Healthy recipes for kids
It’s normal for kids to go through phases where they refuse to try new foods, or are particularly picky about what they want to eat. Don’t be disheartened — there are plenty of great ways to get kids eating healthily and adventurously!
We thought we’d lend you a hand by putting together a list of our favourite kid-friendly recipes, with thanks to our friends at the Heart Foundation. Check out these tasty meals for you and your tamariki, plus a few helpful tips and tricks, below.
What makes a great kid-friendly meal?
Parenting is hard work! You need to be sure your child is getting all the right nutrients to grow strong and healthy, but you need meals to be quick and easy to prepare so you can still enjoy some family time.
On top of that, you need to be sure meals both fit into your budget and that your kids are going to be excited about eating them.
Fortunately, delicious, healthy food doesn’t have to use lots of expensive ingredients or loads of hard work. Whether you’re feeding a full house or just don’t have time to cook, the recipes below are simple, affordable, full of good stuff and — most importantly — they taste great.
Remember, school-aged children need at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day, according to government website HealthEd.
Lastly, if you’re making meals for your kids’ school lunches, you have to be sure the food will keep nicely until lunch time. Take a look at our list of great lunchbox recipes to get some helpful tips and inspiration.
How to get your kids excited about food
Kids learn about food best by being involved in its preparation and cooking. One of the easiest ways to get your kids excited about healthy eating is to let them be a part of meal prep.
Introduce your kids to cooking in a fun, relaxed environment. Remember to make sure everyone is cooking with clean hands, and take some time to educate your kids about basic food safety.
Give them tasks you’re confident they can achieve, and oversee them so they’re set up to succeed. The types of jobs you give your kids will vary according to their age. You’ll want to start with very basic tasks and gradually move up to more complicated jobs as their skills develop.
Easy kitchen jobs for kids
For kids ages 2 to 6
- Stirring cold mixes.
- Washing fruits and vegetables.
- Cut soft foods with a dull knife (eg, banana).
- Measuring and pouring ingredients.
For kids ages 7 to 9
- Using blunt kitchen utensils such as a garlic press or juicer.
- Mashing (bananas, potatoes).
- Opening cans.
- Using small knives under supervision.
For kids ages 10 to 12
- Reading a recipe out loud.
- Setting timers.
- Using sharper and larger kitchen utensils under supervision.
- Using the oven, with supervision.
Through all of this, remember to offer your children small pieces of food while cooking. Introduce your kids to fruits and vegetables whole, show them how you prepare the produce and then let them try a little bit. Don’t be put off if they don’t like the food to begin with — their little taste buds are still developing.
Of course, there are also plenty of ways to get kids engaged with healthy eating outside the kitchen. Here are just a few ways you can make fruits and vegetables a bigger part of your kids’ lives:
5 ways to keep kids learning about healthy foods
Take your kids to your nearest PAK’n’SAVE with you. Let them see different kinds of produce and choose fruits and vegetables for themselves.
Guide your kids to make healthy decisions about snacks by showing them how to read nutrition labels, if they’re old enough.
Try growing your own food at home. Get your kids to help you plant and grow some simple produce like tomatoes or spinach. These are super easy to grow at home and your kids can get excited about eating something they’ve made.
Make food fun with science! Wherever possible, make food a fun learning experience. If you’re baking some healthy fruit muffins, teach your kids about raising agents by playing with some baking soda experiments, like a DIY volcano.
Go on a trip to a local orchard. New Zealand is full of farms that accept visitors, so your kids can see where their fruits and veggies are coming from.
How to teach a fussy eater to love fruits and vegetables
Almost every child will go through a phase where they’re picky with food. Learning to make their own decisions is all a part of growing up, so don’t stress too much.
What you can do to help your kids make healthy choices about food is give them lots of time and patience to discover all the different smells, flavours and textures the world has to offer.
Here’s a few different ways you can encourage healthy eating habits in the fussiest of eaters:
- Don’t offer dessert or sweets as a reward or as an incentive for eating vegetables. This teaches kids that sugary foods are more interesting than veggies.
- Don’t overwhelm your kids with too many new things at once. Introduce new fruits and vegetables one at a time, and don’t pressure them into eating them if they don’t want to.
- Remember, it often takes 15 positive exposures to a new food before a child will accept it.
- Serve smaller portions of new foods. Remember, a single serving for a child is much smaller than for an adult. They only need a little bit to meet their 5+ A Day.
- Give your kids lots of attention and praise for eating well. This positive reinforcement will help them feel a lot better about trying new food.
- If your kids refuse to eat new foods, don’t make a fuss. Try again tomorrow — you’ve got plenty of time.
- Appeal to all five senses when introducing new foods. Present fruit and vegetables nicely by cutting them into shapes, or filling the plate with lots of bright colours. Instruct your child to inspect, touch and smell fruit before eating it so they eventually feel familiar with what they’re eating.
- Lead by example. Show your kids you’re eating and enjoying lots of healthy food too.
Kid-friendly foods that are great to keep in the pantry
One of the easiest ways to encourage healthy eating, is to make it easy. Load your pantry, fridge and fruit bowl with healthy options to make nutrition fun, tasty and simple.
Keep in your pantry:
- Nuts like almonds and unsalted peanuts. These are great for healthy snacking.
- Dried fruits like apricots, raisins and cranberries go down a treat. Try to get reduced-sugar options if you can.
- Whole-grain crackers and cereals.
Keep in your fridge:
- Low-fat milk or suitable milk alternative.
- Low-sugar fruit yogurt pots.
- Bite-sized fruits and veggies like grapes, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots.
- Lower-fat cheese like Edam, rather than Tasty.
Keep in your fruit bowl:
- Your kids’ favourite fruits. Keep them colourful and stocked up.
