ayIn need of gluten free family dinner recipes? I’ve got you covered with healthy dinner recipes for your family, and the best thing is they are kid friendly. Plus I’m sharing how to make them extra doable for picky eaters and multiple options for vegan, vegetarian, lean animal proteins, and dairy free.
Our family is dairy and gluten free. We’ve been eating this way for two years now and it wasn’t always easy and sometimes it can still feel difficult but for the most part I’ve got the hang of it. I think it feels the most difficult when we go out to dinner but we’ve got a handful of restaurants that we go to that we can count on. Shout out to Burton’s Grill for being so accommodating for food allergies plus the food is so yummy.
I will say the grocery shopping used to take forever. Like, I could have gotten my hair done and spent a day at the beach in the amount of time I looked over ingredients trying to find stuff that my child would like and enjoy all while feeling like just any other child eating his lunch. Grocery shopping is waaay easier than it used to be. Buying more real whole foods and I have a few of my kid’s favorite lunch box snack stuff too.
Plus I’ve got some family dinner recipes that are keepers and we rotate through those. I’m constantly asked for simple, easy, cheap recipes that we make on the regular. I’m also including a tip that I do regularly that really helps limit the “eews” and “gross” when you tell kids what’s for dinner.
Themes For Family Dinner Recipes
I love the idea of themes and I love to use them for the month then move onto another theme or take a break for a month then start them back. Themes are super helpful for giving me ideas for meals to cook, helping me plan and prepare ahead of time for a busy week, and it gives me simplicity. Plus, my kids love themes. Kids and especially picky eaters love predictability, familiarity, and to know what is coming as far as what to expect at mealtimes.
When any of these three things are off a picky eater can experience stress and anxiety over what’s to be served at mealtime. They already come to the table with some form of anxiousness over mealtimes. When they know what’s going to be served, and know a preferred food will always be on their plate, they can relax somewhat. Themes help with that. They don’t have to be anything crazy fancy or over the top. A simple Taco Tuesday is doable for everyone. This also allows you to make different meals within that “mexican/taco” category so it allows for opportunities to present new, familiar, and even also once eaten foods.
Ideas For Weekly Theme Meals:
- Spaghetti Sunday
- Meatless Monday (breakfast ideas)
- Taco Tuesday
- Waffle Wednesday (breakfast ideas)
- Throw Back Thursday (Family dinner recipes you had growing up)
- Freebie Friday
- Grill out Saturday
- Slow Sunday (anything in the crockpot or a casserole dish)
- Morning Monday (breakfast ideas)
- Sandwich Tuesday
- Kids Favorite Wednesday (easy meal that the kids love. An easy win for everyone)
- Pasta Night Thursday
- Freebie Friday
- Easy Peasy Saturday (out to eat, order in, or make it simple)
How To Decrease The “Ewwws!” and “Gross” When You Tell Your Kid What’s For Dinner
I have a small white board in my kitchen with the days of the week on it. You can often find them from the dollar section at Target, Hobby Lobby, Amazon, or the Dollar Tree. I write out our themes and meals for the week on that. If the kids ask what’s for dinner, I can send them to the board. It’s totally okay just to write it out on a sheet of paper and hang on the fridge.
If your kids can’t read yet then simply tell them what’s on the menu in a very casual way. For kids that fuss and say “ewww gross” you can simply tell them the menu and walk off like you are busy doing something. In a very no big deal kinda way.
You can also say “you don’t have to eat it, but that’s what’s for dinner and you will be sure to have something on your plate that you enjoy”. Another way is to tell them “we don’t talk about food like that; you don’t have to like everything but it’s not polite to talk that way”. I found that the more I used the themed weekly dinner menu the less my kids fussed at the meals and the more they looked forward to them. It’s also fun to let them help come up with the theme or even a meal once or twice a week.
When planning out the themed meals think about a couple things below:
Think about the types of cuisine your family likes (Italian, American, breakfast, pasta, pizza, Mexican, Thai, etc) and pick family dinner recipes from these foods
Think of simple names for dinner like “pasta night Thursday” or “Taco Tuesday” or “freebie Friday”
Have the kids come up with names for the weekly theme nights
Offer choices of meals when planning dinners “Should we have green beans or corn on the cob” “would you rather have fajitas or tacos”
Always have at least one preferred food on the plate that your children can enjoy
The goal is always to make one meal, but if you have a picky eater they most likely will have a difficult time with mixed meals. So you can deconstruct mixed meals so that the foods within the mixed meal are separate on the plate. For example, for spaghetti and meatballs have the pasta, sauce, and meatballs separate on your child’s plate.
