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Healthy Eating Tips for KidsAs a Registered Dietitian, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “How can I get my child to eat healthy?”. Here are five of my favorite tips to inspire kids to eat healthy. 

 

Tip # 1 - Enjoy Family Meals Together as Often as Possible!

Family meals can be challenging to do in today’s busy environment, but the payoff for eating together when possible is worth it! Eating together offers a chance for family members to connect, and can set the state for more open communication between parents and kids. Try to make mealtime enjoyable with pleasant conversation (save the lectures for another time!). Also, children feel more secure when they have the predictability of a routine, which promotes their overall wellbeing and development.

 

Tip # 2 - Be a Positive Role Model

Children often grow up to follow their parents’ eating habits. When they see you regularly eating healthy foods and appropriate portions you are laying out an example of what they will likely do later in life. Additionally, the likelihood of kids trying new and healthy foods increases when they observe someone else eating those foods.

 

Tip # 3 - Leave the Junk Food in the Store

Or at least keep it out of sight! Sugary drinks and junk food taste good, and if they are easily accessible your kids will ask for them regularly. Eating these low-nutrient foods and beverages can fill kids up, leaving less room for nutritious, nutrient-dense food needed for development and growth. Stock your kitchen with a variety of healthy foods.

 

Tip # 4 - Let Kids Choose when to Stop Eating

Avoid “the clean plate club” mindset, which teaches kids to ignore their inner signals of satiety. Letting them choose when to stop eating helps them become more in-tune to their inner cues and not overeat.

 

Tip # 5 - Give Some Control to the Kids

Choosing to give kids age-appropriate tasks can build confidence, skills, and also take a task off of your plate!

One option, since you have already decided how to stock the kitchen and what to serve at meal time, is to try letting kids serve themselves. Let them choose exactly what to put on their plate and just how much.

Another option is to involve kids in the planning and preparation of food. Just ask your kids for help. Kids will enjoy feeling some control if they can occasionally choose the family meal and this can get them excited about healthy eating. They are also more likely to eat a food if they are involved in preparing it.

 

Healthy and Tasty Salad Recipes for KidsWhile I love salad, I have struggled to figure out how to get my kids to share that feeling! They still frown on “combination” foods, which I define as anything with a bunch of stuff mixed together. One way I can skirt this issue involves using all of the same ingredients, but instead of tossing their salad together, I arrange the ingredients in piles on their plates with the dip in the middle.

On these hot summer days, having a lunch or dinner that requires little or no cooking and that I can adjust for both grown-ups and kids is priceless! Adding a side of bread and fruit really make this an appealing meal!

Find some salad ideas below. These are flexible in that you can substitute ingredients and dressing based on what you have on hand, and your family’s favorite foods.

 

California Chop Chop Salad for Kids

Turkey or chicken, bacon, avocado, cucumber and tomatoes with ranch dressing.

 

Taco Time Salad for Kids

Taco beef, steak or chicken, beans, tomatoes, olives, cheddar cheese with guacamole. Leave out the meat for a hearty vegetarian salad.

 

Italian Salad for Kids

Salami, provolone or mozzarella cheese, olives, cucumber, bell pepper with Italian dressing.

 

Garden Fresh Salad for Kids

Sugar snap peas, cauliflower, carrots, chick peas with creamy avocado dressing.

 

Catch of the Day Salad for Kids

Crab or shrimp, hardboiled egg, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, radish with Thousand Island Dressing.

Healthy Cookie Recipes for KidsMost kids love cookies, with good reason – they are yummy. So, I've been experimenting with making cookies that taste good but also offer more than just fat and calories.

I begin with a standard recipe and usually substitute some or all of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. The key is to sift the whole wheat flour for a smoother feel, or you can buy a finely ground whole wheat flour and skip the sifting step. Using whole wheat flour increases the fiber content of the cookies.

I then reduce the amount of sugar by about a third. This reduction is pretty undetectable in the final product.

Sometimes I will replace some of the butter with applesauce, crushed pineapple or flax-seed meal to decrease the total amount of saturated fat. I usually only reduce this ingredient by a third as well, since any further reduction really starts pushing the “cookie” over to the not-as-tasty side, in my opinion. Some people prefer to eliminate the fat and use only something like applesauce which is a personal choice and works fine too.

In the recipe I share below, I choose to grind my oatmeal for an easier-to-chew cookie. This is mainly to accommodate my texture-sensitive two-year-old, who often likes the taste of certain foods but spits them out after chewing a bit because the texture is too tough for her. Not a pretty sight and lots of dirty laundry. I do love to include oatmeal for the extra fiber.

Finally, in this recipe I add some carrots, because we all could use more vegetables in our day!

 

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Carrot Cookies

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup applesauce or crushed pineapple
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pureed carrots (2-3 carrots)
  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 ¾ cups rolled oats (whole or ground in blender or food processor)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  3. Puree carrots in food processor with ¼ cup applesauce or pineapple, and add to butter mixture.
  4. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture.
  5. Stir in oatmeal, chocolate chips and raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets (I line them with parchment paper for easy clean up).
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Enjoy!

 

 

Description

Granola, the ultimate multi-tasker! It can be an easy take-along snack, breakfast or throw it in some yogurt for a parfait!  The other nice thing about granola is how easy and forgiving it is to make.  The ingredients are flexible, so if you don’t have them all just substitute or skip whatever you don’t have!  Additionally, making it yourself can be cheaper and healthier!  My son and I just made a big batch of granola together – adding and mixing the dry ingredients together is something even the youngest toddler can help with!

