The family kitchen can often seem more like a short-order diner than a spot for communal meals. Making healthy meals to satisfy everyone doesn’t have to be difficult. We’ve got tips for basic dishes that can easily be tweaked to satisfy the picky, the adventurous and everyone in between. Order up.
Baked fish is an easy dish with a mild taste that’s easy to build on. For kids, tuck the baked fillets into whole grain buns and serve with a side of colourful raw veggie sticks, or baked sweet potato or zucchini fries. Parents can go for a sophisticated version by swapping the bun for a salad of mixed baby greens, a low-fat lemony dressing, and minced fresh herbs.
Recipes to try:
It’s a fact: even picky kids love meatballs. Swap beef for lean ground turkey in our basic meatball recipe. Kids will eat them as-is, with tzatiki or low-sodium ketchup on the side. Alternately, toss baked meatballs with whatever sauces your family will eat — BBQ, Hawaiian or teriyaki for the kids, and spicy Thai peanut for the grownups. Bottled will do, but keep an eye on sodium and sugar content. Add steamed snow peas, and a scoop of fibre-rich brown rice or faro on the side, with a sprinkling of chopped green onions for grown-up garnish.
Pasta is always a winner, and modifies easily for any menu. Start with cooked pasta in any shape (bump up fibre with whole wheat, or half-and-half integrale pasta, or try egg noodles for extra protein). A speedy homemade red sauce cuts down on sodium and sugar lurking in store-bought versions, and grated carrot will add a sneaky serving of beta carotene to the dish. Add cubes of rotisserie chicken and snowy shavings of Parmesan cheese for kids. Grown-ups can stir a generous handful of baby spinach into the sauce to wilt at the end, and top with a few slices of spicy sausage and shavings of Parmesan cheese. Alternately, try chunks of tuna and sliced black olives, with a sprinkling of dried chili flakes.
Recipe to try:
Almost-instant Tomato Sauce
Oeufs en cocotte
Breakfast for dinner is always a hit with kids. Eggs baked in individual ramekins (oeuffs en cocotte) cater to every taste, and is the perfect fridge clean-out meal. Start with eggs, add a tablespoon per serving of something creamy (crème fraîche, soft fresh cheese like Boursin, plain yogurt, skim milk, or low-fat sour cream), and customize. Kids with classic taste will go for the “just plain eggs” version, but the sky’s the limit for adventurous types. Add a few leaves of raw spinach and Parmesan shavings for Florentine-style eggs; tomato wedges; a tablespoon or two of chopped chives; spicy chorizo sausage; sliced ham; grated low-fat cheese; or diced sautéed veggies. Serve with mixed greens, turkey bacon, fruit slices, and whole wheat baguette.
Good to grill
Kebabs and grilled vegetables are an easy way to ensure that everyone gets what they want for dinner. Marinate boneless chicken, beef, pork or lamb in favourite family sauces, thread onto skewers and grill. For divergent tastes, divide meat into two portions and use two marinades — something sweet (maple- or orange-based) for the kids, and something spicy for grown-ups. Add shrimp or scallops to skewers for seafood lovers. Grill veggies separately in foil packets, so everyone can pick and choose their favourites from the platter. Serve with lemony whole wheat couscous salad.
Recipes to try: