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Healthy cooking the whole family can enjoy

Molly Cerreta Smith has enjoyed a career in the publishing industry for more than 10 years. As an editor of several regional magazines, she has had the opportunity throughout her career to meet many local celebrities, businesspeople, ent...

Healthy meals for the whole family

Healthy cooking doesn't have to scare your family away from the dinner table. In fact, you can transform most of your everyday meals into healthy ones with just a few small substitutions. Check out these tips for healthy cooking the whole family can enjoy.

Taco night

1Taco night

Taco night is always a crowd pleaser, but greasy ground beef, loads of cheese and sour cream -- not to mention piles of tortilla chips -- aren't the components of a healthy dinner. Instead of ground beef, cook up some lean ground turkey mixed with fresh salsa. Instead of flour tortillas, give whole-grain or corn tortillas a try. Try some of the great whole-grain tortilla chip varieties out there -- just don't eat the whole bag. Swap out lots of shredded cheese for a sprinkling of reduced-fat cheddar jack. Skip Spanish rice, and instead cook up some refried black beans as the perfect side dish.

2Burger bonanza

Most families love a great burger. Try this healthy version: Grill ground chicken patties or breasts of chicken. Place on whole-grain buns. Top with lots of spinach or arugula splashed with white or red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of feta cheese. Instead of regular fried white potatoes, bake up some healthy sweet potato strips.

3Pizza night

Thanks to the nation's newfound interest in all things healthy, you can find fabulous pizza dough in whole-wheat varieties (Trader Joe's is a personal favorite). Divide the dough so family members can make their own, and skip toppings like sausage and pepperoni (unless you can find turkey pepperoni topping in your market). Instead, offer up lots of interesting veggie toppings such as broccoli, asparagus and a variety of thinly sliced bell peppers. Instead of store-bought pizza sauce, which is often loaded with sugar, use a can of diced tomatoes with herb seasoning. Top with reduced-fat mozzarella (not too much!) and bake.

4Chicken fingers with macaroni & cheese

Here's an easy dinner that even the finicky kids will scarf down. Instead of relying on frozen fingers and boxed mac 'n cheese, create your own healthy version. Dredge chicken breast tenders in an egg bath, then dip in a shallow bowl of bread crumbs mixed with a bit of cayenne pepper (if your kids tolerate spice). Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until cooked through and crispy. For a healthy mac 'n cheese, prepare whole-grain elbow noodles and mix with a small amount of skim milk, reduced-fat cheeses of your choice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Want to get your kids interested in eating healthy? Ask for their help! Take them grocery shopping and ask them which fruits and veggies look good to them. Then get in the kitchen together and create a healthy meal based around their choices.

More healthy dinner ideas

10 Strategies for healthy family meals
5 Healthy (but yummy!) family meals
Healthy ingredient substitutions for family meals

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