By Kelly Wannier
Now that we’re months into the coronavirus pandemic, many parents (myself included) have hit a wall in the kitchen.
Yet, while we are mainly staying home, it doesn’t mean we can’t mix things up. In fact, let’s find some inspiration for cooking healthy meals for kids during the work-from-home period. This way we’ll avoid food boredom and stay safe!
I started thinking about how we as a family are constantly striving to serve a nutrient dense diet, but often we still find ourselves rotating through the same five recipes. This makes for some pretty boring meals! So, to avoid the food blues, we have mixed up what we are eating, and most importantly, we try to include the kids in the meal planning.
To do this, I typically set up my two boys (ages one and three) with an activity while I’m in the kitchen. Recently, however, they’ve taken an interest in helping out with the cooking process!
I offer up these points when cooking with kiddos:
- Making memories together is the goal.
- If the tortilla gets a little burned, or the bread doesn’t look like it does in the picture, it’ll still taste great.
- The messier the process, the more fun it is!
Now here are some ideas for 5 simple healthy meals and snacks to make with kids:
1. Spinach Quesadillas
My kids live for a quesadilla. I can’t blame them, what’s not to like?
Cheese? Yes, please. Tortilla? Of course. Guacamole? Ok, officially hungry.
This quesadilla recipe elevates that late-night fare from my college days (cheese + tortilla popped into the microwave). It layers in flavor and nutrition and provides an opportunity for kids to participate. While an adult mans the skillet, the kiddos build the quesadilla. Set out bowls of the ingredients on the counter: cheese, spinach (or a leafy green you have on hand), beans, shredded meat, etc. The kids inevitably get messy, but the outcome is worth it.
Taco Tuesday used to be a big hit when I was growing up and I’m bringing it to my house during the coronavirus pandemic! My company, Little Pickins, makes pre-cooked and frozen nutrient-dense finger food. It’s a great healthy option for busy parents. We designed them as stand-alone meals-in-a-bite, but Pickins can also be dressed up!
Little Pickins provides recipes on how to use our finger food, which boasts a ton of veggies, lots of fiber, and healthy protein – in a format for the entire family. Chop up some chicken, turkey, or Pickins and blend them with your family’s favorite taco party fillings.
You even can think outside the taco shell with your kiddos. To do this, have each kid use a lettuce cup or a taco cup made from a crescent roll and build a taco with Pickins, cheese, avocados, and any taco toppings that speak to them.
My oldest son used to inhale yogurt as if his tiny body could not go another moment without it. Then he turned three. And all things that used to be were no longer.
I guess I have come to accept that I officially have a threenager. Since yogurt is one of life’s great treasures primed to help our gut bacteria flourish (this is a good thing!) and has many anti-viral properties, I insist my kids eat it. Using one of parenting’s greatest tricks, I camouflage the yogurt and he is none the wiser.
The best part of smoothies is that my one year-old and three year-old both help “make them.” The little guy can throw random berries into the blender while his older sibling scoops yogurt (with some assistance from Mom). I use milk and yogurt as the base and throw in any random berries I have in the freezer. I also throw in Coconut Cult (a powerhouse of nutrition), avocado, and a leafy green. The kids have a blast turning the blender on and off, and I have a blast drinking some of the reward.
Bonus round: See who can make the best smoothie mustache. Trust me, endless giggles for at least 15 minutes.
4. Peanut butter cookies
My kids have an addiction to peanut butter. They could eat it straight from the jar if I let them. I’m not sure where this comes from (*she said with a spoon of PB hanging from her mouth). When peanut butter meets cookies, I’m in heaven. And so are my kids.
Yet, while I’m all about dessert and letting my kids eat a balanced diet, I try and cut sugar out where I can.
What I love about this recipe is that coconut sugar is slightly more nutritious than regular sugar. You can also make this without sugar to really pack a healthy punch! Depending on the age of your kids, they can help measure and dump into the bowl, but no matter the age, everyone can have fun mixing with their hands and making the classic fork marks on top of the cookie.
5. Banana bread
Unknowingly, my husband and I will both order a bunch of bananas in our grocery delivery and then have 20 bananas we need to do something with. We actually use bananas in oh so many things (blended into pancake mix, added to oatmeal), but this banana bread recipe is clutch and flexible to whatever you have in your pantry. I’ve used spelt flour, whole wheat flour, almond flour and white flour. All worth making a second time.
Cook and be merry!
No matter how you decide to come together in the kitchen, remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Or even close to it. You are making memories with your kids. They don’t know what a perfect loaf of banana bread should look like. They will simply be excited to eat something that they had a hand in making (and trust me, they will have a hand or two in it).
When we wrap up cooking at our house, I love to conclude with a hand washing game. I bring some of the bath toys into the kitchen sink (if you have littler ones), and we wash the toys, dishes, and perhaps a few little hands in the process, because we all know teaching our kiddos how to clean hands is critical, especially during this time.
About Kelly: Kelly is a Cofounder of Little Pickins, which makes pre-cooked and frozen nutrient-dense meals in a bite. When her second son was born, she struggled to find time to be a mom of two, a career woman, oh and that little thing called a wife. Her company, Little Pickins, is her way of helping busy parents who also know the dance played to balance it all. Providing them with nutritious food that’s fast, but not fast food. The company is built on three key pillars: nutrition, being flavor-forward, and making parents lives just a little bit easier.