Nutrition is one of the most essential elements of a child’s growth and development – and you can share that gift with them. You can spend quality time together by cooking and preparing healthy meals.

Nutrition Australia states, “Active, growing children require good nutrition to build healthy bodies and to help them be the best they can be.”

5 Fun and Healthy Meal Plans to Make With Your Kids

At our child care centres, nutritionally balanced meals are included and prepared by our very own chefs every day. We offer this child care benefit because it provides a sense of comfort and convenience, so you know your child is receiving the very best foods, drinks, and snacks throughout the day.

But what about at home?

Maximising family time and enjoying each other’s company is certainly a priority at home – and that quality time can be spent learning together in the kitchen.

That’s why we’ve come up with fun and healthy meal plan ideas you can make at home with your child.

Not only will you be feeding them rich, well-balanced foods, but they’ll be spending quality time with you and learning along the way.

By preparing meals together, you teach your child the importance of healthy foods, moderation, and the human body (Healthy, 2016). You can answer curious questions and quench your child’s thirst for information and knowledge. Preparing meals together will help empower your child to make good food choices throughout their lives.

Just by making a simple meal together, you are supporting your child’s development by enhancing:

  • Exposure to maths by counting, measuring, layering, and mixing
  • Language skills through talking, reading, and listening
  • Social connectivity by working together, sharing jobs within the meal prep
  • Physical balance, dexterity, and motor skills
  • Achievement and follow-through by seeing and enjoying the final product together

Early exposure and education about foods sets up children for healthy practices and habits. By modelling good eating habits and engaging children in the process, parents can enhance their child’s openness to foods and their knowledge of nutrition.

Kid-friendly meal prep can be simple, especially if you have fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy staples on-hand.

Kid-friendly meal prep can be simple

Our Harmony chef finds it easiest to prepare delicious, wholesome foods when there’s quick access to a wide range of ingredients. Stocking your kitchen with the very best will set you up for easy opportunities to make fun meals with your child.

With the help of your child, you can partake in these 5 fun and healthy meal plans:

Healthy Meal Idea #1: Bring out your child’s creative side

Bring out your child’s creative side

Get creative in the kitchen by adding a little style to the meal prep process. Make an afternoon activity out of designing a fun snack or adding flair to everyday foods.

Your child will love creating their own foods and expressing their creativity.

As Julie Negrin, M.S., Nutritionist shares at Food Network, “Mini chefs are more likely to eat what they make and become more adventurous about trying new foods.”

Here are a few artsy and creative ideas to try:

  • Critter lunch: Make fun animals or critters out of healthy foods, like creating bugs out of celery sticks filled with peanut butter, embellished with pretzel, cracker, or apple slice wings. You can even add blueberries, sunflower seeds or Cheerios for eyes.
  • Sandwich face: Design a smiley face by choosing a healthy bread, spreading peanut butter across the top, and adding eyes, a nose, and mouth with healthy toppings like banana slices, carrot shavings, raisins, nuts, and dried cranberries.
  • Fruit cars: Slice apples about a ½ inch thick. “Insert toothpicks horizontally into both ends of the apple slice. Slide grapes onto the toothpicks to make wheels. Who knew healthy snacks could be so much fun?” (Rodriguez, 2016).
  • Pick your child’s favorite: Give your child the lead by having them pick one of their favorite items, animals, or shapes. Get creative by picking out healthy foods and figuring out how to make the design together (i.e. a dog-shaped snack or a circular sandwich).

Healthy Meal Idea #2: Make it colourful

Make it colorful

Teaching your child about the benefits of eating a wide range of colors can be just as fun as it is educational.

“Being creative with vegetables and offering them as snacks will ensure children get enough of their vegies,” shares Nutrition Australia.

Stir up a dish full of life and get your child excited about eating well and cooking together.

Try these fun and colorful healthy meals:

  • Veggie scrambled eggs: Have your child choose their favourite vegies. Toss them in a pan with a little olive oil and spices. Crack the eggs and stir as it cooks. Add cheese if you want (Healthy, 2016).
  • Pasta salad: Different than a normal pasta salad with a mayonnaise base, this one is made of entirely veggies, spices, and pasta. Chop your favourite veggies like broccoli, tomatoes, or carrots. Boil the pasta per the directions, drain, add your veggies along with a healthy dressing or minced garlic.
  • Baked veggies: Choose a yummy veggie like asparagus, broccoli, or squash. Cut into pieces and bake them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and spices.
  • Rainbow platter: Design a plate with all the colors of the rainbow. Place them in order for an educational twist. Use strawberries for red, orange slices for orange, and so on.

