Delight kids at the table with our favorite bite-sized meals that deliver nutrition, flavor, and fun. By: Holley Grainger, MS, RD
Text: Holley Grainger, MS, RD
April 12, 2010
1 of 11
Healthy Meals for Kids
Good things come in small packages and mealtime is no exception. These healthy meals are perfect for popping into little mouths or picking up with tiny fingers. Your kids will delight in these bite-sized meals and snacks. Each meal is low in calories, provides a variety of healthy ingredients, and is so tasty even the big kids (a.k.a. Mom or Dad) will like them.
With each recipe, find suggestions for the parents to help make prep easier, to involve the children in the kitchen, or to add a unique, adult-friendly spin to the recipe. Best of all, you can feel good serving these healthy recipes to your children.
2 of 11Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
Diner Meat Loaf 'Muffins'
What child wouldn’t love a giant meatball? Molding meatloaf into muffin tins yields a perfectly portioned main attraction. Each muffin has less than 150 calories and is loaded with finely chopped carrots and onions to provide extra antioxidants and fiber (but we guarantee you're kids won't even know they're there). The dish uses extra lean ground beef to keep the calories and fat low while providing high quality protein.
Parents, this recipe can be made ahead, wrapped individually, and frozen. Pull them out when you need a healthy and filling dinner in a hurry.
Ditch the greasy fried chicken fingers in favor of these sweet glazed chicken bites. They're the perfect size for popping into little mouths or serving on skewers (just make sure to use blunt-ended skewers for the little ones). Pair with rice and green beans for a hearty, kid-friendly meal. This dish is prepared with boneless, skinless chicken thighs but feel free to use chicken breasts if you have them on hand. Parents, break out the toothpicks and serve these nibbles next time the gang gathers to watch a football game or play cards.
Eat with your hands and trade the requisite bowl of breakfast cereal for a mini frittata. Each tasty bite is packed with morning favorites like eggs, bacon, and potatoes to provide protein and fiber to keep your kids focused and alert throughout the day. Plus, the frittatas can be made ahead and warmed quickly in the microwave for those mornings when everyone is in a rush. Serve with sliced melon and milk for a well balanced morning meal.
Parents, top the frittatas with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives for a fancy fork-free appetizer.
Packed with soy protein from the veggie sausage, these little piglets are a reduced-fat version of the classic crescent-dough wrapped pigs-in-a-blanket. Whether for breakfast, lunch, or an afternoon snack, you only need two ingredients to make the piglets and 2 more ingredients for the dipping sauce. If you prefer traditional sausage, choose low-fat pork or turkey links to keep the calories and saturated fat to a minimum. Try barbeque sauce, ketchup, or low-fat Ranch dressing as an alternative to the homemade honey mustard.
Parents, give your kids confidence in the kitchen by inviting them to help prepare this simple dish. If your children are young, let them cut the dough with safety scissors then wrap the dough around the sausage links.
Baby burgers aren’t just for appetizers; they are the ideal size for pint-sized diners. If your children prefer the standard embellishments, top theirs with low-fat cheese, lettuce, and pickles. Sliders are an ideal way to keep calories in check—these baby burgers have less than 175 calories each. Use ground sirloin or 90/10 lean ground beef to keep the total fat low.
Parents, bring sophisticated flavor to a casual adult get-together by serving the Shallot-Dijon Relish on the appetizer-size burgers. For a heartier burger, make four servings instead of eight.
Hearty and versatile, each tofu bite is charged with an arsenal of health benefits. Tofu is a high quality protein and provides fiber, healthy fat, calcium, folic acid, and iron. Expand your child's palette (and maybe even your own) while helping them develop healthy eating patterns that will last a lifetime.
Parents, if your child has a sweet tooth, add a teaspoon of honey after cooking for more flavor. This small amount of sugar is worth the trade—it doesn't significantly increase the calories and encourages your child to eat beneficial protein.
Give the classic peanut butter sandwich a twist by rolling up in a tortilla instead of serving on bread. These bite-sized spirals are good for little hearts because they provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fat from the peanut butter, potassium from the banana, and fiber from the wheat germ.
Parents, since this recipe doesn't use the stove, little hands can participate in making the entire meal. Let the kids can mix, slice (with a plastic knife), spread, and roll.
Your family will never miss the meat when they gobble up this quick, crowd-pleasing dinner. Frozen soy crumbles stand in for ground beef but still make up that sloppy, saucy sandwich your kids love. Soy provides high quality protein, has no cholesterol, and is low in saturated fat. Plus, it looks, smells, and tastes similar to meat while providing heart healthy benefits.
Parents, use Parker House rolls or Hawaiian rolls for a smaller, kid-friendly sandwich. For children with bigger appetites, stick with Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns.
Enjoy pancakes at any time of day, especially when they are packed with nutrient-rich foods like carrots, walnuts, and canola oil. These hearty flapjacks are flavored with the same spices as carrot cake, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves but have a fraction of the fat and calories as traditional cake. Kids love their sweet flavor as well as the novelty of eating a cake-flavored food for a meal.
Parents, use a box grater to finely grate the carrots or break out the food processor for a speedier approach. The batter is thick so you may need to help spread the pancakes into rounds.
Six-inch corn tortillas are the ideal size for small hands to hold. Encourage healthy eating by letting the kids assemble their own tacos with a variety of nutritious fillers. Try ingredients like diced tomatoes, low-fat cheese, shredded lettuce, diced cucumber, avocado slices, grilled vegetables, and lean meat or fish to make this fun, fork-free meal complete.
Parents, if your children prefer a mild flavor, omit the chili powder and cumin and season the chicken with salt and pepper. Shredded lettuce may also be used in place of cabbage.