Family Food Smart Swaps

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Family Food Smart Swaps

As I continue to work on keeping my New Year's resolution of making more home cooked meals for my family, I decided to take it a step further and begin what I call my Family Food Smart Swaps project.  It isn't always easy to get the family to give up old habits like processed packaged sugary treats for new swaps like a frozen banana drizzled with a little dark chocolate.  But guess what?  The banana recipe was completely my tween daughter's idea after she searched in vain, but came up short looking for unhealthy treats in our pantry.  The plan is working!  
Several life events inspired me to take up this family plan which included family illness in 2013 because my kids (like a lot of kids today) are over-scheduled balancing grades with sports and other activities.  
Another motivation, which threw me for a bit, was my tween daughter eating a sugary snack one minute and then complaining about her changing figure the next.  How do I respond to a pubescent moody girl without damaging her self image or confidence and/or brushing off what is an important fear of upsetting her?!  Talking with an anxious young lady about sugar, calories and waistlines can be a tricky area, so I did some brainstorming.  First and foremost, I removed most of the evil processed foods from our kitchen that are highly addictive.  Next I found a terrific book about how to converse with daughters about food and body image and then I put our family food smart swap plan into motion.  
Read on to see more about the very helpful book I found and to see some of the easy and tasty quick recipe swaps that my family, to my pleasant surprise, have embraced.  I will show you a salad with a homemade dressing that is loved by my daughter and her friends and a healthy chocolate banana milkshake that doesn't have contain trace of ice cream, but tastes like it does.  
But first, here are some rules and tools that I had to implement with the family as I kicked off my family food smart swap plan.

Family Food Smart Swap Rules & Tools
Change is hard and when it comes to trying to train your taste buds (and worse your family's taste buds) to ditch the sugary foods for more nutritious choices, it feels like an uphill battle at times.  So I decided to share some rules and tools with my family to make this transition a little less dramatic and a little bit easier.  Here is what we have been doing...

1.  Label reading - if you can't pronounce the ingredients, then you probably don't want those ingredients in your body,  My heart feels happy when I now see my daughter reading the labels in the grocery store.  A great example of a family approved snack bar that adheres to my labeling rule is the KIND bar.  For example, the KIND Healthy Grains Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt bar only has 6 grams of sugar and lists ingredients that we can pronounce and recognize.  Foods like gluten free oats, brown rice, millet, gluten free oat flour and other good ingredients are what make up a KIND bar.  KIND bars are sold at Sprouts Farmers Market, AJ's Fine Foods and other stores and you can see their entire line of yummy snacks at  
Another great example is Nonna's Sauces that are sold at AJ's Fine Foods.  Her yummy pasta sauce jars are clearly labeled with all whole ingredients that can be pronounced and recognized.  
2.  Shopping rules - I had to tell my husband and my son (who now drives and goes to the grocery store at times) to please refrain from bringing sugar and junk food into the house.  Several of my gal pals told me that is their rule, no bad food in the house because if it is there, everyone eats it.  Just say no to the junk food at the grocery store.
3.  Stop premeal snacking - When the kids arrive home hungry and I am halfway through cooking dinner, I have to demand that they refrain from snacking so they don't fill up and then not eat as much as the good food that I have prepared.  I really have to watch them as they will sometimes quietly sneak into the pantry and take a few snack bites when my back is turned cooking at the stove.
4.  Half portion rule on the bad stuff - When someone does bring junk food home, we try to follow the half portion rule.  Have a few yummy bites, enjoy and then toss or share the other half.  Less calories and less junky ingredients make it into our bodies.

Having a few good tools on hand makes your job easier when you are putting your family foods smart swap plan into action.  The tools I recommend are:
*A good blender like the Omega TF6064S that is heavy duty and multi-tasks by performing not only blending, but also juicing, making frozen desserts, salsas, dips, dough, mousse, batters, dressings and more.  It has a 64 oz BPA free shatter-proof container that enables me to make healthy recipes for the entire family and it comes with a 10 year warranty, so this is a good product to invest in once you decide to make more whole foods for your family. This blender can be purchased HERE.

*Apple slicer - such a simple tool, but makes putting out apple slices quick and easy, so we now in the habit of adding apple slices to one meal a day.  You know what they apple a day!
*The very helpful book called "Nourishing Your Daughter - Help Your Child Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food and Her Body" by Carol Beck.  This is a wonderful book that gives parents ideas on how to respond when your daughter tells you that she "looks fat" or feels self conscious about her appearance.  With specific tips on how to best respond to her stressful issues with food, this book has been really helpful for me.  Now that my daughter is a tween, she has come to me about body issues and food choices.  I now have the tools and positive responses ready to share with her when these situations arise...and with teen girls, these issues come up more than once.  The book encourages healthy body habits without the control battles that is a normal part of a girl establishing her independence from her Mother as she grows up...and Carol Beck's strategies have really worked!  I highly recommend this book that can be purchased for under $12 at Amazon .

Two Of Our Healthier Family Favorite Recipes:
Here are two family friendly recipes that I have prepared to replace less nutritious foods...
Simple Salad with Homemade Vinaigrette Dressing
To swap bottled salad dressings that are loaded with unrecognizable ingredients, I make this super simple vinaigrette dressing that I learned from my cooking teacher, Lyn McGuire (owner of Nonna's Sauces that I mentioned earlier in this article).  So simple and my daughter and all of her friends like this too.  Here is the recipe...
1.  Find a lettuce (other than iceberg which doesn't have near the nutritional value of other types of lettuce) that your kids like.  Mine like the green leaf and I mix in romaine, too.  I found a local farm, Sunizona Farms that delivers weekly produce and more to local Valleywide restaurants and other locations for weekly pick-up.  So every week, I go to my favorite healthy cafe, Pomegranate Cafe to get my Sunizona Farmbox.  This has been such a gem of a local find and I love knowing that my family is eating fruits and veggies that came straight from the farm to our home.  Check it out for yourself at  
2.  Cut cherry tomatoes into halves and add to salad.  Next add sliced cucumbers and very thin slivers of red onion.  Toss.
3.  To make dressing, simply eye and pour olive oil over salad.  Then eye and pour Trader Joe's White Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing over salad.  Add a dash of sea salt and pepper and toss.

I have achieved one big goal of finding a healthy salad that my family likes, but weaning them off ice cream hasn't been as easy.  So I was thrilled to find this healthy version of a chocolate banana milkshake that is made without fattening and sugary ice cream.  The trick is to use frozen bananas to get the consistency of a thick and yummy milkshake.  Here is the recipe that I found on the Omega website that I checked out when I was experimenting with my new blender.

A Healthier Chocolate Banana Milkshake
What You Need:
2 frozen bananas
2 Tablespoons chocolate powder (I used Sprouts Farmers Market Cocoa Powder) because the only ingredient listed is cocoa with zero sugar
1 cup almond milk (my girl is allergic to tree nuts, so skim milk in this recipe for her)
2 squirts Stevia or Vanilla Stevia
What You Do:
1.  Add all ingredients to blender.
2.  Blend until smooth and serve and enjoy.  
It is that easy and that tasty!  Love it!

What are some of your family's favorite food swaps?  Share in the comments section and remember to check out my blog at for more healthy recipes, parenting talk, pet stuff, beauty news and more.  I will do another segment next week with our favorite convenience food swaps, since we don't always have time to make recipes, as I continue my quest to fill our dinner table with smart food swaps for a healthier 2014.