Instead of brownies:
Fudge-flavored ice pops
Calorie-packed (240) and fat-loaded (10 grams) brownies may taste sweet but are not an everyday treat. Serve a fudge pop instead, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD and American Dietetic Association spokesperson. At approximately 40 calories and 0 grams of fat, it's a much lighter alternative that still satisfies!
Homemade chocolate pumpkin mini-muffins
Yes, you can do it better! Try this yummy recipe from Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, ADA spokesperson and author of the Heart Smart Kids Cookbook (Detroit Free Press).
• Vegetable oil cooking spray
• 1 box (18.25 ounce) devil's food cake mix
• 1 can (15 ounce) pureed pumpkin
• 1 mini-muffin tins
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray mini-muffin tins with cooking spray. Mix cake mix and pumpkin in a large bowl until completely moist. Fill each muffin cup with 2 tablespoons mixture and bake for 10 to 17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan to wire rack.
Nutritional analysis (two muffins): 91 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 40% RDA of vitamin A
Instead of cheese:
Part-skim mozzarella string cheese
One ounce of cheddar cheese may add to your kids' calcium intake (150 mg, or about half the amount of calcium in 1 cup of milk), but it also bumps up their intake of calories and unhealthy saturated fat. Offer part-skim mozzarella string cheese instead. Not only is it more fun to eat; you'll save your kids 30 calories, 3 grams of total fat and 2 grams of saturated fat.
Low-fat cream cheese with veggies
Or, spread low-fat cream cheese on celery stalks or other veggies, recommends Heidi Losleben, editor of the Pillsbury Kids Cookbook: Food Fun for Boys and Girls (Wiley, 2005). "Cheese itself is not a bad snack," she says. "It does provide good protein and calcium." But adding a veggie like celery to the mix sneaks in some healthy fiber to boot!
Instead of cheese puffs:
Cheese-flavored rice cakes
Nine mini cheddar cheese rice cakes contain only 70 calories and 2.5 grams of fat. Compare that to nine cheese puffs or twists with 160 calories and 10 grams of fat. Crunchy, cheesy, fun to eat with less calories and fat — sounds like a great option.
Cheese and crackers
Or, mix it up with low-fat cheese and whole-grain crackers, suggests Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD and American Dietetic Association spokesperson. They'll provide calcium and dietary fiber, and you'll still conquer that crunchy, cheesy craving.
Instead of chips:
Whole-grain pita chips
Chips pack on calories and fat because they're fried. Patricia Vasconcellos, RD and American Dietetic Association spokesperson, recommends whole-grain pita chips. They're baked, so they're lower in fat. A typical serving yields 140 calories, 6 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber.
Veggies and dip
Proffer this snack enthusiastically, and you'll get a better response from the peanut gallery than you might expect! "It's all about how you present it," says Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, ADA spokesperson and author of the Heart Smart Kids Cookbook (Detroit Free Press). "Put veggies on a fun plate with dip in the center, and your kids will love it." Try celery, carrot sticks, green pepper slices or apples. For dips, Thayer likes peanut butter, salsa and low-fat ranch dressing. This snack is especially great for kids who love to dunk and play with their food.
Soy chips provide a crunchy, chip-like feel and salty taste, but also offer protein, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, an NYC-based nutritionist who has worked with countless celebs, including Eva Mendes and Carson Daly, and who also helped create the kids' café menu at Citibabes, SoHo's new haute couture child-care center for New York City moms. She says soy chips are "a great alternative for on-the-go kids."
Instead of chicken nuggets:
Soy or veggie nuggets
Four chicken nuggets contain 170 calories, 10 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 1 gram of trans fatty acids. Add in 450 mg of sodium — 19 percent of a child's total need in one day — and you've got a snack that's pointing your family toward cardiac disaster! Malia Wagner, MS, MPH and nutritionist for Whole Foods Market, suggests serving vegetable-based tempeh or soy nuggets. You'll spare kids those saturated and trans fats and add more veggies (read: vitamins, minerals, fiber).
Grilled chicken strips
Tim Scott, chef at Marshall Field's and formerly of Wolfgang Puck, knows about cooking with and for kids, both from his six- and seven-year-old daughters, and from teaching cooking-with-kids classes at Marshall Field's stores. He says a recent in-store taste test with children showed that chicken nuggets were overrated &mdash grilled chicken strips were just as, if not more, popular. The trick to getting your kids to take a bite? Proper seasoning! Just salt and pepper (on both sides) will do the trick, or you could expose kids to spicier herbs, like cumin. By not frying or coating the chicken with bread crumbs, you reduce excess fat and calories, and since you make it yourself, you cut back on preservatives. Plus, you can use dipping sauces as a way to add nutrients: Ketchup adds lycopene, and a spinach dip with low-fat sour cream provides vitamins without adding too much fat.
