As a Registered Dietitian and new and working Mom, I fully understand the challenges of feeding your family well while often having limited time. But you can do it! One of the keys is shopping and preparing food beforehand, perhaps on an evening or Sunday when you have a chunk of time. You can make double or triple what you need for one meal then refrigerate or freeze the leftovers.
When you have little ones, you may feel like a short-order cook. You don’t have to cook something different for each family member! The below are 10 of my favorite recipes that can be enjoyed by the whole gang. Remember the parent/child division of responsibility when it comes to meals: The parents decide what, when, and where to serve food, while the child decides if and how much to consume. By preparing and enjoying family meals, you set a great example in a fun environment, offer exposure to a variety of items, and prevent picky eating. Note that it can take up to 30+ exposures for kids to accept new foods. Keep at it to create healthy, well-balanced, adventurous eaters. Enjoy!
This is a great low-fat alternative to red meat, filled with fiber, and fun for older kids to help create their signature dish while selecting their own toppings. Mom and dad can enjoy a low-carb version by enjoying a taco salad.
Ingredients: Lean ground turkey meat (97-99%), 1 chopped sweet onion, 5 stalks of celery chopped, 1 6-oz can of tomato paste, chili powder, whole grain or corn tortillas, Pam spray or olive oil
- Coat pan/skillet with thin layer of olive oil or spray with Pam.
- In large pan or skillet brown one chopped Vidalia (sweet) onion.
- Add 5 chopped stalks of celery and cook to desired texture.
- Add 97-99 percent lean ground turkey meat (or similar percentage), cooking and stirring until cooked thoroughly and browned.
- Add one small can of tomato paste, more or less as desired.
- Add 1-2 Tbsp of chili powder to taste.
- The longer this mixture is simmered, the richer the flavor. Add water if/when needed.
- Shells: Try Ezekial frozen wheat or corn tortillas; heat in pan. Otherwise select a different brand that has all natural ingredients, no sugar, and is low in fat.
- Add 1/2 cup turkey mixture, salsa, chopped tomatoes, and sprinkle of reduced-fat cheese.
- Roll up taco and enjoy! OR try turkey mixture on top of a salad.
****For kids under 12 months, skip the tomato paste and salsa. Go easy on, or skip the spices. Or just add a sprinkle of seasoning (garlic, pepper, etc). Take turkey/celery/onion mixture out of the pan and move to food processor or blender. Add full fat cheese for kids under two years old and beans as long as baby has tried them before. You can serve with small broken up pieces of tortilla or crackers.
Lean red meat is a healthy option when enjoyed in moderation. Plus this hearty meal provides some welcoming warmth on a cold winter’s day. Lamb can be one of baby’s first foods as it is easily digested when pureed.
Ingredients: 1.25 pounds of lean cubed lamb meat (choose kebob instead of stew meat for a leaner product); 1 large sweet onion chopped, 10 stalks of celery chopped, ½ pound (1/2 package) baby carrots, 1 large red pepper diced, olive oil, 6 small or 3 large russet potatoes peeled and chopped into cubes, 1 6-oz can tomato paste, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, dill, 1 bay leaf.
- Place lamb cubes and onion into large pot. Add 1 tsp garlic, 1 tsp paprika, bay leaf. Fill with water until lamb and onion are fully covered. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low-medium heat for 1-1.5 hours to ensure meat is very tender. Remove bay leaf after this time.
- Place potatoes, celery carrot, and pepper on a cooking tray. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp dill. Mix to ensure all ingredients are evenly coated. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes at 450 degrees, mixing at least once to ensure even cooking.
- Add oven mixture to lamb pot on stove after the 1-1.5 hours. Stir all ingredients together. Add 1 can of tomato paste.
- Allow all ingredients to continue simmering on stove at low heat. Continue this for one to two hours. Add a bit of water if needed. The potatoes will burst/break apart and help make this stew thick.
- Add additional spice if needed.
****For kids under 12 months of age, do not add tomato paste. Remove portion of lamb stew prior to adding tomato paste or additional spices. Blend or puree in food processor for your little one. Enjoy!
Healthy Chicken Parmesan
Who doesn’t like cheese and tomato sauce? This is a healthy alternative to the regular version, which is often heavily breaded and fried, made with full fat cheese and served with white pasta. Offer this version early in your little one’s life, and they will prefer your version to the original.
