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Archive for the ‘Nutrition, Parents, Preschool’ Category

Our Little Ones and Sugar

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By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

As a pediatrician, we talk a great deal about childrenfood and children’s growth. For the vast majority of children, this is a topic easily broached by asking what their favorite foods are (pizza and tacos reign supreme) and what they like to drink (many say water, actually, and only a few admit they guzzle juice or soda). It is a fun way to start a conversation on a very broad and potentially complicated topic.  

After more than a couple of decades in practice, I get it. Food is love. Food is culture. Food is fun. Food is delicious. As North Americans, our love of food comes with a rather demanding sweet tooth. Along with this inclination comes parents who are rightfully concerned about their children’s sugar intake.  

I want to assure you, however, that many times the concern isn’t necessary – parents are well informed and smart about offering children nutritious foods. However, the lure of sugar is strong in children, and sometimes it’s hard to say no to those precious, pleading faces. While limiting sugar may seem daunting at times because it’s in just about everything, there are two takeaway messages we should remember: 

  1. Children are not destined to turn into cupcakes or refuse to eat anything but tablespoons of sugarno matter what Mary Poppins says. Has anyone verified her medical license?  
  2. We can help children develop healthy habits and reduce the amount of sugar in their dietscreate sugar hacks, if you will  when considering a tasty snack, confection, fine beverage or dessert.   

(Sort of a chew on this, eschew that, right?) 

I’ll channel a chat I have with parents who are concerned about their child’s weight. Ideally, we’ve been having this conversation all the way along: limiting sweet snacks as you are able and encouraging a balanced diet. It sounds easy, but if you ever walk into a supermarket, there are a lot of options competing for (and winning over) children’s taste buds. It is our role as grownups to push back on the siren calls of cupcakes and Sour Patch Kids and to set some limit, somewhere.  

I am not one to say never: never dessert, never candy, never soda. Absolute vows tend to fail absolutely. I am more about saying *sometimes* for sugary foods and drinks versus not allowing them at all. Should one eat ice cream for every meal? No, that is absurd, and children get it. Should one have more than a cup of soda or juice a day? The answer here is no, but it may require some explanation. Having juice or soda sometimes, but not all the time, can be okayas long as a child eats balanced meals overall for the day. 

So, if you are setting up a menu for a few days, how could you swap in some healthy alternatives instead of having frosted sugar bombs for dinner?  

Here are a few ideas:  

Hot days will continue well into September, so it may be handy to have a cool and smart alternative to sugary popsicles. Aren’t 100% juice popsicles better than the alternative because they’re natural? Great try, marketers, but no. Many products have additional sweeteners. One might do better to blend some fresh fruit (mixed berries, say, or mango or peach) and put the mixture in an ice cube tray. Delish.    

Is the snack cabinet full of cookies and tasty, carb-loaded sugary items? The best approach to this category is to limit how much fun food you purchase. If you don’t have it in stock, then they can’t senselessly nosh on it. Instead, put a bowl of fresh fruit that is in season on the kitchen table as appropriate for your children’s ages, including bananasapples, peaches or a small pile of washed berries.  

I might go one step further and help your preschoolers work with a peeler to learn how to peel an apple. Can they peel the whole skin in one go? Probably not, but trying can be a fun challenge. Just be sure to limit their attempts to one bit of fruit at a time so you don’t walk into the kitchen to see a pile of naked fruit. A grownup can slice the fruit into appropriate pieces for rapid consumption. 

Beverages are an area where there is some latitude. I advise parents to avoid buying juice or soda altogether if it is too much of a temptation. (If you do buy OJ, for example, be sure to buy the variety with calcium and vitamin D supplements.) For children over two years old, 2% milk is fine, within reason. For you fans out there, chocolate milk is a SUGARY drink, best considered almost like a soda for all the glucose it has in there. Drinking two or three cups of cow’s milk a day is ideal for growing, but many children take far less than that, taking water instead, I find. Flavored seltzer can be a great option instead of sugary sodas. Sugarfree juices like Crystal Lite and diet sodas are a bit controversial (the longterm effects of the artificial sweeteners remain an area of concern) but may be a reasonable concession for some families. 

