by Karen Ranzi, M.A.
Much research in the past decade has reported the immense benefits of eating mainly fresh plant foods, or eating them exclusively. Raw fruits and vegetables, sprouts, sea vegetables, nuts and seeds are vitamin and mineral packed. Nutrients can be severely depleted from 70 to 85% by means of the cooking process. Organic, living foods provide “life force energy,” so encouraging children to create healthful and tasty snacks, smoothies, salads, main dishes and desserts with living foods can enhance their abilities in all areas.
After increasing their children’s fresh plant food intake, here are some improvements in their health and wellbeing parents have pointed out to me: Reduction or absence of eye, ear, nose and throat infections, increased energy and longer attention spans, enhanced ability to process information, less hyperactivity, strengthened immune systems, enhanced athletic performance, and increased brainpower.
How can parents begin to feed their children more fruits and vegetables, given today’s plethora of toxic choices? Children are constantly programmed to think that fast processed foods are appropriate for the busy, stressful lives many people today lead. Most school cafeteria food is high in fat, overly processed anti-nutrient food. We want foods our children eat to be nourishing, but processed foods lack nutrients. Packaged, processed and refined foods are depleted of Vitamin C, folic acid and Vitamin B1, which cannot be absorbed from the added synthetic vitamins in so-called “enriched” foods. The famous 1960s nutritionist, Adele Davis, wrote that when foods are enriched, a hundred dollars is stolen and twenty-five cents is given back.
Green smoothies are a great way for kids to start eating mineral-dense leafy green vegetables. Kids often love fruit, and adding fruit and greens together into a delicious green smoothie packs a lot of nutrition into a single food. At raw vegan events, I demonstrate with the following green smoothie at schools, colleges and universities, and the students always love its taste.
I recommend starting with 60% fruit and 40% leafy green vegetables. This should be made at home in the morning. It takes only about five minutes, and can be eaten either for breakfast, or children can eat it later for their school lunch:
Piña Colada Smoothie:
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1 big chunk pineapple
- 1 generous handful of baby spinach leaves
- 2 cups of filtered water
Blend until smooth, and relish that your child will be getting abundant vitamins from the fruit and plentiful amounts of vitamins and minerals from the spinach, which is also 49% protein by calories. Pack it in a glass jar or stainless steel thermos. This smoothie can be so filling that for some children, it’s a meal.
Dips are a fabulous way for kids to eat their sliced vegetables. My kids loved a “Creamy Cucumber Dill Dip” they learned to prepare by themselves. Theywould eat an abundance of sliced veggies, such as celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, etc. with this nutritious dip:
- 1 cup chopped cucumber
- 3 Tablespoons soaked pine nuts
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 soaked and pitted dates
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1 to 2 stalks celery
Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Add more dill if desired. Dips can be packed in tight containers and used with a variety of sliced vegetables at lunch.
You may ask, “What about something more filling to satisfy my child’s appetite?” Since children love wraps and eating burrito-style, let’s invent a yummy and healthy Almond Taco filling which can be used inside a whole grain wrap or, even more nutritious, a soft cabbage leaf or Romaine lettuce leaf used as the wrap.
Almond Taco Filling:
- 1 cup almonds, soaked 8-12 hours
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup organic salt-free sun-dried tomatoes, soaked 15 minutes, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons red onion (optional)
- 3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro,
- chopped 1 teaspoon each cumin and paprika
Put all ingredients into a food processor with an S-blade. Process until smooth, adding a little water if needed until the consistency of a traditional bean dip is reached. Place in the whole grain wrap or lettuce or cabbage leaf wrap. Top with freshly made salsa and a small mashed avocado. (For lunch this should be packed separately as the lettuce or cabbage leaf will get messy and soft from the taco filling).
If you think the above lunch options will be thrown in the garbage and replaced by fast foods, there are solutions for this. Parents frequently ask me what to do with their child who refuses to make nutritional changes toward eating whole, living plant foods. I suggest starting somewhere, which may mean integrating raw foods into the foods that they already easily accept.
There are wonderful ways of incorporating fresh, nutrient-dense plant foods with whole cooked foods. For example, some children love tabouleh, which is a Middle Eastern combination of bulghur (streamed cracked wheat), parsley, diced tomatoes, lemon, olive oil, and scallions. You can substitute fresh cauliflower, ground briefly in a food processor for the bulghur wheat, and many children will still love the taste. If switching from bulghur to cauliflower should prove too much of a jump, then focus on adding more raw foods, such as a diced cucumber and celery, so the tabouleh is rich with fresh plant nourishment. You can transition toward raw by gradually increasing the amount of cauliflower and diminishing the amount of bulghur each time you make tabouleh.
Or if your children insist on eating sandwiches, make salad sandwiches consisting of lettuce, tomatoes and a tablespoon of raw humus (a spread made of sprouted garbanzo beans, or a no-bean humus made with zucchini and soaked sesame seeds) on sprouted gluten-free, whole grain bread with strips of carrots, celery and red pepper on the sides.
Even children who are unwilling to give up processed foods can make nutritional improvements simply by eating salads before unhealthful dishes. One mother brought her children a beautiful big bowl of salad when they were attending a pizza party, and all the children at the party joined in eating salad before having the pizza.
It is our responsibility as parents to pack healthful lunches for our children when they’re away from home, and to teach them about the superiority of whole plant foods. Uncooked greens, fruits, vegetables, soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds are called “live” (rhymes with thrive) foods because their nutrients are intact. Living foods are free from the harmful chemicals that high cooking temperatures create, and their vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber remain whole. Complete nutrition, undamaged by fire, helps prevent disease, prevents obesity, and increases strength and energy.
Karen Ranzi, M.A. Author: Creating Healthy Children through Attachment Parenting and Raw Foods and Raw Vegan Recipe Fun for Families www.superhealthychildren.com