There’s a good reason why chicken nuggets, hot dogs and french fries are some of the most popular convenience foods for kids. They are easy to acquire, they don’t require utensils and most kids will happily eat them day after day. The downside is that they usually contain elevated levels of sodium, unnecessary fat or fillers and are often accompanied by sweetened condiments. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to offer these foods to your kids without all the baggage that comes along with them?
The best way to increase the health factor of these staples is to make them yourself instead of just grabbing a bag from the freezer section. There are lots of great chicken nugget recipes that use little more than chicken breast chunks, a buttermilk wash, breadcrumbs and a little oil. Baking french fries at home will cut down on the oil and the salt because you will be in control.
Hot dogs aren’t so easy. They aren’t really something that one makes from scratch at home so the best way to rein in the drawbacks of the hot dog would be to reduce their frequency at your table. Another course of action might be to reduce the portion size and make up the difference with additional fresh fruits or vegetables.
Homemade pizza is the way to go, free of fillers and preservatives and topped with fresh vegetables and mozzarella cheese. Just say no to frozen.
Then there’s the sauce. Many kid staples are often accompanied by a generous portion of ketchup. There are two options when it comes to battling ketchup, one can either find the most natural version available or look for a replacement. Many companies are now producing ketchup types that are lower in sugar, or use agave or other alternatives easily found on most super market shelves.
Replacement might be a bit trickier. Kids can be quite picky, so this could be a difficult task. But there are a few low/no sugar options that are very tasty. Try switching to mustard with a little honey mixed in to cut the spice or marinara sauce, which looks and tastes similar but without all of the sugar. If your kids are a bit more adventurous, you could try hummus, which will still provide the dipping activity but without all the sweetness.
Most importantly, start offering your kids new foods that are healthier. Often parents are the ones building the crutch on these child comfort foods, offering them as alternatives at the first sign of resistance to new foods. Did you know that it takes 15 exposures to develop a taste for a new food? Fifteen! Keep trying. Recycle old things or attempt a different presentation. Your kids may surprise you yet.
There is not one sure fire way to please kids at the table, but by slowly working in these alternatives, your kids will find that there are more than just the fall back lunch choices, a land of bread and cheese and one universal condiment.
Check out more family recipes and food posts from Lifetime Moms:
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.