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.
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I make quick, easy and kid-friendly breakfast every day for my 3 kids. If you’re not a believer that you can make breakfast happen in a flash, try any of my tips to make it happen.
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.
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When I transitioned my household to gluten free, a funny thing happened along the way. My gluten-intolerant son, Isaiah, had been the classic white foods eater—pasta, pizza, potatoes, pie. You name it, the only food he would eat on his plate was white and lots of it was bread.
So when he was diagnosed five years ago, it was slim pickings at the supermarket for a white bread substitute. Needless to say we tried them all, but they all fell short of his expectations. Turns out that the answer was easier than I would have ever guessed. He was no longer looking at color, but texture and flavor. I was still feeding into his white foods cravings when he was clearly over them. Slowly, Isaiah’s food choices opened up and to my surprise, he ventured beyond the white and into healthier, whole-grain choices.
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- Protein + carbs + fat = breakfast. Who says your morning meal has to consist of traditional breakfast foods?
The media blasts us with “brain food” articles and TV segments every back-to-school season. Does that mean our kids can be less smart in the summer? Do they require less fuel for their brains and working muscles between Memorial Day and Labor Day? Of course not! In fact, for me, I want my boys to be extra alert when they’re hitting fast-balls and shooting arrows at camp!
Most kids are involved in high-energy activities all summer long, whether it’s camp (sports, acting, dance, art, music), frolicking at the beach, lake and pool, or traveling for family getaways. All of these adventures demand focus and energy. A healthy breakfast is the best way to prepare for a long day of fun.
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- Will your child ever love spinach as much as you do?
Getting kids to eat healthy has become the Mount Everest of parenthood. Every day is a rocky, uphill battle with daily obstacles thwarting parents’ best intentions: bake sales, kiddie menus, birthday parties and vending machines are everywhere. It doesn’t help that kids are still wired like their early ancestors to gravitate towards sweet foods to maintain their weight in case of a famine and avoid unfamiliar foods that may be poisonous. Fast forward to the twenty-first century with easy access to store-bought processed products and introducing kids to cauliflower can sound as daunting as climbing a mountain.
The good news is that there are plenty of tactics to encourage healthier eating habits in kids.
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Keep kids fueled for fun with easy, pack-able snacks.
Whether on a road trip, a day at camp or playing at the beach, kids need fuel! Keep tummies from rumbling with these nutritious and delicious snacks.
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Turn kid friendly mac and cheese into adult (and kid) friendly mac and cheese cakes.
People constantly confess to me that their biggest diet pitfall is nibbling on their kid’s leftovers. French fries, macaroni and cheese, burgers, pizza. Things you wouldn’t put on YOUR dinner plate, but eat while doing the dishes. Instead of feeling guilty, why not enjoy kid food with reckless abandon? Even better – get creative with leftovers and make memorable meals for the entire family. Macaroni and cheese is the perfect place to start because kids love it and parents devour all remaining scraps (along with their adult meals). That’s when calories skyrocket. To start, you need a great recipe for macaroni and cheese; one that’s healthy yet rich and bursting with cheese flavor. My renowned macaroni and cheese is below. I bake mine to create a creamy middle and crisp, Parmesan-spiked topping (the part everyone loves). It’s sinful tasting, yet lighter in fat and calories thanks to light sour cream and evaporated skim milk. Since the recipe makes a big batch, you can easily store leftovers and enjoy my mac n cheese cakes with spicy tomato sauce another day – crispy, Parmesan and panko-crusted cakes dipped in warm, smoky tomato sauce. Got creative uses for YOUR leftovers? Let’s hear ‘em!
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- Robin's Go-To Brown Bag Foods
I love packing lunch for my two boys every day. It’s a little part of me that I send in a brown bag (actually, a thermal lunch bag.) It like to imagine them opening lunch to find my surprises. These are my favorite simple, healthy foods to pack up, plus, my easy prep and planning tips.
Robin’s best lunchbox ideas »