Winter Play Day Meals for Kids
Winter weather shouldn’t be an excuse for kids to stay inside and sit in front of the TV or their computers. After an active playtime outdoors in the cold, kids will want to warm up with their favorite meals. With a few ingredient substitutions and cooking technique tweaks, you can serve kid-friendly lunches and dinners that taste great and offer more nutrition than traditional recipes.
Tomato Soup and “Custom” Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Nothing warms your insides like a bowl of hot soup and a gooey grilled cheese sammich. Make this combo more special by letting kids make their own versions of this classic. Give kids a choice of two or more whole grain or organic breads you don’t usually serve around the house. Offer several real cheese options (but not American), letting kids try a new flavor, or combining more than one. Add other ingredients to the sammies, such as fresh, sliced tomatoes, sprouts, olives, cooked turkey bacon, lean turkey breast or low-fat ham. Try a double-decker sandwich for more fun, giving smaller kids one half of the stacked sandwich. In addition to letting kids choose their own ingredients, let them make their own sandwiches as another fun activity.
Baked Chicken Fingers and Sweet Potato Fries
Kids love chicken fingers and fries, but who knows what’s in processed, deep-fried, frozen chicken tenders, while French fries absorb more oil than a Texas refinery. Serve healthier versions of these hot, tasty faves by baking chicken breast meat, sliced into fingers, and breaded with eggs and crispy panko. Instead of traditional fries, spray some light cooking oil on hand-cut, sweet potato slices for crispy, tasty “fries.” Serve a honey mustard dipping sauce and organic ketchup for more flavor.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
A steaming bowl of pasta and tomato sauce is a great way to get warm fast and re-fuel after a hard day of play. Avoid refined-flour spaghetti and serve whole-grain or gluten-free pasta, depending on your needs. Make your own tomato sauce in your food processor or buy an organic brand you taste-test before serving to kids.
For your meatballs, use ground turkey breast meat with some diced, fresh veggies, crushed corn flakes and Italian seasoning and bake them in the oven instead of frying them. Finish them by stewing them in the tomato sauce when you heat it. If you really want to go all-out Italian, serve an antipasto plate with fresh veggies, a cup of minestrone soup and a Caesar salad with baked croutons and low-fat dressing.
For another do-it-yourself construction project, let kids make their own tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Use a crumbly, meatless hamburger substitute or ground turkey breast seasoned for taste. Lay out plenty of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, avacados, low-fat cheese and fat-free sour cream. To add a warming thermogenic effect to the meal, use a little chili powder in your seasoning, serve a medium-hot salsa and let older kids try jalapenos or banana peppers. For a quick shot of warmth when kids first come indoors, offer a bowl of piping hot black bean or chicken soup with baked tortilla chips.
No need to create a one-size-fits-all pie when serving pizza. Use bagels, English muffins or small lengths of Italian bread to let kids make their own pizzas. Offer a variety of toppings and let kids create their own masterpieces they can cook in a toaster oven or under the broiler for a quick cook time.