All too often, we feed our kids without thinking about what we are actually giving them. If something says “low fat” or “fruit juice”, we just consider it healthy. Never mind that “low fat” snacks might include artificial flavors and tons of sugar, or that the fruit juice we are giving them only has 10% of real fruit juice in it.
Reading labels is something I do when shopping, but sometimes it’s just not practical (like when dining out). There are ways to make health(ier) choices throughout the day. And while we might not be able to get them to give up nuggets, cookies, and juice completely, we can make their favorite foods healthier by making a few easy adjustments to the menu.
Kids love juice, even kids (like mine) that don’t get it everyday. You can give them the taste of juice without giving them a ton of juice; dilute juice with water. Or you can pop a couple of frozen juice cubes into their cups. Either way, they are getting the flavor without getting a whole lot of the actual juice.
Also, save juice boxes and pouches for special occasions, and limit fruit juice at home to 4 to 6 ounces day. Juice is full of sugar and calories, and your kids can get vitamin C from healthier whole fruits and vegetables, too.
When we have pizza at home or out, I always try to make sure that I don’t let them just load up on pizza. I also serve a side salad with tomatoes and carrots and dressing.
Veggies are the most nutritious toppings for pizza, but if your family is like mine they are going to want meat on it, too. Best options would include chicken or ham, and while pepperoni is high in fat, it’s actually a bit leaner than sausage.
If you ordering pizza, ask for a pizza with “half the usual amount of cheese.” And if you select a thin crust over thick, you can slash about 80 calories per slice!
My kids could live on french fries alone. They always want french fries, and it’s okay to give them the treat occasionally. At the drive-thru, order the smallest size and have everybody share them. Or if you are making your own, cut potatoes into sticks, toss with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, and then bake on a sheet at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.
A common snack in our house, and not such a bad one if you buy the right cookies. Make sure to watch portion size – 10 animal crackers, eight vanilla wafers, three chocolate sandwich cookies, or two sheets of graham crackers all equal about 150 calories. Teddy Grahams are lower in sugar and fortified with calcium, and only have about five calories per bear, so they could eat more if they need a bigger portion.
100-calorie snack packs are pricey, but easy portion control on the go. Whole-grain versions of Fig Newtons and Chips Ahoy! also have 2Â grams of fiber.
The ultimate toddler favorite, I’m pretty sure. Kids love them, crave them, and could eat them for every meal of the day.
Nuggets have a lot of fat, both from the drive-thru or the freezer section. Believe it or not, five nuggets can have almost half of your child’s daily fat allowance! Try to save a couple of grams of fat by choosing ones made with only breast meat.
My kids will also eat “fake” chicken nuggets (ones made with vegetable protein) because they taste like the real thing. The bonus is that the veggie nuggets save a ton of fat per serving.
But by far, the best way to serve nuggets is to make your own. Dip skinless tenderloins in egg whites, rolling them in bread or panko crumbs and “fry” them on the stove in a nonstick skillet (add a bit of canola oil or cooking spray). For the dipping sauce, your best bets are barbecue sauce or low-fat ranch dressing.
How do you get your kids to eat their favorite things but in a more healthy way?