Meal Prep with Your Kids with Limited Ingredients

Even with states slowly opening back up with social distancing guidelines in place, many have gotten used to cooking more meals at home. And with many kids not heading back to school until next school year, parents may still also be looking for ways to keep their children engaged with structured activities around the house. A great solution: cooking together! Involving kids in the food preparation process will make them feel included and encourage them to try new healthy foods.

We know that eating more meals at home is generally associated with a higher intake of healthy fruits, vegetables and dairy products that are recommended for a balanced diet, and usually with less fat and calories. Getting your kids involved in meal prep for the family offers even more benefits.

Kids can gain a lot from helping in the kitchen like learning about measurements, following instructions and reading recipes. Research also shows that kids can be encouraged to eat more healthy foods when they are involved in the meal prep. According to a report from the University of Washington, those who cook more at home have a diet that’s lower in calories, sugar and fat.

Registered dietitian, Susan Bowerman, shares how to get your kids involved in meal prep, using limited ingredients, in five steps:

Compile a recipe stash.

Use a system that works for you, whether it’s ripping recipes from a magazine and putting them in a binder, or bookmarking them on your computer or smartphone, and compile several easy recipes that you know everyone likes.  As a fun activity, you can also have your kids gather their favorite recipes to create a recipe scrapbook.

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Make a list, then shop once a week… or less.

With limited visits to the grocery store, it’s important to prepare for your shopping trip or delivery. Get input on your list from the family. Check to see if you’re low on your staples in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry so that you can throw together a quick soup, curry or pasta dish at a moment’s notice. Some good items to keep on hand:  canned beans, tuna and tomatoes; frozen fruits, veggies, meats, fish, poultry; eggs, yogurt, milk and low-fat cheese in the refrigerator.  Choose the longest-lasting fresh veggies and fruits such as citrus, apples, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery and peppers.

Think fast and easy.

How many times did you buy a whole spaghetti squash with the best of intentions, only to watch it rot slowly over time in the back of the bottom fridge drawer? Reach for shortcuts such as frozen veggies, pre-washed greens and pre-cooked or pre-seasoned meat to help cut down on cooking and prep time. If you need some great meat, then go to your local deli for some delicious options.

Prep once, cook twice.

If you know you’re going to use chopped onions, garlic and vegetables in more than one meal during the week, cut up everything at one time and store what you’re not using immediately in the fridge so you’ll have it on hand. Make extra rice or quinoa and store whatever’s left for a future meal and freeze it. You can also cook extra protein for two meals – the extra fish you grill tonight can be used for tomorrow’s fish tacos.

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Master some one-dish wonders

Cultivate meals that balance your proteins, vegetables, and starches all in one dish. Consider chili, soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles.

For more tips from Susan Bowerman, visit

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