The battle to get kids to eat is a serious one. While some families enjoy mealtime without a hitch, others struggle to get kids to clean their plates.
Science says that exposing kids to foods is a major factor in getting them to expand their palates. Any interaction with food counts, so creating family-friendly recipes with your picky eater can actually help you make some progress.
Not all recipes lend themselves to kids helping out, however. Recipes that are intricate or time-consuming or that require too many prep items may not work out. That’s why it’s important to keep track of recipes that do lend themselves to getting kids involved.
Celebrity parents understand the struggle and are here to help. Parents like LeBron James and Tia Mowry know the importance of getting your kids to eat healthy. We’ve included their recipes in this list of family-friendly recipes that kids can help out with. Let’s get those little ones in a healthy relationship with food and cooking!
Old El Paso teamed up with the LeBron James Family Foundation and the I Promise Village to bring Taco Tuesdays to I Promise families. This recipe can bring those same good feelings to your own Taco Tuesday. The best part is that it takes just one hour to prepare!
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup flat, room-temperature beer
- ½ tsp. chipotle chile powder
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 1 lb. firm white fish fillets (such as red snapper, halibut, mahi-mahi, or other white fish fillets), thawed if frozen
- 1 package Old El Paso Soft Tortilla Bowls
- 2½ cups shredded cabbage
- Sliced radishes, chopped avocado, fresh cilantro leaves, lime wedges, if desired
- In a deep fryer or heavy-bottomed pot, heat at least 2 inches oil to 350°F.
- In a medium bowl, mix flour, beer, chile powder, and salt with whisk or fork until smooth. Cut fish fillets into 1½-inch cubes. Dip cubes into batter; let excess drip off. Fry fish in batches 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Keep warm while frying the remaining fish.
- Heat bowls as directed on package. Fill bowls with about ¼ cup shredded cabbage and fish. Top with radishes, avocado, cilantro, and lime wedges.
Hearty and Healthy Baked Oatmeal
Whether it’s fresh from the oven or reheated, Tia Mowry’s easy and delicious recipe for Hearty and Healthy Baked Oatmeal is one of many she’s created in partnership with Ocean Spray. Tia wants to reinvigorate mealtime for families after many months of cooking at home. She’s also giving back, giving $10,000 to Feeding America along with Ocean Spray.
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats
- ⅔ cup roughly chopped pecans (almonds or walnuts), lightly toasted
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. fine-grain sea salt (or ½ tsp. regular table salt)
- 1¾ cups milk (cow, nut, soy all work well)
- ⅓ cup maple syrup or honey
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tbsp. melted unsalted butter or coconut oil, divided
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 12 oz. or 1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries (or 2½ cups of your preferred berry/fruit, chopped into ½-inch pieces if necessary), divided
- 1 cup Ocean Spray Craisins dried cranberries
- 2 tsp. sugar (optional)
- Optional toppings for serving: yogurt, additional maple syrup or honey for drizzling, fresh fruit
- Heat oven to 375°F. Prepare a 9-by-9-inch baking dish.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, toasted nuts, spices, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
- In a separate mixing bowl, combine the milk, maple syrup, egg, half of the butter, and vanilla. Whisk until blended.
- Reserve about ½ cup of the berries and ⅓ cup of dried cranberries for topping the baked oatmeal.
- Arrange the remaining berries and dried cranberries evenly over the bottom of the baking dish (if using frozen fruit, no need to defrost).
- Cover the fruit with the dry oat mixture, then drizzle the wet ingredients over the oats. Gently shake the baking dish to move the milk through the oats to the bottom.
- Scatter the reserved berries and dried cranberries over the top.
- Bake for 42 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and lightly crisped.
- Let rest 10 minutes.
- Drizzle the remaining melted butter on the top before serving.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are wonderful to make together with little kids so that they have it mastered themselves by the time they’re older. For many kids, it’s one of the first things they can make all by themselves.
- 8 (½-inch-thick) slices sourdough sandwich bread, such as Pullman
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 tbsp. mayonnaise
- 6 slices American cheese (3 oz.)
- 3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
- Arrange bread in a single layer on a clean work surface. Stir together butter and mayonnaise. Spread mixture evenly onto one side of every slice (1 scant tbsp. per slice).
- Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Flip over bread on work surface (so it’s plain side up). Place 1½ slices American cheese on four slices of bread, and ¼ cup cheddar on the remaining four slices of bread. Carefully sandwich together.
- Place sandwiches in a skillet (in two batches, if needed). Reduce heat to medium-low; gently top sandwiches with a lid slightly smaller than skillet for even cooking. Cook, flipping once halfway through, until crisp and golden on both sides and cheese is melted, 7 to 9 minutes. Serve immediately.
This creative way to cook chicken tenders makes for a fun spin on a kid-friendly dinner that the whole family will enjoy. Plus, they’re made on Hawaiian sweet rolls, so who could ask for anything more?
