With the kids home from school for at least a few more weeks, we know you were probably lax with their general healthy eating rules.
But now that another school year is about is about to be in full-swing, it’s important to re-establish healthy eating habits and make sure your children have a great foundation for healthy minds and bodies.
Since transitioning out of summer fun and into the classroom can be difficult, here are some healthy alternatives to typical kid summer favorites.
Chicken Apple Sausages
Instead of: Hot Dogs
One study found that children who eat more than 12 hot dogs per month are significantly more likely to develop childhood leukemia than children who don’t eat them. They’re filled with sodium and saturated fat, which can help increase their chances of dehydration and heart disease.
Chicken apple sausages, on the other hand, are made with lean meat that’s lower in fat, calories and salt. The sausages also contain bits of nutritious apple, which add a touch of sweetness that most kids love.
Instead of: Meat Pizza
One slice of standard pizza packs nearly 300 calories, and, like hot dogs, it’s loaded with saturated fat and sodium – 700 mg per piece (Kids need only 1,000 to 1,300 mg per day).
Homemade veggie pizza on whole-grain crust is not only healthier, but children love to help make it. Buy a premixed ball of whole-grain dough, low-sodium tomato sauce and vegetables your little one likes.
“Mushrooms, green peppers, red peppers and tomatoes are great choices,” says Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, MHS, RD, LD, a registered dietitian in St. Louis, MO. “You can also add skinless chicken breast or lean hamburger for protein,” which keeps kids fuller, longer and means less rooting around in the kitchen for a snack.
Instead of: Sports Drinks & Popsicles
Things like sports drinks and particular sugary ice pops may seem refreshing, but they’re actually filled with sugar and artificial flavors and dyes.
“Pop a few slices of watermelon into the freezer,” advises Crandall. “Watermelon has a high water content, so the result is a sweet treat that keeps kids hydrated.”
You can also freeze grapes (just don’t give them to children under four years old, as they can be choking hazards), blueberries and orange slices as other tasty, nutritious options.
Instead of: Ice Cream
An occasional ice cream treat won’t hurt your child, but considering that one-cup scoop of plain vanilla ice cream contains more than 400 calories and 40 grams of sugar, it’s good to be aware of healthier options that you can serve to them more often.
How do you make banana whip, filled with potassium-rich goodness? It’s actually pretty easy:
1. Peel several bananas, cut them into chunks and freeze them.
2. Once they’re frozen, put the slices into a food processor for about five minutes until they’ve turned into what looks like light-and-fluffy soft serve.
Instead of: Salty Snacks
Kids like crunchy foods (so do their parents). But instead of sodium-and-fat loaded snacks like chips, try encouraging them to eat crunchy fruits and vegetable, like grilled corn, which are good sources of fiber. For a calcium boost on top of the fiber fix, roll an ear of grilled corn in a bit of shredded sharp Cheddar or Parmesan cheese.
How much fiber does your child need, anyway? To figure that out, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests adding five to your child’s age (if he’s between 3 and 18).
Healthy Homemade Cookies
Instead of: Store-Bought Cookies
Cookies are the go-to snack for so many children. But instead of throwing a regular package of empty-calorie cookies in the grocery cart, try to make your own, using healthy ingredients like oatmeal, raisins, applesauce and other types of nutritious dried fruits.
Plus, like pizza, making cookies is a project that your child will love to help out with.