Healthy Eating Tips and Recipes for Kids

Fun strategies and mom-tested ideas for encouraging your kids to eat better, be healthier, and enjoy their food

Everything in this slideshow

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Photograph by Tim MacKay

Banana Sushi

Packed with fiber and heart-healthy potassium, these one-bite treats lend themselves to tasty customization.

Start with a peeled banana. Trim one end so that it's flat, and set the banana upright on the cut. Use a butter knife to apply a coating of all-natural (sugar-free) nut butter, then roll the fruit in a healthy topping. Shown here: chia seeds; unsweetened, shredded coconut; crushed pretzels; and chopped walnuts. Cut into 3/4-inch slices and serve.

This For That
Can't eat peanut butter? This recipe also works with sunflower-seed or soy butter.

Originally published in the April 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Photograph by Tim MacKay

The Right Stuff

Serve up a treat for two that's packed with heart-healthy fiber and other good-for-you nutrients. Simply halve and pit an avocado, then divide one of our kid-friendly fillings between the portions.

Try it three ways:

Black Bean Salad (top): 1/4 cup black beans + 2 Tbsp. each corn and diced red bell pepper + 2 tsp. minced scallion + 2 pinches chili powder + 1/2 tsp. each olive oil and lime juice + salt + sprinkle of cheddar

Lightened-up BLT (middle): 2 Tbsp. each diced ham and tomato + 3 Tbsp. shredded lettuce + 1 tsp. mayo + salt and pepper + a few croutons

Strawberry Salsa (bottom): 3 Tbsp. chopped strawberries + 1 1/2 tsp. finely diced red onion + 2 Tbsp. cucumber + 1/2 tsp. lime juice + 2 tsp. cilantro + salt and pepper

Originally published in the March 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Photograph by Joe Polillio

Cupid Kebabs

Let your kids make these simple tomato and cheese skewers and they just might fall in love with healthy snacking. Start by diagonally trimming away the ends of two grape tomatoes and trimming small pieces of cheese (we used cheddar) for the arrow parts. Then have your kids assemble the pieces on a toothpick as shown.

Originally published in the February 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Photograph by Tim MacKay

Fruit and Veggie Scroll-ups

Our oven-dried fruit leather is bursting with sweetness, all natural, and surprisingly easy to make. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Microwave 2 medium beets in 1/2 cup water until tender, about 9 minutes. Let them cool, then peel and puree in a blender with 2 1/2 cups trimmed strawberries and 3/4 cup pitted dates. Line a rimmed baking sheet (ours is 15 by 10 inches) with a silicone baking mat (available for about $20 where cooking supplies are sold). Evenly spread on the puree. Bake until the leather is no longer sticky, about 5 hours. Cool in the pan, then peel it off the mat and cut into 8 strips. Roll them up in parchment paper.

This for That: You can replace the strawberries in this recipe with an equal amount of diced apple.

Originally published in the February 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Photograph by Tim MacKay

Serve a Sunshine Parfait

This yummy medley of citrus fruit and toasted crunchies is sure to brighten your child's morning while providing a healthy dose of vitamin C. To make a batch of the toasted add-ins, spread 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut and 1 cup sliced almonds on separate baking sheets and toast them in an oven at 350°, checking and stirring frequently, until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. (This step can be done ahead and the ingredients stored in airtight containers.) To assemble the parfait, peel and cut an orange into segments. Place half in the bottom of a 6-ounce glass. Sprinkle on a heaping teaspoon of toasted coconut, followed by a generous tablespoon of plain low-fat yogurt. Repeat the layers, then top with a heaping teaspoon of toasted almonds.

Originally published in the December/January 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Photograph by Tim MacKay

Pumpkin Nut Butter

This pie-inspired dip from healthy-dessert blogger Katie Higgins (chocolatecoveredkatie.com) is loaded with fiber and heart-healthy vitamin A. In a medium bowl, stir together 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling), 3 tablespoons almond butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Serve with whole grain crackers or toast.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Photograph by Dominic Perri

Bunny Burgers

These fresh veggie and dried-fruit bites are a nutritious treat for little nibblers. In a small bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, 2 tablespoons finely chopped raisins, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Peel a large carrot and slice it crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick pieces. Spread a tiny dollop of the peanut butter mixture onto a slice, then sandwich it with another. Makes about 16 burgers.

