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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Crispy Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries (52 New Foods, Around the World Week 8)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on February 24, 2013 13 Comments
crispy baked sweet potato fries


How to make sweet potato fries so crispy and tasty they’re worthy of a French bistro.


I have a weakness (well, maybe more than one). Frites. When we meet, I have a terrible time resisting their unhealthy whispers. I know better. I want to set a good example for my kids. I don’t want to like them. But I do. This relationship kind of reminds me of high school boyfriends.

In the final stretch of our 52 New Foods adventure in France, it would be impossible not to mention one of my favorite French bistro meals: steak and frites. Instead of avoiding it, I decided to give it a healthy makeover, starting with the frites. Not only are these fries tasty and easy to make, they are nutritious. According to Mark Bittman of The New York Times, their recent rise in popularity is due in no small part to their nutritional profile.

Most of the recipes I’ve tried in the past have resulted in soggy sticks, so I worked diligently until I figured out how to make sweet potato fries crispy like their unhealthy cousins. The trick? Cut the fries a little thinner, avoid layering them on the pan, and be sure to bake until the color turns to golden brown with dark edges and the skin is a little bit puffy. Serve them piping hot to avoid letting sogginess sink in. Trust me, that won’t be hard to do.

What we Liked: These crispy oven baked sweet potato fries are easy to make and feel like an indulgence. I never have to encourage my kids to try a bite of these healthy frites. More often, I sit at the table thinking, “I should have made a bigger batch!”

Crispy Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 to 30 minutes
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Crunch a Color points: 15 yellow / orange

Ingredients:

baked sweet potato fries ingredients


2 lbs sweet potato
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel and slice the sweet potato. Cut into ¼” to ½” wide sticks to ensure crispy frites! This is a fun and easy job for the kids to do. After peeling, have them cut through the middle of the sweet potato first, then set the flat side down to cut in half again before slicing into sticks.

how to make baked sweet potato fries step 1


2. Place the sweet potato fries on a lined bake sheet, drizzle with olive oil and salt, then toss with your hands. This step helps to save on cleanup.

how to make baked sweet potato fries step 2


3. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Serve hot!

crispy baked sweet potato fries 2

how to make baked sweet potato fries


* How do you like to make sweet potato fries? What’s your trick for making them crispy? Do you have a favorite spice that you like to add to these healthy fries? Share your tips and tricks!


Craving more easy recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s new food: Apple galette.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color® -- award-winning nutrition games that make healthy eating fun. 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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My French Food Flop (52 New Foods, Around the World Week 6)

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on February 11, 2013 3 Comments
healthy leek soup recipe


Resiliency is the parenting manifesto du jour. But as a busy parent, being resilient (especially in the kitchen) is something I find hard to do.


All I wanted was to make the perfect leek soup. I wanted to get it done, have my kids rave about it, and move onto the next thing. In my racing mind I was thinking, “I’m busy, I’m tired, and I just need to get this recipe done for the week.” The last thing I wanted was to fail.

Resiliency. Like “happiness” was last year, “resiliency” seems to be the new parenting manifesto. During a lively discussion about Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed, a friend suggested that maybe what our kids need is “resiliency camp.” A funny mental image, to be sure, but that may be missing the point. What experts are encouraging us to do as parents is to let our kids fail, in the service of building grit and character, and to set a good example by modeling this behavior ourselves -- welcoming failure and using it as a springboard to learn and grow.

I don’t know about you, but as a busy parent I have very little resiliency. In the rare moments when I do have it, I need to work hard to get it. This weekend, I had no resiliency. Absolutely none.

Like a well-mapped domino run, it was a series of missteps and errors on my part that led to my French food flop. After a year of getting my kids to try new foods, I should have known by now what works and what doesn’t work. Instead, I unwittingly proceeded down the path to failure with the force of a dragon.

Mistake #1: Not letting my kids choose.

