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Chef Domenica Catelli inspires us! Her tips for quick, healthy meals your family will love!

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Healthy meals can be easy and enjoyable!

Need some inspiration to help you get healthy food on the table for your family? Chef Domenica Catelli has some great ideas! And she’s one busy lady who can definitely relate!

Domenica Catelli

Chef Domenica Catelli is an Iron Chef America judge, cookbook author (Mom-a-licious: Fresh, Fast, Family Food for the Hot Mama in You!), national spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association and she has prepared meals for people like Oprah, John Travolta, Nelson Mandela and other celebrities. Along with that and many other activities, she helps run her family-based restaurant, Catelli's, in Geyserville, California.

SheKnows spent some time talking with Domenica to get her insight on nutrition, and to round up some tips, advice and ideas on preparing and serving tasty and healthy foods -- particularly the sort that kids will love to eat!

SheKnows: It seems parents sometimes have to "fight" with their kids to get them to eat their vegetables. Do you have any suggestions to make the process easier?

Domenica Catelli: Sometimes parents bribe their kids to eat their veggies (think, "If you eat all your veggies, you can have dessert"), but I think that's a dangerous system. Tricks like that give kids the idea that food is like a penance in order to get dessert. I don't believe that's true. Sometimes, a meal can be even better than dessert! I'm not anti-dessert or treats, but I definitely don't think bribing kids to eat their meals is the way to go.

I think setting a good example for kids is the most helpful thing to do. When kids are eating together with their parents and they see adults with healthy eating habits, it's a good example to them.

SheKnows: What are a few of your most recent "kid-favorite" veggies and how do you prepare them?

Domenica Catelli: I like to serve most all veggies! I like to serve raw veggies because not only do they have a great crunch, but they provide protein too. Serve them up with my Creamy Dill Dipping Sauce and you'll be amazed how popular they'll be! I think taste and texture go hand-in-hand, too. Think of the difference between fresh green beans, and those that come from a can. Sometimes, getting kids to like particular foods is a matter of how something is cooked.

Creamy dill dipping sauce

Makes about 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup plain kefir (you can substitute plain yogurt)
  • 1/3 Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons dill (dried) or 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup of red bell pepper, celery, carrots or broccoli, cut for dipping

Directions:

  1. Place sour cream and kefir in a medium size bowl and whisk in remaining ingredients.
  2. Stir until well blended. Keeps in refrigerator for up to a week.

Another way to encourage kids to eat vegetables is to switch your approach. Instead of asking them, "Would you like some carrots?" just set out a plate of nicely arranged carrots. They look and taste great and it will become part of a routine rather than something that seems unappealing.

I have a way to cook Brussels sprouts that both adults and kids love! First, clean the sprouts and cut off the ends, then cut them in half. Over medium-high heat, add olive oil to a sauté pan. Add a little onion or a shallot and cook for a few minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and some favorite seasonings and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring them occasionally. If the sprouts stick to the pan, add a bit of water to unstick them. Season them with salt and pepper and serve. They won't be mushy or stinky!

SheKnows: How do you balance serving kids nutritional meals with treats or desserts?

Domenica Catelli: Childhood obesity is a big epidemic, and I don't think kids need to eat dessert with each meal. I encourage my daughter to pick one sweet treat for the day. That means she can choose to have a cupcake with lunch or some ice cream if we're out and about, but not both or something with each meal. I want to get her involved in the decision so she thinks about it. It helps balance out food choices.

My favorite treat to serve, which is actually very healthy, is the Kashi TLC Peanutty Dark Chocolate Layered Granola Bars. The majority of the sweetness comes from dates. The bars are low in calories and high in protein. I put them in my daughter's lunch box as a special treat.

SheKnows: What are some tips you would give a busy parent to help put together a homemade meal that is also a healthy choice that everyone will like?

Domenica Catelli: I think one-dish meals are great! I have a lot of ideas on my website, Mom-a-licious, but a favorite of mine is Lemony Chicken with Vegetables and Parmesan. It's a one-dish meal that's fast, fresh, healthy and great tasting!

I would also suggest pasta dishes. They are easy, healthy and there are so many different options available. It's so easy to prepare a pasta dish with a simple tomato sauce. Don't forget to include protein in your meals. Chicken is also fairly quick and easy to prepare.

I'll leave you with one great meal idea for busy families: To ensure your kids get a healthy breakfast, even when you're running late, try a smoothie that kids can take with them in a plastic cup. Use organic kefir or plain organic yogurt and add some fresh berries, a banana and some flaxseed. This is a protein-rich breakfast and is much better for them than some breakfast cereals that end up having so much sugar in them -- it's like serving a bowl of candy for breakfast!

When you have easy, tasty and nutritious meals and snacks ready to roll, healthy eating becomes a way of life!

More healthy eating tips

Healthy eating habits for busy families
Healthy meal planning on a budget
5 Easy (but healthy) family meal ideas
5 Simple and healthy food swaps
3 Ways to get your kids eating healthy

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