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Getting your kids to eat healthy foods can be an ongoing struggle. You want them to eat more vegetables and they keep asking for the same chicken nuggets and hot dogs. This round-up of recipes includes some easy hacks to sneak nutrition into even the pickiest eater’s food.
Establishing healthy eating habits kids
Children as young as babies can learn healthy eating habits and try a variety of foods. From the start, you can introduce your young eater to nutritious meals, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and protein. Skipping the store-bought, processed baby food and kids snacks will mean your child will be exposed to real, natural foods from the start. The idea behind this is that they will continue to choose healthy foods as older children and into adulthood.
The problem with this is that many times, even kids who are exposed to great, nutritious foods as babies will turn into picky toddlers who could survive solely on fruit snacks if you’d let them. The food ideas below will show you how to sneak some nutrition into your kids’ go-to foods.
Pasta is always a fan favorite with kids. Whether it’s penne, spaghetti, or macaroni and cheese, kids always love some form of pasta. Luckily for parents, pasta is also a great food for hiding vegetables and protein. If your kid is only into the classic, butter noodle, you take some cauliflower rice and cook it in with your pasta. It’s white just like the noodles and it’s a similar texture to parmesan cheese. Your kiddo won’t even notice.
If you’re making a red sauce with pasta or macaroni and cheese, cauliflower rice works in these as well. You can also add fresh tomatoes and finely chopped red peppers and slip those into your red sauce. If you chop them small enough and let them simmer in the sauce, your kid will be none the wiser.
Taco night is always a fan favorite. For adults, it’s an easy one-pan meal. For kids, taco night means that they get to make their own taco and add all of their favorite toppings. If your child is reluctant to eat tacos, you can have them add what they’d like to their plate or tacos themselves. Ground beef or chicken tacos will usually go over well. You can hide vegetables in the salsa and give them a calcium boost from the cheese and sour cream. They may even try avocado if they get to mash it and add it to their taco themselves.
Pancakes are a great way to get some fruit into your little ones at breakfast. By adding bananas or blueberries to your pancakes, your kids get the delicious treats they love and you’ll feel great they’ve eaten some fruit. If your picky eater won’t go for something in their pancakes, you can also try to make them with a tablespoon or two of oatmeal or baby oatmeal added to them. Baby oatmeal is almost a powder consistency so they will get all the nutrition from the oatmeal without a texture that might clue them in to your secret ingredient. You can also try to add a couple of tablespoons of applesauce to your pancakes. This will make them extra sweet treats for the whole family.
Pizza is a great place to add some vegetables to your kids’ diet. If you’re thinking that your picky eater could spot a vegetable on a pizza a mile away, think again. Vegetables can be very finely grated and added to any pizza sauce. You can add extra tomatoes or red peppers here to keep the sauce red. A little finely chopped spinach may get by them as well as it will look like seasoning. You could also replace your pizza crust with a cauliflower crust. With the right sauce and cheese, your little food critic won’t be able to spot the difference.
Sticking with the pizza theme, you may be able to encourage some fruit-eating by making a fruit pizza. A fruit pizza is usually made with a circular sugar cookie crust. It is then topped with cream cheese and fruit and cut into triangles like a pizza. Your kid gets a cookie and you get them to eat fruit. It’s a win, win for all.
Snacks can cause some of the biggest mealtime battles. Next time your little one asks for a snack, try having them make a smoothie with you. You can have them add their own fruit, yogurt, or milk and you can sneak other healthy ingredients in here as well. Peanut butter, avocados, oatmeal, chia seeds, and spinach can all be added to a smoothie without a kid noticing if you get the ratios right. Start by adding a really small amount of one or two of these secret ingredients and after a couple of snack times, you may be able to get by with more.
Desserts don’t always have to be all or nothing when it comes to eating healthy. There are simple substations you can make to reduce calories or sugar in a dessert. Many recipes can be found to use applesauce, honey, maple syrup, or fruit to sweeten desserts naturally while using less sugar.
A quick dessert hack consists of taking peanut butter and rolling it into a ball covered in oats. You can cool them in the refrigerator and pull them out when your family needs a quick sweet treat. Freezing fruit is another way to curb a sweet tooth. You can throw a handful of blueberries or grapes into the freezer for a few hours and after they are done, you’ll have a cold treat ready to eat.