Then, there is dessert. “Should we let children eat dessert? I get asked. Yes, in moderation in terms of amount and frequency. For example, if you have a dessert after dinner of blueberries in a bowl of milk, then no problem. If a child has a hankering for a bowl of ice cream and hot fudge every day, I’d think that through, in terms of how that fits with a child’s or family’s profile. For most children, though, having an occasional bowl or cone of ice cream or some other sugary fare is not an issue.  

I will say that I’d encourage children to eat a reasonable portion of their dinner BEFORE they tuck into a sweet aftermeal snack. Some children get overly clever at this sort of meal replacement and push away their plate and eat a double helping of the afterdinner treat 

Bookstores, cookbooks, family filing cabinets and the internet (such as ChopChopFamily.org – Recipes) are full of ideas for balanced meals and less sugary options for our children. I think we all will be more successful if we think holistically about how our children eat across the days and the weeks. Are they eating a balance of protein, fat and some carbs? Are we offering them, to the extent possible, fresh foods and options that are lessoften sweetened or enriched with corn syrup? Once we have an idea of what we want to offer them, it is important to look at one’s cabinets (or secret candy stashes from last Halloween) and understand where all of their calories are coming from. 

Work with your children to understand their favorite foods, and work with them on a Sunday evening to build a menu for the week using their input for some of the entries (let the children take turns choosing a topfive food for dinner one night each week) and build on their choices and preferences. Fried chicken is okay. Fried Oreos may not be.  

With this in mind, we can get back to the basics that make eating together an occasion of love, culture, togetherness and joy, without the sugar high to follow if you are lucky!  

Bon appétit.  

 

How to Get Your Picky Eaters to Enjoy Healthy Foods

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By Jack Maypole, MD
Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

During my travels as a parent, it seemed that during my children’s early childhood and school-age years that snack time was all the time: It was in the car. It was in the stroller. Once, one of my daughters asked for a snack during dinner. Maybe that is the problem with our modern concept of snacking, which often results in non-nutritious grazing, most especially (in my brood) involving a hankering for items of the high-sodium, cheddar-y orange food group (the noble Cheez-It, say, or mac ‘n’ cheese). It need not be so, however. We can do better and not succumb to the temptations of highly processed foods. For busy families, it is possible to get out of a rut and into a groove, finding a balance of healthier menu items that can satisfy everyone and perhaps transform snack time. For those who can swing it, there are a variety of soft foods in foil packs, often with marketing touting their organic and healthful qualities, but these foods are pricey.

In my practice, I counsel families to make a list of their child’s favorite foods and then draw from that list the items that are age appropriate, tasty and easy to prepare and that will survive in a bag till midday. For the toddler set, finger foods rule. Serve soft items that disintegrate or are swallowed easily, such as cheese, cut fruit or finely chopped meat, in Tupperware, and you are good to go. For older children who can handle more substantial foods, it can be fun to offer teeny versions of bigger dishes, such as a small grilled cheese or some slices of fruit. Be thoughtful about items that might spoil in the heat of a summer’s day, and don’t hesitate to ask friends what works for them. That is where the best ideas come from, I find. Portion sizes need not be big (a salad plate’s worth is plenty), and I recommend that you keep it simple, not fussy. It turns out children eat every day, so keep it sustainable. Lastly, avoid sugary beverages. Given a choice, I’d offer children water over juice.

Whatever you choose, I have found that the picky eaters out there (read that as “most children”) do best if you provide them with a familiar item or two, and then periodically offer up new foods that they can try to expand their palates and repertoires. You can assess how you’re doing by seeing what comes back home at the end of the day and modify your approach accordingly. As ever, respect the food-allergy restrictions most schools have, communicate any your child may have and touch base with teachers and your child’s doctor if you are concerned your child may have an allergy.

Most of all, enjoy. Snack time is a fun time. Bon appétit!

Apple Ring Snacks 

 

Add a healthy twist to after-school snack time with these tasty apple rings! 

