November 8th, 2010
01:16 PM ET

iReport daily challenge: #BeAHero for healthy kids

Editor's Note: Learn about the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010 and vote for the CNN Hero of the Year at

[Updated 11/8/10 at 12:10 p.m. ET ]

In response to yesterday’s challenge to “Be a hero for healthy kids,” we got tons of great suggestions for healthy kids’ snacks and meals. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Here are a few highlights:

-Dehydrated apples, bananas and tomatoes. "My baby granddaughter is almost two years old and she loves the fruit. It's about the only way she will eat fruit right now, besides baby food." –iReporter KCRep

-Red, White & Green Pizza Pinwheels: Whole wheat tortillas, marinara sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese, fresh spinach. “Layer the sauce, spinach and mozzarella onto the tortilla, roll tightly and slice into toddler-size pinwheels." –Livsmum07

-Chicken pitas: Shredded chicken, sliced cherry tomatos, spinach leaves, sliced sweet peppers, bean sprouts, and a chipotle hummus all stuffed into a pita pocket. –KJ

-Fruit and veggie smoothies: “Bananas, strawberries and blueberries as a base, with Greek yogurt and then some carrots and spinach. The key is to balance the fruits with the veggies. I've never had a complaint about the smoothie yet.” –Katyna

-Peanut butter happy face sandwiches: "A tablespoon of peanut butter spread on whole grain, then add a face: apple slices lips and ears, banana slices eyes with raisin pupils and eyebrows, a baby carrot halved for a nose. Let the kids make their own combos, just provide the face parts as above. Other good face parts are orange slices, sliced pears, shredded cabbage or coconut (nice hair), celery sticks, nuts, craisins, dried cherries, apricots, figs, prunes. Just tell them to choose carefully that they have to eat whatever they pick!" –Cindy Lou

-Jazzed up popcorn: 1 bag unflavored popcorn, 1 cup trail mix, 1/2 cup coconut, salt to taste – Jill

-"My kids could live happily with quinoa in every meal. I make it in veggie or chicken broth seasoned with garlic & cumin. Add garbanzo, tomatoes, bell pepper or eggplant for variety." –@Denicalifornia

For more ideas, check out these healthy-food sites from our readers:

[Original post] Last week came news that San Francisco officials will ban toys from McDonald's Happy Meals – and other restaurant kids meals – unless they improve the meals’ nutrition with fruits and vegetables by December 2011.

The decision by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is getting plenty of push-back from people who say the government shouldn’t force choices on them, or that parents, not fast-food chains, are to blame for fat children.

Let’s assume that parents want to do the right thing and just need a little help sometimes.

Today’s challenge is for the parents out there:

“Be a hero” for kids’ nutrition and share your favorite easy-to-make healthy kids’ snack or meal. It can homemade, store-bought or found on a restaurant menu.

Share your suggestions in the comments below, or tell us about it on iReport. We’ll showcase some of the best ideas tomorrow. And if you'd like to sound off on the McDonald's story, head on over here.

soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Scottish Mama

    How about parents watch what your children eat? Now we are policing what kinds of food and if business' can give toys. Next we will be giving parents citations for giving kids candy. If you cannot say no to your child, maybe it is the parent that needs help.

    November 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC

      What I have found that works th ebest for our family is limiting the number of junk foods in the house. You will be surprised at how the level of your child's hungrer will change when you offer him a banana etc for snack instead of what they think they are hungry for. A lot of times they will say no thank you. Don't get me wrong we have junk food as well, but is it not constantly stocked in the pantry to meet their cravings for sugar.

      November 8, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dsashin

    @Scottish Mama – yep, that's why we're asking for your tips!

