Whether you’ve got picky eaters or junk food fanatics to feed, getting your child to eat healthy can be a challenge. However, with the right attitude and a little creativity, you have the potential to turn your youngsters’ less-than-ideal eating habits into healthful ones that will last a lifetime. When you establish the groundwork of a healthy eating plan for your family, you can create countless meal combinations that will teach your kids healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring.
Follow in Michelle Obama’s footsteps
First lady Michelle Obama has made good use of her husband’s time in office, leveraging her political position to draw attention to children’s health issues. The primary focus of her Let’s Move! initiative is to give families the tools they need to lead healthier lifestyles, from eating right to getting enough exercise. Children don’t need as much food as adults, so their plates should have less on them than yours at the dinner table. You can give your kids smaller plates, so they look just as full as yours.
A healthy dinner plate should consist of half fruits and vegetables, one-quarter protein and one-quarter grains, and be paired with a glass of low-fat milk to cover the dairy group as well. Here are a few healthy meal ideas your kids will be sure to enjoy:
Mini meatloaf muffins with mashed cauliflower
Meatloaf is a classic family dinner option, but portion control can be tough when you’re slicing up a big loaf. Instead, you can take your favorite meatloaf recipe and bake the concoction in a muffin pan. This way, you can keep a closer eye on how much your kids are eating, and you can save the leftovers in the freezer to reheat later. One meatloaf muffin will probably cover the one-quarter protein portion of the plate, but you’ll still need veggies and grains. Try making mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes as a healthier substitute. You can stir in a little low-fat cheese for your dairy content and to give the dish a flavor kids always love. Add a green veggie like string beans or peas to round out the dish, and serve whole wheat rolls on the side for the grain portion of the meal.
Crunchy, healthy chicken fingers
For most kids, breaded chicken in any form is a favorite dinnertime food. However, most versions are battered and deep-fried making them less than healthy. Picking up a bag of frozen chicken fingers might seem like an easy solution for family dinners, but when you make them yourself, you control the ingredients and the preparation. Eating Well magazine recommended using almond and whole wheat flour to coat chicken strips and then baking them in the oven to get that crispy texture everyone loves. According to the source, this variation contains roughly half the fat of standard breaded chicken strips. Since the oven is already going to be on, you might want to consider roasting some vegetables along with your chicken. It’s also relatively easy to make your own fries. Just dice potatoes or yams into similarly sized pieces, drizzle a little olive oil on them, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss them in the oven. Baking something that’s usually fried is a great way to instantly make it healthier.
Taco night without the shells
Taco night is a great chance to get kids involved in making the meal, as they can clean and chop vegetables or help brown the meat. You can make this a healthier meal by using ground turkey or chicken instead of beef. While the crunch of a tortilla shell is irreplaceable, using lettuce leaves as taco shells can be a great way to cut down on calories and bump up the veggie content. It’s harder to gauge the portions with meals like tacos, so make sure your kids aren’t skipping the veggies when they’re making their tacos.