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Stop making multiple dinners nightly

Molly Cerreta Smith loves writing about all things mommy, parenting, food, health and travel. When she's not staring into the face of her Mac, she loves to hike, read, do messy crafts with her kids and compete in BBQ competitions with he...

Please your whole family

Aren't you tired of making one dinner for you and your husband, another for your picky toddler and yet another for your picky teen?

End it now with inspired family-friendly dinner ideas.

Break it up

Instead of serving a one-pot dish that includes the entire meal in one casserole dish, consider meals that allow each member of your family to individualize their plate.

Pizza – Buy mini pre-baked pizza crusts, then set out small bowls of sauce, mozzarella, and a variety of toppings and form an assembly line for your family to each make the kind of pizza he or she likes. Can’t complain about that, right?

Tacos – Taco night is another easy one to individualize. Start with the basic — ground beef or turkey seasoned with Mexican spices, then set out soft and hard taco shells, shredded cheese, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, cilantro, jalapenos, black olives, etc. Let your family go to town on taco night.

Pasta – Make a big vat of pasta, then allow your family members to personalize their plate with a variety of store-bought pasta sauces (like Alfredo, marinara or pesto), cheeses and herbs like basil.

Salad – Toppings are limitless when it comes to making a fabulous salad. Purchase some yummy meats, cheese and olives for an Italian salad, chop up bacon, hard boiled eggs and tomatoes for a twist on a BLT, or mix up edamame, red pepper, Teriyaki chicken and almond slivers for an Asian-inspired dinner.

Kid-friendly salad recipes >>

Designate dinner

The three-bites rule

Instead of constantly trying to please every member in your family, invite them to become a bit more adventurous and expand their palates by introducing some new (but not super adventurous) meals that you can all try together. Make it your goal to try one new recipe a week and insist that each member of your family try at least three bites before they decide whether they love it or hate it.

Let each member of your family choose whatever meal he or she wants one night of the week… and let them be in charge of preparing it or helping you make it (depending on their ages). You can include a few basic rules, too! Your child must help you pick out the meal and shop together with you for the items. The meal must include at least one vegetable and/or fruit. Other than that, the sky is the limit. When children feel they have a say in their dinner choice, they are more likely to enjoy it than if they are simply presented with a meal and forced to eat it.

Kid-friendly recipes from Jamie Deen >>

At first your child’s dinner choices may be basic mac and cheese and hot dogs, but encourage her to try new things each time, to peruse cookbooks with you and to discover new fruits and veggies at the store to incorporate into her dinner.

How the right food choices can help fuel kids’ active adventures >>

Go cold turkey

If you’ve presented your child with a zillion options and she’s still turning up her nose at dinner, let her go without. She will not starve to death going one night without dinner. But it may teach her a lesson about biting the hand that feeds, so to speak, and make her a little more willing to try tomorrow night’s dinner.

More on family-friendly meals

Kid-friendly recipes from A to Z
Healthy recipes for toddlers: Vegetables in disguise
You will eat: Picky eater survival guide

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