Chef Nikki Shaw, featured on the popular television series The Next Food Network Star, knows that it’s not always easy for busy parents and kids to eat healthy meals.

As a business owner, wife and mom, I know life can be crazy. Work and homework take up most of the day, not always leaving time for homemade meals or exercise. As the childhood obesity rate soars out of control, making time for healthy meals is crucial. There are some easy steps parents and kids can take that don’t require much time. Here I share some of the homegrown strategies that I use with my own busy family and some of my favorite kid friendly recipes.



-CAN THE SODA:  With 12-14 teaspoons of sugar per can, soda packs on the pounds and causes cavities. Make drinking water fun with straws and sports bottles. Use decorative ice cube trays that make ice in fun shapes.

-COOK FOR AN ARMY:  Decrease the demand for fast food.  Make a little extra when preparing meals, so there will always be fresh food available in the fridge.  Teens can pack homemade leftovers for a healthier lunch the next day.

-EASY ACCESS FRUITS & VEGGIES:  Little people like little bite-size pieces.  Prepare fruits and veggies as soon as they come home from the store. Wash, cut and pack them in clear containers so kids can see that they are ready to be enjoyed.

-STICK IT:  Kids love anything served on a stick. Skewer fresh fruits and veggies then watch them quickly disappear.

-DIP IT:  Low fat yogurts and salad dressings make finger foods fun, delicious and nutritious. 

-FUN SHAPED SANDWICHES:  Use cookie cutters to create fun sandwich designs that kids will love.   Choose oven-roasted turkey, chicken and tuna instead of processed lunch meats.  Remember to use healthy whole grain bread.  

-FAST FOOD TRADE OFFS:  Teach teens to choose wisely when it comes to fast food. If you have to eat fast food, make smarter menu selections.  Instead of a burger, fries and shake, order a grilled chicken sandwich, side salad and bottled water. Don’t over-do-it, beware of the “super-size,” this can often be 2 or more regular servings. 

-KEEP IT MOVIN’:  Kids learn by your example. If you exercise and participate in   outside activities, they will too.  Find out which activities they enjoy most.  Sign them up on a sports, dance, martial arts or swimming team for healthy extra-curricular fun.

-TIME-OUT FOR MEAL TIME:  Eating in front of the screen, whether it’s the TV or the computer is not a good idea. People tend to overeat when they’re distracted.  Plus, this is a good time for talking and family bonding.