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Video: Making junk food healthier for kids

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    >>> healthier. common problem for parents, having the kids eat the soda, candy, fast food . well, nutritionist and "today" contributor joy bauer has tips and recipes to get our kids off the junk. good to see you.

    >> hi, al.

    >> again, finding the right substitutes, because they'll eat it as long as it tastes good.

    >> that's exactly right, and the bottom line is, we can control what our kids are picking up at the hot lunch line at school, what they're eating with their friends, but we can control what they have in our homes, and there are small tweaks you can make to their favorites -- pizzas, tacos, burgers. the nutrition goes way up and still tastes delicious to them.

    >> let's start with the burger.

    >> okay. typical burgers are made with high-fat beef and cheese and in a starchy bun. again, the nutrition is way low. what i'm doing in my version is using lean ground turkey meat and combining it with a little ketchup, some dijon mustard , garlic powder . all these recipes are on the website.

    >> so, that keeps it moist.

    >> yes. then i'm putting it in a whole whaet bun or an english muffin or peta. there are a lot of varieties on the market, then using a 2% reduced fat cheese. so, the before calories are 700, and the after in this version are only 430 calories.

    >> wow.

    >> so, you really drive it down. and if you want to be a little creative, what i like to do is i take my turkey burger, i put the cheese in the inside. i take the top layer, i will cinch the sides, and then you stick it on the pan or grill or broiler, five to seven minutes on each side and your children get a nice --

    >> turkey melt.

    >> -- cheesy surprise on the inside.

    >> who doesn't like a cheesy surprise?

    >> that's right.

    >> now, fries. kids -- i mean, everybody's addicted to fries.

    >> right, and potatoes are terrific. they've got a lot of nutrition they bring to the table, but when you drop them in a vat of oil, everything's out the window.

    >> sure.

    >> so, instead, these are called unfried fries. you take a sweet potato or white potato , cut it up into pieces, put it on a baking sheet -- no aluminum foil , because it will get crispier, and you take an oil mister to evenly coat them. then a little salt, a little pepper, or cumin, chili powder . this is fabulous.

    >> traditionally, the sweet potato 's better.

    >> sweet potatoes offer up a lot of beta carotene , which is great for your skin and great antioxidants, but nothing against the white potato .

    >> no, no. the blt.

    >> well, this is a grilled cheese . now, the classic american grilled cheese , yikes! it's white bread , full-fat cheese and then it's pan-toasted with butter.

    >> right.

    >> ew.

    >> that's why we like it.

    >> so, i'm suggesting everybody starts with 100% whole wheat bread , lightly toast it, layer it with the reduced fat cheese slices and layer it open face because you'll double the vitamins and the bites.

    >> and you'll feel fuller.

    >> exactly. and throw in sliced tomatoes or turkey bacon. with the turkey bacon, you'll increase the protein and increase the tradition with tomatoes.

    >> i don't want to run out of time. this is kale.

    >> this is my crispy kale chips, and i know people in the control room are probably laughing right now, but kids love it you take kale, cut it into two-inch pieces, spread them on a baking sheet , a little bit of a loyal oil mister, little salt. ten minutes at 400 --

    >> it's crunchy.

    >> delicious and kids eat it.

    >> and popcorn.

    >> air-popped popcorn, little spray and you could use parmesan cheese , hot sauce , yummy and be creative with seasonings. again, every single recipe is on our website.

    >> by the way, mark victor , our producer, and joe michaels, the producer, say the kale, amazing. they want you to bring some down to the control room .

TODAY contributor
updated 1/8/2010 10:36:05 AM ET 2010-01-08T15:36:05

We all want our kids to eat well and make healthy choices, but the reality is, most kids are eating way too much fast food, soda and other “junk,” and not nearly enough of the good stuff.

I realize you can’t control what your kids order from the hot lunch line or the snacks they grab at their friends’ houses after school. But the good news is, kids eat the majority of their meals at home, where we as parents have enormous control over the quality of the foods we prepare and serve to our families.

Meet your kids halfway by learning to prepare healthier homemade versions of their favorite fare, like burgers, fries and pizza. Below, you’ll find five stellar kid-friendly recipes that are way lower in fat, sodium and calories than traditional versions, and every bit as delicious!

Recipe: Inside-out cheeseburgers (on this page) Recipe: Un-fried fries (on this page) Recipe: Open-face grilled cheese (on this page)

Recipe: Crispy kale chips (on this page) Recipe: Seasoned popcorn (on this page)

For more information on healthy eating, visit www.joybauer.com.

Find out if Joy's Life Diet is right for you at JoyBauer.com

Recipe: Inside-out cheeseburgers

My burgers are made with lean ground turkey (in place of fatty ground beef) and reduced-fat cheese, so they have less than a third of the fat of a traditional cheeseburger and considerably more protein. Serve these up with whole wheat hamburger buns or English muffins and pile ’em high with lettuce, tomato slices, and pickles (or any other veggie toppings your kids like). The “cheese surprise” is always a big hit!

