A growing awareness of healthy eating seems to be sweeping the nation, and grocery stores are offering additional lines in organic and natural foods. Much of this food is very different from what kids are used to eating, so it can be difficult to get the entire family on board with a new food regime. Kids distrust change, especially when it comes to food, and they are unlikely to give applause for something that you praise as “healthy.” There are a few ways to use healthy, natural foods when cooking for kids, and you do not even have to spend hours in the kitchen to do so.
Ditch the Frozen Foods
Experts often tell people who are trying to eat healthy to avoid the middle of the grocery store. Canned goods, boxed dinners and frozen foods are often fortified with chemicals, sodium and artificial ingredients. Break open a chicken nugget and really look at it. There may be chicken inside that crunchy shell, but what else is hiding in the mix? Make it a point to avoid frozen and convenience foods and use the freezer isle for things like flash frozen vegetables.
Buy organic or local produce where available to reduce the chemical imprint on your food. Buying grass fed beef and free range chicken will also reduce negative elements in the food and ensure your family is getting all the nutrients the meat is supposed to provide.
Use Different Words
Healthy cooking for kids may have to be a secret. Handing a plate of something new to your kids and saying, “This is healthy” may turn them off before they take a single bite. Instead, talk about how great the food tastes and use words like sweet, sour, or tangy. Chicken can be sweet, for example, if you glaze it with a bit of honey. The entire meal can become a great treat if you are creative in cooking.
Foster Buy In
By including your kids in the food decision process, you can build up support for healthier eating. Provide options at snack time between carrot sticks or apples. Provide peanut butter for dipping to make the experience more fun. You can also use healthier foods to build up rewards for junk food. For example, four weekdays of healthy snacks might equal cookies or ice cream on Friday. You can even make this a family affair by baking up brownies or a cake for Friday’s dinner.
Keep it Simple
One of the key elements for healthy cooking for kids is simplicity. Add a bunch of green things, mysterious chunks or anything with an odd color and you will be hard pressed to get picky eaters to the table. Easy cooking for kids is about finding nutritious ingredients that work without a lot of fancy fixings. For example, a kid friendly meal that covers all the basic nutrition groups might include cheesy chicken bites, whole grain rice tossed with green peas, and butter and herb glazed green beans.
To cook the cheesy chicken meal, brown boneless chicken in a pan until cooked through, then top with your favorite slices of real cheese. Cook over medium heat until the cheese is melted and gooey. Cook the green beans in a pot and pour off most of the liquid. Melt a few tablespoons of butter with the green beans and toss it with your favorite herbs or spices. Add half a cup of cooked green peas to a cooked pot of rice. This entire meal takes about twenty minutes to prepare.
Recipes for Kids
When cooking for kids on a regular basis, it is a good idea to have a few stock recipes on hand. You can use simple cooking ideas like the cheesy chicken meal above. Try incorporating whole grain pasta and super foods like almonds, spinach or kale into recipes. One way to get kids to eat greens is to make a small omelet. Whip two eggs together and pour into a small, hot and greased pan. Shred kale, spinach, collards or any other green on top. Add cheese if desired, finish cooking, and serve up a vegetable fortified breakfast.
Packing lunch for your child is also another way to ensure they get nutritious and healthy food. Use whole grain bread or wraps to boost positive carb intake and include a fruit or vegetable with each meal. Popular lunch produce includes apples, bananas, grapes, and carrot sticks. You can even provide something fun like “deli meat sushi”. Use large green lettuce or spinach leaves for this dish. Lay a leaf down and place a thin slice of deli meat on top. Roll tightly, and then cut into cross sections. Lay these flat in a shallow dish. Pack them with a cold pack in your child’s lunch box. For added fun, include a pair of chopsticks.
If you are trying to provide healthier meals for your family, cooking for kids can be a struggle. A little creativity goes a long way, however. Before you know it, your kids may be trying different foods and asking for healthy options on a regular basis.