Health & Wellness

Sneaky Veggies: 7 Recipes to Get Kids to Eat Healthy

It can be hard to get your kids to eat vegetables and fruits. If this is true in your family, you are not alone.  Did you know that most children do not get the daily recommended amounts of vegetables and fruits in their diets? As a mother of three, I can honestly say that I can relate to that statement. Two of my children are pretty good about eating vegetables and trying new things, but my youngest, well, that’s a whole other ball game. He won’t eat any vegetables at all!

I’ve always been a little jealous of the moms that say their kids will eat anything. With my youngest, it’s always been a struggle. I used to think I was a bad parent, but I have come to realize that this is more common than I thought, and all kids are just different. It took a long time for me to quit fighting a losing battle, and just accept that all I needed was a new game plan. I told myself, if he won’t eat any vegetables, then you are just going to have to start hiding them.


1. Healthy Fruit or Veggie Muffins

I was excited and started out with baked goods. My youngest is known around our house as the Muffin Man! If I want him to eat something nutritious, I just toss it in a muffin and he gobbles it up. I started experimenting and made these Healthy Peanut Butter Banana Muffins (packed with protein and goodness). These muffins are made with ripe bananas, peanut butter, honey, Greek yogurt, and the combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour. These are a great option to pack in school lunches. 


Because my major struggle was vegetables, I started incorporating vegetables into different muffins. I use carrots to make Spiced Carrot Muffins, and zucchini for Zucchini Bread Muffins. My youngest son loved every muffin and had no idea he was eating vegetables. I was so excited to have finally found a way to sneak a little goodness into his diet. 

I  usually spend a day steaming, shredding and pureeing vegetables for cooking and baking. I separate everything into one-cup packets and then store those packets in a large zip-top bag and place it in the freezer. This way I have pureed veggies on hand anytime I want to be sneaky!   


2. Black Bean Brownies


Beans are also a great source of protein and wonderful in baked goods. I use pureed black beans for Black Bean Brownies and pureed white beans to make White Bean Banana Bread. You can also use white bean puree in macaroni and cheese or white bean chocolate chip cookies.
 

3. Sneaky Spaghetti Sauce


You can also hide all sorts of vegetables in sauces. I came up with this Sneaky Spaghetti Sauce because my son loves spaghetti. This spaghetti sauce has all sorts of different hidden vegetables like tomatoes, onions, zucchini, carrots, celery and peppers. This is where having pureed veggies on hand in the freezer comes in so handy. Another trick is to use your favorite regular spaghetti sauce and just add shredded veggies to meatballs, and use oatmeal in place of bread crumbs.


4. Green Monster Smoothie


Sometimes making silly names for foods will get your kids to eat just about anything. This Green Monster Smoothie is very popular in our house. I introduced this smoothie on St. Patrick’s Day several years back, and now it is a family favorite. It’s packed full of spinach, bananas and almond milk. My daughter said it looked just like the green slime from Nickelodeon, but tastes just like a banana smoothie. 

A few other favorite smoothies are Blueberry Oatmeal Smoothie, Strawberry Banana Smoothie or a Watermelon Strawberry Smoothie. Pureeing into a smoothie is the perfect way to disguise something. 


5. Frozen Yogurt Covered Blueberries


My kids are better with fruits than vegetables, but they still don’t get their full share. Sure, they love bananas, strawberries and apples, but sometimes getting them to eat other fruits can also be a challenge. I have found that my kids love Frozen Yogurt Covered Blueberries. You can use plain yogurt with honey or vanilla yogurt; both are wonderful.


6. Fruit & Yogurt Parfait

Let your kids make their own fruit parfaits using their favorite flavored yogurt, fruit and granola. I have found that when children help with meal and food prep, they are much more likely to try whatever it is they are making. These yummy Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits are a great choice.


