Healthy Food Swaps For Kids (Eat This, Not That!)
Reduce sugar intake and kick bad habits with these easy healthy food swaps for kids! While healthy eating can be overwhelming, these easy, healthy swaps are a great way to get started. Moreover, you can use these food swaps as a guide to make healthy eating practical
With the everyday rush of mom life, it’s easy to resort to packaged, on-the-go foods for your kids.
However, many of these quick solutions contain hidden sugars, preservatives, and unhealthy seed oils that can be detrimental to our health. Learn more about how to scale back sugar (and why).
Instead, use these food swaps to make healthier choices. These swaps aim to:
- scale back sugar
- keep kids fueled
- aid in brain development
- boost kids immune systems
All the while keeping it practical for busy moms to stay on top of. Meaning, while homemade is a great option there are store-bought options for better health as well!
Don’t want to read? JUMP to the healthy food swaps!
How To Switch From Junk Food To Healthy
The first step when it comes to boosting your health (and the health of your kids), outside of water intake is to scale junk food.
We all know that foods like cupcakes, chips, and candy are unhealthy. Unfortunately, knowing isn’t doing.
Moreover, there’s no perfect way to make the switch from junk food to healthy. You can try to go cold turkey, take baby steps or make a healthier version of your favorite snacks (like these raw snicker bars!).
It’s a challenging goal and one that requires commitment. Thus, make a plan of action and stick to it!
The healthy food swaps for kids below are not junk food-based though. Instead, they’re foods that most kids eat on a daily basis.
What Is The Healthiest Food To Eat Every Day?
Truth be told… there isn’t one! The healthiest foods are ones that you’ll eat frequently, enjoy and your body responds to.
Likewise, everyone and every system is different and requires a slightly different balance of nutrients. Thus, there is no perfect food.
Instead, focus on eating a variety of healthy foods and tweaking your diet until it suits you and your goals.
What To Eat & What Not To Eat
For the purpose of this blog post, we’re going to strive to simply choose better options of foods our kids are already eating.
These healthy food swaps focus on:
- using less sugar
- reducing seed oils (learn more about how seed oils are detrimental)
- giving a variety of nutrients
- balancing macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates)
- providing fuel to growing bodies
Below are healthy food swaps for kids that still keep healthy eating practical for moms. They’re simple, based on quality, and tasty!
Eat This: Plain Greek Yogurt
Not That: Flavoured yogurt packs or drinkable yogurt
While we’ve all heard that Greek yogurt contains extra protein, you may not know why we need that protein. Protein is responsible for almost every function in our bodies. It boosts our immune system, helps build our muscles, develops our cells, and aids in digestion.
Unfortunately, we can only hold a limited supply of protein, and thus, it must be replenished daily.
Therefore, when choosing yogurt aim for a Greek option. Different brands have different consistencies though so you may have to try one or two before you find one your kids like! If you’re not down for Greek yogurt, go full fat.
On top of that, opt for plain.
Flavored yogurts have a ton of added sugar in them (17-30g/serving!) and it’s not all good sugar.
It’s easy to throw in some berries, pure maple syrup or honey into a bowl of yogurt at home (here’s strawberries and cream yogurt parfait to die for!).
By doing this, you’ll be giving them a natural energy boost and keeping the sugar content to a minimum.
If you need a dairy-free switch you can either:
- opt for plain, daiya green yogurt
- use coconut yogurt + collagen powder
Choose Real, Homemade Oats
Eat this: homemade oatmeal
Not that: quaker instant oats
Instant oatmeal has been around forever- and with good reason! It’s quick, simple and we all know oats are healthy.
However, to make those oats instant they’re often stripped of some pretty vital parts and thus their nutrient profile is diminished.
On top of that, most instant oatmeal is prepackaged and comes flavored. This means that your kids will be missing nutrients and loading up on sugar- not a great combo.
Instead, opt for regular oats (or steel cut) and make your own bowls. It might seem like this is a much longer process.
However, cooking regular oats either stovetop or with just boiling water still only takes minimal time (check out this pecan pie oatmeal recipe and you’ll never go back to instant!)
Better yet, use the oats to whip up a delicious batch of peanut butter overnight oats!
To sweeten your oatmeal, us natural options instead of excessive processed sugar:
- dried or real fruit
- raw honey
- shredded coconut
Anything you make will be far more decadent and MUCH more healthy than instant packages.
Healthy Muffin Alternatives
Eat this: homemade paleo muffins
Not that: grocery store muffins
Muffins are one of my personal favorite snacks for my daughter. They’re quick, easy, portable and they freeze well.
But the best part about muffins is that they are so easy to sneak nutrients into!
Store-bought muffins, while convenient, rarely have many health benefits. They’re often made with bleached flour, poorly processed oil, and loaded with sugar to adjust the flavor.
While they may do in a pinch, they certainly don’t provide many benefits.
Homemade muffins are simple to make and freeze well. So instead of making weekly batches, make them in bulk, toss them in the freezer and take them out when you need them.
Making your own muffins means you can cut back on processed sugar, use anti-inflammatory oils and sneak in hidden nutrients like zucchini, carrots, chia seeds, or almonds.
Kick The Cereal Habit
Eat this: healthy granola
Not that: traditional cereal
Kids cereal has to be one of the worst offenders for unhealthy food! Wheat, corn, sugar and oil based, most traditional cereals have absolutely zero nutritional value.
Instead, whip up (or purchase) your own healthy granola!
Granola can be used in place of cereal, on top of yogurt or smoothies and even by the handful out of the fridge.
Eat this: almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter
Not that: regular peanut butter
Traditional peanut butter isn’t actually made with a lot of peanuts! In fact, corn syrup, sugar and vegetables make up the bulk.
However, peanut butter makes a great option for recipes, toast and on top of a banana. So, make the swap to actual nut butters!
Almond butter, cashew butter, and (for a nut-free alternative) sun butter are loaded with healthy fats!
Make sure to read the ingredients though and get the ones made without any added sugar.
Eat this: chilled tea, fruit water
Not that: juice boxes
Juice boxes are simply packages of sugar. And while they do somewhat hydrate (in the sense that they’re liquid) they’re truthfully terrible for a growing body (read more about why I won’t let my kids have juice boxes).
Instead, you can use chilled loose leaf tea or even fruit-infused water! Not only does this cut the sugar aspect but it’s beyond hydrating too!
These reusable juice boxes can help make the transition.
Eat this not that! Don’t forget to pin these healthy food swaps for kids!
While the transition to more homemade snack options is great, sometimes it’s not always practical.
The below brands often have healthier versions of the classics while still providing kids with nutrients.
Boosting your kids nutrient intake may seem like a bit step. But making small swaps for healthier choices makes a big difference.
You’ll be cutting down on their overall sugar intake, reducing processed foods and poor fats and in turn boosting their energy. By making these small food swaps your kids will be better fueled to run, grow, play and learn