Getting Kids to Eat Healthier

Child obesity has become a national epidemic. With an increasing chasm between the poor and the rich in our wealth distribution; a disappearing middle class; subsidies provided for the large monoculture crops such as corn and soybeans; and children spending more and more time in front of the television, which is subliminally telling them to eat highly processed foods, it is really no wonder we, as a country, are having this issue.

There are many ways to reverse this epidemic. However, they all call for major reworking of most (or all) of the systems, which our country is dependent upon; such as our employment and wealth distribution, our education system, and our agriculture system. All are highly interdependent systems and impossible to alter individually.

In spite of the challenges of eradicating childhood obesity there are small steps parents and teachers can take to encourage kids to eat healthier, get outside and be more active. One way parents and teachers can get kids to eat healthier is to make eating healthy fun! There are many ideas on the Internet of ways to do this. A few of my favorites are having kids eat five colors of the rainbow each day, making healthy foods into fun shapes to mimic processed foods, and to teach kids that vegetables can be yummy too through fun recipes.

Here are some ideas from Pinterest on ways to make healthy food visually fun:

A website with great ideas:

Some fun, yummy recipes:

Zucchini Bread

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat (whole-meal) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed, unsweetened pineapple
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, add the egg whites, canola oil, applesauce, sugar and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture on low speed until thick and foamy.

In a small bowl, stir together the flours. Set 1/2 cup aside. Add the baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon to the small bowl of flour.

Add the flour mixture to the egg white mixture and using the electric mixer on medium speed, beat until well blended. Add the zucchini, walnuts, pineapple and raisins and stir until combined. Adjust consistency of the batter with the remaining 1/2 cup flour, adding 1 tablespoon at a time. The batter should be thick and not runny.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into each prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaves comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out of the pans onto the rack and let cool completely. Cut each loaf into 9 1-inch slices and serve.


Beet Brownies

  • ¾ oat flour (see Note)
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ c. dark chocolate chips
  • 1 (15 oz) can sliced beets, drained and puréed
  • ½ c. brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp soft margarine or shortening
  • 1½ tsp plain nonfat yogurt
  • ¼ c. unsweetened applesauce (or 1½ tsp Ener-G + 2 tbsp water –OR– 1 egg white)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° and lightly coat an 8” square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the chocolate chips to a separate microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 20-sec intervals, stirring after each, until the chocolate melts (about 1 to 1½ min). Stir in the beet purée and next 6 ingredients (through vanilla), mixing thoroughly. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake at 350° for 35-40 min or until firm. Cool completely before slicing into squares.

Note: Oat flour is easy to make! For this recipe, just add a heaping ¾ cup of old-fashioned oats into a food processor or blender, and pulse until they turn into a fine powder.


Squash and Broccoli Rabe Lasagna

  • 2 , 2 lb. Butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise, into ¼ inch-thick slices
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 lbs. Broccoli rabe (rapini), tough stems removed
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. Mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1 lb. Whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 3/4 Cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh sage
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • ¼ Cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ Cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 Cups half-and-half
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh nutmeg
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 lb. Lasagna noodles


Preheat oven to 400°. Place squash and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season generously with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat squash. Transfer to 2 rimmed baking sheets, spreading out in a single layer, overlapping slightly. Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Quickly blanch broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling salted water just until it wilts, 1–2 minutes. Drain; briefly cool under running water. Squeeze out excess water; coarsely chop and transfer to a large bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes; drizzle with oil and toss to coat.

Mix mozzarella and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Squash, broccoli rabe, and cheese mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.


Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; stir until slightly thickened (do not allow mixture to turn brown), 2–3 minutes. Increase heat slightly; slowly whisk in 5 cups half-and-half, 1/2-cupful at a time, allowing béchamel to thicken between additions (adding half-and-half gradually will help to prevent lumps from forming). Add 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and bay leaf.

Reduce heat to low and cook, thinning with more half-and-half if too thick, until sauce is a milk shake–like consistency, about 10 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a large saucepan of gently simmering water. Cover and keep warm.

Cook lasagna noodles in a pot of well-salted boiling water until still quite al dente, 8–9 minutes. Transfer immediately to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Drain; spread out noodles on a kitchen towel or baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing a kitchen towel or parchment between layers.

Ladle about 1/4 cup béchamel into a 13x9x2-inch baking dish; spread evenly over bottom. Line dish with a single layer of noodles, cutting as needed to fit (use large scraps in subsequent layers). Layer 1/3 of squash over. Scatter 1/3 of broccoli rabe over. Dollop 1/3 of ricotta mixture randomly over greens. Drizzle 1/2 cup béchamel evenly over ricotta mixture. Repeat process 2 more times for a Total of 3 layers, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread remaining béchamel over; top with Parmesan. DO AHEAD Lasagna can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake lasagna uncovered until bubbly and starting to brown, about 45 minutes. Turn oven to broil. Cook until browned and golden, 4–7 minutes. Let rest for 20–30 minutes before serving.


6 thoughts on “Getting Kids to Eat Healthier

  1. Oh man THIS MADE ME SO HUNGRY! I especially liked “eat five colors of the rainbow each day, making healthy foods into fun shapes to mimic processed foods, and to teach kids that vegetables can be yummy too through fun recipes.” It would be cool if we could get schools to do the same!
    There is so much government workings behind that issue that are so complex, I like the simple charm of ideas on planning recipes so kids will like it. I also love the quote: “If a kid grows food, a kid eats that food!”

    Nice work!

  2. Cool ideas on how to get unhealthy snacks a little healthier. I was wondering in your research for this blog; did you find anything on attempts to regulate media exposure of unhealthy products on children?

  3. i love Pinterest! another great pin board for just food is “Tastspotting”, AKA a visual potluck! This site also offers amazing simple ideas. i completely agree if food looks good our minds think it is going to be good!

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