“What’s for dinner?”
Do you dread this question? You want to feed your family a healthy meal, but it’s the end of a long day, AND maybe you even have picky eaters to manage. Ugh!
Sitting down together as a family over a home-cooked meal is one of the best things you can do for your kids’ health. And yet with our modern lifestyles, time and taste preferences challenge us to follow through.
In this article, I share tips on how to approach feeding your kids a healthy dinner and provide you with plenty of recipes to get you started (or back on track) with great healthy dinner ideas for kids.
Navigating family dinner
Simply said, making family mealtime a priority will benefit your kids, and healthy foods at those meals will benefit them even more.
Why eating together is important
I find it a misconception that children can get away with eating anything. I agree they are resilient. However, when it comes to growth and development, healthy food is crucial.
Balanced nutrients lead to vibrancy early in life, whether they are eating to fuel athletics or just a busy day at preschool. And every child can benefit from developing positive habits, awareness, and appreciation for healthy food at a young age. You can also start getting kids involved in food prep and cooking at a young age, with kitchen tools for kids.
Most people would agree that a variety of meals centered around foods sourced close to the Earth are ideal for all of us, including our children. I encourage you to read more about what real food is and why it’s important.
Importance of the family meal
Not only does what children eat impact their health, so does how they eat. Family meals are an opportunity to build relationships and share experiences around nourishing food. They are a time for learning how to navigate the kitchen, prepare new dishes, laugh, and slow down.
Primal Peak philosophy
Food should be fun. It should unite your friends and family. And it should support a healthy body, mind, and spirit.
Here are five things you can do to adopt this philosophy in your home:
1. Cook one meal for everyone
One meal should be prepared and enjoyed by the whole family. Sure, there may be small adjustments for food allergies and similar needs. But from the first introduction to food to when your children head out on their own, the same meal for all cultivates wide-ranging palates and simplified cooking.
2. Increase exposure
It can take up to fifteen exposures to a new food for a child to develop a taste for it. As a parent, patience and perseverance eventually pay off with a simple rule:
Try one bite.
“Variety is the spice of life,” and a reminder to offer new foods and new cooking methods frequently. If a child is only given chicken fingers and fries because “that’s all they’ll eat,” then yes, that’s all they’ll eat.
3. Build balanced plates
Build meals with your children that include a quality protein source, colorful vegetables (Eat a Rainbow), and healthy fats. Running through this quick checklist with them and allowing them to see that your plate is built this way, will help them learn balance.
4. Model healthy eating
Your kids are watching you. What does your plate look like? Do you sit down and chew your food? Are you eating a variety of colorful vegetables?
Teaching your kids through example can be highly effective. They may not adopt your style right away, but children often come back to what they know later in life.
5. Involve your kids in the process
Any time you include your children in meal planning, shopping, cooking, and serving, they are more likely to eat the food. And they will learn competency in the process.
All of this can be done in a fun and subtle way that over the years will add up to insurmountable benefit.
Healthy dinner ideas for kids
With these five steps in mind, check out these 45 healthy dinner recipe ideas for your whole family. These primal living recipes provide plenty of opportunities to include your kids in the kitchen — follow the tips and get everyone involved!
If your kids are extra fussy about what they will and won’t eat, try these crockpot recipes for picky eaters.
We’ve divided the 45 healthy dinner ideas into six categories to make it easy for you to find exactly what your family needs.
Healthy meal categories
Need more healthy dinner ideas? 4 Weeks of Real Food makes meal planning a cinch!
Not sure what to eat? Overwhelmed by decision fatigue? My 4 Weeks of Real Food meal plan gives you everything you need for a full month of delicious, healthy real food meals.
Poultry based dinners
Chicken and turkey are protein-packed, kid-approved meats that can be quick to put on the table. They’re a great staple for athlete diets, too, and can help active and athletic kids and teens reach peak performance.
Here are my most-requested recipes that feature poultry and will leave you and your children well fueled and satisfied.
