The Scoop on Food

6 Easy Swaps for Health-ified Kid-Friendly Meals

TODAY Show health expert Joy Bauer shares six smart food swaps kids will eat up.

From Junk Food to Joy Food Cover Courtesy of Joy Bauer
Trying to get your kids to eat healthier, but meeting some resistance? TODAY Show health expert Joy Bauer, author of the new book From Junk Food to Joy Food, shares six smart swaps. Don't be surprised if the kids go back for seconds (or thirds) of these nutritious nibbles!

Slim down mozzarella sticks

Do your kids love breaded and deep-fried mozzarella sticks? If so, try this smart substitution. Dunk a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick in a dish of warm marinara sauce. Guilt-free goodness that delivers a hearty dose of protein and bone-building calcium without the extra fat, carbs and calories.

Enjoy a healthier frozen fix

For a chilly treat that offers a bit more nutrition than ice cream, try my naturally sweet PB-Banana Freeze. Split a banana lengthwise and spread one half with all-natural peanut or almond butter. Sandwich the two banana halves together, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until solid. For an added bonus, sprinkle mini dark chocolate chips on the nut butter before closing.

Bake a better chip

Forget greasy, salty potato chips. Whip up a crunchy snack they'll love to munch on—and you'll feel good about giving them. Simply tear a bunch of kale into bite-size pieces, mist with oil spray, sprinkle on some kosher salt and roast on a baking sheet at 400Ëš for about 8 minutes.

Pump up their pizza

Up the nutritional ante of pizza—classic kid's food—by downsizing portions and loading up on veggies. Top a toasted, whole-grain tortilla, English muffin, or mini pita with marinara sauce, a variety of colorful vegetables (broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, or any other favorites) and part-skim mozzarella cheese and bake it in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve a morning milkshake

The only thing you'll hear is slurping when you dish up this healthy breakfast milkshake, which is actually a fruit smoothie in disguise. And with plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, you'll be happy knowing they're starting off the day on the right foot. To make, combine 3/4 cup milk (dairy or non-), ½ banana, 1 cup frozen mixed berries and 3 to 5 ice cubes in a blender until smooth and frothy. Pour the Fruity Breakfast Milkshake into a glass and sip with a fun straw.

Make a healthier dip

It's no surprise that ranch tops the list as the nation's most popular salad dressing.  Rich, velvety, and full of flavor, it's like bottled magic. I've seen the most veggie-averse kids devour broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower simply because the produce picks were covered with the good stuff. Unfortunately, it comes at a cost: 150 calories per 2 tablespoons. Not mine! For just 22 calories, you (and your little ones) can enjoy it with abandon.

RANCH DRESSING

ranch dressing joy bauer Courtesy of Joy Bauer 

Makes 8 servings

For a thinner, pourable dressing, just add a bit more buttermilk.

½ cup fat-free sour cream

2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¾ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 scallion (green onion), finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir well.

Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, is the health expert for NBC's TODAY show, founder of Nourish Snacks and best-selling author of From Junk Food to Joy Food. Follow Joy on Twitter.