Convincing kids to eat healthier foods is a challenge for most parents, and a battle that can be very difficult to win at times. If you’re having vegetable issues with the kids, there are ways to hide those vitamin-packed foods so that the kids will never suspect they are eating healthily. Processed foods are loaded with sugar and preservatives that are unhealthy for kids and adults alike, but they are quick and easy enough that it’s tempting to spring for the time-saving alternative from time to time. What you may not know is that there are quick and easy substitutes for healthy food as well. If you’re willing to do a little work ahead of time, you can serve your kids tasty foods that are good for them instead of their preservative-packed counterparts. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Opt for Homemade Granola Over Pre-Packaged Cereals – It doesn’t take much to mix together old fashioned oats, sunflower seeds, coconut, nuts, spices, honey and no-sugar-added applesauce to create delicious batch of granola for the kids. One of the perks of homemade granola is that you get to add the flavors your kids enjoy while avoiding preservatives and additives. Milk turns your homemade granola into a breakfast cereal, while mixing it with yogurt makes it a healthy and substantial snack.
- Skip Breakfast Bars and Toaster Treats – Both are good for quick fixes in the morning, but are they good for you? Substitute whole wheat toast with a nut butter or an all fruit, no-sugar added spread. It’s fast, nutritious and just as tasty.
- Freezing Homemade Pancakes – Commercially-frozen pancakes don’t taste nearly as good as the whole grain pancakes you can make yourself. You can whip up a large batch of the tasty cakes and put them in freezer bags to pull out when you need them. Since you are the one making them, you know exactly what they contain, and you can be sure your kids are getting healthy food without chemical additives
- Choose Fruit Over Syrup – Pancake syrup might be tasty, but anything other than pure maple syrup is filled with chemicals, flavoring additives and preservatives. Try substituting pureed fruit or one of the many all-fruit spreads available without the added sugar. Another tasty topper is natural applesauce.
- Make Your Own Pasta Sauce – Have you ever noticed how spaghetti usually tastes better the second day? Make your own pasta sauce from scratch and you will eliminate all the preservatives and excess sugar. Make enough to freeze dinner-sized portions and you will have instant meals for busy days.
- Cut Out Canned Pasta – Opening a can of pasta is quick and easy, and kids love those little “o’s” and alphabet letters. You can make those quick and easy meals healthy by purchasing fun pasta shapes and combining them with your homemade pasta sauce. Freeze child size portions and you have plenty of meals ready to just heat and serve.
- Make Your Own Lunch Kits –Kids love tearing into those lunches with crackers, deli meat, cheese and some kind of sugary treat. You can create the same effect using healthy ingredients and adding fresh fruits and vegetables. Whole grain crackers, organic cheese and your kids’ favorite treats still allow them to stack and assemble lunch, just without the added chemicals. Try carrot chips as a substitute for greasy potato chips.
- Choose Fruit and Vegetable Bread Over Cakes – Every now and then, cake and other sweets are a nice treat. Still, a steady diet of such fare is not good for you. Substituting quick breads like banana bread or zucchini bread can be a healthy alternative, especially when they’re made with a health-conscious recipe. A little softened cream cheese with fruit makes a nice topping.
- Make Mini Pizzas – Instead of the fat-laden, commercially-frozen pizza, offer your kids the opportunity to make their own mini pizzas. All you need are some whole wheat English muffins, a little marinara sauce, low fat cheese and any other toppings they’d like to add. Pile on the good stuff and bake in the oven until the cheese is a nice golden-brown. These little pizzas are easy and fun to make, the kids will love them and you’ll have the pleasure of knowing that your kids are eating healthily. For variety, you can make morning pizzas by adding scrambled eggs as a topping. Give it even more flair by using salsa and crumbled turkey or chicken sausage.
- Pass on the Cookies – Cookies are an easy snack to reach for when little tummies rumble, but they’re also full of empty calories. A healthy alternative that kids will enjoy includes mini rice cakes with banana slices and peanut butter in between. When you use natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter, you have a healthy, protein rich snack.
Part of making the change to healthy substitutes is not saying anything about what’s being substituted. Just offer the alternative as you would any other food, and soon you will find your kids eating healthy foods without complaining. Ideally, starting your kids off early in life with less sugar and bad fats means a much healthier childhood, but it’s never too late to change. It may take a little time to get older kids on board, but modeling good eating habits yourself and getting them involved in helping make the meals will go a long way towards advancing your cause.