Mini Rice-Cake StackTeaching kids to eat healthfully is complicated! I can't speak from personal experience-at the moment, my "kid" is furry, four-legged and barks. But I watch my friends work relentlessly to teach their kids healthy eating habits. And I've seen the (sobering) statistics: as the percentage of overweight kids in the U.S. has sharply increased, it is more important than ever to help kids develop healthy eating habits early on.
If you're looking to shape up your kid's diet, here are 9 simple tips and some of EatingWell's healthy recipes for kids to do it the easy way:
1. Get the family involved. Allow your kids to participate in the grocery shopping and encourage them to choose healthy snacks. This will increase the likelihood that they will eat these snacks instead of less-healthy ones.
2. Stock up. What you stock your kitchen with will influence your children's food choices. Leave high-fat, salty and sugary snacks off your grocery list. Instead, fill your cart with fruits and vegetables, particularly portable ones like apples, bananas and carrots. Other healthful snacks include low-fat yogurt, natural peanut butter and celery, and whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese. Choose water or milk over soda.
Quickly build this Mini Rice-Cake Stack after school with just 3 easy-to-find ingredients. (You may already have them in your pantry!)
8 mini apple-cinnamon rice cakes
1 1/2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
4 banana slices
Spread 4 rice cakes with peanut butter; top each with a banana slice and the remaining rice cakes. Makes 1 serving.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 297 calories; 13 g fat (2 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 4 g fiber; 91 mg sodium; 293 mg potassium.
3. Kick up the calcium. There are creative tactics you can employ to make sure your child is getting plenty of calcium. Add low-fat cheese to meals and snacks: put Cheddar in an omelet; add a slice of cheese to sandwiches; create mini pizzas by topping whole-wheat English muffins with pizza sauce and part-skim mozzarella; make grilled cheese sandwiches appealing by using cookie cutters to create fun shapes.
Boost calcium and sneak in some veggies with EatingWell's Southwestern Cheese Panini:
4 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup prepared salsa
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeño pepper (optional)
8 slices whole-wheat bread
1. Have four 15-ounce cans and a medium skillet (not nonstick) ready by the stove.
2. Combine Cheddar, zucchini, carrot, onion, salsa and jalapeño (if using) in a medium bowl. Divide among 4 slices of bread and top with the remaining bread.
3. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place 2 panini in the pan. Place the medium skillet on top of the panini, then weigh it down with the cans. Cook the panini until golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, flip the panini, replace the top skillet and cans, and cook until the second side is golden, 1 to 3 minutes more. Repeat with another 1 teaspoon oil and the remaining panini.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 310 calories; 11 g fat (5 g sat, 1 g mono); 30 mg cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 16 g protein; 5 g fiber; 523 mg sodium; 163 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (50% daily value), Calcium (30% dv), Vitamin C (20% dv), Iron (15% dv).
4. Delight kids with dips. Diving vegetables and fruits into yummy dips makes kids' lunches more fun. Offer apple slices with a half cup of low-fat vanilla yogurt; serve carrot sticks with a side of hummus. Or whip up EatingWell's Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip in minutes, by combining 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper. Serve with 1/2 cup each baby carrots and snow (or snap) peas, or any crunchy vegetable.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 120 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g mono); 10 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 14 g protein; 2 g fiber; 561 mg sodium; 202 potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (170% daily value), Vitamin C (30% dv), Calcium (25% dv).
5. Measure it out. Teach your kids what a reasonable portion size is. A serving of rice is about the same size as an ice cream scoop (approximately 1⁄2 cup), so let your child use the scoop to serve rice at dinner. A piece of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards, so see how that chicken breast measures up.
6. "Do as I do." Be a role model and teach your kids to make balanced choices when eating out. Add a green salad to your order and request low-fat or light dressing; choose mustard instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches; opt for stir-fried or steamed dishes rather than fried.
7. Fill up with fiber. Few kids crave a fiber-rich meal. But fiber is filling and when combined with drinking plenty of water, helps prevent constipation. A high-fiber food has 5 grams or more of fiber per serving and a "good" source of fiber is one that provides 2.5 to 4.9 grams per serving.
8. Serve single portions and your kids will be less likely to overeat. Avoid letting the kids take an entire bag of chips or a container of ice cream to the couch; instead, dish out individual portions in the kitchen first. Or, if you cook large batches of food and store the leftovers, separate them into smaller portions before you put them in the fridge or freezer. This way, your kids can automatically grab a single portion.
9. Eat more, weigh less. Add more fruits and vegetables to your family's diet: they're low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals. Eating fruit or vegetables at the start of a meal can help curb hunger, provide a sense of fullness and reduce total calorie intake over the course of the meal.