As the nutrition and health expert for NBC’s “Today” show, Joy Bauer believes that it’s never too early or too late to reap the benefits of a healthy relationship with food. Bauer and her husband, Ian, took this to heart when raising their three children in a suburb outside New York City.
“When my kids were growing up, I made sure they had a connection with food and understood where it came from,” Bauer says. To cultivate this appreciation, each child would pick the meal one night a week and then grocery shop and cook alongside their mom. The family would also have theme nights, playing salsa music while cooking on “Taco Tuesday” or making Asian stir-fry and using chopsticks, Bauer says. “I wanted dinner to be an experience so they’d learn about different cultures,” she says.
This approach can also help to make nutritious fare more interesting for adults. After all, choosing wholesome foods can go a long way toward maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“What you put in your body has an impact. You feel so much better when you choose nutritious, high-quality food,” Bauer says. “I recommend filling your plate with fresh produce, whole grains and lean protein.”
Bauer’s grandmother, Martha, who died from Alzheimer’s in 1999, has been a lifelong inspiration for Bauer to help others live their best life. A former school principal and teacher, Martha loved museums, Broadway shows and quizzing her grandchildren on the books they were reading. “This woman was so incredibly beloved and brilliant, which is why it was unbearable when she became forgetful and less and less like herself,” Bauer says.
The holiday season will bring Bauer’s extended family together to reminisce about Martha and also to create new memories. Bauer is known for putting a healthy twist on classic Thanksgiving dishes, like her sweet potato casserole.
“My family loves food, and they all know I’m going to show up with an assortment of healthy goodies. But this is one of their favorites and I always double or triple the recipe because it usually goes!” Bauer says. “I’ve elevated the nutrition of this classic by adding a surprise ingredient. Of course, I left the marshmallows — it would be a crime to omit them.”
Sweet potato casserole
4 sweet potatoes (about 1 ½ pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bag (1 pound) baby carrots, each cut into two to three pieces
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 to 4 tablespoons whipped butter or light trans fat-free tub spread
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups mini marshmallows
Pecans (optional for sprinkling)
- Place sweet potatoes and carrots in large saucepan or pot, and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until easily pierced with a knife, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Drain and return to pan. Heat over medium, stirring until liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat. Add milk, butter and cinnamon, and mash until smooth (or put in food processor/blender).
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer mixture to a baking dish. Top with marshmallows and optional pecans and bake until marshmallows are lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
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