Want your children to be healthy – start with healthier food.
Providing healthy food in school and at home and educating children, parents and school staff about the importance of good nutrition and exercise definitely leads to improved the health.
At home, try to serve healthy meals and have healthy snacks available, such as apples, yogurt, whole grain cereals and cut-up fresh veggies in the refrigerator.
If your child’s school does not offer physical activity and nutrition education programs, contact the principal or the school board to find out if changes can be made to these programs. Check the lunch program for healthy options for your child and if, you are not satisfied with what they offer, give your child a lunch to take to school. At the same time, try to get the school to offer healthy options for those who want them.
The good news is that as long as you provide a wide variety of nourishing foods, your child’s diet will balance out over time. Here are some healthy foods that are as good for you and your children as they taste.
A perfect finger food for tiny eaters, blueberries usually go on to become life-long favorites. They are packed with vitamin C for immune health and fiber that can help keep kids regular. Berries of all kinds may help combat allergies, as well
Fresh blueberries are always a favorite with children. Add them to smoothies, pancakes, muffins, desserts and even salads.
The darker the bean, the more nutritious it is, elevating black beans to the top of the superfood list. Their protein and fiber content help balance blood sugar and provide growing bodies with long-lasting energy. One cup of black beans also supplies about 20% of your child’s iron needs for the day.
Black beans can be added to chili, pureed into a dip with garlic, tomatoes and herbs or mixed with scrambled eggs.
Eggs provide high-quality nutrition at an affordable price and are a great source of choline, an often overlooked but essential nutrient for brain and nervous system development. They’re also high in protein and are a good dietary source of vitamin D.
Since eggs can be added to virtually any baked good, chances are your kids are already enjoying them. Look for muffin and pancake recipes using several eggs, and experiment with omelets and frittatas. Popular combinations include: zucchini and basil, onions and potatoes, and tomato, mozzarella and ham.
Spinach is another highly nutritious food and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K for optimal immunity and bone health. It’s also high in iron, several B vitamins and boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties making it a winner for heart and eye health.
If your child likes the flavor of pesto, replace half of the basil in the recipe with fresh spinach. Use as a sandwich spread, pizza topping or pasta sauce. Frozen chopped spinach is perfect for adding to meatballs or meatloaf.
Keep on trying different foods Don’t assume that your kids will never like something, if they’ve tried it once and dismissed it. Tastes change over time.
After School Snacks
Apple Snack Wedges
- 2 medium apples
1 cup Rice Chex (or other healthy crispy cereal), crushed
1-1/2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
Core apples; cut each into six wedges. Pat dry with paper towels.
In a small shallow bowl, combine the cereal and brown sugar. Spread cut sides of the apples with peanut butter; roll in cereal mixture. Serve immediately.
Strawberry Mango Smoothie
- 1 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1-1/2 cups halved fresh strawberries
1 medium mango, peeled and chopped
4 to 6 ice cubes
- 1 tablespoon sugar
In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process for 30-45 seconds or until smooth. Stir if necessary. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.
Peanut Butter Granola Mini Bars
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
- 1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
In a large bowl, beat the peanut butter, honey, egg, oil and vanilla until blended. Combine the oats, brown sugar and salt; add to the peanut butter mixture and mix well.
Stir in the dried fruit and chips. (Batter will be sticky.)
Press into a 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 24 bars.
Lunch Box Ideas
- 1/4 cup hummus
1 whole wheat tortilla (8 inches), at room temperature
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup shredded cooked chicken breast
1/2 carrot, cut into thin strips
- 1/4 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
Spread hummus over the tortilla; top with spinach. Place chicken, carrot and red pepper strips in a row near the center of the tortilla; roll up tightly. If desired, cut crosswise into slices. Wrap securely or pack in an airtight container; and refrigerate until serving. Yield: 1 serving.
Lunch on a Stick
- Cheddar or Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
Whole wheat bread slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
Sliced deli ham and/or turkey, cut into 1-inch strips
Seedless red or green grapes
- Wooden skewers (5 to 6 inches
Cut cheese into 1/4-inch slices. Thread a skewer with 1 piece of cheese, bread, ham or turkey, tomato, lettuce and grape. Repeat the order again on the skewer. Make 3 more skewers.
Let children be creative and place their favorite healthy ingredients on a skewer. Yield: 4 servings.
Bean Dip & Chips
- 1/4 cup fat-free canned refried beans
1 tablespoon salsa
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 minced scallion
- 1 ounceh ealthy tortilla chips, (about 10)
Combine refried beans, salsa, cilantro and scallion (if using) in a bowl. Serve with tortilla chips.
Healthy Dinner Options
Parmesan Chicken Nuggets
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup Italian seasoned panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Marinara sauce
Place butter in a shallow bowl.
Combine the panko crumbs, cheese, garlic powder and salt in another shallow bowl.
Dip chicken in butter, then roll in crumbs.
Place in a single layer on two 15-inch x 10-inch x 1-inch baking pans.
Bake at 375°F for 15-18 minutes or until no longer pink, turning once. Serve with marinara sauce, if desired.
Pizza Meatloaf Cups
These are great to reheat for a quick dinner on soccer night.
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces each) shredded mozzarella cheese
- Additional pizza sauce
In a large bowl, combine the egg, pizza sauce, bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well.
Divide among 12 greased muffin cups; press onto the bottom and up the sides. Fill the center with cheese.
Bake at 375° F for 15-18 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink.
Serve with additional pizza sauce, if desired. Or cool, place in freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
To use frozen pizza cups: Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Heat on a microwave-safe plate on high for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 1 dozen.
- 2 medium carrots
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups part skim milk ricotta cheese,
2 cups (16 oz) shredded part skim milk mozzarella cheese, divided
3 oz grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
- 8 oz lasagna noodles, no boil
Chop carrots, green pepper and onion.
In a skillet, saute the vegetables in oil. Stir in the 2 cups of marinara sauce to heat it through.
In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, salt and egg.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread 1 cup sauce mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish coated with olive oil cooking spray.
Layer 1/2 each, uncooked lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, sauce,. Repeat layering, and top with remaining cheese.
Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes.
- 88 Unexpected Snacks Under 100 Calories (greatist.com)
August 11, 2014 at 9:07 am
Wonderfully healthy snacks for children. I wish more mothers would think of things like these instead of all the sugary snacks that I see children eating.
August 11, 2014 at 9:19 am
So true Karen. Those processed snacks and fast foods are a major cuase of obesity in children today. I think parents may consider making foods at home, as too time consuming due to their busy schedules. However, I considered that in making my recipes. I don’t think they take very long to make, with the exception of the lasagna, if they purchase the ingredients ahead of time. Plus the health bnefits are plentiful.
August 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm
These all sound like great, kid-friendly options. It’s so important to establish healthy habits early on in life.
August 13, 2014 at 9:56 am
Thank you and I couldn’t agree more.
August 13, 2014 at 12:31 am
Fantastic post as always, Jovina! Pizza meatloaf cups, clever 🙂
August 13, 2014 at 9:57 am
Thank you Angie – a favorite with the grandkids
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