How to Make Your Child’s Favorite Foods Healthier

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Convincing small children, especially picky eaters, to eat a healthy, balanced diet is no small task. I know that it’s important, of course. According to the Mayo Clinic, childhood obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, sleeping disorders, asthma, hormone imbalances, hypertension and more. And yet, sometimes at the end of a long day, I don’t want the aggravation of going to the trouble of making a home-cooked meal only to watch the little ones shove it away. So I’ve gotten a bit sneakier about it. Instead of trying to persuade them to eat unfamiliar foods, I try to make healthier versions of ones they already know and love.

Make your child's favorite foods healthier

Pizza

Contrary to its reputation, pizza is actually pretty healthy to begin with. It offers a modest amount of unsaturated fat from the olive oil, calcium and protein from the cheese, and, when made properly, a reasonable number of calories. It only gets out of hand when restaurants load it up with gobs of processed cheese and pepperoni. If you have an oven at home, you can make your own (it’s much easier than it sounds) with a small amount of mozzarella, veggie toppings and a little whole-wheat flour in the dough. Here’s an easy recipe for a whole grain dough.

Fried Chicken

Thai-style fried chicken is delicious, but unfortunately loaded with calories. While it’s fine for you and your children to enjoy the real deal once and a while, for everyday dining, you can make a healthier version at home. Simply dredge skinless chicken breasts or thighs (breasts are leaner, but thighs are higher in iron and other nutrients) in flour, then beaten egg, then seasoned breadcrumbs. Place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and toss them in the oven for a crunchy, family-friendly dinner.

Burgers

Juicy burgers have hit Bangkok in a big way in the last few years, with gourmet restaurants offering extra items such as imported cheeses and bacon. Even if it’s from a high-quality restaurant though, these burgers still pack a nutritional wallop, and slathering them in high-sodium, high-fat toppings doesn’t help. Satisfying your kids’ cravings at home is surprisingly easy though. Simply make your patties with two-thirds lean beef and one-third ground chicken or turkey. Also, make your burgers no more than 100 to 150 grams.

Thai Curries

Most Thai curries gain their sumptuous, creamy texture from coconut milk or cream. While this makes them tasty, it also means that even a relatively small serving can pack in almost a day’s worth of saturated fat. Light coconut milk will not yield quite the same results, but it offers a reasonable approximation. If you must have the full-fat curry, be sure to serve it with brown or black rice and lots of vegetables on the side. That way your kids will fill up on a relatively small serving of this rich delicacy.

Pancakes

This Western breakfast staple already has a huge following in Thailand. Comforting though they are, fluffy pancakes made with refined flour and dripping with syrup aren’t exactly a nutritious start to the day. To make them healthier, try making them with half barley whole-wheat pastry flour (your kids will never know the difference), or subbing in a quarter of whole-grain corn flour for a different taste. Cook them in a moderate amount of canola oil instead of butter, and top them with lightly sweetened yogurt and plenty of fresh fruit.

Photo Credit: Alesist via Compfight cc

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Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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