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10 Low-Sugar Recipes that Turn Your Kids’ Favorite Dishes into Healthy Meals

10 Low-Sugar Recipes that Turn Your Kids' Favorite Dishes into Healthy Meals

Ditch the inevitable sugar crash but keep the great taste.

We all know we need to scale back our sugar consumption, but the big question is: How? In my book, Mom’s Sugar Solution: 150 Low-Sugar Recipes for Your Kids’ Favorite Foods, Sweet Treats, and More!, you'll find breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert recipes that don't sacrifice flavor for health. You'll be able to get your kids' sugar cravings under control—and support healthy eating for your whole family with these kid-friendly dishes. Even better for working moms, these recipes call for simple ingredients and take a total of 40 minutes or less to prep, cook and serve to the table.

1. Peachy Cream Pancakes

When picking peaches from your farmers’ market or grocery store, be sure to smell them and give them a little squeeze. A perfectly ripe peach should smell the way you want it to taste, as well as give a little bit under the pressure of your fingertips. This recipe pairs sweet, juicy peaches with honeyed whole grains for a sunny start to your morning.

Serves 4 (serving size: 2 pancakes)
PREP: 10 minutes
COOK: 10 minutes

Ingredients
– 1 large egg
– 1 cup sour cream
– 1⁄4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
– 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1⁄2 cup white whole-wheat flour
– 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
– 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided
– 1 cup peeled, diced peaches
– 1 cup peeled, sliced peaches (for garnish)
– 1⁄2 cup fresh raspberries (for garnish)

Directions
1. Heat a large griddle or skillet on medium-low heat.
2. Whisk together egg, sour cream, vanilla and honey in a large bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together salt, cinnamon, flours, baking powder and baking soda.
4. Fold flour mixture into egg mixture, mixing until just a few small lumps remain, about 1 minute.
5. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in the griddle or skillet, then ladle in 1⁄4 cup batter per pancake to make 4 pancakes. Sprinkle 1⁄8 cup diced peaches over the batter of each pancake.
6. Flip pancakes when they are dry around the edges and bubbling on top, about 3 minutes.
7. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on the underside, about 2 minutes.
8. Add remaining teaspoon butter to griddle. Repeat process with remaining batter and diced peaches. Garnish with fresh raspberries and sliced peaches and serve warm.

2. Raspberry Chia Mini Muffins

Sweet, fresh raspberries and golden honey meld together to make these mouthwatering mini muffins. The addition of chia seeds gives them an extra boost of protein and omega-3s. For a more complete meal, crumble a mini muffin and sprinkle it on top of Greek yogurt, along with more fresh raspberries, to make a satisfying yogurt parfait.

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Chia seeds are edible seeds that have very high antioxidant activity, making them a great food to incorporate into your family’s diet. Working Mother

Serves 24 (serving size: 1 muffin)
PREP: 15 minutes
COOK: 15 minutes

Ingredients
– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
– 1⁄2 cup honey
– 1⁄2 cup unsweetened applesauce
– 1 large egg
– 1⁄2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 11⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
– 11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
– 1⁄8 cup chia seeds
– 3⁄4 cup fresh raspberries

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line a 24-cup mini muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
2. In a mixer, mix together butter, honey and applesauce on medium-low speed until butter is well dispersed, about 2 minutes.
3. Add egg and mix on medium-low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute, using a spatula to scrape down sides of bowl as needed to make sure butter is incorporated.
4. Add yogurt and vanilla; mix to combine on medium-low speed for 1 additional minute.
5. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed until a batter forms, about 2 minutes.
6. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chia seeds by hand. Then gently fold in raspberries. You don’t want to fold them in too much, as your dough will turn pink if over handled; 1–2 quick turns with a spatula will be enough.
7. Use a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to scoop batter into the mini muffin pan. The batter should fill about 3⁄4 of each cup.
8. Bake 10–15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
9. Cool in pan, then store in a tightly wrapped container up to 1 week or freeze.

