I love using Bison (ground or otherwise), because it's flavourful, nutritious, and lean. It's nice to venture away from using beef every once in a while. In fact, we use ground bison a lot more often than beef, because we find it more flavourful. I often experiment when making bison burgers, to find the perfect way to add moisture and tenderness (because bison is leaner than most meats, it can turn out dry). After many attempts to make the "perfect" bison burger, I think I've come pretty close (in my husband's eyes, anyway).
What I love about Canadian bison is that it is raised without use of growth hormones, steroids, antibiotics, or chemical residues. Bison spend the majority of their life grazing on forage, and some producers finish their bison on grass while others finish on grains. The meat is packed full of nutrition, more specifically protein, iron, zinc, and the antioxidant selenium. Bison meat cooks quicker than beef, so it's important that you keep your grill at a lower temperature and cook for a bit longer. If you're cooking bison steaks or tenderloin, it's best served medium-rare or rare. You can find ground bison at most farmers markets, some major grocery stores (I get mine from co-op where the frozen meats are), or you can order online directly from farmers and suppliers.
Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, and saute mushrooms and green onions over medium heat. Once mushrooms are tender, add in minced garlic and saute for a minute or so. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Combine raw ground bison meat, sauteed mixture, and all other ingredients in a large bowl with your clean hands. Form meat mixture into burgers and place on a clean platter.
Place burgers on a heated grill (you could grease with a high smoke-point oil first) and sear the first side for 2-3 minutes. Flip the burgers when small beads of red fluid appear on the surface, and sear the other side. Finish cooking on the 2nd side until meat is no longer pink inside (don't overcook though).
Take burgers off the grill and cover with tinfoil for a few minutes before serving.
(Yields: 4-5 burgers)
If you are anything like me, this recipe appeals to you because it is quick, easy-to-make, and nutritious. Here are some tips on how to find short-cuts in the kitchen while still cooking nutritious and tasty meals for your family.
When handling raw meat, it's important to practice food safety. Here are some important summer food safety tips.
If there is one food group that kids tend to turn their noses up at, it's vegetables. Veggies—particularly green ones—have a bitter taste, which in hunter-gatherer times, often signaled "toxic" or poisonous. This could be part of the reason why most young kids find green veggies "yucky"—it could actually be a natural survival instinct. Kids also have more taste buds than adults do, which could boost the yuck factor even more. This is important for us parents to know, so that we don't panic when our kids reject them.
The truth is, even though vegetables are an important part of our diets, kids who have a very low vegetable intake likely still have a nutritionally adequate diet (assuming, of course, that they accept a nice variety of other foods). But many parents insist that their child must eat vegetables. If coercion techniques, such as bribing or rewarding, don't work, worried parents often turn to what is now a plethora of blogs and cookbooks focused on "sneaking" vegetables (and other healthy foods) into their kids' diets, for some peace of mind.
As a parent of a preschooler who now picks every hint of green out of his food, I get it. I understand the frustration and worry, and sympathize with those who resort to pureeing veggies into breads, muffins, and desserts. But if you regularly hide vegetables in your child's food, you may end up adding fuel to a fire that would have naturally gone out on its own.
As Brian Wansink, PhD, and author of Mindless Eating (which I highly recommend) mentions in a Parents magazine article, kids will catch on to you if you are sneaking veggies into their food. When a piece of zucchini doesn't puree properly and becomes visible in your child's favourite cookie, or if she catches you sneaking an orange pureed concoction into her pancakes, she will become suspicious. If she catches you in the act (which she eventually will) and learns that you are not being up-front with her, those "yucky" veggies are suddenly much "yuckier," and you've got a much bigger problem on your hands. "Now these veggies are SO gross that Mom had to hide them in my food," she may think.
According to Ellyn Satter's Feeding Relationship, your job as a parent is to serve a variety of healthy foods at appropriate and consistent intervals in designated areas (you're in charge of the what, where, and when of feeding), and your child is responsible for if and how much he eats. In other words, it is not your job to make sure that your child eats his veggies—it's his. You can also relax knowing that vegetables aren't essential for a nutritionally adequate diet. If your child has a varied fruit intake, this can make up for a low vegetable intake. Now don't relax too much, it's still important to continue exposing your child to a variety of vegetables every day, even though he may reject them. This will increase his chances of accepting them later on.