7. Healthy Peanut Butter Balls


Last but not least are these Healthy Peanut Butter Balls. I make these at least once a week to pack in my kids’ lunches. My kids, as well as my husband, love these and have no idea that they are packed full of protein, ground flaxseed and wheat germ. I always smile when my kids come home from school and ask me to pack a few extras, because their friends are asking them to share.     

I have come to realize that some kids just don’t eat a well-balanced diet, and begging and pleading just doesn’t work. I advise giving up the battle and give into being a little sneaky, because sometimes it’s the only way.


Walmart Mom blogger, Tina Butler is the mom behind the blog
Mommy’s Kitchen. Tina loves creating meals that are simple, delicious, and perfect for bringing families together at the table. 

Now until August 4, you can join Walmart's Eat Healthy Together Challenge for a chance to win a $25 Walmart gift card. Learn more: foundation.walmart.com/eathealthytogether


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Life

From Lanterns to Lions, Ringing in Chinese New Year

Feb. 8 marks the start of Chinese New Year, China’s most important celebration for families. Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is a weeklong public holiday during which families celebrate a year of hard work and wish for good luck in the coming year.

Those shopping in our stores in China see lots of Chinese New Year decorations and traditional foods stocked for this busy time. For readers who aren’t in China, here’s some background on the celebrations.

Traditional Family Meals

Before the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, people all over China travel to their hometowns to unite with their families and decorate their homes in red — a color that symbolizes good luck and joy — and prepare for Chinese New Year celebrations. The night before the Chinese New Year, we prepare a feast made up of symbolic foods:

  • In Chinese culture, a fish course represents wealth in the future, while peanuts signify longevity and good health.
  • Some food symbolism in Chinese New Year dishes is more visual, such as hot pot, which involves simmering meat and vegetables in a round pot at the center of the table. The shape of the pot represents perfection and satisfaction.
  • Dumplings are an example of a food with a more historical tie because they resemble the gold currency — Yuanbao — used in ancient China. Today, dumplings are still thought to signify wealth in the coming year and are a delicious treat stuffed with different fillings.

Celebrations

Like with New Year’s Eve in the U.S. and other western countries, Chinese New Year involves staying up late. We light firecrackers at midnight, a tradition that dates back to ancient folklore. Though the New Year is a cause for celebration now, legend has it that Chinese villagers used to stoke their fires with bamboo to keep away a terrifying, sharp-toothed monster that arose from the sea at the end of the lunar year to prey on people and livestock. Now, we use firecrackers to celebrate the new year and also scare off any bad luck that might be on the horizon.

Celebrations culminate in the Lantern Festival, where people gather to admire the illuminated lanterns (some floating, some carried by children, some fixed as decorations) and guess riddles written on them. On New Year’s Day, people also watch lion dances, in which participants don elaborate, mythical lion costumes that seem larger than life — and eat rice dumplings.

One of our family traditions is for children and grandchildren to wish elders in the family good wishes for the new year and, in turn, the elders will give children a red envelope of money for good luck and to buy toys and books.  Children often sleep with the red envelope under the pillow to bring good luck throughout the year.

The Year of the Monkey

This year is the year of the monkey, the ninth of 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. People born in the year of the monkey are believed to be energetic, witty and mischievous. I look forward to greeting the year of the monkey surrounded by my family and enjoying the snacks and festivities that come with the celebrations. No matter your Chinese zodiac, may the New Year bring good fortune to you and your family!

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Health & Wellness

Losing Weight, But Gaining New Perspective

My struggles with weight started around the time my last child — my son, Drake — was born.

He was premature; he weighed just 3 pounds and 3 ounces when he was born and was in the neonatal ICU for six weeks. Each day, my wife and I shuttled to the hospital, eating nothing but fast food, living in complete fear. It was the most terrifying time in my life, and I emerged from it changed in many ways.

For one, I was a lot heavier.

