A round-up of healthy, easy and quick kid friendly meals and recipes you can throw together at the last minute on busy days.
So I’m a planner. I have monthly meal plans for my husband and I for dinner and a separate meal plan that includes breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner for our little ones.
Can you say Type A? Completely guilty.
But, as any parent knows, life happens, days get turned on their heads, plans get abandoned, and yet, we still must eat.
Especially those kids. I mean, really, it’s an endless demand for food!
And as I mentioned last week with my zucchini cheddar whole wheat waffles, my kids have never had fast food or take out (unless the grandparents are keeping something from me!) so I’ve got lots of tricks up my sleeve to throw something together at the last minute.
(I also keep our freezer stocked and that’s really helpful! Everything from muffins to taco meat gets stashed away. But for the ideas here, I’ve assumed you don’t have a stash to draw on.)
Having some easy, quick kid friendly meals at the ready has been helpful this summer, giving us a bit more flexibility to stay longer at the pool, take an impromptu day trip, go for a picnic and more.
And I think it will be even more useful when the back-to-school season starts and life goes into overdrive again.
(By the way, I put together all 5 of these plates in less than 25 minutes. Not bad!)
So without further ado, here are some easy, healthy, quick kid friendly meals that you can whip up with on-hand basics.
(I made an easy printable as well so you can have these ideas at your fingertips.)
Easy Kid Breakfast Ideas
- Whole wheat toast or bagels with plain cream cheese and jam
- Scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast and fresh fruit
- Scrambled eggs with veggies (wrap into a burrito or fill a taco shell), served with fresh fruit
- 5-minute copycat egg McMuffin
- Egg in a hole, served with fresh fruit
- 3-minute oatmeal, served with your favorite toppings
- Raisin bread topped with peanut butter and served with fresh fruit
- Toast topped with peanut butter and banana slices or raisins (make a face!)
- Toast with smashed avocado and a fried egg
- Sweet potato toast with sweet or savory toppings!
- Rainbow toast
- Banana wrap - whole wheat wrap spread with peanut butter, topped with a whole banana and rolled up (also good with raisins or granola for some extra texture)
- Yogurt bowl - plain Greek yogurt with honey, fresh fruit, and crumbled cereal or granola (add chia seeds as sprinkles!)
- Smoothie or smoothie bowl - just blend up some fruits (with or without yogurt or milk) and add your favorite toppings (here's my peach-raspberry smoothie bowl for reference)
- Sausage, toast and veggie kabobs, served with fresh fruit
Easy Kid Lunch Ideas
- Sandwiches: peanut butter (or almond butter) and jelly, ham and cheddar, turkey or chicken, etc., served with applesauce
- Hummus and chicken or turkey as a sandwich or wrap, served with carrot sticks and fresh or dried fruit
- Egg salad, tuna salad or chicken salad sandwich, served with fresh or dried fruit
- Ham and cheese melt (just broil open-faced for a couple of minutes to get it warm and melted)
- Veggie and cream cheese roll-up, served with fresh or dried fruit
- Cheese slices with crackers and homemade deli meat or store-bought (they can make Lunchable-like stacks), served with fresh or dried fruit
- Hummus with veggie sticks, crackers or pretzels, served with cheese and fresh or dried fruit
- Apple slices sandwich with peanut or almond butter and raisins
- Muffins (if you have some in the freezer or on hand), plus yogurt with honey or fruit mixes stirred in, served with fresh or dried fruit
- Canned beans (black or cannellini are my kids' favorites and they just eat them plain) served with cheese, veggie chips, and fresh or dried fruit
Easy Kid Dinner Ideas (Mains)
- Rotisserie chicken shredded, mixed with BBQ sauce (or honey mustard) and made into sliders
- Leftover or rotisserie chicken mixed with salsa, warmed in skillet and loaded into a taco shell with shredded cheese
- Deli or leftover meat, cream cheese and spinach wrap (with optional salsa in the wrap or on the side for dipping)
- Whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce, peas and extra meat (such as rotisserie chicken) mixed in
- Couscous with chicken and frozen mixed veggies (just add them in and stir to heat through once the couscous is cooked)
- Tapas plate: chicken or meatballs, cheese, crackers/pretzels/rice cake/quinoa/rice, hummus, carrot and celery sticks, fresh or dried fruit and nuts
- Quesadillas: chicken and cheese, refried beans and cheese, black bean and veggie, etc.
- English muffin or flatbread pizzas - spread sauce on English muffin halves, top with cheese and pepperoni and broil for 2-3 minutes
- Grilled cheese
- Panini - Make a sandwich and heat it in a saute pan (put another pan on top and add a couple of cans to help weigh it down)
- Nitrate and nitrite-free hot dogs or cooked sausages
- Minute or microwave rice (or grain blend) with beans and cheese mixed in
- 10-minute “baked” potato with rotisserie chicken and cheese mixed in
- Hard-boiled eggs
- A dipping dinner: A plate of chicken strips or rolled up deli meat, baby carrots, cucumber and bell pepper strips and bakery bread or toast sticks with some small containers of your favorite dips: hummus, pesto, honey mustard, ranch, ketchup
- Pasta or bean salad: Mix whatever fresh or frozen veggies you have on hand with some beans and/or whole wheat pasta, add a favorite cheese and some dressing and serve
Coming soon: Three of my kids' favorite broiler sandwiches. I love making these for a quick dinner.