I always add leafy greens to our fruit smoothies and often pack extra veggies into our spaghetti sauce. There is nothing wrong with adding vegetables to a dish to boost the nutritional quality of it. As long as you're open and honest with your child about it and there's no sneaking around. Start early. My son has never known a smoothie to be without some kind of vegetable in it. He also helps me chop (with his plastic knife) vegetables to go into casseroles and sauces. If you expose your child to vegetables early, it is more likely that he will accept them as he grows older.
A good friend and I took our boys for smoothies the other day. Both boys see what goes into the smoothies and we don't hide the fact that they contain veggies. But this time, the boys were extra excited about their green smoothies, because my friend asked them if they wanted a "hulk smoothie" for lunch. This made an otherwise regular smoothie exciting for our boys. Brian Wansink agrees with this technique, mentioning a study in his article where 4-year-olds ate 50% more veggies when they were named something clever, like "Princess Peas" or "X-ray Vision Carrots." There is no trickery in renaming a vegetable something creative and fun, and it makes for a more exciting experience for your kids.
Toddlers and preschoolers can be really finicky when it comes to how their food is served. Lately, my son prefers all of his food separate. So, instead of mixing blueberries into his oatmeal like I used to, I now put them on the side. And instead of eating a piece of pizza normally, he now takes all of the toppings off and eats the crust first and then the toppings. Try asking your child how he would like his food served prior to serving it—"Would you like your peas inside your macaroni or on the side?" or "Would you like your spaghetti sauce on top of your noodles or beside it?" You will be amazed at the answers you'll get and, perhaps, the change in acceptability.
Similarly, experiment with how you cut veggies. For example, my son much prefers cucumber coins over strips these days. He also prefers pepper strips rather than chopped pepper pieces.
And let's be honest, raw veggies with some sort of dip are much tastier than plain. Make a homemade tzatziki sauce out of plain greek yogurt, minced garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, and serve with peppers, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes; serve carrots and celery with hummus or ranch dip; and try serving steamed broccoli with melted cheese on top.
Instead of saying, "We are having steamed broccoli with dinner," try giving them a choice of veggie by saying, "Would you like broccoli with cheese sauce or raw veggies and dip?" By doing this, you are handing over some of the control (which toddlers and preschoolers crave) and allowing your child to decide what he is eating, while still ultimately being in control. I call this giving kids "structured control." My son often surprises me by saying, "Both Mommy!"
As messy as it gets and as frustrating as it can be, I still invite my preschooler to help me prepare dinner most nights because of all of the amazing benefits that I see coming from it. He will not only munch on veggies that I'm chopping up, but he's also become a whiz at throwing ingredients into a blender or food processor, and a master stirrer of all things. Involving your child in meal-prep has countless benefits. He will be more likely to sit down to family meals and will be much more likely to taste the food that he has had a hand in preparing. It gives kids a sense of pride and accomplishment, as well.
There is nothing wrong with serving the same accepted vegetable over and over again. If your child loves peas but rejects every other vegetable, serve him peas. But always serve one or two additional vegetables (whatever the rest of the family is having) alongside the peas, even if you know that he won't eat them. The more exposure your child has to a variety of vegetables, the more likely he will be to eventually take the plunge and try them.
If your child repeatedly sees you enjoying vegetables at family meals or during snack time, she will grow up learning that eating veggies is normal and healthy. I always tell my clients, "Eat the way you want your kids to eat," because we are their models. If your child consistently sees you leaving veggies on your plate or only ever eating one or two types of vegetables, she will have a very hard time widening her own palate. Try to have at least two vegetable sides at family dinners (both raw and cooked), with lots of colour.
You may want to check out Your Role When It Comes To Feeding Your Toddler/Preschooler, as well as My Top 10 Dietitian-Approved Easy and Yummy Recipes.
Feel free to come on over to my facebook page where I share family nutrition tips, picky eating advice, and lots of nutrition resources daily.
Cereal is often the number one go-to breakfast choice for parents, considering it takes a mere 30 seconds to throw together and serve, and it is widely accepted by kids. After all, it's crunchy, fun to eat, and often sweet. In fact, cereal is a lot sweeter than most people realize, especially those cereals that are marketed to kids. What may seem like a healthy "whole grain" choice, may actually be the equivalent to serving your kids dessert for breakfast.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently conducted an analysis on over 1500 breakfast cereals—including 181 cereals specifically marketed to children—and figured out that a child who eats a bowl of cereal a day for a year would end up consuming about 10 pounds of sugar from that source alone. In the document, it states that the most popular children's cereals average about two teaspoons of sugar per serving, which is similar to three "Chips Ahoy" cookies. Over one third of the calories in a serving of children's cereal came from sugar alone, and most of these cereals contained over a third of the recommended daily amount of sugar.
