Got picky eaters? Looking for some healthy eating hacks? One of the biggest health issues facing kids today is obesity.
In 2015-2016, the prevalence of obesity in children aged 2-19 was 18.5%, with obesity affecting about 13.7 million children and adolescents.
Really, this shouldn’t be all that surprising.
The snack aisles at grocery stores are stocked with sugary treats all marketed towards kids, while fast-food commercials on TV target the youth audience as well.
That’s where parents need to step in to encourage healthy eating and lifestyle habits at a young age with some healthy eating hacks.
It can be hard at first to convince your kids that healthy foods actually taste good.
But by using a few of the following healthy eating hacks, you will have your kids (or even your partner!) well on their way to following a nutritious and delicious diet.
Getting kids to eat healthily isn't easy, but it's crucial to optimize their health, growth, and development. Try these 25 recipes for healthy snacks for kids!
7 Healthy Eating Hacks for Even the Pickiest of Eaters
1. Take Your Kids Grocery Shopping
As a busy parent, you may typically do the grocery shopping on your own after driving home from work or while the kids are at school.
Next time, take your kids along and let them be involved with picking out food for the week.
These shopping trips will give you the opportunity to teach your kids about making smart nutrition choices.
Simple tricks, like shopping in the periphery of stores where the fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats are will help them understand how to choose foods high in quality nutrients.
Your kids will more than likely still wander towards the snack aisle.
While having sugary or salty snacks once in a while is part of being a kid too, remind them that these are foods that should be eaten in moderation.
One healthy eating hack is allowing them to choose one snack while shopping and to only eat this on planed occasions as a special treat.
2. Have Them Plan Weekly Meals
Going along with the grocery shopping theme, you can also have your kids help plan your weekly meals.
Coming up with breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes is a great way to teach them about how to create meals that have the right combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
When your kids go along with meal planning, they know that their opinion counts, and this will make them more open to listening to your guidance regarding healthier options for their meals.
The USDA website is a great resource to use in meal planning as well and can aid in healthy eating hacks.
Meal planning for families can be tough, especially when you’re busy. This video will provide you with a guide to easy meal prepping for weight loss for you and your busy family!
3. Cook With Your Kids
If you really want to encourage healthy eating, don’t just have your kids plan meals, have them actually cook them with you!
When they see the process that goes into healthy cooking, they can carry this over when they prepare their own foods.
Plus, your kids will be more apt to eat something that they helped make as it gives them a sense of accomplishment.
4. Make Snacks “Fun”
One of the top ways to get kids to eat healthy snacks is to turn into a fun treat.
Here are some ideas for fun, healthy snacks for your kiddos.
- Grab some skewers and whatever fruit your kids enjoy and start stacking them together.
- Have the kids help make these colorful snacks that will pack in tons of vitamins and minerals.
- Some popular fruits to include are pineapple, grapes, strawberries, and blueberries.
Ants on a Log
- This old standby is the perfect way to combine fruits, vegetables, and quality protein into a snack.
- All you need is celery, peanut butter, and raisins (or any fruit you choose).
- Spread the peanut butter over the celery.
- Then add the raisins in a line over the peanut butter (or blueberries, dried cranberries, whatever the kids like!)
- The kids won’t even know they are eating their fruits and veggies!
- Slice green or red apples into 1/2-inch circles.
- Spread 1 tablespoon peanut butter between two apple slices and add 4 mini pretzel stick legs to each side of the apple.
- This is another fun snack that makes eating fruit fun, and also packs in the protein.
Struggling to find snacks that are healthy for your family? Try these 5 healthy snacks you can make at home!
5. Teach Them How to Read Food Labels
Understanding food labels is extremely important, especially as your kids get a little bit older.
Kids may love those sweet snack cakes and treats, but when you show them the ingredient list of what actually makes up these foods, they will soon realize they don’t really want to put partially hydrogenated oils in their body.
Teaching your children about the proper ratio of macro-nutrients and the number of micro-nutrients that are required daily to keep their bodies healthy is a huge step in promoting healthy eating.
Then, when they are out on their own they will know how to do this for themselves.
Don't know how to read nutrition labels yourself? This video will show you how!
