Top 20 Quick Meal Tips For Kids

A few people have asked me to do a round up of sorts featuring my favorite quick easy, healthy kids' meals (that we actually eat at home). I have so many that I'm going to start with just 20 and then do another post at a later time. 

Of course I love quick and easy meals; I'm a mom of 3 little kids. And although I like to get creative in the kitchen, making dinner for my family is still a chore and I'd rather not do it on most nights. I mean, who are we kidding! The fun is completely gone when it comes to this process. 

But I do have to admit when I hear people say they make Macaroni and Cheese because it's quick and easy, I am perplexed because it's actually not really all that quick and easy (nor is it a healthy meal) in comparison to some healthier meal ideas that I'm sharing with you here. It's all about changing your habits, diversifying your menu, and creating a new shopping routine.  And don't worry, you can feed kids healthy for less than $2-3 per head. 

20 Tips + Quick Healthy Meal Ideas (dairy + meat free):

  1. Think simply but think ahead.

    Trick: get creative and make meals that you want to eat but can be easily adaptable for the kids. This will save loads of time. 
  2. Homemade tomato sauce for pasta nights. 

    Take some time to perfect a easy one that you can make on the quick. The jarred version are easier. But nothing compares to a raw vegan homemade sauce. You can just blend up the ingredients and voila. 
  3. Try making pesto

    I now can whip up fresh kale pesto in a few minutes and my kids gobble it up)
  4. Get on pinterest and try out a few fun sauces

    This isn't a quick or easy task. But once you nail down a recipe, you can just make it up really quickly without measuring. Test a few out on your kids and then if they love one make it all the time. Note: My son told me the other day that he will eat anything as long as it has sauce: "I'm a sauce guy!" haha. But it's so true, and that's a great thing to know. (check out my board of mouth watering dairyfree sauces). 
  5. Saute veggies in oil and soy sauce

    (Tamari here at my house); get them nice and brown. I have found that kids enjoy eating veggies this way. 
  6. or put chopped veggies in the oven

    at 415 degrees for about 20 minutes until the veggies are crunchy and browned. kids love this. 
  7. Wraps + tacos: 

    We make bean or cauliflower or walnut meat tacos and wraps at home all the time. It's super cheap (corn tortillas), quick and delicious. I swear by Magestic Garlic Sauce. Kids love it. 
  8. Pizza.

    Pizza is so versatile and can be quick as quick to make as Mac and Cheese. It is so versatile. Get a few different crusts and customize each one - loads of veggies on one; just cheese on another, etc. Here is one we made a few years back. 
  9. Baby Potatoes. 

    Cut them up and boil and/or bake until crispy/brown with a little oil. My kids love them right out of the oven. I always salt them and sprinkle with herbs. They like to dip them in all sorts of things. Again add parm. 
  10. Corn on the cob.

    For some reason kids love corn on the cob. You can bbq it or roast it in the oven. It's really easy, you don't have to fuss over it. Just butter it up with a dash of salt & pepper. 
  11. Bowls.

    You can see from the photos that we do a lot of bowls. I choose a protein (beans or tofu, fish - if you eat meat - etc.) and always add rice or potatoes. Then I add a veggie. Often times they get to pick the veggie or choose between two different ones. Sometimes I offer greens. They love avocado on this as well. Sometimes we do crunchy seaweed on top and also they love sauce or parm.  
  12. Frozen bean burritos 

    are a great idea for those super busy nights. I always whip up my super simple kids' green drink - that way they at least get a great dose of spinach, bananas and OJ. They never complain about the smoothie - it's thirst quenching and easy to drink. Or the milk + greens option if your kids are little. 
  13. Mix in cauliflower rice with regular rice

    to sneak in some veggies. 
  14. Lasagna.