Instead of chocolate bars:
Fondue with fruit
Dip fruit such as strawberries or banana chunks lightly into melted chocolate, suggests Heidi Losleben, editor of the
Pillsbury Kids Cookbook: Food Fun for Boys and Girls (Wiley, 2005). "You address the craving for chocolate while sneaking in some valuable fruit!"
Chocolate pudding with low-fat or skim milk provides a good dose of calcium without the extra fat and calories of a chocolate bar, notes Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD and American Dietetic Association spokesperson.
Instead of cookies:
If you like to bake, it's easy to make your own healthier cookies by using oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, ground flaxseed, dried fruits and nuts. You can also decrease the amount of butter or margarine or try using date puree or applesauce for part of the fat. Don't be fooled by labels suggesting a cookie is "natural" or "pure," as such words are marketing tools, not nutrition or health claims. After all, sugar is all natural!
Cookies — served smartly
Always serve cookies with half a cup of low-fat or skim milk, since it will help your child fill up faster and provide much-needed calcium, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist who works with celebrities and helped create the kids café menu at NYC's Citibabes. If your children eat cookies from a plastic baggie, try breaking the treats up and adding dried fruit (without added sugar) so they fill up with healthier fare as opposed to needing to eat more cookies to feel satisfied.
Instead of crackers:
This recipe hails from Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, an NYC-based nutritionist who has worked with countless celebs, including Eva Mendes and Carson Daly. She also helped create the kids' caf‚Äë menu at Citibabes, SoHo's new haute couture child-care center for New York City moms.
• 1 whole-wheat wrap
• Olive oil and salt or grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut wrap into fourths or eighths, spray with olive oil and salt (for good monounsaturated fats) or Parmesan cheese (for calcium — and a little bit of cheese goes a long way, flavor-wise), bake for 10 minutes. The result? Homemade chips that are high in fiber and offer more nutrition than basic crackers.
"When kids reach for a cracker, they might just be craving the crunch or the salt," says Suki Hertz, a nutritionist at the Food Network. Consider salted, mild-flavored nuts, such as almonds or cashews, which are low in saturated fat and packed with nutrients. Offer a one-ounce serving — about the size of a small raisin box.
Instead of donuts:
Kids like small pieces of food, so they may enjoy donut holes. At 40 calories per glazed donut hole, you can buy a dozen to share with three kids (and enjoy three of the little goodies yourself!) Plus, offering a few can satisfy different flavor cravings (jelly, chocolate). But if you can convince the kiddies to go for something different, try...
Cinnamon raisin bagels
They're the same shape as a donut, and using a flavored cream cheese can make them just as sweet, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist who works with celebrities and helped create the kids café menu at NYC's Citibabes. A half bagel should suffice, serving-wise, to avoid excessive carbohydrates. Although cream cheese does add some fat, at least it also supplies calcium — unlike a donut's completely empty calories.
Instead of French fries:
Oven-baked sweet potato fries
At 160 calories, plus a good source of vitamin A, potassium and calcium, sweet potato fries are a very realistic replacement for fast food, says Patricia Vasconcellos, RD and American Dietetic Association spokesperson. Compare that to the 230 calories that a small portion of fast food fries typically packs!
Stuffed baked potato
Make your own healthy substitute, suggests Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist who works with celebrities and helped create the kids café menu at NYC's Citibabes. Scoop out a potato, and bake it in the oven as you would a typical baked potato. Then fill with broccoli and low-fat cheese, low-fat sour cream or guacamole — let your kids' taste buds be your guide — and warm in the oven. You'll keep the vitamins and minerals of the potato's skin, minus the central starchiness of the potato, and you'll add healthy fats, calcium and veggies. Or, just slice a potato very thin, bake it (at 350 F to 400 F until crispy) and offer ketchup for dunking. It will still have that great french fry crispiness with none of the fat.
Instead of fruit-flavored snacks:
Fresh fruit dip
"Kids love to dip things," says Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, American Dietetic Association spokesperson and author of the Heart Smart Kids Cookbook (Detroit Free Press). Try slices of apple, peach, nectarine or strawberries dipped in a homemade treat.
• 1/4 cup low-fat cream cheese
• 1/4 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
• 1/2 cup marshmallow cream
Blend with a hand mixer until consistency is like thick yogurt.
Frozen fruit bars with 100% fruit juice
Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD and spokesperson for the ADA, recommends these sweet juice bars since they offer the benefit of real fruit but still have a special dessertlike feel.
