As children get older, they like to exercise their independence. Let your preteen make his own dinner before rushing off to an after-school activity. With a little supervision and guidance, your child can prepare a healthy dinner by using the microwave and stove top. Make the task simple by having precooked proteins, chopped fruits and washed veggies on hand.
By adding a packet of taco seasoning to leftover meats from last night's dinner, kids can make taco filling quickly. Whether the child uses cubed chicken, excess ground beef from a casserole recipe or cooked lentils, she will have a hearty, protein-packed taco filling. Show your preteen how to heat up the meat on the stove top or microwave, then place the filling on a whole-wheat tortilla or in a crispy taco shell. Top with shredded cheese, precut lettuce, chopped tomatoes, creamy dressing and cubed avocado for a dose of dairy and vegetables.
If your kids have a craving for Italian food, teach them to make miniature pizzas. Start with a bagel half, whole wheat tortilla, English muffin or slice of foccacia bread. Top the bread with a spoonful of jar spaghetti sauce or a squeeze of pizza sauce in a bottle. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese and add toppings. Chopped vegetables from a leftover salad, such as green peppers, mushrooms and onions, add texture and vitamins to the pizza. Add a few slices of Canadian bacon or pepperoni, and pair the pizza with a tasty dip if desired. Show your child how to spot the signs of overcooking while you warm the miniature pizza in the microwave or oven together.
Give your kids a chance to make creative sandwiches for dinner. If they insist on peanut butter and jelly, stock the pantry with high-protein almond or cashew butter. Leave the sugary jellies at the grocery store and instead offer whole fruit preserves and low-sugar jams. Teach kids to build their own club-style sandwiches from an assortment of fresh deli-cut meats and cheeses. Have fresh toppings-- including washed romaine lettuce leaves, sliced tomato and pickles, and salad dressing -- on hand to ensure a healthy meal.
Pita bread makes it easy to enjoy leftovers on the go. Chunks of last night's pot roast and grilled vegetables tuck neatly inside the pocket sandwich. Add shredded cheese, fresh lettuce and a drizzle of creamy dressing to put a new spin on the leftovers. Vegetarian kids can load the pita with humus or leftover lentil loaf and fresh chopped veggies.
If your child shows an interest in cooking, recipes are handy tools to improve reading, science and math skills. Even little kids like looking at glossy photos of food in cookbooks and magazines, and older kids may discover new foods to try. Encourage your child to select recipes for quick dinners, and on a lazy weekend spend time in the kitchen together whipping up an easy meal that he can make by himself next time.
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