Before Drake was born, I weighed roughly 225 pounds. I’m 5 feet 9 inches tall, so I wasn’t exactly slim to begin with. In the months after his birth, my weight climbed to more than 265 pounds. While it’s true that I had lots of things to worry about then, I always knew that I needed to make real changes. 

First Steps

When Drake was about a year old, in June 2011, he was taking his first steps; coincidentally, my wife and I were taking some of our own. We started working out on our Xbox; shortly after that, we joined a gym. I began to lose weight doing cardio and strength training, and I started getting in shape — mentally as well as physically. Customers and colleagues alike started noticing and talking to me about my weight loss. It made me feel much closer to them. Their support made the effort easier.

As my wife and I grew healthier, we aimed to eat healthier. That wasn’t easy: We were used to eating whatever we wanted — pizza, burgers, ice cream, soda, you name it. To make a change, we had to clean out our cabinets completely. It was a total pantry makeover.

Now I’m a Guide

About a year after we started our journey to better health, one of my store’s co-managers mentioned the ZP Challenge to me — ZP for “zip” or zero, meaning, you make it what you want it to be — specifically because he knew about my efforts. But he didn’t just ask me to look into the program, which is basically a friendly competition to inspire better wellbeing. He asked if I could set it up in the store and introduce other associates to it. That was a big deal.

That was three years ago, and I’ve participated in the Challenge, a program for Walmart associates, their families and friends, ever since. I even won a prize for my success story — the very one I’m telling now. But to be honest, it wasn’t the biggest gift I received. I’ve also been honored to help more than 30 of my fellow associates with the program.

Paying It Forward

I now weigh about 180 pounds, perfect for my size (at one point I was at 153, but that wasn’t realistic). More than that, my life and my perspective have changed. I have more energy. I’m more outgoing. I enjoy life, and I share that enthusiasm. One of the things I’ve started doing is telling people in my life they’re doing a good job. When you tell people they’re doing awesome, it changes their day, and your own. Even more, it changes your world. Honestly, because of all these changes, I’m a nicer person.

I’m also one of the first 10 official ZP guides, so I’m ready with support and information whenever anyone needs either. I’m paying it forward. The support I’ve gotten in the store and online has been nothing short of tremendous. And I want to let others know they can be tremendous, too. Because you can. Everyone can.

I’m living proof.

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates. Read other associates’ stories of encouragement and motivation at ZPChallenge.com.  

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Sustainability

Hold the Salt: A Story of Reformulating Food

Big change is coming to the grocery aisles.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has mandated that partially hydrogenated oils – most commonly found in industrially produced fats and oils – be eliminated as a food ingredient by June 2018. Research clearly shows a link between trans fats and cardiovascular disease. So a timetable has been set to take action.

A big reason why I work for Walmart is that we’re constantly looking for ways we can help people live better – oftentimes, before federal mandates like these are handed down. In fact, by the end of this month, we anticipate having successfully removed all partially hydrogenated oils from Walmart private brand food – such as Great Value – sold in our U.S. stores, a goal we’ve been working toward since 2011. But we’re not stopping there.

Simultaneously, we’ve been working to reduce sodium in Walmart’s private brand foods and national brand food products by 25% and added sugars by 10% by the end of December 2015. We’ve long since surpassed our sugar-related reformulation goal. And, while we’re tracking about 5% behind our sodium reduction goal – results through December 2015 are being vetted and will be announced publicly this spring – we continue to work toward completion and are proud of the precedent we're setting across the grocery industry.

There have been some big wins along the way to help us move the needle. One example was when we set out to reduce sodium in all varieties of Great Value Potato Chips and Great Value Kettle Cooked Chips. We successfully removed a combined 30 tons of sodium from 36 million bags of chips annually. And, according to test data, we did so without compromising taste. To put that into perspective, 30 tons is equivalent to an entire Walmart truck (cab and trailer) or about 70 Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

In the end, every slice of progress in the reformulation of the thousands of private and national brand food items Walmart sells contributes to a healthier tomorrow for our customers. But the reality is, you can’t simply go out and turn the dial down on sodium, sugar and trans fats and say, ‘We’re there. We did it.’ Our palates are accustomed to certain tastes, so the key is taking small, incremental steps toward long-term change. You're basically giving consumers’ palates a chance to adjust rather than shocking them all at once.

