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Creating Fun and Delicious Kid-Friendly Meal Plans


Let’s face it: feeding kids can sometimes feel like a culinary obstacle course. Balancing nutrition, taste, presentation and even the occasional whimsical request (unicorn-shaped pancakes, anyone?) is no easy task.

What if I told you that mealtimes could be transformed from daily dilemmas into delightful dining experiences for the whole family? In this guide, we’ll support you through the meal planning process by showing you just how simple it can be to create nutritious meals your kids will love.

Key Elements of Kid-Friendly Meal Planning

Feeding your kiddos is as much an art as it is a science. Beyond just ensuring that meals are nutritious, it’s crucial to create dishes that resonate with a child’s unique palate and senses. This means prioritizing recipes that include these key elements: fun, variety, balance, flavor, texture and kid-friendly cooking.

Fun Build-It-Yourself Meals

Creating delicious meals with your kids should be fun. In fact, making meal prep enjoyable is a great way to get your little ones to try new things.

For example, you can try build-it-yourself meals that allow your kids to get involved in the meal prep process. DIY bowls are great because they’re easy to make and they expose your child to new foods and flavors while also including foods you know they love.

Kids love bowls as they can choose what they want to eat and leave out the rest. Plus, there are so many different ways to make them. Do your kids like tacos? Try a taco bowl with rice, lettuce, cheese and other fixings. Or keep it simple by offering quinoa with a range of bright-colored veggies.

Another easy DIY meal idea is the simple salad. You can allow your kids to assemble their own separately. Even if they take one cup of grain and just a sprinkle of spinach, it’s a great way to introduce new nutritious ingredients. And who knows, they may choose additional ingredients the next time!

DIY meals give kids much more control. They can decide which ingredients they want to include in their meal and if they want it mixed together or kept separate. Using familiar flavors in new ways also encourages them to explore and try new things.

Meal Variety and Balance

Variety is the spice of life, right? Most children, just like adults, crave variety. While they might love their mac and cheese, having it day in and day out can dull the excitement.

Introducing different cuisines, ingredients and cooking methods can be a fun adventure for them. Plus, offering a variety of ingredients can ensure your kids get the balanced nutrition they need to grow.

Creative & Exciting Presentation

Have you ever noticed how your kid’s eyes light up at the sight of brightly colored candy? Visuals play a huge role in whether your kiddo will enjoy the food you prepare or not. To help your child broaden their horizons, here are some fun visual tricks you can try.

Nature offers a beautiful palette of colors in the form of fruits and vegetables. A vibrant plate can instantly make food more inviting! For example, you can make rainbow fruit skewers or a veggie salad with red pepper, bright yellow corn, green beans and purple cabbage.

Also, you can use fun shapes to present your meals. Tools like cookie cutters aren’t just for baking—they can transform a simple sandwich into a star or a piece of melon into a fun heart shape. Plating techniques, like creating a “face” with ingredients or using molds for rice or mashed potatoes, can add an extra dash of charm.

If your little ones still struggle with new flavors and foods, try offering them in familiar formats. For example, try a new pizza recipe or a new take on tacos.

It’s also a great idea to get your kids involved in meal presentation. For example, let them use the cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes. This encourages your kids to “play” with their food and get familiar with new things. Even if they choose not to eat it, regular exposure can help them get comfortable with different foods.

Kid-Friendly Cooking

Involving your kid in the cooking process is about so much more than just meal preparation; it’s about fostering a sense of autonomy, building valuable life skills, teaching nutritious eating habits and creating a space for exploration and bonding.

Introducing things like theme nights where your kids get to be “head chefs” is a great way to get them involved in the cooking process. Also, allowing your kids to make good-for-you treats (like these delicious Banana Mango Smoothie Bowls) will help keep them engaged.

Meal-Planning Strategies

Now that we’ve gone over ways to get your kids more excited about their meals, let’s dive into some meal-planning strategies you can use to save time.

For example, you can easily prep weekly meals in advance and plan a weekly menu to stay on track. As a result, you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your littles.

Weekly Meal Prep

As a parent, there’s no better feeling than the one you get from looking at the week ahead and knowing that all the meals are taken care of. By dedicating some time to planning and prepping, you can easily prepare nutritious, varied and appealing meals for your kids without the daily stress.

How? Start with your grocery shopping. Consider the meals you want to make in the next week and create a grocery list. You can then organize that grocery list by store section to make your trip as seamless as possible. Don’t forget to check your pantry and fridge for items you may already have!

Next, choose a prep day that’s convenient for bulk-prepping your meals. Many people choose Saturday evenings or Sundays to prep for the week ahead. Gather all of your ingredients and kitchen tools, then get to work. Start with cooking tasks that take the longest, for instance, roasting veggies or cooking grains.

Another great way to prep is batch cooking. This involves prepping and cooking larger quantities of meals that you can then place in your fridge or freezer for the week ahead.

Building a Weekly Menu

Creating a well-balanced weekly menu is one of the best ways to get the most out of your kid-friendly meal plan. Start with a rough sketch of the week by jotting down ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Remember to keep it simple. Here’s a sample menu to get you started:

Considering Dietary Preferences and Restrictions

Meal planning when dietary preferences and restrictions are involved doesn’t have to be difficult. All you have to do is get a bit creative.

First, look for recipes that align with your family’s needs. For example, there are plenty of vegan-friendly recipes out there as well as gluten-free options. You can also prepare other recipes by swapping out the ingredients you need to. For example, if a recipe calls for dairy, there are many non-dairy alternatives out there you can use instead.

Beyond dietary restrictions, some families have picky eaters in the bunch. Remember: your little ones don’t have to like everything that’s on their plate, but it helps to make sure there’s at least one thing served that they do like.

Offering a variety of meals—some that are favorites already and others that are new—can help you find a balance between encouraging new foods and making sure your kids are eating enough to meet their nutritional needs.

Our Favorite Kid-Friendly Recipes

Are you ready to create your first meal plan? Here are some of our favorite kid-friendly recipes to add to your list this week.

Butternut Squash Pizza With Kale

This twist on pizza is sure to excite your kids. It features delicious Pacific Foods Organic Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, fresh butternut squash and a perfectly crispy crust. It’s sure to be a new family favorite!

View the full recipe: Butternut Squash Pizza With Kale

Sweet Potato and Lentil Tacos

When you want a flavorful lunch, nothing beats Mexican cuisine. However, when you add sweet potatoes to the mix, it gets even better. This kid-friendly favorite is sure to delight.

View the full recipe: Sweet Potato and Lentil Tacos

Quinoa Masala Bowl

Build-it-yourself recipes like this one are super fun, easy and quick. Plus, this bowl is delicious, featuring Pacific Foods Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Broth, nutty quinoa and fresh carrots.

View the full recipe: Quinoa Masala Bowl

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is the ultimate kid-friendly meal. This recipe uses butternut squash and nutritional yeast to create a delicious cheese-like sauce you’ll have to taste to believe.

View the full recipe: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Make Meal Planning Simple With Pacific Foods

Creating a fun, kid-friendly meal plan doesn’t have to be a chore. Pacific Foods simplifies meal planning by offering ready-to-use pantry staples such as stocks, broths and soups. Stock up today by finding Pacific Foods in a grocery store near you!