Family Eating: Healthy Recipes Everyone Will Enjoy


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

This is the first in a series about eating healthy as a family and the challenges that can come along with it.

Whether your kids are 2 or 22, cooking a healthy meal that everyone likes can be a struggle. It's frustrating when I work hard to make dinner, and my toddler takes one look at it and won't even try a bite. Or her new thing is to take a bite and say "I love this!", getting my hopes up that she'll finish her meal. But that statement is usually followed in the next bite by "I don't like this. Done, mama." I know part of that is just a phase, so I try to be patient with her. But I'm always struggling to find recipes that I think everyone will enjoy.

I thought this might be a good forum for us to share recipes that have worked well for our families. Personally, I like recipes that don't have tons of ingredients, don't take long to prepare and are generally good for you. I'll start by sharing one that works well for us.

Spinach Manicotti
12 manicotti shells
½ tsp salt
1 egg
1 lb low- fat ricotta cheese
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ tsp pepper
1 ¼ cups low-fat shredded mozzarella
8 oz chopped spinach (drained)
2 cups marinara sauce

Cook shells as directed on package. To make filling, stir together salt, egg, ricotta, parmesan, pepper, spinach and ½ cup mozzarella. Pour 1 cup of the marinara into a shallow baking dish. Stuff shells with filling, place in dish and top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese melts. One serving equals 2 shells.

Looking for the nutritional information for this recipe? Here it is on

Do you have a recipe that's been a big hit in your household? If so, we could all use some new ideas. Post yours here!

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  • 44
    Thanks everyone for sharing your recipes... I am saving a few to try later, when I a am cooking in an oven again! The marinated chicken - sounds like it will grill nicely - so I'll try that this weekend!

    Since it has been so hot this past week, we've increased our use of the blender in place of the oven to enjoy an ice cold fruit smoothie.

    And here is my tip... what I've done to kick things up a notch for my family , is sneak in a 1/2 cup of chopped raw zucchini per serving along with whatever fruits I'm mixing for the day. No one even knows, but it adds fiber, nutrients, and even helps with the texture.

    To extend this pleasure into the winter, a nice trick I learned from Ellie Krieger is to use frozen fruit. So, every year I purchase 30 lbs of frozen organic blueberries to use until the next summer. It works out great!

    Happy Blending! - Pkaykat (Pam) - 7/16/2010   10:11:29 AM
    I don't have a big meal recipe but for breakfast I slice up a cup of strawberries, sprinkle two pkgs of splenda on them, add a light vanilla yogurt, on top of that 1/2 cup of fiber one cereal, then 2 big tablespoons of coolwhip free. It tastes a lot like strawberry shortcake. I do substitute blackberries or blueberries for the strawberries and sometimes add 1-2 tablespoons of flaked coconut or walnuts, YUM!

    One other favorite breakfast is a shake/smoothie when I have to eat on the run. In a bullet type blender I put in 1 cup sliced, slightly thawed strawberries, 1/2 frozen banana,1 1/2 cup light soy milk(the kind I use has 60 cal per cup) and 3 pkts splenda, blend and drink a shake. Although I have no kids at home, I've made it when we had kids over and they've liked it so far.

    And the spinach manicotti is on my list to make soon! - 2/5/2010   10:34:08 PM
  • 42
    I'm in!!! My kids are beginning to ban together against me!!! One benefit is they are getting along!!! LOL!!! Are you going to set up a group that we can all join and share???

    Have a GREAT day!!!

    Rhonda - 2/2/2010   1:10:10 PM
  • 41
    Much as I LOVE your idea, Wanna, I could not get my kids to cook. I got some of them to sew, and music worked out ok for a cpl of them, but cooking - they ALL avoid it as much as possible!
    Here's the list I have to run through when I invite them all for dinner.
    Ben - hates potatoes
    Jeff - is ok with almost anything, but dated a vegetarian
    David - Hates tomatoes, and apparently, avocado. His gf hates mushrooms
    Micheal hates Onion, and lives with a pescatarian, though he hates fish
    Ton's of fun!

