Nutrition Articles

9 Meal Makeovers that Will Please Parents and Kids

The Kiddie Menu Gets a Boost of Nutrition

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Macaroni and Cheese
In your next batch of mac 'n cheese, add cooked fresh or frozen pureed winter squash--think butternut or acorn squash. The texture and color resemble that of the cheesy dish while adding a serving of veggies. The possibilities are endless!

Aside from adding winter squash--or even cooked carrots--to macaroni, there are plenty of other ways to amp up this dish and make it more nutritious. To begin, making it from scratch with your children is a better alternative to the boxed variety. When cooking at home instead of getting takeout, you can use whole-wheat or brown-rice pasta and control the amount of cheese and sodium added. After cooking the noodles and adding your choice of cheese, top the dish with your child's favorite lean protein. Grilled sliced chicken, ground turkey or flavored tofu make great combinations. Experiment with finely chopped spinach, stewed tomatoes or chopped broccoli. If your little one is reluctant to try the new variation, make it into a game! It's amazing what a child will eat when it's the last food available on a deserted tropical island and resources are running out. The imagination can be a wonderful tool!

Chicken Nuggets
Instead of processed chicken nuggets, patties and tenders, cut skinless chicken breasts into chunks then dip them in flour, egg whites and breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Flavor your breadcrumbs to suit your mood. Add oregano, thyme, paprika, cumin or rosemary, for example. Introducing herbs to children helps them expand their palates early on.

French Fries
French fries are a commonly requested food among young people. Slicing and baking your own potatoes is a very good alternative to the deep-fried option. Experiment with different spices and varieties of potatoes: russet, redskin, and sweet potatoes will all produce a different taste. Drizzle olive or canola oil over your potato slices once they're spread over a baking sheet and top with any combination of garlic, oregano, dill, rosemary, and pepper. For added vitamins and variety, choose sweet potatoes, butternut squash, even parsnips, turnips and other root vegetables. Roasting adds a sweetness that will make almost any vegetable appealing to kids. Offer ketchup for the kids to dip, and mix in some sweet chili paste or curry powder for some uniquely grown-up ketchup.
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About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

Member Comments

  • love the ideas in this article on making what are normal menu items healthier. give me a lot of great ideas. I'm excited to make them chicken nuggets!! :) - 4/21/2016 10:32:11 AM
    Excellent!!! Thanks for the suggestion. - 4/26/2015 10:48:25 PM
  • I always found whatever was on my plate, even though it was the same as theirs tasted better to my babies and now grandbabies.
    - 3/27/2015 10:02:52 AM
  • I always add a little hot spices to my food. Grow my own peppers. - 9/24/2013 9:37:52 PM
  • Most of these ideas are OK, but I do know that if my mom had added onion or black pepper to my food, I would not have eaten it. Too spicy! - 8/19/2013 11:50:02 AM
  • Ive added high fiber oatmeal (red mill) and beans to a meatloaf, and put mexican spices in it. It stretched out the meat and made it healthier. - 3/30/2011 5:25:58 PM
  • I always add shredded zuccini to my meatloaf, not only does it add the veggies it also keeps the meatloaf very moist. I added it for years before I my husband found out what the "secret" to my moist meatloaf was!!! - 1/29/2011 1:00:58 PM
  • these are great ideas, my kids are grown but I may use them on my hubby who is obsessed with sugary/sodium laden foods. - 10/20/2010 7:32:41 PM

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