Master List of Healthy Family Meals (Kid-Approved)

meatballs-on-plate for adult and kids

Deciding what to make for family dinner each day can be a challenge, but this list of healthy family meals includes over 50 favorites—including ALL the best kid-friendly dinners! A quick scan of this list will make quick work of meal planning.

meatballs-on-plate for adult and kids

Healthy Family Meals

I know it can be hard to find recipe ideas when we start with the entirety of the internet, especially when it comes to dinner, so I hope that this post narrows it down for you. And helps you sort through some of the top kid-friendly meals around that parents and kids can enjoy together.

All of these family meals have veggies in the mix and many include the nutrients we all need more of: fiber, protein, complex carbs, and vitamins. They are all doable meals to create at the end of the day or to make ahead, and I’ve sorted them by main ingredient so you can easily scroll and find options to put to use in your family.

What should I make for family dinner?

I try to plan our meals on Sundays so I have a general sense of what’s coming for the week. I like to allow myself the flexibility to switch a meal around if needed (like Monday’s chicken might go to Thursday if we have a sudden change in after school plans).

And I like to have at least 1-2 “theme nights” like Mexican, pizza, or pasta night to make it easier to plan meals without always feeling like I’m starting at square one.

What are healthy meals for kids?

In my mind, healthy meals for kids are meals that include a range of nutrients but that also are easy for kids to eat. I also think a healthy meal is one that is a happy one, so it’s only partly about the nutrition for me—because meal times are about so much more than just the food.

They help kids learn manners, new words, and allow us the much needed time to catch up with each other.

The food can be totally homemade, store-bought, or a mix of the two. It can also be a snack dinner, leftovers, or a random mix of foods.

The recipes I’m sharing here include easy options—which you can make even easier by adding no-cook sides to surround them. Foods like applesauce, salad, sliced cucumbers, diced fruit, and cheese can round out any meal.

TIP: Since you never know what of the meal the kids will eat or not eat, focusing on the together time part of this part of the day is often much saner.

Healthy Kid-Friendly Dinners

I hope that this master list of dinner ideass, which are all chosen to be kid-friendly and toddler-friendly, helps you come up with easy recipes to make for your family. I’m a big fan of making less work for ourselves, so all of these meals are ones that you can cook and serve to everyone at the table, no short order cooking required.

(My shortcut meal ideas can help, too.)

mom and kids chicken and brown rice dinner

Healthy Family Meals with Chicken

Easy chicken dinners are a simple way to please a crowd and offer up a meal rich in protein. These family dinners with chicken are perfect for families and can be adjusted for the youngest eaters at the table.

Easy Pan-Seared Chicken

Try these quick and easy chicken tenders for a kid-friendly weeknight protein paired with a grain and a veggie (or fruit!)

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pan-seared-chicken-on-polka-dot-plate
Easy Baked Chicken Nuggets (SO Crispy!)

These chicken nuggets have simple ingredients and a pleasantly crispy exterior. Aim to cut the chicken into similarly sized pieces so they bake evenly.

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baked-chicken-nuggets-on-plate
Sweet Potato Chicken Bowls (Easy Meal Prep)

You can meal prep this recipe to have ready for future lunches or dinners to share with the kids or you can make it as a family dinner. Add flavor to your bowl with the optional ingredients.

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chicken-and-sweet-potato-bowls-for-kid-and-parent
4-Ingredient Baked Chicken Meatballs

Serve with Marinara sauce, Pesto, Cheese Sauce, or with a side of ketchup or any other favorite dip. We like to have these on hand to use an easy lunch component or have them with pasta.

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baked-chicken-meatballs
Easy Chicken Noodle Soup for Kids

This easy recipe makes a big pot of comforting soup to feed the whole family—babies, toddlers, and big kids included. The leftovers store nicely so you can enjoy it for a few days!

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chicken soup for kids in teal bowl
Easy Instant Pot Butter Chicken

Forget takeout—deliver this popular Indian dish to your table instead. Shredded chicken thighs are coated in a rich, buttery sauce with hints of tomatoes, ginger, and garam masala—a messy but very flavorful finger food. Posted with Permission from The Multi-Cooker Baby Food Cookbook

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instant-pot-butter-chicken
Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders

These crispy Chicken Tenders are fast and versatile. To make these with panko breadcrumbs, use 1 cup and stir ¼ teaspoon salt into the flour before you dredge the chicken.

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crispy baked chicken tenders on white and blue plate
Easiest Instant Pot BBQ Chicken

You can double this recipe and use 2 pounds of chicken if desired. Just do your best to spread it into an even layer in the instant pot. (Note: The nutrition facts will vary based on the bbq sauce that you use.)

