Let’s face it, kids can be really hard to please at the dinner table. I bet most of you have at least one picky eater in your family. Our house is no different… there’s at least one child at every dinner that tells me they don’t like what’s for supper. It’s frustrating, but also kind of funny cause it’s usually something they liked a couple weeks earlier. That’s why we should do our best to maximize the foods we make. Quality, not quantity. They deserve optimum nutrition in every bite.
Nutrition is crucial to a growing child. It not only helps them grow, but it enhances their focus, cognitive development, and mental function. Kids are learning constantly. If their bodies don’t have the adequate nutrition to function, they may not be maximizing their physical or cognitive abilities.
Here are a few healthy cooking substitutions that will optimize the nutritional impact of your recipes.
Unsweetened Applesauce or Mashed Bananas
Use unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas as a substitute for butter, margarine or oil in baking. This substitution would be equal measurements. For example, if the recipe asked for ½ cup vegetable oil, use ½ cup unsweetened applesauce instead.
Plain yogurt should be the unsweetened and unflavored yogurt, not vanilla which is commonly mistaken as plain yogurt. If you’re interested in making your own homemade yogurt, click here to check out how. Plain yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream or heavy cream. It works well in mashed potatoes and cream-based sauces.
Whole Grain Flour
When making the switch to whole grain flour, try switching half of the flour to whole grain first. For example, if the recipe calls for 2 cups all-purpose flour, try 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole grain flour. Every recipe varies, and the type of whole grain flour will also make a difference. If you pick 100% whole grain flour (typically made from red wheat berries) it has a stronger flavor; and the baked products tend to be a little coarser. The 100% whole grain white flour (made from white wheat berries) has a milder flavor and makes a tenderer product. Nutritionally, the two types of flours are the same, but they impact recipes differently. I typically keep whole grain white flour in our pantry, as the results from this flour is more to the kids liking.
Flaxseed is more of a modification to your recipe than a substitute. Flaxseed is a great source for Omega-3’s and fiber, exactly what growing minds and bodies need. Try starting with one tablespoon per recipe. I commonly add this to baked recipes like breads, muffins, pancakes, and granola. I sneak it into smoothies and popsicles too. It’s recommended to use ground flaxseed instead of whole, as our bodies aren’t able to fully digest and benefit from the nutrients when the seeds are in the whole form.
Quinoa (keen-wah) is a power-packed grain that’s more like a protein. It’s a complete protein, packed with iron, potassium and fiber. Try substituting quinoa for rice or couscous (koose- koose). It has a nutty flavor and a different texture, but goes great in a stir fry, soups, and any other recipe that rice is required.
Instead of mayonnaise on your child’s sandwich, try mashed avocado. Avocados are loaded with vitamins and minerals and provide a healthy source of monounsaturated fat. And it tastes pretty darn good too.