Apple cinnamon turkey burgers
I love to take kid-friendly foods like burgers and add different ingredients for flavor exposure and interest. This recipe for Apple Cinnamon Turkey Burgers is a great example with apples and herbs, served with cheese (optional), and wrapped in lettuce.
My kids love to gently rinse beautiful butter lettuce and carefully dry it in the salad spinner to then wrap the burgers in.
Asian turkey lettuce wraps
Kids love to scoop and fill, even when it comes to food. The slightly sweet and salty filling in this Asian Turkey Lettuce Wrap recipe is fun for kids of all ages to spoon into lettuce cups and munch away.
The filling can also be served over chopped romaine lettuce and rice (cauliflower or white).
Chicken teriyaki cauliflower-rice bowl
Rice bowls – going once, going twice; sold to 99% of kids! Who doesn’t love a good rice bowl? This Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowl recipe aims to take a crowd-pleaser and boost the nutrient density with extra veggies and soy sauce alternative.
Chicken “pasta” with sundried tomato pesto
Kids love pasta but swapping this ingredient for veggie noodles can be a win-win. Using spaghetti squash instead of traditional noodles adds more flavor, more nutrition, more color, and fewer processed ingredients. Kids have a blast pulling the cooked spaghetti squash strands from the skin.
Coconut chicken tenders
Chicken “Pasta” with Sundried Tomato Pesto is a one-dish meal that’s comforting and nourishing. In a pinch? Use a cooked rotisserie chicken.
The majority of kids include chicken fingers on their favorite foods list. This Coconut Chicken Tender recipe was born out of my desire to make this kid-friendly dish healthier (avoiding potentially harmful frying oils, and flours). It’s become one of my favorite go-to easy, healthy family meals.
Teach your kids how to dredge the chicken in coconut flour, then egg, and finally shredded coconut – they love it. Weave in a little food safety lesson with proper handwashing afterward.
Eating meat off the bone is both healthy and fun for kids. The skin on these Crispy Drumsticks provides good fats and nutrients that benefit your kids own connective tissues.
Let your kids brush the drumsticks with melted butter, and sprinkle the seasonings on top. Serve with a large green salad or veggie sides (see recipes below).
Mexican primal lasagna
Layers of noodles, sauce, meat, and cheese! This Mexican Primal Lasagna recipe adds a twist with unique flavor (not too spicy), chicken, almond flour noodles, and mild veggies amongst its layers.
Have your kids help you layer the ingredients in the pan before baking.
Chicken pad thai
With the switch of a few ingredients, we brought this traditional dish to life again in a healthier version. This Chicken Pad Thai recipe brings out beautiful textures, colors, and flavors — including umami.
Join your kids in learning more about fish sauce and the umami it provides HERE.
Quick fix chicken tacos
At our house, some version of tacos makes an appearance every Tuesday night. This Quick Fix Chicken Taco recipe is at the top of the list. It’s one of my favorite healthy, kid friendly recipes.
Whether you slow-cook a whole chicken, put thighs in the Instant Pot, grill some breasts, or grab a pre-cooked rotisserie bird, it pulls together in a flash. Assign each family member a task, and you’ll be eating in no time!
Summer squash chicken boats
A real food vessel of goodness! The olive tapenade flavor in this Summer Squash Chicken Boat recipe may be a bit sophisticated for little ones. However, parents are often surprised when their kids love olives.
Healthy dinners with beef
When you have the opportunity to grab grass-fed beef, take advantage! It’s a great source of B vitamins, iron, zinc, and selenium, as well as omega-3 fats for growing and developing children.
The majority of beef recipes compiled here call for ground beef, which can be affordable and quick-cooking. It’s versatile, lending itself well to all kinds of healthy dinner ideas for kids.
Beef and sweet potato stew
This Beef and Sweet Potato Stew is chocked full of nutrient-dense vegetables and beef. Kids love the sweet, salty, and savory combo of sweet potatoes, vegetable broth, and tomatoes.
Making a hearty stew is an opportunity to teach your littles how to safely chop and dice with the “bear-claw” knife technique. It’s also a great opportunity to use my favorite slow cooker – you can get it on Amazon.
