Serve Them Kid-Friendly Instead
We used to hide our cat’s medicine in any appealing food for her – cheese, hot dogs, or anything else she might wolf down and not notice there was wedged that little pink pill. Hiding the necessary evil isn’t the message I want for my kids, however, when it comes to eating healthy foods. So when dieticians and health fanatics promote disguising healthy foods as less nutritious foods, I get a little skeptical. Shouldn’t the message be to teach children how to make healthy food choices? Does hiding vegetables in pizzas and mac-n-cheese really do that? Instead of being sneaky, be smart about adding foods in ways that appeal to kids.
Developing Good Eating Habits
The earlier in your children’s lives you begin to play around and have fun with healthier versions of recipes the better the chances of them developing more balanced tastes for preferred foods. You can make healthy additions and substitutions without confusing your kids by telling them it “is just pizza” when it is really 3 servings of vegetables in disguise. Here are a few easy ways to encourage healthy eating habits.
- Add color. Kids are often Green Veggie Detectives because things with bright green colors often have sharp tastes for young taste buds. Keep the green in your menu by sprinkling bland greens like parsley flakes (even dehydrated ones) and cooked or frozen spinach in basic recipes. That way when your Green Veggie Detective sees something green he won’t automatically think it must be bad.
- Change gradually. If your typical meal consists of mac-n-cheese and hot dogs, you can’t dump those out the window and just serve steamed veggies without a fight. Gradually add things like finely chopped and cooked cauliflower to your pasta noodles. Switch over to whole wheat buns as well, and serve a side of fresh fruit.
- Make natural combinations. There is just something wrong about prunes in cookies, but add healthy things like nuts, bananas, and raisins to breads, cereals, and yogurts, and even cakes and cookies.
The taste pallets of children are sensitive, so just remember to ease into the stronger flavors of some fruits and veggies. Get your kids in the kitchen to help whip up fun creations, and encourage the one bite try for new foods each time you serve them.
Easy Substitutions and Alternatives
Sometimes we need to think a little outside of the recipe box and add in healthy alternatives to our standard recipes. If you’re trying to teach some better eating habits, don’t expect your kids to love them overnight, and don’t try to change everything all at once.
- For things like tacos and sloppy Joes, consider trading half of your ground beef for black beans. You can soften them and partially mash them in order to reduce their “bean-like” consistency.
- Switch from ground beef to ground turkey.
- Finely chop your veggies in a small handy-chopper and add to meatballs, tuna salad, and even in mac-n-cheese or on pizza.
- Puree pumpkin, pears, apples, and squash for thickening agents for soups and moisture additives for breads and muffins.
- Use whole grain pastas and breads. If you are a white noodle kind of family, gradually switch over by first introducing wheat noodles into foods with sauces that overpower the noodle taste.
- Add cooked cauliflower to mashed or baked potatoes.
- Substitute apple sauce instead of oil for baking things like cakes and muffins.
- Use honey as a sweetener in smoothies or on toast instead of sugar loaded jelly.
Healthy Recipes for Kids
Kids love straws and things that resemble ice cream shakes. Use some of the basics of orange juice, bananas, and fat-free vanilla or plain yogurts and turn them into super smoothies. Easy additions like flaxseed and wheat germ can be added without affecting the taste. Throw in some fresh or frozen fruits for added punch, and try honey as a sweetener. Some of my kids dislike the seeds on some fruits like strawberries or raspberries, so I opt for blueberries and plums (you can even blanch the plums and remove the skins).
Chips are a salty favorite for many kids, but there are some healthier ways to get that crunch. Make homemade potato chips with seasoned olive oil – garlic and parmesan adds a low sodium option. Thinly slice the potatoes and brush them with the olive oil, then spread in a single layer on a cookie or pizza tray and bake at 350 degrees until crispy. Place chips on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil and allow them to cool.
Try this easy and healthy veggie chip recipe from All Recipes that is the perfect way to use up some of that leftover zucchini and give your kids some extra nutrients.
Golden Chicken Nuggets
What kid doesn’t love a good old fashioned chicken nugget? Try this healthier version than the ones offered by most fast food options.
- Take boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pound with a meat mallet until 1” or thinner, and cut into strips or nugget-sized pieces.
- Finely crush 1 cup of whole wheat crackers and add to the crumbs 1/8 tsp. sea salt and ½ tsp. crushed black peppercorn. If your kids like a kick to their nuggets, add crushed red peppers instead.
- Beat 1 egg and brush the egg mixture onto the chicken pieces.
- Press the egg-coated chicken pieces into the cracker crumbs.
- Place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with canola or olive oil and bake at 350 degrees until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
- Provide dipping sauces like honey, barbeque sauce, or spicy mustard. Enjoy!