How To

Frugal Foodie’s Picks for Healthy Food Kids Will Love

Black beans, spinach and meatloaf can be nutritious and cheap meal components — which gets you exactly nowhere with a picky child.

The costs of catering to kids’ selective tastes — in fast food meals purchased, separate meals prepared and food wasted — can wear thin fast. What to do? Moms, chefs, food bloggers, and other experts generally fall into a few schools of thought on this one:

When possible, they say, it’s better to get kids involved in the cooking process. “Kids are more likely to eat foods they have helped to prepare, because they have become familiar with them,” says Registered Dietician, Rachel Begun. A “make your own” bar for smoothies, tacos, and baked potatoes goes a long way.

Other times, what the kids don’t know won’t hurt them. Reader Charlene Corn purees bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots and zucchini into her “Spaghetti Surprise” sauce. “It’s a surprise because they have no idea they are getting this many different veggies!” she says.

Whichever approach you take, these kid-friendly recipes are both low-cost and healthy:

Meatloaf cupcakes

Frugal Foodie recently stumbled upon this recipe from ”Sticky Goey Creamy Chewy” that turns meatloaf and mashed potatoes into savory cupcakes. Sub in bacon, cheese, or chive “sprinkles” to complete the transformation.

Sweet potato French toast

Baby food maker, NurturMe.com, sent over this sweet take on the breakfast staple. To make, mix a pouch of NuturMe sweet potatoes with three to five tablespoons of water. (Or sub in 2.5 ounces of pureed fresh sweet potatoes.) In a medium sized bowl, whisk the puree with three eggs, a quarter-cup milk, and a teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla. Soak four to six slices of bread in the mixture, turning to coat both sides. Cook on a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat for a minute or two on each side, until golden brown. Top with fresh fruit, powdered sugar, or honey as desired.

Popcorn-celery sticks

Think of this as a modern twist on ants-on-a-log. Instead of raisins, Len Saunders, author of “Keeping Kids Fit,” tops celery and cream cheese with air-popped popcorn. “It’s full of rich vitamins and minerals, healthy, low fat, dietary fiber, and antioxidants,” Saunders says. Use low-fat cream cheese, and a light hand when spreading it on the celery.

Graham cracker dippers

Protein-rich, but tart, Greek yogurt gets more appeal when paired with graham crackers and a smidge of chocolate in this recipe from nutritionist Kati Mora of AroundthePlate.org. Pair it with fresh strawberries, too, she suggests.

Green and pink egg sushi

Celine Cossou-Bordes, the author of “Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Pack a Lunch,” says these faux sushi rolls are one of her kids’ favorites. In a bowl, mix a chopped hard-boiled egg, a teaspoon Dijon mustard, a tablespoon mayonnaise and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Divide egg mixture between two small bowls. Add a cup of frozen chopped spinach, thawed, to one bowl and mix well. (This is the green mixture.) Add a tablespoon ketchup to the other bowl and mix well. (This is the pink mixture.)
Place a bread slice on a cutting board and roll with a rolling pin, flattening until thin. Repeat for all four slices. Spread the green mix on two flattened slices, and the pink mix on the other two. Roll each slice like a sushi roll, pressing firmly, and cut into bite-size rounds.

Disguised breakfast banana

The final presentation looks like a hot dog, but ZiggetyZoom.com’s healthy breakfast actually uses a banana, strawberry yogurt and fresh fruit.

Veggie brownies

Supplement all that chocolate in brownies with something a little healthier. Health coach Michelle Pfennighaus uses sweet potatoes in her version, while comedic cook Lillian Medville of “Lillian’s Test Kitchen” uses black beans.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.