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Five Easy, Healthy Meals That Kids Love
Getting Them to Eat Right When They Don't Want to Eat At All
All moms - and most dads – know how hard it is to get young children to eat anything at all, let alone something that’s healthy.
I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old, and I love the fact that I can put any cut up, mashed up fresh veggie or fruit in front of my youngest girl, and she will gratefully eat it (most of the time) without any refusals or complaints. I remember my three-year-old eating this way. She doesn’t anymore.
I have been blessed, however, with a girl who much prefers fruits and veggies over anything else (except maybe M&Ms). I don’t generally have to worry about her getting enough vitamins and nutrients from those, and I’m positive she drinks enough milk. What I do worry about is that she might not get enough protein, although milk does have some. I’m also fairly certain she doesn’t eat enough grains.
So, with these concerns in mind, I devised five foolproof recipes for getting my little girl to eat (and enjoy) a variety of foods – when I can get her to sit still long enough to eat, that is. And another great thing about each of these recipes? They're super-easy to prepare, and my three-year-old loves helping me with them!
Here’s what we’re eating around our house these days.
Breakfast Classic: Oatmeal and Fruit
My oldest girl will not eat cold cereal. She just won’t. Not dry. Not with milk. Nope. Not having it. I don’t know exactly why this is. I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that she was in daycare for the first two years of her life, and they fed the kids cereal every day. She probably just got sick of it. Maybe, eventually, she’ll start eating cereal again, but for now I have to try to be sneaky about it.
Hot oatmeal really is a superfood. My little girl doesn’t know that, but I do know that I can get her to eat this (sometimes) when I can’t ever get her to eat cold cereal. This particular meal, as most do, works best with my youngest daughter.
Old-fashioned oats are the healthiest, but in the interest of time and kids’ taste preferences, Cream of Wheat works as an adequate substitute. I always pair the oatmeal with some sort of fruit (my little girl loves berries and bananas). For an extra health kick, I’ll include soymilk instead of regular milk. And, when my daughter will let me, I’ll put a cup of yogurt on the side. When I first tried this, she got so excited, thinking it was ice cream. Now she knows, and so it’s a little harder to get it in her.
Oh, and one quick tip: If I’m making the old-fashioned oats instead of the flavored Cream of Wheat, I always add my own flavoring – a little cinnamon and just a pinch of brown sugar.
Modified Breakfast Classic: Microwave Eggs and Turkey Bacon
My stovetop has become a little scary to use lately. All the burners smoke each time I use them and there was actually a (thankfully, very small) fire one day. So, I avoid using the stovetop as much as possible. The microwave still works and has become my new best friend.
Who says you have to slave over a hot stove to get a classic, filling breakfast? I’ve discovered a fabulous way to cook eggs in the microwave in less than a minute! We pair that with some turkey bacon (also cooked in the microwave for a minute or two, depending on how many slices we’re cooking at once), and we’ve got an easy, quick, delicious meal that’s chock full of good stuff. We use turkey bacon at our house to reduce the fat content and because my daughter actually prefers is to pork bacon.
Admittedly, I don’t give the bacon to my one-year-old, and she enjoys the eggs more than my three-year-old does. But at least I know they’re both getting something nutritious and filling. I usually add an apple into the mix for my oldest daughter and applesauce for my youngest daughter. That way we get a little fruit, too!
Cake for Breakfast
OK. Before you all nominate me for Worst Mom of the Year, hear me out on this. This cake is virtually fat free (maybe 2.5 grams of fat in a slice (1/12 of a cake) and is full of Vitamin C.
It has quite a bit of sugar, though – 30 grams per slice. Most of this sugar is natural fruit sugar. And consider this: two frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts have 34 grams of sugar, none of which is natural. Also, if my daughter is any indication, young children will probably only eat half a slice at a time, if that much.
Just look how beautiful that cake is! And did I mention that it is the best cake ever? Interested yet? Here are the ingredients:
- 1 Betty Crocker Moist Supreme Yellow Cake box mix
- 2 eggs
- 1 16-ounce can crushed pineapple
- 1 4-ounce snack cup of Mott's applesauce
- 3 tablespoons of orange marmalade
- 3 tablespoons of water
Here's what you do:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spray a 9x13-inch pan with Pam.
