Joy L. Bauer, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., is host of NBC’s Health & Happiness and the health and nutrition expert on The Today Show. She has authored 12 bestselling books. Her latest book, Joy’s Simple Food Remedies, explores the healing power of food. She also has a children’s book coming out this month: Yummy Yoga, encouraging young kids to try healthy new foods and exercise.
Live Naturally caught up with Joy to hear her thoughts on food as medicine and how parents can get their kids to eat more fruits and veggies.
What does the term “wellness” mean to you?
It means maintaining good health and a positive attitude. In other words, living a balanced life for both physical and emotional well-being.
In your words, why is food medicine?
There’s so much research showing the true power of food—and the ability healthy food has to heal and to help us feel markedly better.
For example, studies validate that certain foods can help minimize belly fat, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, combat headaches, reduce anxiety and stress, and potentially curb cold and flu symptoms.
Take for example a bowl of chicken noodle soup. Studies show this classic really can help ease cold and flu symptoms. And blueberries can boost brain power while cocoa powder and garlic can help manage blood pressure. Lucky for us, science is moving in the direction of utilizing food as medicine as we discover the curative properties of plant-based compounds.
You have a new book coming out, Yummy Yoga, with advice to encourage kids to eat healthier. Could you offer a few tips to busy parents on how they can get their kids to eat better?
Make healthy food FUN. The key to encouraging kids to eat healthfully is to make it fun and engaging. That’s the goal of my new book, Yummy Yoga. The pages are filled with tasty, kid-friendly recipes and playful yoga poses to entertain and excite little ones as they discover healthy, new habits. You’ll find smoothies, fruit skewers, veggie pizzas, super food ice pops; all foods that kids enjoy eating—and they’re chock full of ingredients that are good for them.
Eat more produce yourself! Kiddie see, kiddie do. If your little ones see you eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to do it. A study from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found that preschool-age kids were more likely to eat bell peppers (and prefer them in the future) after being shown a video of people eating the veggie compared to kids who didn’t see the veggie video. Encourage your children to eat more fruit and vegetables by enjoying them yourself, and by pointing out other people (grandparents, siblings, cousins, friends, babysitters, and so on) who enjoy them, too!
Think out of the box. If your child doesn’t like steamed broccoli, don’t give up. Instead, try another spin. Whip up a batch of pan-charred broccoli, creamy broccoli soup, broccoli and chicken stir-fry, or top it with cheese sauce or marinara…you get the idea. Be creative and experiment until you find a recipe your child does like.
Give kiddos some power. Give your kids the power to choose—a fun recipe, a new fruit or a veggie to prepare as a side dish, or even the theme of the meal. It’s a simple equation that will make mealtimes less fraught: more freedom = less fussing. When you involve your kids with planning and prep a few nights each week, you’ll find they’re less likely to argue about finishing their veggies. Good food, good mood: sounds appetizing, right?
When in doubt, hide it. Sometimes, it’s easier to just slip veggies into their favorite foods. You can add a handful of kale or spinach into smoothies. Add chopped broccoli into mac and cheese (no brainer!). Toss diced carrots and red bell peppers into meatballs, burgers or meatloaf. Swap out standard noodles for veggie noodles, like spaghetti squash or zucchini linguini (aka zoodles). Mix cauliflower rice with traditional rice. Blend canned pumpkin puree into marinara sauce and taco meat. The options are limitless!
You continuously create so many healthy, yummy recipes. What types of things keep you inspired to come up with new ideas?
I find inspiration from so many different things: from my family members and friends who request different meals and snacks. From readers or social media followers who write in asking for recipe remakes. From traveling and experiencing the deliciousness of various ethnic cuisines. From websites or blogs that I follow or visit. From magazines or cookbooks that I read. From fresh produce that I find at supermarkets or farmers markets. Inspiration to eat (and cook) healthfully is everywhere—you just have to look for it!
Try some of Joy’s recipes