Healthy Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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To this day, whenever I give my 5-year-old a muffin, he asks me "Is there Zucchini in it?" As a picky tot, muffins were one of my favorite ways to sneak in an extra veggie—until he learned my tricks.  But if there's one thing he can't resist, it's chocolate, and these muffins offer up a double dose of that. They taste decadent and super chocolately, but they're also packed with not 1, not 2, but 3(!) types of fruits and veggies: a hefty dose of zucchini, banana, and applesauce. The end result is something so rich, that you would never guess they're good for you. Make a big batch, and stick them in the freezer so you can pop one out for lunch boxes or heck, even breakfast. They'll keep for up to three months in the freezer in an airtight container or for 2 days in the refrigerator.

HEALTHY DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI MUFFINS makes 16 regular sized muffins

Ingredients: 1 1/4  cups whole wheat flour 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 2  ripe bananas 1/4 cup olive oil 2 eggs at room temperature 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce 1/4 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small) 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 12-cup muffins tin with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, mash bananas until no big lumps remain. Stir in oil, eggs, sugar, applesauce, milk, and vanilla until combined. Add zucchini and mix. Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined. Mix in chocolate chips. Using a 1/4 cup measuring scoop, divide batter evenly into prepared muffin tins, and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Kid-approved kale smoothie

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We're in a deep freeze of January when everyone seems to have the sniffles. I live firmly by the belief that one of the best ways to stay healthy (aside from hand washing!) is through food. Eating healthy foods truly can boost the immune system when you need it most--and perhaps there's no better food for health than kale. It contains cold-fighting vitamins A, C, K and zinc PLUS protein, calcium and omega 3s.

Before you roll your eyes when I tell you that we start most mornings with a green smoothie, I'll first make my case on how easy it is to do (seriously!). Baby kale and strawberries store right in the freezer, so there's no need to keep fresh produce around. Plus, I'll make a big blender full and use it for two days in a row (just give it a whirl, and you're good to go!).

One of my most successful strategies with my kids has been to start easy on the kale and work your way up. Since kale has a stronger flavor profile than spinach, go light on the kale on your first batch, and gradually increase it as your kids get used to the taste. I hope your kids like this version as much as mine do!

Kid-approved kale smoothie

(makes 2 8-ounce smoothies) Ingredients: a handful of kale leaves, stems removed or baby kale 3 frozen strawberries 1 banana 1 cup almond milk (sub regular milk) (optional) 1 teaspoon honey* Directions: Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth, add some water if it is too thick. Store in the refrigerator for up to two days (reblend before serving since ingredients will separate).

*Do not use honey for babies under age 1

Homemade baked French fries

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We’re deep into the throws of Christmas vacation gone way too long—10 straight days of frigid sub zero temps followed by a blizzard that’s cancelled school the week the kids are supposed to be back (and parents are supposed to be breathing a sigh of relief). It’s been a long two weeks in the house, and although January normally calls for healthy recipes, we’re craving some serious comfort food. And a babysitter. We’re craving that too. But until than, we’ll take these homemade French fries. While many versions of homemade baked fries end up soggy and sad, this version gets extra crisp by preheating the baking sheet in a hot oven and arranging the fries in a single layer. But perhaps the most important part is resisting the urge to touch them while they are cooking. Let them get crunchy and crisp up while you play referee on boredom-fueled wresting matches/ fights over what’s on TV / general sibling showdowns that happen when you spend wayyy to much time together. What, is it only us?

 

Baked French Fries

Place a baking sheet in the oven, and turn your oven to 400 degrees. Scrub and pat dry 3 medium russet or Yukon gold potatoes.

Cut potatoes into evenly sliced 1/4 inch sticks (sticks should be evenly sliced to ensure they cook evenly). In a medium bowl, toss potatoes with 3 tablespoons canola oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Using an oven mitt, remove baking sheet from the oven. Spread fries on preheated baking sheet in a single layer, and making sure the flat side of the fry touches the sheet (and be careful since the baking sheet is hot!). Return to the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the bottom of the fries are a deep golden brown. Remove from oven, and use a metal spatula to remove fries from the tray. Season with extra salt to taste while they’re still warm.