  • 1 (20-ounce) package ground turkey (at least 90 percent lean)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 ounces 2 percent reduced-fat block cheddar cheese, cut into 4 (1-ounce) slices

In a large bowl, mix ground turkey, ketchup, mustard and garlic powder until thoroughly combined. Form the meat mixture into eight large, thin patties. Place a slice of cheese in the center of one patty. Top the cheese with a second patty. Crimp the edges of the two patties together, working your way around the cheese, so that the cheese center is completely enclosed. (Make sure you seal the patties well so the cheese doesn’t ooze out during the cooking process.) Repeat this process to form three more burgers.

Grill, pan sauté, or broil the patties until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

Serving Size

Serves 4

Recipe: Un-fried fries

My oven-baked French fries are every bit as good as the deep fried kind! I spray the fries with an oil mister to get even coverage and maximum crispiness using less than a teaspoon of oil. Then, I season them up creatively with flavorful spices instead of piling on the salt. This recipe works with both white and sweet potatoes, so experiment with different flavor combos for each. The Bauer kids love sweet potato fries sprinkled with cinnamon best.

  • Oil spray (recommended: canola or olive oil)
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (peel on)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Seasonings: chili powder, chipotle chili powder, ground cumin, ground cinnamon, Creole/Cajun seasoning blends

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat baking sheet(s) with oil spray. (The fries will be crispiest if baked directly on the baking sheet, without aluminum foil.)

Cut the potatoes into strips (approximately 1/4-inch x 1/4-inch in size). Arrange the cut fries in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet(s). Mist the fries with oil spray and season with salt, pepper, and additional seasonings. Bake the fries for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Then, place the fries under the broiler for 5 minutes to get them extra crispy.

Serving Size

Serves 4

Recipe: Open-face grilled cheese

The classic American grilled cheese sandwich is made with refined white bread and lots of full-fat cheese, then smeared with butter and pan-toasted. All that fat in the cheese and butter makes for a caloric sandwich filled with nothing substantial. I still make grilled cheese for my kids, but I prepare their sandwiches with healthier ingredients to slash the fat by 75 percent. I serve them open-faced, rather than smushing the bread together. This little trick doubles the volume of food and the number of bites, and ultimately makes the meal more filling … so you can skip the side of potato chips.

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • Tomato slices or cooked turkey bacon
  • 2 slices 2 percent reduced-fat cheese

Lightly toast the bread. Top each slice of toast with tomato slices or two small slices cooked turkey bacon. Layer one slice of cheese on top of each half. Broil the sandwich halves (or toast in a toaster oven) until the cheese melts. To serve, place both sandwich halves open-faced on a plate.

Serving Size

Serves 1

Recipe: Crispy kale chips

Here, I tackle one of kids’ favorite snacks: the potato chip. I use fresh kale instead of potatoes as my “chip” and, in lieu of plunging them into the deep fryer, I bake the chips in the oven to make them light and crispy. I’m not delusional and realize that these healthy chips will never be an even replacement for the original, but seriously, it’s a great way to get your kids to eat a powerhouse veggie.

  • Oil spray (recommended: canola or olive oil)
  • 1 large bunch kale
  • Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat two large baking sheets with oil spray. (The chips will be crispiest if baked directly on the baking sheet, without aluminum foil.)

Trim the ends off the kale and cut the leaves into 2-inch pieces. Divide the kale pieces between the two baking sheets and spread them into a single, even layer. Liberally mist the kale with oil spray and lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the kale is crispy to the touch and the edges are beginning to brown.

Serving Size

Serves 2 to 4

Recipe: Seasoned popcorn

On its own, popcorn is a fabulous, healthy snack that’s ideal for kids. Popcorn is a whole grain, and recent research shows it offers up a hefty dose of antioxidants. That said, when you dowse popcorn in butter and salt (or pop it in loads of oil, like they do at the movie theater), it transforms into a heavy, high-cal snack that you don’t want to be feeding to your gang. I’ve perfected a technique for making plain, all-natural air popped popcorn (using minimal oil) right in the microwave without any special equipment. I steer clear of the butter and instead use fun toppings like Parmesan cheese, chili powder and ground chipotle to add pizzazz to create the ultimate munchies.

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons popcorn kernels
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • Oil spray (recommended: canola oil)
  • Seasonings: finely grated Parmesan cheese, black pepper, chili powder, chipotle chili powder, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, smoked paprika, bottled seasoning blends

Pour the popcorn kernels into the paper bag. Mist the kernels with oil spray and fold the top of the bag over twice to seal. Shake the bag (while holding closed) to evenly coat the kernels with oil. Microwave the folded bag on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until the popping slows to 2 seconds between pops. (Cook time will vary from microwave to microwave, so it may take you a few tries to figure out the perfect pop time. Alternatively, you can use an air popper to make your popcorn.)

Pour the freshly popped popcorn into a one-gallon resealable bag. Liberally spray the popcorn with additional oil spray and shake the bag to distribute evenly. Add your preferred seasonings and shake vigorously for 30 to 60 seconds to evenly coat the popcorn with seasonings.

Serving Size

Serves 1 to 2


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