Here are my 5 best tricks to make healthy meals tasty and kid friendly:
1. The healthiest change we can all make is to include more veggies in our meals. In fact making vegetables the focal point of the meal and using properly raised animal protein as more of a condiment is a great goal to shoot for. If your kids balk at vegetables, there are several things you can try:
Sometimes we just need to think outside the box – like a flavorful, creamy soup as a vehicle for veggies or roasting them instead of just steaming which elevates them to a whole new level flavor-wise.
Let your children help you pick out one new veggie to try a week and also let them help you with meal prep. They are much more accepting of foods they’ve had a hand in choosing and preparing.
[tweetthis]"Use veggies in a new way...mashed potatoes with some mashed parsnips.[/tweetthis]
Use veggies in a new way, like combining their mashed potatoes with some mashed parsnips. Or experimenting with “cauliflower” mashed potatoes. What about “zucchini boats?” Cut a zucchini lengthwise and remove most of the inner flesh with a spoon leaving a ½” shell. Combine the chopped up flesh with a nutritious grain like quinoa or ground meat and any other veggie they like, season, stuff and bake! They get meat and/or a healthy grain and veggie in one fun container.
Be stealthy! “Hide” grated carrots or pureed beans in pasta sauce or grated zucchini and finely diced cremini mushrooms in burgers. Or just fold in some pureed beans – they’ll never know they’re in there and you’ve boosted fiber and protein.
You can still make chicken fingers for them, just coat them with almond meal instead of bread crumbs and bake instead of frying!
When my son Matt was young, the Ninja Turtles were very popular. He was a slightly finicky eater. I made some eggplant which he was not too excited to try. I sliced them into rounds, coated with almond meal and oven baked. I told him they were "ninja turtle pancakes" and they became his new favorite! Sometimes, it’s all in the presentation.
2. Make smart substitutions. Make some healthier muffins by replacing wheat or white flour with a higher protein, gluten-free flour like quinoa, coconut, millet almond or bean flour or a combination of 2 or more. Add in a scoop of whey protein powder and maybe a scoop of chia seeds to boost fiber and healthy fats. You can drop in a few dark chocolate chips or dried cranberries and they have a super healthy snack or breakfast they will love! As long as the finished product tastes delicious, they won’t know whether it has gluten or not. But you will.
While we’re at it – begin swapping out regular whole wheat bread with sprouted grain. It’s a delicious, easy swap and so much healthier.
3. Use foods in unexpected ways. I enjoy an egg sandwich on sprouted grain bread on the weekend as a “treat” breakfast. I love buying guacamole in single serve packages and spreading my bread with that instead of butter or coconut oil (although they are great and healthy too). I’ve also been known to use pesto and hummus in the same way. It’s delicious and boosts nutrition. Let your children try a small taste of something different and they may surprise you. Green tuna salad anyone? I also replace mayo in salmon or tuna salad with a mashed avocado. It's creamy, delicious and loaded with healthy fats.
While we’re on eggs, why not make an egg “face” or toad in the hole? Just use a biscuit cutter or small glass to cut a circle from a slice of bread. Toast it in a pan in some coconut oil. Flip it and break an egg into the hole. Once the white is cooked gently flip and finish cooking the egg. Then decorate it if they want it to be a “face” with nitrate/nitrite free bacon, olives, pepper strips or anything else they love.
Speaking of sandwiches make them fun! Find some healthy zucchini and banana bread recipes and bake several loaves. Cut into slightly thicker slices and freeze. This way you can pull a couple of slices out, spread with nut butter and fruit spread for a totally unique sandwich. Or cut sandwiches into shapes with interesting cookie cutters to make them even more fun to eat.
4. Don’t be afraid to offer them something new. Quinoa, millet, black, red or green rice and buckwheat may not be familiar to you or your children, but they are all easy to find and cook. They are healthier options to the usual plain, old white rice and pasta that will add nutrition as well as interest and flavor to your meals. Suggest they just try at least a spoonful of any new food offered. Often it takes several exposures before they can appreciate and accept a new food. Just be gentle and patient and they may just surprise you!
5. Focus on quality. The most important thing in creating truly healthy and flavorful meals for your family is choosing the highest quality, fresh, whole, real foods available to you. That means organic produce, nuts and dairy, grass fed beef, free range poultry and wild caught fish. Not only do the organic fruits and vegetables have a higher nutrient content and less pesticide residue, they just taste better. So your children will be much more inclined to eat them.
What are your favorite ways to make mealtime fun for your children?