This story is part of a series of stories and education resources featuring East L.A. and its surrounding neighborhoods and communities.
It’s normal for children to be picky eaters, says Dr. Ilan Shapiro, medical director of health education and wellness at AltaMed Health Services in Boyle Heights. Shapiro says one of the best ways to get children interested in healthy eating is to engage them in grocery shopping and meal planning.
When shopping for ingredients with your child, use it as an opportunity to introduce the names of new ingredients in English and Spanish. Try saying out loud you are searching for “un repollo, or one cabbage,” or ask for their help in finding the “aguacate, or avocado.”
Farmers markets and specialty stores are not essential for families to eat healthier. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be found at any grocery store in East L.A. — or anywhere! When you don’t find what you need in the fresh produce section, frozen fruits and vegetables are excellent substitutes.
This simple recipe is inspired by all the amazing restaurants and street vendors found in the community and is meant to show that traditional foods (like tacos!) can be part of a balanced diet that is mainly made up of whole foods and foods that aren’t very processed.
Places to Shop for Healthy Food in East L.A.
- East Los Angeles Farmers Market (Saturday mornings only), 4801 E. Third St., Los Angeles, CA 90022
- Numero Uno Market, 4831 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90022
- El Super, 3405 East Cesar E Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90063
- Superior Grocers, 3600 East Cesar E Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90063
Yields 8 servings
- 1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped (any other canned peppers can be substituted; use less or more according to children’s tolerance to spicy foods)
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
- 2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded or chopped and warmed (leftover rotisserie chicken is perfect)*
- 2 cups shredded cabbage or prepared coleslaw mix
- ¾ cup red onion, finely chopped
- 8 corn tortillas
- ¼ cup panela cheese, crumbled (chopped part-skim mozzarella cheese can be substituted)
- 1 avocado peeled, pitted, chopped
- chopped cilantro, for serving
- lime wedges, for serving
1. In a medium bowl, mix together balsamic vinegar, chipotle peppers, and garlic salt. Add in cabbage, onion and warm chicken and mix well.
Learning moment: To grow nutrition knowledge, encourage your child to explore new ingredients by engaging their five senses. Set some samples aside for them to taste, touch, sight, smell, and hear the sounds of each ingredient as they go. Ask them to describe it: “What does it feel like?” To integrate math, ask your child to help you measure out how much of each ingredient to add to the bowl. Encourage them to add a little more or a little less of the ingredients they prefer or don’t. As you mix the ingredients, ask your child to notice what happens to the ingredients. Do some of them become less visible? Why or why not?
2. To warm tortillas, heat in a hot skillet for 1 minute on each side. Or, place tortillas on a large plate and top with a damp paper towel and microwave on high for 2 minutes or until tortillas are warm.
Learning moment: To incorporate a little bit of math learning, talk with your child about the tortilla’s shape. If your child is just becoming familiar with shapes and their characteristics, ask them to trace the edge of the tortilla and other ingredients. You can ask, “Is it the same shape as the plate?” “What’s the name of this shape?” and “Can you find any other ingredients that are similar in shape? This can? Yes!”
3. Spoon filling into warm tortillas and top with cheese, avocado, cilantro and lime.
4. Serve immediately.