Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: (Un)happy meals

Published: Sunday, Aug. 12 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

Once in a while, fast food isn’t necessarily the problem — it’s making it a regular part of your diet, your lifestyle for many years at a time. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and depression are just some of the problems that go hand-in-hand with unhealthy eating. I notice a change in my kids’ bowel movements when we’ve had a particularly unhealthy week on vacation, for example. They are hard and painful, and my boys are noticeably more irritable and uncomfortable after a bad night’s meal.

Fortunately, toys and fun cartons aren’t the only way to get kids to enjoy food. (But on that note, I’ve actually made my own “happy meals” with paper sacks and yummy, healthy treats buried inside that they like holding just as well.)

Following is a list of some of my kids’ very favorite, healthy snacks that are a sure bet for even the pickiest of eaters, as well as a recipe for my Very Berry Green Smoothie, the ONLY solid food my son ate for practically a year.

Almond butter: Almond butter is a fantastic substitute for peanut butter, which many kids (including my son) are allergic to these days. Almonds are packed with nutrients such as protein, calcium, vitamin E and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and folic acid. You can grind your own tub of almond butter at many Smith’s Marketplaces, as well as Whole Foods and Good Earth. Great on sandwiches or with carrots, apples and crackers. My kids eat almond butter daily.

Protein bars: The kind I buy, Good2Go bars, pack a punch: 18 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and made with all natural, organic ingredients and NO refined sugar or preservatives. My kids love munching on these for a midmorning or afternoon snack, and I love that they have essential fatty acids, such as flax seed and coconut oil, crucial for kids’ growing brains.

Very Berry Green Smoothie: After learning my son was allergic to everything under the sun and diagnosed with mild oral aversion, I decided if he wasn’t going to EAT his food, then he would DRINK it. My kids love these smoothies, and once I discovered the Green Smoothie Diet (greensmoothiegirl.com), I went wild with experimenting (some smoothies were better than others). Here’s sure-fire one that will have your kids smacking their lips and begging for more:

2 cups mixed frozen berries (I like Costco’s Organic Antioxidant Blend)

1 banana, peeled

1-2 cups organic orange or apple juice (more if the smoothie is too thick)

2 tablespoons organic extra-virgin coconut oil

Handful of organic spinach (you can freeze it and use it for months).

Several leaves, torn, of organic kale or red Swiss chard

½ cup Greek plain (or vanilla) yogurt (I use Fage 0 percent)

Put all in blender and enjoy! I STRONGLY encourage using a Vitamix (which I own) or Blendtec blender to get the smoothest, best taste. A regular blender could leave chunks of greens behind.

Here’s to happy(er) eating!

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.

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