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Easy and Tasty Weeknight Meals for Busy Parents

Looking for easy weeknight meals that are healthy but still tasty enough that the kids will love them? We’ve got you covered with these ideas!

Easy and Tasty Weeknight Meals for Busy Parents

Work, school, extracurriculars, homework ... add making dinner to the mix and we need a nap just thinking about it! Most of us don't have time to plan and prep complicated meals, and there's only so much takeout your wallet can handle. We got you! These easy weeknight dinners are tasty enough for even the pickiest eaters. They're also nutritious, and most importantly, you can whip them up with minimal fuss. 

1. Homemade fish sticks

Kids love foods in fun shapes they can eat with their hands. But parents don't love processed foods with lots of fatty calories. This homemade fish stick recipe is a healthier alternative kids can slam-dunk into their favorite dipping sauces. 

We like to use nutrient-rich tilapia, which is loaded with protein, vitamins, and minerals that kids need to support healthy growth, like niacin, vitamin B-12, selenium, and potassium. The breading's made with whole-grain goodness. High-fiber grains help kids stay fuller for longer, so they're not pawing through the fridge right before bedtime. One serving is just 206 calories, packs 27 grams of protein, and has minimal fat and carbohydrates. 

You can make your own dipping sauce with probiotic-rich Greek yogurt, too, which supports gut health and provides calcium for strong bones. This recipe's tangy sauce includes yogurt, chile sauce, soy sauce, and a bit of lime juice. Get the recipe.

2. Sheet pan chicken fajitas

This not-too-spicy Mexican dish is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, heart-healthy, and low in calories. As protein sources go, chicken is a good one for kids because it contains a lot of amino acids that support growth and development. Two of these fajitas give you more than 30 grams of protein but only 357 calories. Plus, you can whip this up in half an hour, prep and cook time included.

To make them, you’ll need boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a few spices, bell peppers, and onion. Cut the chicken and veggies into strips, coat them in spices, and lay them out on an oiled, foil-covered sheet pan. Once they’ve cooked, sprinkle the fajita filling with some lime juice and serve them in warm corn tortillas. To make it extra kid-approved, set out fixings like black beans, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, and salsa. 

3. Orange chicken fingers (plus sides!)

If your kids like chicken nuggets and Chinese food, we found the dream team: orange chicken fingers. But this recipe cuts out all the soy, sodium, and extra calories from takeout and the freezer aisle. This easy-to-make finger food is a lean 274 calories per serving. But it packs 30 grams of protein and only takes about an hour to make, including cook time.

First, you’ll need boneless skinless chicken breasts. If you prefer a gluten-free version, you’ll also need to crush some crispy rice cereal to use as the coating. Next, add some orange zest to the breading for extra flavor, and mix egg whites with low-sodium teriyaki sauce. Dip the chicken in the liquid mixture, then the breading, and lay the chicken fingers out on a wire rack over a baking sheet to cook.

This tangy orange chicken fingers recipe also includes instructions for an Asian-flavored dipping sauce that compliments the orange zest in the breading, plus an Asian-inspired carrot salad, too.

4. One-pan Cajun chicken and veggies

Sheet pan cooking = less work, less mess. So here’s another time-saver that's big on flavor and nutrition but low in calories. One serving — which includes chicken, potatoes, and veggies — is 615 calories with 34 grams of protein. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free, too. As far as carbs go, potatoes are a good choice for kids (and parents, too). Compared to other high-carb foods like bread, pasta or rice, potatoes are more filling, which means fewer calories to fill up. They're also less processed and have a lower glycemic load (AKA blood-sugar spike).

To make it, you’ll need chicken thighs, diced potatoes, bell peppers, an onion, parsley, and various Cajun-themed seasonings. Get started by chopping the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, then drizzle both sides of the chicken in olive oil and coat with spices. Next, toss the veggies in oil and spices, then spread everything out on the pan and bake it.

This no-fail, well-balanced recipe is a treat for busy parents since it takes about 15 minutes to put together and 45 minutes to bake. It uses inexpensive ingredients, too. 

5. Creamy garlic herb chicken & potatoes

Craving comfort food but not the extra calories that come with it? Try this leaned-out yet cozy and rich-tasting dish. Perfect for the mid-week rush, it takes about five minutes to put together and just 25 minutes to cook. That's dinner in a half-hour, people! Each serving is 350 calories with 26 grams of protein. Bonus: It's pretty low in carbs and fat, too.

You’ll need chicken breasts or chicken thighs plus potatoes sliced thin, minced garlic, cream, and a few herbs. Brown the chicken for five minutes on each side in a greased skillet, then add the potatoes, garlic, herbs, and cream to create a hearty, savory dish perfect after a long day at school or on a chilly winter evening. The key to making this a quick-cooking dish is to slice those potatoes thin. So use a potato slicer if you have one. Check out the full recipe and instructions here.