    - 5/29/2009   1:54:14 PM
    I once taught a cooking unit to a class of junior high students--a group notoriously anti-veggie. To teach them the difference between dicing, cubing, shredding, chopping, etc. we used vegetables of all sorts and threw them all into a pot with some browned hamburger and spices and then allowed them to eat and share the results of their labor with the rest of the (small, private) school--I'm thinking this might not fly in today's reality.) Although I still can't believe we gave them all knives (we had a LOT of supervision that day!) the results were incredible. There were kids from K-12 lined up for seconds and thirds for this healthy meal in a bowl. If you want kids to eat their veggies, let them cook (and even grow) their own! - 3/20/2009   10:22:51 AM
  • TZERS01
    Sounds good, lots of carbs though...Wow! - 3/16/2009   8:50:01 PM
  • 38
    Ours is crock pot lentil soup. I throw all sorts of vegetables in with the lentil and a bit of ham or leftover meat. Once the soup is done, I fish out the meat then puree everything else into a thick cream. Slice the meat and place it on each bowl of soup, sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley. Even my 7-year-old loves this one. - 3/15/2009   12:44:29 PM
  • 37
    Kids love finger foods. When mine were little (4,5,9) I introduced them to artichokes. We boil them whole in water with 3 whole cloves per artichoke for about 1 1/2 hours. Then we serve them (one per person) with melted butter flavored with lemon juice. I have also substituted healthier margarines for the butter. The kids (who hated vegetables) loved tearing off the leaves, dipping them, and scraping the leaves on their teeth. These are very filling so you don't need a lot of extra dishes to go with. I usually just serve a small helping of mashed potatoes and a piece of chicken with ours. - 3/13/2009   3:24:29 PM

    Made the roast for my family and they loved it..........with my hubby
    coming in at 4 pm == niephew in at 5 pm === and son at 7 pm having
    slow cooker ideas is essential.

    Cranberry Apple Roast

    1 3-4 pound beef roast
    1 C. cranberries, chopped
    1/4 C. honey (more or less)
    1/2 tsp. ground cloves
    1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
    1 C. Apple sauce w/ cinnamon
    1/4 C. fresh Orange Peel, grated
    1/2 C. Honey

    Spray (or grease) crockpot, place meat; combine seasonings in a
    bowl, mix
    pour over meat. Cook on low 9-10 hours
    serve w/ Sweet Potatoes & a salad, Yum!
    - 3/13/2009   2:29:14 AM
  • 35
    My husband is the picky eater in our family. Even worse than most kids. He's not a fan of pasta and won't like the ricotta (he doesn't like lasagna either) or the cooked spinach (he'll eat some raw mixed in a salad, but that's it). The marinated chicken skewers that DRAGONFLY shared sound like something I'd try (though with Sumac instead of paprika--hubby doesn't like paprika). He does like grilled peppers & onions, so I'd put those on the kabobs to make sure he eats some veggies. - 3/12/2009   3:23:15 AM
  • 34
    sounds good - 3/12/2009   12:57:33 AM
  • 33
    I have discovered that my kids do not like peppers, but my daughter loves roasted red peppers. I find that by roasting them first and then adding them to a meal means she is more likely to finish her serving. My son tends to like textures that are soft. He like baked potatoes and most pasta. For the most part I plan meals by what is locally available and in season. I do add a few splurges to get all our nutrients. - 3/11/2009   10:34:26 PM
  • 32
    I make a similar recipe and my family loves this but it's high in calories so i try not to eat too much which is hard because it's so good. - 3/11/2009   5:36:53 PM
  • 31
    Number of ingredients do not bother me - been cooking all my life Indian food with loads and loads of spices!! I just cannot eat food that is NOT flavorful and bland with just salt and pepper! My philosophy is when onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, thyme, dill, etc. are useable in a recipe, do not leave them out for they are healthy for you. In my cook book at Spark, there may only be a couple of recipes that use 5 ingredients or less, yet full of flavor!
    My having been a vegetarian and learnt to eat non vegetarian mid life, the only way I could disguise the smells ( what someone may call aroma and taste of meat, fish) and after taste only by making it flavor ful with spices to make it edible for me :)

    Enjoy! - 3/11/2009   3:49:10 PM
  • 30
    I tried this last month and my family loved it and didn't really notice the lack of meat. I have it on my dinner menu for next week. - 3/11/2009   12:56:01 PM
  • 29
    This sounds great. Ironically, I just made manicotti last week - first time in YEARS! So I'll do stuffed shells with this recipe. Great idea. Thanks! - 3/11/2009   11:22:26 AM
    Manicotti are really difficult for me, here is my mother's recipe for roast. Wash the roast meat, put some salt and garlic. Put it in a pyrex for about 1 hour if is medium small and for more if is bigger. check after one hour, cut if is too red you can put it in the oven more time.It is good for eating with vegetables that you can cook by themselves. - 3/11/2009   11:20:19 AM
  • 27
    I like manicotti.
    My healthy alternative to traditional lasagna is zucchini lasagna. Instead of layering pasta I layer the sauteed zucchini between layers of marinara and cheese. Sometimes I add cooked ground turkey. It's a yummy casserole! - 3/11/2009   8:38:44 AM
    I was going to make lasagna for my daughter and boyfriend.....But I think this is a yummier idea and easier to make - I have made it before but not for years...

