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Healthy Meals That Kids Can Make

Raising an adventurous eater can be a challenge but it doesn’t have to be that way. By involving children in meal selection and preparation, you can help bolster their confidence, incorporate new flavors, and even get a night off once in a while. Read on for a how-to guide on getting kids involved in the kitchen with some easy, delicious recipes they’ll be delighted to eat.

Mini Pizzas
This is the ultimate kid-friendly creation and if you haven’t tried it already, you’ll find yourself wishing you’d discovered this quick and easy go-to years ago. Simple enough for even the tiniest hands to master, mini pizzas are fun, unfussy, and since you can choose the ingredients, typically incredibly healthy.

English muffins, mini pizza crusts, flatbreads, bagels, pitas, or any other pizza ‘crust’ you have on hand
A variety of vegetables, cut into small pieces (mushrooms, peppers, kale, and olives are all great options)
5–6 tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Olive oil
Shredded mozzarella, chèvre, fontina, asiago (just about any cheese will do)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Fresh basil (as garnish)

In a heavy bottomed skillet or pan, warm olive oil and add onions, cooking until translucent. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper, stirring occasionally until tomatoes have softened and begun to come apart.

Remove from heat and pour contents of the pan into a blender (an immersion blender will also do the trick)

Preheat oven to 350 and assemble all ingredients into easy to access individual dishes. Small bowls or ramekins are great options. Spread sauce on crusts and allow children to dress their pizzas. When ready, simply slide each mini pie onto a baking sheet and bake until cheese has begun to bubble and turn golden brown. Let cool slightly and serve. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

Black Bean and Cheese TacosLike mini pizzas, tacos are a simple solution to dinner that involves kids in the preparation and ensures that all food groups are being hit. Choose wholesome fillings that will appeal to little palates (bright colors and interesting textures help) and encourage children to experiment with spices and seasonings.

Tortillas (if you have a tortilleria or Mexican grocer nearby, pick up some fresh tortillas there. If not, grocery stores usually have healthy options)
1 can organic black beans, rinsed
2 avocados
1/2 lime, juiced
1 handful kale or romaine lettuce, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 sweet potato, cubed and baked until soft
Cheese (Oaxaca is best but mozzarella and other similar cheeses work just as well)
Smoked paprika (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Guacamole: In a bowl, mash avocados until they’ve reached the consistency you desire. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and paprika. Mix well and set aside. Tip: to keep the guacamole from changing color, leave the pit of the avocado in the bowl until ready to serve.

Set each ingredient in an individual bowl or container, allowing kids to help in preparation to the best of their abilities. Have them tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces, cut the tomatoes with a butter knife, portion the cheese into a bowl, season the guacamole… whatever they feel comfortable with. Once ingredients are assembled, go wild combining tastes and textures into the ultimate taco creations.

Loaded Baked PotatoesBaked potatoes are an incredibly easy and fabulously delicious way to get kids to eat their veggies. They’re also a lot of fun to prepare, making little ones a lot more likely to want to eat them.

Baking potatoes (as many as you need)
2-3 cups broccoli florets
Green onions, chopped
1-2 cups cheese, grated (mozzarella and cheddar are classics but feel free to improvise with whatever you’ve got on hand)
Sour cream.
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Scrub potatoes and rub with olive oil, pricking a hole with a fork before setting directly on an oven rack or baking sheet. Bake until insides are tender (start checking at 45 minutes). While potatoes are cooking, steam broccoli florets and round up all of the ingredients into small dishes. Once potatoes are cooked, split in half and have each family member dress according to taste.

Croque Monsieur (adapted from Food Republic)This recipe is a bit more convoluted but the end result is well worth it. It’s great to get kids involved in the preparation by having them measure ingredients, taste seasonings, and help stir.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (substitute gluten free flour mix if need be)
1 pinch nutmeg
1 cup warm milk (almond, soy, or cows milk all work wonderfully)
4 slices good quality sandwich bread
Dijon mustard
Black Forest ham, sliced
Gruyere cheese, sliced
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded

Béchamel: In a small pot, melt butter until it begins to bubble. Add flour, whisking for 30 seconds. Add milk and nutmeg, mixing until smooth.

Spread each slice of bread with Dijon. Top 2 slices of bread with cheese and ham and then place remaining slices of bread on top. In a pan, heat olive oil and warm each sandwich until each side is slightly browned. Remove from heat and set each sandwich on a baking sheet, topping first with béchamel sauce and then with grated cheese. Set under broiler, removing when cheese is browned and bubbly.

Simple Hummus (adapted from All Recipes)Behold, the power of hummus. This delicious dip makes getting even finicky eaters to finish their veggies a breeze and the fact that it’s ultra healthy doesn’t hurt, either. This easy recipe is perfect for young chefs and involves very little preparation or clean up.

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of smoked paprika

Toss everything into a blender or food processor, blending on low speed until you’ve reached the consistency that you prefer. To smooth out the hummus, add olive oil and lemon juice in small quantities. Serve with fresh vegetables, whole-grain crackers, and breads.

Images ©istockphoto

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