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Food Network's Melissa d'Arabian on healthy cooking for kids

Melissa d'Arabian, star of Food Network's

Melissa d'Arabian, star of Food Network's "Ten Dollar Dinners," talks about Coupons for Change, parenting and more. Credit: Food Network

Chef Melissa d'Arabian, star of Food Network's "Ten Dollar Dinners," knows a thing or two about healthy eating for less. The mother of four and cookbook author was raised on a shoestring budget, which is how she developed a coupon-cutter mentality.

Through her cooking show and various cookbooks, d'Arabian has shown it's possible to feed a family of four for under $10. She recently teamed up with Coupons for Change, a philanthropic initiative through, that gives back to the needy. For every three coupons you use, Coupons for Change will donate a meal to an underprivileged child.

I recently caught up with d'Arabian about her new project, her children and how she balances it all. Here's what she had to say:

Q. What inspired you to become involved with Coupons for Change?
I love coupons and I love that they are partnering with Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign. It's great because you're going to be saving money on stuff you're buying anyway and you'll be giving food to a young child. One in five kids in this country are hungry every day.

Q. As a busy working mother, how do you balance your work and family life?
It's tricky. As moms, we want the best for our family and our kids. For me, the best way I balance it all is to know lots of other parents are doing it. I compartmentalize my work and family life. If I try to do two things at once, I start to feel like I'm not doing either to the best of my ability. So when I'm with my girls, I focus on them. When I'm working, I'm working. I'm not a good multitasker. I really try to respect my work hours as my work hours and family time is family time. I'm a better mom when I give my kids undivided attention.

Q. What's your family's favorite dish that you make?
We have a big family, so everyone has different favorites. My family really rallies around the potato bacon torte. I made it on "Food Network Star" and it was a really big hit. They had no idea it only cost 22 cents per serving. It's a great example of how you don't have to overspend to make delicious food.

Q. Do you get help in the kitchen or do you do all  the cooking?
Yes, I get help in the kitchen. But yes, I still do all the cooking. My kids love to be in the kitchen spending time with each other. The key for me is that I'm willing to survive a few messes to help them learn how to cook. It's not going to be the cleanest thing we've done but it gives them a sense of time with mom.

Q. What are your kids favorite after-school snacks?
I believe in proactive snacking. I like to have protein and fiber in my snacks and turn them into an opportunity to have something healthy. I make smoothies for the kids as an after-school snack. Having raw veggies in your system in the afternoon can really boost your energy.

Q. Advice for parents with picky eaters?
I have picky eaters! The picky problem is rooted in a whole host of causes. One tip I really believe works is eating 15 minutes earlier than you normally would. Even if this means setting the table before you leave for work in the morning. Kids are tired and cranky later in the day. This one thing isn't going to change much, but it's a small step in creating a positive environment around food.

Q. How do you incorporate healthy foods into your meals?
I always serve two veggies at dinner, which gives kids the opportunity to choose which one they want to eat. It also helps me model good behavior by eating more vegetables. I try to make the healthy choice the easy choice. I stock my pantry with the healthy ingredients in the front so they're easily accessible.

Q. What's up next for you?
I recently finished writing my second cookbook and we just got renewed for "Guy's Grocery Games" on the Food Network.

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