Ingredients 

  • One apple 
  • Your choice of nut or seed butter 
  • Raisins 
  • Sliced almonds 
  • Chopped walnuts 
  • Shredded coconut 

Instructions 

  1. Slice apple into thin rings and remove core from each ring.  
  1. Spread nut butter on one side of ring.  
  1. Top with almonds, walnuts, raisins and coconut.  
  1. Enjoy! 

 

Feel free to substitute chocolate chips for the raisins and/or chocolate-hazelnut spread for the nut butter. 

Three Simple Ways to Manage Sweets at Home

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What do birthday parties, Halloween and school functions have in common? The answer is food, particularly sweet treats. These events often come with a side of cake, cookies, candy and soda, which are all sugar-rich foods that many families try hard to limit at home.

Try as you might, children eventually find a way to consume them; we’re all born predisposed to desire sweets (De Cosmi, Scaglioni & Agnostoni, 2017).

Restricting foods and labeling them as good or bad can be problematic, but how can you ensure that your children are eating nutritious meals and not gorging themselves on sweets?

1. Change the labels.

There is no such thing as good food or bad food. Repeat this mantra.

Study after study has found that when foods are labeled this way, we respond with detrimental behaviors. Stigmatizing food can lead to eating disorders, shame, secret eating, depression and more (Rollin, 2015).

Jill Castle, a pediatric nutritionist, recommends using the terms “nourishing” and “fun” instead of good and bad or healthy and unhealthy.

Examples of nourishing foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy products. Examples of fun foods include fried foods, chips, soda, cake and sugary beverages.

2. Implement the 90-10 rule.

Castle also recommends following the 90-10 rule, meaning 90% of your children’s meals will be nourishing foods and 10% will be fun foods (Castle, 2018). Let your children be part of this process. Explain what fun foods are, then help them identify some.

Only give your children two servings of fun foods a day.

3. Let your children choose.

Allow your children to choose the fun foods they’d like to eat whenever possible. This freedom is hugely important as children seek to exert their independence. Additionally, Castle says that this choice will help teach children how to self-regulate and use their decision-making skills.

Castle says, “The goal is to help your child pause and think through what she will eat during the day, and give her an opportunity to think ahead and practice decision-making skills with eating” (Castle, 2018).

What methods do you use to manage fun foods at home?

References

Castle, J. (2018). The 90-10 rule for managing treats. Retrieved from https://jillcastle.com/childhood-nutrition/fun-food-90-10-rule/

De Cosmi, V., Scaglioni, S. & Agnostoni, C. (2017). Early taste experiences and later food choices. Nutrients, 9(2):107.

Rollin, J. (2015). How the idea of “healthy eating” can be harmful. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-musings/201512/how-the-idea-healthy-eating-can-be-harmful?destination=node/1082948

Four Ways to Raise a Body Confident Child

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How Negative Self-Talk Affects Children

Recently, I was in a fitting room at a local clothing store when I overheard an all-too-common sigh of disgust. The woman who sighed said that she couldn’t believe how much weight she’d gained, that she was going to start a new diet immediately and that she was so gross. The laundry list of insults continued.

Normally, I could ignore something like this, but the barrage against her body didn’t stop. Then, I heard her teenage daughter chime in about running and dieting.

My stomach dropped. She was eviscerating her body in front of her daughter.

Unfortunately, this is commonplace. We’re taught through social media, movies, TV shows and advertising that being fat is bad.

Even children as young as three begin to perceive thin as good and fat as bad (Cramer & Steinwert, 1998).

While we can’t control everything our children see and hear, we can control the messages they consume at home.

Here are some ideas for being more mindful about how bodies are discussed in your family.

1. Pay attention to your words.

We’ve all been frustrated when clothes are too snug, but our bodies won’t always stay the same size. Our weights will fluctuate over time, which is normal. Before you decide to say negative things about your body, check in with yourself. What will it accomplish? Who will hear you say it?

