This holiday season teach your kids how to bake healthier desserts without compromising taste.
The CDC shows kids today consume an excessive amount of sugar, with teens ages 14-18 trumping all other age groups with an intake of about 34 teaspoons a day. The roughly 550 calories those teens consume each day provide no nutritional benefit for cognitive and physical development, and potentially may be harmful. Young children are not trailing too far behind, either. Kids ages 4 to 5 consume on average about 17 teaspoons a day.
Get your kids in the kitchen! They won’t refuse to help out when preparing desserts. Use the time cooking together as an opportunity to teach basic math to little ones or organizational skills to older kids. Cooking also teaches kids about self-sufficiency, a life long skill with the potential to increase their health as adults.
Here’s 7 tips for making healthier desserts.
1) Cut the sugar: for most recipes you can cut the sugar by 1/3 or even 1/2. Reducing the sugar is particularly easy when baking oatmeal cookies, a variety of dessert breads and even brownies. Try adding some mashed ripe banana for denser texture and a slightly sweeter taste.
2) Go for at least 1/2 whole grain: Substitute whole-wheat pastry flour for white flour. First, mix half of each flour type together. Then, gradually phase out the white flour- your family will enjoy the nuttier taste and heartier texture whole grains have to offer!
3) Experiment: Test out a few non-traditional desserts with the kids before the big day. Example: If your kids love avocado, how about an avocado-based coconut pudding? For avocado pudding, blend an avocado with tasty ingredients like bananas, cocoa powder, honey, ice and mix together. Then slowly add milk or a milk alternative with a little coconut oil until you get a pudding consistency. Be sure to chill before serving. You can also put avocadoes in smoothies then freeze and dish out as ice-cream. Or try 100% fruit whips, which are frozen fruit blended with a tablespoon or two of yogurt to a smooth consistency in a food processor then top with shaved chocolate and mint leaves.
4) Make it smaller: Bake mini-muffins or mini-loaves to control portions. Reducing the number of mini desserts you eat is easier, because the added fiber from the whole-grains will satisfy you more quickly and for a longer period of time.
5) Incorporate veggies into desserts whenever possible: Try out zucchini bread! Your kids can help shred the zucchini or carrots! Young kids can push the button on the food processor and older kids can actually shred with a hand-held grater! Check out our cooking tips for ages 3-12 years from SuperKids Nutrition and AICR’s Guide to Cooking with Kids.
6) Shop healthier: Ask your teen or tween to research online a healthier dessert they like. Shop together for the ingredients and assist as needed during preparation. They will be proud of their creation and you might just find out you have a future chef in the family!
7) Make healthy substitutions: The addition of Greek yogurt can cut down on butter or oil in your next baked goods recipe. It eliminates added fat and tastes great in brownies, cookies, and breads! Use an equal amount of yogurt to replace oil; replace 1/2 cup of butter with ¼ cup of Greek yogurt. Substitute ground flaxseed or flaxseed meal for eggs to cut out the saturated fat and boost your intake of heart healthy omega 3’s! You can swap out up to 2 eggs for flax with 1 tablespoon flaxseed and 3 tablespoons of water
Melissa Halas-Liang, a mom, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, is founder of SuperKidsNutrition.com, which provides nutrition and health content, curriculum and workshops to parents and educators nationwide. Her organization is partnering with AICR on the Healthy Kids Today Prevent Cancer Tomorrow Campaign. Melissa is author of the Super Crew books Super Baby Abigail’s Lunch Time Adventure and Havoc at the Hillside Market. Follow Melissa on facebook or twitter@kidsnutrition.