    November 8, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dswartz

    McDonald's adds and toys are not the ones to blame. The PARENTS who cant seem to tell their children no are the ones to blame. you cannot go on tying up the government asking them to legislate stupidty and frivilous nonsense while there are much more important issues to deal with. the governemnts job is not to tell people what they can and cannot purchase, what choices they can or cannot make with the monies they earn, nor is it their job to tell a corporation what they can or cannot advertise or there would not be entire broadcasting station devoted to selling products that can't seem to make it to a retail outlet and other stations allow paid 30 minute infomercial for hours on end from 2 in the morning til sometime 2pm on saturdays selling garbarge like how to extend your penis and other useless junk marketed to the same adults that cannot tell their children no you may not have mcdonalds today. Lets also not forget that a portion of happy meals goes to support Ronald Mcdonald Houses at childrens hospitals so they also support the health industry. the watchdog groups need to watch themselves and stop trying to take waya choices from everyone else just because it something you dont like.

    November 8, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Or what to watch. If parents cannot manage to monitor their children, maybe it is neglect.

      November 8, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Momof4

      I agree. There is a fun culture about McDonalds and the playland. I have fond memories of going to the McDonalds playground that was outside, where you took your Happy Meal on a train and rode it up a big hill to the playground. We easily ran off every calorie we ate, three times over!

      I let me kids order anything they want at McDonalds, and they really like the Happy Meals. But it's a real treat for them. We pretty much just go once per month, when the proceeds go to the kids' school. It's a fun time to hang out with their friends and have a cool meal. Parents make a lot of dumb's not the government's job to legislate parenting!! I see NOTHING wrong with letting my kids get a 600+ calorie happy meal once per month! They are active kids!!

      November 8, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Renae (10buckdinners)

      @momof4 I hear what you're saying because I too believe it's more important that kids get active as opposed to over monitoring their food. However, it's not just about caloric intake. It's 600 calories of hydrogenated fats and sodium. That's the part that gets me, not the calories. My kids don't even feel very good after eating fast food and neither do I. Tastes great going down, but seems to sit on your tummy like a rock and wants to exit a bit too quick, know what I mean? Anyway, I see your point, but think of it in terms of health. Maybe it will force better choices in the fast food industry and improve their offerings. I know I'd love to have carrot sticks or a side salad as opposed to french fries. Doesn't the oils bother anyone elses tummy?

      November 8, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      You all scream about government interference but you'll want me to pay higher insurance rates when your kids grow up to be adults with diseases caused by bad eating habits and that's ok. Hypocrites.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. dsashin

    Feel free to sound off on the McDonald's story by going here: We'd love to get your tips for healthy snacks.

    November 8, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Frank

    As usual,the Left Coast takes things to an extreme.I know for a fact schools where I live will not allow children K>6th grade to have any snacks with sugar in them.I believe right or wrong.keep the cake.candy,cookies and ice cream down to an absolute minimum,Make sure the child gets 2 hours of exercise a day.Stay off the Video Game and Computer during the day on weekends and get outside play sports etc..I think 1 Happy Meal a week (ie;Chicken Nuggets,Fish Sandwich or Cheesburger )is not going to do major damage to a child.For Snacks..Granola Bars and Raisins and Bannans are good.

    November 8, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • KJ

      I think, being from the left coast as you put it, you have never been, especially to the bay area where people really go to the extreme on many things. Had you been or if you were actually informed as to the status quo in the area which tend to be extremely anti big buisness and have always been resistant to the McDonalds/Walmarts etc moving into the area you would understand the true motivation here. There are more veagan/ vegetarian/fuitatarian stores, resteraunts etc. there then anywere else i have ever been. Unlike areas such as San Antonio Texas which has more fast food per capita, than anywere else. The politicians are merely pandering to the large health nut population in the area on an election year by doing this. You would never see anything like this in San Antonio as the demographic would go up in arms. Instead the San Franciscans are cheering at what a wise decision the supervisory board has made.

      November 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      I have to disagree withe statement "not do too much damage". Any food that is made with partially hydrogentated oils is very harmful to all people.
      McDonald still fries and cooks with these oils.
      Here is a link with some great information on these oils, how poisonous they are to your system and what the results of ingesting them are.

      Every time you see "hydrogentated oils" in the ingredients – think Crisco. When you let your kids eat McDonald's – they are basically eating loads of Crisco.

      November 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Scottish Mama

    Parents need to monitor their childs food intake.