Korean beef bowls
This Korean Beef Bowl recipe comes together in a pinch! I love it for busy school nights, and the kids love the textures that ground beef, diced veggies, and sesame seeds bring to their bowl.
Have them help you sprinkle on the seeds and decide how much crushed red pepper flakes the family can handle.
Crockpot flank steak fajitas
Fajitas get the stamp of approval from most kids, and this Crockpot Flank Steak Fajita recipe has the slow-cooker do all the work for you.
Serve them in non-GMO corn, or alternative flour tortillas, or over Mexican Cauliflower Rice (our family’s favorite).
Garden harvest meatloaf
The comfort of meatloaf continues to stand the test of time, and this Garden Harvest recipe adds beautiful pops of color from vegetables such as red onion and bell peppers. My kids always come back for seconds.
Kids are great at forming the loaves and spreading the sauce on top.
Mini garden meatzas
Win #1: Make your own pizza night naturally draws kids into the kitchen. Win #2: This Mini Garden Meatza recipe is more nutrient-dense than a typical pizza.
Challenge your kids to pick at least three different colored produce toppings as they make their own creations.
As a mom, simmering up meat sauce to ladle over veggie noodles is a quick and easy dinner I turn to on our busiest nights. This Primal Spaghetti recipe takes a simple, nourishing meal up a level with quality ingredients and fresh herbs.
Have your kids pick off the herb leaves and smell their differences.
Typical chili dishes are made from a heavy base of beans, whereas this Primal Chili recipe emphasizes vegetables and meat with mild spices and a hint of cinnamon.
The toppings are a favorite because kids can decide for themselves how much of which garnish makes their chili taste the best.
Shepherd’s Pie is another comfort food that many kids are drawn to. I love this recipe because it uses mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes. This swap boosts cruciferous veggie intake, while still providing the creamy texture associated with Shepherd’s Pie.
Can your kids tell it’s not potato? You could also opt for a half potato and half cauliflower mash.
Meatballs are a great opportunity for clean ingredients and messy hands! Onions, celery, and fresh herbs add flavor and texture to this recipe.
Once all the ingredients have been placed in a large bowl, your kids can use their clean hands to mix everything together and roll into balls. Serve Shannon’s Meatballs over zucchini noodles, rice noodles, or as a side dish with marinara for dipping!
Thai beef with carrot noodles
Who would have thought you can make noodles from carrots?! Well, today you can spiralize just about anything. This recipe is for those kids with a little adventure in their soul.
After selecting larger diameter carrots for this Thai Beef with Carrot Noodles recipe, have your kids help you spiralize them into long strands.
Dinner ideas with pork
Did you know that pork is the most commonly consumed meat worldwide? It’s quite easy to cook, and its versatility suits many flavors and cooking methods.
Check out these recipes for ideas beyond bacon.
Five-spice pork tenderloin with apple compote
The combo of Chinese five-spice (star anise, cinnamon, fennel seed, Sichuan peppercorns, and cloves) with baked apples, raisins, and apricots is like dessert for dinner.
Have your kids pick their favorite green veggie or green salad to go with this 5 Spice Pork Tenderloin with Apple Compote recipe.
Pork and pineapple? Yes, please! Sweet, tangy, and juicy – these meatballs are a home run for the whole family. Hawaiian Meatballs also make great leftovers for school lunches.
This recipe is an opportunity for your younger kids to learn how to crack eggs. Just have them practice into a separate bowl so you can remove any shells.
Jazzed up bangers and mash
Giving kids interesting tidbits of information can go a long way, such as why these sausages were given the name “bangers.”
Read more about Jazzed up Bangers and Mash while you and your kids enjoy sausage, potatoes, and a few things “green.”
Pork stuffed peppers
Ground pork, pork sausage, AND bacon are a great vehicle to transport zucchini and other veggies into my boys’ mouths. This Pork Stuffed Peppers recipe is simple to make, beautiful on your plate, and delicious all at the same time.
