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Healthy Family Meal Ideas for When Your Recipe Well Runs Dry
the best way to start cooking healthy meals for your family

“Simple healthy meals” are three words that don’t normally go together. Have you been avoiding making meals at home because healthy cooking seems too overwhelming? You’re in the right place. 

Busy schedules and picky eaters can be a challenge when it comes to healthy family meal planning. But we’ve put together this mom guide to show you how easy it can be to start cooking healthy at home without spending long hours in the kitchen. Let’s take a look at some tips for getting started, how to navigate picky eaters, and seven easy meal ideas to try out this week.

How To Start Cooking Healthy Meals at Home

Just like any new habit, starting slow is the trick to building a strong foundation. This is especially true if you are juggling being a mom, a homemaker, maybe even a wife, and having a career all at once. But now you want to add home-cooked healthy meals to the list–is your head spinning?

The best way to start cooking healthy meals for your family is to start slow and easy. “You don’t have to pressure yourself to cook a whole from-scratch meal every night,” says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant in  Frederick, Maryland. Schlichter also suggests using convenience foods to your advantage. “A bag of frozen veggies, minute rice, pre-cooked chicken sausage, etc.” Sometimes just being fed is better than being stressed.

Another great way for getting started with healthy meals at home is using grocery apps like Instacart, Shipt, or even Walmart. Using apps like these to plan your meals and pre-choosing healthy foods ahead of time will help avoid the last-minute random junk food grabs when shopping in-store. These apps also save time by giving you the option to have your groceries delivered to you, or simply drive to the store on your own time and get them loaded into your car. It’s now easier than ever to start cooking healthy at home. 

Tips To Get Picky Eaters in Your Family To Try New Foods

Finding healthy family dinners for picky eaters can definitely be a challenge. But it’s helpful to know that mealtime struggles like picky eating is actually very common. Schlichter suggests thinking about picky eating in a different way. “I find it helpful to label it as “normal toddler behavior” rather than picky eating.” This takes the negative connotation away from the situation and makes it less stressful for everyone. Here are some tips from Schlichter to help your family try new foods.

  1. Keep serving healthy foods even if your little ones don’t touch them–exposure counts! You can also repurpose food. For example, maybe your little one didn’t like cooked carrots. But they may enjoy crunchy baby carrots instead dipped in ranch or hummus, or cooked carrots cut into fun shapes. Try different things and never stop serving them healthy options. 
  1. Another big tip: Make sure you’re eating healthy foods yourself! Toddlers and kids use parents and family members as role models, so if they’ve never seen you eat a brussel sprout, it’s unlikely that they’ll love it, or even try it themselves. 
  1. Involve them in the meal process. This can be done at the grocery store while choosing items, picking out new recipes to try, or even getting them to cook with you. Children love to learn, so if you include them they are more likely to eat their meals.
  1. Lastly, don’t label certain foods as good or bad, or healthy/unhealthy. This can create an unhealthy relationship with food. We want kids to see all foods neutrally in their sponge-like minds.

Quick and Easy Healthy Meals To Make for Your Whole Family

Most moms can agree that finding healthy food for family meals can be intimidating at first. But the biggest misconception around feeding your family is that your kids need to have separate meals from the adults. This thought can cause stress and be too overwhelming for moms. But it’s important to know that serving your family one home-cooked meal with a high nutritional value that kids also love is possible. “You may prepare it differently or have different side items for them, but there’s no reason to serve them something completely different,” says Schlichter. Remember, there is no single right way and every family should do what’s best for them.

Here are seven healthy family recipes your whole family can enjoy!

1. Mix and match oatmeal

the best way to start cooking healthy meals for your family Oatmeal

This is a quick and easy breakfast idea that you can dress up or down for your family – and get some hearty whole grains in! “I love oatmeal as a platform for other fiber-rich foods like fresh fruit, nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and even mixing in purees like sweet potatoes or pumpkin,” says Schlichter. You can even rotate between hot oatmeal, overnight, and baked oatmeal to give it a different texture and taste. 

Here’s a recipe idea on Pinterest.

2. Sweet potato nachos

the best way to start cooking healthy meals for your family healthy nachos

If your family loves nachos, you have to try this loaded sweet potato nachos meal idea. It’s all the fun of traditional nachos but with a healthy twist! Instead of tortilla chips, you use sliced sweet potatoes as your chip base. Not only does it create a healthier alternative to chips, but you get that mildly sweet flavor from the sweet potato. Top it off with any family favorite toppings: avocado, sour cream, beans, shredded meat, etc. You can really get creative in a fun way with this meal idea.

View Schlichter’s recipe on Bucket List Tummy.

3. Snack boards

the best way to start cooking healthy meals for your family Snack Boards

Think of this lunchtime meal idea sort of like an at-home lunchable. Talk about quick and easy cooking, right? “Sometimes a snack plate or board is the easiest way to introduce new foods, familiar foods, fun foods, and healthy foods, all on the same plate,” notes Schlichter. You can add foods like apples, cheese, sliced peppers, hard-boiled eggs, broccoli, and raisins–the ideas are endless here.

Here’s a recipe idea on Pinterest.

4. Corn and bacon fritters

Corn and bacon fritters

Crispy on the outside and cheesy on the inside, your family will definitely ask for a second helping. The best part? You can make these in 20 minutes. Add in any extra veggies if you want–it’s easy to hide them in this cheesy sweet goodness.

View Schlichter’s recipe on Bucket List Tummy.

5. Pasta night

the best way to start cooking healthy meals for your family

Pasta night doesn’t have to be boring. Schlichter suggests livening it up with different proteins like shrimp, canned tuna, beans, ground beef, and rotisserie chicken. And don’t forget some fresh vegetables and cheese! “You can even swap in fiber/protein-rich pastas made from beans and legumes to up the nutrients.”

Here’s a recipe idea on Pinterest.

6. Sheet pan meals

Sheet pan dinners

This meal idea is quick, simple, and easy to clean up–we know you’ll appreciate this when meal planning for your family. Sheet pan recipes can consist of many different ingredients. There’s so much room to play here. It’s also a great option for families who need a recipe for diet restriction reasons. Schlichter’s chicken apple sausage sheet pan family dinner with veggies includes apple chicken sausage, potatoes, a bag of frozen vegetables, and olive oil. Healthy eating really can’t get much easier (and yummy) than this!

View Schlichter’s recipe on Bucket List Tummy.

7. Pear and broccoli mac and cheese 

the best way to start cooking healthy meals for your family Kids mac and cheese

Another easy healthy meal idea for the whole family–and it’s a one-pot recipe! This take on traditional mac and cheese has a twist: pears and broccoli. And before you knock it, you need to try it first. The flavor mixtures will surprise you. Want to make this easy meal even easier? Use frozen broccoli!

View Schlichter’s recipe on Bucket List Tummy.

Let’s Get Cookin’

The best way to start cooking healthy meals for your family is to just begin. Feeding your family healthy meals at home may seem discouraging at first, but with a little planning and effort, it can be made into an easy habit. Start by taking small steps, involve your picky eaters in the meal planning process, and try out some of the quick and easy healthy meal ideas listed above. With these tips and tricks, your family will be on the path to healthier eating in no time. And you, mama, will be out of the kitchen less and have more free time to focus on you–it’s a win-win!

Disclaimer: All content within this site is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment and should not be considered a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any health or nutritional information obtained is accurate. 

Experts in this article:

Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, is a registered dietitian, nutrition consultant, mom, and family-friendly recipe creator of Bucket List Tummy.