Meal makeovers: 5 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Substitutions

September 10, 2013 | written by Susan Thanavaro | Get Cooking
Meal makeovers: 5 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Substitutions

What are the favorite foods around your house? We bet you’ll recognize a few of the crowd-pleasers we regularly serve. While these foods are often loaded with empty carbohydrates, fat and sugar, we’ve found a few easy ways to up their nutrition profile while not diminishing flavor. Give them a try and don’t hold back when your kids ask for a second serving.

Mac and Cheese: It’s fine to start with a box, just make sure you pick an organic option to avoid unnecessary artificial colors and preservatives. Instead of adding water or milk, try using a non-dairy option such as almond milk. Almonds are naturally a great source of calcium, and most milks are also fortified with vitamin D. These nutrients work in concert to support bone health, immunity and improve cell function. Before serving, grate in an orange carrot for a dose of Vitamin A. If you use a Microplane grater, they’re nearly imperceptible!

Potato Chips: Sometimes a crunchy, salty, snack is the guiltiest of pleasures. Rather than opting for the bag of Lays, try introducing sweet potato crisps. Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes and are loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.  Veggie chips are also widely available and provide the salty crunch without any of the trans-fat.

PB&J: Wheat bread just won’t cut it for some kids. That’s okay, it’s what’s inside that really matters. Rather than peanut try antioxidant-rich sunflower butter which has a delightfully creamy consistency and is a great source of protein, magnesium and Vitamin E. If your kid demands peanut butter, try an organic brand or better yet this healthier PB2. Instead of regular jelly, which often has excessive sugar or high fructose corn syrup which acts as a preservative, look for organic, reduced-sugar options. Or, better yet, make your own preserves following this easy recipe.

Spaghetti: Did you know tomatoes actually pack a higher nutritive punch when they’re cooked since heat activates the compound lycopene? That means spaghetti sauce is packed full of the Cancer-fighting phytochemical. Your focus should be on what’s underneath all those antioxidants. Traditional spaghetti noodles are made with white flour which is a blood sugar nightmare. Instead, experiment with using spaghetti squash. It has the same texture as the real deal, a mild flavor but is packed with fiber and nutrients like vitamin C, manganese and potassium. Bonus, after roasting the squash get the kids involved in pulling apart the spaghetti-like meat inside.

Pizza: Next time you’re making pizza try experimenting with unconventional cheeses. Options such as goat cheese and feta taste amazing and are much lower in calories. For some people these cheeses can also be easier to digest. Use a thin rather than doughy crust which is just as much fun to eat but also lower in calories.  You can also try swapping the pepperoni or sausage for tomatoes, basil or other fresh veggies.