Spaghetti Squash Casserole...And how I get my kids to eat healthy food

Spaghetti Squash Casserole...And how I get my kids to eat healthy food


I get asked a lot of questions about my kids and their eating habits. When Lochlan, my oldest, was a toddler, we didn’t know what we were doing and I fell in the same rut many parents do. He would eat Annie’s cheddar bunnies and drink pasteurized milk, and that was it. Later, he went on a blueberry-only fast… that lasted at least a few months. But when I had Felicity, I had a personal health crisis (I got postpartum anxiety from far too low vitamin levels, especially low vitamin D), and I drastically turned my diet around. We went on a gut-healing diet, and started to see food as more than something with which to fill your belly or entertain your tastebuds. Your food literally becomes YOU. And it feeds the gut bacteria that guide many processes in your body, even turning genes on and off!

God gives us a blueprint for a strong, healthy body, straight teeth, and we are meant to live to an old age with our minds fully intact. Our genes are this blueprint. But there is so much choice in how the blueprint is used. WE determine the building materials for every cell. What we put in our bodies determines whether we go with our optimal blueprint, or not. I don’t think most physical problems are from weak genes — our genes simply have requirements for nutrients and clean environment that need to be met. This is called epigenetics — you turn genes on and off based on what you eat and how you live.

I realized that my kids deserve to have their bodies' needs for nutrients met. Every day. Without fail. This is one of my highest responsibilities as a parent.

And it can seem so daunting. 

But I’ve chosen to see it as empowering. I can give my children energy, proper growth, preventing many diseases and infections, helping them be mentally quick and alert, living to their full potential while alive on this earth, even giving them the best chance at having fertility as adults, and longevity.

Most of my waking hours as a mom are spent preparing food. It’s power in my hands — I can choose to fuel health or fuel disease. This is not a fad diet. You don't cook real food for a month and quit. I spend a large amount of time learning about what's in our food, and I make more and more from scratch, buying more and more locally. I can’t go backwards.

I’ve had many days when I feel utterly drained, both literally (nursing around the clock!) and figuratively, and I wish I could just toss the kids into their car-seats and head off to Dunkin' Donuts, but I have to daily actively choose the sacrifice. It is significantly more work to travel to the farm, pick up the raw milk, make bone broth, chop vegetables, roast meats, and wash all the pots, than it is to just pick something up and watch the kids eat the food with reckless abandon! But I feel that the call on my life is to give health to my kids in these short years that I have them with me.

And even more than health, I want to please God in everything I do. In obedience to Him, I aim to daily lay down my own life for my kids.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phillipians 2:3-4


Note: I do know that some can’t afford to eat entirely organic and local, but remember that this is a process! It took us time to get here. Do what you can right now, prioritize, and keep moving on!

My kids now daily eat things like bone broths, a wide array of vegetables--cooked and raw, wild caught fish, pasture-raised meat, raw fermented dairy.

Here’s how I get my kids to eat this healthy, life-giving food:

  1. Make them hungry! We first ditched ALL processed snack foods except raw cheese, nuts, and fresh (sometimes dried) fruit. We got completely rid of crackers, chips, cookies, snack bars, cereal, frozen pre-made meals. For a while, I would make kombucha gummies, or make almond flour cheddar bunnies, or organic grain-free muffins to have on hand. Now, years into the process, we don’t even regularly give them snacks. We’ve stopped buying raisins, and we save the peanuts for peanut chicken! Without a snack, they eat SO much more at mealtimes. When they’re hungry, it’s amazing the vegetables they’ll eat willingly! To get them to stop snacking, we just did it cold turkey. I announced at breakfast that they’d need to eat plenty because we weren’t eating again till soup at lunch. I listened to the complaining until lunch, and repeated the process every day until they started to get it.
  2. Make the food delicious! I can help with that here on this blog! I’ll try to post only foods that kids would eat. I am very in favor of adding yummy fats and salt to just about everything. Butter, cream, bacon, yes yes yes. I crave Brussels sprouts these days, since I roast them with butter and pecans, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Heavens! Kids have pretty amazing palates, when given the opportunity to savor high quality stuff. There’s no need to serve bland chicken with rubbery green beans. 
  3. Start early: Some of the first foods I try on my six-month-olds are bone broth and soft-boiled egg yolk! When you start with more savory foods — as opposed to grains and sweet fruits — they’re more likely to like them! If kids never learn the habit of having starchy-sweet junk around, they won’t crave it — they just won’t even know that’s an option. Also, during pregnancy or nursing, you can start their affinity for healthy foods by eating them yourself — flavors do pass into the amniotic fluid and into breastmilk! Heidi likes carrots thanks to the loads of carrots I ate during pregnancy with her. And I’m sure Wesley will like kale because I ate it so much when I was growing him in utero! 
  4. Be consistent: If one day I tell the kids we value organic food because we’re avoiding herbicides like glyphosate, and then the next day, we eat Chik-fil-A, our message is lost. Kids closely watch us to see if we act on our beliefs. Through our consistency, Lochlan learned to always eat organic, and will voluntarily give away his Halloween candy, or will politely opt out of a game that involves artificially colored food at a party. Even little two-year-old Heidi knows to ask if something is organic when at church or with sitters. 
  5. Know WHAT is healthy and WHY! This is the most important one! One of the things we talk about at the table is food and where it came from. When we visit the farm, the kids get to see the healthy animals roaming around freely, and they see life as God designed it. So, they know when they see a bright blue frosted birthday cake (with that notorious chemical aftertaste), they can tell the ingredients are not life-giving, and they avoid them. Our principles for eating are these:
    1. Nothing synthetic. Ever. God doesn’t make mistakes — people do. So if food was created or edited in a lab, we don’t eat it. 
      • No GMOs.  This isn't your typical cross-breeding that farmers have always done with plants -- this is taking the gene from one species and putting it into the DNA of another totally different species. Genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. I will do another post on why we avoid GMOs, but extreme precaution is warranted, as these foods are new to the planet, and most independent animal research shows damage to nearly every organ studied. 