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Healthy Pasta Salad with Chicken

This works well anytime of the year, but the flavors are particularly great in summer

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healthy pasta salad in two bowls
Slow Cooker Chicken and Bean Tacos

The combination of vegetables listed below delivers really nice flavor and consistency to the sauce, but if you want to simplify, you can just use 2 of the options. This recipe was updated in September 2019 to add an Instant Pot option.

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family style slow cooker chicken tacos

healthy meatballs with spaghetti in white bowls

Healthy Family Meals with Beef

With iron and protein, beef is a great addition to a family dinner. Plus, most recipes with ground beef or shredded beef are really easy for little kids to chew and eat. Here are some favorite kid-friendly beef recipes.

Healthy Meatballs (with Hidden Vegetables)

With the texture you expect from a traditional meatball, but added nutrition from three types of veggies, your whole family will love these.

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healthy meatballs in large bowl and small kids bowl
Best Healthy Mini Meatballs

Classic Italian meatballs with kale tucked inside to help toddlers eat their greens! (You can of course use the more traditional parsley instead of kale if you prefer.)

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mini-meatballs-in-skillet-with-sauce
Slow Cooker Beef Burrito Recipe with Veggies

If you want to make these vegetarian, try using 2 cups rinsed and drained black beans or pinto beans instead of the ground beef.

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easy beef burritos on plate
Easy Zucchini Burgers

Stretch your ground beef and add a veggie right into moist burger patties with this simple family dinner recipe.

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zucchini-burger-on-bun-on-blue-plate
Easy Stuffed Peppers Skillet

You can use whichever type of rice your family likes best. We rotate through short grain brown rice, basmati, and jasmine. Adults may want to top their portions with shredded fresh basil and/or crushed red pepper.

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skillet-stuffed-peppers-in-adult-and-kid-bowl
Easy Pasta with Summer Squash and Beef

This dish is easy to pull together in a short amount of time and is a nice alternative to tomato based pasta dishes.

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zucchini-pasta-in-adult-and-kids-bowl
broccoli pesto on spaghetti in blue bowl with pink fork

Healthy Vegetarian Family Dinner Recipes

With plenty of plant-based nutrition, these vegetarian recipes are ideal for busy weeknights—and for satisfying those hungry little people at your table.

Homemade Broccoli Tots (Better Than the Freezer Aisle!)

Crispy on the outside and tender in the middle, these tots are a seriously fun way to serve broccoli. You can cook the rice up to 5 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake the tots.

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homemade broccoli tots
Sheet Pan Black Bean Quesadillas

These easy quesadillas can be made with pumpkin puree, sweet potato puree, or butternut squash puree. You can also skip it and just go with beans and cheese! I make these as half moon shapes since it helps contain the mess a little when feeding these to kids.

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sheet-pan-quesadillas-on-platter
Easy Spinach Quesadillas

You can also do this with full size spinach if that’s what you’re able to find. Just discard any stems before starting the recipe.

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spinach quesadillas
Easy Broccoli Pesto (for Pasta and Pizza)

This will likely make enough for two meals. You can freeze the leftovers for a future meal. (This recipe was updated to improve the taste and method in April 2019.)

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broccoli pesto on spaghetti in blue bowl with pink fork
Spinach Pesto Pasta with Peas

This bright green pesto is cheesy and mild, making it a perfect sauce for a quick dinner of pasta and peas!

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spinach-pesto-pasta-in-blue-bowl
Easy Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

I like to use a small shape to keep this dish as fast as possible.

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sweet-potato-mac-and-cheese-on-counter
Easy Hummus Wrap (to Share with the Kids)

Quickly combine a few simple ingredients to make a really yummy lunch wrap. This recipe makes one wrap, so increase the serving size as necessary.

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hummus wraps on white plates with apple slices
Shortcut Butternut Squash Risotto

You can cook the rice ahead of time and do Step 1 ahead. Or make the whole dish ahead and warm to serve when needed.

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butternut-squash-risotto-in-white-bowls
Sweet Potato and Cheese Quesadillas

Serve these quesadillas with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole as desired. You can leave them as simple vegetarian quesadillas or add in a protein like chicken or beans.

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sweet-potato-quesadillas-on-blue-plate
Savory Waffles, 3 Ways

Learn how to make savory waffles in three flavors including Cheese, Broccoli and Cheese, and Ham and Cheese. These are a fun way to change up your usual waffles and work for any meal of the day. Try them plain or with a simple dip of salsa or warmed marinara or pizza sauce.

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savory waffles on round plates

TIP: Find my Master List of Vegetarian Meals for Kids here.

salmon salad in little bowl with cucumbers and mango

Healthy Family Meals with Fish

Packed with protein and subtle flavor, healthy fish recipes are a great option for family dinner—especially if you’re trying to reduce your meat intake.

