“I have found that if you explain to your children why a food is good or not good for them, things become easier,” advises Maria-Paula Carrillo, M.S., a clinical dietitian at Children’s. “Allowing them to make certain food choices also helps. For example, give them two fruit choices with their meal or let them pick the flavor of their yogurt for a snack.”
Here, Carrillo recommends five healthy foods to serve your kids along with serving suggestions, and she also lists five not-so-healthy choices to think twice about letting them eat and alternatives for them.
PizzaStay away from toppings like high-fat meats and extra cheese as well as dips like butter or ranch dressing. But pizza can be a balanced meal if you add some vegetables or fruits and lean meats (like grilled chicken), and choose a thin crust.
Serving suggestion — make your own at home using an English muffin, marinara sauce, low fat cheese, ham or chicken and their favorite vegetable.
DoughnutsThey can have up to 20 g fat and 20 g sugar per serving, and from 250 to 450 calories per doughnut. In addition, eating one of these for breakfast will have your little one sleepy and hungry within a few hours.
Alternative — offer a whole grain waffle with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and ½ a banana as the topping.
BerriesGood sources of lutein (good for vision) as well as antioxidants and phytochemicals (which help prevent many diseases). Naturally low in calories and fat and rich in fiber. Quick and colorful snack for kids.
Serving suggestion — blend them with milk and ice to make a refreshing smoothie or layer them on top of yogurt and high fiber cereals for an easy breakfast or afternoon snack.
Candied Fruit SnacksThese sticky “candies” may contain only a small amount of fruit or fruit juice; are usually made of sugar, gelatin, and more sugar; and can cause tooth decay. May have added vitamins but fresh fruits have them, too, and they are natural.
Alternative — try a small serving (1/4 cup) of dried fruit.
PopcornThe air-popped kind not covered in butter. This snack is a whole grain and good fiber source. Without extra toppings, it is a low–fat, low–calorie snack. For flavor, sprinkle with small amounts of salt or butter-flavored sprays.
Serving suggestion — for a quick snack, have 100 calorie bags of popcorn ready to pop at any time.
Sugary BeveragesJuice, soda, fruit punch, flavored milks, sweet tea, etc. These high-calorie, high-sugar drinks can cause many problems in children, including rapid weight gain, decreased appetite, cavities, and change in bowel patterns.
Alternative — choose water or skim or 1 percent milk.
HummusMade of chickpeas, which are rich in fiber and protein and a good iron source. High in fat, but mostly unsaturated fats (the healthy ones) that decrease the risk for heart disease. Good alternative to animal protein.
Serving suggestion — let them dip carrot sticks and pretzels in it or spread it over bread or crackers.
Salad ToppingsCan be deceiving. Many salads are very high in calories and fat because of the toppings we choose, such as nuts, bacon, cheese, and regular salad dressing.
Alternative — choose a low-fat dressing (2 tablespoons or less) and limit high-calorie toppings (nuts, bacon pieces, cheese, croutons) to 1 tablespoon per ingredient and no more than four “extra”ingredients.
EggsBack on the “good” list. A good protein source but also contain choline, which helps regulate the brain as well as the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Good for vision, too, due to their carotenoid content.
Serving suggestion — include them in more than just breakfast. Eggs are a great variation to your typical dinner protein. Scramble them and mix in a new vegetable or boil it and add it to a salad.