"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." This adage may be the best way to help improve your children's nutritional intake. If you simply can't get your children to eat anything other than their favorite foods, like boxed macaroni and cheese, french fries, pizza, and cereal, don't fight it. Instead, try and improve the nutritional value of those foods and partner them with some other less favorite food disguised as 'kid friendly'.
Macaroni and Cheese
To make this favorite food healthier, substitute skim milk for whole milk and use trans-fat-free margarine for the butter. Serve fruit on the side. Try Earth's Best Sesame Street Elmo Mac 'n Cheese with Carrots and Broccoli. Or introduce your child to Earth's Best Sesame Street Frozen Cheese Ravioli. It has a great cheese and pasta flavor, but is enriched with important vitamins and minerals and is made from organic ingredients.
Earth's Best Sesame Street Frozen Whole Grain Cheese Pizza is the easiest way to make this choice the healthy way to go. It's made from whole grains and organic ingredients. Other ways to improve on a white bread crust, high fat cheese topping pizza is to order your pizza-to-go with extra sauce and light on the cheese. Kids will most likely not notice the reduced amount of cheese. Forget the high-fat meat toppings like pepperoni or sausage. If you're really daring, suggest adding green peppers on the top. (Green peppers are tops on the list of kid's favorite vegetables). While you're waiting for the pizza to be delivered, cut up some carrot sticks and serve with fat free ranch dressing. They may fill up on enough of these to reduce their pizza intake by a slice or two.
Luckily, cereal manufacturers are responding to parent demands for lower sugar versions of popular kid's cereals. Look for cereals made with whole grains that have fiber and only a little sugar (ideally less than 6 grams per serving). Fortified cereals help to ensure that your child is getting some of the more important nutrients frequently missing in a child's diet. Earth's Best offers organic, healthy versions of some kids favorites, including Sesame Street Organic Honey Nut On-the-Go O's and Cinnamon Apple Organic On-the-go O's Cereal.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Use whole wheat bread, all natural peanut butter without added sugars or emulsifiers and low-sugar jelly. Serve with fruit kabobs and veggies with low-fat dip instead of chips and pickles (which are high in fat and salt).
Make your own nuggets using organic white meat chicken breast, dipped in a mixture of egg and milk and then coated with whole grain breadcrumbs, a little salt/seasonings and bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Serve with barbeque or honey dip.
Make sweet potato fries as an alternative to the nutrient-void deep-fried traditional French fry. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash and prepare 2 sweet potatoes and cut into wedges. Throw into a large bowl and mix with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and a ¬Ω tsp. salt. Place onto pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until crispy on the outside. These are also yummy seasoned with cinnamon or Italian seasoning. Kids will love to dip sweet potato fries into applesauce or plain yogurt mixed with maple syrup.
Make any food a finger food. Want your toddler to eat beans? Cook them crisp tender, keep them finger friendly (i.e. pieces easy to pick up) and allow them to be dipped into something yummy if necessary, such as a low fat cheese sauce or ranch dip. Go easy on the table manners for a while. There's plenty of time to get elbows off the table and napkins in the lap.
Don't Use Force
Power struggles with food can interfere with acceptance. Allow a child to come to enjoy a food on his or her own terms. Healthy foods presented in a kid friendly way (e.g. small bite size, easy to chew texture, fun color) in a non-pressured setting, over and over again will often result in eventual acceptance, even preference.