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By Emily Smith

Healthy family meals

Balancing healthy meals with kid friendly options is a challenge. With obesity on the rise, providing proper nutrition to families has never been more important. With a little planning and a few tips, anyone can cook stress-free, healthy family dinners on any given night of the week.

When grocery shopping, let the kids get involved. Give them a small list and let them pick the items. Many chains now offer child size shopping carts. When preparing dinner, let the kids help. Young children can wash and dry vegetables, measure dry ingredients and help mix. Kids are more likely to eat what they have helped prepare.

Try to plan balanced, well rounded meals by having a main protein with a vegetable and a carbohydrate. Vegetables can be raw, cooked, canned, or frozen but should not be loaded down with ranch, butter or cheese sauce. Also, if it is breaded and fried it should not count as a vegetable.

Another good rule to remember is moderation. Eating a salad? Don't overdress. Eating a baked potato? Only add just a little butter or sour cream. Also, avoid buying pre-packaged or pre-prepared foods. These are usually found in the freezer section and are loaded with sodium and unnecessary added sugar.

Below are a couple of healthy, kid approved meal ideas:

Chicken sausage dogs

Chicken sausage is delicious and a healthy alternative to hot dogs. Grill and serve on a whole grain bun. Top with ketchup, mustard, relish, sauerkraut or cooked peppers and onions.

Baked potato bar

Here is an easy weeknight meal. Begin with russet potatoes. Wash, dry and poke holes in the potatoes with a fork to vent. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until soft. Serve with a little butter and sour cream, cooked broccoli, chopped, shredded cheese, fresh chives, salsa or any other combination of toppings. Be creative!

Super salad buffet

This is a great way for kids to try new foods. Start with lettuce mixed with some fresh spinach leaves. Add cooked cubed chicken, turkey or ham, shredded carrots, chick peas, cooked and cooled green peas, shred cheese, black or green olives, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower florets, sliced cucumber, baby corn, turkey pepperoni, banana peppers and quartered hard boiled eggs. Finish it off with several choices of dressings. Remember; do not overload the salad with dressing and cheese.

Healthy Taco Salad

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 package taco seasoning

1 can corn, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1 tomato, diced

½ package shredded cheese

½ cup French dressing

1 bag shredded lettuce

Cook beef and taco seasoning, following instructions on package. In a bowl, combine cooked beef, corn, black beans and tomato. Add dressing and stir. Serve over lettuce. Add light sour cream, salsa, or taco sauce.


Chicken is a great choice as it can be cooked and used in a variety of different dishes. Craving fried chicken? Use Panko bread crumbs, coat and bake chicken tenderloins. Cook chicken breasts and use with salads or in wraps. The meal possibilities are endless.

Easy balsamic roast chicken

1 whole cut up roast chicken

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken, skin side up, in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle rosemary on top. Roast 45 minutes or until chicken is at 165 degrees.

Families with kids no longer have to only be bound to meals consisting of chicken nuggets, fries, pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches. There are countless recipes and information available that is dedicated to healthy dinner ideas, making cooking a nutritious and delicious meal easy and stress free.

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