What we say about ourselves around our children, even if we don’t think they’re listening, stays with them. A recent study found that when young girls overheard family members’ self-deprecating body talk, their risk of disordered eating and their likelihood of having a poor body image significantly increased (Webb, Rogers, Etzel & Padro, 2018).

I’ve made a conscious effort to stop speaking negatively about my body in front of my son. I made a pact with myself while I was pregnant that he would never hear me say anything bad about my appearance because negative body talk affects all children.

2. Don’t comment on your child’s weight.

I remember my aunt grabbing my thigh and asking whether I should really have another helping of food. She thought it was hysterical, and I was ashamed. I was in my early teens and already struggled with body image issues. Looking back, I was healthy and fit, but I didn’t see myself that way.

At their mildest, comments such as the one my aunt made may lead to weight and body dissatisfaction into adulthood (Wansink, Latimer & Pope, 2016). One study found that being labeled “too fat” at age 10 was a significant predictor of obesity at age 19. The likelihood was strongest when the comments came from family members.

Even if you think you’re delivering your message gently, talking about someone else’s weight is unkind. If you’re concerned about your child being overweight, experts recommend having

the family make lifestyle changes together. Get outside and play more, serve nutritionally balanced meals and always focus on health rather than weight (Wolfram, 2019). You can also always talk to your child’s pediatrician.

3. Talk to your children.

It’s so simple, but talking to your children can help put issues into perspective. If you’re watching a movie and the characters are making jokes about a person’s weight, remind your children that this is bullying. Explain to your children that it’s not nice to make fun of anyone for how they look.

Be mindful of how you speak about other people’s bodies.

Here are a few unhelpful phrases:

  • He’s gained weight. He looks better;
  • He’s gained weight. He looks worse;
  • She should always wear makeup;
  • She looks better without makeup;
  • She should dress for her size;
  • She should cover up her body;
  • I would never wear that if I looked like him.

4. Show them a diverse range of body types.

Choose books and movies with a diverse cast of characters. Show them that larger bodies exist and that those bodies matter just as much as smaller bodies. Look for shows that also feature people with disabilities and people who are gender-nonconforming.

What do you do to help your children feel comfortable in their bodies?

 

References

Cramer, P. & Steinwert, T. (1998). Thin is good, fat is bad: How early does it begin? Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 19(3), 429-451.

Wansink, B., Latimer, L.A. & Pope, L. (2016). “Don’t eat so much”: How parent comments relate to female weight satisfaction. Eating and Weight Disorders, 22(3), 475-481.

Webb, J., Rogers, C., Etzel, L. & Padro, M. (2018). “Mom, quit fat talking—I’m trying to eat (mindfully) here!”: Evaluating a sociocultural model of family fat talk, positive body image and mindful eating in college women. Appetite, 126, 169-175.

Wolfram, T. (2019). How to talk to kids about weight and obesity. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/overweight-and-obesity/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-weight-and-obesity.

How to Overcome Your Child’s Picky Eating Habits

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You were a picky eater when you were a child. Now your own child is, shall we say, highly discriminating on what he or she eats, too. Coincidence? A recent study says maybe not.

The study, by researchers from the University of Illinois, gathered information from the parents of 153 preschoolers. They found that while many factors can play a role in a child’s choosy eating, genes that are linked to a child’s sensory responses could be one of them.

What does this mean if you’re the parent of a picky eater? Do you simply throw up your hands and say it’s genetic?

Keep trying

Don’t give up on efforts to entice your child to eat a broader range of food, says Jennifer Hyland, RD, CSP, LD of Cleveland Clinic Children’s. It’s important to continue to expose children to new foods over time to get them to try them, she says.

There is a wide spectrum of behavior when it comes to picky eating, Ms. Hyland says. But for most children, picky eating does not go away on its own unless parents really work at it.

Research has shown it can take anywhere from 10 to 20 tries for a child to like a particular food, she says.

But you don’t want to force foods upon your child. Keep meals an enjoyable experience, Ms. Hyland says. One strategy is for parents to ask their children to take no-thank-you bites – which means they can say, “no thank you,” but they have to at least try the food. This leads to continued exposure, and over time, it’s hoped they will learn to develop a taste for these foods.

