If you read “Hidden Dangers Lurking In Your Child's Lunch” or “3 Simple Steps To Creating A Healthy Lunch Box For Your Kid” then you know that I'm a big fan of being wary about how you feed your kids.
Fortunately, my wife feels the same way. She is constantly ensuring that our children's meals don't destroy their tiny, fragile guts with gluten, soy and commercial dairy, and she supplies them with high daily doses of brain-boosting fish oil, immune-boosting coconut oil and nutrient rich, liquid multi-vitamins.
It's amazing to see how much better a child thinks and performs when they're eating healthy, and to learn why, you should read the book “Gut And Psychology Syndrome“. In that book, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, and many other clinicians, note that the balance of bacteria in the gut, presence of foods that produce intolerances or allergic reactions, and a leaky gut are frequently the cause of hyperactivity, attention deficits and dyslexia, especially in kids (in older people, these same issues can cause bipolar,schizophrenia or depression).
Or, if you want a quicker explanation, here's an excerpt from an excellent article in Scientific American “Think Twice: How the Gut's “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being”:
“The little brain in our innards, in connection with the big one in our skulls, partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body.”
Which brings us to the topic at hand: how to create a no-guilt birthday party meal for your kids, or you. My wife Jessa recently posted the following excerpt on the BenGreenfieldFitness Inner Circle forum, where she's constantly sharing her cooking and meal prep videos, recipes, and healthy living tips.
How To Create a No-Guilt Birthday Party Meal For Your Kids, or You.
So our twin boys celebrated their 4th birthday this last Monday.
Like all parents, you want to make a child's birthday a very special day, filled with all the fun and joy in the world. Many times this results in you feeling as though you need to indulge your little one with food they may not normally get, activities they may not normally get to do, and many, many presents.
I am a big fan of spoiling your child on their birthday and making them feel like royalty, but I think you can do this without derailing their diet, sabotaging their immune system or giving them a tummy ache. After all, for a child who doesn't know any better, this is really just doing your kid a big disservice on their birthday – not to mention creating exhausted, cranky kids that no one wants to be around.
So while it's not a good idea to indulge your little one with what ever food he or she wants for their birthday, you can still create a very special day for them without destroying their health, physical or mental function.
I'll explain how.
River and Terran, our twin boys, are what I like to call “even tempered kids”. They have been this way since birth, and I credit a huge part of this to their diet. From birth, I breastfed, and once the boys were of appropriate age, began blending organic fruits and vegetables at home, rather than purchasing processed baby food. We did not use any infant formulas, but once breastfeeding was finished, we instead gave our kid's goats milk in their bottles, along with daily doses of fish oil and a liquid multi-vitamin.
So what do our kids eat now that they are beyond toddler stage?
In particular (to keep things simple), there are three main things that we limit in our house:
1) Refined sugar
2) Modern, refined grains
3) Commercial dairy milk
Instead, we are big on fresh raw vegetables, fresh fruit, lots of good fats, and organic sources of meat. Here's a sample day of what our kids eats:
Sample Greenfield Kids' Eating Day
Snack: Almond butter on rice cakes
Lunch: Avocados, olives and sprouts, with a protein such as a boiled free-range egg or sardine (yes, our kids love sardines!).
Dinner: Chicken, steak or fish with quinoa, rice or sweet potatoes, and a side of veggies.
Dessert: Put that thought on hold. We'll get there with the birthday party meal details.
So if this is our kid's normal diet, how were we able to have a happy birthday and indulge our kids with out giving them refined sugar, no modern grains, and milk?
What happened to cake and ice cream (both filled with sugar and milk)? How can you celebrate a birthday without those two party staples?
The Birthday Meal Plan
I asked the boys and they had made a few creative, four-year-old requests on what they wanted to eat on their birthday. In particular, they wanted:
I was initially a bit puzzled about how I was going to combine those foods into one meal – so I instead made two special birthday meals.
For breakfast, we had scrambled eggs and bacon (local, fresh bacon strips – not the heavily processed stuff!). This was pretty normal and nothing crazy, but it was pretty special to them because they love bacon!
Later that morning, after swim lessons, we visited the supermarket. There, I had the boys help me pick out the best produce for our birthday dinner, and a little something special for themselves (fruit leather). Our boys love to navigate the produce aisle, looking at and touching new fruits and vegetables, and I highly recommend that when you visit the grocery store, you try to keep your kids excited about all the colors, textures and names of fresh foods!
Back at home, we geared up for lunch, and for lunch, I wanted to make them something a little above and beyond their normal lunches.
So I served them flax crackers topped with chopped avocado, cherry tomatoes, black olives and carrot sticks (kids love color), and also baked up a quick batch of sweet potato fries, which are very easy to make, and family favorite. Thus far, we'd avoided an dietary derailments, and still accomplished a special day!
So the boys went down for their nap in great anticipation of birthday dinner, cake and ice cream.
During their nap I put together some summer rolls.
When served with a tasty almond sauce (healthier than a peanut sauce), kids love chomping down on these summer rolls, and here is how to make them (if you're a member of the Inner Circle, just ask me in the forum if you have recipe questions):
Summer Rolls Recipe
1 pkg of rice paper rounds
1 pkg of rice noodles
2 pkgs of sprouts
2 carrots shredded
1 bell pepper cut thin
1 bunch diced green onions
1 bunch basil
Begin with the eggs. Beat all four eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Warm a well greased pan on stove top. Pour half the egg mixture in the pan. Let the eggs cook almost all the way through before flipping. Just brown the second side. Remove disc eggs and let cool. Repeat this procedure with other half of egg mixture. Once eggs are cool, cut them into small, rectangular strips.
