DISCLOSURE: This post is part of a paid partnership with California Milk Processor Board. All opinions and experiences are authentically my own.
Sometime between last year this time and now, someone evidently told my daughters that dessert is required AFTER EVERY MEAL. ?!?!?! I don’t think so, ladies.
“What’s for dessert?” they interrogate me after lunch and dinner (at least they’re not asking after breakfast… although my little one tried to convince me the other day that a lollipop would “make her warmer” during the car ride to school). Even a face this sweet couldn’t convince me to give her something sweet before 8am. Sorry, doll.
“You don’t get dessert after every meal!” I repeat myself several times daily. Then they exasperatingly sign and complain about how I’m so mean… blah blah blah. “You never let us have dessert?!?!”
That’s not true girls. Not. True. (It’s not.)
But hey, March is National Nutrition Month and I’m going to blame my shrewd cut-the-junk-food attitude and good-food-amp-up on that in the name of resetting ourselves after Valentine’s Day’s out-of-control sugar fest. This goal of mine is family-wide, folks. (Although my husband is already pretty healthy and constantly tells me I eat way too much sugar anyways. I digress.)
Fact #1: Doctors and health experts keep telling us that the things all of us (young and old) have trouble getting enough of in our daily diets are calcium, protein and fiber. Fact #2: The more we stock our homes with the right stuff, and put that right stuff right in front of us (ie: milk in the and find fun ways to make it all more interesting than we’re typically used to), the more likely we’ll go for it when we’re starving and need a snack pronto.
So! In the name of tricking my kids they’re getting something dessert-y between and/or after meals I’ve gotten creative. Extra points for me (for all the extra calcium and protein I’m sneaking in… shh, don’t spill my secrets).
I start with making my little ladies ice cream for breakfast. (And yes, I feel so strongly about this whole disguise-good-food-as-dessert concept I went on KMPH Fox 26’s “Great Day” morning show to drive it home):
As for after lunch, I’m trying to curb our cookie obsession (no offense to our dear Girl Scouts’ Thin Mints)! Our latest go-to snack is oatmeal that tastes like a freakin’ cookie. (SOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOD!) A little chocolate never hurt anybody as long as it’s nestled between fiber-packed oats that can lower cholesterol (for us grown ups) and also stabilize glucose blood levels (for our hyper kiddos). Using milk to make oatmeal (instead of water) ups the protein and fiber intake for any kind of snack or meal.
Hot Chocolate Oatmeal.
1/2 cup instant oats
1 cup milk (whole, low-fat, nonfat or lactose free)
1/4 cup (or less) mini dark chocolate chips
Maple syrup to taste
Put oats and chocolate chips in a bowl, add milk and then nuke according to quick oats instructions (usually about 1-2 minutes). Stir stir stir (add more milk if needed for consistency), add a bit of maple syrup (per your taste) and enjoy.
Oh! And you can dried cherries, strawberries, bananas… whatever floats your boat. My big girl’s eyes almost popped from pure joy when she tasted this ‘chocolate oatmeal cookie in a bowl’ for the first time…. and she also didn’t ask me for another snack 15 minutes later (the protein in milk, and the fat in the non-skim varieties helps satiety and that feeling of fullness to feel more satisfied and makes it less likely to get hungry sooner).
Yes, anchor Kopi Sotiropulos was a bit obsessed… our recipe-making shenanigans here:
Ok, want another one? This is our go-to for after dinner these days…
2 ½ cups milk (whole, low-fat, nonfat or lactose free)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
(Makes enough for 2-3 kids.)
Combine milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Whisk together until blended. Heat in microwave for about 1 minute. Whisk again. Pour into mugs and serve immediately.
This clever ‘cookie-flavored’ drink even won over my girl who isn’t usually a fan of milk (sorry, milk, but I keep it real here!) — now she asks for this because it’s “so yummy” (her quote). I’m just glad her post-dinner mini-wrath has ended for all those times I refused to give her candy after meals. We tend to forget how versatile milk is, and how it’s one of our most natural foods (with one ingredient) from right here in California. This Snickerdoodle after-dinner drink is now one of our new favorite desserts. W-I-N. (Pop quiz: How many glasses of milk do pediatricians recommend for kids age 4 and up to drink? 2-3 glasses! So they get enough protein for brain and body development… kicking out a whole glass and passing as “dessert” helps me fulfill our daily quota.)
Here’s the thing: I’m not mean, I’m not a buzzkill, I’m not anti-candy. (Again, ask my husband.) But, I DO notice the difference in my kids and myself when we skimp on our snacks and don’t opt for the kind of food that satisfies from the inside-out — we get cranky, we get tired, we get hungrier fast and our brains don’t work as fast as they otherwise can. I’m finding that if I sneak in more of the good stuff (especially protein and calcium) into the bits that we consume between meals, we tend to feel a whole lot better.
As for something to satisfy my own hankering for a rich nightcap (complete with protein, anti-oxidants and calcium), I’ll let you watch me make that here. (Red Wine Hot Chocolate!)
Happy snacking (with things that taste like cookies)!