How to Make Kids’ Favorite Foods Healthy

At our Raleigh preschool, we know toddlers, preschoolers, and young children can be picky and often have a fairly limited menu of foods they’re willing to try. You don’t want to make meal times stressful, but you also want your child to eat healthy meals. Sometimes, it’s good to push the envelope and get your child to try new things, but that’s not always feasible. For those busy nights where you just want a peaceful dinner, we’re sharing some tips to turn kids’ favorite foods – even chicken nuggets! – into a healthy, wholesome meal!

Make-Ahead Chicken Nuggets

Chicken nuggets are delicious, but they’re high in sodium, preservatives, and other things that aren’t great for growing children. Fortunately, with a little bit of prep ahead of time, you can make a big batch of these tasty chicken nuggets, freeze them, and serve them guilt-free anytime! Make a healthy meal by serving them with steamed veggies and baked sweet potato fries. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup flour 
  • 2 teaspoons ground paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup bread crumbs 
  • Non-stick spray

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly coat a baking sheet with oil.
  • Pat your chicken dry and cut into chunks or strips.
  • Prepare three shallow dishes such as soup plates on your kitchen counter. To the first dish add the flour, paprika, salt and pepper and mix until combined. To the second dish add the egg and beat well. To the third dish add the breadcrumbs.
  • Coat your chicken chunks first with the flour and shake off any excess. Then dip the chunks into the beaten egg and finally coat with the breadcrumbs. Discard any leftover breadcrumbs and flour!
  • Distribute the coated chicken pieces evenly on the baking tray and spray the tops of the breaded chicken chunks with oil.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, turning the chicken nuggets once halfway through.

You can customize these however you like – add garlic powder, onion, or even taco seasoning if your child likes spicy stuff!

To freeze: Let them cool all the way, then freeze them on the baking sheet for about an hour, then transfer them to a freezer bag or other suitable container to store in the freezer. Use within three months. 

To reheat: Place in 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or microwave them. 

Recipe courtesy of Savory Nothings

Veggie Quesadilla

Flour tortilla, sprinkle of cheese – an easy kid-favorite, but it’s also a snap to make into a healthier option. First, instead of the white, flour tortilla, use a 100% whole wheat option – that will add a bit of protein and plenty of whole grains. On top of that sprinkle of cheese, you can add a few tablespoons of any of these options (or several of them!): 

  • Black beans
  • Corn
  • Diced tomato
  • Bell pepper
  • Spinach

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches

The PB&J is a classic go to for toddlers, preschoolers, and honestly, a lot of grownups, but white bread, peanut butter, and jelly isn’t exactly a nutrient-filled combination. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix! Like the quesadilla, swap out enriched bread for 100 percent whole wheat or whole grain bread, and that alone will boost the nutrition.

What about the peanut butter? While it’s a great source of natural protein, most peanut butters have added sugars and oils, so you’ll want to read the label, and consider making the transition to natural peanut butter. Natural peanut butters do need to be stirred because the natural oils separate, but pro tip from our Raleigh preschool: just store the jar upside down! It forces oils at the top to travel back down into the peanut butter, making it easy to spoon and spread. 

Finally, the jelly. Jelly is just fruit juice concentrate, sugar, and pectin, so it’s definitely not a source of nutrition. Top the peanut butter with very thinly sliced banana, apple, or strawberry instead of adding jelly, or, for the pickiest of eaters, mash the banana or strawberry or use applesauce instead for a closer jelly experience. 

Add Healthy Pizzazz to Pizza

Pizza is another favorite that is not always healthy, but as long as you’re feeling a bit sneaky, it’s actually really easy to make it nutritious. Using a blender, you can add cooked spinach, carrots, mushrooms, and all kinds of vegetables into tomato sauce, and add it to your family’s pizza. All of us at our Raleigh preschool recommend buying a whole wheat crust, rather than making a pizza crust from scratch and top it with the pizza sauce recipe below. 

 Ingredients: 
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 2 sweet mini peppers chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli florets chopped small
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp mushroom bullion
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 to matoes chopped
  • 1 can tomato sauce 8 ounces
  • 1/2 cup red kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup favorite spaghetti sauce or extra tomatoes this helps it get that red color kids expect
  • 1 tsp oregano dry
  • 1 tsp parsley dry

Note: if you have extra sauce, refrigerate it, mix it with spaghetti sauce, and serve it with pasta!

Instructions: 

  • Chop up all your veggies really small 
  • Put water, bullion, and vegetables in a pot, and bring to a boil, then turn down to a medium heat and cook until veggies are soft. This takes about 15 minutes
  • Put everything, broth included (that is where the nutrients are), into a blender and blend until smooth
  • Add in beans, tomato sauce, seasonings, and spaghetti sauce, and blend until smooth
  • Top pizza crust with 1 cup of sauce
  • Top with 2 cups of mozzarella cheese and favorite pizza toppings.  
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 475 for 15-17 minutes

Notes: You can tinker with the sauce recipe a bit – use spinach instead of broccoli, leave out peppers, use chicken bullion instead of mushroom – make it your own! Also, if you really want to trick the kids, put the sauce in a spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce jar. 

Courtesy of Easy Peasy Meals

Our Raleigh Preschool Supports Balanced Nutrition

Our experienced team of teachers understand how hard it can be to get young children to eat healthy, nourishing foods. That’s why we make nutrition a key part of our 5-star child care experience, providing healthy foods and teaching nutrition! 

To learn more about our preschool and take a tour, call our North Hills Drive location at 919-785-0303 or our Spring Forest location at 919-790-6888, or fill out our convenient contact form to get started!