10 healthy swaps for your kid's favourite lunch foods

If you’ve ever tried getting a kid to eat their veggies, you know that it can be a battle of wills. Parents can try to model good food choices, but the foods kids crave may not always be the foods that are good for them. And as a result, parents and children are left in a standoff to see which side will cave in first.

Getting your kids to trade in their sweet and salty favourites for healthier options can be a chore, particularly if you have a finicky eater on your hands. But with a little creativity, you can find ways to lighten up some of the meals they love.

Vitamin-packed muffins make a healthy breakfast on the go.

Wikimedia CommonsBreakfast just got easier.

If you’re looking for an easy, healthy breakfast option, give this blueberry muffin recipe a try. Blueberries are a great source of antioxidants and vitamin C. And the applesauce, whole wheat flour, and avocado oil in this muffin recipe makes them lower in fat and sugar than most bakery options.

Bake up a bunch on the weekend and have weekday breakfast on the table in less time than it takes to pour a bowl of cereal.

Steer clear of sugary drinks.

sean dreilinger on flickrJuice boxes are packed with sugar.

Juice boxes are an undeniably convenient way to give your kids a drink on the go. But before your little one takes a sip from that straw, take a peek at the label to see exactly what they’re drinking.

One 6 fl oz. Hi-C Flashin’ Fruit Punch juice box has 80 calories, 22 grams of sugar, as well as high fructose corn syrup. For a healthier option, look for juice boxes with less sugar and all natural ingredients instead. For example, a 6.75 fl oz. Honest Kids Super Fruit Punch drink has 40 calories, 9 grams of sugar, and all natural ingredients. Or better yet, send them off to school with a thermos filled with cold water instead.

Bake veggies for a great sandwich companion.

Graham Holt / FlickrVeggie chips have less sodium.

Who doesn’t love potato chips? But you should know that there is an unhealthy amount of fat and sodium in many of these salty snacks. A serving of Lays classic potato chips contains 10 g of fat and 170 mg of sodium.

But don’t despair – your kids don’t have to eat their sandwiches alone. Baked veggie chips are a healthier option and a great way to sneak in another serving of veggies for the day. Terra sweet potato chips, for example, have only 10 mg of sodium.

You can also make your own veggie chips with practically any veggie in your fridge including sweet potatoes, beets, and kale. Sprinkle thinly sliced veggies with a small amount of sea salt and oil. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Make a healthier mac and cheese.

liz west / FlickrThere’s nothing cauliflower can’t do.

Mac and cheese is an easy go-to meal that kids love. But beware of high amounts of sodium that can be found in even the organic brands. Kraft macaroni & cheese contains 570 mg of sodium.Annie’s Homegrown classic macaroni & cheese may seem like a better option, but it contains 540 mg of sodium.

Try a healthier version of this kid-friendly favourite with First Lady Michelle Obama’s own cauliflower mac & cheese recipe. This dish is kid approved. The First Lady says her lower sodium recipe is one of Sasha and Malia’s favourites. Obama’s lower sodium version adds a ½ head of cauliflower to the typical noodles and cheese.

Try a new twist on nuggets.

Sarah Schmalbruch/INSIDEROpt for nuggets with less sodium.

Although they may be fun for your kids to eat, chicken nuggets at your local grocery store or favourite fast food restaurant often contain high levels of sodium and lots of preservatives. For example, there is 470 mg of sodium in five Tyson chicken nuggets.

As a healthier option that’s just as tasty, try this recipe for baked chicken pieces coated with brown rice cereal and seasoning instead. If you want to make your nuggets even more fun to eat, cut your chicken pieces in a variety of cool shapes.

Makeover your mash with cauliflower.

bhofack2 / iStockThey will taste just like mashed potatoes.

If you’re looking for a healthy side dish option for dinner, this mashed cauliflower recipe is a great way to “sneak” more veggies into your kid’s diet. Add garlic, fresh herbs, and a bit of Parmesan cheese to puréed cauliflower for a side dish so delicious your kiddies will have no idea they’re eating something healthy.

Polenta pizza crust is great for gluten-free kids.

ShutterstockTop it with greens.

Put a healthy spin on your Friday night family pizza. This polenta crust pizza recipe is especially awesome you’re gluten-free. Top your crust with fresh cheese, herbs, and cherry tomatoes for a yummy pizza with less fat and calories than your delivery.

Naturally sweet cookies are a great treat.

ShutterstockThere’s such a thing as healthy cookies.

If you’re worried about the amount of sugar in your kids’ favourite cookies, give these applesauce raisin cookies a try. The raisins, dates, and applesauce work together to make a naturally sweet after-school snack. The oats are high in fibre and loaded with important vitamins like B1 and magnesium.

Give dessert a do-over.

frank60/ ShutterstockThey won’t know the difference.

You don’t have to ditch dessert altogether to keep your kids from having too much sugar. Try making your own frozen fruit bars for a healthy option with less sugar. Just purée your favourite fruit and freeze for four to six hours. Or blend frozen mangoes, coconut milk, and maple syrup together and freeze for an ice cream alternative that won’t leave you feeling guilty.

Upgrade your PB & J.

Maurina Rara/Flickr/Attribution 2.0The banana adds potassium.

It’s no secret that kids often love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But jelly can have loads of sugar. Smucker’s strawberry jam 12 grams of sugar per 1 tbsp. Instead of buying store-bought jelly, try making low sugar jam at home. Use whole grain bread rather than white, unsweetened peanut butter, and add a banana.

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