Originally published in the October 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Photograph by Alexandra Grablewski

Easy-Peasy Yogurt Pops

Turning your child's favorite yogurt into a frozen snack couldn't be simpler. With a knife, slit the center of a yogurt cup lid (our cups were 3 ounces) and insert a plastic spoon or craft stick. Freeze about 3 hours. Remove the packaging and serve.

Originally published in the August 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Photograph by Aaron Dyer

Bagel Buddy

Tempt a picky eater with our happy-face veggie bagel. Spread one half of a plain bagel with cream cheese. Trim a piece of the other half into a hat as shown and press it in place. Use broccoli florets to embellish the hat. Press black olives and grape tomato halves in place for the eyes and cheeks. Finish with a chive or scallion mouth and a bell pepper scarf.

Originally published in the December/January 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine

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Photograph by Raymond Hom

Wing It!

Our turkey-fied twist on a veggie platter just might entice your kids to gobble up a healthy predinner snack. To make it, line a plate with lettuce leaves. Layer on broccoli, bell peppers, and baby carrots. Include a bowl of your favorite dip, plus mushrooms around the bottom. Add a mushroom cap head with peppercorn eyes and bell pepper wings, feet, and facial features.

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of FamilyFun magazine

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How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

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Photograph by Mark Mantegna

No-Bake Snack: Cherry Almond Granola Bites

These chewy fruit and nut bites make a wholesome replacement for salty, store-bought snacks. Mix up the six-ingredient recipe after dinner, and they'll be ready to pack in your child's lunch box (and your own) by morning. In a large bowl, stir together 2 1/2 cups quick oats, 1/2 cup dried cherries (chopped), and 1 cup slivered almonds. In a small bowl, stir together 2/3 cup each of agave nectar and unsalted, sugar-free almond butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add it to the oat mixture and blend until all the ingredients are well coated. If the oats seem dry, add more agave nectar, 1 teaspoon at a time, up to 1 tablespoon. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper. Transfer the granola to the pan and press it evenly into the bottom. Cover it with plastic and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of FamilyFun magazine

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Mark Mantegna

Banana Cupcakes

Give banana slices an oh-so-good upgrade by layering them with nutritious toppings. Use a piping bag and round decorating tip (or a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off) to pipe a swirl of peanut butter on a 1-inch-thick slice. Top with fresh berries, shredded coconut, or other healthy favorites.

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of FamilyFun magazine

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Photograph by Carl Tremblay

Build-Your-Own Breakfast Bar

Here's the scoop on encouraging a healthy and balanced weekday breakfast: set out a toppings bar for dressing up a bowl of your child's favorite cereal. Simply put out a small selection of fresh or dried fruit, yogurt, and nuts, then let him customize his bowl with the add-ins. If you're lucky, he may even check off two of his fruit servings for the day.

Originally published in the September 2013 issue of FamilyFun

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Photograph by Carl Tremblay

Lunch Box Tip: Keep Apples Appetizing

Reader Tina Vanasse Narbonne of Acton, Massachusetts, sent in this great idea to prevent sliced apples from turning brown. Use an apple corer to cut the center of the fruit, but leave the bottom half inch uncut. With a paring knife, make slices as shown, again leaving the bottom uncut. Wrap the apple tightly with plastic wrap so that the slices are snug against one another. At lunch your child can break off the slices.

Originally published in the September 2013 issue of FamilyFun

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Ericka McConnell

We Ate the Alphabet

"To help my daughters, Janey and Laura, learn the alphabet, I came up with a month of meals from a to z. We started with alphabet soup, went on to beef and broccoli with brown rice, and all the way through to baked ziti and zucchini. The activity prompted us to be creative, made menu planning easier, and encouraged the girls to try new foods. We were all excited to find out what was for dinner!"
Amy Olsen Lowell, VT

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Photograph By Doug Merriam, Idea By Deirdre Smith Of Jdaniel4Smom.Com

Over the Veggie Rainbow

This healthy snack provides a golden opportunity to entice your kids to eat fresh vegetables. To make it, fill a small bowl with dip (we used guacamole). Slice four long strips of bell peppers in various colors and arrange them as shown. Cut two small cauliflower clouds, skewer each with a toothpick, then position one on each side of the peppers. Place sliced carrot coins beside the bowl for the leprechaun's pot of gold.