Ingredients: Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless) pounded thin with meat tenderizer. 4-5 egg whites in bowl, 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs or whole wheat panko, spices as desired (see below), 1 can tomato sauce (choose one without added sugar), olive oil or Pam (or other) cooking spray, part-skim mozzarella and/or grated parmesan cheese, 1 box whole wheat pasta.
- Dip thin or pounded chicken breasts in egg whites.
- Next dip in organic whole wheat Italian bread crumbs. (Whole Foods has a great one, or you can add garlic, basil, oregano, pepper, etc. as desired to plain whole wheat bread crumbs.)
- Place on oven tray or pan sprayed in Pam or lightly coated w/olive oil and cook for 25-40 minutes at around 425 degrees, depending on oven and chicken thickness.
- Once chicken is fully cooked (check by cutting open and making sure there is no pink color), top with tomato sauce and sprinkle lightly with part skim mozzarella and/or parmesan cheese.
- Change oven to broil and cook until cheese browns/bubbles.
- Serve with a side of or on top of whole wheat pasta, and don’t forget to add a green vegetable!
****For kids under 12 months of age, dip chicken in olive oil instead of egg whites, or use egg yolk only. Skip tomato sauce as well for the little ones. You can add full fat cheese for kids under age 2. The chicken can be pureed for younger kids, or chopped into smaller pieces. For older kids, cut into strips and try sauce on the side for “chicken fingers” and dipping. For infants, cook the pasta way past the box-recommended directions and cut up into small pieces. Add olive oil and sprinkled mozzarella and/or parmesan, if desired. This can be great for a finger food (for example rigatoni cut up into “O’s”) for babies starting around 9 months. Apples, pears, or other fruits can always be added to puree chicken to add moisture and sweetness for your infants.
Perfect for a snack or even with oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast, this sweet treat tastes like the apple pie without the pie. For those who prefer the crunch, they can enjoy their apple topped with a couple tablespoons of graham cracker crumble or granola.
Ingredients: apples with core cut out, 2 Tbsp raisins, peaches, apricots or other fruit per apple, 1 tsp cinnamon per apple
- De-core apples, but do not cut all the way through to the bottom, just cut enough to fill apple with additional fruit.
- Peel apples to be served to babies.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place apples in shallow baking dish, then sprinkle apple with cinnamon. Fill baking dish with a thin amount of water at bottom.
- Bake for 15 mins or until apples are tender.
- Halfway through, remove dish and spoon water/apple juices over top of apples.
- Puree apple for infants. Dice in pieces for an easy, soft, sweet finger food.
Have you ever wondered why those trendy baby food diets are so alluring? If you have ever made or tasted fresh, delicious foods like this one, you will see why! This is a fun alternative to typical apple sauce, and is amazing when the fruit is in season. Using frozen fruit is an option. You can also substitute other fruits: plums, nectarines, and mangos all work well too.
Ingredients: Fresh peaches (or other fruit), plain Greek yogurt, cinnamon, nutmeg
- Peel peaches (or other fruit), dice into pieces, and place in a pot on the stove.
- Add enough water to cover fruit.
- Boil until tender.
- You may want to cool in the fridge before pureeing, or keep warm.
- Enjoy your plain peach sauce OR add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt (0% for you, full fat for your little one under age 2) and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Serve warm if desired.
“Home Fries”(Breakfast Potatoes) / Potato Scramble
Ingredients: 1 medium diced white, red, or Yukon gold potato, ½ cup chopped onion, ½ cup chopped red and/or green pepper, eggs, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp paprika, pinch pepper to taste, cheese as desired.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Place all ingredients in baking dish and stir to mix ingredients so all are moist with the oil.
- Bake for about 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender to fork and crispy on edges, making sure to stir potatoes every 10 minutes.
- Serve as a dinner side dish, or with an egg white omelet for a healthy balanced breakfast.
- OR place ¼ – ½ cup of potatoes into a non-stick pan or one coated with cooking spray. Pour egg yolks or whole eggs (for those over 12 months of age, or just the whites for those who are watching cholesterol) over potatoes and move around skillet with spatula until eggs are fully cooled.
- Voila: Egg, potato, and vegetable scramble!
