Feeding your kids is always a challenge. Feeding them healthy food that’s easy for you to make and fun for them to eat is the Holy Grail of parenting. Luckily, the top five food trends for kids this year fit all of those criteria. “These foods are fun, but not because they have tons of sugar or artificial fluorescent colors,” says Kate Geagan, M.S., RDN, author of Go Green, Get Lean.
1. Spiralized Vegetables (pictured at top)
Whether you use them as a snack or serve them as a pasta substitute, it’s a great way to get your kids more excited about eating their veggies. Zucchini, yellow squash and sweet potato all make great pasta alternatives served with tomato sauce. Try spiralizing other vegetables — like beets, carrots or cucumbers — as a snack or side dish.
2. Mason-Jar Meals
These multilevel concoctions hold a lot of visual appeal for kids. “They love that they can see all the layers and help build their meal,” says Geagan. “Literally any meal can be made more fun if you put it in a Mason jar!” She suggests trying breakfast parfaits or salads (add a lid and let your child shake all the ingredients together before eating). One caveat: Look for mini Mason jars to create the right-size portions for little tummies.
3. Breakfast for Dinner
The trick to making this meal swap work is to come up with creative ways to work in veggies. “Vegetables are often lacking at breakfast, but if you eat breakfast for dinner they should comprise about half the plate,” says Geagan. Think about mixing shredded or bite-size pieces of peppers, broccoli, carrots or zucchini into omelets or frittatas, topping eggs with a vegetable-rich salsa and avocado slices, or making savory pancakes that include shredded or even pureed veggies.
4. Muffin-Pan Entrees
Anything you can make in a casserole dish can also be made into fun, individual-sized muffins. Good options include frittatas, meatloaf and lasagna. They can even be made ahead and sent to school for lunches all week long.
5. Energy Balls
Energy bars can be too big — and pack too many calories, and too much fat and added sugar — to make a good kid’s snack. But raw energy balls — packed with nutrient-dense ingredients like dates, cocoa powder, coconut and almond flour — are the perfect grab-and-go size for small hands.
Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.