Moms are busy, and kids get hungry. The easy route is to rely on processed, packaged foods for quick snacks and meals. After all, there's nothing more convenient than something you can simply open and set in front of your kids. Or is there? The power of processed foods is in their ability to make meal times and snack times quicker by providing convenience. With a little prep and a little planning, you can create your own convenience and provide healthier choices for your children.
Kid Friendly Breakfast Foods
Cold cereal is one of the go-to choices for moms of young kids. It may be quick and easy, but it's also often loaded with sugar, is overly processed, and not something that will carry your kids through to lunch time.
- What to use instead: Granola can also be quick and cheap when you make it at home with your own ingredients. It can also be low in sugar and protein-packed. Serve it as is, with milk as a substitute for cold cereal, or with yogurt for a filling option that kids love.
Instant oatmeal gives your kids something warm and filling, but many brands are loaded with sugar, preservatives and lots of additives like "natural flavors" that have no real place on the food chain.
- What to use instead: Baked oatmeal is an easy, make-ahead recipe that you can simply mix up at night and then pop in the oven for a warm, filling and healthy meal in the morning. If you're looking to control sugar consumption, you can also cut back on the sugar in the recipe or use a sugar substitute such as stevia.
Toaster treats and breakfast bars give adults and kids a great option for breakfast-on-the-go, but most brands provide little nutrition and lots of extra calories.
- What to use instead: Whole wheat toast with peanut butter takes, literally, minutes to prepare and gives you fiber and protein in an easy and quick package. You can also spend a morning or night at home making a big batch of whole grain pancakes. Then, freeze or refrigerate in individual portions and simply reheat in the oven for a quick and easy breakfast. Fresh fruit is a good addition and is the ultimate portable food.
Kid Friendly Lunch Options
Canned pastas and soups tend to be high in sodium and often incorporate many ingredients that have never seen the outside of a lab.
- What to use instead: Make your own "pre-made" pasta by cooking up a big batch of whole-grain pasta or ravioli. Topped with an organic sauce or your own homemade sauce, or simply toss with a little parmesan, it's a kid favorite. Refrigerate or freeze it in the correct portions for a single meal for your child(ren), then simply heat for meal time.
"Lunchable" type meals have taken a simple concept - a portable, snackable meal composed of processed meat, cheese and crackers - and run with it. Kids love the separation of foods into single groups, plus the sugary treat that often accompanies it.
- What to use instead: Make your own version with the ingredients of your choosing. You can use whole-grain crackers, whole-wheat pita bread or any other "starch." Cut organic cheese into cubes or slices. Add meat if you want, or skip it (especially on Meatless Mondays!). And throw in washed and prepped vegetables to round it out. Taking the time to prep these easy meals means that literally all you have to do at meal time is pull it out and present it. It's as easy as the processed version but infinitely better for your kids.
Kid Friendly Quick Snacks
It's easy to rely on packaged, processed foods for snack items. You don't want something heavy, and you certainly don't want to spend lots of time in the kitchen. Crackers, fruit roll-ups, candy, cookies, anything pre-sliced, pre-packaged and easy to serve wins points with moms who just want a quick way to satisfy their kids' hunger cravings.
- What to use instead: Fresh fruit provides fiber kids need and the sweetness that they crave. Try grapes (fresh or frozen), apple slices with peanut butter or another nut butter or dip, fresh tangerines or cubed melons. Washed and prepped vegetables with a savory dip can provide a snack that's a bit more substantial. The key to serving healthy snacks is to remember that they don't have to be complicated, and the more your children are served healthy snacks, the more their palate desires them!