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Healthy Kids Fresh Food Rule: Add Balance To Busy Meals

Kids Healthy Food Meals: Keep It Balanced With Fresh Foods

fresh food ruleMy two youngest on the first day back to school: le rentrée is in full session!

We are back here in France in the midst of a busy ‘rentrée’. Apologies for the lapse of time between posts this summer. We had a full-packed schedule the last few months. Full-packed with fun, but this took my time away from writing on the blog.

This article is about a healthy eating rule that I use for feeding the family during busy days (I am using it for today’s lunch too!). If your days (and weeks) are also ‘over-the-top’ busy, this trick of adding a fresh food part to quickly prepared meals keeps the balance in the menu.

Healthy Kids Food Fresh Rule: Add A Raw Food To Quickly Prepared Meals

Do you struggle with time to prepare healthy home-cooked meals for yourself or your family? Do you feel guilty about this?

Here is the skinny: even dietitians feed their kids those ‘unhealthy’ highly processed and ready-to-eat foods sometimes. And I say this with all truthfulness, because I am one of them. And during very busy periods (like right now in France during the rentrée), our intake of these convenient type food increases.

To add a healthy balance to these processed food meals I use my fresh food rule. It works like this:

Food Processed or Fried Main Course? Add a Fresh Side to Balance

Fried chicken, hot dogs, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, frozen pizza or boxed macaroni and cheese. These are some of the highly processed convenience foods that I have fed my kids for a fast lunch or dinner, or a ‘too tired to think of cooking‘ night or just a ‘why not’ meal. Oui, my kids eat these convenient foods in moderation, but sometimes I serve them more than I would like to admit.


Today’s lunch: store-bought frozen poisson pané (breaded fish squares). Cooked for 6 minutes on the stove in a pan.

Fresh sides : Green salad with garden picked tomatoes and quickly cooked-from-frozen sweet green peas.

Read on for some more tips:

Healthy Food Meals Ideas for Kids: Add A Splash of Fresh Fruit, Vegetable or Herbs

#1. The Pizza

photo(14)This was our summer Friday night ‘staple’ dinner: take out pizza with raw fixings that my kids decorated on the pizza.

  • Raw sweet onion, fresh herbs such as basil, sliced green or red pepper and just-picked tomatoes. Be creative. Why order toppings on the pizza when you can provide your own? It is cheaper and healthier with this fresh food rule.

Here is a less-healthy option: pepperoni pizza

Pepperoni Pizza-7

#2. Eggs

IMAG7635With this cheese omelet, fresh tomato is served in place of hash browns. Exotic fresh fruit like pineapple, mango or kiwi can be a side dish for an egg main course.

Here is the less healthy option: omelet, hash browns and sausage

Omelette and Hash Browns @ Mel's Drive-in

#3. Macaroni and Cheese

IMAG7168Boxed (Kraft) Macaroni and Cheese prepared with canned tunafish. Is this another one of your kid’s favorites? Here it is served with sliced green pepper, tomatoes and cucumber.

(Hint-with boxed macaroni and cheese you can adapt the ingredients to make it healthier: cut the butter in half and add your own dried macaroni to cook with the macaroni given in the box. You get more servings without loss of taste).

Less healthy option: macaroni and cheese with fried chicken, fresh fries and sauce

Fried chicken and waffles

#4 Premade Fried Foods 

fresh food ruleAnother one of our summer favorites: fried chicken from local grocery along with fresh coleslaw, green beans mixed with corn

Examples of kids meals to avoid: Fried +Fried +Fat

#1 Fried chicken, French fries, Fried onion rings and mashed potatoes.

Saturday Night SupperThis is an example of a plate that needs healthy balancing. What would you take away and add instead?

#2 Hot Dogs and French Fries

kid's meal - hot dog

Hotdogs are highly processed foods that need some ‘high powered’ nutrition freshness. Why not substitute carrot sticks or sliced cucumber sticks in place of french fries?

#3 Fried with a rich sauce

Fried Mac & Cheese @ California Pizza KitchenThis looks good but fried mac and cheese needs some major fresh to balance it out!

#4 Fast Food at Home

fresh food ruleI know how easy it is to pick up a Happy Meal or another fast food menu to bring home for a kid’s meal. One way to make a fast-food meal at home healthier is to substitute water in place of soda and fresh fruit for dessert.

The Ideal Kid’s Balanced Plate:

Eat Your Colors on Portion Control PlatesTo finish, cannot take credit for this creation, but voila-the perfect healthy and balanced kid’s meal! Fresh fruit and vegetables, macaroni and cheese and black beans. Looks appetizing (even for the most discriminating eaters) and packed  high with lots of kids’ nutrition.

Some fresh food ideas to add to your next ‘too busy to cook’ meal:

  • half a grapefruit as a first course
  • slices of fresh fruit (kids love exotic fruit like kiwi and pineapple) served with chicken nuggets or hotdogs
  • slices of red, green or yellow peppers as a side dish
  • tomatoes! (cherry or slices)
  • salad (even ready from a bag if you are in a real hurry!)
  • frozen green peas whipped up to eat in 5 minutes in the microwave
  • carrot sticks

And what are your favorite fresh ideas that you can slice up in a flash?

Fresh Rule and Kid’s Meals at the Restaurant

My complaint at restaurants is the horrendously unhealthy kid meals offered. Fried + Fat + Food Processed and very little Fresh. While eating out is a pleasure and kids should have the opportunity to eat foods they like, it is also important to balance the kid’s menu outside the home.

What I do at restaurants to keep the Fresh Rule for kids:

  • Not order the kid’s meals and have two of my kids split an adult meal.
  • Order a couple of side dishes (side of vegetable, a side of a large meatball, a side of a bowl of pasta) that add up as the main dish.
  • Order an appetizer that my child would like.
  • Order the kid’s meals and ask for substitution if possible for something fresh.

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Warmly, Mary

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5 Responses to Healthy Kids Fresh Food Rule: Add Balance To Busy Meals

  1. order fresh fruits online January 13, 2017 at 10:24 #

    Thanks for sharing great healthy foods idea healthy food really helpful over body.

  2. Delores Alatorre June 13, 2016 at 04:35 #

    Thanks for this wonderful tips. I’m one of those moms who are blessed to have kids that loves vegetable so much. so serving veggies on their meal isn’t much of a dilemma for me.

  3. Jennifer May 6, 2016 at 06:00 #

    I like the idea of adding something fresh in the usual fast food meals. Egg omelet and fresh tomato is a good idea, will try this one with my kids. Thanks for giving me some great ideas.

  4. Julieane December 5, 2014 at 06:30 #

    My kids loves eggs, I served this cheese omelet with fresh tomatoes and to my surprise they liked it as well. Thanks for the inspirations.
    Julieane recently posted..5 Budget-Friendly Add-ons to Hype up your Debut Party

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