How many times have you tried to get your kids (or entire family!) to eat healthy……only to have them refuse to eat the meal you worked so hard to prepare?
Fear not, we’ve got healthier versions of popular comfort food recipes that children love! You can adapt the recipes by using tofu or chicken, and we have provided non-dairy alternatives as well. Even if you end up using tofu, chances are, your kids may love it so much, it may end up being their new favorite!
You might even find yourself stealing food off you children’s plate! Don’t worry, these low cost high-protein recipes are healthy, budget friendly, and perfect for the whole family!
A word about the recipes and measurements:
While recipes revolve around measurements, don’t worry if you use a little bit more or less of one ingredient. These recipes are adaptable, and you have plenty of options to make it an awesome meal. Substitute the ingredients to your preferences (dairy free and vegetarian options are included below).
In the excitement of cooking, sometimes we overlook abbreviations (this has happened to everyone at some point), so this is worth mentioning, even though you know this – a tablespoon often gets mistaken for a teaspoon, and vice versa. Remember, a tablespoon is abbreviated as “tbsp.” and a teaspoon is abbreviated as “tsp”. Check out the recipes, and pick the ones that work for your family, and you’re good to go!
Tofu? Ick! Wait….Don’t Turn Your Back On Tofu Just Yet….
Before you dismiss tofu, consider this- it is healthy, easy to prepare, and it can conform to any of your favorite recipes, from savory meals to dessert! Tofu chocolate mousse has been a favorite at dinner parties AND with kids. When my nephew had the tofu enchilada casserole for the first time, he loved it! Whether you are trying to use it as a meat substitute, disguise, or healthy alternative, tofu is worth adding to your next meal.
Tofu is less than $2 for a block, and one block can serve 2-3 people. Not only that, tofu is versatile, healthy, and easy to store.
You can use it in your appetizers, main dishes, and desserts. With only 60 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein per 3 ounce serving, tofu may end up being a staple at your house!
The key to making tofu taste good is to properly season the tofu, use the right accompanying seasonings, and make sure the ingredients complement each other. Because tofu itself does not have much flavor or smell, you have to make sure the other ingredients are flavorful for a balanced meal.
Take a look below, pick out a few recipes your kids will like, and soon, you will be adding these meals, sides, and desserts to your meal planning rotation!
- Tofu “Chicken” Fingers And Sweet Potato Fries
- Tofu (or Chicken) Enchilada Casserole
- Tofu Parmigiana
- Butternut Squash Whole Grain Mac and Cheese
- Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
- Tofu Chocolate Mousse
- No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake
Tofu “chicken” Tenders And Sweet Potato Fries
Remember, you can make this recipe with chicken or tofu. If you’re not feeling adventurous enough to find out whether your kids will eat tofu, stick with chicken. Sweet potato fries add a fun and unexpected twist to the usual chicken tenders and fries meal!
Serves 4 people
1/4 cup Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour OR ¼ cup almond flour
1 tbsp water
1 cup plain or Italian style panko breadcrumbs
(1/2 cup parmesan cheese OR ¾ cup roasted peanuts, finely chopped)
1 lb uncooked chicken breast cut into strips OR two 14 oz. packets of firm tofu
3 sweet potatoes, cut into vertical strips
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Cut the uncooked chicken breast into lengthwise strips. If you are using tofu, cut the
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then spray it with cooking spray, and set aside.
- Pour the flour into a shallow dish, such as a plate or shallow bowl.
- In another shallow dish, beat the egg and water.
- In a third shallow dish, mix the breadcrumbs (or almond flour or peanuts) and cheese.
- Place the tenders on a cookie sheet.
- Bake 15 to 20 minutes, turning once. While the tenders are baking, get started on the sweet potato fries (step 9). If you are using tofu, be careful when turning. If you are using chicken, cook until chicken is no longer pink in center and coating is golden brown. Once the strips are done, don’t turn the oven off- keep it at 425°F for the sweet potato fries!
- If you haven’t already done so, wash the sweet potatoes and cut them into vertical ½ inch strips.
- On a separate baking sheet lined with foil, place the sweet potato strips on a separate baking sheet lined with foil. Add 1 tbsp olive oil on top, making sure all sweet potato strips are properly coated.
