Summer is halfway through, and your kids are as hungry as ever. But with so many afternoon snacks and lunches to plan, now that they’re home, you may have started repeating meals. Kids love variety, so we have a few suggestions to make snacktime interesting while also staying healthy and affordable. This month, Eat Your Way to Debt Relief has featured healthy parfaits and interesting ways to customize popcorn. Nachos are a great example of how you can take your kids’ favorite food, and make it healthier with a few budget-friendly swaps.
When making nachos, it’s important to hit all of the important notes of a good nacho: crunchy, gooey, and flavorful. You can’t just make nachos Flanders’ style and expect your kids to love it. To achieve the crunch, you still need some sort of “chip.” Instead of regular tortilla chips, try whole grain tortilla chips or pita chips instead. You can even make your own pita chips by baking olive oil-drizzled pita in the oven until crispy.
To achieve the meaty level of satisfaction, swap beef chili out for turkey chili, or use beans instead of meat. Simmer one can of black beans with a can of pureed tomatoes, cumin, cilantro, lime zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Poured over a shredded cheese from the stovetop, this mixture melts the cheese onto the chip and becomes a gooey flavorful bite. You can also top with sautéed onions and peppers to add fiber and nutrients that pack a lot of flavor.
If you prefer refried beans, buy the fat-free kind instead of the full fat ones, which are generally fried in lard. Or you can make your own refried beans by pureeing pinto beans with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and lime.
Instead of full-fat cheese, try a reduced-fat cheese, or a hard cheese like aged cheddar. You can even add a flavorful cheese like feta or goat cheese, with which a little bit goes a long way. You can mix and match cheeses for different flavor combinations, too. The chips, the cheese, and the topping should all go into the oven to toast up and let the flavors combine.
After the nachos come out of the oven, add chilled chopped romaine lettuce, as well as diced tomatoes, salsa, or pico de gallo. A big scoop of guacamole adds healthy fats and fiber, plus a velvety richness. Instead of sour cream, top the whole shebang with plain unflavored Greek yogurt. Finish with shredded carrot, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
With these swaps, you’ve taken a calorie-laden saturated fat bomb and transformed it into a healthy plate that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating or feeding to your kids. You can get creative and add different kinds of vegetables and lean meats for new and interesting customizations. Of course, this is not a snack to be limited to just the kids — any teen or adult would love this dish. Everybody loves nachos!