Coming clean here: I often dread dinner time. After a full day, who on earth wants to make two separate dinners – one for the kids and one for the adults?! Not me. Although sometimes I do succumb to this I try my hardest not to make those frozen chicken nuggets the norm. After all, I want my children’s taste buds to be as all-inclusive as possible (ha ha, much easier said than done)! My kids eat super early so it’s often the night before’s dinner leftovers for them, and a new dinner for my husband and me.
Here are 10 healthy, easy and generally crowd-pleaser dinner ideas that your entire family will (hopefully) enjoy. They are tasty, fun, colorful and balanced.
* Make Your Own Taco – Let your child help make his/her taco. This is FUN!!! Lettuce, avocado…greek yogurt to dip. Substitute beef with bison for a healthier option. These shrimp tacos are a favorite in my house!
* Crispy Chicken and Homemade Fries – SO much healthier than the frozen chicken nuggets and store bought fries (packed with added sugar, fats, sodium). To make the adults version a little more “mature”, how about a chipotle dip?
* Mac n’ Cheese – Adults love a good mac n’ cheese just as much as the littles do. Want to kick the healthy factor up a notch? Substitute regular pasta with a whole wheat, brown rice or bean based pasta.
* Moroccan Chicken – Fast and tasty, this recipe includes peaches and orange juice to add flavor and please those sugar-craving taste buds.
* Orecchiette with Broccoli and Walnuts – Fresh pasta with protein and fiber filled walnuts and vitamin-rich broccoli. Simple, colorful and yummy.
* Almond Fish Sticks – OK, yum…cod covered in crunchy almonds and flakes. Want to add a little “adult” into this recipe? Make a side dipping sriracha or tartar sauce.
* Black Bean Quesadillas – This is my go-to when I need something super-quick, that I enjoy as well. SUPER simple and healthy. Add a fried egg if you want! On the “adult” quesadilla, consider adding onions, spices and jalapeños!
* Swordfish Piccata – My daughter, like many other 4 year olds I know, will not eat fish (other than shrimp)…HOWEVER, there is something about swordfish that excludes it from the “I hate fish” rule. Maybe it’s the more dense consistency, almost like chicken – not sure. Personally, I don’t include capers on hers, and I’m generally not a fan of thyme either.
* Hamburger Buddy Pasta – This recipe helps you hide a few vegetables, like mushrooms and carrots. Try substituting with bison for a healthier version. Add spices to the adult portion as many will find it on the blander side without.
* Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce – Kids cannot get enough pasta. Let’s at least try to make it a little healthier for them by making a homemade tomato sauce! Here is basic recipe, for you to tweak as you wish!
One piece of advice to new mommies – don’t succumb to “kids food” 24/7. They will be dictating their menu to you, and will refuse to open up to new (healthier) ideas. Listen, getting a toddler to eat a new food or fish for example (god forbid), can feel excruciatingly impossible. We’re not going to win every food war. My thought is this: have them at least TRY something, even just a few bites. They might actually like something they thought they detested. There’s an old Sesame Street episode about this, where Elmo has to try a kiwi, which he didn’t think he liked…and he enjoys it! Try watching this with them. Note: it can take ten tries before your taste buds decide if they like a food or not. And…often if my child is not crazy about the dinner option for the evening, I explain there are no other options, so she needs to eat whatever it is if she doesn’t want to go to bed starving. And of course definitely no after dinner sweet if she doesn’t eat it. Having the energy to take this on every night is difficult, but we can try to introduce new healthy foods once or twice a week and see what sticks! Don’t give up!