Greta, our resident mom, writes about making small, healthier changes for her family that give big results. This week, she gives us some easy tips on how to sneak nutrition into your kid’s meals without sacrificing taste or wasting food.
As a busy mom of four young children and the daughter of busy parents of four kids, I’ve grown up and learned to live on homestyle foods that are delicious but not necessarily the healthiest choices. We have always depended on comfort foods such as meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, lasagna, and cheeseburger macaroni. I’ve never put a lot of emphasis on filling our plates with different colors (green broccoli, yellow squash, orange carrots, red tomatoes…you get the idea).
But last summer, I made a major lifestyle change for myself to try to lose the baby weight, and so far, I’ve lost a little more than 30 pounds.
I feel so much better now, physically and mentally. But the thing that I don’t enjoy about eating healthier is making separate meals for myself because the rest of my family doesn’t like what I’m eating. My kids are 6 years old and younger, and they’re pretty typical: picky and very selective on the fruits and vegetables they are willing to eat. They prefer cheeseburgers to steak, fish sticks to grilled tilapia, and unfortunately, they would eat cheese pizza every day if I gave it to them.
In order to ensure that I’m not cooking two separate dinners every night (one for me and one for them), I’ve had to get creative with the way I cook. These are a few of my tips for making meals that are healthier and still kid-friendly:
- Substitute leaner meats. Use ground turkey instead of beef in meatloaf, meatballs, tacos. If you’re not crazy about the taste, add a little bit of ground sausage or beef to the turkey when you cook it, and season the dish as you normally would. Use pork ribs in place of beef. Marinate and roast boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and build a meal around them. (I love to cook mine in a slow cooker with barbecue sauce.)
- Any sauce is an opportunity to hide “good for you” items: Add pureed vegetables to spaghetti sauce, on pizza, even in macaroni and cheese! If you want a more-convenient option, throw a couple of jars of baby food into spaghetti sauce, and nobody can tell the difference.
- Find lower-fat and higher-fiber alternatives: This is easy for most dairy items: milk, yogurt, and cheeses. Other alternatives are whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, whole-wheat and multigrain breads.
- Less meat, more beans: When you’re cooking soups/chilis/stews, load them up with extra beans, diced tomatoes, pureed pumpkin, even leftover mashed potatoes. You’ll need less meat and will have added nutrients.
- Continue to experiment with new foods: It’s true that it takes more than one try for kids to get used to a new item. Try to add one new item with a couple of familiar things on their plate.
I am proof that it’s possible to make small changes to the way your family eats that lead to big results, without disrupting your eating habits or sacrificing convenience. Once I started using the MOMables lunch plans during the day and got on a healthier, less-processed routine for my children (we adults eat them too, just bigger portions), I knew I had to be consistent with the rest of our meals and not give up! Your family’s health is worth the extra effort.
What are some of the tricks you use to incorporate healthier items in your picky eaters’ meals?