Healthy kid approved meals are no walk in the park. Taste buds change and get corrupted by unaware relatives, school or friends houses. Not to mention the societal approval of candy during Easter, Halloween and Christmas. So how do we counter this sugar obsessed culture at home without our children loathing our healthy food? We must get creative.
Each kid is different and will like different things. I’ve found some kid friendly alternatives my little grazer approves of that are gluten and dairy free and packed with vegetables, nuts, fruit and macro nutrients.
Here are some tips and food ideas I’ve found that work with integrating a healthy lifestyle while raising a small (picky) human:
It sounds obvious but you gotta walk the walk if you talk to talk. When junk/unhealthy food is out of sight, it’s out of mind. Besides, nothing is more annoying then a hypocrite parent, right?
“Unhealthy” can be a relative term… to me this means food containing wheat, dairy, and processed foods.
Making a diet change for your health and you want to set your kid up for a healthy nutritious life? Talk to them. They may surprise you in what they understand and their willingness to comply.
When we saw our nutritionist we told Iris we were going to the food doctor and we might need to change what we eat so we can be healthy and strong. By giving her a heads up that changes are coming and that old foods we used to like aren’t very good for us helpe her really get on board with the change. We are now mostly pescetarian, gluten and dairy-free.
I usually like my food all mixed up. But kids tend to like everything separate. For example, instead of sautéing the Broccoli in all my herbs and spices, I steam here while the quinoa is almost for cooking. Try give her options with at least 1 green on each plate… key air being “try”. I’m not a kid food saint. This is just some tips and kid friendly food tricks I’ve learned.
If there’s a healthy go-to staple we have in our house, it’s carrots and hummus. Crunchy and savory, and full of protein and vitamin A, this combo seems to be a kid favorite.
Bonus points: it’s super affordable and ready in under 2 minutes. The perfect after school snack.
This one is a huge hit. Gratitude to our old roommate Mayaluma for introducing quinoa to Iris when she was 2. If you can get your kid to try it, and you cook it with a little turmeric, cumin and salt and then top with coconut oil and Nutritional yeast, it mimics a starchy macaroni and cheese flavor. This is our healthier substitute to the latter, which used to be one of her favorite foods, which now this one has replaced.
Quinoa is packed with protein and amino acids, while coconut oil is full of healthy fats that are optimal for brain development and function. Nutritional yeast is available in the bulk section of our local WinCo and health foods stores. It’s full of Iron, b-vitamins and folic acid, nutrients that are usually criticized for being missing from vegetarian/vegan diets.
Bonus: Quinoa cooks faster then brown rice! Only 15-20 min and it’s done
If your little one doesn’t like Quinoa, you can try brown rice or other gf pasta. Add some full far coconut milk, paprika, salt and more nut
Yeast for a cheesy sauce that is so irresistible.
Luckily for us, Iris is nicknamed the Broccoli Monster. She went through a phase of thinking she didn’t like broccoli because it was green.. (thanks inside out) but this thought process was quickly diverted once broccoli was made into a tiny tree standing upright, and we turned into a dinosaur family at the dining room table, eating broccoli trees whole.
It may take trial and error, but with some creativity you may find a green vegetable your kid digs, and if not don’t force it. Its best if they make the choice to eat it. (That’s the hardest part) It could be a phase too, just keep offering. Its like fishing. Maybe all it takes is one bite. (This is how my extra picky brother found his love for Brussels sprouts)
By using dairy free milks, frozen strawberries, a few walnuts, vanilla protein powder, stevia and ice, we can sneak in vitamins, minerals, omega-3s and protein in a sweet strawberry milkshake. Try to go easy on the protein powder though, there is a potential they won’t like it.
Vega One has great taste and is packed with nutrients from vegetables! I usually put 1/4 of a scoop in or less and have her taste test it before giving her a cup.
Then I’ll add more protein powder for me to my liking.
Tip: replace their favorite frozen fruit instead of strawberries, or skip the fruit all together and add some spinach with cacao/unsweetened cocoa/carob powder for a nutritious chocolate treat.
Who doesn’t love french fries? But healthy? Maybe not entirely but these are much better than the deep fried GMO ridden ones available at fast food joints. This one takes some time to bake, but is super easy to pop in the oven and let it work its magic. A top favorite in our house all around.
Recipe at a glance: Organic red potatoes or sweet potatoes are the best option, drizzled with 3-4 tablespoons of Olive, sunflower or melted coconut oil.
Top with Himalayan salt and oregano, rosemary or black pepper, some paprika, a little onion or garlic powder and Nutritional Yeast for extra yum. Mix well on a cookie sheet and make at 400° F for 30 + min till golden brown.
Tip: Cover the bottom of the cookie sheet with tin foil for an easy clean up.
The healthier alternative to French fries it’s just a matter of the kids trying the damn things.
So tasty with olive oil salt pepper and Nutritional yeast, they’ll get their cheesy chip fix.
Hit or miss, but if your kid digs tapioca or rice pudding, chances are they’ll like this. It takes some forethought, but can be made at night and enjoyed for a quick breakfast on the go in the morning.
Using dairy free milk, stevia or honey and chia seeds you can flavor it however you desire. Chocolate is Iris favorite for obvious reasons, but vanilla cinnamon is my personal favorite.
I like using jars, filling them 3/4 full of milk then adding 2-3 Tbsp of chia seeds. Add your preferred flavors and SHAKE WELL! This is a great step the kiddos will enjoy helping with. Set in the fridge for 3-4 hr minimum or overnight. The chia seeds with begin the germinate and get gelatinous like tapioca. Full of Omega 3s & 6, amino acids and protein.
Save this one for a potassium and magnesium packed dessert or a snack before heading to the park. All it requires a food processor and frozen bananas… and that’s it. Pulse till thick and creamy. I like mine topped with cinnamon, Iris likes melted coconut oil mixed with honey and cacao for a chocolate sauce.
Warning: still high in sugar, so use sparingly before or after a good amount of physical exercise!
Another food processor creation.
Equal part raisins (or chopped dates) and walnuts. Pulse walnuts first, add raisins or dates, cacao or carob powder, a pinch of salt and a dribble of vanilla. Roll into little balls and try got to eat them all. Excellent energy nuggets to keep on hand for on the go.
This one is sneaky, but so. so. SO tasty… and sneaky. Boil the cauliflower, save a little of the Water it was boiled in to blend it up. Dress it up with some onion powder, Himalayan salt and of course, coconut oil, full get coconut milk, a little roasted garlic and Nutritional Yeast. The result? Creamy cruciferous mashed “potatoes” the whole family will love.
These alternstives have worked for our family during our nutrition transition. You can experiment with what works for yours.
Please comment with any healthy kid friendly recipes you’ve found that work too!
Cheers to the mamas and papas using food as medicine in creative kid friendly ways!!
Let’s set these little humans uo for a nutritious balanced life one meal at a time. (: