Throw the “kid cuisine” rule book away and introduce your children to an array of flavors as they cultivate their taste buds.

When thinking about preparing meals for children, visions of peanut butter and jelly or macaroni and cheese may come to mind. But, this doesn’t always need to be the case. To encourage more outside-the-box munching at mealtime, try something new. Keep these tips and tricks in mind as you whip up healthy snacks and meals for your crew.

It’s All About the Presentation
Most kids love anything that’s colorful—bonus points if it’s fun to eat. Think bright beets, crunchy carrots, and stringy squash that’s a joy to twirl on a pint-sized fork. Get creative and experiment with different ingredients that may even be new to you.

Approach eating healthy, exotic foods as a family, and serve dishes for everyone to enjoy. Seeing you consume new foods will encourage your child to give them a try.

Smart Substitutions
Burgers and french fries may be the go-to on busy school nights, and your growing children certainly need the calories for fuel. However, you do not always have to serve beef burgers on white buns with a side of regular fries. Mix it up a bit by grilling turkey burgers, salmon fillets, or portobello mushrooms. Let your kids wrap up their grilled items of choice in whole-wheat tortillas or large leaves of romaine lettuce. Serve alongside vibrant sweet potato fries for a burst of fiber, potassium, and vitamins A, B6, and C.

Replacing empty calories with nutrient-rich components can also extend to desserts. Everyone loves frozen treats. While cake, ice cream, and popsicles are the obvious options when it comes to pleasing your kids, they are not the only items on the menu. Frozen bananas dipped in chocolate or peanut butter are satisfying and sweet. So is any fruit served chilled,

for that matter. Blend fresh watermelon with ice for slushy smoothies filled with lycopene, or bake cookies made with antioxidant-rich dark chocolate and dates.

Make Them Part of the Story
Half of the fun of eating healthy foods is creating them. Frequent a farmers market or consider starting a vegetable garden in your backyard. Harvest the fruits and vegetables of your labor as a family and toss them together in healthy salads or on vegetable skewers.

Just Add Air
Love fried foods but don’t want your family to consume too much of the fat and oil that tend to go hand-in-hand with the beloved food preparation method? Consider air frying instead to achieve the crispy texture you know and love.

To air fry, you will use a countertop device that circulates very high heat around your food, baking, frying, or grilling it sans oil. As a result, your dishes will be tender and juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and lower in calories than their deep-fried counterparts by as much as 70 to 80 percent. Plus, air frying can save you lots of time in the kitchen.

These devices can quickly cook food and do not create an oily mess to clean up on your counters. However, because they do cook so quickly, take care to remove your food from the fryer before it burns to avoid consuming carcinogens.

All of your favorite fried foods may be prepared with an air fryer, including chicken, produce, or any kind of sweet dough that you plan to drizzle with cinnamon and honey.

Connect with a nationally registered, state-licensed dietitian at the Carson Tahoe Nutrition Department at (775) 445-5500.