Homemade fruit gelatin
"This is always popular," says Suki Hertz, a nutritionist at the Food Network. Using 100 percent fruit juice adds extra nutritional value.
•3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
•4 cups 100 percent fruit juice
•Sugar to taste
Sprinkle unflavored gelatin over 1 cup juice. (Don't use pineapple — it won't set.) Bring 3 more cups of juice to a boil and sweeten with sugar, if necessary. Stir the gelatin mixture into the hot juice and pour into a baking dish. Refrigerate until set. Cut into cubes and serve with cut-up fresh fruit.
Apple sauce split
• 1 Medium banana, peeled and split lengthwise
• 2 tablespoons Low Fat Whipped cream cheese
• 1/4 cup Raspberries or diced fresh fruit
• 1/4 cup Mott's chunky style apple sauce
• Chocolate syrup, optional
Place split banana in shallow bowl or plate. Dollop with cream cheese. Sprinkle raspberries or fruit over cream cheese. Top with apple sauce. Drizzle with chocolate syrup, if desired.
Apple sauce energy bars
• 3 cups Quick cooking oats
• 1 cup Flour
• 1 cup Sweetened coconut flakes
• 1 cup Dried fruit bits
• 2/3 cups Brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons Ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon Baking soda
• 1/2 cup Melted butter, cooled
• 1 cup Mott's natural apple sauce
• 1 egg
Combine oats, flour, coconut, fruit bits, brown sugar, cinnamon and baking soda in large mixing bowl.
In separate bowl, mix together melted butter, apple sauce and egg.
Stir apple sauce mixture into dry ingredients until just combined.
Spread mixture into lightly greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned.
Remove from oven and cool before cutting into squares.
Instead of ice cream:
Different fruit combinations will offer different vitamins, minerals and amounts of fiber, says Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, American Dietetic Association spokesperson and author of the Heart Smart Kids Cookbook (Detroit Free Press).
For chocolate lovers: Blend 1 frozen banana, 2 cups skim milk and 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup. Slurp with a fun straw. Yields two servings.
For fruit fans: Blend 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 ripe banana, 2 cups skim milk and 2 cups nonfat vanilla yogurt. Yields two servings and is slightly thicker than the first smoothie.
Chocolate-dipped frozen bananas
"They're creamy and sweet, with loads of vitamins, minerals and fiber, but best yet, they're fun to eat," says Suki Hertz, a nutritionist at the Food Network "If your children are old enough, let them help make them, and it'll be even yummier." Simply microwave 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil until just melted, spear a banana with a Popsicle stick (mini-bananas are great for this!), then dip it in the chocolate and freeze until firm — about 4 hours. Serve frozen.
Even though a half cup of premium ice cream contains 250 calories and 16 grams of fat, it's okay to serve every now and then, says Malia Wagner, MS, MPH and nutritionist for Whole Foods Market. "The fat actually helps the body realize it is full," she explains. But make it healthier by topping the dessert with fresh fruit to add vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
Instead of hard candy and lollipops:
Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD and American Dietetic Association spokesperson, endorses this great source of antioxidants as a hard-candy swap. "Plus, kids love the frozen consistency," she says.
Frozen fruit bars
If you want something with a bit more nutritional value, offer frozen fruit bars made with 100 percent fruit. They can take just as long to enjoy as a lolly (which often means less eating overall), and kids get the benefit of real fruit.
Instead of juice:
By the time they've reached one year of age, 90 percent of kids drink juice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting fruit juice to 4 to 6 ounces total per day for children ages one to six years and 8 to 12 ounces for kids ages 7 to 18 years. Though it doesn't contain the added sugar that fruit drinks do, 100 percent fruit juice still supplies more natural sugar than they need. The best beverage to quench your kids' thirst is water, so offer it regularly and serve fresh fruit instead of juice. But when juice must be served, give them...
Juice from a juicer
You'll keep all the healthy vitamins and minerals of a fruit or vegetable without the excessive sugar, says Tim Scott, chef at Marshall Field's and formerly of Wolfgang Puck, who teaches cooking-with-kids classes at Marshall Field's stores. He recommends models from KitchenAid. For his six- and seven-year-old daughters, he uses a variety of fruits, including pineapples, oranges and strawberries. "Combine them for a tropical mocktail taste," he says. "It makes it more fun for your kids — you can even buy those umbrellas they serve in a restaurant for an added flourish."
