Small Steps, Big Changes: Easy Food Hacks for Healthier Kid Favorites

Young girl holding bell pepper slices over her eyes as glasses

As parents, we’ve ALL been there. We’ve tried to lovingly craft a meal that’s different and healthy for our kids only to be met with a resounding ‘ewwwww…” from across the table.

It can feel discouraging and sometimes even IMPOSSIBLE to get them to eat well – and be excited about it. But, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Mealtime doesn’t have to be a battle.

We’ve whipped up some Healthy Food Hacks your kids will love to eat as much as you’ll love preparing. (How’s that for a win-win?)

Try these 11 food hacks to spice up your dinner table and bring the mealtime battles to an end:

Use Creative Crusts

Instead of ordering pizza, get creative with healthy dough alternatives. Whole wheat dough, or even whole grain English muffins make great individual pizzas that kids can enjoy any day of the week.

Put a variety of topping options out on the counter so they can channel their inner chef and create their own masterpieces. You’ll have a healthy meal and some family fun time all in one.

Use a Veggie Sauce

Who doesn’t like spaghetti? Toss your next sauce with some flavor and nutrient boosting vegetables. Diced zucchini, red and green peppers, onions, mushrooms and more add depth and fiber to even store-bought sauces.

If your kids are suspicious of vegetables – puree them in, add some fresh basil and ladle it over their favorite shaped pastas. (Check out whole grain and veggie pastas for even more healthy choices.)

Keep Your Freezer Stocked

Never lament, “I’ve got nothing to cook for dinner!” again. By loading up your freezer with frozen veggies and fruits, you’ll always have SOMETHING healthy to feed the kids — even when their favorite fruit or veggie is ‘out of season’.

Max out your Mac & Cheese

Toss chopped steamed broccoli, asparagus, peas – you name it! —  in with your kid’s mac and cheese to add a little color, flavor, and vitamins!

Flip the Chips

Instead of potato chips, try baked pita chips, soy crisps, or try your hand at making kale chips (trust me, they are quick to make and surprisingly good)!

This way, your kids will enjoy the crunch without all the empty calories and fat.

Re-Invent Breakfast

Try French toast or pancakes made with whole grain or whole wheat bread. You can make a big batch on the weekend and freeze some for school days. Add sliced bananas, fresh fruit, or slivered almonds to pack in even more flavor and texture.

Whole-wheat tortillas spread with almond butter and rolled up with a few slices of fruit are great on-the-go meals as well.

Another idea is to keep a bowl of hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator – but, add some fun by drawing a face on each with a marker! Kids will love picking out which one to crack for breakfast or a snack!

Choose Water

Kick the soda, high-sugar juices and caffeinated beverages to the curb, and offer flavored water to fuel young minds and bodies.

Offer Fruit First

When your kids come to you with their “I’m STARVING” face on, offer fruit first.

Pinterest has loads of adorable serving ideas to make fruit even more fun. Watermelon cut up to look like pizza slices, perhaps?

Use other fruit for the toppings to make your “fruit pizza” absolutely irresistible! Even if they eat something LESS healthy later, you’ll know they had a great snack first.

Watch the Dogs

Are your kids hot dog fans? Be sure to look for the nitrate-free variety.

Make it Stretch

Try roasting a whole chicken or pick up a rotisserie chicken early in the week. It can stretch to make a couple dinners.

Think chicken and brown rice with broccoli one night, toss with whole grain pasta and cherry tomatoes another – or even top a salad for lunch.

Involve the Kids

One of the best ways to get kids to go from ‘ick” to “yum” is to get them involved. (Here are 6 tips to get them cooking!)

A little planning ahead on the weekend staves off a lot of stress. Putting your little ones in charge of part of the process like pre-packaging portions for the week, cutting out fruit shapes with cookie cutters, helping choose the produce at the store, and making roll-ups with tortillas gives them a sense of accomplishment and gives you some fun time with them that you’ll remember long after the meal is over!

Give these ideas a try this week! Bon Appetit!

Title Image: Oksana Kuzmina/ Shutterstock

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions® and the best-selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on The Doctors, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.