    November 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mslman71

    This is what it takes to be a hero, eh?

    November 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • dsashin

      Good question. The #BeAHero challenges are small things we can do to make the world just a little bit better.

      November 8, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jillmarie

    As a child, I loved grilled cheese. This can easily be made with whole wheat bread, lowfat cheese slices, and add tomato slices for a serving of produce. Also, whole wheat macaroni with low-fat cheese sauce with cauliflower or broccoli would be great for kids. Apple slices or celery spread with peanut butter.

    November 8, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • KJ

      A good way to make healthy mac and cheese is to puree some squash in with a small amount of cheese. mix the sauce with a whole wheat macaroni, kids love it, and half the unneccessary fats in traditional mac and cheese

      November 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Momof4

    Gosh, I was hoping for some really cool ideas....does no one feed their kids healthy foods, and would just rather complain about the situation? The article asked for suggestions!!

    My only decent suggestion is kind of lame (hence the reason I was excited to read some others!). Packing a cold lunch daily can get boring to eat, so I bought a thermos and it has really opened up the possibilities of what I can pack for my kids. They really like chicken noodle soup with a half sandwich, and speghettios they love (I know, not the healthiest, but not that bad either), mac & cheese, etc. It just gives "cold lunch" more variety when you can pack something warm too!

    November 8, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • dsashin

      Thanks @Momof4! We did get a few more on Twitter/iReport:

      -baby bell peppers with hummus and grilled tofu
      -quinoa in veggie or chicken broth seasoned with garlic & cumin. Add garbanzo, tomatoes, bell pepper or eggplant for variety
      -dehydrated apples, bananas and tomatoes (a dehydrator is relatively inexpensive, and the snacks store in your fridge for up to one year!)

      Anyone else have some suggestions?

      November 8, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Livsmum07

      A fun recipe that I found online somewhere a while back, and my 3 year old LOVES –

      Red, White & Green Pizza Pinwheels:
      Whole Wheat Tortillas
      Marinara Sauce
      Lowfat Mozzarella Cheese
      Fresh Spinach

      Layer the sauce, spinach and mozzarella onto the tortilla, roll tightly and slice into toddler-size pinwheels. Yum!

      November 8, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. KJ

    Another suggestion that my daughter loves, is chicken pitas: Shredded chicken, sliced cherry tomatos, spinach leaves, sliced sweet peppers, bean sprouts, and a chipotle hummus all stuffed into a pita pocket

    November 8, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • dsashin

      Sounds delicious. Do you shred the chicken by hand?

      November 8, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • KJ

      yes, we usually make a batch of boneless skinless chicken breast in a crockpot with some seasoning and a bit of water, cooking it slow like that with some seasonings, makes it real tender and easy to shred with out drying it out,

      November 8, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Livsmum07

      Crock-pots are a working Mom's best friend!

      One great peice of advice I can share – my daughter is 3 and likes to replicate everything I say AND DO! If I sit on the couch with a bag of chips – she will plop down and want chips too! She helps me stay accountable and reminds me to be a good example by getting up off of my seat and snacking on fruits and veggies instead of processed junk.

      November 8, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Harold

    Someone has suggested the whole wheat pasta approach to maccaroni and cheese. We do that but also mix in some peas and finely shredded carrots. It's a little sneaky, but it helps get in some veggies without any complaints from the wee one. We usually also mix in broccoli and such as well.
    We also always try to be sure to OFFER something healthy. Keep putting it out there and don't givie up. One day we did sliced apples and cheese and just added some baby carrots to the plate. Our daughter actually chose to eat the carrots. They were fresh and crispy so that may have been the "pull", but rememebr to always offer it.

    November 8, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Michelle

    My daughter likes anything "taco!" Make it healthy with a whole wheat wrap. We add Tuna with sprouts, ham and cheese with lettuce, or turkey/cheese with pickles!