Instead of macaroni and cheese:
Veggie-loaded macaroni and cheese
Instead of buying it in the box, cooking it yourself can make it much more nutritious. Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD and American Dietetic Association spokesperson, recommends using a high-fiber pasta, low-fat or skim milk, low-fat cheese, and adding a vegetable to the mix, such as broccoli. Covered in cheese, it's less likely to garner groans!
With a fun, flavorful lasagna, you can easily sneak in vegetables and meat in a way that's less obvious to kids, says Tim Scott, chef at Marshall Field's and formerly of Wolfgang Puck, who teaches cooking-with-kids' classes at Marshall Field's stores. With premade pasta sheets, you can make mini-trays so each kid gets her own — which is great for accommodating personal veggie preferences. "Kids feel special when they get their own lasagna," Scott adds. He also suggests using colored pasta, like tomato or spinach, for packing added nutritional punch.
Instead of pizza rolls:
English muffin pizzas
Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD and American Dietetic Association spokesperson, prefers this more nutritionally sound pizza snack, which kids can help create themselves. Use whole-wheat English muffins and low-fat mozzarella cheese, and top with a variety of veggies, like mushrooms, green peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli and spinach, according to your kids' preferences.
You'll cut half the fat of pizza rolls by spreading spaghetti sauce or salsa on a flour tortilla and sprinkling low-fat mozzarella cheese on top. Roll it up like a burrito and heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Use chopped Canadian bacon or fat-free deli ham instead of pepperoni, and your kids won't even notice the difference!
Instead of snack cakes:
Rice cakes or Rice Krispies Treats
Chocolate- or caramel-flavored rice cakes offer the sweet taste without the fat. You'll save your kids 90 calories and almost 5 grams of fat. Or offer Rice Krispies Treats instead of snack cakes and save them 60 calories and 3 grams of fat.
Instead of snack pockets:
Sprucing up a basic sandwich ought to do the trick, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, an NYC-based nutritionist who has worked with countless celebs, including Eva Mendes and Carson Daly. She also helped create the kids café menu at Citibabes, SoHo's new haute couture child-care center for New York City moms. For more fiber and fewer preservatives, take two slices of whole-wheat bread, top with turkey and low-fat cheese, and then panini-ize it with the help of a George Foreman grill or waffle griddle to replicate the hot gooiness of the snack pockets that kids love. Or you can simply toast it in a frying pan using nonfat cooking spray — the French call this croquet monsieur! Then use a cookie cutter to make fun shapes.
For a more authentic pocket swap, Tim Scott, chef at Marshall Field's and formerly of Wolfgang Puck, who teaches cooking-with-kids classes at Marshall Field's stores, suggests making your own calzones. The benefit to this is adding plenty of fresh veggies and protein without excess sodium and preservatives. Roll out store-bought pizza dough and fold in lots of vegetables (tomatoes, spinach, pasta sauce) and protein (low-fat cheese and a meat of your choice). Bake according to package directions.
Instead of soda:
Soda is packed with sugar (or sugar substitutes), unpronounceable ingredients and even caffeine, says Suki Hertz, a nutritionist at the Food Network. Make your own sodas by mixing 1/4 cup juice concentrate (raspberry is especially popular) with 3/4 cup chilled seltzer. Serve with ice. To make it extra special, freeze berries with water in ice-cube trays for fun, fruity garnishes. This refreshing drink has 30 calories instead of the 100 found in the same size cola.
Instead of sweetened cereal:
Whole-grain cereal with dried fruit
Start with a healthy organic whole-grain cereal, and to sweeten, add dried fruit such as raisins or Craisins, or dehydrated bananas or strawberries, suggests Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, an NYC-based nutritionist who has worked with countless celebs, including Eva Mendes and Carson Daly, and who also helped create the kids café menu at Citibabes, SoHo's new haute couture child-care center for New York City moms. To avoid temptation, she advises keeping sweetened cereal out of the house, plain and simple.
Instead of waffle sticks:
Try this smart way to cook a perennial breakfast fave, recommends Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, an NYC-based nutritionist who has worked with countless celebs, including Eva Mendes and Carson Daly, and who also helped create the kids café menu at Citibabes, SoHo's new haute couture child-care center for NYC moms. Dunk whole-wheat bread in egg whites and cook in a skillet, then sprinkle with cinnamon and some brown sugar. "It's an easy-to-make combination of protein and fiber, and kids will love the sweetness," she says.
Smartly topped waffles
If your kids clamor for waffles, at least serve whole-grain ones. Eggo Nutri-Grain Waffles made with whole wheat contain half the calories and fat of most brands, plus they have 3 grams of fiber. Make sure to top them with fresh or thawed frozen fruit mixed with yogurt, and you've got a healthy breakfast that's ready in minutes.