    thanks for the reminder.......I am not fond of cooked spinach but in this ya just don't even
    - 3/11/2009   8:24:05 AM
  • 25
    It's great how we can take our traditional recipes and cut the fat and calories but not the taste and everyone is happy. - 3/11/2009   8:10:49 AM
  • 24
    "Personally, I like recipes that don't have tons of ingredients, don't take long to prepare and are generally good for you."

    I couldn't agree more... there's nothing more frustrating than a recipe that has 20 ingredients including 10 spices... I hate going to the grocery store and filling my cart on one recipe. I'm very excited about this series of recipes!!! :-) And I love spinach stuffed shells... I'll have to try the manicotti. - 3/11/2009   7:55:15 AM
  • 23
    That looks yummy. I like spinach (broccoli.. ) and thankfully, so do my kids. Being a daycare owner, I've learned that when making homemade spaghetti sauces, I chop up carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms and any other veggie I can find on hand and throw it in the sauce to give us all more of our veggies. If you sautee them first, they become soft and the kids are less likely to pick them out. Or, you could use one of those little food choppers. - 3/11/2009   7:33:47 AM
  • 22
    Thankfully I am out of toddler phases, but not to dash your hopes, the "2 year old phase" becomes 3, 4 .... 20!!!
    I don't cook for my kids anymore (if they don't like what I'm making, they make their own meals at 20 & 21 years old) but my biggest hits have been my homemade spaghetti sauce (with fresh tomatoes, not canned) which is VERY low sodium and my tweaked version of Crock Pot Fiesta. I've got to watch the sodium contents for DH who has HBP (which was under control for about 3 months when he lost some weight and was working out with me)
    My recipes are on SparkRecipes and I even have the better ones in a cookbook. - 3/11/2009   7:31:21 AM
  • 21
    I also like recipes that do not have tons of ingredients. Usually I cook pastas for the family. It's the easiest and I just mix and match the pasta with chicken and a variety of vegetables. The family's favourite is baked spaghetti which I got from SparkRecipe. Here, I've included brinjal and zucchini which my children wouldn't eat if they are cooked on their own. - 3/11/2009   2:54:53 AM
  • 20
    My favorite trick when my daughters were little was to add some pureed vegetables to spaghetti sauce. I also kept serving them "teeny tiny tastes" of things they didn't necessarily like because over time these healthy foods became familiar to them and they'd eat them up. I also found they liked to dip things so I'd give them small size fruits and veggies and "sauce" to dip them in. This could be a little bit of dressing for salad (french was their favorite) or even a little chocolate sauce with fruits. As adults they are both a healthy weight and eat all sorts of foods. - 3/10/2009   11:50:55 PM
    Will give it a go for sure. My kids are not picky eaters at all, so I make new dished quite often. My most reliable one these days, when we are in a hurry, is a simple egg dish that gets some whichever leftovers thrown in for good measure.

    Easy egg frittata
    8 eggs
    1/2 cup milk
    Italian herbs
    grated cheese or cubed cream cheese
    left over ham, bacon, veggies
    Beat eggs and milk. Add remaining ingredients. Pour in glass pie plate and set on hight in microwave for about 8 minutes. - 3/10/2009   10:18:36 PM
  • 18
    great recipes!!! - 3/10/2009   7:19:01 PM
  • 17
    This is my family's favorite dish:

    Chicken Pot Pie

    Mix the following ingredients together, and put in a 9" X13" pan (No need to grease the pan.):

    3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (boiled, cooled, and chopped)
    1 can cream of celery soup (can use lowfat variety- I don't)
    1 can cream of chicken soup (can use lowfat variety- I don't)
    1 can Swanson chicken broth (can use lowfat variety- I don't)
    1 small bag of frozen mixed vegetables
    salt and pepper, to taste

    In a small bowl, mix the following ingredients:
    1 stick of butter (softened, NOT melted)
    1 cup self-rising flour
    1 cup buttermilk

    Spoon the flour, butter, buttermilk mixture (Don't panic- Mixture will be lumpy) ontop of the chicken, soups, and vegetable mixture.

