Turn Your Classic Meatloaf Recipe into Something Healthy and Child-Friendly


If my mom spent more time in the kitchen with me growing up, perhaps I wouldn’t be a miserable cook who does more harm than good when it comes to feeding my family. Seriously, when eating the fat-filled fast food at McDonalds that even ants won’t touch is a safer option than putting me in charge of dinner, it’s a problem. All right, so maybe my cooking isn’t that bat (it’s close) but my baking skills are on par, stellar and usually the envy of all my friends and family. It’s a shame we can’t live on cookies and homemade apple pie, or I’d make one killer housewife.

In all seriousness, cooking with our kids is a great idea. Not only does it help teach our children how to cook so they can care for themselves when they’re older, it also helps us bond with our kids and it helps teach them the importance of eating good, healthy meals at home. Of course, not everything we make is healthy and not everything we make is kid-friendly. It’s not always simple to cook at home when time is limited, kids have busy schedules and our family favorites aren’t quite as healthy as they could be. Additionally, we’ve also got to keep in mind that feeding our kids isn’t the only goal at dinnertime; we also have to feed ourselves and our spouses, and that means figuring out how to make sure our kids love the same foods we love and that we grew up with. We’ve decided to take an old classic and figure out how to make it more child-friendly in addition to healthier.

Meatloaf; it’s delicious, but it’s not always a favorite meal for kids and it’s not always a healthy one. But we’ve found a way to make it healthier for kids – and us – and how to make it faster so that we can all eat a healthy meal that takes very little time to cook. Here we go.

Pick Your Favorite Recipe

There are hundreds of meatloaf recipes in the world; and we don’t dare assume we know your favorite. Since this is such a comfort food, we assume that your meatloaf recipe is one that comes from your grandmother, mother or even your mother-in-law or father. This recipe is probably one you grew up with and have eaten your entire life, which means it’s one you’re particularly fond of. If you don’t have a favorite meatloaf recipe – or you think yours could use some improvement – we can recommend an amazing recipe from the Food Network’s own Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) to use at home.

Now that you’ve chosen your favorite recipe, it’s time to tweak it so that it’s a bit more child-friendly and healthier, and so that your kids can come into the kitchen and help you cook dinner themselves.

Substitute the Meat

Instead of using red meat for this classic recipe, switch it out for ground turkey. It’s just as good, if not better, but far healthier. In fact, we are willing to bet that most people in your family won’t even know the difference. We know kids won’t be able to tell that you didn’t use red meat, and many husbands might not have a clue that the meat used to make this meal is actually turkey and not beef. They might love it and detect a flavor change, but they’ll never know it’s because you used turkey instead of beef to make the meal.

Add Extra Veggies

There is no limit to what you can add to your meatloaf, and we recommend adding extra veggies. You might not want to let the kids come into the kitchen at this point to help since you don’t want them to see the veggies if they are not into eating them. Hiding them in this dish is a great way to get your kids to consume them without them ever knowing any better.

We love the concept of adding a half cup of spinach to the mix in addition to your other favorite such as onion, peppers and even carrots. There really is no simpler way to make this meal a bit healthier than by adding hidden veggies. Additionally, you can substitute the bread crumbs, or a portion of them, for whole oats or even wheat germ to add some nutritional value to your meal.

Make Mini Meatloafs

Here’s how you make this meal faster. You already know how to make it healthier, so now let’s do it fast. The first step is to prepare your meal ahead of time so that you can stick it in the oven when you get home from work without wasting time prepping your food. Next, make miniature loaves instead of big ones. You can do this in a muffin tin or in smaller bread dishes, and you can even just shape them and put them on cookie sheets to bake. This will allow you to bake your meatloaf recipe in half the time, around 35 minutes (though you’ll want to check yours to ensure it’s thoroughly cooked before you take it out of the oven depending on your oven and the size of your miniature loaves). You’ll get to eat this healthy meal in half the time, which is often exactly what busy families rely on.

Let the Kids Help

Half the fun of making meatloaf is smashing everything together. I don’t know about you, but we let our kids do some of the smashing (with thorough hand washing and constant supervision since we don’t want anyone touching anything else with raw meat on their hands, especially their mouths and faces!). They think it’s “so gross,” and “totally cool,” to get to do this, and they love the time in the kitchen with us. We also let our kids help with the measuring and the spreading of the ketchup on their meatloaf so that they get to help with dinner, feel cool for doing it and we get to spend some time with them in the kitchen laughing and enjoying ourselves as a family.

Photo by Getty Images


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