With summer approaching, we’re getting lots of questions from Richmondmom.com readers who want to know how they can make meals and snacks more nutritious all summer. We turned to Green Monkey mom and Head Chef, Lisa Granger, for answers. It’s evident that Lisa is passionate about her work because she truly believes in healthy, organic, nutritious eating for all ages.
Lynn Tauchen, who is also Lisa’s sister, started the business because she saw a need for kids or moms who choose not to purchase school lunches but want a healthy alternative – and a convenient alternative for moms too. She collaborated with Lisa who has lots of experience as a chef. Together, Lisa and Lynn have created an incredible alternative for healthy eating in Richmond.
We sat down with Lisa and learned a lot!
RMOM: Where does the name “Green Monkey” come from?
Lisa: It’s really an idea we came up with to express the importance of organic and green living, along with a fun name that kids can relate to. We felt that kids would relate to some type of animal. We thought about lots of animals — chickens, goats, cows — but ‘monkey’ was the one that stuck and the business quickly became known as “Green Monkey”. That’s why we say “eat green monkey” (www.eatgreenmonkey.com).
RMOM: What makes Green Monkey so successful?
Lisa: Our business has grown by 75% this past year and we’re excited. We see eating as a social experience and we make it fun for kids too. We listen to what kids have to say and when they say they love a particular sandwich or food we serve, we make a note of it. If we find that they don’t like a particular sandwich, we modify it to find what makes it appealing to them. Our business is serving healthy, nutritious foods and we do that by partnering with our kids and moms to find the most flavorful and healthy options possible. Oh, and we make it convenient and affordable!
RMOM: How important is organic vs. non-organic foods?
Lisa: From our perspective, it is very important. Organic contains lots more nutrition and maintains nutritional value. If parents can buy organic, it’s a good idea because food is natural, with no additives and no pesticides or other harmful substances used during the growth and processing of foods. But if parents decide not to purchase organic for any reason, they can still offer fresh fruits, real veggies, and as many raw products as possible. Some people believe that organic and healthy cooking takes more time but actually it doesn’t. Cutting up fruits and vegetables in kid-friendly sizes, storing them in fun containers in the refrigerator, and making them easily accessible makes kids want to choose them. Kids eventually start looking for apple slices, melon balls, strawberries, blueberries and other easy to eat foods on the “snack shelf” of the fridge. They also love walnuts, peanuts, and almonds which are power-packed (and assuming there are no peanut allergies!).
Now is the perfect time to try organic with local farmers markets where you can purchase fresh, organic produce and meat at great prices. Summer is the perfect time to start introducing children to fresh foods that keep them energized and healthy. It’s also a good idea to take them with you to the farmers market so they see where their food comes from.
RMOM: What are some ideas for nutritious foods for summer that moms can prepare ahead of time, or prepare for picnics, beach outings and other events?
Lisa: We prepare hundreds of meals for kids in school all year long. We have learned that kids will eat most anything when it’s prepared in an appealing way – and that may mean hiding some of the ingredients! The favorite sandwich of our school kids is a sandwich made of multi-grain bread, peanut butter, banana slices and honey. It’s packed with sustainable energy and kids love it. They get fruit, protein, whole grain and more. You can even add apple slices. This is a big request for school lunches.
Wraps are a great way to bulk up the veggies without kids realizing it too. One of our most requested wraps includes a wheat wrap with hummus (we make our own hummus, but store-bought works fine) and finely chopped veggies. Throw it all in the wrap and roll it up the day before if time is a factor.
Another great option is a Mediterranean tuna sandwich. We served it at school this week and kids loved it. Use spinach instead of lettuce for greater nutrition and antioxidants, add tuna, chopped red peppers, balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs and it’s a delicious meal.
RMOM: What about beverages?
Kids will drink water if you offer it to them and that’s the main beverage they should consume. You can infuse water with natural juices, or squeeze lime or orange in it. Even watermelon slices and cucumbers make it fun and flavorful. Keep a clear picture in the fridge where it’s easy to reach and kids will choose it when it’s filled with colorful fruits. Or keep individual reusable bottles of water with fresh fruit handy. Most importantly, get the “artificial flavor” off their tongue by giving them natural flavors. Agave is made from a plant and it’s a good choice as a sweetener when you use sugar. Even better – use honey to sweeten decaffeinated tea for a refreshing drink.
Green Monkey is Growing
Green Monkey is experiencing phenomenal growth as parents everywhere recognize the value of nutritious meals during school and summer months too. Green Monkey is also ramping up their catering for business lunches, parties, teas, and more.
They offer a summer camp for 7 weeks that starts during the last week of June. It’s 4 days each week for ages 8-11 and 12-16. It’s a great way for kids to learn cooking skills and the importance of healthy eating. Kids come each day to learn and cook – and they have fun doing it. They take home what they’ve made which makes it even more fun. The cost is $130 per week, but you do not have to sign up for the entire 7 weeks to participate.
Parents can also learn more by calling or emailing Lisa with questions any time. She provides in-home teaching for parents to help them create a healthier, more organic kitchen too. For just $50 an hour, Lisa will come to your home, evaluate your pantry and fridge, show you how to prepare foods that are nutritious, and help you create a plan for healthier living. She’ll teach you how to do things such as cut-up apples and other fruits so they don’t turn brown, or vegetables that stay crisp and fresh for days.
Lisa explains it this way, “Eating is a social experience and it should be fun. That’s what we try to teach at Green Monkey – eat healthy and enjoy the experience.”
Watch Richmondmom.com for more on Green Monkey as we explore the work Lisa and Lynn are doing with the Henrico School Systems to increase the nutritional value of school lunches too. You may be surprised at what you learn!
Visit Green Monkey and always remember to “eat green monkey” for healthy, nutritional value of everything you put in your body. And don’t hesitate to contact Lisa with your questions at 804-502-5422 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She can even make your next family get-together easier and more delicious by preparing healthy foods for you and your family!