Jun 27, 201201:40 PMMommy-logues

Exploring ways to be better (and more stylish!) parents

Healthy Kid-Friendly Recipes

Healthy Kid-Friendly Recipes

First Look, Then Cook

Disguising food as cupcakes or other fun treats can persuade finicky eaters to clear their plates.

Encouraging healthy eating—or, as the case may be many times in my house, sitting still at dinner time long enough to eat anything at all—is a struggle for most of the parents I know. Many of us have likely enjoyed (brief) periods in which our kids will eat anything and everything we give them, when they readily choose broccoli and blueberries over Pop-Tarts and potato chips, only to have the blissful food reverie come to a screeching halt. I know we have in our family, and it’s crazy frustrating when His Pickiness retakes the throne. It’s as if my son’s food moods are governed by the phases of the moon—though I think it’s probably much more arbitrary than that. Am I crazy for actually longing for the time when he’s a teenager and eating me out of house and home?

One thing I’ve learned is that “packaging” is important, and kids love things that come in small ones. Mini-foods are almost guaranteed kid-pleasers. And if they can eat them with their fingers, too, it’s even more likely that those foods will end up in their mouths. One of my go-to food sites is Weelicious.com, where all of founder Catherine McCord’s recipes, tips and videos are geared toward healthy eating for kids and families. (She tests them all on her own children!) Some “Wee”-sized recipes you can find there are for Spinach Ricotta Bites, Veggie Burgers and Pizza Muffins.

Be sure to check out the gallery of bento-style school lunches on the Weelicious Facebook page, too. Start testing recipes on your kids this summer, and you’ll have an entire repertoire down pat come September.

Pinterest continues to be a daily source of ideas and time-wasting for me, and there are no shortage of kid-friendly meal tips there. One dish that was pinned and repinned a ton of times was some variation of the meatloaf cupcake. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Very simply, instead of presenting kids with a giant slab o’ meat, cook meatloaf in mini-muffin tins and pipe or plop a dollop of mashed potato on top like icing. I like the recipes from First Look, Then Cook and SkinnyTaste.com, which swaps ground turkey for beef for a lighter version of the dish.

When I’m around other moms, it takes roughly five seconds for us to start talking about our kids. Because most of the moms I know have toddlers, too, a lot of that talk turns to food—who eats what, what doesn’t eat what, and if they eat it, give me that recipe, stat. And if that mom also happens to be a food blogger or a chef, well, all the better.

Amanda Benoit of Mechanicsburg is the woman behind the food blog Dabblings and Whimsey, which chronicles her cooking, baking and canning adventures. One recipe the mom of three (soon to be four!) shared may not immediately strike you as being particularly kid-friendly, but she says her children can’t get enough of it: single-serving flax seed muffins. They are full of good stuff while being gluten-free and free of processed sugar. And the best part? She adds all of the ingredients to a coffee mug and COOKS IT IN THE MICROWAVE. These muffins aren’t as sweet as ones you get at Starbucks or Panera—and that’s not a bad thing—but they are a much healthier grab-and-go breakfast option for busy mornings.

Snazzing up foods that look familiar is a way to expand kids’ palates without weirding them out so much that they won’t even try it. Christine Burns Rudalevige, who recently relocated from Carlisle to Maine with her family, is a chef, food writer and recipe developer—and a mother to two adolescent kids. She calls her Asian chicken noodle soup—a tastier twist on a can of Campbell’s—her “go-to, please-everyone, mid-week dinner option. It’s easy, adaptable and good to the last slurp.”

She adds, “I make the noodles ahead of time and store them in the fridge coated with a bit of sesame oil. I typically have stock in the freezer, but will use canned stock in a pinch as you are tarting it up quite a bit with the spices and Asian condiments.”

Not only is this soup “tarted” up, but the recipe also allows every family member to choose his or her own add-ins as they please. Christine arranges the chicken, veggies and garnishes on a platter and places it on a lazy Susan in the middle of the dinner table for everyone to access.

Not only do Christine’s older kids love it, but my young son did indeed slurp it up, too, when he tried it. He especially loved the kid-friendly plastic chopsticks Christine served with it (like these from Animal Cheater), which would make any meal more fun. And you know kids—if it’s fun, they want to do it.


Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

Recipe courtesy Christine Burns Rudalevige
Serves 4

½ package rice pad Thai noodles
8 cups homemade or good-quality chicken stock
3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
8 whole black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
½ red bell pepper, julienned
1 green onion, thinly sliced
4 sprigs of fresh mint
8 sprigs of cilantro
8 basil leaves
1 cup mung-bean sprouts
1 thinly sliced hot pepper of choice
Lime wedges
Hoisin and sriracha sauces (optional)


Cook noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Heat broth until it begins to simmer.  Add chicken thighs to the hot broth, bring it back to a simmer, and gently poach the meat until it is cooked through (about 8–10 minutes). Remove meat to a plate to cool. 

Skim off any foam floating on the top of the broth.  Add cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, cloves, soy sauce and fish sauce. Bring it back to a simmer, and let the spices steep for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, shred chicken and arrange it on a large platter with sliced mushrooms, red bell pepper, onion, mint, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, hot pepper and lime. 

Divide the noodles into 4 deep bowls.  Ladle the hot flavored broth over the noodles, and serve the combination to your eaters so they can add their own garnishes.


Uber-Fast Flax Seed Muffins

Recipe courtesy Amanda Benoit
Serves 1

2 Tablespoons flax seed
1 Tablespoon pecans
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1 egg
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon shredded coconut


Grind flax seed and pecans together in a spice grinder. In a small bowl, combine the flax seed–pecan mixture, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir with a fork until well combined.

Add the egg and maple syrup to dry ingredients. Mix until well combined. Make sure the egg is fully incorporated. Add shredded coconut and mix to combine.

Find two half-pint jars OR one 12-ounce coffee mug and spray insides with nonstick cooking spray. Pour mixture inside jars or mug. Fill to just past the halfway mark to avoid a blowout during cooking.

Place jars or mug into microwave. Microwave on high for 1 minute 15 seconds. Let the muffin cool inside the jars or mug for 1 minute, and then remove and serve.