Healthy Meals (I Can’t Believe) My 8-Year-Old Likes

My little 8-year-old is an adventurous eater. Though I am very proud of his diverse palate, I also credit myself a bit for his adventuresome appetite. I experiment with an array of flavors and tastes when I cook, and I give him few options but to eat what I prepare. (The only real adjustment I make on his behalf is to tame the heat of any dishes that suggest hot peppers, powders, flakes or pastes).

I have said it before and will repeat myself again:

Don’t prepare second meals for your children.

Not only is it less stress for the chef, but there’s a good chance your children will eat healthier, more balanced meals if they are eating the same thing the adults are eating. And don’t give up if they don’t like the dish the first time around. As Dani Spies suggested in a post called “Please the Palates of Those You Love,” it it can take up to 11 attempts to acquire a taste for a new dish.

With a little discipline (and the occasional dessert bribe), you’re children will soon be eating whatever you place before them. More importantly, they’ll like it, too! Here are a few dishes that surprised even me.

Hoppin’ John – I prepared this dish on New Year’s Day so we’d all get our healthy dose of black-eyed peas for good luck. I really wasn’t sure if peas and rice would please Luke, but he fell in love at first bite. My slow-eating son had finished his helping before I, immediately exclaiming, “Mom, when can we have this again?” (How ‘bout leftovers tomorrow for lunch?)

Veggie Burgers – I have experimented with lots of different recipes, but these jiffy spelt veggie burgers from Oh She Glows were his favorite. Adding a new, healthier twist to a favorite kid dish is a good way to experiment with something new. His verdict: “Oh Mom, I just loved the meat.” (Note: I serve my veggie burgers on regular buns to give the illusion that it’s a “real” burger!)

Chicken Lettuce Cups – Like a lot of children, Luke likes tacos, and we frequently make them with turkey meat instead of beef. However, I made these chicken lettuce cups and he loved them as soon as I said we were having “lettuce tacos” for dinner. I had my doubts during preparation, as the ingredient list includes onions, artichoke hearts and olives, but it’s a home run every time I make them. Next on the agenda is other types of Asian lettuce cups. 

Pesto Pizza – Like every child in America, Luke will not turn down a slice of good ‘ole cheese pizza with red sauce. But when we make pizza at home, we generally use pesto and add ingredients like chicken, capers, caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella, and mushrooms. And just the other night Luke asked, “Mom, what’s that green stuff you put on pizzas? That’s my favorite kind of pizza now!”

Soups – I have been experimenting with a variety of homemade soups in the last year, and there are very few that Luke isn’t happy to eat. Many are vegetarian, such as asparagus, spinach and leek soup from how2heroes and chickpea, leek and parmesan soup from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef. He also likes this yummy Thai coconut chicken soup from Cooking Light (again, I reduced the heat). But his very favorite is tomato soup with a side of cheese toast for dippin’! 

Black bean burritos – This is a quick and easy dinner or lunchtime selection, and one that Luke willingly eats. I generally heat up the beans and flavor with cumin, fresh garlic and lime. Then I add cheese and avocado when I serve the burrito. This is a great meal for him to get protein and vitamins – in one quick fix.

Vegetarian Enchiladas – Though I use this tofu enchilada recipe from Well Plated, I generally add whatever vegetables I have on hand (also rarely roast the poblano pepper because it takes too long!). The critical ingredient is tofu – which is delicious when prepared with Mexican spices, lime and agave syrup. This one takes a while to prepare because of all the chopping, but is a terrific way to ensure the little ones (and big ones) get their veggies for the day! 

Want to share any healthy meals your children like to eat?

Melinda Hinson