Healthy chicken strips
If there's a ubiquitous kid food in America, it has to be chicken nuggets. Introduced by McDonald's in 1983, the breaded tenders are available everywhere from fast-food restaurants to school cafeterias to the family dinner table. Although they were introduced to satisfy the consumer's taste for healthier options, Chicken McNuggets contain twice as much fat per ounce as a hamburger, according to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation (Harper Perennial).
The twist in this recipe is that we avoided the excess saturated fat added by deep-fat frying. The white meat remains moist with the addition of plain, lowfat yogurt sealed with a tasty cornflake crumb crust.
Pump it up: Skip the fries. Pair this dish with the Orange Carrot Slaw or add fruits and vegetables with a dip.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 cup cornflake crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8-ounce) carton plain low-fat yogurt
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick vegetable cooking spray to coat.
In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, cornflake crumbs, cheese, garlic and salt; set aside. In another bowl, combine yogurt and egg; whisk to combine.
Dip chicken in yogurt mixture, then in the crumb mixture, turning to coat evenly. Place in a single layer on baking sheet. Spray tops of coated chicken strips with nonstick vegetable cooking spray coating. Bake 10 minutes; turn chicken strips over and spray tops again with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and no longer pink.
Per serving, based on 4: 247 calories (15 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 95 milligrams cholesterol, 19 grams carbohydrates, 32 grams protein, 637 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Carrot orange slaw
What's up, doc? When it comes to favorite vegetables, most kids like the sweetness and crunch of raw carrots. Carrots, of course, are one of the best sources of beta carotene and vitamin A, but they also have plenty of fiber. In addition to the raisins typically found in many carrot salad recipes, we added another kid favorite: green grapes. Then we combined them with a low-fat yogurt for added calcium.
Makes 10 to 12 servings
4 cups shredded carrots or 1 (10-ounce) package shredded carrots
1 cup halved, seedless green grapes
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 orange, peeled and chopped
1 (6-ounce) container low-fat orange-flavored yogurt
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients except raisins; toss to coat carrots evenly with yogurt. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, spoon onto plate. Garnish with raisins, if desired.
Per serving, based on 10: 50 calories (5 percent from fat), trace fat (no saturated fat), 1 milligram cholesterol, 11 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 80 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.
Macaroni & cheese
A 7.25-ounce package of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese packs a whopping 18 grams of fat per serving. (Not to mention artificial colors, like yellow No. 5 and yellow No. 6.) For this kid favorite, we chose reduced-calorie margarine, skim milk and reduced-fat cheeses. Is it worth the effort? Our remake of the classic convenience food clocks in at just 10 grams of fat.
Shopping tip: If your family is not already used to the taste, we go with a reduced-fat cheese rather than a fat-free version.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 tablespoons reduced-calorie stick margarine
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white or black pepper
3 cups skim milk, divided use
1 1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
5 cups cooked cavatappi pasta or large elbow macaroni
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour, mustard, salt and pepper. Gradually add 1 cup milk and stir with a whisk until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add remaining 2 cups milk and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until slightly thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese and Parmesan cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Fold in cooked pasta.
Coat a 2-quart casserole with non-stick vegetable cooking spray. Pour pasta mixture into casserole. Top with remaining cheddar cheese. Cover and bake 30 minutes.
Stove-top method: If desired, prepare recipe as directed, reducing milk to 2 1/2 cups. Fold in cooked macaroni, as directed. Return to low heat and cook, stirring frequently, 5 to 10 minutes.
Per serving, based on 6: 351 calories (25 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 11 milligrams cholesterol, 46 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams protein, 522 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.
Beans and franks
In our kid-friendly Beans and Franks, we changed the "beans" to lentils, a low-fat, protein-rich legume that is a good source of iron, phosphorous, potassium and contains a fair amount of calcium. But what really makes lentils an ideal kid food is they're also loaded with fiber. Only 39 percent of children ages 2 to 17 meet the USDA's dietary recommendation for fiber.
Cooking tip: Unlike dry beans, lentils do not need lengthy soaking before cooking.
Shopping tip: Heinz is the only brand of spicy ketchup on the market. Feel free to use another brand, although the taste as well as the nutritional analysis may be slightly altered.
Pump it up: Substitute tofu dogs and you've created a vegetarian meal with the benefits of healthful soy protein.
Makes 8 (1-cup) servings
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups dry lentils
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt added tomato sauce
1/3 cup Heinz spicy ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) package low-fat beef franks, cut into 1-inch pieces
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender. Stir in water and lentils. Cover, heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour or until lentils are tender.
Stir in tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, chili powder, salt and franks. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Per serving: 264 calories (37 percent from fat), 11 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 53 milligrams cholesterol, 26 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 681 milligrams sodium, 10 grams dietary fiber.
Pizza pasta salad
So you think ordering a pizza is faster than cooking? This dish comes together in minutes. Even better, our Pizza Pasta Salad is a dead ringer for the real thing. We used the popular pizza-flavor profile as cover to sneak in some fresh spinach and tomatoes. Then we traded high-fat pepperoni for a combination of leaner turkey pepperoni and Canadian bacon. Low-fat cheese further reduces fat and calories.
Feeding a crowd: This recipe makes enough for a meal with leftovers. It's also a good potluck or entertaining option.
Makes 8 hearty main dish servings
1 (16-ounce) package wagon wheel or fiori pasta
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
6 mushrooms, sliced
1 to 2 cups thinly sliced fresh spinach
3 ounces turkey pepperoni, thinly sliced
3 slices (3 ounces) Canadian bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse under cold water; drain and place in a large salad bowl. Add tomatoes, green onions, mushrooms, spinach, pepperoni, Canadian bacon and cheeses; toss to combine.
Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over pasta.
Per serving: 403 calories (37 percent from fat), 16 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 18 milligrams cholesterol, 48 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 677 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
Blueberry peach cobbler
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1/4 cup reduced-calorie stick margarine, melted
2 (15-ounce) cans sliced peaches in light syrup, undrained
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup skim milk
2/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, well drained
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-inch-square baking dish with nonstick vegetable cooking spray; add melted margarine and set aside. Drain peaches, reserving 1/2 cup syrup, and set aside.
Combine flour, sugar and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add reserved peach syrup and skim milk to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Pour batter in prepared dish and top with peaches and blueberries. Do not stir. Bake 35 minutes or until golden.
Per serving, based on 6: 337 calories (11 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), trace cholesterol, 75 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 262 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.
Few of America's children get the recommended minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Examples of a serving for children 6 to 12 years old: 1 piece of fruit (the size of a tennis ball), 3/4 cup of juice, 1/2 cup canned fruit, 1/4 cup dried fruit, 1/4 cup cooked or raw vegetables or 1 cup raw leafy vegetables.
Cartoon character Dora in "Dora the Explorer'' has encouraged preschool kids to eat more blueberries, which are naturally high in vitamin C. But does she know they are a tiny nutrition powerhouse packed with phytonutrients that can protect us from cancers and a host of other diseases? We doubt it. Most kids just want to know if it tastes good. And this recipe tastes great.