Feeding your family healthy food doesn’t mean it’s all about salads and veggie pitas. There are plenty of ways you can transform your family’s favorite dishes into healthier alternatives. Even kid foods like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and hot dogs can be relatively wholesome with a few ingredient adjustments. Here are several fast fixes, as well as some healthy family-friendly recipes to try.
5 Quick Makeovers
Just by making a few ingredient adjustments, you can make many favorite kid foods lower in calories and fat and higher in fiber and nutrients. Here are five easy examples:
1. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Use 1 tablespoon of natural-style peanut butter.
- Use 1 tablespoon of less-sugar grape jelly (such as Smucker's Low Sugar).
- Use whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, or fiber-enriched white bread.
BEFORE: 335 calories, 10.9 g fat, 2.1 g saturated fat, 2.5 g fiber
AFTER: 290 calories, 10.9 g fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 5.5 g fiber
SAVINGS: 45 calories saved, plus 3 grams of fiber added!
2. Macaroni and cheese from the box
- Use 2 tablespoons of no-trans-fat margarine (choose one with 8 grams of fat per tablespoon) instead of 4 tablespoons of butter.
- Use low-fat milk instead of whole milk.
- Add a tablespoon or two of fat-free or light sour cream, if needed for creaminess.
- Add veggies on the side or in the macaroni (such as 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli per serving).
SAVINGS: 72 calories and 8 g fat per serving (if four servings per box), plus 2.3 g fiber added
3. Hot dogs
- Choose a reduced-fat hot dog. (Ball Park Lite, Louis Rich Turkey Franks, and Hebrew National Reduced Fat are great options.)
- Look for whole-wheat or higher-fiber buns.
- Add onions and tomato, if desired, for added nutrition.
- Choose lower-fat and lower-calorie condiments such as ketchup or mustard.
BEFORE: 366 calories, 22 g fat, 9.1 g saturated fat, 1.2 g fiber
AFTER: 325 calories, 11 g fat, 3.2 g saturated fat, 5.8 g fiber
SAVINGS: 41 calories, 11 g fat, and 5.9 g saturated fat, plus 4.6 g fiber added!
4. French fries
- Choose lower-fat frozen French fries.
- Bake them instead of frying.
- Complement this side dish with a fruit and a vegetable, so the family doesn't overdo the fries.
BEFORE: 245 calories, 12 g fat, 5.6 g saturated fat, 0.8 g fiber per 3-ounce serving
AFTER: 122 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 1 g fiber per 3-ounce serving
SAVINGS: 23 calories, 8 g fat, 5.1 g saturated fat, plus 0.2 g fiber added
5. Mexican dishes
- Use reduced-fat Jack and/or cheddar cheese,
- Work in beans every chance you get.
- Use extra-lean meat (super-lean ground beef or ground sirloin, skinless chicken breast, lean pork trimmed of visible fat).
- Use fat-free or light sour cream instead of regular.
- Work in whole grains and vegetables (such as brown rice, whole-wheat tortillas, tomatoes, green peppers, etc.).
Your family won’t even know they’re eating healthier when they’re digging into these delicious versions of family favorites.
Easy French Bread Pizza
This is a quick alternative to frozen pizza. They're easy for kids to assemble; then Mom or Dad can broil them.
2 French-bread sandwich rolls, split in half
Olive oil or canola cooking spray
1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
1/2 cup bottled pizza sauce or marinara sauce
3/4 cup shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese
Assorted vegetable toppings:
Chopped green onions
- Preheat broiler.
- Spray the tops of the French-bread roll halves with canola or olive oil cooking spray, then sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the top of each.
- Broil bread halves until lightly brown on top. Watch carefully so they don't burn.
- Spread 1/8 cup pizza sauce over each half, then sprinkle 1/4 of the cheddar cheese and 1/4 of the mozzarella over each half.
- Arrange any vegetables you choose on top of the cheese.
- Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly (about 2 minutes).
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving (without the vegetable toppings): 189 calories, 12 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 6.5 g fat, 4.3 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 430 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 36%.
Source: Andrea Messina, lifestyle director for Parenting magazine
Kids' Favorite Banana Bread
This is a mild-flavored banana bread without nuts, to please the younger palates in the family. It's great toasted, too!
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup no-trans-fat margarine (choose one with 8 grams of fat per tablespoon)
1/4 vanilla low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup Splenda baking sweetener or sugar
1/4 cup egg substitute or 2 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups mashed overripe bananas (about four bananas)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with canola cooking spray and lightly dust with flour.
- In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and salt. In large mixing bowl, cream together margarine, yogurt, vanilla extract, brown sugar, and Splenda.
- On low speed, beat in egg, egg substitute, and mashed bananas until well blended. Add flour mixture to banana mixture and blend just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
- Bake 65-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
Yield: One 9x5-inch loaf (12 servings).
Per serving: 198 calories, 5 g protein, 36.5 g carbohydrate, 4.3 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 21 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 232 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 29%.
Source: Syd Carter, an editor with AllRecipes.com
The Perfect Cheeseburger
Lower the fat and calories even more by using ground turkey breast.
1 pound super-lean ground beef or fresh ground sirloin
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
Canola cooking spray
4 slices reduced-fat cheese
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns
Lettuce leaves (optional)
Tomato and onion slices (optional)
Mustard and catsup (optional)
Barbecue sauce (optional)
- Divide the beef into 4 equal portions. Use a patty press (or your hands) to make four burgers. Sprinkle them with the pepper and garlic salt.
- Pan-fry, broil, or grill the burgers, using canola cooking spray to keep them from sticking to the pan or grill. When the burgers are almost cooked through, place the cheese slices on top and finish cooking (30 to 60 seconds). Remove the burgers to the serving plate. If desired, cover the plate with foil to keep burgers warm and moist.
- Dress your burger on the bun with the lettuce, sliced tomato and onion, mustard, barbecue sauce, and ketchup as desired.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 397 calories, 35.5 g protein, 34.5 g carbohydrate, 13 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 86 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 767 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 29%.
Source: Jessica Hastereiter, associate editor for American Girl magazine