Your little ones can help you stuff the peppers and pick their favorite color to eat once they are cooked.
Zesty primal chili with leftover pork ribs
This Zesty Primal Chili with Pork produces a sweet flavor to suit young taste buds, and it’s full of veggies and nourishing broth to suit parents’ goals.
Have your little hands help you pull the meat from the bone, chop veggies, and measure spices!
Seafood and fish ideas
Fatty fish, such as wild-caught salmon, is an excellent source of omega-3 fats for brain health. Seafood is also rich in minerals such as iodine and potassium, which can be low in our diets.
Here are a handful of recipes to excite your kids about seafood and fish.
Asian halibut pouches
Cooking in parchment pouches is a technique that our kids have always been intrigued by. It’s a quick and easy dinner technique, and this recipe traps Asian inspired flavor and moisture to leave tender, flaky fish.
This Asian Halibut Pouch recipe allows young ones to put together a colorful creation and then tear open their very own bag to enjoy the flavors.
Cabbage and shrimp dolmas
My youngest son loves all things shrimp! Anytime you can use a favorite food to introduce other foods, it can work wonders.
These cabbage-wrapped Shrimp Dolmas are full of fun tastes, such as pineapple, ginger, and cilantro, and they are paired with the familiar – rice, carrots, and shrimp.
Ginger shrimp curry
If your kids are on the fence with fish, this Ginger Shrimp Curry recipe can be a good go-to. Using a mild white fish, such as halibut or cod, in combination with creamy coconut milk, lime, and ginger, subdues any “fishy” taste.
When kids add shrimp to the pan, they are amazed at how quickly they cook. Serve over steamed broccoli or rice for a beautiful family meal.
Salmon can be a strong taste for some palates – kids seem to love it or hate it. The combination of ingredients in this Salmon Chowder recipe mellows the fish flavor making it a nice way to introduce salmon.
Kids help by adding the ingredients and stirring the pot!
Smokey shrimp paella
Smokey Shrimp Paella pulls together in a snap and is full of healthy ingredients. The slightly smokey flavor and texture combination of shrimp and dried chorizo allow this dish to stand out.
Your kids can help you saute the peppers and onions as they learn how the heat softens their flavor.
Healthy side dish ideas
Sometimes you just need a good side dish (or two) to pair with a source of protein and build a balanced meal. I’m sharing a few of our family favorites right here.
Apple sage butternut squash
Adding kid-approved sweet apple chunks is all you need to encourage a few bites of winter squash. This dish can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Play with different fresh herbs to find the flavors your children love and pair this Apple Sage Butternut Squash with pork or chicken for a complete meal.
Brussels stuffed sweet potato
Kids love the autonomy of being able to pick their toppings, whether we are talking about ice cream or stuffed potatoes.
You can also try this Brussels Stuffed Sweet Potato recipe with Russet potatoes, switch out the cheese, and try different green veggies.
Easy Roasted Broccoli is our family’s FAVORITE way to eat this cruciferous veggie. The slightly crisp texture and mildly sweet coconut oil add a new element to bring a skeptical broccoli eater to the other side.
Sweet potato fries
Kids and fries – a match made in heaven. This baked Rustic Sweet Potato version satisfies the craving in our house, and I bet it will in yours as well.
Helping hands can toss the melted coconut oil with the fries, spread in a single layer, and season.
Vanilla bean sweet potato mash
This Vanilla Bean Sweet Potato Mash recipe is a Thanksgiving tradition at our house, but it’s a delicious side any time!
Introduce your kids to the wonders of vanilla bean and the extraordinarily big flavor these tiny specks provide. After you carefully slice the pod longitudinally, teach them to scrape the seeds out with a butter knife.
Soups and salads
Soups and salads can certainly become a part of healthy dinners for kids. The recipes below can be used as the main focus of the meal or a side compliment. Tips, tricks, and explanations are given for ways to peek your children’s interest.
