Eating healthy is a priority for just about all of us these days. It's easy, though, to get stuck in a rut and prepare the same meals and snacks over and over again. Once we get bored with something, it's just a matter of time before we fall off the nutrition wagon and start reaching for convenient and unhealthy snacks. This is especially true for kids. Kids like their meals fun and interactive -- think finger foods, cool shapes and stuff they can dip. Kids are also more likely to eat healthy food they've helped prepare themselves.
We've put together a list of five healthy meals and snacks that aren't just good for you, but are fun to make and to eat. Prepare these nibbles for yourself and feel like a kid again. If you're a parent, have your kids cook along with you in the kitchen. The recipes are simple, easy, nutritious and fun.
Who doesn't love pizza? It's fun to eat and it's fun to make at home. Keep your pizza healthy by using a whole-wheat crust, lots of veggies and reduced-fat cheese. You can make the process as easy or as difficult as your cooking skills allow. If you don't want to make dough from scratch, pick up some premade dough at the grocery store. Many local pizzerias will sell you dough at a cheap price, too. Same goes for the sauce. Think about making a couple of large pizzas for the whole family to enjoy, or make smaller-sized personal pies so everyone can create their own.
Cut up your favorite veggies -- bell peppers, olives, broccoli, whatever -- into strips and rings. For low-fat protein, buy some turkey pepperoni. Spread the sauce over your dough or crust, leaving room on the edges of the pie. Sprinkle on some cheese. Next, use the veggies and pepperoni to make silly faces or other fun shapes on the pie. Try using pepperoni or olives for eyes, pepper strips for noses and mouths, pepper rings for curly hair or glasses and broccoli or julienned carrots for hair.
Bake according to the crust's directions and soon you'll have your own personal pizza masterpiece.
When you're hungry, you want something you can make quickly. Cut-up fruits and vegetables take very little time to prepare. Jazz up those veggies and fruits with tasty and healthy dips. These are all great ideas for midday snacks. They do great in a child's lunchbox, too.
- Apple Yogurt Dippers -- Core and slice up one apple. For the dip, combine a half cup of plain yogurt, a dash of cinnamon and vanilla extract in a bowl.
- Veggies and Hummus -- Hummus is more nutritious than regular sour cream dip. Buy hummus at your grocery store or make your own at home for a lower-fat version.
- Cherry Tomatoes and Ranch -- Cherry tomatoes need no prep -- just pop them in your mouth. For a low-fat dip, buy dried ranch seasoning and mix it with plain yogurt instead of sour cream. Tip: Look for Greek yogurt. It tastes more like sour cream than regular yogurt.
- Pretzels and Applesauce -- Just what it sounds like. Pretzels are low in fat, and dipping them into applesauce provides a salty-sweet yummy combo. Stick to natural applesauce without added sugar.
- Fruit Salad and Yogurt Dip -- Fill up a bowl with slices of your favorite fruits and berries. For a dip, combine some low-fat yogurt with a little bit of orange juice, honey and cinnamon.
Food on a stick may bring to mind fattening, deep-fried treats at the county fair. But you can also make healthy snacks on a stick. These kabobs are fun to assemble and very portable. Make some in the morning and bring them to work or school for an easy lunch. They don't even require any cooking or grilling. Here are a few ideas for food you can easily skewer:
- Banana Yogurt Bites -- sliced banana dipped in low-fat yogurt, rolled in granola
- Italian Hero -- cubed foccacia, turkey pepperoni, cherry tomatoes and low-fat mozzarella
- Dessert Kabab -- angel food or pound cake cut in fun shapes and strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
If you have leftovers from last night's dinner, try some of these:
- Chicken Nuggets -- cooked chicken nuggets, broccoli, carrots and low-fat ranch dip
- Ravioli Meatball -- leftover ravioli, meatballs, summer squash
- Luau Chicken -- leftover chicken, pineapples, red bell peppers
- Breakfast Kabab -- leftover French toast, berries or peaches with low-fat syrup dip
Freezer popsicles are another snack that's easy and fun to make. You can put just about anything into a smoothie and make it as healthy as you'd like.
You'll need your blender, some yogurt, fruit or juice concentrate, paper cups and popsicle sticks. Just pour your smoothie mixture into a paper cup or mold, insert the stick in the middle, and freeze until solid. Tip: If the popsicle stick won't stand up, cover the cup in aluminum foil and push the stick through the foil. Peel away the paper to eat.
Try these healthy smoothie combos:
- Orange Banana -- Puree one container of Greek yogurt, 2/3 cup orange juice concentrate, two bananas and a tablespoon of lime juice.
- Mango -- Puree one cup mango slices, 1/2 cup mango or peach nectar and a container of nonfat yogurt.
- Honey Berry -- Puree two cups frozen mixed berries, one tablespoon honey and one cup nonfat vanilla yogurt.
Be creative -- use any fruit and yogurt combo that sounds yummy. To add more fiber without altering the taste, toss in two tablespoons of chickpeas. Fiber keeps you feeling full longer and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Sandwiches cut into shapes may seem a little childish, but you can't deny that they're fun to prepare. You can make these sandwiches with your kids for their lunchboxes. You can also make more elegantly-styled finger sandwiches for yourself or a get-together.
All you need are some fun cookie cutters in different shapes and sizes. Make your sandwich as usual, then cut out shapes using the cutter. You can even buy cutters made especially for sandwiches that minimize waste. Cookie cutters are fine, though. You might try shapes like stars, hearts or flowers. You could even buy letter cookie cutters and spell out your child's name or a cute message.
Just about any kind of sandwich will work for these. For a fancy touch, make "grown up" sandwiches, cut into small shapes and served as finger food.
Try some of these ideas for healthy sandwiches. Use multigrain or whole wheat bread for added nutrition.
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Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- "Apple Yogurt Dip." Family Fun Magazine. 2009. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://jas.familyfun.go.com/recipefinder/display?id=13685
- "Dietary fiber: An essential part of a healthy diet." MayoClinic.com. June 23, 2009. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fiber/NU00033
- "For the Lunch Box." Martha Stewart Living. September 1998. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://www.marthastewart.com/good-things/for-the-lunch-box
- "Fruit Salad and Dip." FamilyEducation.com. 2009. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://recipes.familyeducation.com/snacks/fruit-salad-and-dip/57132.html?detoured=1
- "Funny Face Pizza." CafeZoom.com. 2006. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://pbskids.org/zoom/activities/cafe/funnyfacepizza.html
- Magee, Elaine. "Kids Just Want to Have Fun with Food." MedicineNet.com. 2009. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=63850
- "New junk food fad: Deep-fried Twinkies." CNN.com. Sept. 18, 2002. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/West/09/18/offbeat.twinkie.reut/
- "Orange-Banana Smoothie Pops." Country Living. 2009. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://www.countryliving.com/recipefinder/orange-banana-smoothie-pops-recipe
- Topran, Marta. "Ten Smart Healthy Snacks for Moms and Kids." Cookie. 2009. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://www.cookiemag.com/food/2009/05/mom-kid-snacks
- Weeden, Colleen. "Kiddie Kabobs." Parents.com. 2009. (Sept. 9, 2009) http://www.parents.com/recipes/cooking/kid-friendly-food/kiddie-kabobs/