Bringing Back Family Dinner With 5 Easy Kid-Friendly Meals

Make food fun for nutrition, life skills, bonding, and kitchen family time.

In the old days, dinnertime was absolutely sacrosanct, even an occasion worthy of dressing up. Back then, home economics was taught in schools and while it was geared almost entirely toward female homemakers, it taught young women essential food preparation skills.

By sharp contrast, today, no one seems to have time do anything, not even eat, in this fast-paced modern era. The toll cheap, fast, processed food has taken is significant: it has conquered the daily ritual of togetherness and eating, with devastating effects on our health and relationships. The obesity rate among children has doubled, and it has quadrupled among teens in the last 30 years.1

One of the easiest ways we can reclaim our health is to make the time to cook with our children. They need to see us prioritize for quality time and calm, enjoyable meals everyday, or they will not do it as adults.

Sometimes kids are picky about food regardless, but for many of them, the problem is simply lack of exposure to certain textures and flavors. We’ve put together a list of amazingly scrumptious, simple meals that everyone can help to prepare. Pediatricians and nutritionists report that children who have trouble with food will often be more willing to try it if they participate in the growing, harvesting, and meal preparation2. So dig in!

  1. Taco Night is so easy and so fun it’s almost like a game to kids. Set up a station where everyone can assemble their tacos using ground turkey, chicken, or pork (all this requires is a little garlic and onion, salt and pepper, and a little olive oil) and go crazy with ingredients like salsa, avocado, lettuce, cilantro, chopped red pepper, and lime. Kids can shred cheese (with supervision) and little helpers can carry plates and help to set the table.
  1. Tofu and Broccoli Stir-Fry might seem like a stretch for kids but here’s a trick to make them really love it: roll cubed extra firm tofu in some soy sauce and olive or sesame oil and bake it in a glass pan until it turns golden. Have the kids pull the broccoli apart by hand before you chop it up into “tiny trees” along with any other bright colored veggie they like, such as sweet peas and carrots. Turn the flame up under your wok and drizzle a little high-heat oil in there before you throw everything in, including the tofu.   Your little sous chef can mix up honey, lemon, and soy sauce to pour over the stir-fry right before it comes off the stove, about six to eight minutes. This is a great meal to first try chopsticks and then let them switch to hands.
  1. Cauliflower Crust Pizza offers all the fun of pizza assembly with none of the high-carb guilt. This recipe is really easy and healthy, totally satisfies that comfort food urge, and getting kids to eat it is a non-issue. Here’s a great set of directions on Popsugar: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Low-Carb-Cauliflower-Crust-Pizza-Recipe-30739512.
  1. Turkey Cucumber Wraps. Cucumber is one of those mild and pretty veggies that kids are cool with eating. Thinly sliced and salted, let them sit in a strainer (kids love this part) to leach out extra water. Use lavash or pita for your shell and try olives, pickles, shredded carrot, and a little cream cheese or aoli for extra flavor. Here’s a hint too: buying sliced turkey directly from your butcher counter is often fresher and costs less than the prepackaged stuff.
  1. Slow Cooked Stone Stew. If you don’t have a slow cooker, it can be a total lifesaver for busy families, and believe it or not, save you money. Keep a couple boxes of veggie or low sodium chicken broth around and when you find yourself with a fridge full of veggies about to go bad, lay it all out on the counter, have the kids wash it thoroughly, chop it up, and throw it in the pot with enough cups of broth to cover the surface. Any fresh herbs you have, or spices you know everyone likes are also a welcome addition, and kids love adding those ingredients. Then set your slow cooker timer for eight hours later. You can do this at night and then refrigerate it until you need it, or start it in the morning for that evening. The cooker goes off, keeps the food warm, and there is nothing to do but enjoy it.

The family meal is, and should remain, the keystone of togetherness; it’s how we check in with each other, take care of each other, and nourish our bodies. We need to model that daily ritual so that it becomes automatic for our kids, a basic part of their regiment that they will reproduce with their own families one day. These simple and healthy dinner ideas can reduce the overwhelming feeling of meal planning and the guilt of overindulgence. Given the chance, kids really come to love kitchen fun and dinnertime.

 

References:

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm
  2. http://www.pbs.org/parents/special/article-nutrition-picky.html

 

 

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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