{How to} Turn Multiple ‘Kid’ Meals into One Family Meal


When the pediatrician asks about their eating habits, I answer truthfully-

They eat mostly everything that I make!

The key word being *mostly.

And, also- I only make what I already know they like, *mostly.

Recently, I’ve fallen into the post-school, post-extra curricular activities routine of getting something on the table for the kids that I know they’ll eat. I stick to healthy favorites because I know they work, and there won’t be any groaning at the table.  My kids aren’t picky, really. And we eat healthily. They love cut up cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, yellow peppers, and avocado (and even ask for balsamic and EVOO as a light dressing!). I put those on their plates nightly. So do I have to really push broccoli, cauliflower, corn, and peas when I know it will lead to “this is not to my taste!” at dinnertime? (We have, at least, taught them to be polite about refusing their food!)

Meatballs (with hidden veggie inside!)

My 6-year-old will eat plain boiled potatoes if I give in with a little butter on top. He’ll also eat salmon but only if it has ‘no sauce’. My almost 4-year-old won’t touch baby carrots unless he can dip them in hummus. He loves any other vegetable if it’s in roasted (nearly toasted to a chip) form. Even the baby loves a good mozzarella and tomato Caprese salad with a basil leaf on top, and she inhales beef with broccoli. They’ll all eat my homemade meatballs where I sneak zucchini into the mix of turkey and beef, and they don’t often get ‘carb-y’ sides like plain pasta or rice unless already mixed with a veggie or protein. Actually, I was feeling pretty good about their dinners and the varied and vast food choices they made— until I took a closer look and realized that although they’re eating healthily, they’re still not eating what my husband and I are eating. I’m still essentially preparing a ‘kid’ meal, that’s healthy and nutritious, and something for the adults.

Happy to snack on a mid-day apple!

One of my summer goals is going to be to prepare a meal that everyone can enjoy, and only prepare it once. Here’s the plan:

1. Get the kids involved. We usually serve some type of salad with meals, but my husband and I actually enjoy leafy greens, gorgonzola, various nuts, dried cranberries and other fresh fruit on our salads. I’m going to teach my older 2 (ages 6.5 and almost 4) that their job is to help cut up the veggies, and that they get to choose at least 2 or 3 each night that will go into our salad. I’ll also get them involved in experimenting with salad dressings and mixing. YES, this will definitely take longer to prepare, but I think it will be worth the extra time to have them be involved more with the preparation of the food.

2. Try cooking (or occasionally dining out) to experience cuisines of different regions each week. I’d love to say I’m going all out on Pinterest and making each week a different culinary culture, but the reality is the kids are tired and hungry and if there’s nothing on the table by 6:05, it’s meltdown city. SO, instead, I’m going to casually mention a new cuisine each Sunday night. We’re pretty lucky to have already experienced a number of international cuisines that our kids love. Here are a few ideas that could work for any families with small kids: ROLL your own Sushi night (with rice, avocado, pepper strips, cream cheese- as a start!), MELT your own dinner with cheese and chocolate fondue and the appropriate dipping pieces- bread, meat, fruit. MEASURE AND MIX your way through a favorite ‘old country style’ pie recipe (after spending the day picking the berries!), SLICE AND DICE your own veggies for a stir-fry or a to fill a quesadilla. And of course for dining out, just choose one of the many Dallas restaurants to try something new!

3. Find a rotation that works, and make food fun. I have an arsenal of ‘what works’ with my kids. Announcing “Breakfast for Dinner!” in the car on the way home from school already excites them about the egg cracking and veggie chopping to come for the frittata, choosing their Muesli with fruit, and occasionally making waffles or pancakes with syrup. Dinner can be a treat, too. Why save the good stuff for dessert? Taco Tuesday, Frittata Friday, the list goes on. Whatever you introduce that day can always be a new shared experience. And will hopefully involve being less of a short-order cook!

The baby will try anything as long as she gets to use her own silverware


Many of us are following specialized food guidelines for weight loss or nutrition and lifestyle purposes. Keto, calorie counting, intermittent fasting, paleo, gluten free, grain free, low carb, etc- they are all lifestyle changes that as adults, we can monitor, but of course, that makes it harder to see our little ones down a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread on the side. When it’s really necessary to be preparing two totally separate meals for dinner based on the above dietary guidelines or restriction, I still try to at least match the protein and vegetable in the ‘kid-version’ of the meal. This will reduce my own cravings and left-over crust eating!

Here’s my recipe for the EASIEST Meatball with Hidden Veggie:
1 jar of pasta sauce (I look for organic, low sodium, low sugar) OR make your own sauce with diced tomato, veggie broth, tomato paste, etc.
1 medium package of ground beef, 1 medium package of ground turkey (or whatever protein your kids prefer for meatballs!)
1 egg
1 tbs olive oil (or other cooking oil for medium heat)
pinch of salt and pepper
1 HIDDEN vegetable (either 2 medium carrots, or 1 large zucchini or squash) grated.

In a large pan, heat olive oil on low, add pasta sauce so you have about an inch of sauce in the pan, keep on low heat.
In a large bowl, mix all the rest of the ingredients – meat, egg, pinch of salt and pepper, a mountain of grated veggie. Mix WELL by hand (or mixer).
Form small meatballs (approx. 1 inch diameter) and drop into sauce. — the recipe makes between 15-25 meatballs depending on size and amount of meat used.

Heat covered on medium flame for 30-35 minutes, making sure to coat meatballs at the beginning of cook-time, and making sure that sauce boils ONCE with meat inside and then simmers a bit lower for the remainder of cook time.

Easy, Healthy, and a family favorite!

What are your ‘go-to’ family style meals that EVERYONE can sit down and enjoy?


  1. Hey Nili – love your meatball recipe (and specifically love that it’s got a veggie with no breadcrumbs as the binder as it has to be gluten free in our house)… Do you ever prep ahead and freeze them for future use? If so, do you cook first then freeze, or just get them rolled/ready and then freeze?

    • Hi! These meatballs are really so easy and healthy! I make multiple batches and do cook them all the way through. You can freeze (after it cools completely) in any type of freezer-safe tub or even do small servings in a ziplock! I think it’s more convenient to cook through first rather than freeze the raw rolled balls— ive popped a few frozen packs into the microwave for a rally quick hot meal!!


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