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How to Make Healthy Food Fun for Kids

Ah, the challenges of raising a picky-eater. You know the type. They won’t eat anything green. They don’t want to try new things. They only want chicken nuggets. Pizza can only have cheese, and it has to the right kind of cheese. It’s a challenge to figure out ways to get kids to try and then like healthier options. Too often, after a long day, it sometimes seems easier to just give in to their demands.

Here are some tips I’ve learned to get my kids to eat healthier without hearing complaints.

  1. Stock up on healthy options. Kids eat what’s available to them, so make sure you have a bowl of fruit on the counter and keep “easy” snacks like chips and sweets out of the house. Sometimes, it’s as much about control as it is the actual food, so let them pick what’s available.
  2. Be a role model. If you eat healthy, exercise and commit to a healthy lifestyle, your child is more likely to model your behavior.
  3. Be encouraging. Motivate and praise healthy choices and don’t nag about the unhealthy ones. Set reasonable limits instead of strict restrictions on indulgences.
  4. Let them choose. Take your child to the grocery store with you and let them pick a new fruit or veggie once a week and then make a dish or meal together. 
  5. Keep it fun. Teach your child where the food you’re using comes from or better yet, grow a garden with them, and let them see for themselves. They’ll be more likely to try peas, if they helped plant the seeds.

When you know it’s going to be a busy night, get ahead of the game. For example, ask the kids to help make the meat mixture for beef tacos the night before, and then put it in the crockpot in the morning. You can also cut up all the taco toppings – tomatoes, strips of bell peppers and lettuce – the night before. This accomplishes two things: You’ll have a nearly ready-to-eat meal when you get home, and your kids will already know what’s for dinner.

Like dessert? Try these next time you want to top off your meal with something sweet.

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Serves 9

  • 1 ½ c. fat-free or soy milk
  • ½ c. packed brown sugar
  • ½ c. egg whites
  • 1 tbsp melted margarine
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 c. rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 ½ c. chopped apples

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, mix the milk, brown sugar, egg whites, margarine and cinnamon. In a large bowl combine the oats and baking powder. Pour the wet mixture into the bowl with the oats; add the apples and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into an 8×8 inch pan coated with cooking spray and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is firm and a toothpick comes out clean in the center.

Get the full recipe here.

Rainbow Yogurt Trifle Cups

Serves 8

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 9 whole graham cracker sheets (yields about 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs)
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp. honey

Orange Yogurt

  • ¾ c. orange pieces, segmented and membranes roughly peeled
  • ¾ c. plain reduced-fat Greek yogurt

Blackberry Yogurt

  • ¾ c. blackberries
  • ¾ c. plain reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. honey

Strawberry Yogurt

  • ½ c. strawberries
  • ¾ c. plain reduced-fat Greek yogurt

Chopped Fruit

  • 1 whole kiwi, peeled and diced
  • 1¼ c. small strawberries, diced
  • 1 c. oranges, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • ¾ c. blackberries

To make the Graham Cracker Crust

Loosely break graham crackers apart and place into food processor bowl. Pulse crackers until they become a uniform powder. Add vanilla extract, coconut oil and honey; pulse until all ingredients are evenly incorporated. The texture will be slightly moist, and ingredients will stick together slightly when pressed. Pour the graham cracker crust mixture into a separate bowl and set aside.

Make Orange Yogurt

Rinse and dry the food processor bowl. Peel one large orange; roughly peel the membrane from about six segments (or the equivalent of ¾ cup). Cut segments into thirds and place them into the food processor. Pulse until the mixture is relatively smooth, but not pureed; it’s OK if there are small chunks of orange. Add yogurt and pulse just until combined. Do not over-mix. Pour the mixture into a separate bowl and place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to create a thicker consistency.

Make Blackberry Yogurt

Rinse and dry the food processor bowl. Measure out ¾ cup of blackberries and gently wash them. Place blackberries into the food processor and pulse until the mixture is relatively smooth (like a slurry), but not pureed. Add lemon juice, honey and yogurt to the slurry; pulse until combined. Pour mixture into a separate bowl, cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Make Strawberry Yogurt

Rinse and dry the food processor bowl. Rinse ½ cup strawberries, de-stem and cut them in halves. Place into the food processor and pulse until the pieces resemble small chunks (like a salsa). Add yogurt and pulse until combined. Pour mixture into a separate bowl, cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Chopped Fruit

Wash all fruit under cool water. Peel kiwi and cut off hard ends; dice and place in a bowl and set aside. De-stem and dice strawberries; measure out 1 ¼ cup, place in a bowl and set aside. Peel 6-8 orange segments and cut each segment into ¼-inch pieces; measure out 1 cup, place in a bowl and set aside. Cut blackberries in half; measure out ¾ cup, place in a bowl and set aside.

Assembly

For one 8-ounce cup, begin by putting 2 tablespoons of graham cracker crust into the cup. Level the crust with the back of a spoon and pat down to create a more solid base. Spoon a little less than ¼ cup of the orange yogurt over the graham cracker crust. Smooth layer evenly. Place ¼ cup diced strawberries over the orange yogurt. Add 2 tablespoons of the graham cracker crust and pat down gently. Add a little less than ¼ cup of the blackberry yogurt and smooth layer evenly. Place 3 tablespoons of orange segments on top of the yogurt. Be sure they are visible on the outside of the cup! Add 2 tablespoons of graham cracker crust and pat down gently. Add a little less than ¼ cup of strawberry yogurt and smooth evenly. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of kiwi and 1 tablespoon blackberries on top.

Eat immediately or chill and enjoy later!

Get the full recipe here.

Baked Apples with Cinnamon-Oat Topping

Serves 4

  • 2 medium sweet red apples (such as Gala or Braeburn)
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped pecans (or substitute walnuts)
  • 2 tbsp. uncooked quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp. cold butter, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • ½ c. 100-percent apple juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut each apple in half horizontally. Use a melon baller or spoon to remove the core from each half, creating a rounded hole. Combine nuts, oats, brown sugar, cranberries, butter, cinnamon and salt. Use your fingers or a fork to mix until mixture resembles coarse meal. Fill each apple half with about 2 tablespoons of oat mixture. Place apples in an 8-inch baking dish; pour apple juice around apples in dish. Cover dish with aluminum foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown.

Get the full recipe here.