Every step forward involves extensive time, testing, evaluation and more. Many of the wins we’re realizing today are several years in the making – and, in most cases, there was no road map for how to get there. As senior director of private brand food initiatives, I’ve been deeply entrenched in helping develop a road map. We recognized, for example, that the majority of sodium in the diet of the average American comes from processed foods. So we’ve focused our efforts on the 47 most popular processed food categories, which include such examples as cheeses, cereal, crackers, canned tomatoes and more.

One interesting discovery along the way was that the sodium within the recipes of our own Great Value breads varied from one production facility to another. So by working with each facility to understand needs and challenges, we were able to develop a standardized process that, in turn, helped produce long-term results in sodium reduction. There are a variety of hurdles and challenges to reformulation work within private brands, and there is the potential for even more with national brands. But we’ve already proven that, with a relentless work ethic, real progress can be made in the areas of sodium, sugar and trans fat reformulation. We continue to identify and zero in on additional opportunities.

There was a day when all of this seemed so overwhelming. But we’re creating a road map. We’re building best practices. We’re growing relationships, learning from our experiences and helping to influence a healthier tomorrow. 

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Opportunity

Path from Army to NASA Leads to Walmart

I can still remember how the walls shook each time one of the space shuttles launched. Even though the launch pad was seven miles away, everything around me shook like an earthquake.

As a satellite engineer, I got to be close to the action. I had a lot of great experiences during my 13 years with NASA. I worked as a satellite controller – including the Hubble – and even built and tested rocket launching systems. It’s something I will never forget!

When my shuttle site was deactivated in 2012, that left me needing to find another job. I ended up moving from Florida to Wyoming to work as an engineer for a satellite TV company for a year. After experiencing a harsh winter and a nearly fatal car accident, I was ready to move back. 

I was excited to be coming back to what I considered my home state. I wasn’t born there, but Florida felt like home from the instant I arrived. It’s also where I wanted to start life with my soon-to-be husband. It was easy to make the decision to move back, but what I didn’t expect was how hard it would be to start a brand-new career there. 

I was very fortunate to have had a solid work history and had even spent eight years in the Army supporting communications for the Pentagon and the White House. I thought I had a great background that would help me easily find a new career, but I was trying to find a new job right when unemployment was high. It was hard for everyone to find work. I went on interview after interview, a lot of them hourly jobs, each one telling me that I was overqualified. What none of them understood was how badly I wanted to work and contribute to something bigger. It was hard being without a job and to be continually told no.

I applied at Walmart, but expected the same answer. It was an hourly job in a store – there was no way they’d tell me yes when so many others had said no. I’m so glad they proved me wrong.

Because Walmart gave me a chance, I can make Florida my permanent home and build a life here. They knew that the leadership and problem-solving skills I’d learned in the Army and at NASA would help me be a great associate. My experiences taught me how to manage people well and get them focused on the task at hand. And being in the Army taught me how to take the resources I had, analyze the situation and create quick and efficient solutions. All of these things really help you when working in a store.

I was hired as an electronics associate at store 1172 in Jacksonville, Florida. It was challenging and fast-paced. I loved helping people and I brought that attitude to work with me every day. After only a year, I was promoted to Homelines department manager. I’ve been with Walmart for just over two years now. I tell every associate that if you work hard, are conscientious, use initiative and quickly take care of the problems you see – you’ll be recognized. I only see opportunity here – there’s no limit to where you can go. What’s my next step? I love people and leading teams, so I hope to work my way up to be an assistant store manager soon.

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