Fall brings with it chilly weather, crunchy leaves, and, hopefully, the smell of warm pumpkin, apples, and cinnamon in the air. These signs point to one thing: turkey day is nearly here! As you plan your fantastic feast, you might be wondering what to do with kids who only want to eat buttery mashed potatoes and mac and cheese? Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way! Healthy Thanksgiving recipes and treats for kids are the perfect way to make the holiday season all about fun and feeling good. So, instead of nutritionally empty sides and sugar overloaded desserts, take this year to get your kids excited about trying new foods and appreciating the seasonal flavors. Here are our favorite ideas for making Thanksgiving for kids a healthy and delicious adventure!
What better way to kick off the holiday than with a few festive snacks for the little ones? To keep the kids full and happy while dinner is being prepared, you can offer them a turkey made out of either colorful apple feathers and nut butter or colorful bell peppers and hummus. If the kids can’t seem to wait for dessert, opt for apples with cinnamon, baked or crisp, to hold them over. For a heartier snack, add the apples to chia pudding or oatmeal. For lighter bites, create something crunchy out of your favorite fall fruits, veggies, or potatoes. Try cinnamon apple crisps or sweet potato chips. To take the festivity up a notch, use a cookie cutter before baking to make the bites look like leaves, feathers, pumpkins or other cute thanksgiving visuals. The kids won’t be able to resist!
While your main courses are in the oven, you can offer a fruit or veggie tray with the colorful slices shaped into a pumpkin, turkey, or autumn leaf. Just like the cut-out snacks, the image on the plate is sure to draw the kiddos in! Or, if you’re ready to dive into the beginning of the meal, a fall fruit and vegetable salad is sure to please everyone at the table. Play around with kale, sweet potato, apple, strawberries, and maybe even pomegranate seeds or pumpkin seeds, if your child is old enough to safely consume them. The variety in color, flavor, and texture can turn a boring salad into a nutrient-packed dish of fall harvest foods that lets the seasonal flavors shine. If your kiddo is not interested in salad, you might be looking for something more warm and comforting instead? A pumpkin or butternut squash soup can be healthy, delicious, and super cozy too!
Ready to dive into the main meal? Mix up your usual sides by adding carrots, zucchini, or another favorite fall vegetable to rice, couscous, quinoa, or even mashed potatoes. It adds color and nutrients to create the tastiest healthy thanksgiving side dishes! If you’re looking to stick with the classics, make a few ingredient swaps to offer a healthier option to your kids. Sweet potato mash can be plenty sweet without the marshmallows. Leave them out and stick with healthy oils and toasted nuts on top. Rework another iconic dish by DIY-ing a healthier green bean casserole. Swap the fried onions for sautéed and add your own mushrooms too. Another tasty thanksgiving treat for kids is baked brussel sprouts. A little honey on top can add some sweetness that makes the veggies tastier for younger palates.
The day sure isn’t complete without pie! But not to worry, healthy thanksgiving desserts are an easy fix for the usual options that are often high with fat and sugar. One great way to improve the classics is to go crustless! Make low-sugar pumpkin pies in ramekins or baked apples with cinnamon! Each dessert is easily portioned so that kids only take what they need to feel the satisfaction of their favorite sweets. For something a little bit different, you can try festive oatmeal pumpkin or oatmeal apple cookies. Packed with nutrients and flavor! Pecan pie bites are another simple favorite. To stick closer to the tradition, make your usual pies but opt for a whole-wheat or ground-nut pie crust. You can also make your own low-fat or dairy-free whipped cream or ice cream from scratch to control the sugar content while upping the freshness and fun!
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we are here every step of the way to help you maximize health and happiness for your little ones. While healthy thanksgiving recipes can be fun, festive, and delicious, we know it can be tricky to get your kids excited about forgoing the treats in favor of healthy flavors. So, please do not hesitate to reach out to your passionate Coastal Kids pediatrician for expert advice, specifically tailored to your little one’s needs. To make an appointment visit us at www.coastalkids.com. Until then, we wish you a happy thanksgiving, we sure are grateful for every one of our patients and their families!