By Jennifer Brunton
When you’re feeding your children, you’re probably trying to serve them the freshest, most wholesome ingredients, including vegetables, whole grains and the like.
The kids may have a slightly different agenda. A recent study found that kids are eating more fast food, even though parents are trying to make healthier choices.
Satisfy everybody with these healthy homemade recipes that mimic fast food without sacrificing nutrition. To increase the likelihood of clean plates, we’ve tapped the wisdom of some experts — food bloggers who are also parents — for the best ways to get the little ones on board.
Want Healthy Eaters? Start Now
Persnickety Plates creator Melissa Williams suggests giving children natural, healthful foods as early as possible.
“Incorporate lots of flavors and cuisines early on, so it’s normal for them,” she advised.
If your children are no longer so little, don’t despair: The best time to start offering a wider array of healthy choices is right now.
And what could be a better way to do so than by introducing homemade versions of their favorite fast foods?
Before You Get Cooking, Find Ways To Enlist The Kids
Lyndsay Burginger, managing editor at home-cooking site Wide Open Eats, recommends getting kids to eat healthy food by including them in the cooking process.
“If it’s something they haven’t tried before, let them help you prepare it,” she advised. “Chances are they will want to try something they made themselves.”
Great kitchen activities for kids include supervised chopping, stuffing (tacos, dumplings), kneading and rolling dough, placing toppings (nachos, pizzas) and, naturally, sampling.
According to Williams, all that helping out is educational to boot. “They’re learning math and science, having a great time and, of course, they love eating the end products,” she said.
Here are five delicious homemade “fast foods” your kids will love.
Lots of children think pizza is the ideal meal. Luckily, it’s easy to bump up the benefits of this staple fast food with a touch of whole grain and extra vegetables.
And kids will enjoy just about every phase of the pizza-making process, from handling the dough to choosing what goes on top.
Start with a basic whole-grain pizza crust and add whatever vegetables, cheeses and meats your kids desire. You can vary the ratio of whole wheat if your family is initially resistant.
A nice, juicy patty can provide a vehicle for any number of nutritious add-ins.
Healthy burgers for kids can include health-promoting ingredients, such as lentils and quinoa. Salmon burgers are a brain-boosting treat full of omega-3 fatty acids. And even good ol’ beef burgers can get in on the clean-food fun if you choose a leaner type of beef.
You’ll want to finish strong with enticing spreads and other customizable elements. The younger set will enjoy getting creative with garnishes, so the more veggies, the better.
Squished between two whole-grain buns and loaded with your kids’ favorite toppings, these burgers will delight and nourish the entire family.
When you bake your “fries,” you’re already ahead of the game, nutrition wise. Potatoes are, after all, a vegetable — and they’re packed with fiber and vitamin C.
Try sweet potato fries for a boost of beta-carotene. Or try a range of root vegetables in place of potatoes. You can even experiment with unique flavor variations to keep the young ones coming back for more.
Fast-food chicken is a primary food group for many kids and teens. You can increase the health quotient for this lean meat with a few simple tweaks.
Burginger favors fried chicken that’s made with wholesome ingredients but still spot-on for picky palates.
“This chicken tastes like the real deal,” she explained. “And since you’re making it at home, it’s easy to leave out a little salt. Kids love this recipe because it’s easy to eat (hello, chicken drumsticks) and fun!”
Or go a step further and bake a quick chicken dish that keeps all the crispy deliciousness but also sheds some fat.
How about pizza and nachos for dessert? These fast food-style treats will get your kids to nosh on nutritious fruits — no convincing needed.
Colorful fruit pizzas are easy to make and yummy to eat. Slather a sugar-cookie crust with luscious cream cheese frosting and use a mix of berries for the final touch.
Fruit dessert nachos are a blast to prepare. Have the whole gang add heaps of fresh fruit onto oven-baked cinnamon tortilla chips and then drizzle with creamy chocolate sauce.
These healthy versions of fast food will get your family making better food choices and eating scrumptious meals together.
A former academic turned freelance writer and editor, Jennifer Brunton lives and works in Vermont.
This article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to provide medical or legal advice, or to indicate the availability or suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances.
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