Healthy Meal Idea #3: Pick a fun theme

Pick a fun theme

Make meal prep a fun learning event by picking a theme. Depending on what is chosen, this meal idea offers the chance to practice letters, numbers, colors, and counting.

Inspire your child’s curiosity and imagination by allowing their own ideas and creativity to shine.

Suggest a few themes and have your child choose. Letting them decide puts them in the driver’s seat and gives them confidence when it comes to their cooking skills and food choices.

Fun themed meal ideas:

  • Color-themed: Choose a color, then design a whole meal with that color in mind. A yellow lunch, for example, might include a grilled cheese sandwich with pineapple and corn on the cob (Healthy, 2016). A green dinner might consist of green beans, zucchini boats, and apple slices.
  • Letter-themed: Have your child pick a letter and put together a meal with foods that start with that letter. For an ‘s’ lunch, you might make spaghetti noodles, sauce, salad, and slices of fruit. For ‘c,’ your child may think of chicken, cauliflower, and clementines.

For a fun rainbow salad kid-friendly recipe, check out HooplaKidz Recipes video:

Healthy Meal Idea #4: Pretend it’s “dessert” time

Pretend it’s “dessert” time

One of the best ways to get your child to eat healthy is getting them to think it’s a treat (Healthy, 2016).

Instead of being filled with sugars and fats, your dessert will be nutritious, and pack just enough of a punch for your child to think it’s a dessert.

“Desserts” to make with your child:

  • Frozen fruit delight: Keep it simple with just one fruit, or combine a few choices for a delicious bowl of colors. The best frozen fruits include blueberries, grapes, and raspberries. Frozen fruit is a perfect replacement for ice cream.
  • Homemade popsicles: Blend greek yogurt and fresh or frozen berries in a blender. Have your child count the berries with you and press ‘go’ on the blender. Pour the liquid into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 6 hours. When they’re ready, your child will feel excited and proud. Share them with family in the summer for a special, refreshing treat.
  • Greek yogurt and fresh berries: When you sell a food idea as dessert, your child will love having greek yogurt and fresh berries for a weekend breakfast or afternoon snack. If you pick strawberries or blueberries in autumn, this is a perfect way to sample the fruits of your labor.

Healthy Meal Idea #5: Keep it simple

Keep it simple

When you don’t have the time, energy, or ingredients to make meal prep a creative production, just remember to keep it simple (Healthy, 2016). The most important aspect of cooking together is spending time with your child and exposing them to different foods and meal prep.

Even at a young age, children can get involved in meals and meal prep. Julie Negrin, M.S., Nutritionist shares on the Food Network, “Give toddlers little tasks that won’t slow down your meal preparation, such as stirring or rinsing off vegetables. You can increase their responsibilities as they age.”

No matter what, your child will enjoy being with you and find pride in helping prepare something for the family.

Simple breakfasts:

  • Boiled eggs with cut fruit and yogurt
  • Oatmeal with brown sugar and banana
  • Banana with peanut butter and toast or yogurt
  • Scrambled eggs with toast
  • Blueberries with cereal and chocolate milk
  • Breakfast smoothie

Simple lunches:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Mac and cheese with veggies on the side
  • Cut veggies and hummus
  • Eggs with slices of cheese
  • Pasta with sauté veggies and sausage
  • Leftovers from dinner

Simple dinners:

  • Salmon with green beans and wild rice
  • Pork chops sauté with apples and mashed potatoes
  • Vegetable lasagna
  • Crockpot soups

Whether your meals result in a masterpiece or a messy sandwich face, the time with your child in the kitchen is invaluable.

Praise and encourage your child as they try new things and use their creative energy to learn, explore, and share the cooking experience with you.

If you’d like to learn about our nutritional meal plans at Harmony, give us a call at 1-300-HARMONY or book a tour today. Included in our fees, we provide children with nutritionally balanced meals to support their growth and everyday learning.

References:

Food and Fitness for Children. (2012, August). Retrieved November 11, 2016, from

Healthy Meals to Make With Your Kids [Online interview]. (2016, November 8).

Negrin, Julie. (n.d.). Cooking With Kids, Without Going Insane : Recipes and Cooking : Food Network. Retrieved November 13, 2016, from http://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/articles/cooking-with-kids-without-going-insane.html

Rodriguez, Abbey. (n.d.). 10 Creative & Healthy Snacks For Kids. Retrieved November 13, 2016, from http://www.parenting.com/food-recipes/snacks/10-creative-healthy-snacks-kids

Vegetable snacks for kids. (2012). Retrieved November 12, 2016, from http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/vegetable-snacks-kids