All The Other Stuff, Be Our Guest
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Juli Novotny Of Pure Mamas Talks The Ins & Outs Of Feeding Kids Healthy Food!

Juli Novotny On The Road Garden Eats

A special treat for all of you parents and potential parents reading today! The lovely and sweet, Ms. Juli Novotny, mom, entrepreneur and quintessential green chef is dropping in to chat about her experiences and insights about raising two super healthy and happy little boys. If you didn’t think kids + healthy food could ever be paired together, you’ll be inspired after hearing about how much Juli’s kids love her creative, healthy recipes!

W H O: Juli Novotny :: mother of two boys, entrepreneur, green chef.
K N O W N  F O R: creator of Kookie Karma & Pure Mamas blog.
E A T S: no meat or refined sugar.
F E E D S  H E R  K I D S: realistically.
M U S E S: my midwife. alternative doctors.
IMAGINES A WORLD WHERE HER KIDS CAN: not be teased or bullied. be free of disease and cancer. {but this isn’t realistic, I know}

Garden Eats::Christine: You feed your kids real food. We love this. Has it always been easy offering them whole foods?

Juli Novotny: We strive for eating lots of whole, real foods. But let’s be real, my kids are not 2 anymore. They are KIDS, with opinions and taste buds. They love to snack {esp on packaged foods}. Not to mention they go to pre-school, birthday parties and celebrate holidays. Which, unfortunately, means JUNK FOOD IS EVERYWHERE. I wish it weren’t because it doesn’t have to be. But it is.

I can say they devour my kale chips {high in protein + dairy and sugar-free}, eat cauliflower, carrots, melon, bananas and drink their protein smoothies. We don’t have refined sugar in our house. NO WAY. But they have their versions – sugar-free gummies, stevia “soda”, chocolate protein powder {which makes great hot cocoa}, xylitol chewing gum, etc. We are gluten-free so sometimes finding snacks is difficult. And when we finally do – the snacks are full of sugar. So that’s why I like to make my own food at home. {and share it all on my blog – so other moms can make their own healthy alternatives}

CD: In my private practice I see a lot of families. Parents always ask me what foods are best for their kids. When I offer suggestions, they often reply, “oh my kids won’t eat that” or “how do you think I can get my kids to eat that?” If you were me for a day, how would you respond to my patient’s question?

JN: OK, so, like adults, kids get used to sugary, white flour and salty, processed foods. Had they not had those things they would still like to eat veggies and fruits, healthy sugar-free snacks and green drinks. When adults go on cleanses or change their diets suddenly, fruit tastes like dessert and veggies taste salty w/o the addition of salt.

It’s the EXACT same for kids. The only difference is that adults are more logical and have more REASON to eat better {i.e. we want to lose weight, want to control our cholesterol, etc etc.}. If kids don’t have this motivation then why would they want to eat weird textures and stuff that tastes icky. It’s our job as parents to give them motivation and inspiration as well.

1) When kids get hungry enough, they will surprise you. They will eat foods that are healthy. Especially when it’s the only option. And of course, like any food, hopefully the healthy food tastes good. We all like a little flavor.

2) Kids surprisingly want to be “healthy”. That whole “big and strong” thing does work. My sons want to be smart, tall, strong, etc. We talk about this a lot. We do not talk about being “fat” or obese. That’s not necessary. We talk about being sick and how it’s no fun to be sick. And which foods will help you stay healthy. Kids want to do the right thing. They want choices and they want to make GOOD choices.

3) The whole bribe thing works but also doesn’t work. Treating veggies like they are BAD and ICKY and that have to be eaten before they get the “good” {dessert} foods isn’t really a helpful way to approach it. Instead, I hand them a plate of a well balanced meal and say something like, “here is what is for dinner. If you are still hungry after dinner you can have a snack. But ONLY if you finish what is on the plate.” And then leave it at that. If they don’t eat it and want a snack then well, “sorry if you are hungry you should be able eat your dinner!” And you keep reminding them that YES they CAN HAVE A SNACK but they need to finish dinner first.

4) Sometimes we have to mask food a little bit. If they won’t eat cauliflower, maybe add just a tiny bit of feta cheese with it. Then they will gobble it up. If they won’t eat greens. Put a few in a sweet fruit smoothie. If they don’t like bananas, try freezing them. And the list goes on. KEEP TRYING and find out what they DO like. And then make that more often.

CD: I’ve seen these cute photos of your kids eating the kale chips! It’s not exactly the go-to snack most parents think of. Have your boys always liked them?

JN: Kale chips are priceless in our house. Like most kids, mine don’t LOVE the texture of veggies and fruits. So I have to constantly be creative. The other day I blended up honey dew melon with vanilla bean and ice. It was SO good. And the boys loved it. I also made popsicles out of this mixture. Those were “dessert”.

When you dehydrate kale {and add sauce or sea salt} suddenly, you have a crunchy chip. My recipe is cheesy {but w/o any real cheese}. My kids will each eat half a head of kale in one sitting when I make these. They are genius.

