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. Nicole

    Favorite 'fast snack' freeze dried strawberries (other fruits and veggies too) from Honeyville Grain. The cost is on par with fresh but you get to eat every last one and have tasty fruit all winter long.

    We have food allergies to contend with so our kids are used to leftover dinner for lunch. So much so that my kindergartner requests leftovers over school food at least half the time. Our kids eat 'regular' food most of the time.

    A fun treat is chocolate dipped anything (melt some chocolate in the microwave (10oz bag), add a little oil(1tsp)) and dip. We've mostly done bananas and pretzels. These are a nice, relatively healthy treat.

    We've also found that fun names make a huge difference. My son's gluten free chicken nuggets are dinosaur eggs. Gluten Free Toast with Jelly and Sun Butter are jelly swamp. Celery with sun butter and raisins are bugs on a log. A little salesmanship goes a long way! Also, letting the kids help to make it.

    November 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cate

    For our daughter, we put foods in categories: Everyday foods, Weekend foods and Vacation/Holiday Foods so that our daughter learns there is a time for everything. For everyday foods, we offer veggie sticks, whole wheat bread, low fat string cheese, homemade applesauce, yogurt with banana slices, spaghetti with grilled chicken and peanut sauce. Basically, the less processing the better. We tend to shop the outside of the supermarket where all the fresh foods are. The more aisles we go down, the more likely we are to be getting foods with added fat and sugar. Weekend foods are things like pancakes or homemade muffins for breakfast, grilled cheese or mac and cheese. These are food items that are a bit more indulgent. The weekend are often full of activity though which makes these small indulgences worth it. Vacation foods are those foods that are so good, you can't resist but have almost no nutritional value: doughnuts, pastries, bacon, french fries.

    We also involve our daughter in the preparation of food. She loves to eat what she makes, so there's no need to be sneaky. She tries the food raw (when it's safe) and then cooked and we ask her opinion about which way was better. Then, she can voice her preferences. Sometimes she gets her way, sometimes she doesn't, but she always gets to participate. We refuse to cook separate meals as well. We give her small portions of everything, and she has to eat it all before she can have seconds of anything.

    I guess these are more ideas about how to open kids up to eating healthy than they are specific recipes, but it is what has worked for my family. I guess the trickiest thing I do is that for dessert we don't always go the traditional sweet route. My daughter thinks snacking on a bowl of Honeynut Cheerios is as good as a sundae. Those sugar cereals maybe bad for breakfast, but in small does as a dessert, they surpass cake and cookies in nutrition.

    November 8, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Grama

    My grandson is the pickiest of eaters, and his parents try, but I know it's hard for them to find healthy things he'll eat. His health nut grama has found success with at least getting him to drink organic OJ with a couple of ounces of organic carrot juice added (available in the produce sections of most Trader Joe's), and brownies (Seinfeld's recipe in Deceptively Delicious using pureed carrots and spinach – my husband and I love them too).

    November 8, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. waMOM

    My kids love waffles and pancakes. My husband and I both work full time, but I am adamant about giving my kids a hot breakfast every school day. Take the Bisquick pancake recipe and add 1/4 of milled flax seed. Use organic 1% milk and high omega-3 eggs. I add banana slices as they cook. For waffles, do the same except sprinkle with fresh berries and a little light whipped cream topping (no harm) for extra yumminesss. Banana pancakes isn't a bad dinner in a pinch either.

    November 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • waMOM

      extra waffles and pancakes keep well in the fridge for another day, too, so can be very economical.

      November 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rain

    When I was little and asking for a snack before dinner, my mom gave us small bowls of frozen peas/carrots/corn. Because they're so cold, it slows you down in eating. And the veggies taste very sweet! They also have a fun texture. It worked on us!

    November 8, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jill

    Here's a rendition of popcorn we do:

    1 bag unflavored popcorn
    1 cup trail mix
    1/2 cup coconut
    salt to taste

    Here's a link to my website with the recipe and a picture

    I hope your kids like it!

    November 8, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rachel

    Ants on a log – piece of celery with peanut butter in it and craisins on top – healthy and tastes like candy. Kids love it.

    November 8, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Andrea

    This is an easy one for a snack. Whole wheat toast with either jam, apple butter, or a little butter. She still loves it even if it is not hot.

