Fast and Kid-Friendly Dinners for Busy Parents

a woman and her daughter baking in the kitchen

From homework to after-school activities, life can get very busy! Adding to the stress, is the daily “what’s for dinner” question. The good news is you can eat fast, healthy and delicious meals with a little planning. Read on for fast dinner ideas and tips to save you time.

Five kid-friendly meal ideas

Try these dinner ideas that are quick and easy.

1. Breakfast for dinner. Poach or scramble eggs to enjoy with whole grain bread and fruit. Or cook up whole grain pancakes served with natural nut butter and blend up a fruit smoothie. 2. Quick homemade pizzas. Buy whole grain pitas, spread with low sodium tomato sauce, canned mushrooms and olives and top with a sprinkle of cheese. Bake in the oven until crispy. Have the leftovers for lunch!

3. Fish tacos. Bake some salmon, trout or tilapia in the oven with chili or curry seasoning. Wrap in whole grain tortillas with fresh cabbage slaw, grated carrots or diced tomatoes with a squeeze of lime.

4. Roasted chicken two ways. On the weekend, roast a whole chicken and serve with two vegetable side dishes. Use leftovers for sandwiches.

5. Stir fry. Cook up mushrooms, pepper strips, bok choy, shrimp and tofu with garlic, ginger and green onions. Add a splash of low sodium soy sauce, and serve with brown rice or quinoa.

Five healthy convenience foods to save you time

1. Ready-to-use fresh vegetables and pre-cut fruit. Items such as bagged salads, baby spinach, fresh slaw, sliced mushrooms, squash cubes, and stir-fry mix can save you time.

2. Frozen fruits and vegetables. Perfect for smoothies and soups, try frozen kale, peas, carrots, beans, cauliflower and broccoli.

3. Canned lentils, chickpeas and beans. These legumes can give your meals a protein and fibre boost. If you are not able to find the no-salt added types, simply drain and rinse them under cold water.

4. Tomato-based pasta sauce. Choose a brand that has the lowest amount of sodium. Pasta sauce can be used to make pizza, sauce for meatball subs, added to baked potatoes, and mixed with curry paste for a zesty chicken dish.

5. Canned salmon and tuna. Having these staples in the house will make it easier to enjoy two servings of fish every week. Look for skipjack, tongol or “light” tuna on the label. It has less mercury than “white” (albacore) tuna and is generally less costly.

How do you know if your meal is balanced?

Use your plate for a simple way to know if you are on the right track. Fill half your plate with vegetables, one quarter with whole grains or starch like corn or sweet potato, and the remaining quarter with lean protein such as tofu, lentils, fish, chicken or beef.

Tips for getting dinner on the table

  • Create a weekly meal plan. New to meal planning? Use this meal planning chart to get you started. Need some inspiration? Check out this one-week plan for great tasting ideas.
  • Stock up on basics. Having a kitchen packed with grocery staples will make cooking dinner a snap. Have a running list of items that run out so that you can buy them the next time you’re at the grocery store.
  • Cook once, eat twice. On the weekend, double up on recipes. Freeze the extras and reheat on a busy day.
  • Get a head start. Do some of your prep the night before. Whether it’s chopping ingredients or measuring out spices, any little step will save you time.

You may also be interested in:

Quick meals and snacks for after school
Save money at the grocery store
Meals on a budget

Last Update – April 16, 2019

Phone Icon

Dietitians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Want to unlock the potential of food? Connect with a dietitian.