Building Healthy Kids in the Kitchen

As we gear up for back-to-school routines, we all want to start the school year off right with healthy options for the kids—fill their lunchboxes with good foods to keep them energized throughout the day but also prepare healthy meals to have right when they get up in the morning. I tried out these simple recipes provided by the American Heart Association’s Simple Cooking with Heart for Kids Guide.

Big Green Monster Smoothie (Makes 6, 1/2 cup servings)

1 green apple, cored and cut into large chunks (leave skin on)
1-2 handfuls of washed spinach
¼ large cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
1 kiwi, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup low-fat milk (or milk substitute or water)
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup ice cubes

Directions Place all ingredients into a blender. Pulse until blended to desired consistency. Pour into cups and serve.

Green Smoothie

My three-year-old daughter was skeptical of this one at first. She kept saying, “Mama, why you put cucumber in my smoothie?” But after blending it all up and adding a twisty straw she was all about it! I did not have a lemon so I left out the lemon juice and used unsweetened flax milk for the liquid. This smoothie is so refreshing and tasty it seems like more of a treat than something healthy.


White Bean and Avocado Wrap (Makes 4 wraps)

1 15-ounce can reduced-sodium white beans (navy, cannellini or Great Northern), drained and rinsed
1 ripe avocado, pitted
3 tablespoons vinegar (red wine, white, apple cider)
1-½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 carrot, shredded
2 cups green or purple cabbage, washed, cored and shredded
½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons cilantro, coarsely chopped (divided)
4 8-inch, 100% whole-wheat wraps or tortillas

1. I n a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, honey and pepper to create the dressing.
2. Add the carrots, cabbage, cherry tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro to the bowl. Toss gently to coat the vegetables with the dressing. Set aside and allow to marinate for 15 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, combine the white beans and avocado. Mash with the back of a fork and mix until thoroughly blended and spreadable.
4. Place four wraps/tortillas on a flat surface. In the center of each wrap/tortilla, place 2 heaping tablespoons of the avocado/bean mixture onto tortilla. Using a knife or spatula, spread the mixture out until it is two inches away from the edges of the wrap (to allow for easier assembly).
5. Stir the cabbage mixture again, and place 2 heaping tablespoons on top of the bean/avocado mixture. 6. Add cilantro as a garnish on top, if desired.
7. Roll up the tortilla and enjoy!


This is a wonderful recipe that could be adapted so many ways. I used a colorful lettuce instead of cabbage and picked a whole tomato out of our garden in lieu of cherry tomatoes. I could see adding in some red pepper strips or some jicama for a different twist. I love having fast, healthy lunch ideas for myself and my family. This recipe definitely delivered!

I am really impressed with the American Heart Association’s Simple Cooking with Heart for Kids Guide. With three kids it can be hard to make sure everyone is getting enough from all of the food groups. The Kids Guide offers a clear chart indicating the American Heart Association’s daily food recommendations by age group and some tips for each food group. It is so helpful for this busy mom to have all of that information in one place.

They also have a Parent Resource section that focuses on food challenges so many of us face, including:

*Tips for Eating More Fruits and Vegetables at Home
*Tips for Dealing with Picky Eaters
*How to Pack a Healthy School Lunch

By the time dinner rolls around I am usually tired and just want to hurry up and get dinner cooked and on the table. The Kids Guide reminded me what a wonderful learning tool it is to have kids help you cook in the kitchen. Kids can learn math, culture, art, science, social skills, and nutrition by becoming more involved in the preparation of food in the kitchen. It may be more time consuming and a bit messier, but these are life skills that are well worth the effort. Plus, you get to eat your lesson at the end!

Jessica is a DONA International trained postpartum doula and owner of Fourth Trimester Madison, She has been married for over 10 years to someone who makes her laugh every day and reminds her not to take herself too seriously. Together they have three children- Logan (2006), Liam (2008) and Kate (2011). She grew up in northern Wisconsin but has called the Madison area home since college. She can be found reading cookbooks but not cooking, saying yes to more volunteer work than she has time for (and loving it), on a Netflix binge, or with her nose in a book.


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