3. Strawberry Slushy

One day my family and I were on a road trip when a tornado forced us into a gas station for several hours. The gas station had a wall of slushy machines, taunting my kids. Rather than letting them fill up on loads of sugar and artificial colors, I promised we would make our own the next day. This is the result. It’s full of flavor, but without all the fake ingredients.

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Fresh strawberries are often ranked No. 1 as kids’ favorite fruit for their naturally sweet taste. Working Mother

Serves 2
PREP: 5 minutes

Ingredients
– 2 cups frozen hulled, sliced strawberries
– 1⁄2 cup ice cubes
– Juice of 1 medium lemon
– 2 teaspoons honey
– 3⁄4 cup water
– 4 fresh mint leaves (for garnish)

Directions
1. Use a blender to puree all ingredients until they are nice and slushy, about 1 minute, depending on blender power.
2. Pour into serving glasses, garnish each with fresh mint leaves, and serve immediately.

4. Greek Tortellini Salad

This Greek-inspired pasta salad is great for school lunches and also makes for a great picnic or potluck dish. Loaded with vegetables and cheesy tortellini, it’s colorful, wholesome and satisfying. If you don’t have tortellini on hand, feel free to use another type of pasta, such as farfalle or fusilli.

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A perfect way to sneak in veggies with your carbs. Working Mother

Serves 8
PREP: 15 minutes

Ingredients
– 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar
– 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
– 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 20 ounces cheese tortellini, cooked according to package instructions
– 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
– 1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
– 1⁄4 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
– 1 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
– 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
– 1⁄2 cup sliced black olives, drained
– 1⁄2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

Directions
1. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, balsamic, salt and black pepper to make salad dressing.
2. In a large serving bowl, gently toss together tortellini, tomatoes, cucumber, yellow pepper, onion, garbanzo beans, feta and olives.
3. Pour salad dressing over tortellini and veggies. Toss well to coat. Garnish with mint. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 3 days.

5. Apple Peanut Butter Rings

Looking for the ease of a sandwich without all the bread? These wholesome “sandwiches” are a great breadless alternative, featuring juicy apples with a satisfying smear of creamy natural peanut butter. Feel free to use any type of apple, but Granny Smith and Ambrosia both work well because of their crisp and firm texture.

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Great nut-free creamy alternatives include sunflower seed butter and cream cheese. Other topping ideas include sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, dried cranberries and coconut. Working Mother

Great nut-free creamy alternatives include sunflower seed butter and cream cheese. Other topping ideas include sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, dried cranberries and coconut.

Serves 2
PREP: 5 minutes

Ingredients
– 1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 8 rings (about 1⁄4" thick), unpeeled
– 1⁄4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
– 1⁄4 cup granola
– 2 tablespoons raisins

Directions
1. Lay apple rings peel side down on a work surface. Spread each with equal amounts peanut butter and top with granola and raisins. Serve immediately.

6. Veggie Lasagna Cups

These cute little lasagna cups, filled with fresh zucchini and two kinds of cheese, are a perfectly portioned meal that kids love to eat with their hands—so make sure you have plenty of napkins on hand! Serve them with a simple side salad and warm whole-wheat dinner rolls to round out the meal. Freeze any leftovers in an airtight container up to one month.

