School’s out for summer! For some of us, the change in schedules means more family meals at home. Parents may be looking for new ideas that are healthy and easy to prepare; it certainly was a hot topic among parents last week at a nutrition workshop I hosted, so it’s been on my mind a lot lately!
I’ve gathered some of my favorite ideas to share from MyPlate, USDA, American Dietetic Association, and some of my own from my days teaching nutrition after-school programs in NYC elementary schools. Most of these kid-friendly ideas work just as well for adults looking for simple, healthy solutions.
Remember: Kids love to participate. They love to eat with their hands. And they love things that are personalized to them! Making healthy eating fun and enjoyable is a win-win.
1. Personalized Breakfast Parfaits. You can provide non-fat Greek yogurt, a variety of fruit and a cinnamon shaker. Let the kids decide how much of each to put in their breakfast cup.
2. Breakfast of Champions. Put out dried cranberries, chopped fresh apples, and walnuts and let kids choose how much to add to oatmeal.
3. Fruit Kabobs! AKA “caterpillar kabobs”. Assemble chunks of melon, apple, pear, berries, and more, on skewers for a fruity kabob.
4. Veggie Kabobs! For a raw veggie version of the fruit kabobs, use crisp vegetables such as cucumbers, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.
5. Smoothie creations. Blend fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk with fruit and crushed ice. As a dairy-alternative you might be interested in trying almond milk or soy milk. Use fresh, frozen, canned, and even overripe fruit. Try bananas, berries, peaches, and pineapples; really, any fruit you have on hand will probably work! If you freeze the fruit first, you can even skip the ice!
6. Delicious dippers. Kids love to dip their foods. Whip up a quick dip for veggies with yogurt and seasonings such as chives, parsley and garlic. A strained yogurt (such as Greek, Icelandic or Labneh, to name just a few) will make your dip thick and creamy, and these products come in non-fat and low-fat varieties. Serve with raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, or cauliflower. Fruit chunks go great with a dip made with yogurt and cinnamon.
7. Personalized pizza. Set up a pizza-making station in the kitchen. Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels, or pita bread as the crust. Toppings may include: low-sodium tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, fresh basil, refried beans, grated carrots, or salsa. Heat in a toaster oven or broiler and enjoy!
8. Gooey Green Tacos. Start with 6” or 8” whole corn (a whole grain!) tortillas. Mix together guacamole and tomato salsa (or try a pineapple or mango salsa for an especially tropical twist). Kids can help with the mixing. Then fill tortillas at will, fold in half and enjoy. Just keep napkins on hand!
9. Taco Americano. Take a whole grain corn tortilla or whole wheat tortilla, spread with mustard, top with lower-sodium turkey or ham, low-fat cheese, and lettuce. Fold or roll-up and enjoy.
10. PB & J roll-ups. Using a whole grain soft tortilla, spread with peanut butter and grated carrots or apple slices. Roll it up and enjoy!
11. Sandwiches with Personality. Cut bread in fun shapes with cookie cutters. Fill with lower-sodium deli meats, cucumbers, cheese, hummus, or peanut butter and jelly.
12. Pita Pockets, Version One. Stuff half a pita pocket with shredded chicken, lettuce and carrots, pepper, and a little salad dressing.
13. Pita Pockets, Version Two. Stuff a whole-grain pita pocket with low-fat cottage cheese and slices of granny smith apples or peaches or nectarines or other favorite fruit; top with cinnamon.
14. Frosty Fruity Treats. Frozen treats are bound to be popular in the warm months. Just put fresh fruits such as melon chunks in the freezer and make ice pops by inserting sticks into peeled bananas and freezing.
15. Peanut Butter Balls! Mix peanut butter and cornflakes in a bowl. Shape into balls and roll in crushed graham crackers. Enjoy right away or refrigerate to harden and keep on hand for a nutrient-packed energizing snack or dessert.
16. Go Bananas for Frozen Bananas. Peel a banana, dip it in yogurt, roll in crushed cereal, and freeze for a cool treat later!
17. Personalized “Sodas”. You can provide sparkling water and a variety of 100% fruit juices. Be a role model and start by filling your clear glass 3/4 full with sparkling water, then adding a splash of juice. Then let kids try, allowing them to decide how much juice to add to their sparkling water.
Research (and experience) shows that kids are more willing to try new foods if they helped with the prep, so ask your kids for help in picking ingredients, stirring, assembling and more.
Letting kids choose what to eat (from what you’re offering) and how much to eat is great practice in making healthy choices.
Remember: Parents are responsible for deciding when and what to offer, and kids can choose what they want to eat and how much.
Need a few more ideas for helping kids to eat healthy meals and snacks?
- Read the USDA’s easy weekend lunch ideas.
- See ten more tipson making healthy foods more fun for kids from the USDA’s MyPlate program.
- More healthy snacks for kids.
For more of my food tips (all with great savings!), check out my Healthy Living for Less section. Have kid-friendly tips of your own? Let us know at the FreshDirect Facebook Wall or at Twitter: @FreshDirect.