When we started 52 New Foods, I made a pact with my kids: “You choose, we make it together.” The key to our success was putting my kids in charge of the adventure. Heading to the market on our typical weekend outing, my daughter wanted to make lemon tarts. “Deliciously French!” I thought. But I was unable to find a single recipe that wasn’t loaded with sugar and egg yolks. So I decided to make leek soup. How did I go from lemons to leeks? Worse, I didn’t ask. I just decided.

Mistake #2: Forcing the issue.

My first attempt at leek soup was a complete flop. “French Glue” would have been a better description of my concoction. But blinded by my busy-ness, I went ahead and served it to my family. “It doesn’t look good.” my daughter complained. “Just try it!” I coaxed. “James, you try everything I make. Come on, just give it a taster!” He sniffed, he sipped, and then he shouted, “Blech!” That was not what I wanted to hear. “It can’t be that bad!” I retorted.

But it was.

My husband, my cheerleader and biggest supporter, slowly took a sip of soup. “I think you need to try this one again.” he encouraged. Not only was my soup the texture of Oobleck, it was overloaded with salt. In the final steps of the recipe I had forgotten to add the seasoning. So I put a dash of salt in the pot, and got distracted, forgetting to blend it all together. Ready for lunch, I served up a cup, scooping from the top of the pot. Et Voila! Simmering, salty Oobleck.

Mistake #3: Adding insult to injury.

In a huff, I grabbed my reusable grocery bags and stomped out the door. “You’re back!” greeted the clerk at our local market. “How did it turn out?” I grimaced. She backed away. I wasn’t making friends. Re-stocked with the fresh ingredients I needed to give my recipe another try, I raced home. “Did you just drive to the market?” my husband innocently enquired. Our favorite local market is two blocks from our house. “Yes, I did!” I snapped. So much for setting a good example of how we can take care of the environment by walking to the store.

In the end, I was able to make a delicious soup. A simple and soulful French Vichyssoise that would make Julia Child proud. I hope you will learn from my mistakes, and then try this healthy leek soup recipe (and enjoy it) with your kids. It will be a long time before my kids venture to try leek soup with me again, whether it’s tasty or not. I guess I’ll be dining alone at lunch this week. I hear leek soup is on the menu.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color® -- award-winning nutrition games that make healthy eating fun. 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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52 New Foods: Our Journey to Happy, Healthy Eating

Posted by Jennifer Tyler Lee on February 10, 2013 0 Comments


52 weeks, 52 new foods. How our family discovered the secret to happy, healthy eating.


It all boils down to pasta and peas. That’s why I started this journey. Determined to find a better way, I was on a mission to end mealtime battles over broccoli. I resolved to make the family table a place that we all wanted to be. I did it by making it fun and focusing on one simple goal: 52 weeks, 52 new foods.

It’s been a year of ups and downs. One of the highlights was when my daughter created her very own recipe for Michelle Obama’s Healthy Lunch Challenge, Friendship Garden Soup. There were lows, too, like when she chose Cheetos for her lunch during an interview about how to get kids to eat healthy. But when you put all of the good with the bad, the tough days with the terrific days, it was worth every minute.

During a frantic visit to the grocery store, in the days leading up to Christmas, it all came together for me. Standing with my son in the frozen food section, feeling dizzy about how I was going to host 12 guests for three non-stop days of holiday meals, I suggested we pick up a few prepared foods to have “as backup.” I reached into the freezer and his sweet little hand grabbed my arm. I paused. With a look of complete bewilderment he stated with a kindergartener’s conviction, “But Mommy, we don’t eat anything from a box!”   

I’m honored to have shared our story with The Huffington Post, Jamie Oliver, Edible Silicon Valley and Canada AM. Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of families who have cheered us on and joined our journey to healthy eating. The support I’ve found through this community is one of the many wonderful (and unexpected) gifts I discovered this year. 

If you’re just tuning into 52 New Foods, welcome to the table! I’m so glad that you’re here. Together with your family, check out our best healthy recipes list to get inspired and then join us each week as we sample and savor foods from around the world. Share your ideas, recipes and questions with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or simply on this blog. I hope 52 New Foods will help you plant the seeds of change at your family table like it did for me.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color® -- award-winning nutrition games that make healthy eating fun. 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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