Let’s face it. Even the most imaginative kids get antsy after being cooped up in the house during the cold weather.
Before you all go stir-crazy, make use of the extra indoor time. Tap into children’s natural creativity and craving for fun and teach them to enjoy wholesome food, the foundation for a lifetime of feeding their potential.
Perfect for a snow day, here are six simple tricks to inspire your budding chefs, along with tips from nutrition experts who work with kids every day at schools across the US—Aramark registered dietitians (RDs) Angelina Sickora, Aracely Rojas, and Chelsea Arkadie (from left, below).
Fact: Rolling food instantly makes it more fun! Roll-ups are simple to prepare, and endless combinations can start with whole wheat tortillas. Fill one with turkey and cheese or PB&J. Make a pizza version with shredded mozzarella and pizza or pasta sauce. Or create kid-friendly “sushi” rolls featuring fruits or veggies rolled up and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Try This: Peanut Butter & Banana Sushi
A delicious flavor combo with a twist! “Kids love these fun snacks, and they are packed with protein, potassium, and filling fiber,” says Angelina Sickora, RDN, LDN.
Shapes add a cute factor that appeals to kids and grown-ups alike. Break out your cookie cutters to turn whole wheat bread (and whatever’s inside) into the best sandwich ever. Hearts, animals, flowers or stars transform slices of apple, pear, pineapple, or other fruits into super snacks. Challenge kids to find the shapes—and fillings—they like best.
Try This: Butternut Squash Cut-Outs
As delicious as it is versatile, butternut squash is one of winter’s shining stars. Parents start by peeling, seeding, and cutting squash into thick slices, help kids press out cookie cutter shapes, and pop them into a hot oven. (Squirrel-shaped squash, anyone?)
The whole family agrees: A great dip makes everything better! With so many healthy options around—think yogurt, puréed fruit, apple and nut butters, salsa, hummus, guacamole—you’re sure to find some your kids love. Grab some sliced fruits and veggies, whole wheat crackers, tortillas or pita, and dunk away.
Try This: Peanut Butter Greek Yogurt Dippers
“Super easy and packed with protein, this snack is a great way to make something wholesome look and feel like a treat,” says Aracely Rojas, RD. “If you need to go nut-free, use sunflower butter and raisins instead of peanut butter and sliced almonds.”
Playing with food can be encouraged when it helps kids channel their inner artists. Turn vegetables or fruit into race cars, fish, or flowers. Nut butters and honey make great “glue.” Graham crackers become mini pizzas topped with yogurt and fruit. Whole grain crackers or bagels come to life when you use fruits and veggies to form a funny face with eyes, a mouth, a nose, and hair.
Try This: Picture Perfect Popcorn
One of the healthiest snacks around, air-popped popcorn, recreates the winter scene outside with whole wheat pretzel sticks as a tree. Or string the popcorn into decorative garlands. It’s okay to munch as you play!
A perfect parfait awaits! Start with tall, clear glasses and layer spoonfuls of fruit, granola, and yogurt (user a lower-sugar yogurt and let mashed bananas or other fruit provide the sweetness). Add extra crunch with slivered almonds or peanuts. Breakfast has never been this fun—and everyone winds up with personalized cups.
Try This: Breakfast Berries and Chia Seed Parfait
“Greek yogurt and chia seeds offer protein, and honey adds a touch of sweetness,” says Chelsea Arkadie, RD, LD. “Berries are high in vitamins and other nutrients like fiber. These can be assembled ahead at night for a quick grab-and-go breakfast.” They’re also great for leisurely weekends or an after-school snack.
The trusty blender is about to become your kids’ favorite kitchen appliance. In no time flat it whips up fresh fruit smoothies they’ll love. Just pick their favorite—peaches, bananas, berries, pineapple, even watermelon—and help them blend with ice, low-fat milk, yogurt or natural fruit juice. Test different combos until your kids find the perfect one.
Try This: Key Lime Pie Smoothie
A taste of the tropics in the middle of winter, our drink gets its signature flavor from fresh lime juice and its bright green color from spinach, which contains vitamins A and C, and protein. The potassium-loaded bananas lend sweetness, while healthy fats from avocado give it creaminess.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.