Struggling to get your kids to eat fruits and vegetables? These yummy, kid-friendly dishes by Yaya Lola are your healthy answer.

As a mother of a three-year-old picky eater, I’m always on the lookout for reputable brands that can help me make sure my daughter is fed well. So when I came across Yaya Lola on Instagram, I was immediately intrigued by its claim that they make it “easy to fill your little ones’ bellies with tons of nutritious veggies”. 

Teaching my daughter to make healthy choices as early as now is important to me because I only became a more mindful eater much later in life. And I wish I had known better when I was growing up.

Me and my daughter Iris

Making Healthy Choices

I was always skinny as a child—all the way until maybe my early 20s—so I got used to being able to eat anything I wanted. Greasy food, chips, instant noodles, candies, unli-desserts… you name it! I never had to worry about the consequences. I never gained weight and my friends would always say that I was so “lucky”.

But not really. That all eventually caught up with me later on.

As I got older, I felt a lot of the repercussions of eating junk food. I developed hormonal imbalances that caused recurrent adult acne, bloating, sluggishness, brain fog, and even infertility. Thankfully, I’m doing much better now. But these are definitely struggles I don’t want my daughter Iris to ever go through—especially since avoiding them can be easy when you make better choices early on.

With that being said, I also don’t think kids should be deprived of the fun stuff. When my daughter is offered some candy by a friend, I let her have it. And for me, that’s okay because I know she doesn’t have it often. After all, we don’t have a lot of those things at home.

Yaya Lola’s Plant-Based, gluten-free and Soy-free Veggie Nuggets

Adding Fruits and Vegetables in the Diet

Feeding her vegetables and even some fruits can be challenging, however. When Iris sees anything green on her plate she says, “I don’t like the green, mommy,” and it’s terribly frustrating. She used to eat a lot of veggies and fruits when she was a baby. But now, I have to “trick” her into eating them.

Thankfully, I’ve found some creative ways to do that through Pinterest. We’ve made pink pancakes using beets and I’ve even hidden carrots and broccoli in some pasta sauces. We also made “ice cream” using fresh fruits and yogurt and I’ve sprinkled Moringa powder in some of her dishes. But on some days, we don’t have enough time to come up with new ideas—let alone make them happen.

And this is where Yaya Lola comes in.

When I spoke to Katrina Guidotti-Stehmeier about her brand, I loved hearing the passion in her voice. Katrina has made it her life’s work to help other mothers by coming up with delicious and nutritious food that their children will be happy to eat. She does this by using good quality ingredients and by “hiding” the good stuff. For instance, she’d add some minced vegetables into classic kiddie favorites such as Chicken Nuggets and classic Beef (Grass-Fed) Spaghetti.

Yaya Lola’s Chicken Nuggets
Yaya Lola’s Grass-fed Beef Spaghetti Sauce

The Story of Yaya Lola

“Yaya Lola” was what Katrina’s children called her beloved Yaya Rosie, who spent 57 dedicated years with the Guidottis and helped raise Katrina and her five siblings. It was Rosie’s cooking that inspired Katrina to start a business with her long-time nanny.

“My Yaya—she was a really good cook,” Katrina shares.  “When we were all older, she became the house cook. Every time we had family parties and get-togethers, everyone would be like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so good!’”

“And it was just basic—like baked spaghetti or potato salad,” she adds.

Rosie, her loving nature, and her food were a cherished presence in the Guidotti household. Katrina is quick to share stories about how Rosie would wait up for her sister and her sister’s husband if they spent a late night out, or how Rosie was happy to let her sleep in her bed when she wanted to. She was, in many ways, a third parent to Katrina and her siblings.

The grown-up Guidotti siblings with their beloved Yaya Rosie

In her later years, unfortunately, Rosie was diagnosed with kidney disease, which took an emotional toll on her. That’s when Katrina came up with an idea that would have the two spend more time together. How? A food business using the family’s heirloom recipes—guided by Rosie’s skillful hands in the kitchen.

“She was feeling a bit down. That’s actually when I started the business, thinking ‘Okay, maybe if we do this, it will lift her spirits up,’” Katrina says. “So I said, ‘Yeah let’s do this! Partner tayo!’”

From Family Recipes to a Business

“We would cook together [and] we would try recipes together. We did experiments and stuff like that—measured the recipes.” It was a wonderful way to be able to spend more time together, as Katrina was already married and had children of her own by then.

Katrina Guidotti-Stehmeier with her husband King, and their daughters Natalie and Cassie

The two started out selling food trays of family recipes like paella, fabada, and callos. But later on, Katrina wisely made a shift to developing food products using healthier ingredients. She did this because she became more aware of the importance of eating well—not just for herself, but also for her loved ones. Most especially for her children, who were picky eaters, too.

She then began to develop new, kid-friendly recipes that would use vegetables in ways that her own children wouldn’t find “icky”. Yaya Rosie was her flavor advisor—telling her what adjustments needed to be made to make the food taste better. As Katrina would learn more about healthy cooking, she’d teach Rosie about it too. And Rosie would always appreciate all this new information.

It was, in many ways, a continuation of the very unique, mother-daughter dynamic they’d shared since Katrina was born.

Katrina Guidotti-Stehmeier with her Yaya Rosie during her first Holy Communion

Kid-friendly and Healthy Meals

Today, Yaya Lola is a big hit for very busy mothers who are looking for better options for their children. With more than 20 products on their website yayalolaph.com, bestsellers include hidden-veggie treats like Mac and Cheese Bites (made with squash and carrots) and gluten-free Mini Pizzas—secretly topped with zucchini, carrots, celery, and even psyllium husk.

Yaya Lola’s Mac and Cheese Bites
Yaya Lola’s Gluten-free Chicken Patties

These favorites would bring smiles to hungry kids’ faces. And while Yaya Rosie has already sadly passed on, her love stays alive in the recipes that she developed with Katrina.

Listening to Yaya Lola’s story made me realize that at the end of the day, the food we share with our kids is all about love. I want Iris to eat nutritious food because I love her. And I want her to grow up more healthily than I did. Similarly, Yaya Rosie fed Katrina and her family well because she genuinely cared about them and wanted them to be happy.

Looking at it that way, I guess I can fully understand now what people mean when they say, “Cooking is love made visible.”

Indeed, nothing could be truer.

Yaya Lola’s Mac and Cheese Bites

Photos from Yaya Lola

RELATED ARTICLES:

How My Family Made Celebrations at Home Special

Lockdown Recipes: Comforting Food To Soothe Both Spirit And Soul

Diving into a New Way of Life: A Vegginning