Your perfect chicken soup

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With a newsfeed that's overflowing with pictures of Christmas cookies and holiday goodies, this chicken soup is begging you: STOP AND LOOK AT ME! If your kids are like mine, they're living on the Buddy The Elf diet of cookies and candy canes. Everywhere we go--school, holiday parties, stores--someone is serving them some sort of sweet treat. Rather than fighting it (hello, meltdowns), I use this month to stay balanced at home, making sure that their regular meals are ones that will keep them healthy despite the month-long sugar rush.

For me, soup is always the answer. I can make a big batch of it that they'll eat for the week (I freeze leftovers), and my kids happily slurp up the veggies. Plus, there's nothing more comforting during an arctic chill (brrrr!).

In this version, I omit pasta and rice (though you can add a cup of either--just be sure to increase the amount of stock by 2 cups), and I flavor it with fresh herbs that I tie in a bundle to season the soup while it's cooking and then remove it before serving (read: lots of flavor without complaints about "the green things"). I also use bone and skin on chicken thighs, which add tons of nutrients and flavor.

Your Perfect Chicken Soup makes 10 cups Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and diced 1 1/2 cups celery, diced 1 yellow onion, diced 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced 2 pounds organic chicken thighs fresh parsley, thyme and dill (or any combination of herbs that sound good to you) 8 cups organic low sodium chicken stock **(See note below) salt and pepper Directions: In a large stock pot over medium heat, add carrots, celery, onion and sweet potato. Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are fork tender around 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather herbs in a pile and use a piece of kitchen twine to tie into a bundle. Set aside. Add chicken, stock and herb bundle to the pot. Increase the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through (around 20-30 minutes). Using tongs, carefully remove chicken from the pot and place onto a cutting board. Let cool for 5 minute before handling, then discard skin and bones. Roughly chop chicken and return to the pot. Remove herb bundle and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with crust bread or grilled cheese (my kids' favorite).

**Chicken broth/stock is one of those foods that's sneakily high in sodium. I buy low sodium varieties and then season the soup to taste with salt and pepper at the end

Recipe: Squash and Apple Soup

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I've always found that when it comes to Thanksgiving recipes, simplicity wins. Amidst all the heavy appetizers, a massive main meal, and the loads of desserts, this soup stands out as satisfyingly simple in its elements (it contains only 5 ingredients if you don't count the butter) and with all the flavors you crave on Thanksgiving day. It also gets its creaminess from the pureed squash--yep, there's no cream here--which is a welcome relief from the loads of rich and decadent foods.

In fact, I've made this soup almost every year for the past decade as a Thanksgiving appetizer, and it's a win with everyone. With subtle sweetness from the apples, it's a crowd pleaser for kids and adults. I serve it in the slow cooker, set on low, so it stays piping hot. Add pomegranate seeds to garnish, and the colors are vibrant and beautifully Fall in nature.

There are many ways to make a squash soup, and I always use Thanksgiving as an excuse to take shortcuts. You could buy a whole squash and cut it up yourself (more on how to do that here), or you could go for my choice and buy the more convenient (albeit: more expensive) prechopped squash.And like all soups, the longer it simmers, the better the flavors develop, so be sure to make this early Thanksgiving morning or even the day before. I've even made this a week or two before Turkey Day and kept it frozen until the day of, and no one was all the wiser.

If you have a baby, this soup too is a winner! It's the perfect pureed consistency for babies who aren't quite ready for textures, but it also contains delicious flavors and spices to help expand their little palates.

Squash and Apple Soup

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. butter

2 medium onions, diced

3 tsp curry powder

3-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (or around 3-4 cups butternut squash cubes OR 3 cups of butternut squash puree)

2 apples, peeled, cored, cubed

·3 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add onion and saute until tender. Stir in curry powder

Add squash, apples, chicken stock and salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until squash and apples are tender

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or alternatively, transfer to the soup in batches to a blender (careful, it will be hot!). Serve warm with pomegranate seeds as a garnish.

Recipe: Cinnamon Apple Chips

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One thing is for sure at this time of year: You're going to be eating a lot of apples. Here in November, apples are the only fresh fruits left at the farm stand, and that fruit (along with pears and bananas), will be what my kids survive on until citrus season begins this winter. Happily, my kids LOVE apples--our family goes through at least a dozen a week!--but it's also nice to change things up a bit.

