It’s the end of a busy school day and your kids come home with a hankering for one of the usual culprits — pizza, tacos, maybe chicken tenders. These fast-food staples may not hold the title of Healthiest Dinner on the Block, but with a few simple modifications, your kids’ favorite finger foods can become wholesome homemade dishes. Ease back into a busy fall schedule with these quick, kid-friendly dishes you can feel good about eating.
Chickpea Crust Pizza
With a few alterations, family pizza night can be a healthy tradition rather than a once-in-a-blue-moon indulgence. Food Network Kitchen fortifies the classic finger food with a high-fiber chickpea-flour crust. For a classic presentation, top it off with crushed tomatoes, provolone cheese and chicken sausage (which is significantly leaner than pork or beef). Gluten-free households can rely on this as their go-to pizza recipe, but it’s also ideal for families simply looking to trim back calories at dinnertime, as the recipe serves four and contains just 274 calories per serving.
Oven-Baked Almond Fish Sticks
Crushed almonds and high-fiber bran flakes combine to create a crunchier-than-usual coating for these lightened-up fish sticks. A touch of cayenne, garlic powder and oregano helps to boost the relatively mild flavor of cod. To really keep the dish light, serve the sticks with a zesty marinara sauce on the side in place of caloric tartar sauce or another mayo-based dip.
Honey-Nut Chicken Sticks
If your kids aren’t too keen on fish, they’ll probably prefer Rachael Ray’s take on the quintessential kid food: chicken tenders. For the coating, combine honey-nut flavored cereal with regular breadcrumbs. Sweet paprika complements the honey, but feel free to add other seasonings of your choice. By baking the tenders instead of frying them, you’ll eliminate the need for excessive amounts of oil.
Crisp Mozzarella Sticks
Crisp on the outside but melt-in-your-mouth gooey on the inside, these homemade mozzarella sticks are a far cry from the rubbery breaded cheese favored by school cafeterias everywhere. Crushed melba toasts and whole-wheat breadcrumbs produce a crust that’s lower in carbohydrates. The most-important component — the melty cheese center — consists of part-skim mozzarella, to keep the fat in check.
Grilling season just ended, but that doesn’t mean your kids are ready to give up their favorite summer foods. These skillet-cooked burgers make the transition from summer to fall so much easier. But unlike grilled beef burgers loaded with cheese or bacon, these chicken burgers clock in at a modest 324 calories while staying incredibly juicy. To keep the calorie count low, use ground white chicken meat and low-fat milk when preparing the patties.
Make Your Own Tacos
Like family pizza night, taco night can (and should) be a regular occurrence with a few healthful modifications. If you’ve had your fill of turkey, swap ground bison for beef as a lower-calorie and lower-fat alternative. The hearty meat pairs perfectly with cubed sweet potato and squash. Let your family pick from an assortment of healthy toppings, like peppers, radishes, avocado and Greek yogurt.
For more kid-friendly meals to jump start your fall, check out these recipes from our friends:
The Lemon Bowl: Yogurt Banana Splits with Muesli
Devour: Healthy, Kid-Friendly Recipes That Make Food Disappear Faster Than Houdini
Homemade Delish: Homemade Poptarts
Virtually Homemade: Gluten-Free Banana Muffins with Cinnamon Glaze
Creative Culinary: Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats
Taste with the Eyes: Banana Split Pavlova – A “Sick” Dessert For Both Adults and Kids!
Daisy at Home: Chewy Granola Bars
Weelicious: Hummus Veggie Wraps
FN Dish: A Whole Week’s Worth of Back-to-School Lunches