If you poll the average family to ask what they want for dinner, the only real question will be whether “McDonald’s” or “pizza” will be the leading vote-getter.
It’s usually up to parents to step in and come up with a healthy dinner alternative – but that’s not always easy on busy weeknights. The burdens of work and family life don’t leave a lot of spare time to make dinner, let alone find and test new recipes. That’s why in so many homes “Saturday is hot dog night, Sunday is spaghetti night, Monday is sloppy Joe night…” and so on.
Mealtime boredom can easily set in from eating the same meals over and over again, leading to resistance from the kids, along with demands for takeout. And there’s the real danger that “regular family meals” aren’t going to be particularly healthy, either. The best way to overcome both those obstacles is to assemble a list of diverse, tested ideas or recipes for varied, healthy family meals – making weeknight dinners something that the whole family actually looks forward to.
We happen to have one of those lists right here. We can’t guarantee that all of the kids will love all of the recipes, but we bet most of them will. Credit goes to easyfamilyrecipes.com, amindfulmom.com, joyfulhealthyeats.com, ifoodreal.com and my recipes.com for inspiration.
Healthy Turkey and Chicken Recipes for the Family
There are tons of ways you can prepare delicious, healthy meals using chicken breasts, but that doesn’t mean that picky kids will be overjoyed to eat them. (“Ugh, chicken again?”) That’s why we’ve focused on ideas that will be more likely to be met with delight than disdain.
- Kids love burgers: BBQ chicken burgers with grilled patties made from ground chicken, garlic powder, bottled or homemade barbeque sauce and grated cheddar cheese (putting cheese in the meat instead of on top of it keeps the chicken moist), topped with coleslaw and served on whole wheat buns
- Easy recipes for when the family wants Mexican: Chicken fajitas with chicken breasts topped with fajita or taco seasoning, sweet bell peppers, onions and cheddar cheese, garnished with cilantro and served in tortilla shells
- “Can we order Chinese food?”: Sweet and sour chicken stir-fry made with sautéed chicken cubes, garlic, onion, bell peppers, pineapple chunks, chicken stock, soy sauce, apricot jam (no sugar added), rice wine vinegar and cornstarch, served over brown rice
- Healthier than KFC: Garlic Parmesan boneless chicken thighs (hand-trimmed to remove all excess fat), rubbed with garlic powder, cumin, smoked paprika and ground pepper and sautéed in olive oil until the crust is crispy, with a topping or dipping sauce made from unsalted butter and olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese and chives
- Spaghetti and healthy meatballs: Baked turkey meatballs made from ground turkey (preferably breast meat), zucchini, eggs, garlic, oregano and onion powder, served with whole wheat spaghetti and your choice of sauce topped with shredded mozzarella
Healthy Recipes for the Family Using Meat
Many family favorites include meat – and also include lots of fat. Here are some ideas to keep everyone happy while getting their meat fix.
- Lose the sloppy Joe mix: Healthier sloppy Joes made from browned, 93% lean ground beef mixed with tomato sauce and paste, garlic, salt and black beans, simmered with apple cider vinegar, honey and Worcestershire sauce, and served with a side dish of sweet potato fries (or healthier steamed green beans)
- Pretend it’s Christmas: Pork tenderloin best made in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker with cubed sweet potatoes and apples, plus sweet onion, apple cider, garlic, and pepper, with the cooked vegetables and fruit then turned into a delicious mash and served alongside the pork; goes great with couscous too, if the kids will eat it
- Italian pork chops with alternative sides: Grill loin pork chops and then coat with an herb mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, sage, rosemary and parsley; serve with a salad of spinach, green onions, olives and white beans, dressed with oil, lemon juice and pepper – or for the kids who won’t eat that, a carrot-apple salad dressed with oil, cider vinegar, lemon and honey
Healthy Meals Made With Fish
Family dinners featuring fish don’t have to be frozen fish sticks or fishcakes. Fish filets can be dressed up with pesto, a Thai garlic-chili sauce, or an Asian-inspired ginger-soy sauce. Or you can try these yummy entrees.
- Taco night: Cut firm white fish into cubes and cook with oil, lemon juice and your favorite taco seasoning, place into warm tortillas and top tacos with a mixture of light sour cream, light mayo, cilantro and more of the taco seasoning, plus any other additions (avocado, cabbage, tomato, sauce) you prefer; grilled corn or a hot corn casserole would be perfect side dishes (a few changes can make this into a terrific recipe for burritos as well)
- For the family with adventurous eaters: One-pot paprika cod with chickpeas, baked with halved plum tomatoes, garlic, red chili, and smoked paprika, served with lemon wedges and whole-grain crusty bread
Vegetarian and Vegan Family Dinner Recipes
The best way to get kids to eat their veggies is to make them the centerpiece of a delicious family meal.
- Comfort food so good they won’t miss the meat: Slow cooker Mediterranean stew, with butternut squash, eggplant, zucchini, okra, onion, carrots, tomato sauce, vegetable broth, raisins, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and paprika, served with quinoa (if the kids will eat it)
- Loaded vegetarian nachos: Spread tortilla chips in a sheet pan and cover with pinto beans, bell pepper, jalapenos, cheddar and crumbled feta cheese and bake, top with avocado sauce, green onions, sliced radishes and cilantro, and serve with salsa
- So good they won’t ask what’s in it: White bean, cauliflower and kale casserole; the vegetables plus onions and Italian seasoning are sautéed in olive oil, mixed with a tahini sauce (made with lemon juice and cumin) and the beans, then baked until the crust is crispy
The Healthy Alternative to Spending Time in the Kitchen
These recipe ideas may save you time – but perhaps not enough time to prepare and serve them before everyone else has gone to bed. That’s why we have one more suggestion: Factor, the healthy alternative.
Some other meal kit services drop a box of ingredients off at your door with some menu cards, and wish you luck. But Factor delivers fully-prepared, fresh, healthy meals, already prepared by gourmet chefs using the highest-quality ingredients. All you have to do is put them into the oven or microwave, and you’ll be serving your family a delicious, easy dinner without having to do the tedious prep work.
Factor’s rotating menu of meals, designed for optimal nutrition, are made from the finest ingredients available: gluten-free, no refined sugars, grass-fed proteins, no antibiotics, hormones, soy or GMOs. There are dozens of selections available online each week, many of them fitting diets like Paleo and keto, low-carb and high-protein. And you choose the number of meals to be delivered, so you can feed your family healthy, fresh meals 3-6 nights per week.
As an added bonus, their on-staff dietitians also offer complimentary phone consultations for all new or prospective customers!
Many people love spending time in the kitchen crafting nutritious meals for their family. If you don’t – or simply don’t have the time – Factor can do it for you at a surprisingly reasonable price.
To learn more about how Factor can help with your dinner plans, click here.