Real Food for Healthy Kids

[ 16 ] August 7, 2008 |

Great Cookbooks for Families
Reviewed by Katy Killilea

Realfood on kid o infoWhat the authors of this book mean by “real food” is quality ingredients coming together to make something delicious. They put a strong emphasis on nutrition, have an underlying philosophy that food should be enjoyed, and believe there’s room in everyone’s diet for all kinds of foods. That said, butter, ghee, and cream appear in the recipes, so it’s not all health food. Real Food for Healthy Kids is an interesting response to The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious. These chef/mother/authors seem offended by the idea that parents should smuggle in quality ingredients as a way to trick kids into eating them. Isn’t it nice to relax a bit about growing up big and strong, and just make a lot of different things, and make them all taste delicious?

Aside from the appealing philosophy, what makes this a good family cookbook? Nutrition information for growing bodies kicks off the first chapter, followed by tips for creating a kid-friendly kitchen. The recipe chapters are organized by meal, with additional chapters on first foods for babies, drinks, snacks, and gluten-free and casein-free (meaning dairy-free) cooking. Each chapter includes meal-planning ideas (and what to pack in a lunch or bento box in the lunch chapter). In a stroke of busy-parent genius, the dinner chapter features side-by-side recipes; the first intentionally provides leftovers for use in the second. Every recipe includes nutrition information, and realistic estimates of how much time the recipe will take from start to finish.

Even the simplest recipes are clever: as a finger food for babies, crush cheerios or a graham cracker into fine crumbs and roll diced kiwi in them. There are more complicated options, of course. With a child’s first Caesar salad recipe, several riffs on lasagna, and lots of meat and desserts, there are tons (over 200 recipes) of interesting ideas.

This is a quick lunch or dinner recipe that will remind kids of a few of their favorite things: pizza, quesadillas, and nachos. It takes five minutes to prepare, plus eight minutes to bake.

South-of-the-Border Pronto Pizza
From Real Food for Healthy Kids By Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel

  • Four 10-inch flour tortillas, preferably whole wheat
  • One 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10 ounces shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 large ripe tomato, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Guacamole, green salsa, or plain low-fat yogurt for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 500°F
2. Place 2 tortillas on each of 2 large baking sheets. Divide the beans (a heaping 1/3 cup each) and cheese among the tortillas, sprinkling evenly and leaving a 1-inch border. Bake the pizzas for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the cheese is bubbly. Transfer the pizzas to a board and cut each into quarters. Sprinkle chopped tomato and cilantro on top and serve with guacamole, salsa, or yogurt on the side.

Real Food for Healthy Kids by Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel. Read more about real food for healthy kids on their blog.

Photo credits: Book: HarperCollins, Watermelon kid: University of Massachusetts

Category: books / stories, food + recipes, product reviews

Anisa Raoof

about the author ()

Anisa Raoof is the publisher of She combines being a mom with her experience as an artist, designer, psych researcher and former co-director of the Providence Craft Show to create the go-to spot for families in Rhode Island and beyond. She loves using social media to connect parents with family-related businesses and services and promoting ways for parents to engage offline with their kids. Anisa believes in the power of working together and loves to find ways to collaborate with others. An online enthusiast, still likes to unplug often by reading books and magazines, drawing, learning to knit, making pop-up books with her two sons and listening to records with her husband.

Comments (16)

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  1. The Reviews Are In And They’re Great! « Real Food for Healthy Kids | August 24, 2008
  1. Kelly says:

    I picked this book up yesterday, it does seem to be a great find.

  2. TSteel says:

    Katy, thank you so much for the kind review! Tracey and I have spent four years on the book and have been in the industry each for over 20 years apiece, and really believe in the importance of teaching children the joys of vegetables, eating in moderation, embracing global flavors. We did try and remove as much sugar, fat and white flour as possible throughout. For more on the debate about deception vs teaching your kids to eat healthy and honest food, check out the epi-log blog on my site,, and see the numerous commenters on this topic. Thanks again!

  3. calendar katy says:

    it is a great book!

    i mentioned the “not health food” aspect of the book in what i meant to be a very, very happy way! i love it when experts promote a reasonable amount of everything instead of trying to scare us away from certain foods. i am not sure that how i wrote it made this joy come across. and i can tell i’m still being really inarticulate, but we’re trying to set up a pokemon tournament as i write this comment, so i’m a bit distracted.

    hooray for real food!

  4. Sarah says:

    can you share some of the gluten free recipes. I can’t tell you how many gf cookbooks I have bought and been disappointed with. Also, most kid friendly cookbooks don’t include gf options.

  5. TSteel says:

    Hi Sarah. I am very happy to post some of them on our web site, We have more than a dozen in the book and I can put a few of those on the site–will do this weekend. My coauthor’s son is on a very strict gluten-free diet and she has truly mastered this way of baking and cooking.

  6. calendar katharine says:

    i noticed that all of the gluten free foods in the “natural” food section of the barrington shaw’s are 50% off–they must be making room for new brands or something. these are mostly cookies, baking mixes, etc. get in your car sarah, and go get them!

  7. Maria says:

    Katy, thanks for this info!
    I think this is a book for me….no deception with vegetable-eaters in this house!

  8. kristin says:

    is this book even available yet? Not at my bookstore or library.

  9. Anisa Raoof Anisa says:

    This book was just released on 8/5/2008. So it should be at your bookstore now but may a bit longer from your library though…

  10. Anisa Raoof Anisa says:

    This book was just released on August 5. So it should be at your bookstore now but may a bit longer from your library though…

  11. MelissaB says:

    This book looks great.

    Coincidentally, I read the authors’ post on epicurious, not realizing it was from this book. I found a bunch of good lunchbox ideas, and based on that post and this review, I’m breaking my book-buying moratorium.

  12. calendar kate says:

    the book is now available at barrington books, if you want to peruse it in person.

  13. calendar Katy says:

    Any readers who would be willing to share a favorite family friendly cookbook, please let me know

  14. MelissaB says:

    The Emeril Lagasse kids’ and family cookbooks are not by any means new—and they don’t have any indie cache—but they’re actually very good.

    We rec’d “There’s a Chef in My Soup” as a gift years ago, and it’s an excellent book, w/good, kid and adult-friendly stuff, and suggestions w/each recipe re: how kids can help out, etc.

  15. This is a nice way of keeping our family healthy. I have a copy of this book and i was able to serve my family some recipes that have healthy ingredients that really taste delicious.

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