Last Updated on March 10, 2023
Healthy food for kids HACKED! Food can be fast, but still healthy and nourishing. Check out these quick and easy options for busy nights!
With two little kids who go to bed pretty early, many nights we don’t have a lot of time for fuss when it comes to dinner. I’m committed to feeding my daughters “real” food rather than prepackaged kid fare when I don’t have time to cook, and while a big salad might do for me, not so much for a 3- and 5-year-old!
How to Keep Healthy Food for Kids On Hand
Keep the pantry and the freezer stocked with healthy food for kids and you’ll never have to ask yourself, what are my kids eating tonight?
Instead of turning to processed food of questionable origin, I keep my freezer full healthy food for kids: Little cubes of quinoa, beans, pastas, and vegetable and fruit purees I make when produce is in season.
I make large batches and freeze them in ice cube trays, so I always know there’s something healthy and delicious ready for their lunch or dinner. (I learned this trick from a book called Super Baby Food, which has numerous ideas and recipes to get you started on food cubes.)
Including vegan protein sources like beans, seeds, and nuts can help keep the meal balanced. Finish the meal off with a big bowl of yogurt topped with fresh fruit or try this easy make-ahead chia pudding recipe to get some additional nutrition.
We turn to yogurt often to make sure everyone gets enough protein, plus some helpful probiotics, great for gut health and for keeping the immune system humming. When we started going through nearly a quart a day, I began making my own homemade yogurt, which saves us nearly $1000 a year as well as so much plastic!
Did you know kids are far more likely to try new foods if they help make them? My kids and I had a fantastic time taking the Kids Cook Real Food online course, and we learned so much! They got video lessons in knife skills, following recipes, and so much more. Find out more here. You might be surprised (and pleased) how much kids can do in the kitchen!
Healthy Food for Kids Hacked: Cook Once, Eat Twice (Or More!)
When I do have time to cook, I make extra so we can eat at least twice and only have to do the chopping and cleaning once. Lots of easy homemade soups feed us two (not necessarily consecutive) nights, and more goes in the freezer. Some gets frozen in ice-cube trays and will form parts of kiddo meals on many different days.
Ditto with ratatouille and pesto I make in giant batches when we are awash in summer’s bounty of zucchini, eggplant and basil — bags and containers will come out of the freezer all winter to make delicious toppings for pasta.
Soups, stir-fries, pizza and calzones, and the occasional fish or chicken with wild rice make up the majority of the family menu. We also love this easy vegan chili. Use your slow cooker to make delicious meals with minimal hands-on time.
When they were still eating mainly purees and I made a big batch of ratatouille, I would whir up a little of it and freeze it it ice cube trays. We save not only time but money, and have tasty, healthy meals for our little ones on nights when the grown-up menu doesn’t appeal to discriminating toddler palates.
Healthy Food for Kids Hacked: Serve Veggies as Snacks
I also make sure we always have plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, and usually serve vegetables first, when everyone’s hungry. They munch on cut up cucumbers, red peppers, carrots and green beans while they wait for their main course to show up.
Pro tip: If you’re having trouble getting veggies into your family, hand them some raw vegetables when they say they’re hungry, as they invariably do, 20 minutes before dinner! Then there’s no conversation about “eating your veggies” to spoil dinnertime.
When our kitchen is overflowing with beautiful seasonal veggies from our CSA, a bowl of cherry tomatoes or snap peas or some cut up bell peppers are happily gobbled up by the whole family.
Other helpful things to keep on hand so you always have options for healthy food for kids:
- Hummus to dip carrots, cucumber, green beans, or celery in. Or try an easy yogurt dip or some salad dressing.
- Corn or wheat tortillas that can be topped with cheese, beans, and whatever veggies you’ve got in the fridge.
- Cooked beans and frozen edamame. Black beans and italian salad dressing were a favorite with my 4-year-old for awhile. (Note: most cans these days are lined with BPA-containing plastic, with a few exceptions. But it’s not clear whether the exceptions are lined with anything better, so you may want to cook up a big batch of beans and freeze them instead to avoid exposure to these chemicals.)
Healthy Food for Kids Hacked: Put Veggies in Your Treats
Kiddos love zucchini bread, pumpkin pancakes, and carrot muffins! Learn how to make healthier treats by incorporating veggies into everything you make, including smoothies, homemade fruit leather, and more.
Check out these veggie-rich collections of recipes including treats made with zucchini, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, kale, and beans. Black bean pumpkin brownies? Oh, yeah! If you need more inspiration, here’s a big bunchof healthy treat ideas.
Follow my Pinterest board devoted to working in more veggies if you need more ideas 🙂
Kick Your Healthy Foods for Kids Up a Notch!
When you have more time to cook, check out some of the nourishing recipes in Renee Kohley’s new book, Nourished Beginnings Baby Food.
Only a small part of the book is for those with very young babies — it also has inspiring recipes and tips for feeding the whole family nourishing, healthy foods.
Renee’s commitment to and love for nourishing whole foods comes across in her new book as it does in her wonderful blog, Raising Generation Nourished.
Each page reminds us about the benefits of traditional foods like bone broth, healthy fats, and probiotic-rich eats like sauerkraut and kefir that most of us came to much later in life.
I wish I’d read this book years ago when I was first learning about raising healthy eaters. I love her section on beverages and supporting kids’ health with gentle herbs like nettle and chamomile. Renee makes all these health-promoting ideas seem doable, even to a busy parent.
She reminds us that there’s no reason everyone can’t eat the same food at the dinner table. I’ll be trying out some of her mouth-watering recipes and seeing if I can expand my kids’ palates a little further and rely less on food cubes!
If you have kids who like chicken “nuggets” check out Renee’s healthied-up version, sheet pan gluten-free chicken nuggets!
What are your tricks to make healthy food for kids when you’re pressed for time? Share in the comments!
And don’t forget to hack your own nutrition as well! Here are some top ways to get in more nutrition without extra fuss or work:
- What to Eat For Better Sleep
- Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?
- Why You Need a Water Filter
- Immune Boosting Foods
- Anti Inflammatory Food
- Easy Ways to Reduce Cortisol
Pin to save these healthy food for kids ideas for later!
Photo Credits: Meal Makeover Moms, Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.