At meal time, Ms. Hyland says, it’s helpful to have at least one food on the plate that you know your child will eat. Also, but be sure to give everyone at the table the same foods.

“Try your best to cook the same meal for the whole family,” she says. “The child may not eat all of it, but it’s important that you encourage them to at least try, and that you set an example of trying these foods yourself, so that over time, they will learn to eat these foods.”

It begins during toddlerhood

It’s typical for picky eating to start during the toddler years, Ms. Hyland says.

“Normal picky-eating can start anywhere as early as age 2 or 3,” she says. “Usually during infancy, children are adventurous eaters and they’re trying new things. The picky eating really creeps up around the time they become toddlers. Parents will say, ‘My kid ate vegetables and they liked this and they liked that and now they don’t eat anything.’ We see that pretty frequently.” 

Should parents worry about a picky eater? If your child is underweight, you might be worried that your child isn’t getting enough nutrition. This results in parents giving their children whatever they want to eat to make sure they’re getting enough calories.

If this is you, it’s a  good time to meet with a registered dietitian or physician, because there are ways to combat that problem, while still improving the picky eating habits, Ms. Hyland says.

The most important thing a parent can do with a choosy eater is be consistent and not give up, Ms. Hyland says.

However, if a child has chewing or swallowing issues, or shows severe anxiety about trying new foods,  talk to a doctor, because you child may need the help of a behavioral specialist or multidisciplinary feeding program.

Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics.

 

 

This article was written by Children’s Health Team from Cleveland Clinic and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Five Benefits of Teaching Children to Cook

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Cooking is as important a life skill as swimming or riding a bike; however, like those other skills, cooking is not generally taught in school. Parents are usually responsible for teaching their children to cook. Here are five benefits of teaching children this valuable skill.

  1. It’s a great bonding experience. If you teach your child how to make a favorite family recipe, she will have a memory that can last a lifetime.
  2. It leads to healthy eating habits. By purchasing fresh, healthy ingredients and using them to prepare a meal at home with your child, you will give him a better understanding of what healthy eating looks and tastes like.
  3. It helps build math skills. Cooking involves math, such as measuring out a cup of milk, counting eggs or doubling a recipe. Using math practically in the kitchen helps bolster those skills.
  4. It helps boost confidence. If you serve spaghetti and meatballs and announce to the rest of your family that your child helped prepare the meal, it may give him a sense of accomplishment, which will increase his self-esteem.
  5. It encourages the development of communication and collaboration skills. If you and your child are baking a cake, you have to talk about what you are doing, such as measuring flour or stirring batter. You must also work together to assemble the cake.

Learning through Meal Prepping: Five Benefits of Encouraging Children to Pack Their Own Lunches

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Letting children assist with packing their own lunches can be beneficial. You can teach your children about responsibility and portion control and boost their creativity and decision-making skills by inviting your children into the kitchen with you for a lesson. Here are five benefits of allowing children to help prepare their own lunches.

It emphasizes portion control. Bento-box lunch containers are an easy and exceptionally helpful tool for teaching your child about portion sizes and meal organization. When your children select their lunch items with you, provide them with a bento-box container and explain what healthy meal portions look like. They can use the bento box to pack their lunches, which helps them visualize and be aware of the portion sizes they are packing.

It introduces the importance of nutrition. Your children’s favorite go-to treats, such as fruit snacks and cookies, don’t necessarily make some of the healthiest snacks. When they’re in the kitchen with you, teach them about what the key food groups are and how those food groups keep their minds and bodies well nourished. Provide different vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains and dairy products, and let them choose what to put into their lunch bags. Guide them to pack meals with all the food groups.

It aids in independent learning and decision making. When your children are preparing their lunches with you in the kitchen, give them options for what to pack. Allow them to choose from two or three different things. Do they want a chicken sandwich, a turkey sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Do they want carrots or cucumbers? Do they want strawberries, apples or grapes? Once they decide, let them gather and pack their choices, and then help them focus on the next food group. Once you establish a routine, they will make quicker decisions. Picking their own meals lets them feel independent and accomplished.

