Happy Family Day, everyone! I thought I’d include a photo of young Kristina for you today to go with the theme of the post. Many people have told me I actually look the exact same!
Family Day is actually one of my favourite holidays. Even though many of us use it as an excuse to stay home from work or do our own thing, I love the reminder to spend time with our loved ones. Even if you are using the day to relax on your own, I encourage you to give one of your relatives a call to catch up with them (I just had a lovely conversation with my Nana)!
That being said, I also acknowledge that I’m in a pretty lucky position to have such a close relationship with my biological family. For some of us, it’s our friends that become our family when we need support, comfort, and happiness, so I want to wish you all a Happy Family Day as well!
Today’s post is all about family-friendly meals, specifically in terms of healthy meals that kids won’t be completely grossed out by. I find that the key to getting kids to eat healthy is to keep things familiar and get creative! If you can sneak nutrients into familiar items like pancakes or macaroni and cheese, your kid will be far more likely to scarf it down without any qualms. I also encourage all the parents out there to welcome your kids into the kitchen with you when you’re making a meal. I remember helping my mum bake cookies or pies for the holidays—which eventually turned into helping make dinners—and that knowledge was so helpful to me growing up. I can’t help but be blown away when 20-somethings I know don’t know that 1 cup of sugar is different than filling a drinking cup with sugar… Good grief!
Finally, I’d love if you could pass today’s post around to other families in your life. It’s so important to teach the next generation healthy eating habits when they’re young so let’s all do what we can to make that happen!
Kid-Friendly Meals & Snacks (Great for Adults, Too!)
1. Chicken Fingers
I love making these for myself to be honest, plus they’re super easy! These chicken fingers have been “healthified” thanks to the use of panko breadcrumbs instead of cereal, processed breadcrumbs, and loads of parmesan cheese.
1 ¾ cup of panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 ½ tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
500g - 1lb. of chicken breasts cut into strips, lengthwise
1. Preheat oven to 390ºF.
2. Spread panko onto baking tray and lightly spray with Pam. Bake for 3 - 5minutes until light golden in colour. Transfer to large plate.
3. Place the egg, mayonnaise, mustard, flour, salt, and pepper in bowl and whisk until combined. Add the chicken strips into the batter and toss to coat.
4. Place the coated chicken strips on plate of panko and roll around to coat entirely. Place onto baking tray—lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper—and lightly press the breadcrumbs into the chicken to ensure they stick well throughout the cooking process. Repeat for all chicken strips.
5. Bake for 10 minutes if small or 15 minutes for medium or large strips.
6. Service with homemade barbecue sauce or organic, non-pasteurized honey.
2. Ants on a Log - the healthier version!
Spread celery sticks with all natural almond butter and top with prune slices. If your kids want them to be a bit sweeter, add a very small amount of non-pasteurized honey on top. Yum! I love this snack myself, I must say. Prunes are high in fibre and will help keep your kids (and you) regular!
3. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich - upgraded!
Ah, a classic! Healthify your sammy by using 100% whole grain bread, all-natural peanut butter (which you can even make yourself) and spreading it with a thin layer of chia raspberry jam. Store-bought peanut butter is often higher in sugar and chemicals that don’t do any good for your body, and jam is loaded with sugar. Chia seeds offer amazing omega-3 fatty acids that help with brain functioning, plus making it yourself means you know exactly what’s going in it! Just know that chia jam has a thinner texture than regular jam and is not nearly as sweet as regular jam. It will certainly take some getting used to, but you can also add as much or as little sweetener as you want:
2 cups raspberries (if using frozen, defrost first)
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
2 tablespoons of warm water
2 - 4 tablespoons of raw, unpasteurized honey
NOTE: Other sweeteners you could use include maple syrup, agave nectar, or stevia powder. If you aren’t used to the more tart flavour, start with more sweetener and slowly decrease the amount with each batch to allow your tastebuds to adjust.
½ teaspoon of vanilla (optional)
1. Add all ingredients to blender or Vitamix, starting with the 2 tablespoons of water and honey. Pulse until you reach desired texture. Taste and add more sweetener if preferred.
2. Place into jar and keep in fridge, where it will thicken as the chia seeds expand and as the ingredients cool. Lasts in fridge for about 7 - 10 days in air-tight jar or container.
4. Spaghetti & Meatballs - upgraded!
Swap pasta for spaghetti squash and top with your favourite meatballs and tomato sauce! Yum! The squash provides complex carbohydrates, fibre, and vitamin A.
5. Frozen Yogurt Blueberry Bites
These are a great healthy and tasty snack and they’re easy to make! The Greek yogurt provides a strong protein kick while berries are low in sugar yet high in vitamins and antioxidants to provide your body with natural energy. What more could you ask for in a snack? :
1 cup blueberries
1 cup Greek yogurt (I would go 2% fat or higher for this recipe as healthy fats keep you fuller for longer!)