- Sprinkle with cheese and/or add other vegetables (broccoli, spinach) as desired.
Herbed Chicken and Rice
Ingredients: 1 pound raw chicken breast, 1 sweet onion-chopped, 1/2 bag baby carrots and/or 2 chopped yellow or orange peppers, 10 stalks of celery-chopped, olive oil, dill, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, brown rice (or wild or basmati)
- Prepare rice as per package directions. Set aside
- Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to deep cooking/fry pan.
- Add onion and cook on medium heat, stirring often until onions brown.
- Add celery and continue to stir until celery begins to look a bit clear.
- Add carrots.
- Cut chicken into small chunks. Add to bowl with 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp poultry seasoning, ½ tsp garlic, 1 tsp dill. Mix so chicken is thoroughly coated with spices. Add more or less spices to your taste.
- If time permits, place the chicken-herb mixture in a plastic Ziploc or bowl and refrigerate from an hour to overnight. This marinating enhances flavor!
- Add chicken to pan with 1 cup of water.
- Simmer mixture for an hour or more adding water if needed as it boils off.
- The longer the chicken cooks, the more tender it becomes. It can be easily broken into pieces which is great for the young ones.
- Add portion to blender or food processor to puree. The rice can be added or served separate.
- Use the puree for babies or serve like a chicken salad or pate on bread or crackers.
- Serve cooked chicken with or over rice for a hearty meal.
Banana Blueberry Smoothie
Ingredients: Greek or nonfat plain yogurt (Greek yogurt is thicker and higher in protein), fresh or frozen banana, fresh or frozen blueberries, protein powder
- Combine 6 oz yogurt with 1 fresh or ¾ cup frozen banana, ¼ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- Add to blender or food processor to puree.
- Use full fat yogurt for kids under 2, low-fat or non-fat for older kids and adults
- For older kids and parents looking for extra protein, add a scoop of whey or other protein to the shake.
Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese
This white/yellow dish will appeal to those picky eaters who don’t love their vegetables! It is a high-fiber, lower-fat version of the always-favored mac and cheese. Serve with a salad or green vegetable to balance out the meal.
Ingredients: 1 cup uncooked whole wheat or rice pasta (over-cooked for the little ones; diced penne, rigatoni or elbows work well for finger foods), 1 cup fresh cauliflower finely chopped and steamed, 1 cup yellow squash (or acorn or butternut squash) cubed and steamed, 1 yellow pepper diced and steamed, 1 cup mild shredded cheddar cheese, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Cook pasta as per package directions. I love using the brown rice shells.
- Steam all vegetables. Make all items softer (steamed for longer periods of time) if you are cooking for younger infants. Adult portions can be removed first and put aside.
- Add all ingredients to a nonstick, cooking-sprayed or olive oiled baking dish.
- Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until cheese melts and/or bubbles and browns a bit.
- Add a small extra layer of cheese and a sprinkle of bread crumbs for a rich finish, if desired. Broil in oven for additional 10 minutes until top browns.
Spicy Crusted Salmon
Salmon is packed with Omega 3 fatty acids that are essential for baby’s brain development. They offer improved brain function, mood, and heart-healthy for everyone. Salmon is also very high in Vitamins D and B12. The panko and spices will cut any “fish” taste that bigger picky eaters may dislike. After cooking, you can use the inside (plain) part for little ones if this is their first taste of salmon.
Ingredients: Wild salmon (a 12-16 oz fillet serves 3-4 big people or 6+ little people!), whole wheat panko or whole wheat breadcrumbs (Whole Foods makes a great whole wheat panko), olive oil, Cajun or Blackened Seasoning (or just salt and pepper to taste for those who don’t like spice). If you can’t find this in a local store, mix together 1.5 Tbsp paprika, 1 Tbsp garlic, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 Tbsp onion, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp salt to create your own spicy season mix. Store mixture in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
- Place ½ cup panko or breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl or dish. Add one teaspoon of Cajun seasoning to bowl and mix evenly. Use more or less to your taste.
- Coat salmon lightly with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- Dip flesh of salmon into panko and spice mixture. Place skin-side down on baking tray/pan that is non-stick, or coated with cooking spray or olive oil.
- Place in preheated oven at 450 degrees. Cook for 12-18 minutes as desired. Cook longer when serving to small children who should have well-cooked foods.