Ask Amelia Main dishes Recipes Tips

4 Quick Meal Ideas (Plus Kid Versions to Go With Them)

kid friendly meal

When Lucy was a baby, I swore I’d never become the mom who makes something different for her kids because they don’t want to eat what I’m serving.

And for the millionth time, I’m laughing at and scolding my old self for being so judgmental 🙂

Because the reality is, kids aren’t always going to like – or be in the mood for – the dinner we’re making on a given night. While this does NOT mean we parents have to become short-order chefs or stop serving healthy foods, it does mean we have to strategize a little if we want our kids to eat well without a big battle.

Here are a few strategies that make healthy family dinners easier at my house:

  • Serve vegetables first. More on that in this post.
  • Don’t make what-you-ate-for-dinner related to what-you-get-for-dessert.
  • Serve kids a version of what we’re having in a slightly different format.

It’s this last point I want to give more attention to today, because this is how I give Lucy what she wants without compromising my food values or creating more work for myself.

Below are four easy, healthy meals I’ve made recently, along with photos of what I served Lucy when she didn’t want the “mixed stuff” or “cooked vegetables” we grown-ups were having. As you’ll see, her meals are made from the same (or similar) ingredients, but presented in different formats.

What the adults had:

stuffed acorn squash

Southwestern Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

What Lucy had:

kid friendly meals

Quinoa, black beans (both topped with goat cheese), corn kernels and carrot sticks.

What the adults had:

kid friendly meals

Roast turkey sandwiches with avocado, cranberry sauce, baby kale and Dijon mustard.

What Lucy had:

kid friendly dinner

Same sandwich minus the greens, served alongside fruit + roasted carrots.

What the adults had:

kid friendly meal

Omelet stuffed with greens and avocado, tomatoes and toast.

What Lucy had:

kid friendly meal

Fried egg, toast with cheese & avocado, and tomatoes (which got eaten before the photo).

What the adults had:

kid friendly meal

Salmon salad & avocado sandwiches with veggies, hummus and olives.

What Lucy had: 

kid friendly meals

Salmon salad (which may or may not have been eaten), avocado and salad with carrots & roasted cauliflower.

So, although this isn’t exactly the same as serving everyone the same meal, it works. I like that Lucy feels some control over what she eats, and that we all get to eat dinner sans food battle. (Most of the time, that is).

What are your own strategies for keeping kids happy at mealtime without giving them a whole new meal?

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Joanne
    January 29, 2015 at 4:36 am

    LOVE this post and these tips! I dont have kids, but i definitely have this idea that when I do, they’ll eat whatever I put in front of them. HA.

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      January 29, 2015 at 8:16 am

      Thanks, Joanne! The thing about motherhood is we learn as we go 😉

  • Reply
    Shannon
    January 29, 2015 at 8:26 am

    Hi Amelia, I love your website and the easy tips you give! I’m pregnant with my first baby so I have a little bit until this is a reality for me. But, being super health conscious and already worried about what my kiddos will eat, I find this is so helpful! It’s realistic with ways to include all of the good stuff and hopefully combat most of the whining. thank you!

    • Reply
      Amelia Winslow
      January 29, 2015 at 8:49 am

      Thank you, Shannon, and congratulations!! I’m sure you’ll find what works well for you and your kiddos when the time comes. I always say that my main nutritional jobs as a mom are to 1) provide a healthy food environment and 2) help my kids have a healthy relationship with food by modeling one myself, and by subtly teaching them how to listen to their body signals. To me, these lay the groundwork for good lifelong eating habits and a good self image 🙂

  • Reply
    Madie
    January 31, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Thank you for these helpful tips! I find it such a struggle most times to get my 3-year-old to eat what we are eating. I don’t want to always be making a separate meal for her but also understand that kids can be more sensitive to textures and foods combined etc and don’t want to force it and risk her hating these foods later on. I like your balanced approach very much!! 🙂

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