We've all said it at one time or another: our family is going to eat better, cook healthier meals, and good golly, our kids are going to eat it... and love it too! Between all that we juggle, especially now at the cusp of the year and the temptations of holiday parties and dinners around the corner, coming up with healthier alternatives that actually doesn't taste like cardboard, will require a little more creativity and, most importantly, willingness and optimism from all.
Packed with hearty vegetables and lentils, soup is a wonderful family meal that can be made in advance, or in a slow cooker while attending to other errands. Make your soup with ingredients that are in season, like those you would find at the farmer's market, and season with organic broth. Soup is one of the healthiest and warmest choices this fall, filling bellies with not only good health but smiles all around. Pair with organic crackers like Late July or toasted slices of whole wheat bread.
Macaroni and Cheese stands the test of time with kids of all ages. Whether it is for its ooey-gooey creamy texture, or because it's packed with lots of dairy goodness, Mac and Cheese could use a makeover or two. Ellie Krieger, a Food Network chef, shares her rendition by using healthier alternatives like butternut squash and part-skim ricotta cheese. Check out her recipe and other favorites remade with healthier options on the Food Network.
But if researching new recipes isn't time or budget friendly for your family, the easiest and quickest way to ensure the meals you're placing on the table is healthy is to re-examine how you are preparing them. Try baking meats and vegetables instead of frying them, replace ingredients like butter and milk with reduced fat options, or replace them entirely by integrating pureed vegetables (like sweet potato) when a "sticking" ingredient (like eggs) are needed.
For snack time, fruit and vegetable trays may get boring by week's end, so instead, fill their after-school cravings with something flavorful and all-around yummy without spoiling their appetites for dinner. Hummus is easy to make, refrigerates well, and is packed with lots of iron, folate and vitamin B6. Make hummus pita-sandwiches with slices of tomatoes and spinach leaves, or as a standalone dip for the bell peppers.
Another great snack idea, and reminiscent of the traditional graham cracker s'mores with chocolate and marshmallows, is to make graham cracker sandwiches with peanut butter and your child's favorite fruit.
Healthy meals and snacks are only short of a little planning, creativity, and buy-in from the whole family. When everyone agrees that healthier food choices are better and why, the flavor of each dish served will suddenly taste better. Knowing what's in our food and how there are healthier substitutes that can capture similar flavors will encourage kids to think twice about their taste buds. Raising this awareness and involving the whole family will make the transition easier—and oh so much healthier!
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