Healthy Meals and Snacks for Kids

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When I first started making small healthy changes in my life I knew my kid’s eating habits also needed to change, but being that I was already overwhelmed with just ME – I decided to table that for the moment. I focused on what I was eating, getting into a routine and finding recipes that I liked and that worked for our budget and then – I could focus on the kids.

Well, a funny thing happened. As I slowly started to change what was on my plate, my curious little humans would inevitably sneak over and peek in and ask me: “Mommy, what’s that?” “Mommy, what are those?”

They were so curious and I would take a leaf of spinach and offer it to them. Or take a roasted beet and give them a taste. Sometimes they would like it, sometimes they would make a face and give it back.

Then, when I started learning about sugar addiction and how powerful it is (To watch my video series on sugar addiction, click here) I really buckled down and decided that I needed to start to phase out sugar. If I could reduce it or remove as much of it from my children’s diet as possible, I could stop it from having such a stronghold over them in the future.

My personal struggle with sugar addiction has been long and hard and I knew I wanted better for my children. (My story of sugar addiction is here) So I started making healthier treats for me and the kids. I got them involved with the making of them – things like three ingredient pancakes and chia seed pudding. They loved them and so I stopped buying the cookies and animal crackers that I was used to buying them and one by one, the unhealthy food started being replaced by the healthier foods. And one by one, overwhelming things, like making my own granola, started to become second nature.

But it’s hard! And I remember knowing that I didn’t want my kids eating sugary cereal for breakfast, goldfish for snack, frozen chicken nuggets for lunch, cookies for snack #2 and then picking at their dinner and begging for ice cream afterward. I just didn’t know what to give them instead.

So, here are my favorite healthy substitutions for some of the unhealthy things my kids used to eat, and even better – these are some of my KIDS favorite things now too!!

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(disclaimer – I have FOUR kids. They each have their own favorite healthy foods and that’s ok. My husband and I don’t like the same things. I would HATE it if my husband FORCED me to eat HIS favorite healthy snacks, so I don’t MAKE my kids eat ONE particular healthy thing. Through trial and error I started offering them all sorts of healthy things and when we found something they liked, we went with it.

Also, I always eat the healthy things WITH them. At first, they were wary of hummus, but I was eating it and I gave it to them to try with some multi-seed crackers. They took little tiny licks of it, and then a little bit more, and the next thing I knew they had their fingers in the hummus and were finishing off the container. Next time, I brought out carrots and bell peppers to dip in the hummus. One of my children liked the carrots in the hummus – the others prefer the peppers. Small changes, being patient and modeling the behavior you want to see are all SUPER important with kids)

Breakfast:

Cereal was always a staple for me and the kids, but MAAAAN cereal is EXPENSIVE (as is milk) and FULL of sugar, and in an hour my kids were complaining that they were hungry! So I knew this was one of the first things that had to go!

Here are some of the healthier options I rotate with my kids now:

  • Scrambled eggs with cheese
  • Multi-grain toast with peanut butter
  • Whole grain waffles with peanut butter and banana slices and chia seeds
  • Whole Milk yogurt with fresh fruit and homemade granola
  • Daily Sunshine smoothie
  • Three Ingredient Pancakes
  • Oatmeal (not the packets that are filled with sugar and expensive, but just old fashioned oats from the big cylinder. I let the kids choose their toppings: honey, maple syrup, raisins, pecans, chia seeds, peanut butter, coconut flakes, berries – they love it!)

Snacks

Snacks were the next thing on my list to change. Crackers, crackers, crackers, and cookies and chips. Ugh!! I hated it, but I literally couldn’t think of anything else to give my kids for snack. NOW these are our favorite snacks and I literally don’t buy any crackers, cookies or chips anymore (and it helps my grocery budget SO much!!).

  • Carrots & Peppers with hummus
  • Fruit (Apples and Bananas are staples, but we usually just go with whatever is in season)
  • Popcorn (not the kind you microwave, but air popped on the stovetop. We LOOOOVE our Whirley Pop but you can do it in a regular pot as well. This way we control how much salt and butter goes on and again, it’s WAY cheaper to buy the corn in bulk than to get the microwave packets)
  • Daily Sunshine smoothie
  • Cheese sticks

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Lunch

I still feel like I could use some improvement in my lunches, but here’s what I have so far!

Dinner

When it comes to dinner, they eat what we eat. I encourage them to eat at least three bites. Maybe it’s just my kids, but dinner is their LEAST consumed meal. They pick at it (well everyone except my oldest who is growing and consuming everything in sight) and push it around their plate. Foods they loved just the day before (like rice) all of a sudden they don’t like anymore. Frustration central.

So, I have my three bite rule, I sit with them (when I have the patience) and make the fork into a choo choo train or an airplane and help them finish a few more bites. In the end if they are just NOT having it, (and they’ve gotten in their three bites) I’ll give them some Daily Sunshine for “dessert” , they think they’ve “won” but really…I’m the winner here.

Treats

I really do try to limit sugar AS MUCH as possible for my kiddos – which is no easy feat. Not having it in the house makes it a LOT easier!!! But they are kids, and they still want some treats, so here are a few of our favorites.

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I hope these ideas are helpful to you. Again, take it slow with your kids, change one thing at a time. Food is a comfort and when it is changing it can feel disorienting and scary for adults and especially for kids.

The exciting thing is – if we can change their eating habits NOW they won’t have to undo as much damage later. If we can keep our kids from being the 1 in 3 that are overweight right now in America, we can teach them how to love and fuel their bodies and hopefully keep them from feelings of shame or self-loathing.

WE have to model it first and foremost – we can’t force anything on them, but through leading by example and making small changes to their diet, over time I think you will find that you can make a world of difference in your child’s life!

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