Even if your little one is not a picky eater (although, aren't they all?), you know how supremely hard it is to get kids to eat healthy. Also, our parental consciences aren't made better knowing that the eating habits we pick up when we’re young can have a massive impact on adult life outcomes.
A balanced diet without unnecessary extra sugars, fats, and salt is undeniably important to a healthy, happy life for both young and adult alike. Healthy eaters are slimmer, taller, more intelligent, have more friends, and make more money in their careers.
But kids are kids, and will need to get an occasional fast food treat as is the custom of the land. An excellent way to help your kids add more variety to their diets while still enjoying the junk food that they'll demand is to simply make it at home – and put healthy spins on them!
The whole cooking and eating process can even be made a fun family experience that'll help your kids learn about food science and healthy eating early in their lives. Seriously, just tell your kids you're going to become food influencers and they'll beg you to cook together – and even diligently research whatever you tell them. So now, on to the list of fast food classics you can easily healthify.
Mac N Cheese
Who doesn't enjoy an occasional mac n cheese? Mac n cheese is a comfort food favorite among kids and adults alike, but the amount of cheese, butter and whole-fat milk that can go into the dish make it incredibly unhealthy!
Conscientious parents can help make the dish healthier by using skimmed milk, foregoing butter and choosing the lightest cheese possible. You can also replace white macaroni with wheat or brown pasta and bulk up the dish using cauliflower and other healthy veggies.
Nuggets are another classic junk food staple that you can easily make at home instead of consuming magic chemicals deep fried in week old oil. Healthy nuggets will be baked rather than fried, and you can make a healthy batter alternative using crushed cornflakes or breadcrumbs mixed with egg and flour. You can add some flavorings to your batter alternative for the kids to enjoy, like some chili flakes or fried herbs.
As Americans, we are required to partake in burger ritual, but we don't necessarily have to chow down on it as-is. A great way to make a cheeseburger healthiy is to switch out the meat of the burger itself for something healthier. Turkey is an excellent choice, and you can make up for any differences in flavor by including extra veggies like onions, salad or tomato. You can also choose a healthier cheese option than the traditional American cheese and substitute sauces like mayo for salad cream or low-fat alternatives.
Fries are a firm favorite among kids and can make the perfect side dish for a huge range of meals. Making your own fries is a much healthier alternative to takeout fries or store-bought and simple to accomplish at home. All you need is a few good-sized potatoes cut into fry-style sticks, which you can then pop into the oven until crispy, golden and cooked through. You can also use veggies to make home fries, such as carrots, zucchini, parsnip or beets.
Healthy pizza can be a great meal option to feed the whole family. Instead of frozen pizza or takeout, consider making your own with fresh ingredients and going easy on the oil, butter and sugar.
Traditional Italian pizza is an excellent healthy pizza goal, using cheese sparingly and creating a healthy, delicious tomato base. You might even consider investing in a wood-fired pizza oven to help you make the most authentic Italian pizza possible. Ensure you choose a quality retailer like Ooni to get the most out of your pizza-making adventures.
Brownies are one of the most popular dessert dishes around, and you might not realize just how easy they are to make healthier. You can use low-fat yogurt as an alternative to butter and dark chocolate as a nutritious alternative to milk chocolate. (Regular consumption of a little extra dark chocolate is excellent for your heart health – but don't overdo it.) You can also greatly improve the overall health benefits of the brownies by bulking it up with dried fruit and nuts in the batter.
Again, the method of baking your fish sticks makes all the difference in the healthiness of the outcome. Baking is always preferable to frying, as it results in far lower fat content. You can make fish sticks yourself using quality fillets of fish and using breadcrumbs mixed with eggs for the coating. Pop these in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the fillet, and enjoy gorgeous healthy fish sticks at home.
The hotdogs and buns you use will make all the difference to how healthy a hotdog meal turns out. Look for hotdogs with low sodium content and wheat or brown buns rather than white. You could even sub in veggie hotdogs for the healthiest possible option.
Boil or bake the hotdogs, rather than frying, and serve with homemade sauces that are low in sugar, fat and salt. Don’t forget a side of veggies and salad to add color to the meal and plenty of health benefits.
Soda is a firm favorite for many kids, but the level of sugar and caffeine can contain make them a poor choice to include in a healthy diet. Even diet soda can be bad for your health over time, so finding a truly healthy alternative is crucial.
Seltzer water can be the perfect solution, giving your kids all of the fun fizz without any of the downsides. Consider sugar-free flavored seltzer or mixing up your own healthy mocktails to get the kids on board.