Easy Baked Salmon Cakes (Salmon Patties)

These tender fish cakes make a quick and easy pantry meal when you haven’t planned ahead for dinner. Recipe updated slightly to ensure moistness in June 2021.

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salmon-cakes-on-parent-and-child-plate
Favorite Salmon Salad Sandwich

This salmon salad is packed with protein, healthy fats, and calcium and can be used as a dip or a spread for sandwiches. We use homemade relish in this recipe, but you can use any that you like the flavor of.

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salmon-salad-on-toast
fish-sticks-with-ketchup-and-lemon
Quick Teriyaki Shrimp with Zucchini and Rice

We like this with rice or rice noodles, but you can adjust how you serve it to fit your family!

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easy teryiaki shrimp
Quick and Easy Shrimp Tacos

If using frozen shrimp, transfer it from the freezer to the fridge the night before or in the morning that you plan to make this.

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shrimp tacos for kids and parents on plates
Easy Citrus Shrimp and Noodles

With a quick 20-minute cooking method perfect for a weeknight dinner, this easy Shrimp and Noodles recipe has a flavorful (yet kid-friendly!) Asian sauce with a refreshing hit of citrus. You can use fresh or frozen shrimp in this recipe. If using frozen, defrost according to package directions.

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Pan with shrimp and noddles and kids plate on side

three white bowls of broccoli pasta

Healthy Family Dinner Recipes with Pasta

Quick, easy to cook, and available in so many nutritious varieties, pasta is a pantry staple most families can’t (and shouldn’t!) live without. These recipes are some easy ones to share with the kids at the dinner table.

5-Ingredient Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Use yellow or white cheese according to your child’s color expectations!

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cauliflower mac and cheese
One-Pot Broccoli Mac and Cheese

The method on this recipe is streamlined to cut down on dish washing. Add the optional spices for more flavor if you like! Double it to make more.

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servings-of-broccoli-mac-and-cheese-for-family
Easy Avocado Pasta

Any pasta shape works in this recipe, so choose your family’s favorite! Omit the garlic if you think the flavor might be too strong for your people. My kids prefer this without the garlic. I like it with it for myself!

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avocado-pasta-in-bowls-on-towel
Creamy Pasta with Broccoli

Feel free to cut this recipe in half to make a smaller portion for your family. (Or make the full batch and enjoy the leftovers!)

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creamy-broccoli-pasta
Healthy Pasta Salad with Chicken

This works well anytime of the year, but the flavors are particularly great in summer

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healthy pasta salad in two bowls
Extra-Veggie Baby Pasta (with Iron)

Adding beans and extra veggies helps make this easy baby pasta satisfying, nutritious, and yummy. Serve it more or less saucy as you like. (You can even freeze the sauce for easy future meals.)

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baby-pasta-in-four-white-bowls
Easy Ratatouille with Pasta

This recipe makes enough for two meals. You can cut it in half if desired, but I like to make the larger batch and keep half in the freezer for a future meal—it’s the same amount of cooking effort, so why not!

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ratatouille-pasta-in-white-and-kids-bowl
4-Ingredient Sausage Broccoli Pasta

Just a heads up that you’ll need to reserve a little of the pasta cooking water, so keep that in mind BEFORE you drain the pasta. Chicken sausage is usually leaner than pork, so when making this with chicken sausage, I like to add butter or olive oil before serving.

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broccoli-pasta-in-white-bowl
Easy Spaghetti with Sausage and Green Beans

Finish the adult servings (and more adventurous kid plates!) with a squeeze of fresh lemon and maybe crushed red pepper. Note that you’ll want to reserve some of the cooking water, so plan to take some out in a cup before you drain the pasta!

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spaghetti with sausage and feta in white bowl
Easy Pasta with Summer Squash and Beef

This dish is easy to pull together in a short amount of time and is a nice alternative to tomato based pasta dishes.

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zucchini-pasta-in-adult-and-kids-bowl

TIP: A lot of these can be packed up for school lunch the next day!

shortcut butternut squash risotto

Kid-Friendly Dinner with Grains

Serve up delicious whole grains to everyone at the table with these easy family recipes built around plant-based goodness.

Easy Quinoa Patties (Favorite Quinoa Cakes)

These quick Quinoa Patties are a delicious way to serve quinoa to kids—and adults! Plan to make the quinoa ahead of time so these come together in minutes.

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quinoa patties on purple plate
Easy Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Mix up this grain salad to have lunches prepped for the week for yourself, or to have a dinner side or vegetarian main dish to share with the family.