Originally published in the March 2013 issue of FamilyFun

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Photograph By Mark Mantegna

Cocoa Bites

All the sweetness in these bite-size bonbons comes from natural sugars, and they're made with just five healthy ingredients. To whip up a batch, process 2 cups whole pitted dates (about 10 ounces), 1 cup each unsweetened shredded coconut and whole almonds, and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder in a food processor until the nuts are finely chopped. Add 1/4 cup of water and pulse until the mixture forms a rough paste. With moistened hands, shape heaping teaspoons into balls, then roll them in chopped nuts or coconut to coat. They'll keep refrigerated for up to a week. Makes about 40.

Originally published in the February 2013 issue of FamilyFun

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Photograph By Mark Mantegna

Healthy Snack Tip

Make raw veggies more fun to eat by serving them in an edible bowl. Form a well in the center of a slice of a baguette, then add a dollop of your child's favorite dip along with cut veggies, such as carrots, beans, and bell peppers.

Originally published in the March 2013 issue of FamilyFun

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Photograph By Mark Mantegna

Make-Ahead Smoothies

No time in the morning to fix a smoothie? Try prepping and bagging the ingredients in advance. Freeze your child's favorite yogurt in an ice cube tray, then place five cubes and 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen fruit in a ziplock freezer bag and freeze. When it's time to serve the smoothie, combine the bag's contents with 1 cup of juice in a blender and process until smooth. Makes about 2 cups.

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of FamilyFun

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Doug Merriam

Sweet (Potato) Sundae Bar

The DIY approach makes everything appealing: once kids have doctored up their own sweet potato with all their favorite stuff, they'll be committed to eating it. Obviously, this is a use-what- you-like-best or use-what-you-have situation; any kind of cheese or nuts or herbs would be great. And, of course, you can skip the bacon (if you're crazy and/or a vegetarian).

Originally published in the October 2013 issue of FamilyFun

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Little Drops of Sunshine

These two-bite treats get their golden color from dried apricots and contain omega-3s, vitamin E, and magnesium, all nutrients that support emotional health. In a food processor, pulse 1 cup dried apricots and 1/2 cup pitted dates until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut, 2 tablespoons flax seeds, 3 tablespoons water, and a pinch of salt, and continue pulsing to blend. Add 1/3 cup unsalted, roasted cashews and 1/4 cup unsalted, roasted almonds until the mixture forms a ball. Place 1/2 cup chopped nuts or coconut in a shallow, rimmed dish. With wet hands (to prevent sticking), roll the processed mixture into tablespoon-size balls, then roll the balls in the topping. Refrigerate for 45 minutes before serving. Makes 24 sunshine drops.

Originally published in the May 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Fruity Cubes

Turn a glass of seltzer into a flavorful, fizzy drink (with no added sugar or caffeine!) with a stack of all-fruit ice cubes. In a blender, puree the ingredients for one of the recipes below until smooth, pour the mixture into an ice cube tray, and freeze for at least 3 hours. Kids can then create custom concoctions by adding various fruit cubes to a glass of plain seltzer.

Cherry Strawberry
1 cup dark, sweet cherries + 2 cups strawberries + 1/4 cup white grape juice

Pineapple Orange
2 cups pineapple chunks + 1/2 cup orange juice

Watermelon Lime
3 cups cubed watermelon + 3 tbsp. lime juice + zest of 1 lime

Kiwi Strawberry
1 1/2 cups kiwi chunks + 1 1/2 cups strawberries + 1 tbsp. lemon juice + 4 tbsp. white grape juice

Originally published in the June/July 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Frosty Fruit Wands

Serve this healthy frozen treat on a sizzling hot day and watch it magically disappear. Use a star cookie cutter (ours was 1 1/2 inches) to cut a shape from a thick slice of kiwi, cantaloupe, or pineapple. Thread several grapes onto a bamboo skewer, then add the star to the top. Place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic, and freeze until hardened, about two hours.

Originally published in the June/July 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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Can You Eat Your ABC's?

Help your kids get in back-to-school mode by challenging them to come up with yummy and nutritious snack ideas, all based on consecutive letters of the alphabet. Here are a few of our fave creations.

ABC
Avocado
Mini Wheat Bagel
Shredded Carrot

HIJ
Hummus
Iceberg Lettuce
Sliced Jonathan Apples

XYZ
Xiangjiao (that's Mandarin for banana)
Blueberry Yogurt
Orange Zest

Originally published in the August 2015 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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