And just like that, school’s almost (if not already!) in session! Tear…sigh…sob. Where did the summer go?
Oh yes, evening activities are about to start back up, and routines are being re-established, which means dinnertime is bound to be more scheduled and controlled over the next couple of weeks. Aka Mama don’t got time to be making multi meals for the one or more individuals who declare whatever’s being served for dinner inedible. Is there anything more maddening?
Lincoln’s a great eater when he’s served something he likes. Long gone are the days of being able to tell him every meat on his plate is bacon (loves bacon,) and the green stuff in his bowl is definitely not herbs (hates herbs.) Still clinging to the fact that he thinks chia seeds are legit sprinkles suitable for topping even his birthday waffles, huzzah!
Anyway, all that said, I think at one point or another every child goes through a picky eating phase and while it’s fun to try new recipes, sometimes you just need to put a dish on the table that you know the whole family is going to love. No convincing to dig in, no bribing to take 3 bites, no morsels being tucked into cheeks only to be discovered still uneaten an hour and a half later aka Lincoln with raw carrots and me circa 1990 with pork chops.
Today, in honor of back to school time, I’m sharing 15 of my top kid-approved recipes that I chose not only because they’re a hit with Lincoln (and Ben and me,) but also because you’ve given me feedback that your family loves them too, which I included in each recipe description. I LOVE feedback, by the way, you guys! It’s not only incredibly helpful for me in developing new dishes, but also for people coming to IGE to figure out if a recipe is a good fit for them!
These recipes are not only kid-approved but healthy, mostly quick-cooking (I included a couple crock pot recipes,) so they’re great for school nights, and easy. If time is tight, and I need a dish everyone will love, these are the 15 kid-approved recipes I’m turning to!
Easy Chicken and Rice Soup
I make Easy Chicken and Rice Soup at minimum of once or twice a month, even throughout the summer, because all three of us inhale it, plus I always have all the ingredients on hand in the fridge and pantry. Make this recipe once or twice and you’ll have it committed to memory.
“My family (including a baby and 3 year old) loved this! It was simple in the best of ways – definitely not boring, but just classic flavors that made for a great basic soup.” – Blair
Skillet Tater Tot Casserole (No Condensed Soup)
I throw Skillet Tater Tot Casserole together pretty much anytime I’m not sure what to make for dinner because again, I know all three of us will love it, plus I always have ground beef in the fridge and tater tots in the freezer. It’s a fabulous and filling meal in one. Pair with a salad or sliced apples and you’re set!
“Just made this tonight for dinner and we all loved it, including my toddler and preschoolers. Thanks for making this good old recipe tastier and healthier!“ – Clarice
Incredible Italian Meatballs
Like most kids, my 3 year old adores spaghetti so we have it at least once a week as it’s a meal I can count on everyone eating. A fun and delicious way to jazz up spaghetti night is to nestle a few of these Incredible Italian Meatballs into the noodles. They’re incredibly (heh) delicious, and you can double the recipe to freeze half for later. (Psst: my 30 Minute Shortcut Vegetable Ragu is what I turn to if I’m not making the meatballs!)
“So delish!!! You said 18-20 meatballs and it made 19- perfect directions! Our nineteen month old ate 3 bowls!” – Michelle P.
Cauliflower Fried Rice
I didn’t write the recipe for Cauliflower Fried Rice with kids in mind, but it’s been a HIT with your kids, and mine too! That said, Lincoln went to bed with a stomachache the first time he ate this dish because he loved it so much that he ate a TON (hello, high-fiber cauliflower!) so now I usually cut the recipe with half rice and half cauliflower. Either way, this is such an easy way to get your kids to eat their vegetables without even knowing it.
“I made this tonight for dinner and it was fantastic! I prepared the green onions and cauliflower on Sunday to make it an even quicker weekday meal prep. I highly recommend doing that. It only took me 9 minutes to cook! Amazing! Even my picky eater 3.5 year old daughter is eating it. Thank you for this recipe. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.” – Brandi
Mini Corn Dog Muffins
I’m not sure who loves Mini Corn Dog Muffins more – kids, or their dads! That is to say, these babies are a hit with everyone whenever I make them, and are the perfect size for little hands. Use boxed cornbread mix to make them even easier.
“Ohmygoodness! These were so good!!!! My kids loved them – so I’ll be adding them to our favorites folder. I only used 1/4 cup of sugar and I did not use gluten free flours. Superb!” – Stacy
Crock Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Whenever soup (or pasta) is on the menu, I know Lincoln will eat it, and Crock Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup is a recipe I feel great about feeding him. Full of vegetables and hearty wild rice, it’s not only super easy to put together, but healthy and nourishing too.
“Made this today it was fantastic! So happy to find a wild rice soup recipe I can eat and that is yummy! Definitely adding to my rotation since all my picky eaters devoured it! So thankful to stumble upon you site! Love how you use pantry staples!” – Tammy
Mini Ham and Cheese Quinoa Cups
The quinoa cups that started it all! Mini Ham and Cheese Quinoa Cups have been such a hit with your kids that I went on to make Mini Pizza Quinoa Bites, Mini Bacon Cheeseburger Quinoa Bites, Mini BLT Quinoa Bites, and Mini Mushroom and Swiss Quinoa Bites! Unfortunately Lincoln can’t eat them because the recipes contain cheese and he has a dairy allergy (I don’t love the ingredients in vegan cheese,) so just take everyone’s word that these mini bites are a hit with little ones.
