Kids’ Meal Planning


Step 1:

Select the 5 elements of tasty, balanced meal. If possible, encourage your kids to get involved in this process (e.g. let each child pick out an ingredient) to increase their interest in whole foods, healthy eating, and the chance they will try new foods and flavors!

Notes: These are general guidelines and some meals may not contain all 5 elements (e.g. Greek yogurt parfait without a veggie), however, it is highly recommended that each meal include a minimum of a protein, fat, and vegetable, fruit, or whole grainAdditionally, some foods fall into 1 or more element category (e.g. spinach pesto includes an oil/fat and a non-starchy veggie)

A. Protein

select at least one item (general portion guide: 1 serving ~ size & depth of child’s hand)

  • Beef (ground, whole meat, deli style slices, sausages, jerky/sticks, etc.)
  • Buffalo (ground, whole meat cuts)
  • Chicken (ground, whole meat, deli style slices, sausage, etc.)
  • Turkey (ground, whole meat. sausage, jerky/sticks, deli style slices
  • Plain Greek or coconut yogurt
  • Kefir (coconut or dairy)
  • Dairy cheese (sticks, slices, crumbles)
  • Eggs
  • Fish: Anchovies, bass, cod, flounder, tilapia, halibut, Mahi Mahi, salmon, sardines, Lake trout, tuna
  • Shellfish: crab, clams, lobster, mussels, scallops, shrimp, squid/calamari
  • Goat
  • Lamb
  • Collagen or Sunwarrior protein powder (for smoothies)
  • Beans/legumes: chickpeas/ hummus, peas, peanuts/peanut butter, lentils, soybeans/Tempeh/Tofu, etc.
B. Oil/fat

select at least one (Note: for high heat cooking methods like stir frying it is especially important to use oils with high smoke points that won’t break down and become harmful at high temperature )

  • Pasture-raised animal-derived fats: tallow, lard, ghee (clarified butter), bacon fat, cream cheese, sour cream
  • Oils: Avocado, coconut, peanut, sesame, grapeseed, cold-pressed extra virgin olive, hemp seed, (EVOO), walnut, truffle, flax seed
  • Avocado (whole fruit)
  • Coconut milk, flakes, fresh “meat”
  • Whole nuts & butters: walnuts, pistachios, macadamia, pecans, almonds, cashews, etc.
  • Whole seeds, pastes, meals: pumpkin, chia, flax, sunflower, sesame/tahini, etc.
  • Hemp hearts
C. Non-starchy veggies

select as many as desired (Note: this element is optional for some breakfast meals. For veggie containing meals, general portion guide: 1 serving ~ two heaping handfuls or enough to cover ½ a plate)

  • Artichoke hearts and leaves
  • Asparagus
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Beans (green, wax, Italian)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage (green, bok choy)
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Daikon radish
  • Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip greens, spinach, chard)
  • Hearts of palm
  • Jicama
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Pea pods
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)
  • Sprouts
  • Summer squash
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips
  •  Zucchini
D. Carbohydrate (some veggies, grains, fruit, legumes)

select one (general portion guide: 1 serving ~ fist size cooked)

  • Carrot
  • Cassava
  • Taro
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beets
  • Rutabaga
  • Plantain
  • Pumpkin
  • Winter squash
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Teff
  • Oats
  • 100% whole grain bread, wrap, or pasta
  • Fruit (fresh or unsweetened dried)
  • Beans/legumes: chickpeas/ hummus, peas, peanuts/peanut butter, lentils, etc
E. Herbs & Spices/Sauce/Marinade

select one (Note: this element is optional for some meals) * complete recipe with meal ideas included at end of handout

  • Simple Sweet Garlic Sauce*
  • Ranch Seasoning Mix (½ C parsley, 1 Tbsp dill, 1 Tbsp garlic, 1 Tbsp onion powder, ½ Tsp basil, ½ Tsp black pepper)
  • Creamy Turmeric Coconut*
  • Soy-free Teriyaki *
  • Basic Kid-Friendly Spinach Pesto with variations* (or store bought jarred products made with virgin olive oil like Seggiano or La Favorita)
  • Quick Balsamic Vinaigrette*
  • Homemade Veggie Loaded Marinara* (or store bought no sugar added sauces like Michael’s of Brooklyn or Monte Bene)
  • No Cook Almond Butter/ Tahini Sauce*
  • Taco Seasoning Mix (¼ C cumin, 1 Tbsp garlic, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 1 Tsp oregano, 2 Tsps paprika, ¼ C salt, 1 Tsp pepper)
  • Salsa (store bought no sugar added brands like Green Mountain Gringo or Muir Glen)
  • Avocado Mayo* (or store bought Primal Kitchen Mayo)

A note on desserts: Many children love carbohydrate-rich sweet treats, which can be indulged  in healthy moderate way by choosing whole food-based ingredients like fresh fruit and by including sources of protein and healthy fat to provide nutritional balance. See the RECIPES section after the meal planning chart for ideas!


