Feeding the Kids: A Fork and Spoon Field Guide

Finding Healthy Brands of Kid-Friendly Foods: Nutritious Snacks, Great Whole-Grains, Healthy Kid's Meals and More 

The Feeding the Kids System organizes all foods into three categories:

  • Smart foods: super healthy foods packed with nutrition
  • Empty (junk) items: food that provides little nutrition but fill kids up
  • In-Between choices: partly Smart and partly Empty
  • Your family will have a healthy diet if they eat mostly Smart foods with one In-Between per meal or snack, while limiting Empties to just one or two a day.

Below, we've listed Smart and In-Between brands that kids often enjoy. All these foods are Smart unless they are labeled as In-Between.  (Of course, many other brands not listed are also healthy! In fact, if you have a suggestion for a kid-approved Smart or In-Between product to add to this list, please send it to reg@feedingthekids.com.)

How can you get your kids to actually eat all this healthy stuff? You'll find out in our award-winning book, Feeding the Kids: The Flexible, No-Battles, Healthy Eating System for the Whole Family!

  • Whole-wheat Pasta that actually Tastes Great
  • Whole-grain Breads, Bagels, English Muffins...
  • Whole-grain, Lower Sugar Breakfast Cereals
  • Whole-grain Flour and Whole Cornmeal
  • Brown (Whole-grain) Rice
  • Lower-fat Chips, Popcorn and Frozen French Fries
  • Whole-grain Crackers and Graham Crackers
  • Whole-grain, Lower Sugar Granola Bars
  • No Sugar (or other Sweetener) Added Fruit Products
  • Reduced Fat Cheese
  • Extra Lean and Lean Meats
  • High Protein Vegetarian Foods and Beans
  • Low-fat Canned Soup, Broth and Bullion
  • Best Tasting, Lower-fat Ice Cream
  • Toppings (Butter, Peanut Butter, etc.) that are Lower in Saturated Fats
  • Salad Dressing High in Unsaturated (healthy) Fats
  • Cookbooks with Healthy Recipes
  • Healthier Microwavable Meals
  • Restaurants with (at least some) Healthier Options for Kids

Whole-wheat Pasta that actually Tastes Great

  • Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Blend Pasta (any shape)
  • Bionaturae 100% Stone Ground Whole Durum Wheat Organic Pasta (any shape) available at Wild Oats and other health food-type stores
  • Naturally Preferred Organic Whole Wheat Rotini (or other shape) available at Kroger and King Sooper
  • Gia Russa Whole Wheat Macaroni Product Linguine (or other shape) look for a girl holding wheat in her arms
  • Luigi Vitelli Whole Wheat Pasta (I love the really thin vermicelli that cooks in only 4 minutes!)
  • Roland 100% Organic Traditional Udon (So good! These are still Smart, because they are mostly whole wheat.. They work as a replacement for rice with stir-fry and are wonderful in soup.)

Whole-grain Breads, Bagels, English Muffins...

  • Thomas "Hearty Grains" 100% Whole Wheat bagels and English muffins (the mini-squares are great for quick mini-pizzas)
  • Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat Bread
  • Rudy's Organic Bakery Breads 100% Whole Wheat (or other whole grain flavor)
  • Many local brands that say "100% Whole Grain" on the package
  • Private Selection Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread (This is the Kroger in-store brand.)
  • Alvarado Street Bakery Sprouted Multi-grain Bread (This is a hearty, heavy bread. I love it toasted for breakfast--but it isn't a good choice for kids just getting used to whole wheat.)
  • Or, if you have time, try the easy recipe for "Great, Great Bread" in Feeding the Kids

Whole-grain, Lower Sugar Breakfast Cereals

  • Cheerios
  • Kix
  • Most Unsweetened Shredded Wheat
  • Bear Naked All Natural Granola Fruit and Nut (In-Between)
  • Frosted Mini-Wheats (In-Between)
  • Mighty Bites (In-Between)
  • Autumn Harvest from Kashi (In-Between)
  • Quaker Essentials Oatmeal Squares (In-Between and quite sweet!) Note: this cereal is healthy, but always check Quaker products...they sometimes add partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Or, best of all, good old oatmeal (But not the super sweetened instant packs!)