This recipe for baked apple chips is so simple, and it's the perfect project for a rainy homebound weekend day. All you have to do is slice the apples nice and thin, let the kids sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon, and then set them in the oven on low for an hour. Your home will smell wonderful all day, and you'll end up with sweet and crispy chips that are perfect for snacking by the handful or packing into lunch boxes.

 

Cinnamon Apple Chips

Ingredients:

2 apples

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Core the apples. With sharp knife, slice off 1/2-inch from top and bottom of apples and discard. Saw gently crosswise into very thin (1/8-inch) rings

Arrange apples on the baking sheet in a single layer. Place the sheet on the middle shelf in oven, and bake for 45min-1 hr until apple slices are lightly browned and almost dry to touch.

Let chips cool on racks completely before storing in airtight container.

Pumpkin Hummus

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With all the adorable treats there are to buy and make (and eat!) on Halloween, it's refreshing to have something that you can serve that feels slightly redemptive. Especially if you're a parent like me who likes to steal their kids' Halloween candy in the name of safety. As in: "Hmm, that Butterfinger packaging looks iffy. I'm going to have to confiscate that." This pumpkin hummus has all the feels for something that looks super spooky (it's orange, after all!). And you could serve it with black tortilla chips and  baby carrots, or even top it with plastic spiders!

Plus, with 5 simple ingredients and 2 minutes to pull it all together, it's totally doable to make despite the chaos of the crazy day. We promise it's worth it!

Pumpkin Hummus

In a food processor, add 1 garlic clove, 1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas, 1 cup canned pumpkin, juice of 1/2 lemon, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin. Puree until completely smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

 

 

 

 

8 Not-Sweet Halloween Treats

This year, when my son's class passed around a list of items that parents could contribute to the school Halloween party, I couldn't believe what was on the list: cookies, munchkins, cupcakes (and fine, fruit).  But with the amount of candy kids eat on Halloween, isn't it overboard to add even more to their daily sugar quota? We know your kids are going to be all hopped on sugar (mine go totally sugar wild!), but these genius non-sweet, super-spooky ideas are so cute that it just might tempt your kid to put down the candy for a half second.  

  1. SPOOKY EGG GHOSTS (from @onmykidsplate) Easy enough for non-pintrest mamas (raises hand), these help balance out the sugar with a hefty dose of protein.

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2. MUMMY GRAPES CUPS (from @produceforkids). Use a black sharpie and clear plastic cups to create an adorable snack.

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3. PIZZA MUMMIES (from @heather_kidskitchen). For when you're begging your children to eat dinner. String cheese and olives for eyes transform the plain old pizza bagel into something that screams Halloween.

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4. APPLE MOUTHS (from @produceforkids). Use almonds for teeth, strawberries for a silly tongue, and peanut butter or sunbutter to hold 'em in place.

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5. CANDY CORN CUPS (from @morepleasemama). A mixture between a treat and healthy fruit, this is one the kids will definitely eat (at least the top layer!)

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6. CLEMENTINE JACK-O-LANTERNS (from @fountainavenuekitchen). All you need is a black sharpie and an ability to draw triangles.

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7. MUMMY HOTDOGS (from @allrecipes) Stretch out strips of puff pastry dough and go to town!

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8. Minion Bananas (from @saralewisphotography ) There are ways to make these super silly by glueing on eyeballs and wrapping the bottoms in blue tissue paper. Or you could just do this and the kids will love them anyway.

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Beet baby food puree

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Ages: 8 months+ Technique: Roasting. Check out our cooking guide to learn which other vegetables require this method of cooking.

Turn it into: ROASTED BEET HUMMUS!  Get our recipe for beet hummus here.

If you're brave enough to handle the cleanup (hint: feed them this before bath time) and are cool with purple poop (yep, beets will discolor their urine and stool), beets are a delicious and healthy food for baby! Learn more about beets here.

 

ROASTED BEET PUREE makes 10 ounces Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash your hands well with soap and water. Slice off the beet leaves, leaving nothing but the bulbs. Rinse three medium beets under running water and pat dry. Coat beets lightly with oil. Wrap beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, approximately 45 minutes. You will know they are done if the beet is easily pierced with a fork. Let cool, then unwrap from the foil, and use your fingers or a vegetable peeler to peel off the beet skin. Chop beets into quarters. Add beets to a food processor and puree until completely smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. You may need to add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until beets reach a smooth thick consistency.

