In the throes of back-to-school chaos, assembling even the most-basic dishes can feel like a chore. That’s why the chefs in Food Network Kitchen have been busy dreaming up light, wholesome alternatives to the prepackaged meals we tend to fall back on during the busy transition from summer to fall. Most importantly, they’re easy enough for kids to help prepare — and enticing enough for them to want to eat.
You’ll have breakfast on the table in 20 minutes with Food Network Kitchen’s wholesome take on classic eggs-in-the-hole, which calls for a modest dose of Parmesan cheese and crumbled bacon, adding flavor and texture for few extra calories. Make the morning even easier on yourself by allowing the kids to butter the bread, cut out the center holes and crack the eggs.
While your little ones help with breakfast, you’ll be free to start packing up healthy lunches. Go with something high in fiber and protein but low in sugar — that way the kids will stay full and avoid the midday slump. These Mini Whole-Wheat Chicken Pot Pies contain just 1 gram of sugar and are stuffed with shredded chicken, carrots and peas. Turn the recipe into a family baking project over the weekend, then pop the pies in the freezer and pull them out as necessary for a handy solution to humdrum deli meat sandwiches throughout the week.
When it comes to after-school snacking, packaged cookies and chips are a quick fix . But then again, so are Food Network Kitchen’s Healthy Peanut-Butter Balls, which consist of whole-grain cereal and smooth peanut butter, so they’re high in protein and fiber and likely to tide the kids over until dinner. Use maple syrup as a sweetening agent instead of refined white sugar, then toss the balls in a light dusting of cocoa powder. Since they don’t need to be refrigerated, they make a lunchbox-friendly dessert.
You can’t beat this 3-Ingredient Banana Pudding for efficiency — or taste. Prepare the pudding the night before, to allow the chia seeds to plump up overnight. You can serve it in the morning as a satisfying breakfast that falls somewhere between a smoothie bowl and cereal.
High in protein but low in sugar and carbohydrates, these Oven-Baked Almond Fish Sticks provide you with everything you should expect from a healthy weeknight dinner. Crushed almonds and bran-flake cereal add a wonderfully crunchy coating that simply can’t be achieved with basic breadcrumbs —not to mention providing an extra dose of fiber.
This self-serve meal lets kids load up open-face quesadillas with their choice of vegetables. The little kids can help you assemble the quesadillas before baking, and the big kids can add the seasonings to the beef and help cut up the tomatoes and bell peppers for the toppings bar.
There’s no harm in enjoying something sweet after dinner, and these portion-controlled snack cakes made with whole-wheat pastry flour, rolled oats and applesauce are a wise substitute for the packaged grocery-store treats that inspired them. Best of all, the recipe is straightforward enough for kids to follow: Ask the kids to dump the measured ingredients into the mixing bowls, stir in the chocolate chips, spray the baking pan with cooking spray and help spread the batter.
For more kid-friendly meal and snack ideas, check out these recipes from our friends:
Devour: Embrace Your Inner Kid with 5 Fun Flips on Pizza
The Lemon Bowl: Skillet Mexican Street Corn
Homemade Delish: Healthy Back-to-School Lunches
Creative Culinary: Peanut Butter and Apple Oatmeal Cookies
The Fed Up Foodie: Spiced Pumpkin Donuts
A Mind “Full” Mom: 2-Ingredient Homemade Gogurts
The Mom 100: Tomato-Orzo Dill Soup
Taste with the Eyes: Black Bean Spaghetti Caterpillar For Kids
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Kale Sushi Rice Bowls
Swing Eats: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich Cookies (Gluten-Free & Flourless)
FN Dish: Our Favorite A+ Afterschool Snacks