Out of the 181 cereals that were specifically marketed to kids, very few were low in sugar and there wasn't a single one that did not contain added sugar, which clearly indicates that the manufacturers are capitalizing on children's biologically-driven affinity for sweet foods. Not surprisingly, the EWG found that the health claims plastered all over cereal boxes ("Good source of fibre" or "Excellent source of Vitamin D") often distracts consumers from what actually matters—the ingredients.
As mentioned in the MacLeans Magazine cover story, "Death By Sugar," that unveils the truths about the damaging health effects of sugar, Canadians eat, on average, about 88 lbs of sugar per year. What's more shocking is that the average 9-year-old boy eats 126 lbs of sugar per year, and the average male teen, 138 lbs. As a Dietitian, this sadly doesn't surprise me too much—I've seen some fairly shocking food journals in my counseling practice, many that absolutely ooze SUGAR. Sugar appears in everything from cereal to salad dressing, and from condiments to crackers. If it comes in a package or box—even if it claims to be healthy in some way—it likely contains added sugar.
This is why my family and I decided to cut back significantly on processed, packaged foods last Fall. We didn't make the now-popular resolution to go "sugar-free" (because I knew that was unrealistic for us), but rather to focus on whole foods that come in their natural form—fruits, veggies, intact whole grains, eggs, hormone/antibiotic-free meats, beans and lentils, etc. In doing that, we naturally cut back on our sugar consumption by A LOT.
What draws many families to boxed cereal (among other processed, packaged foods) is the convenience factor. As a Mom to a three-year-old and 10-month-old, I get it. But I also know that what we feed our kids now will affect them long-term. As parents, we set the stage for what our kids will view as "normal" when it comes to food. If we're constantly feeding them food from a package, they will grow accustomed to the over-powering sugary, salty tastes and perhaps not appreciate the true flavours of real food. They will grow to think that eating means opening a package or box. Cooking from scratch not only benefits our kids (and ourselves) from a nutrition stand-point, but also opens up the opportunity for kids to learn how to cook and prepare food—something that will benefit them for life.
It may seem impossible to trade your favourite breakfast cereal in for something healthier, but it's not. There are plenty of healthy-but-still-easy options out there.
If you absolutely can't kick your cereal habit, make sure that you're reading the ingredients list first and foremost. If sugar (or any form of sweetener, such as brown rice syrup, agave syrup, glucose, honey etc.) is one of the first 3 ingredients, put it back. If there are more than 6 or 7 ingredients total (unless they are all natural ingredients that you recognize), put it back. When looking at the nutrition facts table, aim for at least 4 grams of fibre and less than 8 grams of sugar per 30 gram serving size. Read more here about why you should always read the ingredients list on food products and the top five ingredients to avoid.
Cold cereal isn't the only convenient option. Hot cereal is our favourite go-to breakfast, because it's much more filling and satisfying and the kids love it. Our favourite is slow-cooker steel-cut oats. It's great because I can prepare it the night before, but if I forget, I'll throw 1/3 cup rolled oats into a bowl with 2/3 cup milk and a pinch of salt, microwave on high for 2 minutes, and then add berries and a bit of maple syrup or vanilla yogurt. I also made this delicious breakfast quinoa recipe the other day and it was a huge hit.
A fruit smoothie is another easy but healthy option. Use milk, yogurt, nut butters, and seeds to boost the protein content for a more filling smoothie, skip the fruit juice and go easy on added sweeteners, such as honey or maple syrup. Protein-packed eggs are also an excellent breakfast option, perhaps paired with fruit and a homemade high-fibre muffin. A breakfast that includes protein has shown to help prevent unhealthy snacking later in the day. Here are a few more easy, healthy, kid-friendly breakfast options if you're interested.
Having cereal once in a while is not a huge deal, much the same as enjoying any treat or "fun" food. Making cereal your morning staple, however, is not healthy. Most cereals are not "health foods" as they claim, but more so sugar-ladened processed grains in a box.
It's easy to get caught in the "health trap" while grocery shopping. Watch out for these 10 "health foods" (including breakfast cereal), that aren't healthy at all.
I'm constantly posting family nutrition tips and resources over on my facebook page. Feel free to stop by!