Cooking for Dads
Single Parent Cooking
Welcome to my healthy "cooking for dads" section.
...I'm not a single father! And no, I'm not even a guy. I'm a female and I'm a registered dietitian! However, I'm here to help you with dad cooking.
I was inspired to write a cooking for dads section after watching my boyfriend- who happens to be a single dad- whip up healthy meal after healthy meal for his 2 teenage kids without blinking an eye. (It's so sexy to see a dad cooking!)
If HE can do this, YOU can do it too!
No more need to serve up mac-n-cheese or make a trip to the drive through in answer to the daunting question, "What am I going to feed my hungry kids?"
I've combined my knowledge as a dietitian and his expertise as a full time single father, to provide you the following menu suggestions and tips on healthy single parent cooking.
Cooking for Dads: Getting Organized
Skip to my cooking for dads menu suggestions below or read up on how to organized first.
Get Organized: A little planning goes a loooooong way.
Download the following:
Before you can do any dad cooking, you must determine how many meals/week you're responsible for providing for your children. I'll make the assumption you're a full time dad and responsible for all of your kids' meals in the example below.
- Review the list of menu suggestions provided below.
- Pick 1-2 breakfasts to rotate between over the upcoming week. Write them down on a menu planner.
- Pick 2-3 lunches to rotate between over the upcoming week. Write them down on your menu planner.
- Determine the number of dinners you're responsible for in one week and then decide how many days you're willing to cook. Pick the number of recipes you'll need to prepare accordingly. For example, if you're responsible for 7 dinners/week and only want to cook a few times a week, consider making only 3 different meals (then eating "planned overs" three times) and maybe going out to eat 1x/wk.
- Once you have your meal plan, make a shopping list of all the foods you'll need to buy.
- Grocery shop using your list.
- Don't discard your work! You've worked hard to make your menu plan and the corresponding grocery list. File it.
- Make a new menu plan the following week using the same steps outlined above. Once you have 2 menu plans you can rotate between them, or continue to add to your "meal planner file."
- On the weeks you don't have time to make a new menu plan, simply pull one from your file, along with the corresponding shopping list, and voila, you're all set for a weeks worth of healthy eating.
Now that's SMART cooking for dads!!
Cooking for Dads:
Healthy Menu Suggestions - Breakfast
Don't let your kids out the door without some fuel (a.k.a. food) in their stomachs! Teach them at a minimum to include a healthy protein source and/or some fiber. Try these quick, easy, kid approved combinations:
- Make instant oatmeal with skim milk (a good protein source) instead of water. Mix in raisins or dried cranberries. Top with sliced almonds.
- In a parfait glass, layer low-fat yogurt with low fat granola and sliced bananas or berries.
- Peanut butter toast: Spread natural peanut butter on toasted whole wheat bread. Top with sliced bananas. (For younger kids, arrange the banana slices in the shape of their first initial).
- Almond butter toast: Spread almond butter on toasted whole wheat English muffin. Top with apple slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Top a whole grain toaster waffle with low fat yogurt and canned peaches (in lite juice).
- Fruit smoothie: Blend low fat milk or yogurt, frozen strawberries or blueberries and a banana until smooth.
- Breakfast Pizza: Top whole wheat english muffin with low fat mozzarella cheese and tomato slices. Heat until cheese melts.
- Whole grain cold cereal* + skim milk + sliced banana
- Mix together ready-to-eat cereal*, dried fruit (raisins or dried cherries), and nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pecans) in a sandwich bag for an on-the-go breakfast
* Choose a cereal with:
- at least 5 grams fiber
- less than 3 grams sugar per 100 calories
- no high fructose corn syrup
- no hydrogenated oil
See more breakfast ideas.
Cooking for Dads: Healthy Menu Suggestions - Lunch
As with breakfast, a lean protein source and/or some fiber at meal times helps keep tummies full and brains working optimally throughout the afternoon:
- Spread peanut butter on cinnamon raisin bread. Top with apple slices.
