples, red juicy fruit dripping down their chins. We travel home, our market basket filled to the brim with fresh summer berries.

Exploring fun ways to cook with strawberries for my forthcoming book, THE 52 NEW FOODS CHALLENGE (Penguin / Avery 2014), we discovered that several recipes call for hulled strawberries. But teaching a kindergartener to independently wield a paring knife to carefully carve out the hull of a fresh strawberry was proving to be a challenge (mostly for me!). Precariously holding a ripe, red berry in the palm of his hand while digging away at the center of the berry to remove its hull was not my idea of a safe project.

With a little experimenting, my six-year-old son James came up with this clever idea.

Here’s what you’ll need: fresh strawberries, a paring knife and a chopstick.

hulled strawberries basic knife skills what you need

Step 1: Make a bridge or fist with your hand, then cut off the green top of the strawberry and discard.

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 1

Step 2: Cut off the tip and place it in a bowl.

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 2

Step 3: Using a chopstick, poke the hull out by pushing the chopstick through the top of the berry. The hull will pop out easily.

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 3

Step 4: Gently remove the hull with your fingers. Voila! Hulled strawberries!

hulled strawberries basic knife skills step 4

Step 5: Proceed with chopping your berries. Remember to keep the flat side of the fruit down.

What are your easy tips for hulling strawberries? Share your ideas!

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