(Below is an article I wrote for AZ Parenting a few years ago. It includes the Chocotillas (TM) original recipe! )
Time off from school does not mean time off from eating healthy. Whether your children will be at camp, the pool, or loiter around the house this summer, parents need to teach children to prepare their own refreshing snacks that are healthy. It takes just a little guidance to prepare your children for a lifetime of healthy cooking independence.
Your first goal is to get rid of the processed junk food that people mistakenly equate with “snack.” Instead, stock the house with healthy ingredients. The best staples are items like cheese sticks, baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, hummus dip, soy nut butter, Greek yogurt, dried nuts, whole wheat tortillas or other breads from whole grains, and especially, a selection of fresh, juicy summer fruits. Your child can mix these ingredients for a variety of snacks. Remember, if your child is sensitive to a particular ingredient, you can always find a healthy substitute.
Next, it’s time to think outside of the boring sandwich box. Think of cream cheese, yogurt, hummus, and even cheese sticks as the base ingredient with potential. Your child can mix colorful vegetables or fruits with these. Then your young chef can wrap them all up in a baked whole grain lavash bread, corn or wheat tortilla, or pita bread. One easy favorite is to add a spoonful of cocoa powder into the yogurt or cream cheese, mix it well, and sprinkle blueberries on top before wrapping it up!
Of course, you need to practice making the recipes with your children the first time. Just one exaggerated gesture like “Ooh my hand is dizzy from the spinning” of the yogurt, or “look at the blueberry poke-a-dots” will capture their imagination and inspire them to recreate the recipe on their own.
Even if you don’t have time to make the entire recipe together, you can ask them to help decide between two healthy equivalent ingredients. For example, you can ask your child to help decide whether to use cucumbers or strawberries for mixing with the yogurt, whether to chop or slice them, and whether to put them into the yogurt, on top of the yogurt or under the yogurt. You can ask for “help” to decide whether to spread the mix onto the tortilla and roll it up or fold it into triangles.
When your children participate in the preparation, they are far more likely to eat the food. At the HeartMark Health classes, children discover they love new foods that they would never try before, solely because they made it themselves. For instance, many of students eat vegetables like zucchini and eggplant, just because they made it during the Ratatouille cooking lesson.
Finally, as an adult, you need to model healthy eating habits. Try eating a healthy meal with exaggerated pleasure on your face. Children will notice and internalize your sensations as their own when they eat the same meal. For example, next time you eat a healthy salad, make sure you point out the crunch, juiciness, tanginess, and marvel at all the colors. Use mealtime as a learning opportunity.
Remember—when your child takes a bite from a healthy snack every day, they develop the taste buds and pleasure sensations at eating such flavors as adults. So even a small bite of a healthy food is a big win! And the reverse is true—a bite from an unhealthy snack per day will develop their taste buds and cravings for the same junk. This leads to a lifetime struggle of resisting and failing cyclically.
Let’s also remember to stay well hydrated this summer. Whenever possible, place fresh, washed fruits within reach in enticing, easy to reach bowls. Fresh fruits like cantaloupe, strawberries, and blueberries are high in water, as well as valuable antioxidant vitamins, fiber, and minerals. Children will not need help to eat the fruits directly or mix them in spreads and use them as a dip or stuffing, for a heightened sense of independence. Encourage your young chefs to name their own creations!
One final trick that will help your children stay hydrated and get part of their four full calcium servings per day is to mix flavorless powdered calcium with vitamin D, available at healthy supermarkets, with fruit juices. Your children can learn to measure with the special measuring cup that comes inside each box. They can observe a scientific phenomenon if they freeze the juice and watch it expand as they make healthy popsicles. And they can learn that good taste and healthy nutrition can coexist.
When children take HeartMark Health classes, they gain confidence in the kitchen. We encourage them to try new foods and use simple, safe cooking techniques. Combine a spoonful of positive thinking lessons, a pint or two of self esteem booster, a pinch of fitness advice, a cup full of nutrition facts, along with a heaping serving of fun, and we have the perfect recipe for helping you raise smart and healthy kids with skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
These simple healthy stuffed tortillas are delicious for children or adults. Stuff a tortilla with Greek yogurt, chocolate soy-nut, sunflower butter, or peanut butter and mix it with fresh fruits. Your child can help you mix, spread, and roll. They are refreshing, high in calcium, protein, and fiber, and they will keep their shape well for a packed lunch!
CHOCOLATE CREAM CHEESE DIP (4 servings)
• 1 cup (200 g) Greek yogurt (from Trader Joe’s). It is higher in protein and calcium than most yogurts and it is delicious!
• ¼ cup cocoa powder or chocolate syrup for chocolate milk
• sugar—it’s not necessary to add it because it’s usually in the cocoa mix.
• Mix the cocoa powder with the yogurt with a spoon until the mixture is even.
• Spread some on a graham cracker to verify how delicious it is!
PUDDING FROM SCRATCH (4 servings) higher in calcium!
• ¼ cup cornstarch
• ¼ cup xylitol, which is a healthy natural sweetener that kills bad bacteria. You may substitute 1/3 cup sugar, or flavor to taste. (Whole Foods sells xylitol in fine grains like white sugar.)
• ¼ cup chocolate milk powder—ideally with sugar and condensed nonfat milk in it.
• Pinch of baking powder
• 1 ½ cups soy milk or cow milk, chocolate or regular. (Almond milk doesn’t work well.)
• 1 beaten egg/egg whites is an option but not necessary at all
• 1 teaspoon vanilla flavor
• 1 small mashed banana is an option for banana flavor
• Using a 2 quart saucepan, mix the cornstarch, xylitol or other dry sweetener, chocolate milk powder, and baking soda. Add the milk and mix well.
• Turn heat to medium high and mix continuously. After 2 minutes, it should start to thicken. Continue to mix so that the bottom will not stick and burn, even in nonstick pans. Watch for bubbles. When it bubbles, lower heat to a lower medium and continue to mix.
• Add the whisked egg/egg whites and mix super fast or it will cook.
• Add the vanilla flavor and/or mashed banana and mix.
• Mix for at least 2 minutes after it first bubbled.
Assembling the Chocotillas!™
Preparation: (2 tortillas, cut in half, make 4 servings:)
• Spread the chocolate cream cheese onto the tortilla or the pudding while it is warm.
• Cut fresh fruit like strawberries, blueberries and or bananas, and roll it up like a taquito! Cut in half. Add slices of bananas, top with whipped cream, and some more strawberries and blueberries on top.
• Alternative- if using pudding, wait for Chocotillas to cool and slice them thin, easy- to-serve handy cross sections! Use your imagination for presentation— add a big papaya, canned pear, mint leaf, or cinnamon if you used apple slices… It is also delicious to spread a nutty butter under the pudding for a two layer effect before rolling.
Make extra pudding and freeze inside disposable cups with disposable spoons or construction sticks in the middle for a healthy pudding pop!
Tali Lehavi Hamer is the recipe writer for Iguana Magazine for children and creator of the Planet Heart™ and HeartMark™ product lines. In her free time, she experiments in the kitchen with her daughters. Trademarks are property of Tali Lehavi Hamer.