    Bake at 350 degrees for one hour...or until the crust is golden brown.

    Okay, this might not be the healthiest... but, it is well worth the splurge in calories. I ate cereal for breakfast and salad for lunch just to be able to reward myself with chicken pot pie for dinner!

    Can be mixed up ahead of time, and plopped into the oven when you get home. Reheats well and freezes well. So easy... even my children can make it without assistance. Who could ask for anything more?

    Paula - 3/10/2009   4:51:55 PM
  • 16
    I love manicotti. It is my favorite Italian food. It needs no additional salt. Look at the sodium content on the cheeses and marinara sauce. There is already too much sodium in just those items. For those who must watch their sodium intake, this would be a dish to have on a day when all your other food is very low in sodium.

    I am beginning to wonder if it is possible to eat healthy, although one can eat healthier. All the "healthy" recipes I have seen here always have way too much sodium, even though they may be low in fat, calories, and carbs. While sodium may not affect weight loss, it will certainly affect one's health in the long run. Also, it is the only thing that a doctor says you have to almost eliminate from the diet when you have high blood pressure. It usually takes years to develop HBP, and all the years of sodium "abuse" has already taken its toll by then.

    No one loves chips more than I. All kinds of chips in all flavors. I had to give them up, though, for the sake of my health. I just wish I would have known about all the things that can happen to people with HBP before they happened to me! - 3/10/2009   3:35:47 PM
  • 15
    Doing some food shopping with my wife today, well have a go at this recipe. Thanks - 3/10/2009   1:22:56 PM
  • 14
    I made vegetarian manicotti a few weeks ago for my BF, and he loved it, I used a simple recipe I found for homemade manicotti shells ( don't get scared they are so easy to make and you can make them healthier than what you can buy )

    Home-Made Manicotti Shells Recipe

    8 Eggs, divided
    3 Cups Water, divided
    3 Cups all-purpose Flour, divided ( I used 2/3 s of the flour as WW Flour so if making a full batch of these use 2 cups of ww flour and 1 cup of all purpose flour)
    1 ½ Teaspoons Salt, divided

    Combine four eggs, one ½ cups of water, one ½ cups of all-purpose flour and 3/4 teaspoon of salt in your blender container. Blend until mixture is smooth. Pour the blended mixture into a large bowl. Repeat using the remaining ingredients.
    Add the new mixture to the bowl and stir together.
    I made a half batch and made 16 shells they are like crepes and roll easy and the ones I did not use in the manicotti were great the next day with cream cheese spread on them , you can use them in many ways, next time I am going to try corn flour and make homemade enchilladas with them )
    How to Make Manicotti Shells

    Lightly oil a frying pan and then heat the pan for about a minute over medium high heat. Spoon approximately two or three tablespoons of batter into the middle of the hot frypan. ( I USED a non stick pan and a 1/8 cup measuring cup to dip out the batter onto the pan , they cook very fast, so have everything there so you don't turn to get something and they burn ! )

    Quickly and carefully tilt the pan in a circular motion until the batter forms a round, thin layer in the pan. (Similar to a crepe or a very thin pancake.)

    Cook about 1 or 2 minutes until the shell surface appears dry. Mine cooked a lot faster than this!

    Carefully turn the manicotti shell over using a spatula, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

    Repeat process to make approximately 24 shells. AS I said I made 16 shells with half the recipe, and they were plenty big 12 of them barely fit in a large casserole dish .

    Stack cooked shells on plate between waxed paper for use later.

    Home-made manicotti shells may be frozen. - 3/10/2009   1:11:19 PM
  • 13
    this sound great will have to try it out thanks - 3/10/2009   12:58:45 PM
  • 12
    These all sound really good!

    This one was a big hit for us...AND it freezes really well!

    Burrito Pie by angelfaces1 on SparkRecipes
    - 3/10/2009   12:50:10 PM
  • 11

    AMIE - 3/10/2009   11:54:19 AM
    This recipe is always a hit. It has been geared down for 2 servings, but it doubles and triples very well.