- Arrange the sweet potato fries on the baking sheet in a single layer, avoiding any overlap.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon and kosher salt, if desired, or just season with salt, pepper, and your choice of seasoning.
- Place the sweet potato fries in the over and bake for 25 so that they have enough space (avoid overlapping).
- Bake until crispy. If the edges start to burn, take the fries out of the oven immediately.
- Serve the tenders and fries with your favorite dipping sauce.
Cheesy Enchilada Casserole
Most kids love burritos, tacos, and enchiladas- you can’t go wrong with cheesy enchilada casserole.
Serves 4 people
3 cups cooked chicken, diced OR 3 cups diced firm tofu (be sure to press it with a paper towel before dicing)
18- 6 inch corn tortillas
2 cups red enchilada sauce (you can also substitute your favorite red salsa)
4 Tablespoons canned, mild green chiles, diced ( use ½ cup of mild green salsa if you prefer)
¼ cup onion, finely diced
3 cups Mexican blend cheese (you can use a blend of cheddar, jack, and colby- a blend of white and cheddar cheese- as long as you have this ratio, it is flexible)
1 cup black beans (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Place 6 tortillas in the bottom of the baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, slightly overlapping the tortillas.
- Top with ½ cup of enchilada sauce, spreading evenly over tortillas.
- Top with 1 ½ cups of your chicken or tofu, 2 Tablespoons of onion, 2 Tablespoons of green chiles / green salsa, ½ cup black beans (if you use them) and 1 cup of cheese.
- Repeat layer with six more tortillas, sauce, the remaining chicken or tofu, onion, green chiles, corn and another cup of cheese.
- Complete the casserole with another layer of tortillas, 1 cup of enchilada sauce, and 1-1.5 cups of cheese. Bake in the oven for 30-40 min. Let stand 5- 10 mins before serving.
This is a healthy and tasty spin on a classic Italian dish- smiling faces and happy tummies!
2 blocks of firm tofu, pressed with a paper towel (two 14 oz. packets)
2/3 cup liquid egg whites or 3 eggs and 2 tbsp water
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs or almond flour
3 teaspoons dried parsley
1 jar marinara or meat sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
(optional: chopped basil as a garnish)
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Cut the tofu into chunks of your desired size. The larger the piece, the more careful you have to be to ensure it does not break.
- Pat it dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
- Whisk the egg whites or eggs and water in a bowl.
- Combine the dry ingredients (panko, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper) in another bowl.
- Add one pieces of tofu to the egg white mixture, coating both sides.
- Next, dredge the coated tofu piece on both sides in the dry ingredient mixture.
Repeat this process until all pieces are fully coated.
Helpful tip: Use one had for the wet ingredients, and another for the dry ingredients.
- Once coated, use the dry hand to arrange the tofu pieces on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Continue to repeat the process until each piece of tofu is breaded.
- Place the baking sheet with tofu in the oven for 20 minutes. Flip each piece of tofu over and bake for another 20 minutes until golden brown.
- Serve with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese. Garnish with chopped basil, if your kids like it!
- For a side dish, chop up some veggies or serve with spaghetti pasta.
Butternut Squash Whole Grain Mac and Cheese
3 cups seeded and peeled butternut squash (cut into 1 inch cubes)
1 cup canned chicken or vegetable stock (preferably low sodium)
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1 package whole grain elbow macaroni
1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
4 tablespoons sprinkle parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko or breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tsp. Italian seasoning (oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- In a medium sized sauce pan, sauté squash with olive oil for 6 minutes. Add the stock and milk, and bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to medium heat- simmer for 20 minutes (squash will be tender when pierced with a fork).
- Remove from heat, add seasoning, and mash the contents in the pan. Once the mixture has cooled, use an electric mixer or put it in the blender.
- Next, bring large pot of water to boil, and cook the macaroni according to instructions (usually about 8 minutes). Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add squash mixture, cheddar, parmesan to the bowl and combine, be careful not to break the macaroni.
- In a medium sized baking dish coated with cooking spray, add the macaroni mixture. Layer parmesan and breadcrumbs on top of the macaroni.
- Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more. Serve immediately.