Step 2:

Once you have chosen your 5 elements, select your preparation method(s) : no cook, stir-fry, slow cook/pressure cooker/instant pot, oven roast or bake, grill, etc. Please contact Simplicity Nutrition if you’d like additional instructions regarding the specifics of any of these cooking techniques.

Step 3:

Whenever possible engage your kids in age-appropriate food preparation activities (e.g. peeling carrots, mixing sauces, or pounding chicken or nuts). Cooking together not only builds valuable life skills, but can reduce total food prep time, enhance family food experiences and behaviors, and adds precious bonding time!

Additional Tricks & Tips:

To save time and money, check out what you currently have in your freezer, fridge, and pantry then mix and match elements

Embrace creativity: once you and your family get comfortable with the 5 element approach, consider trying some new veggies, proteins, or flavor combinations

Consider making extra portions of meals for leftover meals and snacks


Cooking Method: Circle





Slow Cook

Instant Pot

Dutch oven/one pot


No cook


Chocolate!! Avocado Paleo Smoothie Recipe

Prep time: 10 mins

Total time: 10 mins

Serves: 2 servings


1 avocado

2 frozen bananas

½ cup frozen raspberries (or fresh raspberries or other berries)

1-2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder

2 cups almond or coconut milk


If you have unpeeled frozen bananas, then take the frozen bananas from the freezer and leave to thaw for 10 minutes before peeling (or cut the skin off with a paring knife).

Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend well.

Serve as a smoothie with a fun straw or

Pour in popsicle molds for a cold fudgy treat!

Chocolate Frosty

Serves: 1


1 cup original unsweetened almond milk

1 frozen banana

1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

½ tsp chia seeds

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

8-10 ice cubes


Combine all ingredients in a high powered blender and blend until smooth.

Serve with a fun straw in a clear glass or fancy ice cream bowl!

Shamrock Shake

Serves: Makes about 4 cups


1 can coconut milk

1 avocado, peeled and seed removed

1 cup baby spinach

3 tablespoons pure raw honey, (or other sweetener of choice) or 2 dates

1 cup of ice

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract


Put everything in the blender and blend OR put in popsicle molds and freeze for a green healthy treat! Enjoy!


Herb & Spice/Sauce/Marinade Recipes:


A great sauce for stir-fries, roasts, oven baked chicken, one pot meals, and dipping sauce for chicken wings or tenders.

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 10 min

Total Time: 15 min

Serves: ~3 cups


1 cup coconut aminos

¾ cup bone broth

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons coconut oil

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder (or minced if fresh)

1 tablespoon ginger powder (or minced if fresh)

2 tablespoons arrowroot


In a bowl, combine coconut aminos, broth, sesame oil and white pepper.

Dissolve the arrowroot in ¼ cup bone broth and set aside.

Heat a pan over high heat; add the coconut oil, swirling to coat; add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, until fragrant (or about 15 seconds).

Add the coconut amino mixture; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 minute.

Add arrowroot and bone broth solution and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens.



A delicious mild sauce to introduce young palates to flavors of southeast asian cuisines. This sauce is especially great for stir-fries, slow or one pot meals, or as a tasty sauce for steamed veggies or whole grains.

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 10 min

Total Time: 15 min

Serves: ~5 cups


3 cans (13.5oz) coconut milk

2 teaspoons salt

1 tsp fresh grated turmeric (or powdered)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder


Pour coconut milk into a saucepan (12” works well).

Add all the spices.

Mix well and bring to a boil.

Let simmer to thicken the sauce for 15-30 minutes – the longer it simmers, the stronger the flavor and the thicker the sauce.



A delicious and popular sauce that palates young and mature tend to enjoy. This sauce is especially great for stir-fries, over oven-baked chicken or fish, or as a dipping sauce for grilled meat or veggies.

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 10 min

Total Time: 15 min

Serves: ~ 1 cup


½ cup coconut aminos

¼ cup hot water

¼ water

4 medjool dates (pitted)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced ginger


Puree the dates with the hot water in the blender until it is a puree/paste.

Put the paste in a pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a gentle boil and stir.

Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh strainer to make sure there aren’t any chunks!



This pesto freezes well, so you can make a double batch and save some for another day. Simply fill up an ice cube tray, freeze overnight, then pop out and store in a zip top freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Use a few cubes at a time—thawed in the fridge or briefly in the microwave—in recipes as you like.

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 0 min

Total Time:  10 min

Serves: Coats 10-12 cups cooked pasta


5-6 ounces fresh spinach

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds

1 clove garlic

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste


Creamy Spinach Pesto: Use cream cheese instead of olive oil

Cheesy Spinach Pesto: Use cream cheese instead of olive oil and add ¼ cup shredded mozzarella

Basil-Spinach Pesto: Add a handful of fresh basil leaves to the mix

Nutty Spinach Pesto: Use walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts instead of the sunflower seeds

Lemony Spinach Pesto: Add the zest and juice of one whole lemon


Place the spinach into a large bowl and cover with very hot water. Let sit until wilted, stirring a bit, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool. Squeeze dry.

