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Healthy Alternatives to 10 Childhood Favorites

Healthy Alternatives to 10 Childhood Favorites

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Whether it’s corn dogs, spaghetti & meatballs, or grilled cheese, we all have certain dishes that instantly take us back to our childhood. Yet, while these and other childhood favorites are packed with flavor, they may not be the healthiest option for our own kids.

As such, the team at Chef Works, a worldwide leader in culinary apparel, has compiled the following quick guide for creating healthy alternatives to 10 childhood favorites.

1. Spaghetti and Meatballs

We all remember family dinners, complete spaghetti and meatballs, and greasy garlic bread. Consider making a healthier version of this Italian favorite by replacing ground beef with ground turkey or chicken. While you’re at it, swap out your regular spaghetti for 100% whole-wheat spaghetti for some added fiber.

2. Pancakes

Fluffy pancakes on a Saturday morning are a delicious way to start your weekend. But we know this is probably not the best idea for your waistline. Opt for healthier pancakes by making them with whole-wheat flour and farina.

3. French Fries

Loved by both young and old, French fries are a favorite side dish for burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. We know they’re greasy, but the good news is, French fries can be a little healthier when you bake them with the skins still on, rather than frying them. This greatly reduces the amount of fat you will consume and keeping the skin results in a higher nutritional value.

4. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Oh, the delicious grilled cheese. Fortunately, making this lunchtime favorite a little healthier takes minimal effort. Simply replace white bread with whole grain bread and consider low-fat or reduced-fat versions of your favorite melting cheeses. Finally, consider adding vegetables like tomatoes and red peppers to your sandwich for a little extra vitamins and nutrients.

5. Ice Pops

Ice Popson a hot summer day are a tasty way to keep cool. Store-bought ice pops, though, are high in sugar. Your family doesn’t have to give up this favorite summertime dessert. Simply opt to make them yourself at home using fresh fruit and/or all natural fruit juices to ensure you’re only getting the healthiest of ingredients.

6. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches

We can bet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have been a part of your home for many generations. While peanut butter is, in fact, pretty healthy (when eaten in moderation), most jellies available at the supermarket are overloaded with sugar. So the next time you’re making a PB&J, solve this problem by replacing the jelly with fresh fruit such as strawberries and bananas!

7. Corn Dogs

While there is probably no completely healthy version of the corn dog, you can make a homemade one that’s probably a little more wholesome by using whole wheat dough to cover fat-free or reduce fat franks and by baking the corn dogs instead of frying them.

8. Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is definitely on the top of the list when it comes to comfort food. A way to make a healthier version of this childhood favorite is to opt for skinless white meat chicken versus the higher calorie dark meat and to bake the chicken instead of frying it.

9. Waffles

Waffles are a great treat to have for breakfast but skip the store-bought waffles and instead prepare your own using a multi-grain flour blend as a base.

10. Ice Cream

Ice cream has always been a childhood favorite dessert. With many different favors to choose from, it’s virtually impossible to get bored of this refreshing treat. The only downside, most store bought ice cream is high in fat and calories. Instead, try making it at home, using fresh seasonal fruits, natural sweeteners, and low fat milk.

Top 10 Best Healthy Alternative Recipes – Top Rated and Reviews

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3. Fruit by the Foot

Robert Arrasate

Packing a Fruit by the Foot in your lunch made you instantly cool, especially if they had the tongue tattoos on them. These were a necessity in every brown paper bag lunch. For a refreshing study snack, get creative and make your own. Free of preservatives and sketchy ingredients, they are healthier than the packaged ones, consisting of just strawberries and as much sugar as you please.

3. 9-Vegetable Lasagna

Lasagna is for everyone – perfect for entertaining, a cool fall day, the picky eater, the casserole lover and the comfort food connoisseur. This 9-Vegetable Lasagna has tofu ricotta, fresh herbs and lots of delicious veggies. The ingredients that make this lasagna perfect are red pepper flakes, fresh oregano, and cumin. These ingredients make the perfect zing, like a gorgeous pop of color for the tongue. You have to try it!

10 Childhood Dinner and Snack Staples All Grown Up

When I was a kid, there was nothing I loved more than opening my brown lunch bag in anticipation of a Lunchable, or a PB&J. Sometimes, as a treat, my dad would take me to Sbarro’s and it would be the greatest day, ever. When you were a kid, simple, sloppy foods seemed magical. Processed snacks with high fructose corn syrup were considered a delicacy. Anything with copious amounts of cheese sent us over the moon with happiness.

