Q&A with Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition
For the May pasta spotlight, we chatted with Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition. As a mom nutritionist, Sally knows a thing or two about getting kids to eat healthy! We asked her all about her tips and tricks and how she incorporates pasta into a healthy meal for her family. Read below for all she had to say.
1. As both an RD and a mom, you know it can be tricky to get kids to eat healthy. What advice can you give to our readers to get their kids to eat right?
Be patient with your kids and keep the dinner table a no-pressure-zone. Too many parents create tension at the table—whether it’s requiring a certain number of bites, bargaining with kids to eat veggies, bribing with dessert, or voicing frustrations. That creates a very negative environment at the table, which can really backfire. Serve the healthy foods you want your kids to eat (making one meal for everyone, not being a short-order cook), then step back. Encourage your kids to try new foods but don’t force it, and most of all, model all the habits you want them to have, like drinking water with meals instead of soda, eating vegetables, and being an adventurous eater.
2. How do you integrate pasta in to your healthy family dinners?
Pasta is definitely one of our go-tos, especially on busy nights. My kids have eaten whole wheat pasta from the start, so they like it—and I’m grateful for that because it’s such a good source of fiber. I use whole wheat pasta as a side dish (my kids especially love pasta with lots of garlic, butter, and parsley as a side), but also as a main course. I like making stir-fries with whole wheat noodles in place of rice sometimes, homemade mac and cheese with small shell pasta, and my third grader’s favorite meal is spaghetti with homemade meatballs, so we have that regularly too.
3. Most kids gawk at green. Any tips or hacks for getting veggies into meals for picky eaters?
I have a general guideline that everyone has a veggie at dinner, though it may vary from person to person. My husband and I have salads most every night, and now the kids typically have one too. I started them with very small salads, and finding a dressing and kind of lettuce they like has been key. I’m also big on veggie plates before dinner if they’re hungry. Stir-fries with veggies are another great way to get some servings. But most importantly, I think trying new ways to prepare veggies (like serving carrots raw with dip, sautéed with butter, roasted, etc.) and asking your kids about their opinions is really key.
4. As a mom blogger and recipe developer do you have any tips for our readers on getting kids in the kitchen?
I’m still working on this, as my boys would much rather be off doing their own thing than cooking right now! I recently got my older son a cookbook for kids, and that has inspired him (I wrote about that here). Making their favorites together (like that spaghetti and meatballs) is helpful too so they can see what goes into the meal and take ownership of the finished product.
5. We see in your bio that you still have a sweet tooth despite being an RD. Can you give some advice to our readers who may also have a sweet tooth but want to stay healthy?
I rarely have store-bought sweets in the house—if I want something sweet, I make it myself. And since I’m so busy, that doesn’t always happen! I see nothing wrong with having something sweet everyday, but the amount matters. So I limit myself to a few squares of chocolate (or a small portion of a homemade dessert if we have it) just once a day.
6. What are some kid and mom approved additions to a pasta meal?
I’m a proponent of the “Starter Salad” approach—it’s how I got my husband liking greens! The veggie plate side is also helpful if you’ve got kids who don’t want their veggies mixed into the main dish. These Brussels Sprouts Chips and Kale Chips are fun twists on kid-friendly veggies too and can be served before or with the meal.
7. Finally, can you please share one of your favorite pasta recipes?
This Whole Wheat Spaghetti Carbonara is one meal that everyone in the family loves. I don’t put a particularly healthy twist on it—it’s just the classic with lots of bacon, cheese, and egg. And everyone cleans their plates!
About Sally Kuzemchak:
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, author, and mom. She blogs at RealMomNutrition.com, a “no-judgments” zone all about feeding families and blogs weekly for Parents magazine. In 2014, she collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families, and she recently released an e-book called The Snacktivist’s Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. An award-winning reporter and writer, Sally has been published in nearly 20 magazines including Prevention, Parents, Health, Family Circle, Eating Well, Fitness, and Shape.