Ingredients

  • 8 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • 3 cups chopped nuts (use your favorites, either one kind or mix a few together)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups dried fruit

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  2. Combine oats, flaxseed meal, wheat germ, oat bran, sunflower seeds and nuts in a large bowl.
  3. Combine salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, vanilla and almond in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then pour over dry ingredients. Stir to coat.
  4. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake until toasty brown, about 20 minutes. Stir halfway through.
  6. Cool, then mix in dried fruit.
  7. Store in airtight containers. Freezes well.

Enjoy!

 

Healthy Eating Tips for KidsEncouraging our kids to listen their own hunger and fullness cues helps them develop healthy eating habits for life. Some of us grew up as members of the “Clean Plate Club”, which allows the amount of food on the plate to determine when we are full. This can teach kids to ignore their inner cues, which in turn may lead to eating too much, and can set habits that last long into adulthood.

 

Here are four of my favorite tips for encouraging healthy eating habits in kids by avoiding the clean plate club

 

Allow kids to serve themselves

  • This definitely takes practice and a lot of self-control as you watch your two-year-old shakily scoop a towering pile of highly pigmented beets onto the plate (will it make it, or end up splattered on the table staining everything within a 2 foot radius?). Letting kids serve themselves helps build their confidence and practice figuring out how to estimate the amount of food they need to feel full. Help them learn to start with a small portion and take more if they are still hungry.

Don’t force kids to finish everything on the plate

  • Encourage kids to eat slowly and finish only what they want at that meal. They may not eat much at one meal, but over the course of a few days kids usually eat a balanced diet.

Don’t offer a reward for finishing the meal such as dessert

  • This teaches kids to ignore the full feeling and also encourages the idea that healthy foods do not taste good and sweets are more desirable.

Fill your kitchen with healthy options

  • Some parents choose to have a snack drawer as kids get older. Fill the drawer with nutrient dense foods, such as dried fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts and whole grain crackers. A designated area in the refrigerator may contain items such as fruit, cut-up vegetables, yogurt and cheese sticks.

 

As caregivers, our job is to offer a variety of healthy foods and encourage our kids to learn how to read their own hunger and fullness cues by allowing them to determine how much they eat. These skills help them develop a healthy relationship with food for life.

 

 

Grilled Corn on the Cob Recipe for KidsI have made corn on the cob every way. Boiled, microwaved, grilled with the husk-on, etc. Frankly, corn is yummy any way you make it but my favorite method also has the least amount of clean up! Grilling corn on the cob with the husk off.

People often look down on corn, as they feel it doesn’t have the nutritional superiority of other vegetables, such as kale. Actually, the “healthiest” diet provides a vast array of antioxidants and nutrients, and each vegetable contains a different variety of these. Corn is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin which are antioxidants found in the carotenoid family. Corn also provides a variety of other protective phytonutrients and fiber.

Give your kids some fun by sharing the workload of removing the husks from the corn (my kids love this step!). We do this outside, because it can be a messy part of the job!

 

Easy Grilled Corn on the Cob

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 ears of corn, husks removed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Brush corn with light coat of olive oil
  2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Grill over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, turning a quarter-turn about every 2 minutes
  4. Serve as is – you won’t even miss the butter it’s so good!

Healthy and Great Tasting Spinach Recipe for KidsIn honor of St. Patrick’s Day our pancakes turned green this past weekend. The key ingredient may surprise you, it was spinach! Adding some pureed spinach into the batter turned our pancakes a pleasing, pale green with the additional benefit of a bit of vegetables at breakfast! Even more surprising is how much of a hit they were. The taste of the spinach was undetectable (which is good in the case of pancakes) and the family liked them so much that spinach may be popping into our pancakes periodically all year!

 

What are the health benefits of spinach?

Spinach is high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and a good source of many other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

 

How to add spinach to your pancake (or other) recipes:

  • Use a ratio of 1 cup loosely packed spinach per 1 cup of liquid (You can use less liquid and still achieve a nice puree)
  • Add to a blender or food processor and puree the spinach so that it is very fine. You don’t want any leaf chunks in your pancakes!
  • Add the pureed spinach to your pancake batter

 

Enjoy!

Homemade Granola Recipe for KidsGranola, the ultimate multi-tasker! It can be an easy take-along snack, breakfast, or throw it in some yogurt for a parfait! The other nice thing about granola is how easy and forgiving it is to make. The ingredients are flexible, so if you don’t have them all just substitute or skip whatever you don’t have! Additionally, making it yourself can be cheaper and healthier!

 

My son and I just made a big batch of granola together – adding and mixing the dry ingredients together is something even the youngest toddler can help with!

 

Granola Recipe & Cooking Directions

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • 3 cups chopped nuts (use your favorites, either one kind or mix a few together)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups dried fruit

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil
  2. Combine oats, flaxseed meal, wheat germ, oat bran, sunflower seeds and nuts in a large bowl
  3. Combine salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon, vanilla and almond in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then pour over dry ingredients. Stir to coat
  4. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheets
  5. Bake until toasty brown, about 20 minutes. Stir halfway through
  6. Cool, then mix in dried fruit
  7. Store in airtight containers. Freezes well

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