We know: cooking one dinner for your family can sometimes feel like an impossible mission. Between your busy schedule, grocery shopping, food prep, and coming up with a family dinner menu that will please even your pickiest eater, making dinner is no easy task.
One way to make mealtime more fun is to involve your family (especially your kids!) and create a family dinner menu together. Cooking is a fun way for your family to bond, and it helps your kids develop positive food associations. Your picky eater may even try something new if they've prepared it themselves. Another bonus? Cooking at home is associated with a healthier diet, according to a study in Public Health Nutrition.
With a little planning, this may just become your family's new favorite routine. Here are four steps to help you get started.
1. Pick a Theme
One of the easiest ways to organize your family dinner menu is to pick a theme. Try one of these kid-friendly ideas, or come up with one that speaks to your kids' tastes:
- Taco Tuesdays: Tacos are an easy weekday dinner option. You can even sneak in an extra serving of veggies or lean protein, like chicken or fish.
- Build Your Own Pizza Night: Everyone loves pizza night, especially if you make your own. Offer a variety of veggie toppings and let your kids create pizza artwork, or try making a cauliflower pizza crust. Use your blender to grind cauliflower florets to a fine powder.
- Pasta Night: Marinara? Pesto? Bolognese? Meatballs? Lasagna? There are so many ways to create a pasta dinner that's sure to be a hit with the whole family. For a healthier option, try zoodles (zucchini noodles).
2. Plan Your Menu
Flip through cookbooks or browse online recipes with your kids to come up with ideas for your dinner. Look for recipes that aren't too complicated. For instance, try this collection of kid-friendly recipes from the New York Times or the blog Dinner: A Love Story.
P.S. Just looking through cookbooks can help spark your children's culinary creativity. It exposes them to new ideas for pairing food that go beyond just pasta with butter. Let your kids have a turn choosing the full menu—everything from appetizers to entrees to dessert.
3. Delegate Tasks
Once you've planned your family dinner menu, it's time to get to work. Designate stations in the kitchen and give everyone an age-appropriate task. Not only will everyone have a specific job to do, but this will help cut down on the kitchen chaos! And don't forget to use time-saving appliances. You and your kids can use your blender to make everything from salad dressing to hummus to soup.
4. Don't Forget about Dessert!
Dinnertime doesn't have to be stressful. Next time, try making it a family affair! It may be a little messy but it's a great way to introduce your kids to healthy cooking and spend time together.