With working parents, on top of maintaining a household and managing extra-curricular activities, there’s plenty of reason why chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, and French fries become a staple in many households. They are not only affordable, but easy to prepare, don’t require utensils, and most children are happy to eat them every day. However, these foods are often high in fat and salt, and served with sauces high in sugar. Fortunately, there are ways to offer these foods without all of the grease and unhealthy flavorings.
The healthiest way is to make them at home. Prepare the dishes over the weekend and store them in durable containers or resealable bags in the fridge or freezer. During the week, when you’re ready to eat them, you can simply heat up the meal in the microwave, put it in the oven, or throw it in a pan on the stove.
Here are some child-favorite dishes, with a healthy twist:
- Pizza – Make it personal! Use a whole-wheat English muffin, bagel, or pita bread for the base; top with sauce (that you can add pureed carrots and red pepper for more nutrients) and slip in some cooked, minced cauliflower under the cheese. Then, you can chop up some fresh veggies, and let your children create their own pizza with the toppings.
- Spaghetti and Meatballs – Swap out ground beef for lean, low-sodium ground turkey, add some extra finely chopped up veggies to the sauce, and use whole-wheat pasta.
- Mac & Cheese – Try swapping white for wheat pasta, and making your own sauce by melting low-fat 2% cheese, Greek yogurt and a dash of butter. You can also puree cauliflower, butternut squash or tofu to add to the mix for extra protein.
- Chicken Nuggets – Instead of purchasing processed chicken nuggets, patties and tenders, make your chicken nuggets at home using boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Cut them into chunks and then dip them in flour, egg whites and breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
- French Fries – Don’t fry them, bake them! Take some russet potatoes, peel them, and cut into desired French-fry size. Place in a plastic bag along with just enough olive oil to lightly coat them, and shake until potatoes are evenly coated. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Put the potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on the lowest rack and bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
- Ketchup – Many children like anything with ketchup, and lots of it! Purchase the most natural ketchup that is low in sugar and salt. Also, look for substitute sauces with no/low sugar. For example, try switching to mustard with a little honey mixed in or use marinara sauce.
[First 5 SD Tag]