CD: Skeptics will say they don’t have time to cook for their kids. Advice?

There is a lot of motivation in feeding kids well. Who wouldn’t want their kids to be sick less often or better-behaved? What parent wouldn’t want calmer, smarter and more studious and focused children? Or stronger and more athletic kids?

If you have time to exercise or shop or have a Facebook account – you have time to cook. And I say that because it’s all a priority issue, not a time issue. We think we don’t have time because it’s scary to have to cook and get creative. I love to cook and I remember feeling panicked and overwhelmed when I realized I was responsible for making baby food, keeping two kids healthy and somehow cooking “balanced” meals. That’s a LOT of pressure.

It makes so much sense that as a parent in this state you turn to what you know – what you ate as a kid or what is in the baby food isle or what is on the kids’ menu at restaurants. Right? It’s too scary to think outside the box.

That’s why I suggest doing a little research. Make it fun – start a plan {2 new meals or homemade snacks a week OR maybe throw out the sugary foods in the pantry and start over by buying no sugar snacks OR decide to teach your kids about food and what is in food OR find a nutritionist} Whatever you want your plan to be – stick to it. Maybe even start a Pinterest page? Or check out a few nutrition books at the library. You could even start following a few healthy blogs to see how other parents to do it. Stay positive and patient.

Any positive health choices are well worth it and you’ll never regret it.

CD: How do you handle birthday parties where sugar-laden or “fake” foods are being offered to kids?

Fortunately in this case my kids are “allergic” to gluten. This is a long story but my son had severe inflammation of the tonsils and signs of grinding his teeth – both signs of a food allergy. So our Naturopath put the family on a gluten-free diet. And both my kids were instantly {even though it takes almost 6 months to get rid of the gluten in our bodies} more calm and better focused {crazy, I know}.

Anyways, for us this means that all birthday cakes and snacks are totally off limits unless I check the labels. My youngest son {he’s 3} went to a bday party with his uncle last weekend. I was a bit nervous but told him that most of the food there will have gluten in it and I gave him his own snacks to bring. And I said that I would give him one of his FAVORITE {gluten-free but not that healthy} cookies when he got home if he didn’t eat any cake there. So, when he got home, first thing he asked for were his “cookies”. He was so excited. His uncle even told me that he offered him a piece of candy that had no gluten and my son said NOPE! haha. I didn’t see it as bribing as much as I was worried that he would eat something he’s allergic to. It’s going to be a long road ahead for him. And for our family. But for now, it keeps him away from the fake stuff at school and at bday parties.

CD: These are super useful tips I know our readers will love trying in their homes. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of what works at home for your family Juli!

Are you a parent or have a tip of your own to share? We’d love to hear your story too!

Check out Juli’s blog,  PUREmamas for colorful smoothie recipes, delish dishes your entire family will love and to get inspired to live well in the modern world today! OH, and my fave way to navigate to the recipes- enjoy the amazing and fun food photos when you arrive to spark your interest, then jump to the blog for the recipes!

This entry was posted in: All The Other Stuff, Be Our Guest


C H R I S T I N E Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID and Garden Eats is an integrative health & food therapy specialist, medical & food journalist. She has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. To balance the more serious side of her work, she loves to concoct, write about and connect people through food & drink. You can check out her latest work at The Chalkboard Magazine, The Fullest and Rochester's Boomtown Table. Christine lives, works and plays between Southern California & Upstate New York.


  1. SUCH great tips here, thank you! For me there was a very long adjustment and acceptance period, because it was a complete change to what we’d been doing. I do spend more time in the kitchen now that my family has adopted the gluten free, whole foods lifestyle but I find ways to save time (careful planning, cooking in bulk & freezing, washing/chopping ahead of time) plus the extra energy I have from eating healthier helps. On a side note, my 8 year old son “wouldn’t eat” any green smoothies until (duh!) I found a raw “shamrock shake” recipe. Now he’s asking for them even knows there are greens in it. Two drops of peppermint oil goes a long way~

    • Mary Ann that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. No joke. I just told this to everybody I’m sitting with. I love it. That’s what I’m talking about. You think your kids don’t like something and then suddenly – with a little tweak or cover-up – it’s appealing. HA. So smart. Good job. ha

  2. Reality and I think very useful advice and tips. It is everyday life, put into tips and ideas that are not hard to follow if people/family truly want to make their lives better. What I loved the most is it was easy to relate. It was almost like I was was sitting in your kitchen Juli (which i day dream about when I am making my homemade 3 ingredient icecream, with secret greenzymes hidden in it..which my boys now want for breakfast. LOL) Keep these great interviews coming. It truly benefited me.

  3. Nadia says

    I would love to know how you make kale chips. I’ve been told to put them in the oven on a baking sheet I tried it and didn’t really work out.

    • Hi Nadia;

      If you stay tuned, Juli will be publishing an e-cook-book with her delicious kale chip recipe! I’m not positive, but I think she uses a dehydrator.

  4. Pingback: Mary Ann Lana of Hopscotch & Dandelions Feeds Her Family WELL- So Can YOU! | Garden Eats

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