Make meals healthier with these easy swaps the kids will love

Make meals healthier with these easy swaps the kids will love
Photo credit: Getty

If you've ever tried to convince the kids to eat all their vegetables before dessert, or 'just try some salad' for the fifth night running, you'll know sometimes dinner time can feel more like a standoff than a relaxing family meal.

Instead of fighting a losing battle, it's time to deploy diversionary tactics. By making some simple swaps - some say 'sneaky', I say smarter - you can serve up a delicious meal which will leave the kids licking the plate, without even knowing it’s good for them!

To avoid mealtime meltdowns, we've cooked up some of our favourite foodie swaps with the help of Countdown nutritionist Deb Sue, to make meals the kids will love packed full of the nutrients they need.

Hide the veg

It's amazing what you can get kids to eat when they don't know it's there. Besides the obvious grating of carrot and courgette into bolognese, it's time to utilise the produce aisle's humble hero: cauliflower. Give this versatile veg a blitz in the food processor, or grate it with a cheese grater, and serve as the rice under curries or stir-fry. If you’re pressed for time, you could try Countdown’s frozen cauliflower or broccoli rice that’s in the freezer section.

Cauliflower mac and cheese is a favourite for kids
Cauliflower mac and cheese is a favourite for kids Photo credit: Getty

Or take a leaf out Deb’s book, and blend cauliflower into the cheese sauce when making Mac and Cheese for an extra serve of veg. If you're looking for an easy afterschool snack, we love Countdown's curried cauliflower fritters. Perfect for little hands, they won't even realise they're eating a big serve of vegetables! Check out the video here for inspiration. 

Halve the meat

We love red meat for its important B vitamins and iron, but often we're using a lot more in recipes than we actually need. Next time you're using mince, whether in patties, nachos or a spag bol, halve the amount and replace with a drained and rinsed tin of lentils. This is a trick we use at home to up the fibre and vitamin content, without compromising on taste.

"Legumes are also a source of prebiotics, which are food for the good bacteria in your gut so will help support your gut health," says Deb.

Or pick up some of the Angus beef and beetroot burger patties in the Countdown meat section, which already have a sneaky serve of vegetables already added in!

Countdown nutritionist Deb Sue
Countdown nutritionist Deb Sue Photo credit: Countdown

Mamma Mia

Kids love pasta - often the messier the better! But instead of serving up a big bowl of high GI carbohydrates, there are easy swaps to make here they'll still demolish, especially when topped with a delicious sauce. Next time you're whipping up a carbonara, substitute classic white flour pasta with wholemeal or wholegrain options.

"One of the benefits of wholegrain carbs is they are higher in fibre which helps support your digestion and keep you feeling fuller for longer too," explains Deb.

If you want to sneak in more nutrients, you can even switch to legume pasta like San Remo's red lentil pasta, or the Macro quinoa rigatoni, for a further fibre hit that's still delicious. For a lighter option, try this Countdown courgette pasta with avocado and pesto - all of the yumminess with none of the carbohydrate crash later! 

Compare and contrast

One of Deb’s best recommendations when choosing between canned or packaged food is to always check the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) on the back. Whether you're looking for lower salt, sugar or higher protein, use the figures in the 'per 100g' column for a direct comparison. 

"For example, if you are looking for a new cereal to try, pick up two boxes and compare the NIP and look at nutrients such as sugar, sodium, fibre and protein," Deb recommends. "Ideally you want a cereal that is low in sugar, low in sodium, and high in fibre."

If you don't have time, look at the Health Star Rating on the front, which scores the food out of five. "The important thing with the HSR is to compare similar products," she explains. "Like breakfast cereals with other cereals, not with something like peanut butter."

This article is created for Countdown.