9 Healthy Hacks So Simple You Can Try for Dinner Tonight

I had given up lobbying for healthy dinner ideas a long time ago.

Juggling three kids — Picky Pickersons, as I call them — will break a woman. It’s just easier when my kids eat! But what I didn’t know back then was that there are a lot of ways to sneak some extra nutrition into my kids’ favorite food without a battle.

If you’re looking for some ways to mix up the menu but don’t have the time for complicated recipes or a nightly debate over dinner, check out these 9 kid-friendly dinner hacks that are healthy and taste great:

1) Homemade Breaded Chicken Fingers with Greek Yogurt Honey Mustard

This SUPER simple breaded chicken finger recipe by Rachel Ray is perfect for busy weeknights. Just dip the tenders into beaten egg mixture then dredge with breadcrumbs and bake for 12-15 minutes. For a protein-packed Greek Yogurt Honey Mustard dipping sauce, follow the recipe below.

Ingredients:

¼ cup 2% reduced fat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

1 tablespoon honey

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until smooth.

2) Turkey Rollups

Who says deli meat’s only for lunch?! There are tons of recipes out there for roll-ups, but if your kids like avocado and hummus, this one from Organize Yourself Skinny has a ton of protein and healthy unsaturated fat.

Use Land O’Frost DeliShaved Oven Roasted Turkey for a tasty and easy-to-roll option.

Simply lay the turkey out flat. If using two slices of DeliShaved turkey, lay slices onto one another. Then spread hummus on top of the turkey, add the avocado and roll it all up in a flour or wheat tortilla.

3) Slow Cooker Turkey Sloppy Joes

Just seeing the words “slow cooker” puts a smile on my face!

Because let’s be honest, at 6PM, the last thing I’m trying to do is play super mom, so the earlier we can start this the better. For low-fat sloppy joes, throw a pound of raw ground turkey meat, diced green pepper, diced onion, minced garlic, yellow mustard, ketchup, tomato sauce and barbecue sauce in the slow cooker and cook on low for five to six hours.

Want more slow cooker options?

See our 15 summer crock pot recipes
Amazing Crock Pot Dinner

4) Baked Sweet Potato Fries

This healthier version of French fries would go great with the sloppy joes or chicken tenders!

Just slice the sweet potatoes into anything resembling fries, toss them in a bowl to coat with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder then bake (turning occasionally) for about 20 minutes.

5) Creamy Squash Mac ‘N’ Cheese

OK, you’re going to LOVE this sneakily brilliant recipe.

Because the color of the butternut squash perfectly matches the color of processed cheese, your kids will be totally be convinced you’ve made the creamiest mac ‘n’ cheese imaginable.

But little do they know, this recipe is packed with healthy veggie carbs and protein!

  1. Boil cubed, peeled squash with low-sodium chicken broth, fat-free milk and garlic cloves.
  2. Put the mixture in a blender, adding in Greek yogurt, salt and pepper, and blend until smooth.
  3. Next, just add Gruyère, pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano (all low-fat cheeses) to the squash mixture and combine with prepared macaroni.

This recipe calls for adding breadcrumbs on top, but that is a little more work than I’m willing to do, so feel free to skip.

6) Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

Pair these delicious, low-fat meatballs with whole-wheat spaghetti, spiralized zucchini or squash to lower the calories and raise the nutritional value even more.

Make the meatballs with chicken sausage, breadcrumbs, Italian seasonings, parmesan, garlic, salt, pepper and eggs. Shape them into balls about an inch wide and bake until lightly browned. While the meatballs are cooking, prepare spaghetti or pasta alternatives and heat pasta sauce. Put a sliver of mozzarella cheese on each meatball for the finishing touch. Then serve atop spaghetti and top it all with the pasta sauce.

7) Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

OK, I got lucky: Two of my three kids will actually eat cauliflower, and there’s no recipe for that.

But for the one kid who doesn’t — and maybe yours — this recipe is so sneaky they may not know they’re getting cauliflower!!

The key is boiling the cauliflower so that it’s super soft and allow time for it to completely dry. (The dryer, the better!) Then prepare exactly as you would mashed potatoes—butter, light half-and-half, salt, pepper and garlic powder is how I would do it, though this recipe calls for sour cream instead of half-and-half. Top with chives and serve on the side of those baked chicken tenders, and well, you’ve officially replaced a starch for a veggie. Mom wins.

8) Mexican Pizza

Mexican food tonight, or pizza? Let’s do both. This dish is great for moms short on time.

Lay out whole-wheat tortillas and top them with the kids’ favorite Mexican toppings: lettuce, cheese, cooked ground turkey or chicken (with taco seasoning), and bake them in the oven until the cheese is melted and the meat is hot. Then, dress them up with salsa, and sour cream— dinner is served in 15 minutes or less!

9) Double-Chocolate Cereal Treats

We’ll end with a tasty treat from Cooking Light that you can make for either a post-dinner dessert or something for breakfast if everyone’s full.

This healthy snack will have your kids at “chocolate-one-chocolate,” a clever disguise for the whole-grain goodness that’s about to sneak its way inside.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups whole-grain cereal (such as Kashi Go Lean)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Start by combining the first five ingredients (through salt) in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for a minute. Remove bowl from microwave and stir with a large rubber spatula coated with cooking spray until smooth. Stir in cereal before stirring in chocolate chips.

Next coat a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup with cooking spray. Lightly pack the measuring cup with cereal mixture; drop onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (you should have 15 cookies). Then just freeze eight minutes until it’s firm.

Remember: Dinnertime doesn’t have to be a fight to the bitter end just to get a little nutrition into your kids, and you don’t have to feel guilty for giving in and serving them their favorite foods.

A little finessing of the ingredients and an occasional sneaky add-in will assuage your guilt and satisfy their Picky Pickerson palates!

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