- Mix sunflower seeds and raisins with p.b. Spread on whole wheat bread.
- PB and banana quesadilla: Spread whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter. Add sliced banana. Sprinkle of cinnamon optional. Roll up.
- "Banana Dog: Peanut butter and banana served up in a whole wheat hot dog bun! Yes, presentation matters.
- Stuff a whole-grain pita pocket with low fat ricotta cheese or cottage cheese and Granny Smith apple slices. Add a dash of cinnamon.
- Turkey and hummus wrap: Spread hummus on a whole wheat tortilla. Top with turkey bread lunch meat and (jarred) roasted red bell pepper strips. Roll up.
- Spread mustard on a whole wheat tortilla. Top with a slices of turkey or ham, low-fat cheese and lettuce. Then roll it up.
- Tuna salad wrap: Mix canned light tuna (rinsed and drained) with plain nonfat yogurt and mustard. Spread down center of whole wheat tortilla and top with tomato slices. Roll.
- Mini Pizza: Toast an English muffin, drizzle with pizza sauce and sprinkle with low-fat mozzarella cheese.
- Mix Nonfat/low fat cottage cheese with mandarin oranges (canned, drained), chopped dates and sunflower seeds.
See more healthy lunch ideas.
Cooking for Dads:
Healthy Menu Suggestions - Dinner
For some reason, dinners always seem harder to plan and prepare than breakfast and lunch. (Why is that?!!!)
Use my "Cooking for Dads G-L-P approach" to dinners and you'll never think the same again!
Cooking for Dads "G-L-P Dinner Approach:"- G: Gather
Gather the recipes/meals you're able and willing to prepare.
If preparing dinner is new for you, it's best to keep it simple and limit your options. For starters, use the cooking for dads recipe suggestions below.
Later on you can always peruse through cookbooks, cooking magazines, or perform online recipe searches to find additional recipes if you'd like. (See my tips on organizing recipes).
Cooking for Dads - Simple Dinner SuggestionsDinnertime doesn't have to be harder that breakfast or lunch. In fact, if you're comfortable with preparing/providing breakfast and lunch, there's absolutely nothing wrong with breakfast or lunch for dinner! The kids will love it!
Think omelets, pancakes and eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, pb and banana sandwiches, etc. (Refer to the simple cooking for dads recipes for breakfast and lunch above).
My favorite 5 fast meals are pizza, burgers, burritos, quesadillas, and soup. And guess what...all are kid favorites! See my Dietitian Recommended, Kid Approved Fast Meals
Cooking for Dads: Simple, Nutritionally Balanced Menu Suggestions:
- Lentil soup (canned, low sodium) with whole wheat bread or crackers. Eat with bagged salad with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice for dressing.
- Sliced rotisserie chicken over bagged salad greens with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing.
- Chili potato: Baked sweet potato or white potato filled with canned (vegetarian) bean chili, sprinkled with cheese.
- Turkey burger with corn on the cob, tomato juice.
- Pasta with garbanzo beans and marinara sauce, green salad with vinaigrette dressing.
- Low fat tuna salad wrap, fresh fruit.
- Black bean, brown rice, and roasted red bell pepper burrito.
Cooking for Dads "G-L-P Dinner Approach:"- L: List
As you decide on the recipes or meal suggestions you like, write them down. You're essentially creating a "Master Dinner List" you'll always be able to refer back to. Add to it or take away from it over time as you see fit.
Cooking for Dads "G-L-P Dinner Approach:"- P: Pick
Once you have a list of options, all you have to do is pick from the list when it's (weekly) menu planning time.
Don't forget to use your blank meal planner to record your dinner plans for the week, make your corresponding shopping list, and then save your menu and shopping list in case you want to use it again!
Kudos to all dads who engage in single parent cooking! You can do it...and you can do it healthy!
More of My Professional Advice You May Find Useful
Quick Meal Ideas
Nutrition for Kids
Your Personal Nutrition Guide Home Page