      • No synthetic pesticides. Monsanto’s Roundup (Glyphosate) is one that I’m most concerned about, and it is genetically engineered directly INTO many of the GMO foods, and is sprayed on many non-organic grains. It is known to affect reproduction, destroys gut bacteria, chelates (draws out) vital nutrients from the body, it’s a neurotoxin, and even the World Health Organization has deemed it a probable carcinogen! Other synthetic pesticides are extremely harmful as well, and even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement saying children have unique susceptibilities to pesticides' toxicity, and research links them to pediatric cancers! The only way you know you’re avoiding most pesticides is if you eat organic/home grown! 

      • No artificial hormones (rBGH - recombinant bovine growth hormone) or antibiotics in our milk or meats. 

      • No protein powders, skim milk products, processed vegetable oils (soy, corn, canola), additives of ALL kinds (synthetic vitamins), synthetic sweeteners (aspartame, truvia, splenda). Wonder why they need to add chemical-something, if nature got it right in the first place? 

    2. As Whole as possible. Processing food by any means removes its nutrients. To make something able to travel -- canning, drying, preserving with chemicals, etc.--you have to remove its nutrients. A food with no nutrients will not be attractive to pests or bacteria. It won't rot, but it also won't keep you alive. We look for food with nutrient density — instead of shopping for foods that will make you feel full, we shop for foods that are naturally loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and more. The benefits to this are infinite, but one is weight control — when your body is getting the nutrients it needs, you’re satisfied! The better the food, the less of it you need!

    3. As local as possible: Local is transparent. You see what is going into and on your food. If you go to a major processing plant or large confined animal factory, you will not be allowed in, and you're horrified at what you see if you do! Local is also fresh and in season. Freshly picked vegetables and fruits have more of their vitamins and minerals intact, and they require less preservatives and sprays since they won't be on a truck driving across the country. They don't need to be picked before they're ripe. Fully ripened also tastes better. 
    4. Few sweets! We try to limit everything sweet, even fruit. Most research points to sweet foods as a main cause of inflammation in the body, directly fueling cancer, gut imbalance, and an enormously long litany of health problems. 

We try to eat as many fresh vegetables as possible, and two of the ways I get them in is pureed soups, and hidden, mixed in with other things (especially with cheese!). Spaghetti squash casserole is a great way to load up!



spaghetti squash casserole with chicken sausage

  • 2 small spaghetti squashes (or 1 very big one) totaling about 5 cups of cooked spaghetti strands
  • 1 finely diced sweet onion
  • 4 cloves garlic — minced
  • 2 T butter
  • 2.5 tsp salt
  • sprinkle of pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 18 oz glass jar of diced tomatoes (Jovial brand is perfection)
  • 12 oz. bag shredded cheddar
  • 12 oz. bag shredded mozzarella
  • 12 oz. of chopped (into small bite-size) cooked sausage (any kind—I use Caprese chicken sausage, but I've also done Pork Sage sausage from a local farm). 

Preheat oven to 375. Cut spaghetti squashes in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and middle goo, then place in two 13x9 pyrex baking dishes face down and fill with 1/4” water. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until squash shreds readily into spaghetti strands with a fork. Then remove all squash strands and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Mix in the basil, thyme, oregano and 1 tsp of the salt. Melt the 2 T butter in a large frying pan, add in the onion, and cook on medium until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook till very fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the jar of tomatoes and cook for 4 more minutes, until the liquid has reduced quite a bit. Add the other 1.5 tsp salt to the onion/garlic/tomatoes and sprinkle in the pepper. Mix in the chopped cooked sausage to the tomato mixture. Grease (using butter) a 13x9 pan. Divide the seasoned spaghetti squash in half, spreading the first half down in a 13x9 pan. Next, sprinkle half of the onion/tomato/sausage mixture on top of the squash. Then dump evenly half of each bag of cheese. Repeat the three layers, ending with the cheeses. Reduce the oven temperature to 350, and bake for 30 minutes. Wait till finished bubbling, then serve!

What my family does for Winter Wellness...And my Carrot Cinnamon Soup Recipe!

What my family does for Winter Wellness...And my Carrot Cinnamon Soup Recipe!