When it comes to finding healthy dinners kids can make, there are far too many recipes that rely on processed foods to cut down steps. How do we teach children to eat wholesome, nutritious food if their first cooking experiences involve unhealthy ingredients?
Healthy Dinners Kids Can Make
Here’s the thing: kids can cook and, like chores kids can do, they can do more than you think! The average four-year-old can roughly chop vegetables with supervision and use measuring spoons or cups to scoop ingredients. The tricky part comes when precise measurements are essential — baking anything, for example.
Some Cooking Tasks Are Hard for Kids
Cooking tasks requiring fine motor skills aren’t easy. Recipes involving minced or julienned carrots can be challenging for adults, so don’t expect a kid to do them. But chopping something into 2- or 3-inch pieces? That’s easy peasy lemon squeezy, as my kids say. If you’ve got a vegetable chopper like the one I use, they can mince and dice things perfectly and safely, too.
Stove-top cooking is another skill that can be a challenge for kids. Grease splatters, steam scalds, and there are pot and pan handles to avoid. If you’ve ever tried supervising at the stove, you know the constant, hyper-vigilant supervision it requires.
But oven cooking? That’s simple: assemble everything away from the heat and pop it in the oven. So much easier!
How to Get Kids Started Cooking
The recipes below are some that my kids learned to cook by the time they were ten. I think they were motivated to start making dinner because, in our house, whoever does the cooking doesn’t have to do the dishes. They hate doing the dishes!
If you decide to try one of these recipes, read them through and make adjustments as needed for your child’s skill level. Maybe the first time you’ll think you should do the chopping while they watch; try to give them a chance, anyway. It’s good for their self-esteem, and you’ll probably be pleased with how careful they are while working with “grown-up knives.”
Be prepared for a few messes, too — that’s just part of letting kids learn. They’ll get better with time. Honestly, kids CAN cook!
Note: The italicized directions are steps you should handle, or at least closely supervise until your kids know how to do them on their own!
Flat Bread Pizza
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Spray a baking sheet.
3. Spread four pieces of flatbread on a baking sheet.
4. In a bowl, combine one 15-oz. can tomato sauce, one 6-oz. can tomato paste, and one teaspoon each oregano and garlic powder.
5. Spread this sauce on each piece of flatbread. Place the flatbread on the baking sheet.
6. Arrange your favorite pizza toppings on the flatbread. Don’t forget the cheese!
7. Bake 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
8. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before eating.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Slice the tops off six peppers. Reach in and carefully remove membranes. Rinse the seeds out.
3. Grease a muffin tin. Arrange peppers in the muffin pan with their cut-sides up.
4. In a bowl combine 1 lb. ground beef (or turkey), one drained 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, and one teaspoon oregano. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few shakes of black pepper. Mix well with your hands or a large wooden spoon.
5. Scoop 1/2 cup of the ground beef mixture into each pepper, but don’t pack it too tightly.
6. Sprinkle the tops with grated cheese.
7. Bake 40-45 minutes until a thermometer says the meat has reached 160°.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Grease a cast iron skillet or another baking dish.
3. Crack 16 eggs into a blender. Add one teaspoon each: salt, pepper, dried mustard powder. Put the lid on and blend until it’s well-mixed.
4. Slice a zucchini. Arrange it in the skillet/dish.
5. Cut a red pepper in half. Pull out the membrane with your fingers. Rinse away the seeds. Shake it dry.
6. Slice the pepper and arrange the slices on top of the zucchini.
7. Carefully pour the blended egg mixture onto the vegetables in the skillet/dish.
8. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the center is no longer jiggly. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.
Baked White Fish with Vegetables
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Grease a baking dish.
3. Arrange four white fish fillets in the dish, so they’re not overlapping. They can touch, though.
4. Sprinkle one teaspoon of seasoned salt over the fillets.
5. Slice 2 large carrots, one zucchini, one red pepper, and six cherry tomatoes. Put them in a large bowl.
6. Add 1 cup of raw broccoli florets to bowl.
7. Add one tablespoon olive oil to the vegetables and stir until they’re all coated.
8. Dump the vegetables on top of the fish.
9. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Roast Chicken with Vegetables
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Grease a roasting pan.
3. Put the thawed chicken in the pan, round side up.
4. Slice a lemon in half. Stick it in the chicken.
5. Take half a stick of soft butter and, mushing it with your hands, rub it all over the chicken. Don’t forget the legs.
6. Sprinkle the chicken with two teaspoons seasoned salt.
7. Chop three large carrots into large chunks. Scatter them around the chicken.
8. Cut an onion in half. Cut each half into halves. Scatter these around the chicken.
9. Chop a yellow squash into large chunks. Scatter these around the chicken.
10. Put the roasting pan in the oven and let it cook for 30 minutes.
11. Remove it from the oven, stir the vegetables around a bit, and put it back in the oven.
12. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and cook for 30 more minutes.
13. Check the temperature by sticking a thermometer into the bottom of the fat part of the leg. It’s done when it’s reached 160°F.
Cook Together Often!
The more often you cook with your kids, the more confidence they get in the kitchen. Use these five healthy dinners kids can make as a starting point — before long you’ll be able to turn over cooking duty to them!