Alison Sweeney is a beloved actress, former The Biggest Loser host and author. She’s also a great mom to two kids that she’s raised on healthy cooking. We asked her to teach us her clean eating ways, how she keeps things interesting in the kitchen and how she's passing what she's learned onto her kids. Here's what she said.
On where she gets her food inspiration:
“I definitely have go-to meals that I’m used to making, so I’m always trying to figure out ways to branch out and find something new. I think, partially, my inspiration comes from what I have in the fridge — you know, sometimes you’ve just gotta be creative because you don’t have a choice. It’s like picking that outfit on laundry day — oh, this is edgy, let's try something different. But then you just own it, like yeah, I totally meant to combine those flavors; I thought it would be an adventure. I read a lot of magazines. I watch a lot of cooking shows. I’m obsessed with Food Network. It just gives me confidence to try something different. And I mean, I taste things along the way so if I feel like it’s terrible, and this has definitely happened, it’s like no, we’re not eating it. All right, starting over."
On what she does when the kids are picky:
“Often times the fun is when I know they will like it if they try it, and I’m totally not above an 'I told you so' when I make them try something they’ll really like.”
Her tip? “Have them cook it. We watch Chopped Junior for inspiration, but definitely the kids are inspired by the idea of making their own stuff. I’ve really engaged them in making their own meals. There’s such pride they have in the fact that they made it themselves.”
On the snacks her kids love:
“One of their favorites is a Greek yogurt with blueberries and cinnamon and either maple syrup or a little bit of agave nectar. Sometimes I’ll put granola or sliced almonds in it for a little bit of a crunch. It’s the same thing I eat. It’s so substantial and it feels really decadent. We do smoothies together.”
On the strangest thing her kids love:
“My kids love edamame. I take home leftovers from the restaurant and everyone’s excited over it.”
On what her kids will make themselves:
"Apples and almond butter. Smoothies. My son knows how to make scrambled eggs. Sometimes I come downstairs and I’m like, 'What happened here?' And he’s like, 'Oh, I made eggs.' OK."
On what they eat for lunch:
"They request pretzels and hummus. I do a lot of fruit in their lunch. Sometimes I’ll mix it together, like apples and blueberries and cantaloupe sometimes. They like the fruits that are also hydrating. I don’t give them a lot of food at lunch time. I give them half a sandwich, a few different flavors of different snack stuff and that’s it. I know they’re going to eat again later. They’re rushing to run outside and play, so I don’t want them to scarf down food and I don’t want them to waste food. I’d rather have them ready again for a snack at 3:30 than waste food or feel sick to their stomach when they’re running to play with their friends."
On teaching healthy habits:
“My rule, in general, with my kids is to teach them to be accustomed to see smaller amounts of food on the plate — just really healthy portions — and then you can always ask for seconds. But let’s start here and see how it goes, see how it feels and really listen to your body. Those are the kinds of tips I want them to take away as they grow up and go to college and live on their own. I want them to really listen to their own bodies “
On her secret to getting kids to eat healthy:
“We talk about it a lot. I’m not saying they just eat kale all the time. I find things they like, which is kale and Brussels sprouts, and [my son] Ben really likes it. I try to make sure I mix in the things they love with things we’re trying. There are certain fish that they like, but my son doesn’t like shrimp, and that’s, like, OK."
Sweeney is also a big fan of the Blueberry Council’s tips for having a great summer by focusing on the small moments over big adventures. “I think parents always think they have to do the big adventure to have a great summer, and sometimes it just doesn’t have to be super-sized,” she told us. You can see tips on their website, blueberrycouncil.org/bitesizesummer.
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