Now that we’ve grown up a little, we know better to not treat our bodies like garbage cans. But just because we need to avoid chemicals and corn syrup, doesn’t mean we need to forever forgo our kid favorites Below are some recipes that replicate the foods we loved as kids. Some are healthier, more sophisticated and some are just way more awesome.

1. Grown-up Lunchables

Lunchables are great. You could choose from the crackers, pizza, tacos, and nachos, and the best part about it was building everything from scratch! Like, if I really wanted, I could create a cracker sandwich with seven slices of turkey. I was pretty much a chef. Lunchables always came with a treat, and now they even come with fruit (which seems a little bit scary to me, but whatever). Lunchables are also filled with unnatural ingredients and are not very nutritious. But that’s okay, because you can make your own! These recipes I found are super simple and easy.

2. Healthy pizza with cauliflower crust

The beauty of being a kid was being able to eat Dominoes Pizza and not wanting to a) blot out the buckets of grease with a napkin, or b) order from somewhere else, because ugh. I LOVED pizza when I was little, but now that I’m 23 I expect much more from a pizza. I now have pizza standards. I like to eat pizza that has at least one vegetable on it, and the more weird ingredients, the better. Making your own with cauliflower crust is an amazing way to include more nutrients and cut back on calories.

3. Spaghetti with spaghetti squash

I remember being so upset if my mom ever snapped the noodles in half before cooking them. This meant short spaghetti, and I wasn’t able to slurp it like Lady in Lady and the Tramp. Plus, I also thought it was my God given right to eat like a slob. I love spaghetti, but if I feel like making a lighter version, I’ll just use spaghetti squash. It seriously tastes the same, but carb-free. So many wins.

4. Sunny D Cocktail

One of the best parts about being a kid was being able to drink Sunny D and think it was real OJ. Ha! Sunny D makes a really great mixer though. If you feel like making a �s Screwdriver, use Sunny D instead of Orange Juice. It’s way sweeter and tangier, and smells like T(w)een Spirit.

5. Healthy PB&J bars

Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I just brought one to work the other day and it was FABULOUS), but you can certainly play around this age old recipe. Whether you infuse your sandwich with organic balsamic blueberry jam, or decide to make these protein-rich health bars (awesome before a work out, by the way), you just can’t go wrong with this perfect duo.

6. Next Level Sloppy Joe

Sloppy Joe’s tasted the BEST when you were away at camp. I’ve tried recreating the experience, and it’s never quite right. Maybe I ought to just move on, though. Thanks to Oprah, we can now enjoy a Sloppy Joe that’s a little more healthy and way more flavorful. I’ll miss you, camp-era Sloppy Joe.

7. Fancy Mac ‘n Cheese

Mac ‘n Cheese with Fontina, Gruyere, Parmesan, and Goat Cheese? Bacon even? Is it even possible? Why, yes. It is. I know I said I would include some skinny versions of our favorite kid foods, but this is not one of them. Indulge in creamy, complex, and smoky mac ‘n cheese this stuff is way better than Kraft.

8. Iced coffee popsicle

Back when I lived in the Midwest and summers were like big saunas, popsicles cooled you down like nothing else would. I still love popsicles, but these days, I also have other needs: coffee. Why not combine the two?

9. Vegan Bagel Bites

Oh, Bagel Bites. I remember eating you while doing homework with friends after school. You were cheesy and delicious. I probably shouldn’t be eating Bagel Bites because they’re pretty evil as far as nutrients go, so if I’m ever in the mood for a bagel pizza, I just make myself a healthier version, like these vegan Bagel Bites. YUM.

10. Grown-up grilled cheese and tomato soup

A grilled cheese paired with a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup is the epitome of childhood, right? As much as I love the marriage between cheese and tomato, I actually prefer mine a little more grown up. Check out these recipes for richer and bolder flavors.

The 10 Best All-Purpose Flour Substitutes That Every Baker Should Try

Some might provide a lighter, healthier spin on your favorite recipe, while others might save you from making a trip to the grocery store.

When it comes to baking, all-purpose flour is the tried-and-true backbone of many beloved treats. But all-purpose flour can, in fact, be swapped in whole or in part if you don't have any and can't get your hands on some. You also don't have to say goodbye to delicious baked goods just because you have an intolerance to gluten or are trying your hand at a new diet. In fact, there are a plethora of all-purpose flour substitutes that might actually provide a supercharged health edge to one of your favorite recipes.

