Kids Healthy Food Meals: Keep It Balanced With Fresh Foods
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
- 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
Here is the less healthy option: omelet, hash browns and sausage
#3. Macaroni and Cheese
(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
#4 Premade Fried Foods
Examples of kids meals to avoid: Fried +Fried +Fat
#1 Fried chicken, French fries, Fried onion rings and mashed potatoes.
#2 Hot Dogs and French Fries
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
#4 Fast Food at Home
I 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:
To 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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