    November 8, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Laura

    My kids (7 & 8) love 12 grain bread. I pack a half turkey sandwich for school and send a light yogurt with it. Along with one healthy snack and one salted snack. They love it! It took some getting used to the 12 grain bread, but they really love it now. They are usually looking for something sweet when they come home, so I usually make a fruit smoothie with either orange juice or soy milk as the base (they don't drink the soy milk, but in the smoothie, they don't know the difference). Then I add frozen fruits. It hits the sweet spot without any sugar!

    November 8, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jillian

    Peanut Butter and Jelly on Celery, my 3 year old "invented" it.

    November 8, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. phil

    There is only one process known to science that can remove fat from a human cell. Live green vegetables along with at least 20 min. of uv light exposure to the eyes produces a chemical your body uses to scrub fat. I forget this chemicals name, but in plants it's called clorophyl. (or how you spell) Todays kids aren't outside like in days gone by. And judging by these posts, and my friends with children, veggies aren't high on the list. Fruits and grains till noon, plenty of live greens afternoon and dinner, and watch the fat go away. Reducing caloric intake to lose weight is dumb. It takes a lot of calories(aka energy) to "burn" fat. Also, avoid mixing complicated proteins. Most of your energy is used digesting food, so don't complicate it with that bacon-cheez-burger. Just the burger w/lettuce and tomato. Or you could liposuck/gut tuck if you choose. It's your body, even though the rest of us must endure it along w/you. (smile)

    November 8, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rick

    I keep the snacks out of the house. Lots of fruit and zero soda in this house. Two fruits everyday in a school lunch that I pack. It doesn't mean he doesn't get a snack but they are just limited. Then again I'm lucky. He turns down fast food for home cooked meal.

    November 8, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. phil

    About fruit: Roughly 80% of your body's energy is used for one thing: secreting enzymes to digest food. A healthy person digests food while sleeping for this very reason. Fruit in the AM helps this process. Citric acid aids in digestion. Fruit in the PM is a definite no-no. Fruit passes faster than other foods. So afternoon fruit "pushes" other foods through your system before digestion is complete. Also, slower digesting foods try to keep the fruit from passing on time, leading to fermented fruit, aka bad gas. Eating strictly fruits and grains before noon has many benefits. Your body's natural elimination cycle is restored, so you eventually poop just once per day, in the morning. Plus you hardly have to wipe because it's firm, not soft like poop made up of undigested food. And those "snacks" won't impact you like before. fruits and grains (fiber) till noon, plenty of LIVE greens in the afternoon. NO MIXING OF COMPLICATED PROTEINS. Eat what you want for dinner. (no late snacks)

    November 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ann

    I am not a parent yet...but hopefully some day. I try to give myself "heathier" snacks that I would think I would give a kid. String cheese, apples and PB, bananas, I am sure someone has said celery sticks with PB and raisins (though I go sans raisins) my friends who have toddlers keep fruit cups around.

    November 8, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. phil

    About MILK. "Milk, it does a body good"goes the tv commercial. BS Humans are the only animals that use other animal's milk as part of the regular diet. there is only one animal that can fully digest cow's milk: A calf. (aka baby cows) They can secrete the enzymes needed to break down lactose. Humans simply do not have this capacity. we secrete enzymes for digesting lactate, aka mothers milk. FACT: it takes more energy to digest cow's milk than the energy that milk provides. You will never see an olympic sprinter sporting a milk-mustache before the race for this very reason. There is more, but this box is smallish. so digest this post and reply if you want. (smile)

    November 8, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      @Juan... Oh, and milk is just sooo nutritious... that's why so many people suffer from lactose intolerance. And you defeat your argument... If it so good, why would it need to be fortified... hmmm?

      November 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      "It is a known fact that vegans need to take calcium supplements in order for them not to come down with bone-depleting diseases." = TOTAL BS.

      Dark green leafy vegetables provide plenty of calcium. The issue is other things, i.e. "franken-foods", that can affect calcium absorption or cause calcium to be depleted, like phosphoric acid in soft drinks.

      November 8, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Dude

      @Juan... Quite a jump dude. All because of diary, huh? How about improved sanitation and advances in medicine and technology. And if dairy is so healthy, why does it need to be pasteurized?

      Oh, BTW, there is now evidence that kids today will have shorter life expectancies than their parents. But you go ahead and keep believing that "milk does a body good".

      You're reaching buddy.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
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