Keep little hands busy during your next holiday gathering with these food-based crafts.
It’s the end of a busy school day and your kids come home with a hankering for one of the usual culprits — pizza, tacos, maybe chicken tenders. These fast-food staples may not hold the title of Healthiest Dinner on the Block, but with a few simple modifications, your kids’ favorite finger foods can become wholesome homemade dishes. Ease back into a busy fall schedule with these quick, kid-friendly dishes you can feel good about eating.
Chickpea Crust Pizza
With a few alterations, family pizza night can be a healthy tradition rather than a once-in-a-blue-moon indulgence. Food Network Kitchen fortifies the classic finger food with a high-fiber chickpea-flour crust. For a classic presentation, top it off with crushed tomatoes, provolone cheese and chicken sausage (which is significantly leaner than pork or beef). Gluten-free households can rely on this as their go-to pizza recipe, but it’s also ideal for families simply looking to trim back calories at dinnertime, as the recipe serves four and contains just 274 calories per serving.
Hands down, taco night is the favorite night of the week at our house. My kids love the DIY factor of assembling their own tacos, and I love the “no complaint” factor. Did I forget to mention, my husband and I love tacos too? It’s a win-win for everyone! This love for a weeknight dedicated to tacos led me to come up with this recipe for DIY Taco Salad Lunchbox Bowls. After all, if kids love tacos at dinner, why not put a fun spin on it and let them assemble their own taco salads at lunch? Read more
Kids and adults are likely to agree: Pizza is the perfect lunch, especially when it’s healthy. Kids will dig the fun factor of picking their own muffin mix-ins and parents will love the nutrition content of this easy-to-make, protein-packed lunch. Made with traditional pizza toppings like tomatoes, olives, Italian seasoning and mozzarella cheese, these pizzas are also easy to modify based on your kids’ imaginations; let them add their favorite cheese, seasonings and vegetables. Younger kids will probably nosh on one muffin; older kids will likely want two or more. Pack ‘em up in a lunchbox, then round out the meal with a side of carrots and fresh fruit. A fruit salad of sweet strawberries, juicy oranges and tangy kiwi is a delicious ending to this kid-friendly, parent-approved healthy lunch. Read more
Is there anything better than an evening around an energetic table with friends, loud chatter and home-cooked grub? I do love hitting a new hot spot, but an old-fashioned potluck is truly the way I love to roll most. Recently I was in charge of bringing apps and dessert and was reminded that the dad-host is a lactose-intolerant paleo eater and the mom-host is gluten-free. Rex helped me prep veggies and we made mini kebab-on-toothpick appetizers and a pile of crudites with guacamole. Maizy whipped up five-ingredient coconut bites and a fruit salad. We showed up with our pile of eats and had quite the memorable eve. Only, we’ll remember it more for the stress and complicated menu, not the snarf that kid-host let out when Maizy told everyone at the table why the chicken crossed the road. Read more
With their steady rotation of grilled cheese and butter-topped noodles, the “kid-friendly” section of restaurant menus has always been unimaginative. But these days it’s hard not to notice that the offerings are also fairly unhealthy. The palette of food geared toward children is primarily white, brown and orange — the colors of french fries, fried nuggets (of one sort or another) and mac and cheese. Not only is such fare typically lacking in creativity, it’s also lacking in nutrition, although there’s generally no lack of calories or sodium. It’s not uncommon for a kid’s meal to exceed 1,000 calories, more than any adult needs in one sitting.
The good news is that many restaurants are making strides in revamping the menu options for pint-sized patrons. The National Restaurant Association just hosted the second annual Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge — a competition that encourages chefs to come up with enticing but healthy alternatives for kids. Winners included an organic sunflower butter and jam sandwich on multi-grain oat bread and a whole-wheat quesadilla filled with broccoli, chicken, peppers and corn. Read more
If you’re looking to up your kids’ veggie intake, read this! A new study found that serving vegetables alongside dip leads to munching on more veggies. Interestingly, kids were also found to prefer dips flavored with herbs and spices over plain, more bland dips.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that adding herbs or spices to a reduced-fat dip increased a child’s willingness to eat veggies. The portion-controlled 3 ½ tablespoon dips served to the kids had 50 calories, 4 grams of fat and 90 milligrams of sodium.