    You might remember my recent dairy-free lasagna recipe. My kids devoured it. My trick - use spiralized OR shaved (using a cheese grater) zucchini. See pizza recipe for the shaved vegetable trick. You can do carrots as well but zucchini turns out almost clear an unnoticeable. I also have an older recipe that includes dairy - you can try that one as well. 
  15. Try mushrooms.

    I saw try because kids think they won't like them at first. Keep trying. If you cook them (on stove top in oil and soy sauce) until they are dry and chewy like meat - a lot of kids will enjoy them. At least try it. One of my sons LOVES them and the other isn't a fan. 
  16. Cook rice in the microwave (never every night).

    But better yet, I invested in a rice cooker which is a great gadget to have on hand (they are cheap) to quickly cook rice while you're organizing everything else. 
  17. Homemade sushi.

    This is a lot quicker and easier than you'd think (again rice can be premade and microwaved which saves time. Trader Joes has white and brown rice frozen). All you need is rice, seaweed or rice paper and avo. But feel free to add other veggies like carrots and cucumber and even those mushrooms I mentioned above. My kids like marinated tofu. Just roll it all up and dip in soy sauce. 
  18. Thai rice noodles.

    Have you made my kids pad thai dish yet? Omit eggs if you're vegan. My kids sometimes eat eggs even though I don't. It's a really GOOD dish that I have had great feedback on. Another rice noodle dish winner is my creamy miso rice noodles. Add some tofu for the kids and whatever veggie they want. Have fun and play around with it. The sauce isn't quick and easy. But the noodles are so versatile. 
  19. Tofu + Tempeh.

    My kids LOVE LOVE the smokey tempeh bacon. Check out my lettuce cups recipe. You can cook the tempeh that way I do in that recipe but then put the bacon in between toast with avocado and whatever sauce you want. 
  20. Slow cooker meals. 

    There are so many meals you can cook in 4 hours. Just throw stuff in the slow cooker and hit go. Check Pinterest for ideas; there are endless amounts of healthy ones. 

When shopping look for things like:

  • Precooked rice
  • Organic frozen vegetables (or freeze your organic fruits and vegetables to use at a later time)
  • Frozen meat/protein options (i.e. we love vegan Beyond Beef meatballs)
  • Canned chili
  • Load up on bananas and spinach
  • Black bean pastas - my kids love that they are full of protein (Trader Joes makes a good one)
  • Precooked lentils
  • Certain cereals are now made of beans and Target carries them (I would rather my son eat a huge bowl of one of these cereals for dinner than a bowl of mac and cheese any day)
  • Buy vegetables already spiralized or already chopped up (sometimes this costs a lot more money, so check the price first to see if it's worth saving you time)
  • Health food stores have super healthy french fries (sweet potato fries, etc.) that you can just pop in the oven for like 20 minutes. Add some organic ketchup and voila
  • Frozen pizza crusts
  • Premade raviolis or gnocchi (the health food stores have "real" food versions - not filled with a bunch of preservatives)
  • Avocados. Always have these on hand
  • Have parmesan cheese on hand at all times. We use this vegan kind. Or make our own cashew parmesan (<-- you can buy it or check out my recipe). Kids love it. 
  • Frozen burritos. There are so many options now-a-days. 

All of these images were taken from my own personal Instagram account. I often Snapchat ( name: PureMamas ) or take photos for Instagram showcasing what we eat at home that's plant-based, quick and easy to make.

If you have any quick and easy kids meal ideas - please feel free to leave them in the comments below. 

Baby Food Menu + Recipes

It can be a daunting task taking on the responsibility of feeding a baby their first foods. After all, we want them to not only grow but thrive as well, right?

How much protein? How much fat? Do we need meat? Do we need cow's milk? All these questions and pretty vague and/or differing opinions depending on where you look for answers. 

I'm here to tell you that as long as there's a lot of love that goes into the food, a little research and time taken to make sure they are getting enough wholesome, fresh ingredients, you most likely are doing a great job. So chill out and take a deep breath. 