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Easy Dinner Side Dishes
- Raw baby carrots, cucumber, bell peppers, broccoli or celery and a dipping sauce (Ranch, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, peanut butter, hummus)
- Cherry tomatoes or sliced tomatoes
- Steamed vegetable: Broccoli, cauliflower or green beans
- Sauteed zucchini, squash, corn, Brussels sprouts, okra or spinach
- 10-minute “baked” potato with your favorite toppings
- Microwave sweet potato chips
- Microwave or Minute-style rice or grain mix
- Shortcut grains and veggies
- Frozen peas, thawed (served warm or cold)
- Frozen mixed veggies, cooked and topped with butter
- Crunchy lettuce pieces (such as romaine), with dressing or dip
There you have it - plenty of mix-and-match ideas to choose from.
And if you’re looking for some quick and easy snack ideas for kids, I’ve done a round-up of some of our faves. (There’s a free printable for that one too!)
And in case you missed it earlier, here’s the free 2-page printable again for this round-up of meal ideas.
What are your go-to ideas for last-minute meals? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Love these ideas! Most of the time we just feed the kids what we eat for dinner...but I always let them choose their own breakfasts and lunches so this will give us some more ideas that they will love! 🙂
Thanks Laura! Mine eat our dinner for the most part too, but it seems like there's always times when something comes up and I need to feed them pronto! Hope this is a good resource for you 🙂
Dawn at Girl Heart Food
Kathryn, that is soooo awesome that your kids have never had fast food! Big applause for that 🙂 !! All of these ideas are so great and love that you pulled them together so quickly. My sister in law would love these for my niece and nephew. Then again, I would also love them for myself 😀 Great post, girl! xo
Aww, thanks Dawn! Haha, yes, it's true - these are great go-to meals for kids of all ages when you're just too tired to fuss over something 😉 XO
Jessica @ Nutritioulicious
Wow Kathryn, this is such a fantastic resource! I'm big on meal planning too - only way I can ensure I get healthy, balanced meals on the table every night! Sometimes I want to just be lazy, but I rarely do. I'll have to take a cue or two from these lists to finally give in to that desire!
Thanks so much Jessica! It's nice to have a few ideas on hand in case something comes up! Or on days when my husband and I are having dinner later after the kids go down and I need to go ahead and feed them something else. Hope you find this helpful!
I think plate colors are a totally lure for kids!!! Put broccoli on a purple plate and they'll eat it - haha!
Right?! Who can resist a colorful meal?!
Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary
Your kids have never had fast food or take out?!! Holy moly, gurl I bow down to your domesticated goddessness!! Boy and I don't have kids (well, ones that don't walk on 4 legs), but I personally would eat every single one of these healthy, quick and kid friendly meals! I guess it's the little kid in me... or the fact that all of these options look delish!! You wanna adopt a 33 year old?? 😉 Cheers, girlfriend!
All of these quick + easy meals apply to any kid at heart Cheyanne 🙂 XO
I love the place color idea. and thanks for the recipe ideas. i will print this and post it on my fridge.
Excellent! I hope it's helpful!
These are fantastic recipe ideas! Thanks for sharing.
Absolutely, I hope it's helpful!
I love Costco as well I just wish they had an even bigger selection of organic! Like in your article I wish the sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peppers, cheese etc. were organic and even in my Costco
That's true - different stores have different produce and not all have organic varieties. Trader Joe's and ALDI are both great options (if you have one near you) for great produce, including lots of organic options, at a lower price. 👍
Publix is also great for organic produce and products
I love all of these ideas except I have 2 of the most picky eaters in the entire world! I try so hard to meal plan, to help with the budget as well as help make my life a little easier, but it’s sooooo hard with my children. They will not eat vegetables AT ALL! I’ve tried everything from cooked to raw to hiding them in things and they still will not eat it. My 5yr old will not even eat pizza without scraping off the sauce and cheese. They are so stubborn that they will go to bed hungry rather than eat the food I make. That’s why meals are such a headache for me. If you have any advice or plan on making a thread for extremely picky eaters I would love to hear them.
I know that's so frustrating! Mine have gone through various stages and levels of picky eating over the years as well. You are doing the right thing by trying cooked and raw and trying to add them to different dishes. Keep trying (it can take a long time for a kid to try and then like a veggie). One other thing that really helps me, especially when I'm at the pulling hair out stage of frustration, is to remember one of the main tips nutrition experts offer which is about the division of responsibility when it comes to mealtime: Adults choose what foods and when, kids choose whether and how much to eat. It's so hard, but if you can just offer what you want to offer and let them decide, then there's no battle. They can eat it or not, they can go to bed hungry, but you only have to worry about what to provide on their plates and what time to give it to them.
Also, smoothies are a great way to sneak in some veggies. Fresh spinach blends in well and doesn't affect the taste at all (and if you use a darker fruit mix, like a berry mix from the freezer section), you can't see it either. Also, I keep a bag of frozen cauliflower on hand and defrost a few the night before I'm going to make a smoothie and toss those in too. Chia seeds are also a nutrition powerhouse and can be thrown into any smoothie too.
Some kids also respond well to "cute food," where you make little animals and scenes with the food. I'm not creative or patient enough to go that route, but you could give it a try. Or just go the route of coming up with fun names for foods - super vision sweet potatoes, big muscle spinach - or playing games, like who can crunch the carrot the loudest?
You may also want to check out this post, where I talked with some pros and pulled together some research and tips about how to raise healthy eaters. https://www.familyfoodonthetable.com/raising-healthy-eaters/
I hope that helps a little. Hang in there and good luck!!