“These turned out amazing! I have not been able to get my 16 month old to eat quinoa yet when I made it for her previously mixed with different things in salads. But these babies were easy for her to pick up and eat and she ate two whole ones by herself and continued to take bites of mine. She probably ate close to four! Thanks for this amazing and easy recipe that even the baby likes!” – Angie
Creamy Parmesan Zucchini Rice
We turn to sauteed chicken and vegetables at least once a week as an easy meal that I don’t have to think too hard about, but if your kids are picky about vegetables, try stirring shredded zucchini into rice then adding cheese. I personally stop short of adding the cheese in this easy, 5 ingredient recipe, and Lincoln gobbles it up every single time. A similar recipe with a great track record for helping kids eat their vegetables is my Cheddar Cheese Sauce for Vegetables.
“This recipe has become a family fave at our house & no one except me & my daughter (who helped me ale it a couple of times) knows it has zucchini in it! We peel it & call the dish cheesy rice & they eat it right up. A great way to sneak some veggies into picky eaters of all ages (mine are teens)! Thx for the recipe!” – Kirsten
Crock Pot White Chicken Chili
Sometimes kids can be suspect of meat, but I find that if it’s shredded or ground, vs sauteed and chopped, it’s easier for them to accept. Anyone else experience this issue? I love Crock Pot White Chicken Chili because it’s got shredded chicken AND creamy white beans, so it’s packed with protein, but really mild in spice for a chili. This is another home run dish with all three of us!
“This is a truly awesome recipe! All my kids loved it, including my 6 year old daughter who eats only Mac n cheese :-) thanks for a killer crock pot recipe – will definitely be making it again very soon!” – Christie
Mini BBQ Cheddar Meatloaves
My Mom made meatloaf all. the. time. when I was a kid and I haaaaated it (sorry Mom!) This shrunk-down version spiked with sweet BBQ sauce and hunks of melted cheddar cheese, however, is anything but your Mama’s meatloaf (sorry again, Mom!!) Seriously, Mini BBQ Cheddar Meatloaves have the look kids love (aka mini and individual-sized,) and the taste adults are going to appreciate. So, so yummy.
“This recipe was fabulous and easy, I doubled the recipe and used one pound beef and one pound ground Buffalo. Everyone, even my super picky 6 year old, loved it!” – Jake
Best-Ever Green Smoothie (for the Green Smoothie Skeptics!)
If your kid is anything like mine, they are always asking for a snack. I try to keep healthy options on hand for when Lincoln needs an extra bite – fruit (bananas, apples, grapes, and berries, specifically,) applesauce with chia seeds, plain popcorn, and Cheerios are popular – but he LOVES getting involved by helping me make a smoothie for him. Best-Ever Green Smoothie is packed with healthy, dark-leafy greens, yet you’d never know by the taste. If your kids are weirded out by the color tell them it’s a Hulk, Popeye, or Oscar smoothie – whatever you’ve got to do to get them to try it. The yummy taste will take care of the rest. (Psst: this smoothie makes excellent make-ahead smoothie packs!)
“Made this smoothie recipe today for my kids for St. Patrick’s Day (because what better day to convince them to drink something green). They slurped them right up, and my ultra picky son gave them a thumbs up, which is a huge compliment from him. These kids hate most veggies, especially anything that looks like a salad. If anyone is skeptical about how this smoothie might taste, trust me you will not know there is spinach and kale in it.” – Cari
Homemade Crunchy Taco Hamburger Helper
I make a cheese-less version of this box-replacement Homemade Crunchy Taco Hamburger Helper for Lincoln a lot and it’s always a home run (my copycat Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper is also a big winner with you guys!) Again, another whole meal in a skillet so I don’t have to mess around with multi dinner components. Sometimes I spoon the beef and rice mixture over lightly crushed tortilla chips for Lincoln and call them “nachos” because he loves anything served via tortilla chip. #appledidntfallfar
“Making this for seriously like the 6th time since you posted it! It’s so easy, so good, Gfree and the husband and the 2 year old LOVE it! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” – Ginny
Gnocchi and Chicken Sausage Vegetable Skillet
Another recipe I didn’t imagine would be a hit with your kids, but your feedback is telling a different story! Anytime there’s bacon or sausage in a dish, Lincoln’s guaranteed to eat it (he thinks any sausage is a hot dog and therefore it’s an automatic go,) and since he loves pasta, the gnocchi are also a win. I can’t say he eats a ton of the vegetables in Gnocchi and Chicken Sausage Vegetable Skillet at 3 years old, but even a bite or two is better than nothing. Plus it’s helped him become familiar with different vegetables since there’s such a variety in this recipe.
