Many parents have difficulty getting their kids to eat healthy food, so nutritionist Claire Turnbull helps with six of the best throw-together meals!
Life with little kids can be extremely full on. I have two little ones who are often around my ankles while I’m attempting to cook. And when they’re hungry they’re often on the verge of a meltdown. When I’m feeling the pressure, these are the meals I turn to in order the keep the kids content.
All these meals include veges as well as protein to help keep little tummies full and carbohydrate for energy — using whole grains and pulses where possible.
For adults, we always use a plate model with ¼ carbs, ¼ protein and ½ non-starchy veges. As children’s needs are different, a good rough guide for them is ¹/³ carbs, ¹/³ protein and ¹/³ non-starchy veges.
Note on servings: Young children are generally very good at eating to their appetite. The serving recommendations below are a simple guide. Some kids will eat more, some less, depending on their age and appetite.
Makes 1–2 servings
This is one of my boys’ favourites. Somehow, when you cut an omelette into wedges and call it pizza it becomes much more likely to be eaten.
- In a microwavable dish, heat a cup of frozen veges for a minute or until warmed through (I often use the pea and corn mix).
- In a small bowl, beat two eggs and stir in veges.
- Set a pan over a medium heat and cook egg mixture on both sides.
Once cooked through, remove from pan and cut into triangles. Serve with wholemeal pita bread wedges or a handful of cooked pasta shapes and some chopped raw veges.
- Add 1 teaspoon chia seeds to the beaten eggs to make a speckled omelette.
- Add 1 tablespoon grated cheese to the mixture.
- Add 1 tablespoon self-raising flour and make them into mini savoury pikelets.
Makes 2–3 servings
This is a total winner in our house, and I often make enough for two meals so they can have leftovers for lunch on the weekend. If we are out and about, I pack the leftovers in a single serve mini thermos for a warm lunch on the run.
- In a pot of water set over a high heat, place ¾ cup macaroni with 1 cup chopped broccoli or cauliflower florets and ½ cup frozen peas and boil until pasta is cooked through and veges are tender.
- Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Return pasta and veges to pot.
- Add 1 tablespoon light cream cheese and 3 tablespoons grated cheese along with the pasta water. Stir until cream cheese and grated cheese melt into a sauce. Add a splash of milk, if required.
Every few weeks I make a big batch of mince which I freeze into little blocks in a silicon baking tray, and then I just take 1–2 blocks out as I need. It’s a meal ready to go that can be heated up quickly.
I serve this mince with rice or couscous, pulse pasta or pasta shapes, depending on what works on the day. If we are in a rush, I occasionally use the microwave rice pots.
- In a pan set over a medium heat, fry 1 chopped large onion, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 large grated carrots, and 1 large grated courgette until onion is translucent.
- Into the same pan, add 500g lean beef or lamb mince and cook until browned.
- Add 1 can drained lentils or 1 cup frozen peas or corn (or both), 1 tablespoon no-added-salt tomato paste, 1 can no-added-salt chopped tomatoes and 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh, if you have it). 4 Cook for 20 minutes and serve.
If you have fussy kids who always pick onion out of a dish, place onion and garlic in blender and blitz until smooth before frying in pan.
This is very quick and easy — perfect for when you have next to no time.
- In the microwave, heat a 125g pottle of brown microwave rice (cooks in 45 seconds).
- Once done, cook 1 cup frozen veges in the microwave for 2–3 minutes or until heated through.
- In a frying pan, place 2 beaten eggs and cook to make soft scrambled egg. When nearly cooked, stir through the cooked rice and veges.
- If you are using microwave rice, there are all sorts of different mixes you can try, from wild rice to quinoa, red rice and brown.
- You can add cooked chicken, prawns or tofu if you want.
This is a great quick dinner and can work well in the lunchbox too, if your kids like eating things other than sandwiches.
- In a small bowl, place ½ cup wholemeal couscous and pour over ½ cup boiling water. Cover and leave for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
- In the microwave, place 1 cup frozen peas or mixed veges and cook for 2 minutes.
- In a large bowl, add 1 small can, drained, no-added-salt salmon (or use cooked fresh salmon), combine with couscous and microwaved veges and serve.
- Add a handful of cooked edamame beans or chickpeas, if it is safe for your child to eat them (they are a choking hazard for very young children).
Sometimes, at the end of a busy week when we need a meal that doesn’t require lots of pots and pans, we make this Kiwi favourite.
- In a preheated oven, bake frozen crumbed fish and a handful of frozen chips according to packet instructions.
- Serve with a cup of cooked frozen or fresh veges of your choice.
- Find out which frozen fish is best.
- For the frozen chips, ensure they have no added salt and check they are cooked in canola oil.
10 kitchen staples
- Frozen veges
- fresh veges such as carrots and broccoli
- Pasta shapes
- Quick-cook microwave pots
- Canned fish
- Frozen fish
- Canned pulses