Before I had kids, I thought I’d be that mom who cooks and bakes endlessly with her kids. After all, I enjoy being in the kitchen, so why wouldn’t I want my sweet offspring by my side as I lovingly prepare meals for the family.
Ah, to be that young and idealistic again. Every year we get busier and more pressed for time, and—in my experience, at least—cooking with your kids makes everything take three to eleven times longer. Gone are my ideas of being Betty-Crocker-meets-Mary-Poppins in the kitchen. I have new priorities now:
I need to be time-efficient.
I want to feed myself and my kids nutritious foods.
I refuse to prepare separate meals or snacks for kids and adults.
My kids should learn their way around the kitchen, which means giving them age-appropriate tasks.
Most days we manage dinner together, but the rest of the day is a whirlwind. Snacking is something of a contentious topic in the ancestral community. Sincere kudos if your family can stick to set meal times with perhaps one planned snack interlude. Realistically, though, snacking happens here. Rather than fight it, I try to have quick, healthy options that check my four boxes above.
These are some of my top picks. Add yours in the comments section.
Veggies with ranch dressing. Use raw vegetables like celery, carrots, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, and mini sweet bell peppers, or leftover roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts. To make a thicker dip, mix the ranch with sour cream to get the consistency you want.
Frozen chicken skewers (I get mine at Costco) dipped in barbecue sauce or a quick peanut sauce. This one uses tahini, or you can use almond butter instead.
Steak “salad” bites. Leftover cubed steak topped with a few leaves of baby spinach and cheddar or blue cheese. Dip in BBQ sauce or dressing of choice. For the grown-ups, add Quick Pickled Onions.
How kids can help:
Cube melon or steak.
Wrap prosciutto around melon.
Assist with cooking meatballs. The steps are easy enough for even young kids, supervised.
Assemble the skewers.
Pour dipping sauces into ramekins.
Charcuterie plates are just meat, crackers, cheese, produce —stuff you eat every day, but it’s the presentation that counts. There’s a reason the charcuterie plates were trending all over social media this year. Artfully piling a bunch of food on a platter or cutting board feels fancy and abundant. The nice thing about charcuterie plates is that you can put them out, and everyone can help themselves to the parts they like. It’s a great way to introduce new foods in a non-pressuring way.
NOTE: You can also adapt this idea into bento boxes. Have your kids help you fill compartments with these same types of ingredients. Put them in the fridge to grab for snacks or on-the-go mini-meals throughout the week.
Greek Yogurt Parfaits & Smoothie Bowls
These are filling options that older kids can make themselves—really more a small meal than a snack. All you need is Greek yogurt, protein or collagen powder if making smoothies, and toppings. Some of our favorites are:
Lindsay Taylor, Ph.D., is a senior writer and community manager for Primal Nutrition, a certified Primal Health Coach, and the co-author of three keto cookbooks.
As a writer for Mark’s Daily Apple and the leader of the thriving Keto Reset and Primal Endurance communities, Lindsay’s job is to help people learn the whats, whys, and hows of leading a health-focused life. Before joining the Primal team, she earned her master’s and Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she also worked as a researcher and instructor.
Lindsay lives in Northern California with her husband and two sports-obsessed sons. In her free time, she enjoys ultra running, triathlon, camping, and game nights. Follow along on Instagram @theusefuldish as Lindsay attempts to juggle work, family, and endurance training, all while maintaining a healthy balance and, most of all, having fun in life. For more info, visit lindsaytaylor.co.