“This was absolutely delicious. Everyone loved it and I’m looking forward to lunch tomorrow! Thank you for such a great quick and healthy meal for my family.” – Kate
Skinny Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli-Rice Casserole
It seems like all the articles about watching your weight after having kids mentions something about not eating the uneaten portions of whatever they’ve had for a meal – but you won’t need to think twice about snagging a few extra forkfuls of Skinny Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli-Rice Casserole. I’ve never met a kid who’d turn down cheesy rice and broccoli, plus this dish is a little more waistline friendly than other similar casseroles.
“We absolutely love this recipe. It is one of the few dishes that everyone in our family of five will eat. One of my daughters is extremely picky and won’t even eat rice and she will eat this! I even make it with the brown rice and nobody complains! I’ve made it several times and it’s completely fool-proof. Thank you so much for this recipe!” – Monica
Vegetable Beef and Rice Soup
Vegetable Beef and Rice Soup is a dish I look forward to making not only because it’s INSANELY delicious, but because it’s a complete meal in one. Protein, vegetables, and carbs. Pair with a side salad, sliced apples, or bread, and dinner is done. Leftovers are awesome too!
“This isn’t the first time I’ve said this to a recipe you’ve given us… but this was AHHHHHHMAZING! I made it tonight and my 3 and 6 year old, as well as the adults, ate it (scarfed it, more like) and LOVED it.” – Melinda
What are your favorite kid-approved recipes and snacks?
And thank you :)
Can I just tell you how really really awesome you are? You are helping more people than you know! My son was just diagnosed with Celiac disease and your website and recipes have been most helpful!!!
Ugh, I’m so sorry to hear it, Kim!! I hope you guys are all doing ok, and I’m so glad the site is helping you guys out!
Jennifer @ scoutcooks.com 08.07.2016
Some great ideas here.
Always looking for easy, creative and healthy food and meal options for my 6 and 7 year olds.
15 Kid-Approved Recipes – Iowa Girl Eats – Delectable Salads 08.06.2016
[…] The Recipe can be found HERE […]
I never thought I’d be the type of parent to need kid-friendly recipes, and now I’m eating crow because it has nothing at all do to with the parenting and everything to do with children. So thanks for sharing!
Amen – I’ve eaten *so* much crow over the past three years! ;)
Mine just turned 4 and is back to trying new things – that “eat with the eyes and everything looks gross” stage was the pits!
Great post! No kiddos here, but I enjoy a go-to, quick meal list. This is perfect!
Ashley N 08.03.2016
Just made your mini BBQ meat loaves for my mom and I on Sunday! It was as great as I remembered. Reheats well too!
Lisa @ TechChick Adventures 08.03.2016
There are a lot of great recipes here! I’m going to have to try some of them. I’ve gotten out of habit cooking lately, but I need to get back at it!
THANK YOU. my son is allergic to wheat & it is always great to find new recipes that work for him! :) we are also heading up to vail soon & really appreciated that post as well!
So glad you can find recipes that will work for him here! FYI, all recipes from Feb 2014 are gluten-free (and therefore wheat-free.) Here are all my gluten-free AND kid-friendly recipes, in case you want to bookmark! http://iowagirleats.com/recipes/?course%5B%5D=toddler-friendly&diet%5B%5D=gluten-free
True fact: my husband never left the “picky eater” phase, but he will eat almost all of these. Don’t tell him that there are veggies in some of them! Thanks for the wonderful additions to the menu!
My daughter is actually pretty willing to try just about anything and she LOVES Brussels sprouts-I never made them until I saw yours. Now they are a weekly staple. We also love the crock pot Italian Beef Sandwiches-but I cut down on the spicy relish for her taste. And any soup is a hit-looking forward to Fall and soup season. Easy and delish!
Your crock pot spaghetti sauce and the homemade crunchy taco hamburger helper recipes are on regular rotation here. Usually I double a recipe and make one or the other every week since they reheat well and work great for my 2nd grader’s lunch box in a thermos. I added corn (canned or frozen) and black beans to the taco hamburger helper to bulk it up a bit. Its awesome!
Love the corn + black bean additions – I’ll have to try that!
Sara Burnette 08.03.2016
Thank you for this post! More great recipes to try. My family loves Spicy Turkey Soup with Ditalini. We put shredded cheddar on top of each bowl and call it “pizza soup”. I love that you add the jar of marinara to help flavor the soup quickly and easily! And it’s not too spicy for kids. And we all love the Homemade Cheeseburger Helper. My husband thought I really made hamburger helper, haha.
I was *this close* to adding that recipe as I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that it’s family friendly too. We love that soup!
So first off, I’m pretty sure you are a mind reader. Last night, as I was feeding my 14-month old yet another PB&J, I was thinking I need to find more Emma approved recipes. Some days she is very picky, others not so much. So thank you for this very timely post! Also, she LOVES your minestrone, we make it a few times a month because it’s quick, easy and packed with veggies.
Oh my gosh, too funny – so glad this was timely! If she likes the Minestrone Soup, I bet she’ll love the vegetable beef too, as they have similar flavors. Just in case you need a change of pace! :)