Put the wilted spinach into the bowl of a food processor (or high quality blender) along with the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, sunflower seeds, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Blend to combine. Stop to scrape down the sides as needed and blend until smooth. Add a bit more olive oil if needed to create the desired smooth consistency and season to taste with salt.

Stir into cooked pasta, stir-fry, gain bowl. One-pot meal, or add to sandwich or wrap!



In addition to making a tasty sauce for pasta, grain bowls, or meat dishes, this sauce can also be served as a tomato soup alongside crackers and cheese or grilled cheese. Alternatively, you can cook it down until very thick, add 1 teaspoon pizza seasoning, and use it as pizza sauce or as a tasty topper for egg dishes, veggie sticks, or whole grain crackers.

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 55 min (or 6-8 hours on low for slow cooker)

Total Time:  ~1 hour (or ~6-8 hours for slow cooker)

Serves: ~6 cups (varies depending on cooking time)


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

29 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juices

1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered

3 cups any combination of these vegetables, roughly chopped: onion, carrot, butternut squash, sweet potato, celery, and/or cauliflower

1 large fresh basil sprig

¼ teaspoon dried oregano, more to taste

1 tablespoon butter

Black pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add garlic. Once garlic is sizzling, but not brown, add the vegetables, stir, and cook until just starting to soften, about 6-8 minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes and oregano.

Then, place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface (like a flower). Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat so the simmer is low (both to avoid splatters everywhere to avoid scorching the pot).

Cover loosely—put the lid on sort of off kilter to keep the splatters in but still allow some steam out—and cook for 30-45 minutes until all of the vegetables are very soft and the oil on surface is a deep orange.

Puree with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. Season to taste & stir in

Slow Cooker Instructions

Double all ingredient amounts and add to the slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or until everything is softened. Finish as directed in Step 3.



In addition to making a tasty sauce for pasta, grain bowls, or stir-fries, this sauce can also be used as a delicious spread for sandwiches or wraps and dip for veggies or crackers.

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 0 min

Total Time:  10 min

Serves: 2 ½-3 cups


⅔ cup almond butter or tahini

⅓ cup brown rice vinegar

¼ cup maple syrup

3 tbs water

2 tbsp coconut aminos

½ tsp powdered ginger or 1 tbsp minced ginger

2 cloves garlic

1 ½ tsp toasted sesame oil

½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

½ cup lightly packed kale leaves or baby spinach


Blend the butter, vinegar, maple syrup, water, coconut aminos, ginger, garlic sesame oil in a food processor until smooth and creamy.

Add the cilantro and kale/spinach and blend just until it’s finely chopped.

The dressing/sauce will keep for 3 days, covered and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before using.



Try this versatile sauce in place of regular mayo or guacamole on sandwiches, dips, or topper on egg or meat dishes. Unlike store bought mayo, this sauce is flavorful enough to stand alone or in combination with salsa as a dip for veggies, tacos or quesadillas, or whole grain crackers.

Prep Time: 5-7 min

Cook Time: 0 min

Total Time: 5-7 min

Serves: ~1 Cup


2 Avocados

Juice of 1 small lemon

⅛ teaspoon garlic powder

⅛ teaspoon onion powder

Sea salt (to taste)


With a food processor: add all the ingredients to the bowl of your food processor (fitted with the blade) and puree until smooth (you may need to stop and scrape down the sides a couple of times) – Add salt to taste.

With a fork: add all the ingredients to a medium bowl, mash until it is relatively smooth and combined – Add salt to taste.

To store: place plastic wrap with direct contact to the mayo to prevent browning.



When scaling this recipe stick to a rough ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, and scale up or down accordingly. Smaller amounts are easily whisked together in a small bowl and poured immediately over the salad, grains, or meat dishes. This vinaigrette is an especially good marinade for meat, makes a delicious dipping sauce for fresh veggies, and works well as a over roasted proteins and vegetables. This vinaigrette will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 0 min

Total Time:  5 min

Serves: ~1 cup


¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Salt to taste

Fresh-ground pepper

Optional extras: spoonful of mustard, minced shallots, minced garlic, minced fresh herbs, teaspoon dried herbs, spoonful of raw honey


Combine the olive oil and balsamic in a jam jar or blender other container with a good-sealing lid.

Add a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. I also like to add a little maple syrup to help blend the flavors. Screw on the lid and shake vigorously. Or blend in the blender. The blender technique is my favorite. It’s really fast and emulsifies nicely.

Dip a piece of lettuce into the vinaigrette and taste. Adjust the salt, pepper, any additional extras, as well as the precise proportion of oil and vinegar to taste.

The oil & vinegar will separate a few minutes after shaking — shake to recombine before use. Adding mustard and herbs reduces this separation and boosts the vinaigrette flavor.

I double or triple the recipe and keep refrigerated for use throughout the week.


Downloadable Flex Formula Kids’ Meal Plan

© 2017 Simplicity Nutrition, Inc.



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