Simple Substitutes

I am not a sneaky mom or a tricky dietitian that tries to hide ingredients in my foods. I like for kids to know when they are eating spinach rather than blending into something so that it is unidentifiable. I want them to come face to face with their broccoli and know what it looks, feels and tastes like.

That said, I do believe that there are simple changes we should go for whenever possible. These simple substitutes offer more nutrition while still letting your children eat and enjoy their favorite foods. In many cases you are changing from a less healthful option to a Guiding Stars-rated choice. In other cases, both options are good for you but, one just offers a bit more.

whole wheat bread
Whole Wheat Bread / Little Blue Hen / CC BY 2.0

Go For… Whole wheat bread. Pass on… Multi grain bread when the first ingredient is “enriched wheat flour”. Remember, the first ingredient must be “whole wheat flour” to be truly whole wheat bread.

Go For… Natural peanut butter. Pass on… Processed peanut butter. It generally offers more sugar and unnecessary ingredients. Unsure about the oil in natural peanut butter? Stir it in and then store in the refrigerator and it won’t separate again!

Go For… Fresh apple slices. Pass on… Dehydrated apple slices. The real thing offers more fiber in the skin. Conveniently found in the produce section already sliced and ready to go (and they won’t turn brown!).

Go For… Protein-rich granola bars. Pass on… Granola bars that only offer 2-3 grams of protein, as they won’t satisfy kids between meals. Aim for bars that offer 6-7 grams protein per bar.

Go For… Whole grain cereal. Pass on… High sugar cereal…It’s just not how we want to start our day.

Go For… Part-skim ricotta cheese. Pass on… Sauces thickened with cream or higher fat cheese. Part skim ricotta offers creaminess blended in tomato sauce and more importantly essential protein to a typical dinner of pasta and sauce.

Go For… 100% fruit or vegetable. Pass on… Juice “drinks” that are comprised of more than just the pure juice from a fruit or vegetable.

Go For… Homemade trail mix. Pass on… Pre-made trail mixes that contain salted or sweetened nuts or candy

Go For… Unsalted crackers. Pass on… Full sodium crackers, which not only contain baked in sodium but are also topped with more. Your child’s diet likely contains enough salt and this simple change will help curb their intake and lessen their taste for salty foods.

Go For… Grilled chicken tenders. Pass on… Breaded and fried chicken tenders that contain added fat, salt and other unnecessary ingredients.

Go For… Whole wheat pizza dough. Pass on… Regular white pizza dough. With all of the cheese and other toppings, your kids won’t even miss their regular pizza dough.

Go For… Baked chips. Pass on… Regular full fat chips that contain more fat and calories.

Go For… Greek yogurt. Pass on… Typical yogurts that offer little protein and especially those marketed to children that contain high amounts of added sugar. Go Greek for more protein even if you are choosing a flavored yogurt, which contains more sugar than plain.

Go For… Protein enriched pasta. Pass on… Plain, white-flour pasta. Enhanced pasta choices such as Barilla Plus, which contain protein and omega fats (but is not whole wheat) pass the test for kids that refuse whole wheat pasta.