- 24 oz. frozen breaded chicken tenders
- 1 package (12 oz.) Hawaiian sweet rolls
- 1 package (7½ oz.) sliced provolone and mozzarella cheese blend
- 1 jar (24 oz.) marinara sauce
- ½ cup butter, cubed
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp. minced fresh basil
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare chicken tenders according to package directions. Meanwhile, without separating rolls, cut horizontally in half; arrange roll bottoms in a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Place half of the cheese slices over roll bottoms. Bake until cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Layer rolls with half of the sauce, chicken tenders, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese slices. Replace top halves of rolls.
- For the topping, microwave butter, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes, covered, on high, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted. Pour over rolls; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Bake, uncovered, until golden brown and heated through, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with basil before serving.
These colorful pinwheels offer a new take on a regular old sandwich. You can make them early in the day and keep them in a cooler for an outing. Kids will love trying to roll these up!
- 1 large head romaine lettuce
- 4 oz. whipped cream cheese
- 1 cup baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
- 8 large fresh basil leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 10-inch flour tortillas
- 8 slices oven-roasted deli turkey (about 8 oz.)
- 1 whole roasted pepper from a jar, sliced into ¼-inch strips (about ½ cup)
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- Pull the largest four romaine leaves from the outside of the bunch and wash and dry carefully, trying not to tear the leaves. Cut the leaves at the base where they were connected to the root; the pieces should be about 9 inches long. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the center rib so the leaves roll up more easily. Set aside.
- Combine the cream cheese, spinach, and basil in a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with ¼ tsp. kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.
- Lay one of the tortillas on a clean work surface and add one of the romaine leaves to fit neatly on top. Place two slices of turkey next to each other, covering the lettuce. Spread 2 tbsp. of the cream cheese mixture over the surface of the turkey and line up a quarter of the roasted pepper strips along one edge. Line up ¼ cup of the shredded carrot just above the peppers. Roll up the wrap tightly, starting from the edge with the peppers and carrots, so the wrap holds together with the peppers and carrots in the middle. Place the wrap seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, vegetables, turkey, and cream cheese spread. Cut the wraps into 1-inch pieces, then pierce each segment with a toothpick or skewer from the outside of the tortilla through the seam on the bottom.
Family-friendly food doesn’t have to be underwhelming. You can get kids into a lot of delicious flavors by getting them in on the cooking fun. Catherine of Weelicious says this is one of her kids’ favorites!
- 6 tsp. olive oil, divided
- 1 large red onion, chopped and divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 (about 1 lb.) boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- 1½ cups Mararepa or PAN precooked white cornmeal
- 1½ cups water
- 4 to 5 oz. cotija, thinly sliced
- In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tsp. olive oil. Add half the onion and the garlic, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken, peppers, and lime juice. Cook chicken 4 to 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Set aside. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, take two forks and shred chicken. Add chopped cilantro and ½ tsp. salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add cooked cornmeal, lime zest, 1½ cups water, 2 tsp. olive oil, and ½ tsp. salt. Stir to form a stiff dough. Transfer dough to a clean, dry workspace and knead the dough for about 30 to 40 seconds, until smooth. Set aside for 3 to 4 minutes to rest. Form into eight equal-size balls. Flatten the balls with the palm of your hands to create ¼-inch-thick discs.
- In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tsp. olive oil (you may need a little more during cooking) until very hot, add dough discs, and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook arepas for about 8 to 10 minutes per side or until cooked through.
- When cool enough to handle, cut arepas horizontally in half. Place chicken mixture and cheese on the bottom half of arepas. Top with the other half and serve.
Sometimes a fresh take on an old classic is just what your family needs to switch things up at dinnertime. This recipe from Vicki of Wilde in the Kitchen is easy, fun, and adorable.
Spaghetti Cupcake Ingredients
Spaghetti Cupcake Preparation
Cook the pasta until just undercooked, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water, just so the pasta isn’t burning hot.
Add butter and mix (using hands is easiest).
Add eggs and Parmesan cheese, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper. Mix (with hands!).
Lightly grease a muffin tin with spray oil. Divide pasta mixture between 24 muffin cups and press down gently.
Bake cupcakes in a 350°F oven for 12 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly in pans, on a wire rack, for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove from tin.
Meatballs and Tomato Sauce Ingredients
Meatballs and Tomato Sauce Preparation
- Place bread in the bowl of a food processor; pulse until fine crumbs. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine and thoroughly mixed.
- Form into 1-inch balls.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Add meatballs and cook until browned on all sides.
- Add pasta sauce and cover. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Pour some sauce over a pasta cupcake, add one meatball. Enjoy! Oh, wait. Don’t forget the Parmesan.
This takeout favorite from Iowa Girl Eats is easy to make at home! Kids will feel accomplished having their own recipe for something they might order when out to eat.