    November 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Thurm-dad

    Celery Sticks with peanut butter and raisins (Ants on a log)
    Apple Slices and sprinkle cinnamon lightly on them (no sugar)
    G.O.R.P. (Granola, Oats like Chereos, Raisins, Peanuts) It's a sweet/salty snack
    Apple Sauce
    Lunchmeat (no need to make the sandwich, just roll it up, kids love that!, maybe put a slice of cheese in it too, quick easy snack)

    If all a kid eats is junk food, then for a treat, they want something even more unhealthy and heart clogging. Keep your kids on healthy snacks/meals and treat them to the chocolate bar or cheese puffs on a special occassion, not daily.

    November 8, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Katyna

    I have a 3-year-old and a 17-year-old and one of the things I do before dinner is to put out a tray of vegetables. Carrots, broccoli, celery, mushrooms, olives, and anything else we might have. A low-fat dip made with Greek yogurt is the perfect side. Also, with my 3-year-old, we have lots of picnics, outside if it is nice and on a blanket in the living room if it is not so nice out. My little guy seems to always eat new and different foods if we are in a different setting.

    I also make smoothies almost everyday. Bananas, strawberries and blueberries as a base, with Greek yogurt and then some carrots and spinach. The key is to balance the fruits with the veggies. I've never had a complaint about the smoothie yet.

    We have a fresh produce market right down the street and I take my son with me and let him pick out something, that way he is invested in his own nutrition and decisions.

    November 8, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • KJ

      good ideas, we do the smoothies as well with spinach, we call them the green monster, the kids go nuts for em, we use spiniach, kiwi, and apples. (50%, 25%, 25%) by volume.

      November 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bingo

    Stories such as this never fail to infuriate me! The cost to eat healthy is far more expensive than "junk food'. As a family we are very fortunate that we do not need to worry about where the next meal is coming from. The cost to eat in purchasing fruits , vegetables, meat is far to great for many families. It is much more cost effective for families to buy from the dollar menu at McDonalds than to make a more costly meal's at home. It is time that we stop judging people for keeping their children's bellies full with fast reality it IS cheaper and more cost effective for them! McDonald's claims to have healthy choices on their menus...A COMPLETE LIE! The vegetables and fruits are treated with so many chemicals to expand the shelf life. Have you ever ordered the fruit and yogurt? If so have you wondered why the product stays frozen long after you purchased it? The food is so full of chemicals it doesn't even thaw!
    Stop bashing families for trying to keep their children's bellies full. Take a stand and demand that YOUR nation's children have a healthy start in life!
    From, A proud Canadian!

    November 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Renae

      Although I agree to a certain extent, I do believe it's possible to feed your family for less than most people think. I've started a challenge in my community and a blog, in hopes of convincing people to try to feed a family of 4 for under $10. This is what I have so far. And by the way, I live in Southern Ca, so I wouldn't say things are cheap, but I will say fresh fruit and veggies might be a bit easier to get and cheaper. However, milk, breads and meats tend to be more pricey than say, the midwest.

      Anyway, I've proven. It is possible to eat far more healthy food at home for less than 4 happy meals.

      PS. Favorite suggestion for healthy kids meals, PITA PIZZA. They can build their own and all your need is arabic bread, sauce, meat of your choice and veggies of your choice, sprinkle with mozzerella cheese and cook for 8 mins in 400 degree oven. The kids gobble these up and it doesn't get much more healthy, in terms of pizza. Plus, each pizza is less than $2.

      November 8, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • KJ

      i would agree with ranae, saying it is cheaper to eat fast food is such a myth and i have heard that so many times its ridiculous, and completely false. With a bit of research, a willingness to learn and try new things you can easily feed your kids for less and healthier than the dollar menu. In reality the dollar menu at McDonalds is just more convenient, not really cheaper. Take a look at Ranae's site the evidence is all there. Also it is very easy to keep a basic kitchen garden, whether you live on the top story of an apartment or have a yard. Upside down tomato plants are wonderfull for example.

      November 8, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kathi

      ""Take a stand and demand that YOUR nation's children have a healthy start in life!""

      That's what we are trying to do. Don't encourage fast food. Spend less on things you don't need and feed your kids healthy food, geesh!

      November 8, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
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