"White refined flour is really limited when it comes to nutrition, as it contains practically no fiber or protein, says Good Housekeeping Institute Registered Dietitian Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian within the Good Housekeeping Institute. "Since it&rsquos a concentrated source of refined carbohydrates, it can also spike blood sugar levels. Trying out alternative flours in your baking at home is a great way to create more well-balanced meals and add more nutrients to your diet.&rdquo

Because they&rsquore all derived from different grains, cereals, dried beans, and nuts, alternative flours vary greatly in taste, texture and nutritional value. It&rsquos important to understand their different flavors and textures to make the best possible substitutions in the midst of your next baking adventure. You'll also need to keep in mind that alt flours aren't always grain free &mdash if you have a gluten allergy, make sure to double check the label before purchasing a new flour for your pantry.

There's no denying that it's hard to keep up with all the new options in the baking aisle these days. Here are the easiest ways to make use of alternative flours in your kitchen, including some of Sassos' best picks to add to your shopping list.

Whereas all-purpose flour strips the wheat kernel of its bran (its exterior) and germ (its inner seed), whole wheat flour is processed with the entire kernel. This contributes to whole wheat flour&rsquos higher protein content than all-purpose, in addition to more fiber and other nutrients. When it comes to flavor, it is much wheatier (as the name implies!) and has a slightly nutty aftertaste. You can usually substitute up to 50% of all-purpose flour in any given recipe with whole wheat. Because this flour is derived from the same product that all-purpose flour is derived from, it tastes and behaves most similarly out of all the alternative flours to all-purpose.

"Quinoa flour is really versatile, especially high in fiber, and is also a source of complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids," Sassos says. In a pinch, you can actually make quinoa flour at home from scratch: "Gently toast quinoa on a clean skillet, then add to a food processor or blender, and blend until it reaches a flour consistency. Sift it and allow it to cool before use."

While quinoa flour won't function well in yeasted breads, Sassos says she frequently swaps it in for regular flour in cookies, muffins, cakes, and loaves.

As long as the oats are derived from supplies processed in a gluten-free facility, then oat flour will also be gluten-free. It's mild, nutty flavor makes it a great options for pancakes, waffles, bars, and breads. You can also make it at home in a pinch: "Simply add oats to a food processor or blender and blend by itself until it reaches a flour-like consistency," Sassos says. "Oat flour has a nutty flavor and adds texture to baked goods, so I like it best as a flour swap in pancakes, muffins, or banana bread."

It's also one of the healthiest additions on this list: Oats contain soluble fiber that can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, won't impact blood sugar levels on its own, and aids digestive health. Swapping flour for this supercharged option can effortlessly make most any baked good that much better for you.

Hello, low-carb baked goods! "If you're looking to cut carbs in your baked goods, I like almond flour because it performs really well in baking," Sassos says. "It's also a good source of Vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage and can even help fight off infection. Almond flour is also compliant with a lot of different diets, including low-carb, paleo, and gluten-free."

Brown rice flour is a great gluten-free and high-fiber flour substitution. It functions well in place of flour in tempura batters, pancakes, crepes, muffins and quick breads. Rice flours have a tendency to be a little gritty, so make sure that you&rsquore buying flours that are finely ground, or make them at home. Because it&rsquos derived from brown rice, it will have a toasty, slightly nutty flavor.

Want to impart that signature, tropical profile of coconut-y bliss into your baked goods? Try coconut flour. It&rsquos derived from dried coconut meat, making it powder-like, naturally grain-free, and ultra fine. It&rsquos an ideal 1:1 substitution for cookies, bars, muffins, and cakes. If you are following a Keto diet or thinking about Paleo, coconut flour is a superior, low-carb, gluten-free alternative flour. Make sure to add plenty of moisture to whatever you&rsquore baking when using coconut flour because it&rsquos so high in fiber, it needs extra moisture to hold a baked good together.

Because chickpea flour is entirely composed of finely milled dried chickpeas, it is super high in protein and fiber. It's also free of gluten. If you normally keep plenty of chickpeas on hand, you can make it at home using a food processor or your best blender it's easily found in bulk aisles in grocery stores. Because of its natural density, it&rsquos great for savory uses like veggie burgers, tempuras, sauces, and savory pancakes.

Spelt is a distinct type of wheat which means that this is a glutinous product. It cannot be fully substituted for all-purpose flour in baking, but it's addition makes for a robust flavor you'll be hard-pressed to find in most supermarket buys. Stick to a ratio of 3:1 all-purpose to spelt for the best results. Not only is it higher in fiber and whole grains, but it possesses a deep, nutty flavor that&rsquos delicious in cookies, cakes, breads, and muffins. Try it in your next batch of chocolate chip cookies &mdash you&rsquoll be impressed by its toasty, rich flavor.

