If you’re a mom, you’ve seen this face before, or some slight variation of it.
Whether it’s a wrinkle of the nose, a turn of the cheek, or a fully exposed tongue (complete with accompanying sound effects), each child has perfected his or her way of mastering “the look.”
You know the one I’m talking about. The look that says, “Do you really expect me to eat THAT?!”
Over the past 5 years I’ve tested hundreds of different recipes in an effort to find a dozen or so healthy meals that my kids will eat and which won’t require me to spend hours in the kitchen.
I’ve given in to requests for chicken nuggets, plain pasta, pizza, and macaroni and cheese a few too many times, but in the process I’ve found these “gems” – recipes that even my pickiest eater (my 6 year-old daughter) enjoys. Now, I’m sharing them with you, so that together we can establish healthy eating habits in our kids.
So, the next time YOUR child gives you “the look” or asks you the million dollar question, you can look at him or her confidently and say, “Yes, I expect you to eat that.” And they’ll actually enjoy it!
Here are 12 healthy dinner ideas that have been kid-tested and “Mommy-approved” in our house:
1. Turkey Sloppy Joes (from the Fixate cookbook – you can get a copy HERE*)
Modifications: Leave out the hot sauce unless your kids like spicy food. I also leave off the parsley and serve it on a slice of whole grain bread, on a whole grain roll, or over whole grain or zucchini noodles.
2. Sweet and Sour Chicken (from cleaneatingmagazine.com)
Modifications: I leave out the red pepper flakes and cilantro. My kids prefer foods that aren’t mixed together, so I separate the chicken from the veggies and pineapple when I serve it to them and keep the rice separate. Baby steps!
3. Veggie Oat Meatloaf (from Clean Eating for Busy Families Cookbook)
Modifications: I mix the ingredients ahead and pop them in the oven 30 minutes before dinner. Since the loaves are smaller they cook a lot faster, plus kids love that they each get their own mini meatloaf. If you make the mixture ahead and store it in the fridge, let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes before baking to ensure even cooking. Use marinara sauce without added sugar or high fructose corn syrup, such as Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce.
4. Orange Chicken (from the Weelicious Cookbook)
Modifications: The flavor is good, but mild, which makes sense considering it is kid-friendly. To spice it up, I drizzle Sriracha sauce on mine (5 calories per teaspoon). I serve the chicken, rice, and veggies separately for my kids.
5. Pulled Pork (from www.beachreadynow.com)
Modifications: This recipe is designed for pulled pork carnitas, but my family likes to mix it up. I use the pulled pork in sandwiches, tacos, carnitas, or eat it plain with a side of rice and beans and a vegetable. My favorite is to serve it on an Ezekiel tortilla with a tomato and avocado salad like this one from www.food.com.
6. Breakfast for Dinner (Why not mix things up?)
Who says you can’t have breakfast for dinner? Try scrambled eggs with turkey bacon and whole grain toast. Add a few drops of green food coloring and some deli ham to the eggs to make Green Eggs and Ham! Whip up a batch of whole grain waffles (like these Cashew and Oat Waffles from the Beachbody Blog) and freeze them for breakfasts throughout the week. If your kids prefer pancakes, these Everything in One Protein Pancakes are amazing! I use Vanilla Shakeology for the protein powder – you can email me and I’ll send you a sample to try (it’s great in smoothies, energy balls, and desserts too)! My kids’ favorite pancakes are the Banana Oat Hotcakes (from the Fixate Cookbook*) and they are a much healthier alternative to your typical boxed pancake mix.
7. Flat Out Pizza (from fromforkstofitness.com)
Modifications: My favorite is tomato, fresh basil, and mozzarella. I prefer the Multigrain Flat Out Wraps. My kids love choosing their toppings and I love that it’s ready in 10 minutes!
8. Pork and Cinnamon Apples (from tasteofhome.com)
Modifications: I leave out the red onion and parsley for my kids and substitute extra virgin olive oil for the canola oil. Serve with steamed veggies.
9. Pork and Peaches (from sparkpeople.com)
Modifications: I double the recipe and use organic brown sugar, date sugar, or coconut sugar for regular brown sugar. Serve with steamed veggies.
10. Baked Chicken Parmesan (from skinnytaste.com)
Modifications: Use a no sugar added marinara sauce, like Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil Marinara. I omit the pasta and serve the chicken with steamed veggies, but if serving with pasta look for whole grain or Ezekiel (sprouted grain) pasta.
11. Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwiches (from christinepechulis.blogspot.com)
Modifications: Serve on a whole grain tortilla or roll (kids love the mini rolls) with a side veggie or salad. 5 minute prep!
12. Broccoli Mac and Cheese (from the Fixate cookbook – click on the link to order your copy!*)
Modifications: I use regular instead of almond milk (my son is allergic to nuts) and mild cheddar instead of sharp. You can omit the chicken if desired or to make this a vegetarian meal.
Want more? E-mail me for THREE ADDITIONAL BONUS RECIPES that your entire family is guaranteed to enjoy! These recipes are perfect for the weekend (or when you have a little more time) and will leave you with lots of leftovers for during the week!
CALL TO ACTION: Please share a favorite healthy, kid-friendly recipe to add to this list in the comments section. Include the link or source, along with any modifications you make to it.
References: Fixate Cookbook by Autumn Calabrese
Photo: Fotosearch Stock Photography
* As a Beachbody Health and Fitness Coach, I earn a commission when you order the Fixate Cookbook using the link provided in this post. Thank you for your support.