Discover all our ideas for family meals, including healthy dinners for kids and family-friendly lunches. Check out our easy family meal plan, top sugar swaps for your family and our best batch-cooking family recipes.
1. Breakfast bonanza
It goes without saying, but setting your child up for the day with a healthy breakfast will make you both feel good. Something satisfying, with slow-release energy, should keep kids full until lunchtime and help sustain their concentration and mood too.
Try serving porridge with a side portion of berries for an extra boost of vitamins and minerals. Plus, they’ll have plenty of fun stirring in the colours.
Some children are less keen to eat first thing. If that’s the case, tempt them with an egg and soldiers for dipping, or whizz up a yogurt-based smoothie for a satisfying combination of protein, carbs and valuable hydration. Smoothies are best enjoyed with other foods, but can be a useful option if appetite is low. Limit smoothies and juices to one 150ml glass a day.
Remember, the fat in whole dairy provides valuable calories, vitamins and minerals for younger children (under the age of 2). However, if your child is older, you can opt for a lower-fat option as long as they’re a good eater and have a varied diet.
Here are our favourite kids’ breakfasts:
2. Perfect pasta
Pasta provides a good source of energy and makes a great base for sneaking in all sorts of ingredients that may not normally be on your little one’s list of favourites, such as tofu or spinach. Young children don’t need as much fibre as older children and teenagers, but most of them still need more than they are currently getting. That said, wholemeal carbs can quickly fill small tummies so be mindful of the portion size of pasta you offer.
You can also cram in all of their five-a-day with our clever pasta sauce recipes:
3. Batch ‘em up
There’s always the risk that, after feeding the kids plenty of vegetables and homemade fare, you won’t have enough energy to make something for yourself when they’re tucked up in bed. After all, who isn’t shattered once the day’s work is done? That’s why these family meals are designed to suit everyone from toddlers to teens, so you won’t have to set about making different meals (or be faced with an excess of washing up).
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All these meals are freezable, too. Make a couple in advance, or double up your portions, and you’ll always have something healthy to hand in times of crisis.
4. Fish for compliments
It’s worth remembering that we should probably all be eating more fish – ideally two or more portions a week, with one being the oily variety (such as salmon, trout or sardines). Oily fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for our brain, nervous system and heart and may help soothe conditions like eczema. Just make sure you’re buying sustainably.
These recipes are great for filling up little tums, even if they’re not a fish fan! They’re sure to enjoy speedy homemade fish fingers or salmon and ginger fish cakes – and you can even throw in some crunchy sweet potato chips to top up their five-a-day.
5. Super soups
Freshly made soup makes a great freezer staple for quick lunchtime meals. Try serving some of the classics with toast soldiers or vegetable crudités, and let your child sprinkle on yogurt and seeds to keep them digging in.
Our lentil soup is packed with pulses and sweetened with grated apple and sweet potato. Simply adjust the curry powder depending on your child’s tastes.
6. Curry in a hurry
Experimenting with different flavours is a brilliant part of developing your child’s tastes. These healthy, mild dishes make a great starting point for introducing them to spicier food.
7. Faster than fast food
Getting something on the plate quickly is often a priority with kids. But fast food doesn’t have to mean food that’s high in fat, salt and sugar. Simple ingredients like eggs, pulses and beans can quickly be transformed into a delicious and nutritious supper.
An omelette has to be the ideal fast food and, when cut into strips, can make great finger food for younger children. Whipped up in no time you can use whatever fillings you have to hand.
8. Brilliant burgers
It should be easy to get the kids to the table for a burger. Try some of these healthy recipes that feel like a cheeky takeaway, but are actually lower in fat and salt and loaded with good-for-you nutrients.
9. Pizza time
Whipping up homemade pizza bases is much simpler than you think. Let the kids decorate their own using healthy toppings that also count towards their five-a-day. Getting everyone involved makes mealtime fun and the end products are bound to be a hit with the whole family. Pizza-inspired dishes are always popular, so stir up a little interest with pizza-topped baked potato.
10. Savvy snacks
Do the kids get peckish between meals? Try whipping up healthy, speedy snacks to keep them going.
11. Sweet enough
If you want to give the kids something a bit special for dessert, but don’t want it to be packed full of sugar, then these fruit-packed puds might be just the answer. Remember, though, that we should all be minimising our intake of free sugars. Free sugars include those added to food or drinks and those found naturally in honey, syrups, unsweetened juices, smoothies and purées.
More healthy eating tips for kids
Healthy foods kids will love
10 tips for happy family meal times
15 healthy lunch ideas for kids
A balanced diet for toddlers
Healthy eating: what young children need
Top 15 after-school snacks for kids
Top 10 quick after-school suppers
What are your kids’ favourite meals? Share in the comments below….
Emer Delaney BSc (Hons), RD has an honours degree in human nutrition and dietetics from the University of Ulster. She has worked as a dietitian in some of London’s top teaching hospitals and is currently based in Chelsea.
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