When I was offered an opportunity to review and help promote Dr. Julia Nordgren’s cookbook, I was more than happy to oblige simply for the fact that she loves children and has dedicated her life’s work to their well-being. This paid partnership isn’t like any other post I’ve done here on Spanglish Spoon. As a former early childhood educator and family day care provider this one is very much close to heart for me.

Chef Julia Nordgren, M.D. is a California based pediatrician, professionally trained chef, and author of The New Family Table: Cooking More, Eating Together & Staying (Relatively) Sane.

Dr. Nordgren specializes in preventing and treating children with health issues such as cholesterol disorders, prediabetes and obesity. Her work doesn’t stop there, however.

With her culinary education and newly released cookbook, she is on a mission to motivate people to cook more homemade meals with healthier ingredients, and to eat together at the table as often as possible.

Why is it important to eat together at the table?

Eating at the table together as a family without any devices or distractions, gives us an opportunity to “enhance the physical, intellectual, and emotional growth of our children” according to Dr. Nordgren. And I wholeheartedly agree with her.

Open cookbook on the counter with salad ingredients being prepared.

Sitting together at the table could very well be the only opportunity a child gets with his/her family each day. Even if you’re married with no children, or living with roommates, connecting with one another is vital to the harmony of the household.

Believe it or not, there’s magic in cooking meals at home for our loved ones. Especially when children are living in the home. They’re already curious by nature. The family table can serve as an extension of their learning. Talk about the ingredients you’re using, how they help our bodies, where they come from and how they are prepared in different parts of the world.

Visit a farmer’s market together and start a conversation with a farmer about a vegetable or fruit you know nothing about. If you don’t know the answer, google it ahead of time if you can!

Believe me when I say children are learning our every move, so lead by good example as best you can. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, it doesn’t matter when. What matters is having an opportunity to eat a nutritious homecooked meal together at the table at least once a day. We all deserve that with our loved ones.

The most important meal of the day.

One of my favorite lines by Dr. Nordgren in the cookbook is about the most important meal of the day. You might already be assuming that the answer would be breakfast since that’s the first meal of the day, and you would be mostly correct to make that assumption, but there’s more to it than that. Here’s what she said:

“The first meal of the day matters a lot. What we start our day with – the quality of food, the ingredients, and the balance of nutrients – sets our metabolic stage for the rest of the day”.

Chef Julia Nordgren, M.D.

In other words, it isn’t so much about whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day or not. What we eat to start our day with is what matters the most. The best choices, as discussed by Dr. Nordgren, include healthy proteins and fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Healthier breakfast ideas.

Some of the simplest day-starters can take as little as two minutes to prepare. One of my favorites shared in The New Family Table is Greek Yogurt with Cherries & Slivered Almonds (page 17.).

Most flavored yogurts have high amounts of sugars and additives added to them. Plain Greek yogurt is a better option. A simple addition of fresh fruit and honey with cinnamon or Dr. Nordgren’s Favorite Granola (page 23), will add so much more nutritional value and less added sugars to your first meal.

Homemade granola tossed with cinnamon sugar coated granny smith apples pieces and blueberries served with plain Greek yogurt in a glass cup.

Over the weekend, you can plan ahead and prepare a few other recipes that will carry you through the week. Make Almond & Blueberry Waffles (page 29) on Saturday morning, and Apple Cinnamon Muffins (page 31) Sunday afternoon.

Healthier snack or lunch options.

Skip the pre-packaged snacks and serve Lemony Lentil Hummus (page 50) with cut vegetables or Whole-Wheat Pita Chips (page 58).

A warm bowl of minestrone soup (page 48) will satisfy everyone’s appetite, any time of the day.

Minestrone soup close-up.

No time for soup? Her Greek Salad (page 69) with homemade dressing will be a family favorite with the first bite.

Large plate with a greek salad with avocado slices.

For the beginner cook, she has also included very simple recipes and techniques to cook vegetables like roasted broccoli, braised carrots, and steamed green beans to name a few.

Meal Prep Strategies.

If you’re not prepping ahead of time for the week, you’re in luck. Dr. Nordgren shares her favorite make-ahead recipes to help bring sanity back to your daily mealtime routine.

Choose from 7 soups and stews like her Indian Lentil Soup (page 100), Miso Soup (page 106), or Pho (page 108). Soups are some of the best make-ahead meals because you can freeze them or make a large batch to use for two meals in a week.

Some of my other favorites were the Breaded Chicken “Tenders” (page 115), Andrew’s Favorite Fajitas (page 121), and Grilled Steak with Chimichurri (page 128).

Balancing the bad with good.

All this good food talk has probably left you wondering how she feels about sweets, right? Well, she’s got that part of the menu covered for you as well.

Here’s what I love about the final section of Dr. Nordgren’s cookbook – Desserts.

“Sweets and treats can fit into a healthy eating pattern. It just takes a little bit of thought, a tiny bit of skill, and the mindful intent to eat dessert well.”

Chef Julia Nordgren, M.D.

With the right tweaks and swaps of ingredients, desserts can still be a part of your life without causing too much trouble on the inside. In her final section, she touches on the subject of added sugars in packaged foods and drinks, as well as the recommended daily limit of sugar for men, women, and children. As a way to balance the sugar consumption at home, her recommendations include the use of simple ingredients, natural sweeteners, and fresh fruit for example.

There is one exception, however. Ben’s birthday cake.

Sometimes you just gotta give in and make your son his favorite skittles birthday cake.

And that’s okay too.

A cookbook giveaway!

Now for the fun part. Here’s your chance to win a copy of The New Family Table: Cooking More, Eating Together & Staying (Relatively) Sane.

The prize set in this giveaway includes 1 book, 1 comal (round griddle), 1 kitchen towel, and 1 tortilla basket warmer.

Dish towel, colorful tortilla warmer with lid, round griddle, and two copies of Dr. Julia Nordgren's cookbook The New Family Table: Cooking more, eating together and staying relatively sane.

To enter you must do the following:

  1. Go like this post on Instagram AND follow @SpanglishSpoon and @DrJuliaCooks.
  2. Tag your friends in the comments on the Instagram post (once each day). Each separate comment is an entry.

One winner will be chosen April 8, 2019.

Per Instagram rules, I must disclose this is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s terms of use.

If you’d prefer to purchase a copy of the book right away, click on the link below to go straight to her shop link.

The New Family Table: Cooking More, Eating Together & Staying (Relatively) Sane.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my personal thoughts about The New Family Table!

Now go enter that contest! 😉