When it comes to boosting a child’s health, there’s no better place to start than in the kitchen. Home-cooked family meals and snacks give tykes the nutritional building blocks needed to prosper mentally and physically.
But let’s face it: the crazy, back-to-school days of September are on the horizon. When they arrive, the tasks of proper menu planning and meal prep often get put on the back burner.
So let us help you dodge meltdown at mealtime with these low-fuss, nutrition-packed meals and snacks that are tasty enough to award the cook a resounding “yum yum—gimme some.”
Granola Pie with Maple Yogurt
Who says granola has to be served in a bowl with spoon in hand? This whimsical make-ahead riff on a breakfast classic removes the woulda-coulda-shoulda about starting the day on a solid nutritional note. And it provides a nourishing mixture of quality carbs, protein and healthy fats.
1 3/4 cups (435 mL) rolled oats
1/3 cup (80 mL) wheat germ
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped pecans
1/2 cup (125 mL) raisins
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
2 large eggs
1 medium apple, grated (about 1 cup/250 mL)
1/4 cup (60 mL) melted coconut oil, cooled
2 cups (500 mL) plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp (30 mL) maple syrup
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
2 cups (500 mL) blueberries
Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C). Line bottom of 8 or 9 in (20 or 23 cm) round cake pan with parchment paper and grease sides.
In large bowl, stir together oats, wheat germ, pecans, raisins, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In separate bowl, lightly beat eggs and stir in grated apple and coconut oil. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix until everything is moist.
Place mixture in prepared pan and firmly pack down into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, or until edges are golden and center is set. Remove and cool thoroughly.
Stir together yogurt, maple syrup and vanilla. Serve slices of granola pie topped with maple yogurt mixture and blueberries.
Each serving contains: 311 calories; 11 g protein; 15 g total fat (7 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 37 g total carbohydrates (17 g sugars, 5 g fiber); 94 mg sodium
Steak Taco Salad with Avocado Cream
There’s no reason to beet around the broccoli: veggies are what children should be eating more of during their midday meal. But if you’re sending them off with a lunch salad, it had better be more than a pile of limp greens. This Instagram-ready deconstructed taco salad has enough great textures and familiar flavors to guarantee lunch boxes will return home empty.
3/4 lb (340 g) sirloin steak
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tsp (20 mL) grapeseed oil or sunflower oil, divided
4 medium corn tortillas
1/2 tsp (2 mL) chili powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) garlic powder
1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
4 cups (1 L) baby spinach
1 cup (250 mL) frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 pint (500 mL) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup (250 mL) canned or cooked black beans
1 mango, chopped
Season steak with salt and pepper. In heavy skillet, heat 2 tsp (10 mL) oil over medium-high. Place steak in skillet and heat for about 8 minutes for medium doneness, flipping steak every minute of cooking. Remove steak from heat, place on cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice steak.
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Brush tortillas with 2 tsp (10 mL) oil and then season with chili powder and garlic powder. Place tortillas on baking sheet and heat until crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, break into 1 in (2.5 cm) pieces.
In blender, mix together sour cream, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, 2 Tbsp (30 mL) water and a couple pinches of salt until smooth.
Place spinach, corn, tomatoes, beans and steak in the large compartment in each of 4 bento boxes, if using. Place tortilla chips, avocado crema and mango in separate compartments or other small containers.
Each serving contains: 490 calories; 27 g protein; 22 g total fat (7 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 48 g total carbohydrates (13 g sugars, 10 g fiber); 145 mg sodium
Free-Form Chocolate Clusters
Based on the traditional French confection <mendiants>, the combination of chocolate-enrobed crunchy nuts and sweet dried fruit hits the dessert spot without the calorie overload.
1/4 cup (60 mL) roughly chopped pistachios
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped dried figs
2 tsp (10 mL) orange zest
3 oz (85 g) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. In small bowl, combine pistachios, figs and orange zest.
In small glass or stainless steel bowl set over pot of barely simmering water (make sure water does not touch bottom of bowl) place 2 oz (57 g) chopped chocolate. Heat, stirring often, until chocolate is about three-quarters melted. Remove bowl from heat and stir in remaining chocolate until melted.
Alternatively, microwave 2 oz (57 g) chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring once, until about three-quarters melted, 45 to 60 seconds. Stir in remaining chocolate until everything is melted. If needed, continue microwaving at 50 percent power in 5-second bursts until fully melted.
Working swiftly, place 1 tsp (5 mL) melted chocolate on baking sheet and use back of spoon to spread out into disks about 2 in (5 cm) wide. Repeat with remaining chocolate, spacing 2 in (5 cm) apart (you should get 12 chocolate disks).
Sprinkle pistachio mixture over chocolate rounds and press gently to adhere. Chill in refrigerator until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Carefully peel chocolate off sheet before serving.
Each serving contains: 125 calories; 2 g protein; 8 g total fat (3 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 13 g total carbohydrates (9 g sugars, 2 g fiber); 2 mg sodium