Don&rsquot let the name fool you! Buckwheat flour possesses zero wheat byproduct, making it naturally gluten free. Buckwheat kernels are a pseudocereal (something that is not a cereal grain, like wheat or oats) that are harvested and ground into a dark brown, ultra-rich flour. Buckwheat flour is ideal for muffins, breads, and cookies if you turn them into noodles, you&rsquove made soba noodles! This flour is a one-to-one substitution with all purpose four.

Amaranth is an ancient grain that can be ground finely for a light, gluten free flour. Similar to buckwheat, amaranth is also a pseudocereal. It has a super nutty, earthy flavor that&rsquos tasty in cakes, scones, and breads. Because of it&rsquos ultra fine texture, substitute it for about 25% of the wheat flour in your recipe.

Pizza Hummus Recipe

Sorry for missing you this Friday. Life gets in the way sometimes, and loves to come and interrupt your big weekend plans.

But today’s a new day and I’m back in action for another Recipe Redux!

Two for One

We’re all about cooking once and eating twice. In short, double dinners are better. Show us how you take a favorite recipe already on your blog – and ReDux the leftovers into a new dish. Or, whip up a new healthy recipe and give suggestions on how to make it a second meal. For example, slow cooker pot roast could become shredded beef tacos or grilled chicken breasts might morph into chicken salad.

So you make a pizza. Veggies. Cheese. And a smothering of sauce. Fancy me this..Does anyone out there ACTUALLY use a whole jar of sauce on a pizza? You my friend, are a rare breed.

I on the other hand, always end up with half a jar of pizza sauce buried deep in the depths of the fridge door, until it is finally discovered a month later when I make the rare reach for a bottle of Worcestershire. Except now it has grown a spiffy white furry coat. You ain’t even gotta sniff test that one sonny.

Instead of letting that sad jar never see another disc of dough in its lifetime, why not give it a new spreadable edible persona?!

I channeled my long lost soul roomie, Betty Rocker on this one, since she has given me the support I need all the while recovering from a recent surgery. Feel better soon my love!

I know these pizza and hummus are two of her favorite food…groups, so I thought I would combine the two into one fabulous food. Now if I could find a way to ship me and a batch of pizza hummus down South into one flat rate box, that would be greeeeattt.

Teriyaki Portabella Mushroom Burger with Garlic Mayonnaise

Journal as: 1 veggie burger OR 2 slices bread + 1/2 cup vegetable without added fat + 1 teaspoon mayonnaise.

2 portabella mushrooms (about 3 1/2 inches wide), cleaned and stems removed
2 tablespoons bottled teriyaki sauce
2 large, thin slices reduced-fat Jack cheese (1-2 ounces)
2 multigrain or whole-wheat hamburger buns
2 leaves lettuce
4 tomato slices

Garlic Mayonnaise:
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4-1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
A few drops Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Ground pepper and seasoning salt to taste

  • Fire up the coals or grill. Spread teriyaki sauce over the mushrooms and let marinate while the coals heat.
  • Grill the mushrooms about 6 inches from the heat until tender (about 4-5 minutes a side).
  • Put cheese on top and grill briefly to melt.
  • Assemble burgers by placing lettuce and tomato on each bottom bun. Top with the cheese-topped mushroom. Spread each top bun lightly with half the garlic mayonnaise and place on top of the mushroom (the lettuce keeps the bottom bun from getting soggy).


Per burger: 268 calories, 14 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 9.5 g fat (3.4 g saturated fat, 2.5 g monounsaturated fat, 0.8 g polyunsaturated fat), 11 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 410 mg sodium (not including seasoning salt). Calories from fat: 32%.

Ten childhood comfort foods get a nutritional makeover

Make ice cream at home and include fresh seasonal fruits, natural sweeteners, and low fat milk to enjoy a healthier dessert.

There are certain foods that, with just one bite, can take us back to our childhood. They are our comfort foods. They are the menu of our fond memories.

The issue with comfort foods and childhood favorites is that ‘comfort’ comes with a high price - many calories, high fats, and much sugar. Do we need to abandon our favorite comfort foods in response to this nutritional deficit?

If we begin to think outside the pre-packaged, store-bought boxes and come up with some creative solutions, nutrition and great taste do not need to remain exclusive of one another.

Many parents struggle with picky eaters and are limited in terms of time to shop and plan. Some parents find planning a week-long nutritional menu overwhelming and do not know where to begin.

