"For example, you can substitute 1/4 of the flour in any cookie or cake recipe with that same amount in ground flaxseed," Livingston says. "Your kids won't taste the difference, and you'll be giving them added fiber and important omega-3s."
Another of Livingston's tricks: Substitute fruit puree for one-half to three-quarters of the fat in any cake, cookie, or muffin recipe. You can also cut sugar by 1/3 to 1/2 without stirring up much of a fuss.
To make frozen fruit bars with more nutrients and less sugar, she says, puree berries, melon, or even bananas, and blend with a few tablespoons of fruit juice. Freeze the mixture in a paper cup or a plastic pop mold.
"By using the whole fruit puree instead of fruit juice, you get all the nutrients in a piece of fruit, and not all the sugar found in a juice," says Livingston.
6. Think Outside the Cookie Jar!
If you hear the word "snack" and automatically think cookies, chips, or pie, says nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, think again.
"A snack food doesn't have to be a sweet," says Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center. "It doesn't even have to be a traditional snack food. Almost anything a kid likes to eat can be turned into a snack if you watch portion sizes."
Her suggestions include cold pizza (made with veggies and low-fat cheese); whole-wheat tortillas with spinach or other vegetable; hummus on pita bread; salsa & baked chips; dill/garlic low-fat yogurt dip and vegetables; mini oatmeal muffins with raisins; a whole-grain waffle with jam or fresh fruit.
"It's important to get kids away from the taste of sugar, and incorporating other types of snacks into their diet is one way to do that," says Heller.
Levine reminds us not to forget low-fat and no-fat dairy foods as a great snack alternative.
She suggests "low-fat yogurt with your own fruit puree to reduce sugar, string cheese, low-fat milk with cocoa, even low-fat frozen yogurt or ice cream is OK if you watch the portion size."