- 2 chicken breasts (14 oz.), cut into thin strips
- 1 tbsp. low-sodium gluten-free tamari
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- Pinch white pepper
- 8 oz. dry gluten-free spaghetti or ramen noodles
- High-heat cooking oil
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups coleslaw mix
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup low-sodium gluten-free tamari
- 3 tbsp. gluten-free oyster sauce (I used Kikkoman)
- 2 tbsp. chicken broth (low-sodium if possible)
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 to 2 tsp. chile sauce (like Sriracha)
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ½ tsp. sesame oil
- Pinch white pepper
Add sliced chicken to a large resealable plastic bag with tamari and cornstarch, then squish to combine. Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Combine all sauce ingredients in a dish, then set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add noodles and cook until al dente. Drain, then set aside.
- While the noodles are cooking, heat a drizzle of oil in a large wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat. Once hot, add chicken, then stir-fry until cooked through. Remove to a plate, then set aside.
- Add 3 tbsp. water to the wok. Once simmering, add broccoli, then cover with a lid and steam for 1 minute.
- Remove lid, then add coleslaw, green onions, garlic, and another drizzle of oil. Stir-fry until the cabbage begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken, noodles, and sauce to the wok, then stir-fry until the sauce has thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve hot.
These sweet treats can be a fun snack or a healthy dessert. You can switch up the molds for any shape or theme to keep things interesting.
- ½ cup nonfat blended strawberry Greek yogurt (not fruit on the bottom yogurt)
- 3½ tbsp. 100% fruit seedless strawberry jelly
- 4 tsp. mini chocolate chips
- In a medium bowl, combine yogurt and jelly.
- Chop chocolate chips and add them to the yogurt mixture, stirring thoroughly.
- Spoon mixture into molds, or dollop from a spoon onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. If using molds, tap gently on the counter so the yogurt levels smoothly.
- Add “Popsicle sticks” (such as toothpicks or cut straws) if desired.
- Freeze until solid. Unmold or peel from parchment immediately after removing from the freezer, while still thoroughly frozen.
- Serve immediately, or return to freezer tightly wrapped or packaged in airtight containers.
Casseroles involve a lot of mixing, so it’s great to get little ones in on. Older kids can help with chopping vegetables and measuring out other ingredients.
- 1 package (6 oz.) stuffing mix
- ¾ cup butter, melted
- 3 cups diced zucchini
- 2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
- 1 can (10¾ oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
- 1 medium carrot, shredded
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup sour cream
- In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix and butter. Set aside ½ cup for topping. Add the zucchini, chicken, soup, carrot, onion, and sour cream to the remaining stuffing mixture.
- Transfer to a greased 11-by-7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with reserved stuffing mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F until golden brown and bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes.
This quick chili isn’t too spicy for little ones. It’s also pretty quick, taking about an hour to make. It’s filled with delicious ingredients that make for a healthy recipe and happy bellies.
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 lbs. ground turkey
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 (15 oz.) cans red kidney beans, drained
- 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
- 1 tsp. chili seasoning
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1½ to 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, beer, or water
- Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
- Cheddar cheese crackers (optional)
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)
- Chopped scallions (optional)
- Brown the ground turkey. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the turkey and use a spatula to break it up into large pieces. Season with the salt and cook undisturbed until browned on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes. Break the meat up into smaller pieces with the spatula and continue to cook until the beef is evenly browned with no visible pink, 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Add the vegetables and aromatics. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook until the onions have softened and are starting to become translucent, 7 to 8 minutes.
- Add the cooking liquid and spices, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the drained beans, tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, chili seasoning, oregano, cumin, and 1½ cups of the broth or cooking liquid, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the tomatoes and beans are tender and the chili is thickened, about 30 minutes.
- Taste and adjust the liquid and seasoning as needed. After simmering, the turkey may have absorbed most of the cooking liquid. If needed, add up to ½ cup more broth or beer until chili reaches the desired consistency. Taste and add more chili seasoning or salt if desired.
- Serve with toppings. Serve bowls of chili with desired toppings. For kids, cheese crackers are the perfect crunchy, cheesy topping that they love.
The combination of cheese and healthy greens is always a good idea for getting a picky eater to try something new. Kids generally can’t say no to some cheesy pasta. They’ll barely notice the healthy secret ingredient!
- 4 tbsp. salted butter
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 5 cups packed fresh baby spinach
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- 500 grams (about 18 oz.) conchiglie or large pasta shells
- Salt and pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Melt butter in a large frying pan and add shallots. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until shallots are soft.
- Add all the spinach to the pan, salt lightly, and cover with a lid for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil pasta in salted water for 8 to 9 minutes or the recommended cooking time.
- In a large serving bowl, whisk together egg and ricotta. Set aside.
- Using a pair of cooking tongs, turn spinach in the pan until it is wilted but not completely cooked. Remove from heat.
- Drain pasta and add to the ricotta mixture. Toss well to coat. Add spinach to the pasta and combine well.
- Season with salt and freshly ground pepper as needed and serve at once.