Whole-grain Flour and Whole Cornmeal

  • King Arthur Flour All-Natural White Whole Wheat Flour (great stuff!)
  • Hodgson Mill White Whole Wheat Flour (very hard to find)
  • Any brand: whole-wheat all purpose or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • Hodgson Mill Whole Grain Stone Ground Yellow Corn Meal (strong corn flavor, but good)

Brown (Whole-grain) Rice

  • Uncle Ben's Instant Brown Rice (Tastes really good and cooks in under 15 minutes.)
  • Any brand of "Brown" rice
  • Success brand Boil-in-bag Brown Rice (This is very, very bland tasting. It's easy to make, though!)
  • Wild rice
  • Lunberg Farms Brown Basamati and Brown Rose Rice (Great tasting types of brown rice)
  • Kashi Seven Grain Pilaf (Hard to find... but great change from plain rice and very healthy. It's got a very chewy texture.)
  • Whole Wheat Couscous (not rice, but kids love it... any brand)
  • Quinoa (also not rice, but can be used in place of rice... any brand)
  • Brown rice cakes

Lower-fat Chips, Popcorn and Frozen French Fries

  • Baked! Ruffles Potato Chips
  • Kettle Chips Baked Chips
  • Guiltless Gourmet brand corn chips (lots of flavors)
  • Smart Balance Light Butter Flavor Deluxe Microwave Popcorn
  • Alexia Oven Fries, several flavors (these are really good!)
  • Alexia Hash Browns
  • Idohoan Original Mashed Potatoes (If you must go instant, these don't contain partially hydrogenated oils and they taste pretty good.)

Whole-grain Crackers and Graham Crackers

  • Triscuit Reduced Fat
  • Ak-Mak 100% Whole Wheat Stone Ground Sesame Cracker
  • Health Valley Original Graham Crackers, any flavor (an In-Between)
  • Lundberg Farm Brown Rice Cakes
  • Real Foods Corn Thins Flax & Soy (These taste great. Kids like them because they taste a lot like popcorn.)
  • Annie's Whole Wheat Bunnies (In-Between)
  • Pepperidge Farm's Whole Grain Goldfish (Though technically an Empty grain, these get extra fat because of their cheese content. So, I count them as an In-Between. Bonus: They taste exactly like regular Gold Fish.)
  • Barbara's Bakery Wheatines Saltine-Style Crackers, Original or Cracked Pepper (But only get the cracked pepper if you really like cracked pepper!)
  • TLC Stoneground 7 Grain Crackers
  • GeniSoy Soy Crisps (In-Between) (These are a nice source of protein, too.)
  • Smart Balance Light Butter Flavor Deluxe Microwave Popcorn

Whole-grain, Lower Sugar Granola Bars

  • Kashi TLC Granola Bars (several flavors are In-Betweens but my taste-testers prefered the Pumpkin Spice Flax, if you can find them.)

No Sugar (or other Sweetener) Added Fruit Products

  • Any fresh fruit...of course
  • Unsweetened frozen fruit, any brand
  • Dole's "packaged in 100% Juice" line of canned fruit, pineapple, peaches, etc.
  • Mott's Natural "No Sugar Added" Apple Sauce (individual-size or bottled, also available in organic)
  • Sun-Maid Raisins
  • Newman's Own Organic Raisins
  • Mariani Premium Dried fruits (check ingredients to avoid those with added sweeteners)
  • Juicy Juice (an In-Between)
  • Any 100% pure orange juice (an In-Between)
  • Archer Farms 100% Real Fruit Strip, any flavor (an In-Between) (available at Target)
  • Archer Farms Unsweetened Applesauce

Reduced Fat Cheese

  • Kraft 2% sharp cheddar (shredded, snacks or cubes) (Many types don't contain growth hormones--yeah!)
  • Sargento Reduced Fat Cheese Made with 2% Milk 
  • Most string cheese
  • Kraft Parmesean
  • Most grated mozerella
  • Many brands of low-fat cream cheese
  • Many brands of low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese

Extra Lean and Lean Meats

  • Any brand Extra-Lean (95 or 96% lean) ground beef (Laura's Natural Meat and Coleman's are examples, but other brands may be cheaper) Whole Foods also carries high quality extra lean ground beef.
  • Any brand Extra-Lean ground turkey or chicken, sometimes called ground turkey breast. (Contrary to popular believe, regular ground turkey contains LOTS of saturated fat...so look for the extra-lean.)
  • Any brand skinless chicken breasts (Foster Farms is one brand also look at Whole Foods or other natural grocery stores)
  • Wild Ride Beef Jerky (contains no MSG or nitrates)
  • Jack Link's Organic Beef Jerky (Widely available--and no nitrates if you buy the "organic"!)
  • Double "B" Foods All Natural Beef and Turkey Jerky (try the Pecan Smoked)
  • Hormel "Natural" Hams
  • Several flavors Foster Farms Chicken Strips (In-Between)
  • Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips (These are a nugget-like In-Between option. Because they are larger, they have less breading and that cuts back on the fat content. The breaded breasts are also In-Betweens, but the nuggets are quite high in fat.)
  • Applegate Farms Certified Organic, including uncured ham, turkey, chicken and beef (expensive, but wonderful and no nitrates)
  • Applegate Farms Canadian Bacon
  • Hormel Natural Choice Oven Roasted Turkey, Smoked Ham, Honey Ham and Roast Beef (contain no nitrates or artificial ingredients)
  • Or, use the Field Tests in Feeding the Kids to select meats for your family that are lower in saturated fats. Most kids won't even notice!

