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35 Quick and Healthy School Night Dinners Your Kids Will Actually Eat

What’s for dinner is the most impossible question to answer on our best nights, but during the chaos and rush of back to school it feels nearly hopeless. Adjusting to new schedules and adding extracurriculars to an already crammed-tight calendar and you’ve got a recipe for another drive-through dinner.

This year, don’t sweat it. Put prioritizing dinner on your back to school list. Any of these dinners can be thrown together and in the mouths of your hungry family in 30 minutes or less. They’re also healthier meals you can feel good about serving. And in many cases you can eat them on the run.

We may not change how you see dinner as a necessary evil, but we can certainly take the devil out of the details!

Mexican and Southwest

quesadilla black beans

Black Bean and Mushroom Quesadillas

For meatless Monday or exclusive vegetarians, hearty black beans and mushrooms melted together with cheese is simple and satisfying.

BBQ Chicken Tacos with Avocado Coleslaw

Fire up the grill and you’re only 30 minutes away from the best tacos ever! Buy pre-shredded coleslaw to really save prep time.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers - Barr and Table

These peppers use protein-rich quinoa instead of rice and can be prepped and served in just 30 minutes with on-hand ingredients.

Chorizo Nachos

Biggest Loser has a homemade chorizo recipe that tastes and looks like the real deal but is much better for you (just make it in advance).

Apple Sausage Quesadillas

The kids can practically make these themselves and will love every last comforting bite.

Classic Comforts

meatloaf mug

Meatloaf in a Mug - My Recipes

Individual meatloaves are made in minutes in the microwave. Not only are they adorable, but they practically make themselves.

Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders

This drive-thru favorite is better than ever when you use panko to get that crispy crunch the kids crave.

BBQ Pork Sliders

It takes only 30 minutes to roast a tenderloin, which you can then shred, toss in your favorite BBQ sauce, and serve!

Turkey Meatball Subs

The sandwich shop has nothing on our effortless meatball subs, made lighter with ground turkey. Serve in hot dog buns for tiny hands.

Pumpkin Chili

Chili in 30 minutes is possible. The pumpkin adds delicious nutrition without influencing the flavor much at all.

Sandwiches

finished pita

Mediterranean Chicken, Pear, and Arugula Stuffed Pitas - Fit Bottomed Eats

Our original recipe for FBE starts with a store-bought rotisserie chicken for the ultimate in hand-held, get-out-the-door meals.

Best Club Sandwich Ever

We use Applegate Farms ham, turkey, and bacon to craft a cleaner sandwich that’s finished with avocados and veggies.

Oprah’s Love Sandwich

This grilled panini sandwich presses turkey and cheese together for a super-quick, hot and ready dinner.

Almond Butter Banana Crazy

It doesn’t get any easier – we fold almond butter with banana slices and sprinkle a few dried cranberries.

Super Sloppy Joes - Meal Makeover Moms

This family favorite is made lighter with ground turkey and always gets two messy thumbs up from the kids.

 

Meals On a Stick

chicken stick

Maple Ginger Chicken on a Stick - Green Lite Bites

Make the marinade in the morning and dinner is literally minutes away when you get home. Roni says kids will eat anything on a stick!

Bayou Kabobs

Shrimp, sausages, and peppers take less than 15 minutes on the grill.

Fancy Fish Sticks

A Jillian Michaels creation that is super family friendly and way better than any frozen fish stick in a box.

Jalapeno Cheddar Burger Bite Kabobs

Hand-held burgers without the bun are stuffed with gooey cheddar cheese and a bit of jalapeno pepper for big flavor.

Stuffed Almond Butter and Jam French Toast Kabobs - Nibbles by Nic

It’s breakfast for dinner in a whole new way! You could even add bites of ham to the kabobs if you’re looking for more protein.

 

Pasta and Noodles

butternut squash macaroni

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

An Abra Pappa original that uses less, but higher quality cheese and a butternut squash puree for a kid-approved mac!

Creamy Avocado Pasta - In Good Taste

One of our very favorite 15-minute dinners. Prepare it meatless or top with shrimp.

Tomato Basil Alphabet Soup

A super simple homemade soup that easily fills thermoses for feel-good brown bag lunches all week long!

Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce

It’s a no-noodle pasta dish and they’ll never know the difference! More nutritious and just as fast as a heap of spaghetti.

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli - Picky Eater Blog

Turn a package of store-bought ravioli in to a quick and easy feel good dinner the kids will rave about!

Breakfast for Dinner

waffle panini

Prosciutto and Apple Waffle Paninis – HelloGiggles

If you’ve made the waffles in advance, or have frozen available, the prep time on these is dramatically reduced!

Pigs in Comforters

Biggest Loser’s Chef Devin Alexanders rolls all-beef hot dogs in buttermilk biscuits.

Cornbread Waffles - Edible Perspective

Prepare these heartier waffles with our oven-baked chicken tenders for a better take on chicken and waffles!

Egg and Kielbasa Sausage Pizza – Kid Friendly Home

The eggs form a breadless crust that holds kielbasa sausage, fresh herbs, and both cheddar and parmesan cheeses.

Carrot Cake Pancakes – Grimmway Farms

We crafted these using Grimmway’s famous baby carrots. Topped with cream cheese and walnuts, they’re quite satisfying.

 

Mediterr-Asian

Hoppin Johns Hummus

Black Eyed Pea Hummus

Our “new year” hummus will bring good luck to your pupils. Serve with warm pita and fresh veggies for an easy, filling dinner.