Storage instructions: Store beet puree in the refrigerator for a maximum of three days or freeze in individual servings for up to three months. Do not refreeze defrosted food.

Roasted Beet Hummus

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Seriously, does it get more beautiful than this? This recipe, which uses roasted beets in place of traditional chickpeas, makes a show-stopping spread (seriously, what little girl wouldn't love a PURPLE dip?) and is a great use for leftover roasted beets. I love adding this to a crudite platter alongside pita and veggies at a part--it adds a great pop of color

This recipe calls for 1 pound of roasted beets, but if you're starting out with our beet baby food ( Get the recipe here) you'll want to set aside about 1 cup of pureed beets to make this recipe in place of the cooked, roasted beets below. Add the pureed beets and follow the rest of the recipe as is.

Roasted Beet Hummus Ingredients: 1 lb cooked or roasted  beets, quartered  OR 1 1/2 cups beet puree 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped (optional) 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/2 tablespoon tahini 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1 garlic clove 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt Directions: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Taste throughout and adjust the balance as you see fit. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro, if desired.

Apple-Carrot Muffins

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At the end of every September,  I find myself up to my eyeballs in apples. Between the trips to the farm where my kids pick them right off the tree, and stops by the farmer's market where apples get sold by the bucket, and visits to the grocery store where apples are on sale for pennies to the pound, I start to wonder what the heck to do with all of 'em. This humble recipe is one that I've been making for a few years and I appreciate its ease (there's no peeling, coring or chopping required) and its practicality (you can make a batch, freeze them, and then pop one out to eat for breakfast or throw in the lunchbox as a snack).

With all the overly sweet apple recipes out there, this one uses a scant amount of sugar and is sweetened naturally with fruit and made even more wholesome with whole wheat flour. My 2-year-old and 5-year-old enjoy making this with me as much as they would like making an apple pie or an apple crisp, and I like having something in the house that's both fun to make together and that I can feel good about serving my whole family.

Apple-Carrot Muffins makes 12 muffins

Ingredients: 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour 1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup grated carrots (from about 2 large carrots) 1 cup grated apples (from about 1 large apple) 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce 2 eggs 1/4 cup whole milk 1/4 cup canola oil 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray or use muffin liners. Grate the carrots and apples using a box grater. Set aside In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, stir together the carrots, apples, applesauce, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Pour the carrot-apple mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Do not over mix. Divide the batter evenly into muffin cups and bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Blackberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

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I always beg people not to buy store-bought salad dressing. For one, it's expensive when you compare it to the price it costs to make it yourself. Secondly, most brands are loaded with salt and sugar.  And lastly, homemade dressing takes seconds to make and tastes 10 thousand times better than any type of dressing you can get in a bottle. Trust us on this one. In the thirty seconds it will take you to whirl this together, you'll have a delicious dressing that you can use on salads, drizzle over chicken or grilled vegetables, or even use it as a delicious dipping sauce for grilled cheese or on a cheese board. Adding blackberries to your salad dressing makes it naturally sweet and adds a health boost. Read more about blackberries here!

Blackberry Balsamic  Vinaigrette

Ingredients: 1 cup fresh or frozen (and defrosted) blackberries 2 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar 3 tbsp. olive oil 1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup ½ tsp. Dijon mustard salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth well. If dressing is too thick, you can thin it with a few drops of water. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

 

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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 When my first son was 18 months and refusing all vegetables as most 18-month-olds do, I made a lot of zucchini muffins to get in some sort of vegetable. Maybe even too many muffins. Because four years later, he still inspects the muffins I make for zucchini to ensure that I’m not slipping one by him.

These double chocolate zucchini muffins pass the test for true picky eaters since the cocoa powder disguises zucchini into the batter. And while they’re made with traditional sugar and even some chocolate chips sprinkled up top, they’re also made virtuous with ingredients that include a fruit, a vegetable, whole wheat flour, and olive oil. But your kids will just notice that they taste like chocolate. 

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI MUFFINS

(makes 12 muffins)

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 medium ripe bananas

1/4 cup olive oil

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 large)

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In a large bowl, mash bananas until no big lumps remain. Add in oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla, and mix until combined.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in zucchini.

Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin tins.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

 

This article originally appeared on Little Hoboken.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

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I know what you're thinking...Why make may own when I can buy the jarred stuff?Hey, we get it--there's always a jar of sauce in our pantry for hectic weeknights. But homemade tomato sauce is surprisingly easy to make, and when you use summer's freshest tomatoes, there's no jar out there that can beat the taste. And if, like us, you're guilty of overdoing it at the farmer's market when you see all those bright red beauties--and then wondering what the heck to do with 10 pounds of tomatoes--this is the answer. Make a big batch and freeze it for the cooler months ahead..

Fresh Tomato Sauce Ingredients: 10 to 12 fresh plum tomatoes (approximately 2 to 2 1/2 pounds) 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped Pinch crushed red pepper 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped Kosher salt Freshly chopped parsley and/or basil leaves Directions Place a large stock pot filled with water over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Using a paring knife, cut an X on the base of each tomato, being careful not to cut too deep. (This technique is called scoring). Then, place scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and boil for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove tomatoes and plunge into cold water until they are cool enough to handle. At the location of the x, use your fingers to peel the skin off the tomatoes. Discard the skin. Dice peeled tomatoes and set aside. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, and sauté until garlic starts to sizzle, around 2 minutes. Add chopped onion and sauté an additional 2 1/2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chopped plum tomatoes and cook approximately 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Then stir in herbs. For a smoother sauce. Transfer to a food processor to puree or use and immersion blender.

5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthier This Week

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If your summer is looking anything like mine, it’s filled with ice cream trucks, pizza nights, and treats at grandma’s house/the pool/the beach.My sneaky kids have gone so far as to befriend all the regulars on our beach who come with bags packed with Oreos. They then make their best puppy dog eyes and say, "I've never had an Oreo before." Works every weekend. Healthy summertime eating can sometimes feel like a lost cause. But these quick strategies steer 'em back on track and are so easy to implement. Follow them to make your whole family healthier right away.

1. Ask your child to wash a vegetable. Pull a step stool up to your sink, and give your child the “job” of rinsing off the vegetable that you’re serving. While a common goal for parents is to get their kids to actually eat more vegetables, all types of exposures count--even holding a veggie in their hand. Kids are natural explorers, so letting them grab hold of a veggie exposes their senses to something new in a completely non-intimidating way.

2. Eat dinner under your kitchen table. Or have your kids pick any place you can spread a picnic blanket: over the sandbox, atop their playground—anything works. Remember, this strategy isn’t for pizza night—serve something healthier that you want them to try. Changing up the location makes dinnertime less of chore for children than having to sit at the table, which translates into more of a chance that they’ll eat what’s in front of them.

3. Replace one of your go-to snacks with something homemade. 99 out of 100 times, the snacks you make yourself are healthier than anything you buy in a package. Instead of a store-brought granola bar, make these sweet spinach muffins or healthier blueberry muffins. Compared to packaged stuff, homemade snacks contain way fewer ingredients, an ingredient list you can pronounce, and no preservatives or artificial anything. That’s always a step in the right direction.

4. Put out a veggie tray after camp after the park. Add a mix of chopped veggies, like baby carrots, cucumbers, celery, pepper slices and a dip like hummus or ranch dressing. When kids are starving, they eat what’s in front of them. We do this about 30 minutes before dinnertime, and it works every time.

5. Count colors. Hang six pieces of construction paper on a wall or your door in these colors: green, orange, red, blue, yellow, purple.  Tell your kids that your goal for the day is to eat as many of these colors as they can—whoever gets the most colors at the end of the week wins. And no, rainbow sprinkles don’t count :)

How to pick the healthiest granola bar

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Children loves granola bars, but many brands you'll find on the shelves contain as much sugar as candy bar! But healthy packaged ones do exist, and they're a great snack to have on the road or on those days that you simply don´t have time to make your own. When I buy granola bars at the grocery store, I look for these numbers on the nutrition panel:Calories: around 150 Sugar: less than 10 gram Fiber: more than 3 grams

Here's a list of my favorite granola bars that I feel good about giving to my kids.

Made good granola bars. A great choice for the school or camp since they are nut free and free from the most common allergens. They come in 4 delicious flavors AND are made with vegetables. 1 bar has 7 grams of sugar and 90 calories which is a good snack size especially for toddlers and prek aged kids.

