Chef David Burtka is on a mission to help parents get their kids to choose healthier foods, especially tofu (which has been enjoying a surge in popularity since the pandemic has Americans trying to eat healthier). He as teamed up with House Foods, the top tofu brand in the U.S., to launch an animated video series, “Tales of Tofu” about a little Tofu character who wants you to eat healthier (think Spongebob without all the insecurities). The adventures of Tofu are interspersed with live-action footage of Burtka cooking healthy recipes to show how easy it is to make the task of getting kids to eat tofu easier since it’s a healthy soy-based protein that offers all the nutrients with none of the saturated fat found in meat and dairy.
“I’m a big advocate for getting kids to participate in the kitchen at an early age,” said Burtka, “and the Tales of Tofu video series from House Foods is such a fun way to get children excited about cooking.” Tales of Tofu started as a children’s book last year, and now is hitting the small screen or wherever you watch your Vimeo videos.
“I don’t love when I hear kids are super picky eaters,” Burtka explains, as he and husband Neil Patrick Harris are busy raising twins Harper and Gideon who turn 10 next month. “I eat the rainbow and I think it’s important for kids to eat a wide variety of healthy foods. Eating mostly plant-based is really god for you and for the environment–which I teach our kids–both good things.
“We need to stop eating too much meat because of its impact on destroying the ozone layer. My kids eat tofu. When the package arrived from House Foods [for me to cook with] they got excited. The tofu comes in firm or extra firm, and it’s made of non-GMO soybeans and it’s made in America so you feel you are buying American, which I like.”
Burtka has always used tofu throughout his cooking career and the most surprising thing is how great it is in desserts, as well as in smoothies. He makes a tofu smoothie that’s as thick and delicious as a milkshake.
“I make a tofu smoothie. It’s so easy. It takes one glass and a blender and my kids can do it. Grab some coconut milk and tofu and fruit and you’re done. No need to add protein powder, since with the tofu the protein is already in there. And kids love smoothies, so if you have a picky eater you can make it fun. Or you can pour it into a popsicle mold and freeze it for a treat, and you won’t feel guilty having that after dinner.
How do you get picky eaters to try new foods and eat a range of healthy ingredients?
“Luckily, my kids are not picky eaters. I would disown them. We eat a variety of foods. There are foods kids don’t love… Gideon does not love zucchini and Harper does not love kiwi and if that’s it, that’s fine. I’ve always fed them a whole variety of foods and spices. They are getting into spicier food as they get older, which is great for me as a chef.”
But for parents of picky eaters, he advises you to keep trying new things and involve them in the cooking. People love to eat what they make, and that is true of kids and adults, he adds. “As a parent, you need to make it fun and get creative in the kitchen. You get out of this what you put in. And I have made sure their pallets are used to a wide variety of foods.”
Tofu is one way to help offer up variety since some kids don’t love the taste of meat. “Make sure they are at least exposed to lots of different foods and textures. When they eat lots of types of foods and especially lots of healthy plant-based foods, you can see how healthy they are. I can see it in the way they are growing… building muscle and their skin is healthy and they are healthy. They have never had a happy meal in their lives. I let them go to In and Out Burger, occasionally, but that’s different. I make sure that I know where their food is coming from and they take an interest in that too. My little guy has a green thumb.”
Keep kids involved in the kitchen and they’ll eat more of what they help make
Burtka says his kids are loving learning to cook. “They are always in the kitchen with me. I am always having them help. They do some chores and they’re all about the value of helping out and pitching in when it’s mealtime, and that’s what it’s about.”
We don’t eat out that much, so making meals is creative time, he adds. Partnering with House Foods meant he could bring together his recipe creation and his acting skills, something he has enjoyed. “It was fun to combine those skills,” and to know we are helping kids eat healthier.”
Chef David Burtka’s Tofu Milkshake Smoothie
- 1 box of House Foods tofu
- 1 cup of mango, sliced
- 1 cup of pineapple, in chunks
- 1 banana, sliced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey or agave or maple syrup
- Blend the soft tofu first until it gets creamy, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Drink or pour into popsicle molds and freeze for an any-time frozen guilt-free treat.
For more on House Foods or Tales of Tofu visit their website