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Healthy Food Ideas for Kids

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Healthy Food Ideas for Kids

Healthy Food Ideas for Kids

Before you know it the kids will be back to school and that means getting them up earlier and trying to get them to eat breakfast. Research has shown that children who regularly eat breakfast have better test scores, better behavior, and are less hyperactive than children who skip breakfast. To get inspired to eat better we learned some fun menu ideas from Registered Dietitian Jacqueline Gomes. Here is how to make breakfast, lunch and snacking better for you and your kids.

Breakfast in a pinch ideas:

1. Make it a Shake! 
Studies show that children are not drinking enough milk to meet their needs for calcium and vitamin D which is important for growth and development. Breakfast drinks such as carnation instant breakfast are great choices and easy to make. Just open a packet and pour eight ounces of 1% milk into a shaker. Drinking a meal may in fact be faster than sitting down to a traditional meal if time does not allow.

2. Make-Ahead Parfaits
Keep these refrigerated and hand them off to your child as they are running out the door. All you'll need is an eight ounce plastic container with a lid, your child's favorite yogurt such as Greek, whole grain cereal, and a handful of berries.

3. Grab a sandwich for the road
Send your child off with a turkey and cheese sandwich on a whole-wheat mini bagel. Kids love anything 'mini'?. Wrap it in a napkin and aluminum foil to hold it together.

Here are some additional delicious, nutritious and super fast breakfast ideas:

  • Whole grain English muffins with peanut butter and apple slices
  • Have hard boiled eggs cooked in advance and stored in the refrigerator
  • Good old fashioned cold cereal is still a good choice. Choose a whole grain cereal with at least three grams of fiber per serving or more.
  • A cheese quesadilla is not just for Mexican dinner night. It also makes a healthy breakfast and breaks up the monotony of cold cereal.

Eating breakfast is simply a habit that has to be formed at a young age. Keep three things in mind:

  1. Try getting your child up 15 minutes earlier to encourage breakfast.
  2. Keep it simple, it's ok to send off your child with a portable breakfast such as a fruit smoothie.
  3. A good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than nothing at all. The key is to get in that morning meal.

Lunchbox Alternatives

The kids are back to school and that means packing their lunch boxes. Here are some tips to help children eat healthier during the school day.

1. Transform healthy foods into tasty foods:Sure we want them to eat their banana, but if we add a little peanut butter and a whole-wheat tortilla it might go down a little easier. Peanut Butter & Banana Pinwheels not only taste great but are a complete meal that includes protein, fruit, and whole grains. These are fast and easy to prepare. Simply spread peanut butter inside a whole-wheat tortilla, place a banana in center, roll up and slice into pinwheels.

2. A cookie cutter sandwich: Whole grains are extremely important because of their fiber and antioxidant content. If your child is not quite ready to take the leap towards brown whole grain breads, you can try items such as Stroehmann's Soft n' Tasty whole grain white or mix it up by using one slice whole wheat and one slice white. Simple tip: Invest in cookie cutters to transform a typical sandwich into fun shapes and puzzles. These are always a hit with smaller children.

3. Dip or Dunk? Kids love to dip their food because it adds excitement to regular items such as apples or grapes. A really cool recipe that the kids will love is fruit and cheese kabobs. All you need are small wooden skewers and large chunks of fruit like grapes, pineapple, or strawberries, and cubes of cheese. These are easy enough for young children to prepare and are perfect to prepare ahead of time so they're ready to go when you're packing lunches in the morning. Use their favorite yogurt as a dip and you will have fulfilled a fruit serving and dairy serving for the day.

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4. Drinking a serving of veggies? Did you know that a ½ cup of basic tomato sauce counts as a full vegetable serving? Consider a warm lunch by heating up last night's pasta dinner, adding a ½ cup tomato sauce and a little Parmesan cheese for a delicious home cooked lunch. Kids need the complex carbohydrate to provide energy for after school activities as well as for normal brain function. This meal will stay warm for a few hours in an insulated thermos.

5. Finally, pack what your child likes. There's no point in packing a healthy lunch that you know your child won't eat. Take them to the grocery store, add some new foods to their diet gradually, ask them to help you prepare the new foods, and make sure you feed them a balanced and varied diet at home. Most children tend to eat healthy foods if offered different foods.

After-school Snacks

The kids are back to school and preparing healthy snacks for after school is essential to their well-being.

School lunch can be as early as 10 am or as late as 1 pm. Depending on your child'??s lunch time he or she could be starving by the time he or she returns home from school. For the child with after-school activities this could leave them at the mercy of the vending machine. The key here is to maximize nutrition and offer green-light foods to hold them over until the family gets together for dinner.

1. We all know how important fruits and vegetables are Keep them washed and available. Instead of having cookies and chips at children's fingertips, choose fruits that will retain quality even out of the refrigerator, like grapes, cherry tomatoes, small pears and apples, bananas, and oranges. Even pre-packaged fruit bowls are a good idea.

2. Make a high-energy trail mix. Trail mix will maintain its freshness even with changes in temperature. Remember you want to maximize nutrition, especially if you have an active child. The granola, nuts, and dried fruit will certainly do that. It's ok to add a few chocolate pieces here that will give this healthy treat the cool edge children are looking for. Small snack baggies are available and are the perfect size for small snacks. Can't do nuts? No problem, sunflower seeds and soy nuts are a great protein alternative!

3. Make ahead snacks. Pizza English muffins are a classic but a favorite. Make a bunch of these over the weekend, wrap in aluminum foil and freeze. Older children can simply pop these in the toaster oven for a snack that requires very little effort.

4. If they insist on potato chips: Switch to popcorn and choose the light or low fat varieties. Popcorn is actually a whole grain and an excellent alternative to fat laden chips.

5. String cheese is another wholesome snackthat provides protein and vitamins and minerals that are important to a growing child. Add a small tortilla and wrap up your string cheese for a very easy snack.

Final Advice:

  • It's ok to snack; snacks are a necessity for growing children and can be part of a healthy diet with the right foods.
  • Encourage more fruits and veggies by having them washed and in plain sight so your child sees them when he/she gets home.
  • For the after-school activity child make sure you pack a nutrient dense snack to provide enough energy to get them through their activity. 

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