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Healthy Meals with Short Preparation Time

Healthy Meals with Short Preparation Time

Guilt-free convenience foods for kids

No time to cook? Here are some healthy foods and snacks you can buy

By Joy Bauer, TODAY nutritionist

In the perfect world we'd all have time to cook every meal from scratch... and our kids would love everything we prepare.

Reality check! We lead chaotic lives and often don't have time to cook. And of course, a lot of our kids also tend to be picky eaters.

The following items are guilt-free convenient foods because they're easy and healthy. Best part of all, they've been tested by thousands of families and kids of all ages (personally at my nutrition center) and have been widely accepted.


Amy’s Breakfast Burrito

  • Made from organic beans, tofu, whole wheat flour, brown rice, and veggies. No high fructose corn syrup or other nonsense.
  • Portion controlled at 250 calories per burrito – plus 5 grams of fiber, 9 grams protein
  • Wrap in a paper towel and pop in microwave for 3 minutes – done!

Kashi Go Lean frozen waffles, plain or blueberry

  • For starchy breakfast waffles, this brand provides an impressive amount of protein and fiber.
  • 2 Toasted Waffles = 170 calories, 8 grams protein, and 6 grams fiber! Plus, there’s no saturated or trans fat… and very little sugar.

Have your kids top with:

  1. Non-fat vanilla yogurt and berries
  2. Thin spread of peanut butter
  3. Scrambled eggs
  4. Or, 2 tablespoons reduced sugar syrup

Morningstar Farms soy breakfast sausage

  • Made with soy and egg whites, these sausage links are significantly lower in calories and fat than the traditional beef and pork varieties.
  • 2 links = 80 calories and 9 grams of protein with zero saturated fat.

Breakfast Cereals: MultiGrain Cheerios, Barbara’s Original Puffins, Kashi Heart to Heart

*Joy’s rule of thumb for kid’s breakfast cereals:


  • No more than 6 grams of sugar
  • At least 3+ grams of fiber
  • If weight is an issue, aim for 120 calories or less per ¾ cup serving.


Lean Pockets - Chicken Parmigan

  • Although there’s no whole grain in this product, it’s a tasty, low-calorie, low-fat version of chicken parm - thanks to reduced cheese and un-fried chicken.
  • One item provides 280 calories, 7 grams of fat and is a good source of calcium (150 milligrams) and protein (12 grams).

Belle and Evans Chicken Nuggets and Tenders

  • Made with chicken that’s antibiotic free… and contains no fillers, preservatives, artificial flavorings or hydrogenated oil.
  • 4 ounce serving provides 190 calories, 6 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat and 0 trans fat.

Healthy Soups:

Healthy Choice Garden Vegetable soup
One cup provides 120 calories, 5 grams fiber and 5 grams protein

Amy’s Lentil Soup
1 cup provides 150 calories, 8 grams protein and 9 grams of fiber!


Lean Cuisine Brick Oven Style Pizza

  • Your kids have a variety to choose from and get a decent sized 'individual' pizza. The crust is thin and crispy and there is also a lot of cheese (low-fat cheese which delivers 250 milligrams of calcium -- 3/4s the amount in a glass of milk).
  • One pizza has 280 calories, 7 grams total fat and 2 grams of saturated fat (considerably less than a standard New York slice at 600+ calories!).

Jennie-O Turkey Burgers

  • Made from straight turkey meat and seasoning (with very little salt) – and you can grill or pan fry with non-stick cooking spray… straight from the freezer.
  • 1 Turkey Burger is only 160 calories and 9 grams of fat (2 grams saturated fat). Significantly less than your typical beef burger!
  • Stick turkey burger on a 100% whole grain hamburger bun… top with tomato and a dab of ketchup… and serve with crunchy baby carrots on the side for a perfect meal.

Barilla Plus Pasta

Not whole grain pasta – but offers other healthful benefits. Semolina flour is blended with barley, lentils and chickpeas (bumping up the fiber), egg whites (increasing protein) and ground flaxseeds adding more nutrients, fiber and some ‘but not much” omega 3 fats.

Salad dressings

  • Paul Newman’s Lighten Up: Balsamic Vinaigrette + Low-fat Sesame Ginger
  • Wishbone – Salad Spritzers – Italian flavor
  • Tasty, low-calorie dressing is often the perfect strategy for getting your kids to eat more veggies! The following brands are 50 calories or less per 2 Tablespoons… and have been widely accepted by kids.
  • The Wishbone Spritzers (spray bottles) have the added appeal of fun.


Polly-O String Cheese (part skim)

  • You can never go wrong with low-fat cheese – and the added work of pulling the stick cheese apart will keep your kids busy for a while.
  • Whether it’s all white or a white/yellow combo, one stick typically provides 150 milligrams of calcium (that’s 1/2 the amount in an 8-ounce glass of milk).

Glenny’s Soy Crisps

  • One small bag provides 140 calories. And thanks to the soy… 10 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.
  • They come in a variety of flavors, however, in my experience kids tend to like Apple Cinnamon best. Two other varieties - Lightly Salted and Cheddar Cheese seem to be second in line.

Skinny Cow Flying Saucers

A fabulous treat for kids (and adults) at only 140 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. Comes in a variety of flavors from chocolate to peanut butter to strawberry… and thanks to fortification, your kids get 3 grams of fiber.

Motts Natural Applesauce (peach or berry flavor)

  • No added sugar or high fructose corn syrup… which means half the calories and sugar. Only 50 calorie per half cup serving for this version… compared to 100 calories per half cup for the traditional sweetened.
  • Always look for “natural” “no added sugar” or unsweetened”.

For more information on healthy eating, visit TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer’s Website