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Real Food for Healthy Kids

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

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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!

  • Hi Sarah. I am very happy to post some of them on our web site, realfoodforhealthykids.com. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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, epicurious.com, and see the numerous commenters on this topic. Thanks again!