Tips to Make Kid-Friendly Recipes Healthier

Establishing healthy eating habits early on in kids’ lives can help put them on the right path to being healthier adults.

But just because you’re aiming for a healthier diet doesn’t mean they have to miss out on their favorite foods like macaroni and cheese and pizza. The key is to make healthier versions! Here are five tips to help you do just that – and some recipes to get you started.

Tips to Make Kid-Friendly Recipes Healthier

Substitutions

Make healthy food substitutions for dairy, meats, grains, fats, sweeteners and even fruits and veggies.

Portion Control

Keep your child’s portions in check by dolling out “handy,” kid-sized amounts of protein, grains, fruits and veggies, and fats.

Reduce Fat and Calories

  1. Sauté without adding oil. When a recipe calls for adding oil to sauté onions, garlic, or beef, add a couple of tablespoons of water or broth instead of oil.
  2. Substitute low-fat, strong-flavored cheese. Use sharp cheddar, feta or parmesan instead of mild cheese and cut the amount of cheese in the recipe in half. This will cut calories and fat but keep the flavor of the dish.
  3. Use tangy, fat-free, plain Greek yogurt in recipes that call for sour cream. Or use fat-free sour cream.
  4. Trim the fat from meat. Remove the skin from chicken or turkey and trim the fat from pork or beef before cooking.
  5. Purchase leaner cuts of meat. Look for ground meats that are at least 85% lean. Or cuts of beef and pork that contain the word “loin” in the name.

Add Fiber

  1. Use 100% whole-wheat breadcrumbs to bread chicken or fish.
  2. Add beans and veggies. They go well in soups, stews and pasta sauces to boost nutrition. Before adding canned vegetables, drain and rinse them to remove excess sodium. Frozen vegetables can be added directly to the pot.
  3. Pureed beans, carrots and squash will naturally thicken a soup or sauce without changing the flavor. Try cannellini beans for cream-based soups and casseroles. And kidney or pinto beans for tomato-based sauces.

Add Flavor without Fat

  1. Use fruit juices or citrus zest on vegetables. Squeeze lemon, orange or lime juice on vegetables instead of topping them with margarine or butter. Add zest during cooking for a milder flavor.
  2. Add beef, chicken or vegetable broth to the pan as vegetables cook. This gives additional flavor.
  3. Sprinkle a light amount of reduced-fat shredded cheese on cooked vegetables. Adds less fat and calories than a cheese sauce.

If you have questions about our HealthWorks! Nutrition Program, or would like to schedule an appointment, please visit our webpage or call 513-636-4305.

Barbara Lattin MS, RD, LD

About the Author: Barbara Lattin MS, RD, LD

Barbara Lattin, MS, RD, LD is a clinical dietitian with the Center for Better Health and Nutrition and the HealthWorks! programs at Cincinnati Children's Heart Institute. Barbara has been providing pediatric weight management services at Cincinnati Children’s for 5 years.

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