Emma Heming-Willis

Health, it’s no mystery. Just like every other aspect of our lives these days, the wellness space has become crowded with too much content and information. We, in partnership with Tropicana, decided to bring it back to the basics.

How do Moms get their kids to eat healthy the authentic way? You might think you need to douse those Brussels sprouts in sugar, or somehow hide cauliflower in ketchup, but turns out there are Moms out there serving their kids wholesome ingredients, with no strings attached. We called upon a few tastemakers to share those recipes and discuss all things food and family. Emma Heming-Willis is the definition of #MomGoals. The former 90’s model and wife to Bruce Willis created the site First Time Mom, where she communicates with other Moms on all things concerning their kids. We caught up with Heming-Willis to talk about the trickier parts of parenting, like getting your children to eat healthily.

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How do you get your children to eat healthy with “no strings attached”? Whats your go-to recipe that youre sharing with us today?

For the most part, we try to stick to organic and wholesome food at home. That’s how we decided to raise our girls. We make it fun! For example, to get them to eat broccoli, we tell them they’re eating yummy little trees. It works! I only hope that it will stick with them for the long term. But it’s also about balance: if my kids want the occasional ice cream, I’m not going to refuse them. I just make sure to monitor their sugar intake.

My favorite go-to recipe are these No Bake Energy Balls I made for you. They are great for the whole family, the kids can help make them, and I don’t have to turn my oven on! It’s a good healthy protein snack we all love.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup peanut butter (I like the crunchy or substitute with almond butter)

1/3 cup raw honey or maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup shredded coconut

3 tablespoon quick oats

2 tablespoon ground flaxseed

1 teaspoon chia seeds

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 sea salt

1/4 raisins

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl add all your wet ingredients. Peanut butter, honey (or maple syrup,) vanilla extract. Mix till combined. Add all your dry ingredients to the wet and mix well. Then fold in your raisins.

If you find your mixture is too dry and won’t stick together, add a few teaspoons of water. If the mixture is too wet, you could add more of the shredded coconut. I dip my ice cream scoop in water and then into the mixture, which will give a good size ball. The water will help the mixture not stick to the scoop. Roll in your hands (you’ll want your hands damp for this step, too) Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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How do you start your day with your kids?

I get up extra early to have some time for myself and to jump start my business day. At 6:45, I start getting the kids ready and downstairs for breakfast.

How has having children changed the way you see food?

Once I became pregnant with my first child, my whole outlook on food changed. I became conscious about what I was eating and putting in my body, even the products I was applying to my body. I wanted to go more natural and organic. I definitely feel better since doing so.

Whats your favorite meal to make with your family?

I love weekends with the kids, as the pace just slows down. Breakfast is always a fun one; we like making scrambled eggs or pancakes. They love helping out in the kitchen.

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How do you get your child to eat when they’re not hungry?

I don’t. If they aren’t hungry, I don’t force it. I wouldn’t want to be forced to eat if I wasn’t hungry. Their eating times are pretty scheduled so it’s rare for them not to be hungry at mealtime.

What are your childs favorite snacks? What are your favorite snacks?

My kids love a combo mix, which is three things I put on their plates. I normally do a fruit, nut and carb such as crackers, for example. My favorite snack is my Greek yogurt dip recipe; I dunk avocado and rice thin crackers into it.

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Are there any foods youd never feed your family? Why?

Fast food is where I draw the line. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up on fast food, because it was easy and inexpensive, which was perfect for my single Mom. But that was a long time ago and today, there are so many options that are easy and healthy to make. Even if you don’t have time to cook or prepare something, there are healthy, organic frozen options in every store. I feel better knowing what is going into my kids’ bodies.

Are there any foods you eat that your children don’t? Any foods they eat that you dont? Why?

My kids like their veggies more than I do! Mushy greens were forced on me as a child, which clearly has had a lasting effect. But for the most part, I would say that they are pretty open to foods. I had them eating the same foods that my husband and I were having from the start, so they’ve developed a pretty good palate. Of course, there are days when they get picky; it’s all a part of being a mom.

Are there any foods your child refuses to eat? 

There was a moment when I thought my youngest Evelyn was going to be vegetarian. She wouldn’t eat fish or meat, but it was a phase. She now loves salmon!

Any advice youd give to new Moms?

Make time for yourself when you can. It’s so important for moms to look after themselves. It’s so easy to put everyone’s needs ahead of our own; I can’t stress the importance of making you time enough.

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Is your child a picky eater? How do you deal with that?

Yes and no. There are days when I’ve put something in front of them they’ve refused to eat, yet three days later, they’ll be devouring it. Sometimes I think their pickiness just comes down to their mood.

Whats an easy way to get your children to have more protein? More greens?

Smoothies are a great way to get them to have more protein and greens. Adding a scoop of nut butter and throwing in some spinach to a yummy smoothie can do the trick. It’s a great way to get lots of nutrients in for the day while covering it up for picky eaters.

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Do you ever use food as a reward? ie: a lollipop after a visit to the doctor’s office.

I’ve always tried to not go that route, but because I don’t give out lollipops too often, once in a while it comes in handy. Perfect example: my youngest has to get her blood drawn and you bet I’m going to give that kid a lollipop after! She’ll totally deserve it – and now she’s actually excited to get her blood drawn.

Does your child like to cook with you? Do you let them help with meal prep? 

My kids are still so young, but I’ve had them in the kitchen with me for a while now. It’s mostly about cracking an egg or mixing up flour with other dry ingredients. It is pretty basic stuff still, but it’s a good start. Knowing how to cook is a great skill for their future.

How important is it that children have home-cooked meals?

There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal. You know what ingredients you are using, so you know they are getting a nutritious meal. There’s never any doubt. When we go out however, we have to pretty much let go of the reins. They go for the kid friendly menu, which is totally fine once in a while, but usually consists of greasier options which I don’t love.

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Whats an easy way to teach your children to love food?

I suggest starting when they are young. Introduce different foods to them, think outside the box and make it appealing to them. If you introduce things like fish and veggies from when they begin eating solid foods, it will be totally normal to them. It doesn’t have to be super black and white, but if you approach it properly, it will stick with them.

What foods did you love and hate as a child? Does your child feel the same way about them?

Cauliflower and broccoli were so gross when I was growing up. (Sorry Mom, but they were overcooked mush!) My kids love their greens because I know how to cook them in a way that we all can enjoy them.

How do you encourage your child to have a healthy relationship with food?

I believe children learn by example. I’m a foodie and my kids are very aware of it. I also emphasize the importance of eating healthy food to take good care of our bodies. They also see me looking for recipes we can use to create a meal together. Mealtime is sacred – especially dinner, where we sit and share the day’s events. We also remind the kids to be thankful for all our blessings. Then we laugh and enjoy the experience of a wonderful meal. So, there is that association that food and family go hand in hand. I think that creates a healthy relationship with food for them. That said, it’s not always a totally Zen affair; a perfect mealtime can quickly turn into chaos as well.

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*Photographed by Danielle Kosann