If you’re a busy parent, you know how difficult it can be to whip up a dinner that is not only healthy, but is also something that your kids will eat, let alone enjoy. Parents are pros at picking their battles, and the overwhelming majority of busy parents understandably opt for meals that will pacify their kids instead of causing a tantrum. Coming up with dinner ideas for kids is hard since the food kids want to eat is generally not that great for them. Frozen chicken nuggets and French fries are just a couple of the items that tend to be most popular among the under-10 crowd, but foods like these lack the nutrients that kids really need and usually have high fat and cholesterol content.
One of the best ways to keep your sanity while making sure your kids get the nutrients they need is to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your meals—sneakily! Most of the time, kids reject a food simply based on the idea of it and don’t actually mind its taste. So if they don’t know an ingredient is hiding in a food they like, they’ll be much more likely to eat it. And, you’ll feel better knowing that they’re ingesting something besides grilled cheeses and chicken nuggets.
Here are a few ideas on how to get your kids to eat healthy without them even realizing it:
Use Subtle Substitutions
It’s easy to make the desserts and breads your kids love much healthier with simple ingredient substitutions. Substituting mashed avocado for butter and margarine gives your food the same great consistency and taste as if you used butter, but eliminates butter’s unhealthy fats and replaces them with avocado’s healthy ones. You can also substitute applesauce for vegetable oil, eliminating extra fat and calories in your baking.
Mix It Up
Vegetables can be incorporated into lots of different foods in many sneaky ways; if you hide them in foods your kids already like, they most likely won’t even notice the veggies are in there. Baking veggies into desserts, like zucchini muffins or carrot cake, is a sweet way to get some great nutrients into your kids. You can also puree vegetables into pasta sauces, soups, or smoothies—you get all the good nutrients without any veggies actually visible. You can also try mixing shredded veggies into ground meat; kids won’t be expecting any veggies in meatballs or burgers and they’re unlikely to notice them if they’re tiny and shredded. And if all else fails, covering cooked veggies with cheese is always a way to make them a little less noticeable—and they’ll definitely taste yummier!
Make It Fun
Calling a food a pizza or a pocket, even if it’s packed with healthy ingredients, will automatically make a dish sound more appealing to kids. Come up with creative and fun names for your dishes or try cutting healthy foods into fun shapes. Letting kids help out in the kitchen is also a great way to encourage healthy eating—knowing that they had a hand in making something will make kids much more likely to try it.
Below are some healthy, easy recipes for dinner that are quick to cook up on a weeknight or great to pack in a school lunch. The best part is your kids will find them so fun to eat that they won’t even know how many great nutrients they’re getting! Enjoy!
Prep Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes
- 8 English muffins
- 1/2 pound Italian pork sausage, casings removed
- 1 can Van Camp’s® Pork and Beans
- I can Hunt’s® Petite Diced Tomatoes, drained well
- 16 thin slices Pepper Jack cheese
- Preheat oven to 350? F. Split English muffins in half and place on baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until toasted.
- While English muffins are baking, cook sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat until crumbled and no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Drain. Pour extra sauce off top of pork and beans in can; discard. Add beans and drained tomatoes to skillet. Cook 2 minutes or until hot.
- Spoon 1/4 cup bean mixture onto each muffin half. Top each with 1 slice of cheese. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese melts.
Prep Time: 5 minutes | Total Time: 25 minutes
- 4 cups frozen broccoli cuts
- I can Hunt’s® Petite Diced Tomatoes, drained well
- 1/2 cup light Italian dressing
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Preheat oven to 450? F. Combine broccoli, drained tomatoes and dressing in medium bowl.
- For each packet, lay two 20×12 sheets of regular foil on top of each other.
- Place one chicken breast on each foil packet. Spoon broccoli and tomato mixture equally over each chicken breast. Bring up short sides of each foil packet and double fold top. Double fold both ends to seal each packet, leaving space for steam to gather.
- Place packets on baking sheet; bake 20-25 minutes until chicken is no longer pink in the center (165? F). Carefully open ends of packets to allow steam to escape before fully opening.
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 15 minutes
- 4 whole wheat flour tortillas
- 1/2 cup Peter Pan® Creamy Peanut Butter
- 6 tablespoons granola cereal
- 1 large red-skinned apple
- Spread each tortilla to 1/2 inch of edge with 2 tablespoons peanut butter. Sprinkle 1-1/2 tablespoons granola over lower two-thirds of peanut butter.
- Cut apple into quarters; remove core and chop into small pieces. Sprinkle apple evenly over granola.
- Start rolling each tortilla on apple end. Fold over 1 edge and continue rolling up, leaving one end open. Or, fold over both edges and continue rolling up burrito style.
For these and other kid-friendly recipe ideas, visit www.readyseteat.com