Kids will be going back to school soon—whether in a classroom or your living room—and you'll need to feed them dinner. Let us help.

By Matthew A. Moore
July 24, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

We're not going to sugarcoat it: The topic of kids returning to school in 2020 is a sensitive one. With the global coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of dissipating, parents, kids, teachers, and school staff are facing a litany of stressful, no-win decisions. 

But we're not here to get into the politics behind the back-to-school debate. Look at the URL, folks—we're here to talk about food. And we're wading into these waters because we want to help parents out during this incredibly anxiety-filled year. Because if you have kids, whether they'll be distance learning or attending in-person, they're going to go back to school in some form or fashion this year. And eventually they're going to get hungry and you're going to have to feed them dinner.

Ergo, here we are!

 

 

With everything going on in the world right now, the last thing you want to stress about is what's for dinner. In all likelihood, you'll want to serve something simple, foregoing sides and overly complicated meals for delicious, one-dish recipes (read: a one-stop-shop type of meal that contains protein and veggies) that come together quickly and won't have your child spinning in circles on your kitchen linoleum screaming about how they wanted something else for dinner.

That's why we reached out to the Cooking Light Diet Facebook Community to ask for help. For years, members there have been using the subscription-based meal-planning service to feed their families. And they've had lots of great results doing so. Lots

So, we asked them what one-dish meals from their Cooking Light Diet menus they would recommend to busy parents as great back-to-school dinner options. Along with the One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes pictured above, these are some of their responses. You can find even more in the Facebook Community, and hundreds more when you subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet.

There's a lot of things to worry about right now, people. What to feed your kids for dinner during the school year shouldn't be one of them. Happy cooking! Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy-plate filled school year.

Use code SUCCESS15 for 15% off your first six months' worth of customizable meal plans on the Cooking Light Diet.

Sheet Pan Beefy Nachos

Credit: Photo: Greg Dupree

We're starting off with a surefire crowd pleaser here. This 30-minute recipe will be on your regular weeknight rotation after the kids make short work of it.

Slow Cooker Chicken Posole

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

If you have kids, time is at a premium. So, why not let your slow cooker do some heavy lifting? This recipe is as simple as dumping ingredients into the slow cooker, coming back after work, shredding some chicken, and then dumping in 4 more ingredients. That's it.

Broccoli, Lemon, and Browned Butter Pasta

Credit: Jennifer Causey

It's always easier to get the kids to finish their broccoli when it's complemented by pasta and browned butter. This superfast, 20-minute recipe is a happy plate waiting to happen.

Speedy Shepherd's Pie

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Using convenience items like prepared mashed potatoes and precut matchstick carrots, this filling, one-dish recipe comes together with a quickness. 

Creamy Chicken Lemon Skillet

Credit: Photo: Justin Walker

Having personally prepared this recipe, I can attest to its deliciousness. And if you've been growing an herb garden during the pandemic, this is a great opportunity for you and the kids to incorporate some of that bounty into your menu.

Banh Mi Pizza

Credit: Photo: Greg Dupree

We are totally counting a pizza as a one-dish meal, because how many people order a delivery pizza and prepare a side salad with it? We'll wait... And while we do, we'll say that this pizza is packed with healthy veggies. If you're feeding hungry teenagers, you can crack some eggs over the cheese before baking for some added calories.

Sheet Pan Parmesan "Fried" Chicken with Broccoli and Sweet Potato Wedges

Credit: Photo: Justin Walker

You can sell the sweet potato wedges as "fries," so there's one great reason to make this meal for your kids right there. The second is the panko chicken, meaning you're introducing the kids to a healthier version of "fried" chicken that's just as finger-licking as poultry fried in oils.

Short Rib and Tomato Ragout

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

This is one of the longest recipes on the list in terms of cook time, but the ends justify the means. Your kids will want this one-dish meal on their birthdays from now on.

Skillet Chicken and Root Vegetable Chicken Potpie

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

There are chicken potpies recipes. Then there is the chicken potpie recipe you see here. Surprisingly, despite its rich, savory flavor and multitudinous filings, this potpie is less than 300 calories per serving.

Italian Turkey and Orzo Soup

Credit: Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Lindsey Lower

Since Cooking Light Diet members love this recipe in the winter months, it's not surprising to see it here as well. Bookmark this meal for a cold night and get ready for the kids to ask you to make it again...and again.

Apricot-Sage Chicken with Carrots

Credit: Greg DuPree

Eight ingredients, twenty minutes, one pan. When you've reached the breaking point during the week, pull this recipe out to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. Serve with a glass of wine (for yourself, not the kids).

Chicken and Gnocchi Dumpling Soup

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

We've highlighted this recipe before, and that's because Cooking Light Diet members rave about it. Make it for your kids and they will, too.

Creamy Tuna Noodle Casserole with Peas and Breadcrumbs

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Look, we realize tuna casserole in 2020 could be a hard sell, but hear us out: It's delicious, it's crispy, it's under 500 calories per serving, and it was developed by a Southern Living test kitchen cook, so you know it's a good casserole, y'all.

Biscuit-Topped Chicken Potpie

Credit: Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Yes, this is the second potpie submission on our list. No, this was not an accident. Cooking Light Diet member Sheila D Keyes says this is a "great" recipe, and we concur. So will the kids.

Mini Bow Ties with Bacon and Peas

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Have a picky eater that won't finish their peas and carrots? Throw a little bacon and pasta into the mix to watch them change their mind real quick.

Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry

Credit: Photo: Iain Bagwell

Your kids will want to lap up the sweet-spicy sauce, and with 31 grams of protein a serving, they should be full until breakfast. Kids, amirite?

Bibimbop

This riff on the signature Korean dish will introduce your kids to tofu (just tell them it's cheese—if they buy Santa, they'll buy this) and give you an opportunity to teach them about how diverse the world of dinner can be. 

Breakfast Bowl with Tomato, Avocado, and Egg

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Mix it up one night by serving "brinner," or a delicious breakfast dinner. This bowl comes together quickly, serves four, and will have your kids clamoring for more brinner in the future. 

Don't forget to subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet! Use code SUCCESS15 for 15% off your first six months' worth of customizable meal plans.