Junkless Chewy Granola Bar: All four flavors are made with fewer than 8 ingredients, which is a refreshing shift from the lines of unpronounceable ingredients often found in store-bought bars. Our two favorite flavors are Cinnamon Roll and Chocolate Chip.

Cascadian Farms Organic, Oatmeal raisin granola bar. Lower in sugar than their other flavors with only 7g of sugar and 80 calories, this is also a great option for toddlers.

Kashi Chewy Granola Bar in Trail Mix Flavor. This contains nuts, so while it might not be a good option for school or the park, it's a great snack for safe environments and contains a filling 3g fiber.

Kind Cinnamon Oat Bars. Not all Kind Bars are low in sugar and nut-free, but these are, which make them a great choice for school. With only 5g of sugar and 2g of fiber, these are a healthy and filling choice.

Lära bars. Made exclusively with dried fruit and nuts (so not school friendly), these are high in good fats and natural sugars from the fruit. I have my kids split a bar.

15 Convenient Snacks that We Love

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If time was never an issue and groceries magically appeared in our fridge, our kids would live on a diet of all homemade food all the time, but in reality, we do a mix of fresh foods, homemade snacks, and packaged ones. Here are our go-tos: 1. Organic popcorn

2. Sliced veggies like red peppers, cucumbers, and baby carrots with mini to-go hummus. These don't require refrigeration--perfect for on-the-go.

3. Homemade muffins, like these healthier blueberry muffins or kid-approved zucchini muffins.

4. Store brought granola bars: Check out our post on our favorite granola bars!

5. Apple slices with peanut butter or sunbutter

6. Applesauce pouches.Look for ones that have apples and water as the only ingredients and steer clear of ones that have fruit concentrates (another word for added sugar). We do Mott's Unsweetened Applesauce .

7. Yogurt sticks. We love the Siggis brand for being low in sugar and high in protein. The kids love these frozen.

8. A bowl of cereal with milk. Check our our post on our picks for the healthiest cereals

9. Mini whole wheat bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter

10. Cheese and crackers

11. String cheese. Our kids love the new character string cheese (and often fight over whether I should buy Spiderman or Paw Patrol!)

12. Whole fruit--apples, bananas, peaches, plums. They're so portable and can stay for a day or two in your purse or in your car.

13. Chopped fruit, like watermelon, cantaloupe, and raspberries and blueberries, which double as a hydration for hot summer days.

14.Harvest Snaps Pea Crisps. The kids LOVE these, and I love how they have natural protein from the peas.

15. Homemade trail mix. We make ours nut free with Cheerios, raisins, chocolate chips, and sunflower seeds.

Healthier Blueberry Muffins

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Is it just my kids, or do all kids' demands for snacks increase by 300 percent in the summer? Seriously, I'm not even done cleaning up breakfast when they come back whining "I'm soooo hungry!" And from there snacks are an hourly request. Oy! Our snacking always includes fruits and veggies with go-tos like sliced apples and peaches, berries, chopped up peppers and baby carrots. And to risk sounding like the annoying mom at the park who always packs everything homemade, I do make them tons of homemade snacks that I stockpile in my freezer (don't roll your eyes, I also do many prepackaged stuff too--favorites can be found by clicking here). Here's the thing: Whipping up a batch of muffins seriously takes very little time, and if you make one snack a week for say, 3 weeks, you end up with a variety of homemade snacks that are super easy to grab and go and also way healthier than anything you can buy in a package. Especially since store-bought snacks can be sneakily loaded with sugar (more on that here!)

These blueberry muffins are so easy and delicious and they're made healthier with whole wheat flour, olive oil, and naturally sweetened with honey. I double the recipe and freeze leftovers To prevent sticking, I freeze on a baking sheet for an hour or so, and then transfer them to a gallon sized ziplock bag. I think you'll love them!

Ingredients 1¾ cups whole wheat flour 1 teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt ⅓ cup olive oil ½ cup honey 2 eggs 1 cup plain yogurt 2 teaspoons vanilla extract Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon 1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not defrost)

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin with oil or cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the oil, and honey or maple syrup, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use a wooden spoon to mix until just combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups (I like to use a 1/4 cup measuring cup sprayed with cooking spray for this part.) Bake the muffins for 20-22 minutes until set and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Store in an airtight container for 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.