Several years ago, when we starting really paying attention to what our family was eating – and enjoying more meals made with REAL food – we asked the kids...
"what is a meal we used to make in our ‘pre-REAL food days’ that you would like for us to try to healthify?"
Are you kidding? How do we make that healthy?
We took on the challenge.
We started with lean ground beef (even better with grass-fed beef from our local farmer friends), and then we put together a seasoning mixture to replace the "mystery flavor packet" that comes in the boxed version.
We added these seasonings with some whole wheat pasta, skim milk and a little cheese and…success! We had homemade cheeseburger macaroni that was a huge hit and is a frequent request! Plus, it is so much healthier than the version on the grocery store shelf!
Check out the recipe!
When you compare our REAL Cheeseburger Macaroni ingredients to Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni, you’ll see that you are not consuming several scary ingredients into the bodies of your precious self and family!
Also, our version contains less sodium, helping your family prevent the “high-jacked taste bud love” for high sodium foods, and the high blood pressure that follows.
Serve this with a vegetable and fruit, and this is a meal you can feel GREAT about!
And, we did not pick these ourselves -- kids actually picked these recipes!
- Baked Chicken Parmesan
- Cheeseburger Quesadillas
- Honey Garlic Chicken
- Vietnamese Meatballs
- Banh Mi Grilled Cheese
- Zesty Pizza Burgers
- Sloppy Joes with Butternut Squash
- Tropical Pork Cuban Sandwich
- Shrimp and Brussels Sprout Stir-Fry
- Roasted Eggplant Pasta
- White Castle Inspired Burgers
- Baked Fish Parmesan
- Roasted Grape and Pecan Crostini
- Parsnip Fries
- Orange Balsamic Roasted Okra
- Simple Salsa Fresca
- Garlic and Herb Spaghetti Squash
- Seasoned Roasted Potatoes
- Easy Pineapple Salsa
- Super Kool Ranch Kale Chips
- Chocolate Souffle
- Almond Butter Brownies
- Dark Chocolate Bark with Pomegranates
- Apple Peanut Butter Quesadillas
Believe it or not, change is possible…it’s true, we have seen it! Even if it takes time, kids can change – and their eating habits can evolve.
The most important factor is our actions – words are important, but our actions are HUGE! If we tell our kids they should eat more REAL food, but then proceed to pick up fast food or heat up a frozen pizza for dinner, that is the behavior they will model.
Here are some additional tips that may help:
- Get your kids in the kitchen - it's the perfect time for summer cooking classes! Kids are much more likely to try and eat foods and meals they help prepare!
- Involve them in meal planning! Let your kids help plan the menu for the week. Ask them to look through the hundreds of meal ideas on Eat REAL America and add the ones they want to make to your recipe box!
- Implement a "back up plan!" Because no one should be a "short order cook," try a simple backup option like a turkey sandwich or PB&J. The point is they have to make it themselves (at a certain age of course) and it can’t be something that has to be heated up or takes long to prepare (hopefully eliminating corn dogs and frozen burritos). We all know some kids can be stubborn, but the theory is they will eventually get tired of these backup options and begin to try what the rest of the family is eating!
- Don't deprive! As we know, kids still need to be able to enjoy their favorite cookie, ice cream and other treats in moderation. The key is “moderation!” But, just remember that fast food in moderation, followed by ice cream in moderation, followed by processed snacks in moderation, will not change eating habits for the better!
- Make time for homemade meals! We know between ball games and dance classes, it can be challenging, but try to make it a priority to cook at home and enjoy meals together as a family as much as possible. Slow down and really enjoy it! If kids think mealtime is just something to get through as fast as possible to move onto the next activity (or the next TV show), this will reinforce quick meals, which often means processed foods. In our experience, dinnertime can be the most rewarding way to connect with our kids (tech free of course) -- and the best way to hear about their day!
- Words matter! Instead of using the word “healthy,” just focus on the fact you are eating REAL food and how good it tastes. Talk about the immediate benefits they are likely to realize (e.g., more energy for their game, more brainpower for their test)!
- Don’t give up - persistence is key! There will certainly be some frustrating moments along the way, but it is so worth it!
Do you have a favorite “not-so-good-for-you meal” that you would love to healthify? Send us your ideas! We will do our best to transform them into an amazing meal that meets all of our criteria: easy-to-prepare, great-tasting, affordable and, of course, good for you!