I’m often asked for healthy, easy, kid friendly meals. Some kids often require their food to be gluten, dairy and nut free too. I know it makes it hard but see below for some family friendly foods that will make the entire family happy!
This simple advice will save you time while keeping stress levels low.
Picking up take-out food or finding other last-minute dinner solutions aren't always an option for families with food allergies. Advance menu planning is an organization and coping strategy that helps avoid mealtime problems and makes your family happy and be less Hangry!
Now what? Where to even start? Stay positive! Focus on what your child can eat!. Try to shift your point of view.
Yup, the dreaded meal planning process. Follow these easy peasy tips.
1. Plan Ahead. Manage your time. Make a quick decision and stick with it. You’ll be amazed at how much less stressful dinner is when you go into it with a plan.
2. Remember what works. Keep notes on recipes that work on your phone to makes it easier when grocery shopping. Put favorites on regular rotation so that you don’t have to plan all new meals each week.
3. Find your sister-wives. Don’t insist on doing all of the heavy lifting! Ask your family what they want to eat. Maybe each kid gets a day of the week (or twice a month if they always pick hot dogs), or make every Friday your partner’s choice if you live together. Combined with one or two favorites that you’ve rotated into the week, you’re halfway there!
4. Make extra. This is a big one. Whenever you’re cooking a basic staple like rice, quinoa, beans or pasta, make double what you need for the meal. Then count on using the leftovers another night that week (or stashing the leftovers in the freezer for another week down the line). This bulk cooking as-you-go saves a huge amount of time and doesn’t require you to set a weekend afternoon aside for cooking.
5. Bulk Baby! Order foods in bulk at co-ops, wholesale stores, or shop for groceries online at Amazon.com.
Below are a list of my family’s favorite foods. Hope this helps!
Hard or soft, tacos in rolled corn tortillas or crispy corn shells are one of my kids’ faves. I usually avoid the premixed seasoning packets in case of gluten contamination, but chicken or beef easily becomes taco filling with a little cumin, coriander and garlic powder, and tacos topped with a little avocado and shredded by spinach in place of lettuce are a yummy dinner treat.
Less expensive than chicken breast, boneless chicken thighs have a lot of flavor and are super versatile. Dipped in a whisked egg and then gluten free breadcrumbs (you can purchase at most grocery stores or even just toss a piece of toasted GF bread in the food processor), the thighs can be quickly broiled or fried in a little avocado oil on the stove.
Sweet potato fries are a super easy side, just peel and slice a sweet potato, toss in avocado oil, salt, pepper and a little garlic powder and bake at 425 for about 20 - 25 minutes.
There are many GF pasta options out there, I find the ones that taste the best are brown rice-based or chickpea pasta, which has the added benefit of being grain-free as well. Toss with olive oil, peas and chicken sausage or a little tomato sauce and meatballs made with GF breadcrumbs.
Cut cod into chunks, dip in egg and GF bread crumbs and quickly broil or fry in avocado oil for easy fish sticks.
Salmon brushed with a mixture of a little maple syrup, mustard and garlic powder and broiled has a little sweetness kids love and is delicious with mashed sweet potatoes and green bean ‘fries’.
Soup is cozy and a really easy way to squeak in some veggies. Try chicken rice, lentil, chili or vegetable beef for some gluten/dairy free options. *if you’re purchasing ready-made soup, be sure to check ingredient list for hidden gluten.
Most young kids will love (or learn to love) veggies that can be picked up and eaten by hand. I always keep lots of frozen organic veggies (from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods) on hand for quick and easy sides when I don’t have time to prepare fresh. They can usually be prepared in minutes - my kids’ favorites are peas, broccoli florets, green beans, butternut squash and roasted Brussels sprouts! A new favorite discovery: the rainbow cauliflower florets from Trader Joe’s. I also find that kids love seasoning and flavor - don’t be afraid to cook veggies with lots of garlic and a sprinkle of salt.
Hope this helps!!
Koren Bradshaw, MS, CLC
Koren is a clinical nutritionist and certified lactation counselor passionate about functional nutrition and lifestyle education.