An assortment of cold cereal for breakfast and delivery pizzas dinner work for children of all ages and gets the food on the table with minimal cooking and clean-up. However, you needn't limit your choices to those less-than-nutritious options. Whether you're planning preschool picnic, a family reunion or a church outing for preteens, give children things they want to eat in a speedy fashion, so you all can get back to the fun.
To speed things along for breakfast, prepare meals for younger children. Let older children make their own choices among these fast but healthy foods that work for children of all ages:
- Yogurt with an assortment of toppings, including cereal, banana slices, blueberries and toasted almond slices.
- Healthy muffins served with apple slices and a package of string cheese for each child
- Smoothies made with milk or yogurt and fruit.
If you have access to an oven, heat frozen pancakes, waffles or muffins on a baking sheet, in a 400 degree F oven. The breakfast treats will be thawed and warm in 5 minutes. Serve them with fruit smoothies or sliced fruit.
Preschoolers can be picky and preteens ravenous, so plan accordingly and provide options that you know the children will like:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Let older children make their own, and prepare slices of bread with peanut butter for younger children, asking each of them individually what kind of jelly to add as they come to get a sandwich.
- Deli meat and cheese roll-ups with tortillas for elementary school children.
- Crackers and cheese or crackers and peanut butter for preschool or elementary children who are picky eaters.
- Make-your-own sandwich board for preteens and teens, with submarine rolls and an assortment of deli meats, cheese, lettuce and pickles.
- Burritos for preteens and teens to make themselves with tortillas, warmed in the oven, canned refried beans warmed on the stovetop or in a microwave, store-bought shredded cheese and lettuce, canned sliced olives and salsa.
- For children of any age, small containers with creamy yogurt dip, peanut butter or hummus and an assortment of cut vegetables, including cucumbers, carrot and celery sticks, cherry tomatoes and slices of bell peppers.
- For all children, fresh fruit, such as apple slices, grapes or watermelon slices, cut into quarters for easy eating.
Children don't expect a feast, so keep dinners simple:
- Provide a green salad for children of all ages, with add-your-own tomatoes, shredded cheese and carrots, sunflower seeds and sliced cucumbers.
- Use the oven to melt cheese on bagels and serve them along with a cup of soup to drink for older children, preteens and teenagers.
- Cook chicken or fish fingers in the oven for preschoolers and younger children, and serve them with containers of ketchup for dipping.
- Make a large pot of sloppy joes from the prepared section of your grocery and spoon the mix over buns for preteens and teens.
Keep dessert fast and simple by serving large oatmeal cookies, cake from a store-bought sheet cake or ice cream cones, with no bowls to wash afterwards.