Other parents often mention that eating well can be costly. In a society where bottled water often costs more than soda, these parents have a valid point. Not everyone can afford to eat organic, shop at Whole Foods, and keep their cupboards stocked with vitamins.

Acclaimed author, nutritionist, and fitness expert, Robert Ferguson suggests that we begin to offer people sensible, cash convenient, and favorable.

Ferguson underscores, “We must meet people where they are.”

Speaking of sensibility and innovation, the crew at ChefWorks has taken ten favorite foods of children and given them a nutritional makeover. These creative recipe changes retain great taste and offer children a healthier, more natural alternative.

What better month than September, National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, to discuss some better options. With one in three children in the United States recognized as either overweight or obese, practical solutions are in dire need.

Take a look at this list and let us know what creative, healthy favorites you are serving at your dinner table.

1. Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs are a Sunday staple in many households especially in New Jersey. Consider making a healthier version of this Italian favorite by replacing ground beef with ground turkey. Swap the regular pasta noodles for whole-wheat spaghetti or a low-carbohydrate pasta. Dreamfields make a delicious low-carb pasta.

2. Pancakes
When flipping fluffy pancakes, select whole-wheat flour and farina. Use moderation when topping these breakfast treats with syrup and sugar.

3. French Fries
All ages seem to love french fries. What is not to love? Perhaps, the grease and the fat. French fries can be a bit healthier when you bake them with the skins still on. Resist the urge to fry them, reduce the amount of fat consumed, and the potato skins offer a higher nutritional value.

With a bit of creativity, a big helping of knowledge, and a dash of time spent planning creative and sensible options, we can work together to eliminate childhood obesity.

4. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Replace white bread with whole grain bread and consider low-fat or reduced-fat versions of your favorite melting cheeses. Consider adding vegetables like tomatoes and red peppers to your sandwich for added nutrients. I serve my kids grilled cheese on multigrain bread with asparagus and a dash of honey mustard. They adore it.

5. Popsicles
Popsicles are not just for summer. They also make for a refreshing after school treat. Many store-bought popsicles are high in sugar. To avoid the sugar rush, make your own popsicles at home. Just buy the molds and peruse some recipe books. You can make these creative treats in just minutes. Use fresh fruit and/or all natural fruit juices to ensure you're only getting the healthiest of ingredients.

6. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
When eaten in moderation, peanut butter is fairly healthy. Many jellies are overloaded with sugar. The gang at ChefWorks suggests replacing jelly with fresh fruit such as strawberries and bananas. For those seeking even more variety, consider replacing the peanut butter with almond butter.

7. Corn Dogs
In essence, corn dogs will never be healthy, however, there are some homemade tricks that can save some calories. Try using whole wheat dough to cover fat-free or reduce fat franks. Corn dogs can be baked rather than fried to avoid saturated fats.

8. Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is one of the kings of comfort food. Opt for skinless white meat chicken versus the higher calorie dark meat when making your own version of this delicious dish. There are many great recipes for baked chicken that taste like it was fried.

9. Waffles
Waffles taste great for breakfast. They taste even better when they are homemade. Many waffle makers feature timers, heat settings, and are relatively inexpensive - making waffles almost impossible to mess up. The waffle maker I use weekly beeps when my waffles are ready. Try using a multi-grain flour blend as a base. Top with fresh bananas, strawberriesm blueberries or blackberries.

10. Ice Cream
Throughout the generations, ice cream has remained a popular childhood dessert. With many new favors to choose from, it is seemingly impossible to get tired of this refreshing treat. The problem lies in the fact that many store bought ice creams remain high in fat and calories. As an alternative, ChefWorks suggests making the ice cream at home. Include fresh seasonal fruits, natural sweeteners, and low fat milk. Additionally, it is important to keep conscious of portion size.

With a pinch of creativity, a big helping of knowledge, and a dash of patience in planning creative and sensible options, we can work together to eliminate childhood obesity. Although I candidly admit I am not the best person to follow a recipe, I am certain that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.

This staple of Asian cuisine can be used in much more than a stir-fry. The firm type fries up well, so use it for faux chicken nuggets or popcorn shrimp. Its bland taste also means it holds up nicely in dishes with plenty of other flavors and spices, such as a pot pie or our Vegan Lasagna recipe. And while you're at it, get acquainted with its cousin, tempeh too.

Firm tofu replaces ricotta cheese in this hearty vegan lasagna.

This story was written by Alyssa Jung and originally posted at Chowhound.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.