With childhood obesity at epidemic proportions, if we want healthy kids, the drive-through is out, and home cooking is in. The convenience of fast food is killing us. No worries, though, because we’ve got these quick, easy (and, yes, fun) recipes to help you roll out a quick lunch or light dinner without any temptation from the fast food giants.
1. Create Your Own Skewers
Image via Flickr by Family O’Abe’
Skewers and kabobs are everything kids love in food: bite-sized pieces, lots of colors, and something he can feed himself. Last night’s leftovers are perfect for today’s skewers.
- Leftover (or fresh) lean meat
- Fresh vegetables
Chop cooked chicken, pork, or other lean meat into cubes and alternate pieces of colorful veggies and fruits, such as bell peppers, tomatoes, or pineapples and cook on a grill or stove top over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Make them using different ingredients each time for variety. For smaller children, just remove the skewer so they’ll have bite sized chunks they can manage on their own.
2. Zucchini Muffins
Can’t get them to eat their squash? Hide it in the muffins!
- 2 small zucchini
- 2 cups whole grain pancake or biscuit mix
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Dusting of powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375F. Shred the zucchini using the large holes on your grater. Combine pancake or biscuit mix with spices in one bowl. In another bowl, mix eggs, brown sugar, apple sauce and lemon juice. Fold egg mixture into pancake mix gently. Spoon into lined muffin tin, filling each hole up 2/3 full. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Dust with powdered sugar and let cool.
Working recipes like this into your child’s diet will set him or her on a path of healthy choices for the rest of their life. New research indicates certain diets and medications may cause obesity problems. Talk to your pediatrician about long-term effects before putting your child on medication.
3. Vegetable Pita
Are you trying to figure out what to do with last night’s vegetables? These pitas are so fun, even the pickiest eater will gobble them up.
- 1/2 cup low-fat cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon chopped chives
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- 3-4 cups leftover vegetables (carrots, squash, eggplant, whatever you have)
- 4 pieces pita bread
Pulse cream cheese and herbs in a food processor until evenly distributed. Spread onto pita bread. Stuff in the vegetables. This is a great no-cook idea for busy days.
4. Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffins
Peanut butter and jelly are actually pretty sound nutritionally, but their health factor can be improved by axing the white bread and upping the nutritional content with a banana.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 banana
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup apple juice concentrate (thawed)
- 1/4 cup non-fat dry milk
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 12 tablespoons sugar-free jelly
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix eggs, milk, banana, peanut butter, and apple juice until creamy. Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix to combine. Spoon into muffin tins lined with cupcake papers. Place a spoonful of jelly over each, then spoon remaining peanut butter batter into muffin tins, until they are 2/3 full. Bake 15 minutes.
5. Rabbit Sandwiches
These adorable sandwiches look like cute bunny rabbits. They can be made in a snap, are healthy, and attract even the most committed junk food fan.
- Whole grain English muffin
- 1/3 cup grated low-fat cheese
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon milk
- 2 drops Worcestershire sauce
- 2 English peas (for the eyes)
- 2 peas in the pod (for the ears)
- 1 baby carrot (lay under bunny’s nose)
- 1 black olive (for the nose)
- 4 stems fresh chives (for the whiskers)
- 1 scallion (cut into 2 small rectangles, for the teeth)
Set the oven to broil, or use a toaster oven on broil setting. Mix cheese, egg yolk, milk and Worcestershire sauce. Spread cheese mixture onto bottom halves of English muffins. Put under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbling (about 3 minutes). Put tops back on muffins and use the garnish to create the bunny ears and face. This is an excellent item to serve on play dates.
The key to getting kids to eat healthy is using lots of color, making dishes attractive, and introducing them to a variety of foods from an early age. Next time you shop for groceries, skip the snack aisles and processed food, keep your shopping to the outer walls of the store, and you will be on the right track for creating healthy recipes for your whole family.