Southern California Integrative Wellness Center

Children are creatures of habit, and once they’re in a routine around what they eat, it can be tricky to introduce new foods without a struggle. 

One way to gradually expand their diet to include more nutritious foods is by making food swaps. This involves changing out a less healthy food for a more nutritious one. 

Here are some food swaps you can try with your child right away to improve their diet and their overall health.

Replace refined foods with their less processed counterparts

There are so many options out there for avoiding the worst of refined grains. If your kids turn their nose up at the healthier options, try going half and half on refined grains and whole grains for a little while to smooth the transition.

  • Choose whole wheat bread instead of white bread
  • Use brown rice in place of white rice
  • Serve steel-cut oatmeal instead of boxed cereals

Make their fast food favorites at home

Most takeout food is actually very easy to recreate at home using healthier ingredients. Here are a few ideas to try. 

  • Have a make-your-own-pizza night, with a selection of veggies and lean proteins for toppings (this idea works great for tacos and falafels, too).
  • Stir-fry veggies in low sodium soy sauce and serve them over a bed of brown rice for an at-home version of Chinese takeout.
  • Create healthy sub sandwiches by making them on whole wheat bread and loading them up with fresh veggies like tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and cucumbers.

Incorporate more fruits and veggies into familiar dishes

It’s simple to sneak extra nutrients into your children’s diet by including more fruits and veggies in dishes they already know and love. In many cases, they won’t even notice the recipe has changed. 

  • Blend cooked carrots or spinach into tomato sauce
  • Add mashed bananas to pancake batter 
  • Add roasted veggies such as peppers and eggplant to lasagna

Getting your children on board with healthy eating

Food swaps are a great way to get the ball rolling on better health for your family, but don’t forget that the ultimate goal is to raise children who want to eat well and prioritize nutrition. Take every opportunity to involve your children in meal planning, from shopping and prepping to cooking to repurposing leftovers, to encourage their interest in food and show them how a well-balanced diet is the foundation of a healthy and happy life.