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Freeze leftover marinara sauce so you can quickly throw this dish together in the future. Working Mother

Serves 12 (serving size: 2 lasagna cups)
PREP: 10 minutes
COOK: 20 minutes

Ingredients
– Cooking spray
– 1 large egg
– 11⁄4 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
– 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
– 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 24 wonton wrappers
– 2 medium zucchini, sliced into 24 (1⁄8"-thick) rounds
– 11⁄2 cup Marinara Sauce, divided (see below for my recipe)
– 11⁄2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
– 1⁄4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 2 (12-cup) muffin tins with cooking spray.
2. Crack egg into a medium bowl; whisk. Add ricotta, Parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined, about 1 minute.
3. Put a wonton wrapper into each cup of the muffin pans. Push center down so wrapper forms a cup. Scoop 1 tablespoon ricotta mixture into each wonton cup. Place 1 zucchini round in each cup on top of ricotta mixture and gently press down. Add 1 tablespoon marinara sauce to each wonton cup to cover zucchini rounds, then top each with 1 tablespoon mozzarella.
4. Bake 20 minutes or until edges of wontons are golden brown and crisp.
5. Let cups cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove and top with basil before serving.

Marinara Sauce

Many jarred marinara sauces have added sugar as a leading ingredient. Rather than rely on processed sugars, this simple recipe gets a touch of sweetness the natural way, from a finely diced carrot. Make a double batch and freeze whatever you don’t plan to eat now so that you’re well stocked for a busy day. Marinara sauce obviously goes great with a variety of pastas and pizza, but you can also simmer fried eggs in it, use it as a sandwich dip, or use it to amp up the flavor of freshly steamed veggies.

Serves 8 (serving size: ½ cup)
PREP: 5 minutes
COOK: 25 minutes

Ingredients
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
– 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
– 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
– 1 (28-ounce) can unsalted whole peeled tomatoes
– 1 tablespoon dried oregano
– 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
– 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 1⁄4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions
1. Warm olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in carrots and garlic and sauté another 1 minute.
2. Add tomatoes with juices to saucepan. Use a spatula to gently smash them against the pan to begin to break them up.
3. Add oregano, salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high to bring sauce to a simmer. Lower heat to medium-low to maintain the simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in fresh basil, remove from heat, and serve. Store leftovers in airtight container up to a week.

7. Simple BBQ Chicken Sliders

These Simple BBQ Chicken Sliders are made with shredded rotisserie chicken for a major time-saver. I’ve made this for many get-togethers and, every time, people 'ooh' and 'aah,' asking if I smoked a chicken all day. Nope! Serve this dish with an assortment of veggie-rich salads.

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This recipe pairs great with grilled corn salad (below). Working Mother

Serves 12
PREP: 15 minutes
COOK: 10 minutes

Ingredients
– 1 (4-pound) organic rotisserie chicken, skin removed, shredded
– 11⁄2 cup Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce (my recipe below)
– 12 whole-grain slider buns
– 12 leaves Boston lettuce
– 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
– 1⁄2 cup peeled and shredded carrots

Directions
1. Toss shredded chicken with barbecue sauce in a small soup pot and heat on medium heat 5–10 minutes, until sauce begins to simmer. Evenly distribute between slider buns.
2. Top each with even amounts of lettuce, cabbage and carrots. Serve warm.

Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Most barbecue sauces are loaded with sugar. This sweet and tangy version has about half the amount you’ll find in many barbecue sauces, making it a good transition recipe to help your family’s taste buds adjust to lower-sugar foods. Serve it with Simple BBQ Chicken Sliders or on top of your favorite burger.

Serves 8 (serving size: 2 tablespoons)
PREP: 5 minutes
COOK: 35 minutes

Ingredients
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
– 1⁄4 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
– 1 clove garlic, finely diced
– 1 tablespoon tomato paste
– 1 (8-ounce) can unsalted tomato purée
– 1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
– 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
– 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
– 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
– 1 teaspoon dry mustard
– 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
– 1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
– 1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
– 1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Directions
1. Add olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3–5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Reduce heat to low and mix in all remaining ingredients. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth, about 1–2 minutes. Alternately, you can use a high-powered blender. Refrigerate sauce in an airtight container up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 3 months.