Chicken coconut soup
Grandma may know best when she says, “chicken soup will heal what ails you.” The nourishing benefits of homemade bone broth, chicken, and vegetables are prevalent in this Chicken Coconut Soup recipe.
Our boys love to zest the lemon over each bowl — a great technique to teach and a fabulous flavor to enjoy.
Crispy chicken arugula salad
This salad is our go-to for using up leftover chicken, or taking advantage of a store-bought rotisserie bird in a pinch. The bits of bacon and sweet grapes balance the spicy bite of arugula.
This Crispy Chicken Arugula Salad requires some chopping and plating – both are ways to involve the whole crew in dinner prep.
Cucumber radish salad
Kids love the refreshing crunch of cucumber, but may be unsure of the spicy crunch of radish. The nutrition, color, and flavor that the radish adds to this Cucumber Radish Salad recipe is just enough to encourage kids to try it alongside a well-known taste.
Have your kids toss the ingredients together to thoroughly coat the vegetables with oil and vinegar.
Fruity green salad with vanilla vinaigrette
Highlighting the fruits of the season along with mixed salad greens and the healthy fats of avocado and pumpkin seeds is pleasing to the palate and the gut.
Little helpers can whisk the dressing ingredients together before experiencing the unique addition of vanilla drizzled over this colorful Fruity Green Salad recipe.
Carrot ginger soup
Both sweet and nutritious, this Carrot Ginger Soup recipe is one your kids will ask for again and again. It’s a simple blend of fresh carrots, ginger, and onion in a base of chicken broth with a splash of heavy cream or coconut milk.
Ask your children what type of meat and green vegetables they would like to pair with this rich, comforting soup.
Grape and avocado salad
With just a handful of ingredients, this Grape and Avocado Salad is a recipe you can use to introduce your kids to the pizzazz of microgreens. Power-packed with nutrients, the microgreens and sunflower seeds add texture and interest to this salad.
If goat cheese is too strong of a taste for your “littles” you can swap it out for a milder cheese, or omit altogether.
Mexican twist chicken soup
The ingredients and flavors in this soup are ideal for hot or cold weather. It’s also perfect for teaching kids how a basic recipe like chicken soup can be improvised to create a unique dish.
The nourishment found in this Mexican Twist Chicken Soup from the broth, protein-rich chicken, and avocado leaves kids and grown-ups satisfied and energized.
Slow-cooked tomato soup
I have fond childhood memories of Campbell’s tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. But we now know that heavily processed foods are not ideal for health. So, why not make your own?
This Slow-Cooked Tomato Soup includes roasted carrots, celery, and onions for added nutrients and flavor. But your kids will mostly taste the tomatoey (is that a word?) emphasis.
Strawberry avocado salad
We eat first with our eyes! This Strawberry Avocado Salad draws kids’ attention with the rich contrasting colors of strawberries and avocados. From the first bite, the variety of textures keep them interested — and it can be a fun game to see how many they can identify.
Have your kids experiment with different nuts and seeds to find a combination they love the most.
Thai coconut chicken soup
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup was the recipe that finally turned my kids into mushroom eaters! It’s a fun way to introduce young ones to the citrus and ginger flavors of Thai cooking, alongside the creamy comfort of coconut milk and chicken.
If there is an ingredient in this soup that your kids object to, having them prepare it can increase their desire to try it again in a new way.
Serving this soup with the option of rice can make kids more willing to be adventurous, and for “fix-it and forget-it” crockpot meals, this one is top of the list!
Make a healthy family dinner tonight!
In this list of healthy dinner ideas for kids, we discussed the importance of healthy, real foods for children, and bringing the family together at mealtime.
Now you have a variety of nourishing poultry, beef, pork, seafood/fish, side dish, and soup and salad recipes to make it happen with nourishing, healthy dinner ideas for kids — even picky ones.
Select a few meals from this compilation to try this week as you practice the Primal Peak philosophy. Try cooking a single meal for everyone, increasing exposure to new foods, building balanced meals, modeling healthy eating, and involving your kids in the process.
Take baby steps and celebrate the small wins of making healthy family meals a priority!