Let’s be clear, kids will be kids. It’s unrealistic to expect them to say no to sugar or refined foods when they are literally everywhere they look. There are always going to be school functions and birthday parties, and the inevitable take-home party pack. Also, the convenience of pre-packaged “kid-friendly” foods is unmistakable.
That being said, there are some key simple food swaps for “kid-friendly” meals that you can make in your home to ensure that your kids get the healthy version.
1. Chicken Nuggets
Okay, we’ve all heard the rumor that there’s only 30% chicken in a certain fast-food chain’s chicken nuggets. I cannot confirm this, but I do know that they use refined oils to deep fry the “chicken”. Also, if you keep the food on your counter it has been known to remain visibly “perfect” for years. So that can’t be good for you.
For a delicious swap take your own chicken pieces, dip them in egg and then coat them in one of the following: cooked quinoa, almond flour, coconut flour, or macadamia flour (or a combination of these) and add your favourite spices such as paprika, cayenne pepper, chicken spice or a cajun spice. Then lightly fry them in extra virgin olive oil. Serve with a homemade tomato sauce, siracha, or a sugar-free tomato sauce at least.
2. Fish Fingers
As with chicken nuggets, fish fingers may contain harmful or refined oils as well as preservatives or additives that aren’t very healthy for you or your kids. The easy version is to make your own using the exact same method as above.
Serve them with a delicious mashed cauliflower (for extra healthy veggies) or mashed potato or sweet potato (hold off on the added milk/cream/sugar) and again add a dipping sauce if preferred.
3. Oven-Baked Chips
These are a firm favourite in most homes, and the ready-to-cook versions are widely advertised. You may even be buying the oven-bake option versus the deep-friend version as the “healthy choice”. However, if you think you’re buying a simple, healthy potato product, you may be shocked at what’s actually added to the ingredients listing. Just some of the nasties added include refined oils, refined syrups, flavourants and preservatives.
Take those extra 5 mins and prepare your own baked potato or sweet potato chips at home (even include the kids in the cooking process) and your body will thank you. It is worth the extra time. For some sneaky but simple food swaps you can also make your own veggie fries out of carrot, zucchini, purple sweet potato, or butternut cut into chip shapes. They will not only add extra vegetables to the plate but some bright colors too.
Pizza is always a crowd favourite, but a quick Google search on the calorie contents of typical fast-food pizza options will horrify you. There are truly a myriad of pizza base recipes online made from everything from broccoli to eggplant, and I certainly encourage you to try these out, but you can just as easily use a wholegrain wrap as your base. The best tips for enjoying a healthy pizza at home:
- Definitely make it yourself (even the flour-version made at home will at least contain less preservatives and artificial flavors etc.)
- Keep the base thin regardless of what it’s made of, and definitely don’t stuff it with sausage.
- Go easy on the cheese! Less is definitely better.
- Add extra veggies wherever you can.
- Add a side dish of salad or veggies.
This is a no-brainer, and I definitely don’t want to harp on about this, but what ever happened to enjoying good old homemade popcorn? Homemade popcorn makes a crunchy, satisfying snack for any occasion, and it contains a lot of fiber and very little carbohydrates per serving. You can enjoy a whole four cups worth before getting the same carbohydrate content as one small slice of bread. Make your own popcorn using the whole kernels (i.e. not the microwave version), use olive oil or coconut oil, and then top it off with some freshly ground sea salt or even Herbamare as a low salt option.
Overall: Choose Homemade
Homemade is always best because you can see each and every ingredient that goes into the meal. This means no preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners or refined oils. Taking the extra time to prepare a healthy meal for your kids at home will mean that when they do eat out, you can be less concerned about their choices. The 80/20 rule applies to kids just as much as it applies to us.
Try these simple food swaps with your little ones today.