Pre-school children ages 3 to 5 years told researchers from the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University that they liked veggies when paired with a favorite flavored dip compared to eating a veggie without a dip or with a plain dip. Thirty-one percent of kids liked a veggie alone while 64% liked a veggie when it was served with their favorite dip. In addition, 6% of kids refused the vegetable when served with a flavored dip as compared with 18% who refused the veggie when served without any dip.
During a second experiment, researchers found that kids ate significantly more of a previously rejected or disliked veggie when it was offered with a favorite reduced-fat herb dip compared to when it was offered alone.
My 22-month-old, Hudson, is a great eater as far as I’m concerned. But that doesn’t mean he won’t dive into a bag of Goldfish crackers and devour them all. It takes a certain amount of effort to offer our little ones snacks that are nutrient rich and likeable. Sure, its easy to fall into the rut of Cheerios, cookies and crackers and there is a place for all of this in a balanced diet. I also believe our kids learn to like the foods we give them regularly. So try these healthy snacks out for size and your little one will benefit from the added nutrition a cracker doesn’t always have.
- Beans: Like a Cheerio, beans are a great, packable, finger food. Having a cabinet full of canned beans like chickpeas and black beans is as simple as being stocked up on cereal. Pop open a can, rinse the beans and offer them as part of a meal or packaged in a baggie as a snack for on-the-go. Packed with fiber, protein and lots of nutrients this is a no-brainer. Plus, soft beans like cannellini are easy on gums.
- Dried Fruit: A great alternative to fruit snacks, dried fruits like apples and cherries are a tasty finger food that have a good shelf life, pack easily and of source are loaded with antioxidants and nutrition. Look for no or low-sugar options. Read more
Clean eating has been around since the 1960s but has been gaining popularity recently. Registered dietitian Michelle Dudash author of Clean Eating for Busy Families explains how simple it is to follow.
Q. Could you explain what clean eating is?
Clean eating is the lifestyle of enjoying foods in their most natural and least processed state, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, lowfat dairy and expeller-pressed oils. For example, instead of eating white bread, seek out sprouted wheat bread, which is a true whole grain. Also, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the label, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Instead of components that sound like things from lab experiments, opt for foods with ingredients found in home kitchens. Clean eating to me also means opting for in-season foods—not just produce, but seafood, too—whenever possible.
Q. So many foods marketed to kids are processed — how can you eliminate or minimize processed foods, and how can you tell which packaged foods are clean?
Unfortunately, many foods marketed to kids can be deceiving. You must look past the healthy images on the front of the package and go straight to the ingredient label on the back. If you see sugar in any form (yes, even evaporated cane juice and brown rice syrup) as the first ingredient, put it down. If it’s a grain product like a bar or cereal, whole grains like oats or brown rice should be listed first. If you see more than a few ingredients you can’t pronounce, it’s probably been manipulated and is highly processed. Despite the widespread availability of processed kids’ snacks, remember, kids still love fruits and vegetables or whole-grain crackers paired with dip.
Food Groups Matter
It’s not just about throwing together easy foods, but making sure your little ones gets the nutrients they need from a variety of food groups. As a rule of thumb, I make sure at least 3 food groups are represented in any of my kid’s breakfasts. Choose from dairy, whole grains, fruits, veggies, and lean protein. The more food groups you can include, the better.
Quick Recipe Ideas
Simple, no-fuss recipes you can throw together in less than 10 minutes.
- Peach Pie Smoothie
- Mixed Berry and Banana Smoothie
- Scrambled Egg Wrap
- Eggs In A Basket
- Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal