Up until I was about fourteen, my immigrant grandmother lived with us. She made sure I was always well fed while my parents went to work. I wasn't a picky eater... unless it looked funny. Eggs, meat, veggies all looked funny. Pasta and sugar-loaded carb-filled foods were always welcome. Okay, maybe I was a little picky.
My grandma and mother are uniquely cleaver women. To get me to eat omelets, my mom made faces and characters out of vegetables and then would tell me a short story about the veggie-sculpted face on my plate. Parenting secrets and lessons were usually hidden in food and then I'd eat anything that was placed in front of me (Just like a puppy who won't take a pill unless you wrap it in a piece of cheese or something.)
My favorite was always Pinochio. He looked different every time but his hat was usually made of bacon and ham, his nose was a carrot, his mouth was tomato and his eyes were zucchini rounds. My grandma liked to arrange my veggies like a garden of flowers. I know you're not supposed to play with your food, but being a little girl, I was amazed at what my favorite cooks came up with to make me eat right. No matter how old I get, I have a hard time enjoying an omelet that doesn't have Pinocchio's face on it.
After my grandma passed, it was my job to manage my own healthy diet after school. Occasionally, I'd arrange my veggies into some visually-appealing display-- perhaps my cucumber slices would form a flower, but it wasn't to force myself to eat right. The older I got, arranging my food nicely was something I did for myself-- to take the time to care about the presentation and what I put into my body.
As an adult, I make sure not to taunt myself with junk-snacks. Instead, I keep healthy options on hand. I was lucky to develop this habit early. Not because I had to but because I wanted to. Mom's famous line, "You'll thank me when you're older", rings true when you become an adult and are responsible for feeding yourself. Yes, the college years are also known as the top-ramen days but they don't have to be. The "freshman-fifteen" are not actually a right of passage, they're a result of laziness in our dietary choices. "I don't have time" is a common excuse for not eating right, but it's not a very good one. Eating healthy is not about having the time, it's about making a decision to surround yourself with what you know is better for you. So many healthier food options take just as much, if not less, time to prepare. It's true, you really are what you eat and the most important thing you want to be is healthy.
My favorite healthy snack options:
-Hummus Plate: Buy some hummus or make some in a blender or food processor. Chop up some dipping-veggies like carrot sticks, cucumber-rounds, peppers, and toast some pita bread. Enjoy!
-Rice cakes with topping: Rice cakes are a light, simple snack. Yes, they don't have a ton of flavor, but you can get creative with your own sweet or savory toppings.
Some suggestions: hummus and cucumbers, cream-cheese, tomatoes and basil or peanut butter and bananas for a sweeter option.
-Apples and peanut-butter: Always a simple go-to. Easy to pack. Grocery stores carry packable peanut-butter pouches, or you can make your own by putting two large spoonfuls of peanut butter in a plastic bag. (Cut a corner of the sealed bag when you're ready to snack and squeeze the peanut butter through). Add nuts if you really want to go crazy!
*Pretzel sticks also go great with peanut butter.
-Mini-Toasts with avocado and tomato: This savory option is quite addicting. The avocado works as a condiment substitute. Add cheese for a little something extra.
-Homemade salsa with nachos: To make homemade salsa, chop tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeno pepper, salt and pepper (optional: mango). You can even make your own tortilla chips. Cut tortillas into quarters, brush both sides with oil and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
-Fruit kebobs: these are an easy snack, especially for casual get-togethers. Stick your favorite fruits onto wooden skewers and enjoy.