While the eggs are happening and after, make summer rolls: Cover noodles with boiling-hot water and soak 15 minutes, then drain well in a sieve. Pat dry between paper towels and toss with vinegar and salt to taste.
Put a double thickness of paper towel on a work surface and fill a shallow baking pan with warm water. Soak 1 rice-paper round (make sure there are no holes) in warm water until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute, then transfer to paper towels.
Next, fill the rolls with all the other ingredients like you would a burrito, making sure to fold up all the sides. The rice paper rounds are sticky, so to try not to tear them or make hole, since this stickiness is what holds them together.
Almond sauce to go along with the summer rolls – ingredients:
1/4 cup creamy almond sauce
2 tsp of maple syrup (optional)
2 Tbl of Tamari or shoyu
1 Tbl brown rice vinegar
2 tsp of grated ginger root
1 -2 tsp hot pepper oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. The longer you cook it, the thicker it gets. You can add water if it gets to thick for your liking.
But what about the chicken?
I don't know about you, but after a day of watching boys and hand rolling rice noodle wraps, it can be a bit taxing to tackle full meal preparation. So here, I cheated a bit, with the ultimate grain free meal that has chicken, fresh vegetables, eggs and rice noodles: Pad Thai!
Of course, the nice part about Pad Thai is that although you can make it yourself, it's quite affordable and easy to find at any local Thai restaurant, so I simply sent Ben out with the boys post-nap to grab a fresh batch from our favorite Thai restaurant.
The boys were quite pleased with their dinner and were now ready to hit the cake and ice cream. So here's the part you may have been waiting for…dessert!
Birthday Party Dessert
For the last and most special part of the birthday meal, I made an almond flour cake with coconut cream frosting and chocolate-coconut ice cream. And here are the recipes, in all their tasty glory (both cake and frosting are from NourishedKitchen.com)
Almond flour cake ingredients (this makes two 8 inch round cakes):
1 dozen eggs
2 cups coconut milk
up to 3/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 cups almond flour, plus extra for greasing the pan
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
coconut oil, for greasing the pan
1 recipe coconut frosting
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Beat a dozen eggs, two cups coconut milk and up to three-quarters of a cup of honey together with vanilla, coconut and orange extracts until smooth, creamy and uniform in both color and texture.
3. Dump two cups almond flour, a half-teaspoon baking soda and a quarter teaspoon unrefined sea salt into the mixture of eggs, honey and extracts, and continue to beat until a smooth batter forms.
4. Grease and flour two eight-inch cake tins.
5. Pour, or spoon, the cake batter into the greased and floured tins, shaking them to even out the batter and smoothing it with the back of a spoon or with a rubber spatula.
6. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about forty minutes, or until the cake separates from the sides of the tin and a toothpick inserted into the cake’s center comes out clean.
7. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the tin and frosting with the coconut frosting below.
Coconut frosting ingredients:
2 cups coconut spread
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
up to 1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
Coconut frosting preparation:
1. Beat all ingredients together until thoroughly combined.
2. Refrigerate the frosting for five to ten minutes so that it stiffens a bit.
3. Remove from the refrigerator, beat for about one minute.
4. Frost your cake.
Coconut Milk Ice Cream
1 can coconut milk, full-fat
2 eggs or 4 egg yolks (yolks alone will give even more richness)
Seeds from 2 fresh vanilla beans or 4 tbsp real vanilla extract
Possible flavoring options (add any or a combination of the fallowing flavorings)
1/2 cup of your favorite berries (chopped or blended to a puree);
1/2 cup coconut flakes;
1/4 cup finely chopped mint;
1/4 cup chopped nuts;
Lemon, lime or orange zest;
3 tbsp raw honey;
6 Tbl coco powder
Ice cream Preparation:
1. Boil some water in a pot and reduce to a simmer.
2. Place a heat proof bowl over it in a double boiler fashion and pour the coconut milk in it. Put vanilla seeds or vanilla extract with the coconut milk and heat until hot, but make sure it doesn’t come to a boil. If using flavorings such as mint or dark chocolate, you can add them now. You can also add chocolate at the end of the process to keep the pieces whole.
3. Whisk the eggs of yolks in a separate bowl. Add one ladleful of the now hot coconut milk to the eggs while whisking quite vigorously. What you’re doing is tempering the eggs and slowly bringing the temperature up without cooking the eggs and risking that they scramble. Add two or three other ladlefuls of the coconut milk mixture and incorporate them to the eggs while whisking continuously.
4. Take the tempered eggs and whisk in the bowl where the rest of the coconut milk is on the double boiler.
5. Whisk for a couple of minutes non-stop to form a thick custard. Make sure it doesn’t get too hot and the simmering water doesn’t touch the bowl.
6. Once the custard is ready, remove from the heat source and let it cool on the counter or the refrigerator.
7. You can add any other flavoring you want to use once the custard is cold enough to put a finger in it and feel comfortable.
8. Let it cool even more in the refrigerator before freezing it.
9. Put in your ice cream maker and follow its instructions or put in a baking dish in the freezer and stir vigorously every 30 minutes for about 2 to 3 hours until it’s set.
10. Take it out of the freezer for about 10 minutes before enjoying so it softens a bit. Serve with added coconut milk, berries, mint, coconut flakes or any other flavoring you might like.
I have to admit that I felt pretty good about the boy's birthday. The whole day was a smash hit for the little foodies, and accomplished exactly what I was going for: satisfied, healthy kids without a sugar crash, and no guilt for me.
And that's how I created a no-guilt, healthy birthday party meal for our kids.
Questions, comments or feedback? Leave them below!