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mediterranean quinoa salad on two plates
Shortcut Quinoa Fried Rice

Transform cooked quinoa into a really delicious skillet dinner with this shortcut Quinoa Fried Rice. You can add eggs or omit them, and add more (or less) flavor to your own bowl. See the optional toppings to customize this for each person at your table!

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quinoa fried rice in skillet
Shortcut Butternut Squash Risotto

You can cook the rice ahead of time and do Step 1 ahead. Or make the whole dish ahead and warm to serve when needed.

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butternut-squash-risotto-in-white-bowls
Easy Cheesy Rice (with Veggies!)

Choose one veggie to add from the flavor options below according to what you have on hand or what your family likes best.

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cheesy rice 4 ways with veggies
Italian Lentils with Rice

We like this with rice, but you can also serve this with pasta if you prefer.

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italian green lentils with rice and cucumbers
One-Pot Lentils and Rice

Serve this easy family meal with optional toppings according to what everyone likes.

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kids-bowl-lentils-and-rice
Baked Brown Rice Risotto with Peas and Zucchini

We like this as a vegetarian main dish or as a side for a meat main. You can also double it and use a larger pan to feed a crowd. Updated in Sept 2020 to use instant brown rice to ensure the rice cooks through.

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baked brown rice risotto bowls
Homemade Cauliflower Tots

With quinoa, cauliflower, and cheese, these healthy little tots are a great finger food for kids. This recipe makes about 20 tots, which is 4-6 servings for toddlers—or 1-2 servings for adults.

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cauliflower tots on white and red plate
One-Pot Pesto Chicken and Brown Rice

Add some warmed frozen peas, whole grain toast, or a side of fruit to add a few simple sides if desired. This recipe was updated in September 2019 to ensure the rice cooks through.

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healthy chicken and brown rice on kids plate

vegetarian bean chili in bowls

Healthy Family Dinner Recipes with Beans

Affordable, versatile, and endlessly easy to customize, making family meals around beans is a great way to serve up protein and fiber—that tastes great! These are some of our go-to family dinners with beans and legumes.

Healthy Baked Sheet Pan Nachos

You can add some of the ingredients to some of the areas—leaving the spinach off, adding more salsa or spice—to customize for everyone at the table. I usually leave about a ⅓ of the pan for the kids with less greens and salsa and then pile it on for my husband and I.

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healthy loaded potato nachos
Easy Chili Mac (with Extra Veggies)

You can use precut butternut squash or sweet potato and shredded carrots to cut down on the prep time if desired. This isn’t super saucy, but you can increase the liquid if desired. See the Notes for details.

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chili-mac-in-white-and-stainless-bowl
Easy Taco Buffet (No-Cooking Required!)

I prefer to make these vegetarian since it’s easier, but you can of course add in cooked chicken, beef, or shrimp if you like! Add another can of beans or additional corn to feed a larger family or appetites.

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taco-buffet-ingredients-in-white-plates
Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup (with Instant Pot Option)

The addition of grains helps to thicken the soup to a nice consistency for little eaters, so don’t be worried if it’s pretty thin before you add them in before serving. (This post was updated and the recipe was streamlined November 2020. You can get the original recipe here.) 

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slow-cooker-black-bean-soup
Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas

Before you start, roll a tortilla and make sure it will fit with your baking dish. I call for small ones, but the size can vary a lot depending on whether you use flour or corn and the brand. This recipe was updated and streamlined in October 2020.

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vegetarian-enchiladas-in-baking-dish
Vegetarian Quesadillas with Beans and Cheese

You can make as few or as many of these easy quesadillas as you like.

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cut up vegetarian quesadillas for kids on plate
Refried Bean Taco Roll Ups

This makes 6 rolled up tacos, so you can adjust this as needed for your family.  Taste the refried beans before you make the roll ups and adjust the salt and/or cumin if needed. You can also serve the ingredients in separate bowls and let your family serve themselves.

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easy tacos with refried beans
Perfect Pinto Beans Recipe

You can double this recipe to cook 2 pounds of dried beans at once. Just increase the water to 12 cups.

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pinto beans recipe in white bowl
Slow Cooker Black Beans (with Instant Pot Option)

This recipe makes enough for 4-5 meals depending on the size and appetites of your family. I make one batch about every 4-6 weeks and freeze the beans in meal-size portions until we’re ready to enjoy them. You can also use just 1 pound of beans if desired and cook them as directed—just cut the seasoning in half as well.

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slow-cooker-black-beans-in-white-bowl.
Easy Vegetarian Burrito Bowls

Prep the rice, beans, and veggies ahead if you can or want to. They store well in the fridge and simply need to be reheated. The nutrition information in this recipe will vary based on the ingredients you choose to use.

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grain bowls with rice and beans

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I’d love to hear about your family’s favorite healthy meals so please chime in below in the comments!

This post was first published January 2020.


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