    Creamy Broccoli Cheddar Soup (Low Fat) ***

    Serving Size: 2

    1/2 tablespoon Smaart Balance -- melted
    1/8 cup chopped onion
    1 1/2 tablespoons Smaart Balance -- melted
    1 1/2 tablespoons flour
    1 cup half-and-half, fat free
    1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 cup water
    1 teaspoon Wyler's Sodium Free Chicken instant Bouillon
    3/8 cup frozen chopped broccoli
    pinch pepper
    pinch cayenne
    1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
    3 ounces cheddar cheese, low-fat -- grated

    Cook onion in 1 tablespoon Smart Balancer over medium-high heat until tender. Set aside
    In a medium saucepan, whisk flour into melted Smart Balance and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Gradually whisk half and half into Smart Balancer and flour mixture.

    Whisk chicken stock into half and half mixture and simmer for 20 minutes.

    Add sautéed onions and broccoli to soup mixture

    Reduce heat to low and cook for 20-25 minutes until broccoli and carrots are tender, stirring occasionally as soup thickens.

    Season to taste.

    Puree batches of soup in blender or food processor and return to pot. Or better yet, use an immersion blender

    Reheat soup over low heat.

    Stir in grated cheese and cook for a few minutes while it melts.

    Stir in nutmeg and remove from heat.

    Per Serving: 200 Calories; 3g Fat (18.6% calories from fat); 12g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 397mg Sodium.

    Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 Non-Fat Milk; 0 Fat.
    - 3/10/2009   11:52:39 AM
  • 9
    I've never been much of a cook, but I really appreciate all the wonderful recipes and ideas I get on Sparkpeople. - 3/10/2009   11:48:39 AM
  • 8
    It's only my husband and myself, but he's anti-vegetable. So I sneak vegs into omelets, pasta sauce, stew - or roasted root vegs with parsnips/turnips/rutabagas mixed in with potatoes and carrots and onions. That way, he doesn't know he's getting a few servings of vegs! (He thinks french fries count as a veg serving, LOL) - 3/10/2009   11:48:11 AM
    I loved this meal. Its my new Favorite - 3/10/2009   11:32:05 AM
    Cauliflower/Broccoli Cheese Soup

    1 chopped onion
    16 oz bag frozen cauliflower pieces
    16 oz bag frozen broccoli pieces
    6 oz velveeta 2% Milk
    4 cups chicken broth

    Spray pot with pam, saute onion until soft.
    Add broth, cauliflower and broccoli, cook 10 minutes. Take off heat and add chopped velveeta, do not stir, let it melt and cool a bit. Blend in batches.

    Freezes great.
    - 3/10/2009   11:20:45 AM
  • 5
    I've made this receipe and it's YUMMY!!! - 3/10/2009   11:18:49 AM
    Chicken Parmesan
    2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
    1/4 c flour
    eggwash (1 egg + 1 T water) - can sub eggwhite or eggbeaters
    1/3 c seasoned breadcrumbs
    1/2 c spaghetti sauce
    1/3 c lowfat mozzarella

    Heat oven to 375
    Dredge chicken in flour, dip in eggwash and dredge in breadcrumbs.
    Line baking sheet or pyrex pan with foil, spray with Pam, add chicken, spray with Pam
    Bake chicken 25-30 minutes, until internal temp is 165
    Spoon spaghetti sauce over chicken and sprinkle with cheese
    Place under broiler until cheese is brown and bubbly

    I serve this with whole-wheat penne and the rest of the spaghetti sauce. Serves 4 - 204 cal; 3.4g fat; 10g carb; 31g protein - does not include pasta.

    Marinated Chicken Skewers
    2 lbs chicken breast, cut into chunks
    Juice of 1 lemon
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    1/2 Tbsp italian seasoning
    1/2 Tbsp paprika
    2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
    salt and pepper to taste

    Combine marinade ingredients and add chicken. Marinate at least 2 hours, better if overnight. Skewer chicken (be sure to soak wooden skewers first!) and grill or broil until cooked through.

    We like this with whole-wheat pita bread, tatziki or hummus, and grilled veggies. Serves 8 - 160 cals; 4.9g fat; 1.1g carb; 26g protein
    - 3/10/2009   11:09:13 AM
  • 3
    This was really good! - 3/10/2009   10:32:42 AM
  • 2
    Yummy! I can't wait to try this with the family. Thanks for sharing. - 3/10/2009   10:21:41 AM
    This sounds great. I am going to have to make this!! Thanks for sharing. - 3/10/2009   10:18:12 AM

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