June 2021

Eat Like a Kid:
Guilt-Free Comfort Food Recipes!

By Tanya Zuckerbrot

Denise Richards with daughters Sam and Lola at an L.A. park munching Sensible Portions snacks

Who isn’t jealous watching kids eat whatever they want, and whenever they want, without worrying about fat and calories? While we pick at our boring plate of steamed broccoli, kids happily dig into their creamy mac-and-cheese, fluffy chocolate-chip pancakes, and crispy yet tender chicken nuggets. But the truth is: You don’t have to sacrifice all of your childhood favorites in order to keep your waistline in line. With only a few tweaks to the original recipes, you can still eat like a kid. You’ll love these low-calorie, kid-tested, and adult-approved meals and snacks.

Healthy Mac & Cheese
1 cup pasta plus ½ cup cheese
Kid version: 680 calories, 40g fat, 2g fiber. Adult version: 350 calories, 1g fat, 4g fiber.

Macaroni-and-cheese is a classic comfort food that kids love and adults never outgrow. Unfortunately, it’s loaded with calories and artery-clogging saturated fat. Regular macaroni is also problematic because, as a refined carbohydrate, it can cause a crash in blood sugar levels and doesn’t do us any favors with our energy level or waistline.
• Switch to whole-wheat macaroni to get more fiber, which stabilizes blood sugar and keeps you fuller.
• Swap full-fat cheese for fat-free, which keeps the creamy texture without all the extra calories and saturated fat. The fiber and protein in cheese makes for a well-balanced and satisfying meal but contains much fewer calories.
• Toss in some veggies such as broccoli or tomatoes for extra nutrients, including vitamins C, A, and K!

Oven-Fried-Chicken Nuggets
Kid version (3 oz.): 270 calories, 17g fat. Adult version (3 oz.): 175 calories, 8g fat. Chicken nuggets are an all-time kid favorite, but why shouldn’t adults be able to eat them too?! Traditional recipes and store-bought, processed versions contain excess calories from the oil and bread-crumb coating, but you and your kids will love this easy-to-prepare recipe.
• Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the leanest part of the chicken, and cut into bite-size pieces.
• Swap bread crumbs for crushed corn flakes, and add a little parmesan cheese in place of oil for flavor and moisture without the extra calories.

Light and Fluffy Pancakes
Kid version (3 pancakes, 1 tablespoon syrup, 1 tablespoon chocolate chips): 342 calories, 7g fat, 64g carbs. Adult version (3 pancakes, 1 tablespoon sugar-free syrup, ½ cup fresh berries): 230 calories, 2g fat, 50g carbs.
Didn’t you love waking up to pancakes on a Sunday morning when you were a child? Homemade pancakes are a delicious morning treat that are hard to resist, but most recipes call for white flour and tons of oil, which make your blood sugars crash and the pounds creep. Pour on the syrup and chocolate chips and it’s a total diet disaster. To keep this a meal everyone will love, all you need to do is make a few small changes.
• Swap white flour for whole wheat flour for extra blood-sugar-stabilizing fiber.
• Replace the oil with unsweetened applesauce to slash over half the calories, while maintaining the light and fluffy texture.
• Top with fresh berries for added fiber, nutrients, and a touch of sweetness.
• Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar-free syrup to bring back all the goodness of childhood memories.

Adults Need Snacks Too!
Between meals, it’s always nice to have a delicious treat when hunger strikes and dinner is hours away. Just make sure the treat is adult-friendly by switching to lower-fat versions with more fiber and protein. Snacking on healthy foods that contain a combination of fiber and lean protein is a great way to help curb cravings, improve energy levels, and prevent overeating at your next meal. Try these nutritious snacks, which can be enjoyed by both adults and kids alike.

Healthy Snack: String Cheese
Kids love string cheese (otherwise knows as a cheese stick), because it’s fun to eat. So join the fun with your own low-fat or fat-free string cheese. It’s easy to carry around, and provides an excellent source of calcium and protein to keep you full and satisfied until your next meal.
Regular string cheese: 80 calories, 6g fat. Light string cheese: 50 calories, 2.5g fat.

Low-Fat Chocolate Attack: Chocolate Pudding
Snack packs are the original childhood favorite. Most of us have chocolate cravings from time to time, so satisfy them while choosing something healthier yet equally delicious. Instead of chocolate pudding, have a sugar-free fudge pop or diet hot chocolate. Both options satisfy a chocolate craving for less than 50 calories and 1g fat, which saves you around 100 calories!
1 chocolate pudding: 130 calories, 5g fat. Diet hot chocolate: 25 calories, 0g fat. Sugar-free fudge pop: 45 calories, 1g fat.

Low-Cal and Homemade: Trail Mix
The sweet and salty combination of trail mix always seems to work well with kids. But this high-energy snack has tons of calories, which means you need to watch your portion size. A better option is to make your own lower-calorie version of trail mix, using raw almonds, fat-free popcorn, and high-fiber cereal (such as bran flakes or Fiber One) with dark chocolate pieces or carob chips. Throw in some freeze-dried raspberries, which provide more volume for fewer calories than dried fruits. Although they may lose some of their vitamin content, freeze-dried fruits retain their antioxidant properties and provide lots of satisfying crunch. See how dried- and freeze-dried fruit match up.
½ cup dried fruit = 250 calories. ½ cup freeze-dried fruit = 40 calories.

Not Just for Kids: Sensible Portions Snack Line
Sensible Portions is a food line that provides tons of tasty packaged snacks, which can help you avoid overeating. Sensible Portions offers a wide variety of chips, soy crisps, and straws in plenty of salty and sweet flavors. Try the Cinna-Swirl Soy Crisps or Multi-Grain Apple Cinnamon Crisps when you’re craving something sweet. Looking for something salty? Then try the Parmesan Garlic and Herb Pita Chips, or the Sour Cream and Onion Multi-Grain Crisps, for a satisfying crunch. The best part is that these snacks contain soy and whole grains, for extra nutritional benefits. When kids pull out their bag of chips or cookies, you can smile as you snack on your own little yummy treat.
1 serving: approximately 100 calories and less than 3g fat


Tanya Zuckerbrot, Health & Fitness Contributing Editor
Tanya Zuckerbrot is a Manhattan-based registered dietitian and the creator of the F-Factor Diet, an innovative nutritional program she founded in 1999. The F-Factor Diet: Discover the Secret to Permanent Weight Loss (Putnum, 2006) debuted in hardcover in January 2007. This common-sense plan, used successfully by hundreds of Tanya’s clients, provides tools for improved health . . . Read more of Tanya’s tips


Tanya Zuckerbrot’s Holiday Eating Tips
Watch the Video

Want to avoid packing on the pounds this holiday season but still eat, drink, and be merry? Get tips and tricks from celebrity nutritionist Tanya Zuckerbrot, from what hors d’oeuvres to pass up to what to order at the bar. And if your New Year’s resolution still includes losing weight, she’s got a plan for you.