Do your kids constantly ask for food or say they are hungry whilst out of school? Mine do! If you need some easy and appealing summer dinner meals that are healthy and will keep them full until the next snack or meal time (boy do they come around fast!) then you have come to the right place.
Here I will share with you 14 easy and appealing summer dinner meals that are appealing to young children and the whole family. (so no different meals required). If you have a fussy eater like I do then hopefully these meal ideas are a winner too.
How do I make healthy summer meals for young children?
Healthy summer meals, whatever the time of year, can be healthy if you include variety. so, lots of colourful vegetables and fruits and different forms of protein, carbohydrates etc so you’re not eating the same thing every dinner.
Cooking meals from scratch also gives you control over how much you add of certain ingredients like oil, sugar, spices etc.
How many food groups should dinner include?
Dinner should include at least 3 – 4 food groups (fruit and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates and proteins). You don’t need to include all the five food groups for every meal but over a day is best. (1)
The five food groups include the following:
1. Fruit and vegetables – fresh, frozen or tinned
2. Starchy carbohydrates – potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates.
3. Proteins – beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins.
4. Dairy and alternatives.
5. Oils and spreads.
How do I make food more appealing to my child?
If they are a picky or a fussy eater then it’s all very well having tasty healthy summer meal dinner ideas but if your child won’t eat them it’s easy to resort to foods they will eat. This makes meal times complicated and not easy and we don’t want to make more work for ourselves.
Five tips for making food more appealing.
- Using foods that are Colourful – makes easy and appealing summer dinner meals. Use a variety of colours (think rainbows). vegetables and herbs are great for providing colour to meals. Try to include two vegetables of different colours for contrast.
- Familiar – Add ONE food or ingredient you know they will like to the meal so there is at least one thing they will eat.
- Present it attractively – How a meal looks to a child and adult is very important. We often judge how it might taste based on what it looks like. You can present it attractively with a fun colourful plate for kids or using fun shapes to present foods.
It doesn’t have to be complicated; it could be a stack of fish fingers or a mountain of mashed potato (get creative). You could also try fun shapes of pasta, different sizes, and vegetables cut in different ways.
- Plate size – The plate size needs to be appropriate for the age of the child. So use a plate 20cm diameter for a child 1 – 4 yrs. (2)
This will ensure you’re not overloading the plate and it becomes too much.
- Get them involved. A good way to get young children to feel more comfortable with foods is to let them be taste testers. Let them sample a teaspoon full before you serve it up. It gives them a pre taste of the meal so there are no nasty surprises.
Top 14 Easy and appealing summer dinner meals
- One pot meals are made using one pot or pan. These meals make it easy on the clearing and washing up! Lots of foods can be cooked in one pan but just remember the timings are important as you add different ingredients. Some things may take longer to cook than others.
I love this one pan egg and vegetable brunch which is really versatile as you can adjust the vegetables to what’s in season or what the kids may like. Courgettes, peas and spring onions are great for the summer.
- Jacket potatoes are an easy meal idea with their crispy skin and fluffy middle. These have to be cooked in the oven to get like this but a kitchen hack is to cook in the microwave first for 4 – 5 mins per potato.
Then finish off in a hot oven for about 25 mins whilst you make a delicious filling such as (low salt/sugar baked beans and cheese, tuna mayonnaise, crispy bacon & avocado) all served with some crunchy vegetable batons or salad.
- Toast toppers are so easy to make and very versatile. You could even get the kids to help you make them. A great toast topper is my fishy toast topper (also can be used a dip). Which uses a combination of tuna and mackerel. You can serve this with a salad or crunchy vegetable batons like peppers, cucumber, radishes and/or carrots.
- Pasta or noddles meals. These are some of the best meals in our house. Kids just love pasta! If you want to make it more healthy try using wholemeal pasta.
Meals like pasta with tomato sauce and cheese or macaroni cheese with broccoli or cauliflower are a tasty combination. If you don’t want to make the sauce from scratch then some mascarpone or cream cheese and cheddar are the next best thing.
- Couscous recipes are somewhat lighter and appealing for the summer. Although very bland you can liven up with soaking it in chicken stock or another stock of your choice. You can also add lots of herbs such as mint, basil to add flavour.
You can also add roasted vegetables that work well such as tomatoes, courgettes, onions, cauliflower, fennel, greens. Then to accompany this you can cook some form of protein like fish, sausages, chicken etc.
- Rice dishes you could use either quick cooked rice to serve alongside something like a mild curry which can be vegetarian, fish or meat based like this lentil and vegetable curry.
Alternatively you could use arborio risotto rice to make a basic risotto. Then add some summer vegetables like peas and beans.
- Salad meals don’t have to be boring and they can be a meal if you include3 food groups. Tinned beans like butter beans or lentils that are already cooked are easy to make into a salad with some other summer vegetables. For dairy you could include some feta or mozzarella too.
- Soups are usually eaten in winter as comforting food but you can get lighter soups with fresh herbs or vegetables that are ideal for summer. Try sweetcorn chowder using seasonal sweetcorn.
- Burritos are like a wrap and can be filled with all sorts of protein such as cooked chicken pieces, ham, black beans or chickpeas, alongside some vegetables like onions, mushrooms, sweetcorn, sweet potato.
- Cheats pizza is still a pizza but using a ready made base of your choice (pitta bread, baguette, flatbread) then simply top with some delicious toppings of your choice. Try my pitta pizza recipe
- Tray bakes (not the sweet version) you can bake so much on a shallow tray from fish to sausages, bacon and loads of roasted veggies work well too. This meal idea is easy because you can load the tray up, put it in the oven to roast and come back later when it is cooked. Little effort is required. This salmon tray bake with pesto is a family favourite.
- Tapas style/ or sharing platters are great for fussy eaters as they can select what they want and often these dishes are simple and ingredients are not mixed. Think antipasto food, so cold cuts of meat and or cheeses, marinated vegetables such as peppers, olives, and artichokes. Then serve with some crusty bread of your choice.
- Stir fries are easy and quick and can be thrown together with any veggies lurking at the back of the fridge. I like to keep things simple and fry an onion in some oil (rapeseed or flavoured) and then add my veggies and meat or cheese like halloumi until coloured a little.
I like to add some soya sauce (low salt version or light) .You can accompany stir fries with rice, egg noodles or rice noodles.
- Omelettes or frittatas are as simple as using eggs only in an omelette or you can add new potatoes, vegetables and cheese. They are delicious served with an avocado salsa (avocado and tomato).
What should I make for dinner on a hot summer night?
When its very hot I find it hard to eat very much but I definitely crave lighter and fresher tasting foods. Nothing spicy, heavy or too filling. Some of the easy and appealing summer dinner meals include the following;
- Salads – like this chicken and spinach salad
- Fish based meals like salmon or tuna (tinned or fresh)
- Egg based meals such as omelettes or frittatas
References given on request