Steamed potatoes with avocado is a super simple, warm, hearty meal filled with healthy vitamins, minerals, fats and fiber. 

 

When prepping baby's first solids, start with non acidic fruits and veggies and think soft and organic like

potato
sweet potato
squash
zucchini
papaya
banana
avocado
carrots
steamed spinach
steamed apples
ripe pears
melons

Mono meals (meals consisting of one fruit or veggie) are a great way to begin. Then slowly start combining different flavors and textures. You can have tiny chunks in there as well; texture is great to help them learn to deal with bigger chunks when they encounter them. A little "gagging" isn't the same as choking. 

Here are some of my suggestions -- 

Between 4-6 months:

  • Bananas, peeled + mashed.
  • Avocados, pits and skin removed + mashed.
  • Pears, steamed + pureed
  • Baked sweet potatoes, skins removed, steamed + pureed.
  • Acorn or butternut squash, steamed or baked + pureed.

6+ months you can start combining more fruits and veggies:

  • Roasted sweet potato + steamed apples. Blend warm potatoes + hot apples on high until chunks are gone.
  • Ripe bananas mashed with avocados together. Mash on a cutting board until smooth, leaving some chunks.
  • Baked butternut squash + steamed zucchini, blended.
  • Steamed carrots + steamed lentils, blended.

Once your baby is ready for fingers foods, eating gets really fun. She can start to feed herself now. Little pieces of foods can be given to the baby in place of spoons and purees.

When my daughter was about 12 months old I let her explore foods as I cooked (I don't recommend them sitting on the counter though like this; but my daughter wasn't the wild and crazy type). She often sits on the counter and watches me cook - she prefers it to her baby chair. Finger foods are wonderful when you're baby is ready. In fact, we like fingers better than spoon feeding.  

I did a more extensive and elaborate article over at BasilHealth.com sharing some real baby food menus that I both I collected (online) and also created from scratch. I'm sharing the entire article on their web site. So click on over to see the entire menu and more recipes/photos. 

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. BasilHealth doesn't have a comments section but I'm here to help. 

xoxo - Juli

Toddler + Kid Approved Green Smoothies

Feeding kids fresh healthy foods is a passion of mine; but it's also something I too struggle with. I have all the ideas in the world when it comes to recipes and/or ingredient combos, but getting my kids to eat it all - now that's a problem. 

I also don't push too much healthy stuff constantly because I want my kids to explore, be kids, and not grow up with food guilt or shame. But you can guarantee that when they have an upset stomach, I never fail to explain why they probably have it. "I know, I know Mom. But it's really not from the candy I just ate!" That's the response I usually get before I even finish my you-ate-too-much candy rant. 

One thing I have perfected over the years is the perfect green smoothie. I have tried everything from berries, to protein powders, to different greens, to no greens, to veggies and the list goes on. 

Today I'm sharing my top 3 Go-To Green Drinks over on the BasilHealth web site. These were designed for kids and have been toddler and kid approved. I'm sharing three because not all kids like the same one. But I can almost guarantee your child will love at least one, if not all, of these.

The one I make almost daily is full of spinach, fresh squeezed orange juice and frozen super ripe bananas. I figure, if they drink this then at least they start, or even end, their day with a good dose of fruits and veggies. There is an abundance of Vitamin C, iron, fiber and potassium in this guy. I keep these ingredients in the fridge at all times, so that in case we need a good healthy quick snack, we have it. 

SPINACH + OJ FRUIT SMOOTHIE

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ripe frozen really ripe bananas
  • 8 oz fresh orange juice (or you can throw in a whole peeled orange)
  • 1 handful or 2 of fresh baby spinach
  • spoonful of vanilla protein powder, optional

In a high speed blender, add all of the above. Blend until completely smooth and creamy. 

Let me know if your toddler likes this, but commenting below. OR please share via instagram or twitter tagging @julinovotny or @basilhealth and if you'd like you can hastag #puremamas or #basilhealth in your photo. We'd love to have your feedback on this. 