1. Place blueberries and Greek yogurt into separate bowls.
2. Drop each blueberry into the Greek yogurt with a spoon, swirl to coat, and place onto parchment paper. Repeat until all blueberries are covered.
3. Freeze for an hour or more and enjoy as you please! (NOTE: If you’re a Canadian, stick the whole tray outside in the cold to avoid taking up too much space in your freezer!)
6. Protein Pancakes
I LOVE protein pancakes because they taste delicious yet provide you with a healthy dose of protein first thing in the morning! They’re not only easy to make, but the familiarity of the pancake will have your kids asking for seconds! All you need to do is mix together 1/2 cup of large-flake oats (uncooked), 3 egg whites, 1 medium banana (mashed), cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla extract. Mix together well and cook on a pan lightly sprayed with coconut oil. Top with 1 tablespoon of all-natural nut butter, some real maple syrup, and/or berries. Yum!
7. Vegan No-Bake Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food, but let’s not lie, it’s usually packed with calories. While I’m not vegan myself, this recipe is fantastic for many reasons. Firstly, it includes nutritional yeast, which is a great vegan substitute for cheese that’s LOADED with B vitamins—great for cognitive functioning and helping young minds develop! B vitamins are also great for reducing stress levels, and Lord knows we all need help in that department. This recipe also ~sneakily~ includes veggies like cauliflower and carrots so your kids are getting more vitamins and fibre into their diets!
4 cups elbow macaroni (100% whole grain, if you can find it)
1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
½ cup nutritional yeast (usually found in health food stores only like Whole Foods or Nature’s Emporium… Bulk Barn might also have it though I haven’t checked!)
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup of water
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons of sea salt
¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Paprika as garnish (optional if you want a smoky flavour)
Vegan parmesan cheese or regular parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
2. Fill large pot with water and bring to boil. Place chopped cauliflower and carrots in boiling water and cook for 10 - 15 minutes (or until softened). Drain and place in food processor or high-speed blender. Add oil, water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to blender. Process or blend until smooth.
3. Add cheese sauce to pot of drained pasta and mix well.
4. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika if you’d like, vegan parmesan cheese, or regular parmesan cheese. You could also top with some roasted panko for a bit of a crunch!
9. Build Your Own Tacos - the Healthy Way!
Kids love doing things hands-on, so what better way to get them involved with dinner than having them build their own tacos? These are easy to upgrade to a healthier status! Swap ground beef for extra lean ground turkey, sour cream for Greek yogurt, and use small 100% whole grain wraps. Some wraps you can get at the grocery store are absolutely HUMONGOUS so there’s truly no need to bring those into the kitchen if we’re trying to portion control. I also love adding some guacamole to my tacos to bring some healthy fats into the diet, and don’t forget to add some shredded lettuce, too!
10. Yummy Energy Bites
This little recipe is courtesy of one of my vegan classmates at school who loves cooking and is always happy to share her creations from the kitchen! These are great little snacks when you need a pick-me-up during the day… bet you can’t each just one!
1 cup dried pitted dates
3/4 cup of almonds or cashews (raw)
3 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 tablespoon of hemp seeds
1 tablespoon of cacao nibs
NOTE: You can also add shredded coconut, other seeds, matcha powder, goji berries, or other add-ins of your choosing!
1. Add all ingredients to a food processor until nuts and dates are chopped well and everything is well-combined. Roll into small balls. If the mixture is too crumbly, add some more moisture in the form of more water, nut butter, nut milk, etc.
2. Store in the fridge and enjoy when you need a little snack!
11. Sweet Potato Fries
Forget the deep frying! There’s no need with oven-baked sweet potato fries that are just as scrumptious yet far more nutritious. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. In the meantime, peel and slice two large sweet potatoes or yams into long strips. Throw in a freezer bag and toss with a bit of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons), sea salt, and pepper. You can also add some chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and/or cayenne pepper if you want. Spread onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cook in oven for around 25 - 30 minutes—or until golden brown. Make sure you toss halfway through. Enjoy!
The Bottom Line
All of these recipes above aren’t just good for kids; the healthy changes to these meals benefit adults, too! I love these recipes because they aren’t complicated, taste delicious, yet are familiar enough that your kids (or any other picky eaters in your family) won’t be the slightest bit suspicious. And asking your kids to help prepare the little Greek yogurt balls gives you quality time with them and familiarizes them with the kitchen. Win, win!
You Tell Me!
What are you favourite kid-friendly recipes? Let me know in the comments below!