High Protein Vegetarian Foods and Beans

  • Extra Firm Tofu (many brands including White Wave)
  • Beans, of course! (Look for those lower in sodium. A few good brands include: Bush's Best, Progresso)
  • Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans
  • Boca Meatless Chik'n Patties Orginal
  • Boca Meatless Sausages Italian

Low-fat Canned Soup, Broth and Bullion

  • Progresso 50% Less Sodium Chicken Noodle
  • Amy's Organic Soups (we love the Lentil Vegetable)
  • Swanson's Vegetarian Vegetable Broth
  • Rapunzel Vegan Vegetarian Bullion (comes in no salt version, too)

Best Tasting, Lower-fat Ice Cream

  • Dryer's Slow Churned Rich & Creamy**
  • Edy's Slow Churned Rich & Creamy**
  • Bryer's Light
  • Fudgsicle Original Fudge Bar (Actually contains 15% DV of calcium!)
  • **Dryer's and Edy's have started putting partially hydrogenated oils in some of their flavors--especially those containing chocolate bits. Avoid those flavors!

Toppings (Butter, Peanut Butter, etc.) that are Lower in Saturated Fats

  • Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil
  • Challenge Butter Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil
  • Any peanut, almond or cashew butter that contains just the nut and, maybe, some salt
  • MaraNatha brand nut-butters (Except the no-stir which contains palm oil. Just get the good stuff and stir!)
  • Olive Harvest Olive Tapenade (Kids really love this olive and veggie spread. It's wonderful on whole-wheat pasta, sandwiches or bread! Get it a Safeway, Whole Foods, and King Soopers. Or visit  www.totalharvest.com)
  • Kraft 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese (or, even better, freshly grated Parmesan.
  • Any Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Try mixing it with balsamic vinegar for dipping bread.)
  • Any salad dressing made with olive, canola or soy oil.
  • Avacodo

Salad Dressing High in Unsaturated (healthy) Fats

  • Annie's Dressings (Goddess and Ceasar are really good), but these dressing are often too thick. Thin with some vinegar make them pour.
  • Drew's Salad Dressings
  • Any other dressing made with canola or olive oil

Cookbooks with Healthy Recipes

  • Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin (great soups!)
  • The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book (a great basic cookbook with quite a few healthy recipes)
  • Fix It and Forget It Lightly by Phyllis Pellman Good (slow-cooker recipes)
  • The Essential EatWell Cookbooks edited by Patsy Jamieson
  • Cooking Healthy Across America by the American Dietetic Association
  • The Mom's Guide to Meal Makeovers by Janice Newell and Liz Weiss 5
  • A Day: The Better Health Cookbook By Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D. and Barbara Berry, M.S., R.D.
  • Many of the Cooking Light cookbooks (and magazines)
  • www.recipes.com (look for the Healthy section)
  • www.aicr.org (This is the American Institute of Cancer Researcher's site. Click on "Recipe Corner.")
  • www.whfoods.com (World's Healthiest Foods website)

Healthier Microwavable Meals

  • Kashi frozen meals (Have whole grains and veggies, but watch out--some are pretty high in sodium. Also, many kids won't eat them because they foods are touching!)
  • Amy's frozen meals often contain whole grains. Check the labels some, like the mac and cheese, are extremely high in fat content.
  • Lean Cuisine Spa Cuisine with whole grains are surprisingly good tasting, at least for grown-ups. (Again, these are often high in sodium and are usually rejected by kids!)

Restaurants with (at least some) Healthier Options for Kids

  • Tokyo Joes (ask for brown rice)
  • Macaroni Grill (will substitute whole-wheat pasta for regular pasta)
  • Subway Sandwiches (turkey, chicken, ham or roast beef on wheat, with a side of raisins, fruit or baked chips and even low-fat milk to drink!
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill (burritos, soft tacos, salads, healthiest without sour cream)
  • McDonald's Kid's Meal (plain hamburger, apple slices and lowfat milk options)
  • Applebee's "Weight Watcher" meals Steak houses (sirlion, baked potato, side order veggies with lowfat milk and salad -or other veggie- brought out before the meal)
  • Lots of local restaurants have whole-grains, veggies and other healthy options for kids.
  • Quick tip: Many kids menus have only terrible choices! But, you can always order off the adult menu for your kids and just take left-overs home for lunch