Making kid food exciting for grown ups

So sometimes you can’t think of anything original to make for dinner, for lunch, for breakfast, whatever. Your mind has reached peak decision fatigue and you just reach for whatever to eat. But you kind of want to still have something vaguely nutritional, flavorful, or just a little bit exciting than standard kid or family-friendly fare. What to do?


Do what you always do. Go on autopilot. Just add a little bit of goodness in to your own bowl, plate, or heck, hide that stuff from the small ones in your life.

I need ideas please, because… decision fatigue, remember? 

I totally get it. This came to mind when I was making dinner last night. As we’ve got further into parenting, we’ve slowly developed vague-ish certain food nights when meal planning (or when forgetting to, because hey, that’s life.) Saturday nights, if we can’t think of anything else, is fish fingers/fish sticks, peas and fries. Total kid fare, am I right?

While I was fine with having that, I wanted to have something more exciting with mine. So we went for a fish finger butty (aka sandwich in britspeak). This opened up the doors a bit more with minimal effort. I went for mashed avocado with paprika mixed in and some rocket/arugula to up the nutrients a bit and make it taste a bit more sophisticated of palate. It was delicious. The munchkin was perfectly happy chomping away on his own (although he discarded most of the bread and just ate the fish and peas — he’s not a huge lover of most carbs, that kid). Happy mama, happy child, win win.

So how else can I do this add-ins business? 

I’ll break it down into other kid-friendly recipes that we do this with from time to time to give you an idea.

Mac n cheese:

  • Mashed butternut squash/pumpkin (wrap in tin foil, low on a slow cooker for 6-8 hours, take out, scoop out, voilà! Or you can buy the canned/tinned stuff from the grocery store).
  • Crushed garlic
  • Smoked paprika
  • Cayenne pepper (omit for the kids if they don’t like it and add to your own!)
  • Your favorite beans


  • Fresh arugula/rocket sprinkled on top, like a fancy pizza place.
  • Frozen cubes of chopped spinach (you can make your own or get them from the supermarket). Microwave until defrosted and spread on the pizza using the back of a spoon.
  • Frozen or canned sweet corn
  • Jalapeño peppers or any other chili pepper
  • Adding spices again, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, feta cheese.

Sausages and mashed potatoes

  • Cook with: cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potato, swede (rutabaga), stir-fried leeks
  • Add in garlic powder / onion powder to the mash
  • Add a fancy cheese

Pasta / lasagne

  • Add in your favorite can of beans — think outside of the box: black beans, cannelini (navy) beans, kidney beans, butter beans, etc.
  • Add a can of lentils — green, red split or brown
  • Again, frozen spinach that’s been defrosted in the microwave or the fresh stuff
  • Frozen peas
  • Bell peppers cut into thin strips and stir fried with the onions and garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Hot sauce or spice blend (piri piri works very well with pasta!)

Cottage/shepherds pie (pot pies)

  • Add in beans like kidney, haricot, black beans, etc.
  • Same with mash as above — cook other vegetables like broccoli, sweet potato, swede/rutabaga or stir-fried leeks and incorporate into the mash
  • Not very traditional, but we often include vegetables like bell peppers chopped up and in the filling.

Roast dinner

  • Chop up a ton of veg, whatever you like, and add it to the bottom of the roasting pan with whatever meat you are doing. By the time the meat is done they will be very tender and sweet.
  • See suggestions for mash above.


  • Puréed or mashed butternut squash / pumpkin (fresh or tinned).
  • Grated carrot or zucchini / courgette.
  • Chickpeas / garbanzo beans.


Hopefully that gives you some ideas of what you can do to mix up very traditionally child-friendly meals and make them more exciting for the mamas and daddies out there! If you have another suggestion of something you do in your family, please feel free to share!

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