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
1 head cauliflower, stem and leaves removed, cut into small florets OR 2 8 oz. bags of cauliflower florets
1 cup (8 oz.) greek yogurt
1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream
1 tbsp Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary)
¼ cup bacon bits (optional)
¼ cup almond meal
¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
parsley, for garnish
- Pre-heat your oven to 425 F.
- Cut the cauliflower into florets and remove the stems (if you have the bag of cauliflower florets, skip this step).
- Steam the cauliflower or put it in a 2 large zip lock bags or a microwave safe glass dish and microwave for 6 minutes.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, mix the sour cream, greek yogurt, cheese, and spices.
- Add the cauliflower and continue mixing until well combined. The cauliflower should be completely blended. (You can also use a blender in small batches, but it will be harder to blend because of the thickness. Also, if you use a blender, you will have to wait for the cauliflower to cool).
- Place the cauliflower in a 9 x 13 casserole pan.
- Dust the top of the cauliflower with the almond meal and parmesan cheese.
- Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is nice and toasty brown.
- You can serve this as a side with a protein dish, or as a main dish if you serve it with a side salad or chopped vegetables (carrot sticks and celery sticks). Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.
Tofu Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate mousse is a delicious decadent dessert, usually made with eggs, and filled with calories- forget about eggs, complicated folding and the long prep time by making this indulgent yet healthy chocolate mousse that will help your kids be happy and healthy!
Serves 4 people
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (or ¾ cup unsweetened chocolate sweetened with the sweetener of your choice OR ¾ cup of your favorite chocolate bar chopped up)
1 container (14 ounces) room-temperature silken tofu
1/2 cup warmed milk (you can also use coconut milk- the goal is to melt the chocolate, don’t overheat the milk)
1 ounce finely grated chocolate, or 2 tbsp chocolate chips, crushed in a bag
- Microwave chocolate chips in 30-second increments, stirring each time, until melted.
- In a food processor, puree the chocolate chips with warmed milk until smooth. Add the tofu, continuing to blend until smooth. The mixture will have a texture slightly thinner than pudding.
- Pour the mixture into four serving dishes, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Garnish desserts with finely chopped chocolate or chocolate chips, if desired.
No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a family favorite for dessert! You have to try this version-easy to make, no eggs, no baking, and less dishes.
Serves 4 people
1 12 oz. package strawberries, stems removed, roughly chopped *
12 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 1/2 (8-ounce) bricks * (see below for dairy-free option)
2/3 cup sour cream (see below for dairy-free option)
**Dairy Free Option**
If you want to go dairy free, omit the cream cheese and sour cream, and use 2 cans of coconut cream, with the water portion removed, and ½ a can of coconut milk- only add as much milk as needed to give the mixture a pudding like texture- be careful, otherwise, it will be watery. You can also use 1 8 oz. container of soft tofu mixed with ½ a small packet of Jello Cheesecake pudding mix
¼ cup sugar OR 6 packets Splenda OR ¼ cup honey (if you have another sweetener you prefer, look up the equivalent of ¼ cup of sugar online
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 sheets of graham crackers crumbled with vanilla, sugar, and salt OR ( low carb option: 1 cup almond meal, 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp coconut oil OR ¼ stick of butter, and 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- In a food processor, process the graham crackers until it has the texture of fine crumbs. If you are using almond meal, you can skip this step.
- In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs or almond flour, vanilla, sugar, and salt.
- Pour the crust mixture into small ramekins, cupcake tins, cake pan, or a pie pan.
- Pat the mixture into the container of your choice until firmly packed.
- Roughly chop the strawberries and place in food processor.
- Add cream cheese, sour cream, sweetener, and vanilla extract, and process until smooth.
- Using a rubber spatula, fill ramekins or pie pan. Garnish cheesecakes with slices of remaining berries. Refrigerate for 15-25 minutes, but even if you don’t, it will still be ready to serve!
Once you find a few recipes that your kids like (and your whole family likes), start working them into your meal plan. If you decide to go the tofu route, don’t draw attention to this “new ingredient” until your child gets a chance to try it. Just like us, kids have their preconceived notions of what is “yucky”! Depending on your child, you can be brave and just tell them its tofu up front, or tell them this is a new yummy dish, and watch for their reaction.
What is YOUR child’s favorite meal? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Roshni Gandhi is on a mission to help you simplify and create your ideal life over at her blog Real Life Minimalism.