Harnessing the Power of the Parfait

The word “parfait” generally brings to mind decadent desserts. And that’s a good thing. Because that’s a power you can harness to help your kids eat better.

At its most basic, a parfait is a layered dessert, usually involving some sort of fruit, some sort of dairy and something crunchy or cakey.

And when you look at it like that, those are some pretty broad parameters. This means a clever parent can build appealing parfaits designed to tempt their kids with healthy foods.

My 9-year-old has been eating parfaits at breakfast and lunch for years. Sometimes they are elaborate layerings of fancy yogurts, multiple fresh fruits and crunchy granolas.

But sometimes they are nothing more than plain yogurt layered with jam and graham crackers. And even on those lesser days, the parfait still is a healthy, filling snack that he loves.

The real beauty of a parfait is that you can build them with pretty much whatever you have on-hand. In my house, the only required “special” ingredient really is the yogurt. But truth is, a low-fat, low-sugar pudding (rice or tapioca, for example) would do nicely, too.

When I serve my son parfaits for breakfast, I usually layer them in an ice cream sundae glass (remember, particularly with kids, presentation counts). For lunch, I pack them in clear plastic jars, but you also could do them in thermos containers.

To help get you started, I’ve assembled my list of great parfait layers. Combine them as you see fit.

– Granola

– Healthy breakfast cereal

– Dried cranberries

– Dried cherries

– Mini pretzels

– Chopped dates

– Slivered almonds

– Unsweetened jams

– Applesauce

– Fresh berries

– Chopped dried apricots

– Flaked coconut

– Banana chips

– Sunflower seeds

– Graham crackers

– Lemon curd

– Chopped pineapple

– Chopped candied ginger

– Mandarin orange segments

– Crushed gingersnap cookies

– Kiwi slices

– Cinnamon (and a pinch of sugar)

– Whole berry cranberry sauce

– Leftover cinnamon-sugar toast (cubed)

– Mango chutney

– Crumbled mini rice cakes

– Chopped apples or pears

– Mini chocolate chips (just a teaspoon or so goes a long way)


Want more lunch box inspiration? Try:

A Fresh Twist on Pizza for Dinner (and Lunch!)
10 Healthy and Fast Whole Grain Lunches
6 Sandwich Spreads Your Kids Will Love

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Rachael Ray