There's no denying that kids love macaroni and cheese, but the kind that comes from a box offers little in the way of nutritional value. Rather than skipping the cheesy meal altogether, Rivka Kawano, a mother of three children under the age of five, decided to make a healthier version of the popular meal. "I start by cooking whole wheat noodles and melting real cheese mixed with milk. I chop some veggies up extra fine to add to the cheese sauce. It's a healthy and tasty treat that we all enjoy in less than half an hour."
Think about other ways you can make your kids' favorite lunches healthier -- like concocting a homemade flatbread veggie pizza or choosing chicken sausages over hotdogs. It usually takes about the same amount of time to prepare a healthy meal as it does an unhealthy one, so you might as well give it a shot.
Sure, you could put cold cuts and bread on the counter and let the family make their own sandwiches, but why not make sandwiches more exciting? Start with pitas, tortillas or English muffins, and then offer more "exotic" toppings that allow each family member to personalize their lunch. Karen Bannan, founder of NaturalAsPossibleMom.com, suggests "Hummus and sliced cucumber on a toasted pita! The kids can put it together on their own, it's rich in protein and fiber and it tastes great." Other toppings you might want to offer include roasted red peppers, Greek yogurt, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, guacamole and a variety of cheeses. You just might be surprised by the foods your children learn to love.
Rachel Teichman of TotsandPlans suggests another easy "sandwich" option. "Quesadillas! Just a corn tortilla and shredded cheese -- it can be made on the stove or in the microwave." Let your kids jazz theirs up by adding shredded chicken, diced veggies and Mexican spices.
When you just want something simple and easy, there's nothing wrong with throwing together a meal of two or three ingredients. Camesha Gosha of BibsandBaubles says her go-to family lunch "would have to be cheese toast and tomato chunks. I put a slice of bread with cheddar cheese in the toaster oven, and chop up tomatoes for a side dish. We usually finish our meal off with some fruit. Our little guy loves it. It's a quick, healthy meal for all of us, and we get everything we need -- protein, starch, vitamins and minerals -- in one quick meal."
Need other simple and delicious meal ideas? Try mixing canned black beans with fresh salsa for an easy black bean soup. Or toss whole wheat noodles with olive oil, canned chicken chunks and broccoli florets. Food doesn't need to be complicated in order to hit the spot.