- Seedless mandarins and bananas are great because they’re easy for kids to eat without being cut up first.
Healthy meal ideas for kids
We’re proud to join forces with the Heart Foundation to bring you simple, healthy, delicious recipes that won’t break the bank. Check out our selection of kid-friendly recipes.
Healthy breakfast ideas your kids will love
Skip the sugary processed cereals by making your own muesli at home. This is a great, nutritious breakfast that will help your kids start the day right. With a bit of honey and some dried fruit, it’s nice and sweet while still being healthy, so your kids are bound to love it.
Make a big batch in advance and store it in the pantry to easy weekday breakfasts. Serve with canned or seasonal fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt.
These tasty savoury muffins are perfect if you have a little time to prepare in the morning, or made the night before. Simply heat them up in the microwave or a low oven and serve warm.
For an irresistible Saturday morning breakfast, you can’t go wrong with these breakfast burritos. Let your kids pick some of their own additional fillings to make mealtime fun. You could include some tomato salsa, baby spinach, grated carrot or diced cherry tomatoes.
This simple French toast has no added sugar in it, so it’s a great option for a regular Sunday morning treat. Serve it up with yummy seasonal fruits and yogurt, and maybe a bit of runny honey.
All the hard work happens overnight with this simple porridge recipe. Use your favourite fruit or swap the canned fruit out for fresh stuff to make this even more delicious. This will keep well in the fridge for most of the week, so you can easily make a big batch to see the whole family through to the weekend.
Healthy snacks for kids
Loaded with vegetables and super-quick to make, these falafel wraps can be a healthy option for particularly hungry children. Make a few in advance and store them in the fridge for a couple of days so you always have an easy option at hand.
If sweet chilli is too hot for your kids, try adding some yogurt to cool it down or swap it out for tomato relish.
These mini frittatas are a great grab-and-go snack. With lots of veggies, ham and eggs, these are full of healthy stuff to get your kids through the day. Of course, you can make a batch of these at the start of the week and keep them in the fridge for a couple of days. They’ll also freeze wonderfully.
Lots of kids love sushi! These bite-sized pieces make a healthy snack and will keep in the fridge for about two days. Get your kids involved by showing them how to build and roll the sushi.
Healthy kid-friendly lunch and dinner ideas
Whether for lunch or dinner, corn fritters are often popular with the little ones. With sweet corn and lots of yummy caramelised edges from the pan, these go great with some chopped veggies, tomato salsa and low-fat sour cream.
Who doesn’t love mac ‘n’ cheese? The addition to tuna adds lots of easy protein to this meal, making it a great choice for growing kids, while replacing some of the macaroni with cauliflower keeps it full of veggies. Serve up a small portion with some bite-sized veggies like baby carrots and cherry tomatoes on the side.
Pastry parcels are great for kids. The unique presentation and flakes of pastry make any meal lots of fun. Instead of sausage rolls, plate up this cheesy vegetable-filled parcel. Serve with a low-sugar tomato sauce or relish.
Getting kids to eat salad can be pretty challenging. One great way to make salad fun for kids is to add lots of interesting textures, like crispy noodles, and their favourite fruits. Mandarin goes wonderfully in salad, because the bite-sized segments add bursts of fresh, juicy sweetness.
Let your kids try the dressing and coriander individually before serving, as you may need to hold them back for your kids’ servings.
Pasta salad can also be a great introduction to salad for kids. A creamy dressing, yummy pasta and lots of flaky salty tuna make this a delicious dinner for all ages. This is also a wonderfully affordable meal, using lots of ingredients you might already have in your fridge or pantry.
A baked potato is such an easy way to serve up something yum for tea. Each potato takes just 3-4 minutes to cook, and you can load them with any toppings you and your kids love like ham, tuna, spring onions, diced capsicum — you name it.
Healthy desserts for kids
Dessert should always be a sometimes food, given as a special treat. These recipes have lots of fruit, but also a fair bit of sugar, so they should be served sparingly.
Custard is super easy to make at home by using custard powder, sugar and milk. A little bit of custard served with fruits like apples, rhubarb or even peaches makes a great healthier dessert option for kids.
All of the sweetness in these pancakes comes from bananas, rather than refined sugar. This means they’re a bit healthier, and make a much better treat for your kids than sweets. You can even get the kids involved mashing bananas, measuring ingredients or mixing the batter.
These fruit-loaded muffins are definitely a treat for a special occasion. The combination of pineapple and coconut is so tasty, and using canned crushed pineapple means you can serve these up for a birthday in any season.
Making healthy eating easy and affordable
Teaching your kids to be excited about healthy eating is so important to encourage positive lifelong habits. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult. With lots of specials on delicious seasonal produce in-store and online, PAK’n’SAVE has you covered all year long.
For more tasty, healthy meal ideas, check out our full range of recipes now.
It’s normal for toddlers and young children to go through a stage of refusing food. It’s part of growing up and gaining independence. Don’t assume refusal means they dislike the food. Children need time to get used to the taste, texture and smell of new foods.
- Make food fun and easy to eat – finger foods are good. Use shapes and colours and arrange foods attractively.
- Avoid offering dessert or other treat foods as a reward. This sends mixed messages that healthy foods are less interesting.
- Offer one new food at a time and allow them to become familiar with that food before moving on to something new.
- Sometimes a child needs up to 15 positive exposures to a new food before they accept it.
- Where possible, let toddlers select their own food. Children are more likely to eat foods that they‘ve chosen.
- Serve small portions – large portions can put children off. They can always ask for more.
- Be a good role model – fill your plate with veges and show that you enjoy them.
- Praise good behaviour and give attention when they eat well. Don’t make a fuss when they don't eat their veges. Offer them again tomorrow.