- Pour cake mix into a large bowl.
- Fold in the eggs.
- Add the applesauce.
- Pour the can of pineapple into the mix. Important: DO NOT DRAIN. You’ll need the extra liquid.
- Hand mix until well-blended – about two and a half minutes on a low to medium setting.
- Pour mixture into prepared pan.
- Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.
- To make the glaze, spoon the water and orange marmalade into a microwaveable cup. Stir together lightly. Microwave on high for about two minutes. The mixture should be boiling.
- Immediately pour on the glaze when the cake is done and let sit for about 10-15 minutes.
Cut the cake, and enjoy!
If you want to cut out some of the sugar, look for the Smucker's sugar free orange marmalade and the no sugar added applesauce. That should help reduce the sugar count a little without ruining the flavor of the cake.
My Daughter Has Loved These Ever Since She Was Old Enough to Eat Them
Black Bean Burgers
I love black beans. They are so healthy and delicious! I also happen to like veggie burgers and turkey burgers and any other kind of burger that’s not super-fatty hamburger (although I do occasionally enjoy one of those, too!).
My daughter never has liked hamburger. Never. And I never really have gotten her to eat very many beans, so I found this recipe and thought it was worth a try. End result? Not a hit with the three-year-old. She took a few bites of it and said it was good, but that was it. I’m not sure if she just wasn’t hungry or if she really did not like it at all. My one-year-old, however, loved it! She shared my burger, and she ate almost half of one of her own (after I broke it up into little pieces for her, of course).
I thought they were pretty good. They were a little dry, though. Next time I think I’ll grease the baking sheet with olive oil instead of Pam, and I might try to add a half a cup or so of canned tomatoes. Also, I might try to not cook them so long on each side. Ten minutes per side seemed a little long in my oven. They weren’t burnt, but they did seem a little overdone. I like my hamburgers well done. Veggie burgers? Not so much!
Here are the ingredients I used:
- One 16-ounce can of black beans
- 1/4 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup of wheat germ
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp onion powder
Here's how I made the burgers:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grease a baking sheet with Pam cooking spray or a little bit of olive oil (recommended for more flavor).
- In a medium-sized bowl, mash the black beans into a thick paste.
- Stir in your seasonings.
- Add the egg and stir well.
- Pour in the bread crumbs and wheat germ and mix into well-blended. The mixture should be really sticky by this point.
- Form four patties and place them on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes on each side.
- Remove from the oven, place on buns, and dress as desired.
I'll either serve these with cut veggies on the side (baby carrots and baby dill pickles, as shown in the picture). Or, instead of chips, I'll give my little girl some Veggie Straws. She loves these things, and they're a great alternative to oily, fatty chips. I even like to eat them myself!
When I was growing up, my mom used to make salmon croquettes. I loved those things – except for the hard little bones that invariably got mixed up in them.
One day, lunch was approaching, and I didn’t have a clue about what to make for my little girl. But I did have a can of tuna, and I began to wonder. Could I make tuna croquettes the same way my mom made salmon croquettes? I looked to the Internet and came up with a delicious tuna croquette recipe that my three-year-old loved. She ate two of them herself! My one-year-old seemed to enjoy the little bits I fed her, too. Even my husband (the pickiest eater of them all) pronounced them, “Edible.” Here’s my fabulous tuna croquette recipe.
- 1 can of tuna (drained)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 large stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
Here's how you make the croquettes:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spray Pam onto a baking sheet.
- Pour out cornmeal and wheat germ onto a flat surface. Mix together well.
- Mix together the tuna, egg, mayo, Parmesan cheese, chopped celery, and seasonings.
- Take the mixture and form into patties.
- Set each patty down onto the cornmeal/wheat germ mixture. Make sure each is coated evenly.
- Place patties onto the cookie sheet.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and serve.
I usually serve these with green beans or canned beets, since those seem to be my daughter's favorite vegetables. And if I get them up small enough, even my one-year-old can eat them!
And That's What's for Dinner
Well, actually, these meals are what I usually serve for breakfasts and lunches, but you get the idea!
I hope this hub has given you some ideas for healthy, easy meals to feed your family. Try some out, and let me know how they work for you. Or, if you have other ideas for meals that you fix for your family, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and happy eating!