Crispy Pork Wontons

Another winner of a dinner from Chef Devin, these wontons bake up in minutes and are easily eaten on the go.

Mediterranean Fish Tacos - Food Network

A Rachael Ray original that takes only 30 minutes to prep and serve and offers a lighter, cooler meal for those hot and busy nights.

Chinese Potstickers with Turkey - Super Healthy Kids

If you’ve got about 20 minutes, a food processor, and a pot of boiling water, you’ve got time to make a super lean take-out-inspired meal!

Caprese Grilled Cheese

The grilled cheese is all grown up! We make it better with real mozzarella, fresh basil, and juicy tomatoes.

meal planner

Keep it all organized! Download our FREE meal planner worksheets HERE!



This Lighter Chicken Caesar Salad with Grilled Croutons Embodies a Local, Fresh Summer

We spent Mother’s Day a little differently this year. My family and I spent the evening at a local farm planting 150 herb seedlings. It felt good to dig in the earth, watch the warm sun set over the vast Kansas prairie, and spend some truly quality time with my husband and daughter.

grilled chicken caesar salad
We left MG Honor Farms with a promise to return and lend our hands to the tomato harvest, and with a lot of fresh greens and veggies. Clint Brauer built the farm on his late grandmother’s land as an homage to her memory. As well, to serve the people of our community, saying, “MGHonor Farms was created to help those who have realized their true priorities, have an option to purchase healthy food for themselves and their families without any herbicides and only organically certified pesticides.”

Every community deserves a resource like this.

kale and greens
The next evening we enjoyed the fresh spring greens and crisp kale in a salad that paid us well for our hard work the night before and reminded us of a promise to enjoy this summer more than any other. Escaping from the confines of winter, a big entree salad that is light and satisfying always feels so refreshing on these warmer days. That’s exactly what we made.
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The Weight Loss Tip that Keeps Foreigners Thin

By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., TheBestLife.com lead nutritionist

As a trim, chic couple passes me on the street, I hear snatches of their conversation—in French. The other night at a restaurant, I heard Italian coming from a nearby table of three generations: healthy children, parents and grandparents. Living in Washington, D.C., with all the embassies and international organizations, I wind up hearing many different languages. When I recognize one, I do a quick—and surreptitious—assessment of the speaker’s body weight. My amateur research findings, corroborated by legitimate studies, are that in most other countries, people are at healthier weights than Americans. For instance, our obesity rate is 3.5 times that of France’s.

I’ve pumped my international friends—all of whom are at a healthy body weight—for their secrets. No matter where they come from, there is one strategy they all share: They respect the concept of mealtimes. They eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, with little to no snacking in between.
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Grilled Chicken with Black Bean Salsa and Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes Answers the What’s for Dinner Challenge

Like a lot of moms, working or otherwise, dinner is one of the most complicated parts of my day. I’m a dedicated meal planner, and more times than not it saves me. But there are nights, like this one, where the wheels fall off. It happens to the best of us. My initial reaction was, “there’s nothing in the house.” Somewhat true, I haven’t yet been to the grocery store this week. We all use this excuse, but honestly, we all have so much stuff stockpiled in our pantries and freezers that it’s more likely we’re just not interested in figuring something out with the puzzle pieces of cans and frozen veggies.

Tonight, I challenged myself to make something delicious and satisfying with nothing more than what we had on hand.

I served my family grilled BBQ marinated chicken with a black bean and corn salsa and honey rosemary mashed sweet potatoes. Not entirely complementary by culinary standards, but it received rave reviews by way of spotless plates.

It started with the chicken. Our local Amish butcher shop has wonderful chicken breasts marinated in BBQ spices. I use this chicken to make our BBQ Chicken Tacos with Avocado Coleslaw. My husband had the foresight to pull two pieces out of the freezer this morning. So this was where I started. The unseasonably warm weather meant I got to fire up the grill!
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5 Easy Homemade Dinners Even Katie Holmes Can Cook

katie holmes

The world has watched either in awe or in horror as Katie Holmes and six-year-old daughter Suri eat their way through restaurants of every genre and price point. While she and her daughter have private chauffeurs and don the cover of tabloid magazines, the duo aren’t unlike many Americans. Katie is a newly divorced mom with a hectic career and a daughter she dotes on. While Katie can seemingly give young Suri anything she wants, a home cooked meal isn’t one of them.

“I’m a terrible cook,” she told Us Weekly. That would explain the revolving door of restaurant excursions for the new New Yorkers. Katie paints a devastating picture of piles of pans and burned food that would make anyone want to grab a take-out menu. But maybe Katie, and a lot of moms like her who also feel overwhelmed with this domestic duty, should take a step back, breathe, and get a little help.

Cooking doesn’t have to be overwhelming, hard, or tragic. With a few simple ingredients, a little patience with yourself, and some thoughtful planning, there isn’t any reason you can’t make one of these easy dinners in your home. We think Katie could pull these dishes off too if she wanted to. Besides, she could enlist Suri to help for one more mother-daughter bonding moment.


Provencal Beef Stew

It might sound fancy, but it’s perfect for novice cooks thanks to the slow cooker. With this tool the meal practically cooks itself. You do some minor chopping of lean beef, onions, mushrooms, and carrots, and use some basic herbs and spices from your pantry. When you return six hours later you’ll find a ready-to-eat meal.
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