In the fast-paced world of parenting, finding the balance between convenience and nutrition can be a daunting task. As a registered dietitian, I understand the challenges parents face when trying to make healthier food choices for their family. We know children can be picky and sometimes the tears and the tantrums aren’t worth dissecting their eating habits. And trust me, I know those tears can lead us to desperation… I’ve already been there as a new mom!
While it’s fun to think you’ll have time to slice apples into cute shapes and make banana pancakes with fruit every morning, it’s just not always feasible. Fortunately, there are simple swaps you can incorporate into your family’s diet without sacrificing taste or convenience. Let’s explore some of these swaps and why they can make a significant difference in your child’s nutrition and well-being.
Dietitian Tips: Healthy Eating Habits for The Family
But, first! I want to talk about building healthy eating routines as a family. A few ways to instill healthy eating habits with your children is by starting at the beginning:
- Teaching Kids About Nutrition: there are some really wonderful resources on the internet, as well as books that make learning about healthy eating fun! These two books, Superhero Kids and Little Doctors, were two of my sons first books on his bookshelves for this reason.
- Involving Children in Meal Planning: whether this means having your children help write out the grocery list or including them in the cooking process, involving your children in meal planning is a really hands on way to teach the importance of family nutrition. Plus, you can get cute matching aprons!
- Building Healthy Eating Routines: similar to the routines I recommend to my patients are few simple changes you can make to encourage healthy eating:
- Be present at meal time and try to avoid screens or other distractions.
- Aim for as many colors as possible on your plate, try and taste the rainbow!
- Eat together as a family. Research has shown that children who eat regular family meals tend to have healthier dietary habits then those who do not.
So, with meal planning and healthy eating in mind, let’s get started on some kid-friendly nutrition education!
Kid-Friendly Dietitian Tips: 5 Swaps for a Healthier Household
1. Greek Yogurt vs. Regular Yogurt
What are Greek Yogurt Benefits compared to regular yogurt?
Greek yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse that provides a higher protein content compared to regular yogurt. Protein is crucial for growing children as it supports muscle development, immune function, and overall energy levels. In a recent study evaluating protein needs for children, the current RDA was drastically lower than what was calculated as actually needed. As of 2021, the protein recommendations in boys and girls < 19 years is 0.85g/kg to 1.2g/kg per day, and will slightly decrease with age. Greek yogurt is a simple and easy way to add more protein into your family’s diet, with a ¼ cup serving of plain Greek yogurt having around 5g of protein.
Additionally, Greek yogurt contains less sugar and more protein than regular yogurt. This will help manage your family’s sugar intake and keep your child feeling full for longer periods. This is particularly important for sustaining energy throughout the day and preventing unhealthy snacking on sugary treats. Try this simple greek yogurt dip for a tasty and high protein treat!
2. Raw Peanut Butter vs. Commercial Peanut Butter
Why is raw peanut butter better than commercial brands like Jiffy?
While popular peanut butter brands such as Jiffy may offer convenience and lower price point, they often come with added sugars, oils, and preservatives. Raw peanut butter, on the other hand, contains just one ingredient – peanuts. This swap provides a healthier fat profile, offering essential monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that support brain development and overall well-being. Furthermore, by avoiding any unnecessary added sugars, you reduce the risk of spiking your child’s blood sugar levels. Stable blood sugar levels mean a steadier source of energy and reduce the likelihood of sugar crashes & temper tantrums! Find my favorite natural peanut butter here.
3. Lentil & Chickpea Pasta vs. Regular Pasta
Why is lentil & chickpea pasta a high fiber pasta swap?
Lentil-based pasta is an excellent nutrient-rich pasta alternative to traditional wheat-based pasta, especially for those looking to increase their child’s protein and fiber intake. Lentils are rich in plant-based proteins, iron, and fiber, promoting heart health and aiding in digestion. Similarly, chickpea-based pasta is another gluten-free, high-fiber swap for traditional pasta. These legume-based pasta swap is especially beneficial for children who may be picky eaters or have sensitivities to gluten, but love classic combos like mac and cheese or spaghetti.
Make a balanced kids’ meal and try my favorite pasta combo!
Mix chickpea pasta with marinara and ground turkey. Add a box of chopped spinach and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. This simple yet hearty meal is something the whole family will love!
4. Fruit Juice vs. Fresh Fruit
Why is whole, fresh fruit better for you than fruit juice?
Even though fruit juice has the word fruit in it, it’s not the same as fresh, whole fruit. Fresh fruit contains more nutritional benefits compared to fruit juice and is substantially lower in sugar. For example, a box of 100% Apple Juicy Juice has 22g of sugar, while a small apple has around 12-15g of sugar. Fresh fruits are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are often lost during the juicing process. Fruit juices are high in sugar and low in fiber, which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and increased appetites. Meanwhile, whole fruit can support healthy weight management thanks to its high fiber content. Fiber will help with feelings of satiety and prevent overeating.
For optimal snack time success, pair fresh fruit with a source of fat and/or protein for blood sugar balance. A few nutritious snacks for children that revolve around fruit could be:
- Apple slices with raw peanut butter
- Clementine oranges with cheese sticks
- Berries and plain greek yogurt
5. Happy Wolf Fridge-Fresh Bars vs. Name-Brand Granola Bar
What makes Happy Wolf Bars the best Low Sugar Snack Bars for children?
Happy Wolf snacks are designed with children’s nutrition in mind, providing a balance of whole grains, protein, and minimal added sugars. Many commercial snack bars and snack options geared towards children on the market may seem healthy but are often loaded with hidden sugars and artificial additives. Happy Wolf fridge-fresh snack bars are a wholesome alternative that doesn’t compromise on taste.
These delicious nut-free snack bars are made from only organic whole-food ingredients such as sunflower seed butter, dates, and gluten-free rolled oats.Happy Wolf bars are free from refined sugars, preservatives, or additives and are also Certified Organic, Clean Label Project Certified and Non-GMO Verified. The dietitian AND mom in me is jumping for joy!! They are recommended for 12 months and up, so my little one is still too young for them for a little while. But my clients with children are already raving about them!
Happy Wolf Bars are naturally high in protein, fiber and healthy fat thanks to their nutrient-dense ingredients. Their bars have half the sugar and more protein than popular kids snack bar, Z Bar, and doesn’t include ingredients like cane sugar or soybean oils. Happy Wolf is a low sugar granola bar that the whole family will love! Try all four of their delicious and nutritious flavors, and use code WHITNESS for 20% off any order placed on their site.
Family-Friendly Healthy Eating Habits
In conclusion, making simple swaps in your child’s diet can have a profound impact on their overall health and well-being. Choosing nutrient-dense options like greek yogurt, raw peanut butter, lentil pasta, and Happy Wolf snacks can provide essential nutrients, support proper growth and development, and set the stage for lifelong healthy eating habits.
As a registered dietitian, I encourage parents to involve their children in the decision-making process. Educating them about the benefits of these swaps and allowing them to explore new flavors can make the transition to healthier eating an enjoyable and empowering experience for the whole family. Remember, small changes today can lead to lifelong nutrition habits in your children tomorrow.
If you’re looking for more nutrition guidance for the entire family, I’m here to help! Schedule a discovery call with me, and let’s set you and your loved ones on the path to snacking success!