8. Grilled Corn Salad

This colorful dish is full of simple flavor. Be sure to grill the corn with the husks fully removed so you get that nice char on it. When you remove the kernels from the cob, use a sharp, serrated knife to remove the base of the cob, which will give you a nice flat surface to work with. Then, flip the corn so the flat surface meets your cutting board and use your knife to gently slide down the ear of corn to remove the kernels, being careful not to slice too close to the cob.

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This salad is full of goodness with only four grams of sugar. Working Mother

Serves 6
PREP: 10 minutes
COOK: 8 minutes

Ingredients
– 6 medium ears fresh corn, husked
– 2 teaspoons canola oil
– 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
– 1 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
– 3 tablespoons lemon juice
– 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
– 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Rub corn with canola oil. Grill or broil 8 minutes or until kernels are lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Use a knife to remove kernels and place in a large serving bowl.
2. Add tomatoes and basil to bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper. Drizzle dressing over vegetables and toss. Serve at room temperature.

9. Spicy Peanut Noodles with Shrimp

This protein-packed noodle dish comes together in 15 minutes flat, speedier than a delivery order could be at your door. While this dish has a tiny bit of kick, it’s totally manageable, even for delicate palates. If shrimp isn’t your thing, replace it with another protein of your choice, such as chicken or tofu. Serve with lime wedges on the side for a little citrus zing.

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A tasty meal that can be tweaked for your liking. Working Mother

Serves 4
PREP: 10 minutes
COOK: 15 minutes

Ingredients
– 1 teaspoon canola oil
– 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
– 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
– 1⁄2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
– 1⁄3 cup natural creamy peanut butter
– 1⁄2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
– 4 cups cold water
– 2 teaspoons salt
– 8 ounces whole-grain spaghetti
– 12 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
– 1 cup snow peas, cut into thin strips
– 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips about 3" long
– 1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped unsalted peanuts
– 1⁄4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
– 1 medium lime, cut into 4 wedges

Directions
1. Add oil, ginger and garlic to a medium skillet and heat on medium 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add soy sauce, vinegar, Sriracha, peanut butter and broth. Continue stirring until peanut butter melts, 2–3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer 8 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
2. Meanwhile, add water to a large pot; stir in salt and bring to a boil. Cook spaghetti 6 minutes. Add shrimp to the pot and cook 5 minutes. Add bell pepper, snow peas and carrot to the pot; cook 1 minute. Drain.
3. Return spaghetti, shrimp and vegetables to pot. Add peanut sauce and toss until well combined. Transfer to large serving bowl. Top with peanuts and cilantro. Serve warm with optional lime wedges on the side.

10. Brownie Bites

These amazing bite-sized treats are rich and chocolatey with just a hint of sweetness to satisfy any cravings. This recipe uses tapioca flour, in lieu of traditional wheat flour, making them a great gluten-free option for anyone with allergies or sensitivities. I like to store any leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer, then pop one or two in the microwave after dinner for the perfect cap to a meal.

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These brownies are essentially guilt-free since they’re low in sugar. Working Mother

Serves 24 (serving size: 1 brownie)
PREP: 10 minutes
COOK: 23 minutes

Ingrediens
– Nonstick baking spray (to grease muffin pan)
– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 11⁄4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
– 2 large eggs
– 11⁄2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 cup tapioca flour
– 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
– 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan liberally with nonstick baking spray.
2. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter, about 2 minutes. Once melted, add chocolate chips and stir until melted, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and pour into a medium mixing bowl; let cool slightly, 1–2 minutes.
3. Add vanilla and eggs to mixing bowl; mix thoroughly, about 1 minute.
4. Sift cocoa powder and tapioca flour into the bowl with the chocolate mixture. Add sugar and salt; mix everything together well, about 2 minutes.
5. Pour batter into the prepared pan using a tablespoon to divide it equally among the muffin cups. Bake 18–20 minutes. Allow brownies to cool in pan, and then serve or transfer to an airtight container. Store up to 1 week in refrigerator or 2 months in freezer.

Written by Laura Chalela Hoover for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Working Mother

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