It boosts creativity and introduces the art of cooking.
Getting your children into the kitchen at a young age helps them start cooking and learning the steps it takes to create a meal. Instead of providing them with premade and wrapped turkey sandwiches, let them make some with you. Start by letting them select the bread, get out the condiments and select the meat, cheese and toppings they want on their delicious sandwiches. This shows them how much time, effort, creativity and skill it takes to make a proper lunch.

It teaches responsibility, routines and time management. Whether you pack meals after dinner or after your children get home from school, make sure to schedule a meal-preparation time that works best for your family. Meet in the kitchen at your designated time, and start preparing the lunches. By establishing a routine, such as meeting every night or twice a week at 7 PM, you will be familiarizing your children with following a schedule, helping them plan meals. If you want to make meal preparation more fun, consider getting a small chalkboard or whiteboard to keep in your kitchen. Have your children write out the days of the week and the foods they want in their lunchboxes each day. This can keep you organized, and it encourages your children to start planning meals.

Bento Box Mania!

What is a bento box?

Bento box lunches have been increasing in popularity among families with preschoolers and school-age children. Google the term “bento box lunch” and you will find a wealth of resources, including blogs, Pinterest pages and online retailers selling basic and whimsical options. If a parent is artistic, the child’s lunch can become a work of art.

Why does it work well for school lunches?

Bento boxes work well for school lunches and snacks because they protect food in a sealed container and keep food groups separate. If you have a picky eater who does not like foods touching, a bento box may keep your child happy. Parents can have fun creating different lunchtime masterpieces. Bento boxes are also economical because they are reusable and help keep plastic snack and sandwich bags out of landfills.

What are the nutritional benefits of bento boxes?

Bento boxes are appealing because they provide a creative way to add a variety of foods to a child’s lunch while keeping wet foods separate from dry foods. By introducing different, healthy foods early in your child’s life, he or she may develop a preference for those foods as well as a more diverse palate. You can also turn the preparation of the bento box into a learning activity by asking your child what each food is, where it comes from, how it’s made and so on. Engaging your child in the experience may help to build and reinforce a child’s love of diverse, nutritious foods while fostering a love of learning.

What can I put in my child’s bento box?

The options are endless, but here are some ideas:

  • Sliced hard-boiled eggs;
  • A mini-bagel sandwich with almond butter, jelly or another spread;
  • Sliced strawberries, blueberries and kiwis;
  • Cheese cubes;
  • Pretzels;
  • Sliced grapes;
  • A muffin;
  • Mini-pita sandwiches filled with cheese and pepperoni;
  • Sliced pineapple;
  • Celery and carrot sticks;
  • Cucumber slices;
  • A turkey and cheese sandwich on a Hawaiian roll;
  • Veggie chips;
  • Rice molds;
  • Chickpeas and black beans;
  • Raisins and chocolate chips;
  • Sandwich rounds with ham, cheese and avocado.

Enjoy making bento box lunches!

5 Easy and Delicious One-Pan Meals

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It’s easy to get lazy on weeknights, especially when the mere thought of cooking an entire dinner is exhausting. That’s where these five one-pan meals come in. Just assemble all of the ingredients on a single baking sheet and pop it in the oven. Because a no fuss, no mess dinner is exactly what you need right now.

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Sausage with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans

An instant dinner with almost no cleanup.

Get the recipe

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

One-Pan Roasted Salmon with Potatoes and Romaine

The least intimidating way to cook seafood at home.

Get the recipe

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

One-Pan Eggs with Asparagus and Tomatoes

Serve it for breakfast or dinner.

Get the recipe

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

One-Pan Roasted Chicken with Carrots

Cook it all at once on a sheet pan, then kick back and enjoy dinner (without a pile of pots and pans in the sink).

Get the recipe

Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

One-Pan Steak with Beets and Crispy Kale

A proper meat-and-potatoes dinner, minus the fuss.

Get the recipe

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.