6. Make Junk Food Healthy
The truth is, adults and kids alike love having junk food.
While it’s fine to indulge on occasion, if your kids are regularly eating sweets, greasy foods, and salty snacks, this is going to lead to weight gain and poor health.
One way to satisfy these cravings is to make healthier versions of these not so healthy foods.
Try out some of these easy recipes that put a healthy spin on junk food.
Kids love tater tots, but these greasy snacks aren’t the greatest option for healthy eating.
Instead, up the nutrient score and get your kids to eat their vegetables by making broccoli tots instead.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Cut up a head of broccoli into florets and add to a boiling pot of water. Cook the broccoli for about 5 minutes, or until the florets are slightly tender. Drain the broccoli and place it into a food processor.
- Pulse the broccoli for a few seconds just until it breaks down into small pieces.
- Measure out 3 packed cups of the broccoli and add it to a large bowl. Add a quarter cup of breadcrumbs, a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese, and one egg. Mix these ingredients together.
- Mold about 2 tablespoons into a tater tot shape and arrange the tots on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart.
- Bake the tots for about 20 minutes then flip them once and bake them an additional 10 or until crispy.
French fries are the ultimate fast food.
Unfortunately, french fries contain high amounts of fat and little nutritious value.
Zucchini fries are a great option to get your kids to still feel like they are getting a fast-food treat while eating healthy at the same time.
- Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C). Cut two zucchinis into sticks, or fry shapes.
- Combine a cup of breadcrumbs, a half cup of Parmesan cheese, a tablespoon each of garlic powder and basil, and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
- Whisk 2 eggs in a bowl and dip the zucchini sticks into the eggs. Coat the sticks evenly and then toss in the bread crumb mixture.
- Place the zucchini sticks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway.
- You can serve these with ketchup just like regular french fries. Your kids won’t even know that they are eating zucchini!
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt
What kid doesn’t love ice cream?
Well, you can even turn this delicious dessert into a healthier treat.
By using Greek yogurt and protein you can get some serious protein into your kids' diet.
- Combine three bananas, a cup of Greek yogurt, and a cup of peanut butter in a food processor.
- Blend on a high setting until you have a smooth, even consistency.
- Pour this mixture into an 8×8 baking pan.
- Pour a half cup of chocolate chips (milk, dark, or white) on top and smooth into an even layer.
- Freeze for at least two hours.
- You may need to let it sit out for 5-10 minutes before scooping if frozen for a longer period of time.
7. Make Small Substitutions
While you may want to go all-in with healthy eating, it can be easier for kids to accept small changes at first.
This can then progress to healthier eating in the long run.
For example, studies have shown that sugar-sweetened drinks like soda are associated with obesity in children.
If your kids drink a lot of soda, they may be reluctant to only drink water at first.
You can first try switching to unsweetened sparkling waters to try to transition them from high-calorie sodas.
If your kids get off of school and immediately go to grab a snack when they get home, make sure you only stock the cupboards with healthy, but still tasty, options.
You can make some of the fun snacks mentioned above and have them ready in the refrigerator.
Or you can keep simple foods with high nutritional value stocked up.
Some great snack options for kids to just grab and go include peanut butter, apples, low-sugar yogurt, oatmeal, and bite-size carrots.
You can also make substitutions in your baking if you still want your kids to be able to enjoy desserts like brownies or cookies without all of the fat and calories.
With many recipes, you can substitute applesauce, bananas, or even Greek yogurt for butter or oil.
Rather than forcing your kids to eat healthy foods, help them understand how eating healthier will help them do better in school, sports, and activities, and have more energy.
Not only does this cut down on the fat and calorie content, but it also increases the nutrient value.
Healthy Eating Hacks For Lifelong Health
Getting your kids to eat healthy may seem like a daunting task, especially when you are up against fast-food giants and ads promoting unhealthy food options on a daily basis.
But with a few simple tricks and food substitutions, you can show your children just how easy, and satisfying, healthy eating can be.
These dietary changes won't just benefit your kids now, but also in the long-term.
These aren't just healthy eating hacks, they are positive nutritional changes that your children can continue for the rest of their lives.
*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on healthy eating hacks.