To find the rest of the smoothie recipes, please visit BasilHealth.com

Nana Ice Cream Sundae {vegan / gf}

I love love love nana ice cream. I'm so glad I found it years ago. Like where has it been all my life? It's nothing like real rich creamy ice cream, I get it. But when I used to eat the "real" stuff, I felt this need to control my portions {for obvious reasons} and I would subconsciously feel a tad guilty while consuming it? And that's just silly. 

But I have a feeling, I'm not alone. I think the guilt was real because a carton full of rich creamy dairy and sugar isn't exactly the healthiest thing. But at the same time, we all need to splurge once in awhile. I mean, come on! And I mean splurge WITHOUT guilt. 

But for the most part, why feel like that when you don't have to. I consume frozen banana ice cream {aka nana ice cream or nice cream as some call it} and can't stop at a few bites, but the good part is, I don't feel guilty but rather nourished! Whaaat? 

Food shame - you totally suck! What a dumb concept that I don't want my kids to have to deal with. But that's why I choose this health foodie life because who has the emotional energy to have foods in the fridge and in the cupboards that "temp" us or that cause us to have a mental battle of right and wrong and should and shouldn't eat. Or why battle with the kiddos on which foods they can't and can have.. Or again should and shouldn't have. bleh! 

It's just easier for me and my family to have a plentiful abundance of all these healthy foods that they can eat until they are full without being told to have just a little or being shamed into not eating things. It's not fun to hear the whining either {so maybe my choices are totally self fulfilling}. Of course we talk about candy and junk that looks good in the stores or at birthday parties and of course they can eat it and enjoy it. In fact, I rarely hide it and rather let them eat as much as they want when it's brought home. They will only really learn why some foods shouldn't be eaten in large quantities when they get super ill or queasy or they have sores in their mouths. I could say it over and over but they will never get it. My job is just to coach them through it. Not make them feel guilty about it but to just make sure they know that the candy is what made them sick or gave them that sore in their mouth.

Home to me is my place of health where my kids can worry about homework or sibling rivalry, or balancing electronic time, not what they are eating or not eating. Pancakes or waffles for breakfast? Sure! "Nana Ice cream for lunch?...ok?"

And nana ice cream is fun to make with my kids - and super simple. Not to mention, my boys love cooking more and more now as they get older. So why not teach them healthy recipes? Rather than baking donuts, I'd like to give them the tools to make healthy foods for their family one day or for themselves when they go off to college. That's a skill we don't usually acquire until later on in life. Why wait?

Anyways, enough chit chat. Sheesh. Sorry about that. Now about this recipe...

The key to this recipe is the bananas; they must be completely ripe with dark brown spots on the peel before freezing or the ice cream won't taste right. 

Nana Ice Cream Sunday Recipe

ICE CREAM BASE INGREDIENTS

4 frozen bananas

1/2 tsp vanilla bean seeds or 1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup water or almond milk

SUNDAY INGREDIENTS

1/3 cup almond butter or peanut butter {preferably salted, otherwise add a little salt}

2 Tbsp maple syrup or 3-4 dates, seeds removed

2 Tbsp cacao beans or dairy free chocolate chips

1/2 cup granola

NANA ICE CREAM DIRECTIONS

In a blend you'll want to break up the frozen bananas into chunks. Or, better yet, cut the bananas into chunks before freezing them. 

In a high speed blender or food processor, you'll want to blend up the bananas and the water and vanilla on high until there are absolutely no chunks left and the bananas are pureed into what looks like ice cold ice cream. 

Serve immediately. 

SUNDAY DIRECTIONS

For the almond butter sauce, you'll want to blend up the maple syrup {or the dates} and almond butter until it becomes a creamy sauce.

Layer the granola, chocolate chips and almond sauce in between layers of the nana ice cream. 

Hope you guys enjoy this!

xoxo

Juli