One Week of Gluten Free Family Dinner Recipes
Sunday: Spaghetti with gluten free noodles. Garlic bread and salad
Sauce: Use 1 tbsp water and heat in a sauce pan with 1/2 chopped onion and one finely chopped celery stick. You can use other veggies likes peppers, spinach, and mushrooms if you’d like. Heat veggies for about 2 min then add in 1/2 pound-1 lb organic ground turkey and break apart into small pieces and brown. Then add 2 bottles of your favorite organic marinara sauce, 1 small can of organic tomato paste, 1 tbsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tbsp basil.
Noodles: You can use Chickpea noodles, brown rice noodles, lentil noodles, or rice and corn spaghetti noodles. My kids love the chickpea rotini noodles but my husband really likes the brown rice/corn spaghetti noodles.
Serve with salad of choice. We like mixed greens with tomatoes, cukes, pumpkin seeds, and Garlic Expressions Vinaigrette dressing or Tess Maes Dairy Free Ranch. I use Udi’s GF/DF Hot Dog Buns or Udi’s GF/DF french baguette for garlic bread. I spread Vegan butter (country crock vegan/Earth Balance/or Miyokos butter), nutritional yeast, and garlic powder. Place in the oven for about 5-10 min.
Vegan or Vegetarian Option: Using lentils is a great way to make spaghetti and to get that meaty texture you may feel like you’re missing. I like to buy the steamed lentils from Trader Joes found in the produce section. HERE is an easy recipe I make with lentils. You can also sauté veggies such as onions, carrots, celery, spinach, and mushrooms and have a meaty sauce full of veggies.
Monday: Scrambled eggs with fresh fruit, Applegate nitrate free/uncured breakfast sausage links
Eggs: I usually take about 6-8 eggs, 1 tbsp almond milk (unsweetened original), pepper, and nutritional yeast and scramble. Then I use vegan butter and scramble some eggs. Sometimes I’ll add in some spinach and shredded cheese (we use So Delicious or VioLife Vegan shredded cheese) and heat on the stove until done.
Fruit: I take whatever fruit we have in the fridge and place in a bowl in the center of the table. It could look something like this: blueberries, raspberries, sliced apples. If I have watermelon or cantaloupe I cut that up and place in a bowl. I keep it as simple as possible. I always make sure there is a preferred fruit in the mix. If your child isn’t going to grab the fruit from the center of the table you can have them use tongs to pick it up and place on his or everyone’s plate OR you can place fruit on each plate before placing them on the table.
Applegate Nitrate Free Sausage: We don’t eat a ton of sausage but when I buy it I always make sure to buy uncured and nitrate free. Nitrates have been linked to cancer so stay clear of those in processed meats. Things like bacon, sausage, and lunch meats should always be uncured and nitrate free. Applegate is a great brand and it also doesn’t have harmful preservatives in their products. There are different flavors of sausage so you can try multiple flavors and help increase variety this way.
Vegetarian or Vegan option:
Instead of eggs use organic non-gmo tofu or Just Egg. Drain and pat tofu dry before cooking. Scramble in pan and season with spices you like. You can add veggies to this as well. For a vegan sausage, Hillarys Brand is the cleanest brand I’ve found. It’s actually really good.
Tuesday: Air Fryer Tacos
As a feeding therapist I am always food chaining and working hard to increase the variety of foods my kids eat. Food chaining helps because it helps you get to creating new family dinner recipes over time. On Tuesday’s we usually have “Taco Tuesday” until my kids and husband say they are tired of it then I switch it up and eventually go back once we’ve had a break from it.
But one night we were making tacos and I was thinking about how I could use the same ingredients but present them in a different way. Helping kids learn that you can make the same food but in a different way helps their brain understand that food can taste the same or very similar even though it looks different. So, I made our tacos in the air fryer and it was a huge hit.
Shells: For GF shells you can use organic corn shells (the traditional hard kind) or you can try different options like cashew, almond flour, cassava, or black rice. We’ve tried them all and I have to say we end up buying the MISSION brand GF ones because they taste the most like a regular soft shell. I’m not that crazy about some of the ingredients but my kids like them and enjoy them. The cassava ones are the second most liked in our house.
The key to using a GF soft tortilla is you have to heat it up first or it breaks pretty easy.
Taco Filling: I used an organic chicken breast sliced/shredded and seasoned with taco seasoning. You can also use a rotisserie chicken, organic ground turkey with taco seasoning. For a vegan or vegetarian option use beans. I love to use black and pinto beans. Sometimes I’ve used chickpeas too and they are great. I also like to sauté some onions, mushrooms, and peppers to add to the mix.
Cheese: You can use shredded organic colby jack or a vegan shredded cheese. We like So Delicious, VioLife, or Daiya shredded cheddar or Colby Jack vegan cheese the best. I also like to sprinkle nutritional yeast on the tacos too. I’ve even used hummus instead of cheese and my husband and I actually really liked it.
I have some sliced grape tomatoes, olives, shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, cilantro if I have it, Tesse Maes Habanero DF ranch or Tofutti sour cream, and salsa. Simply lay these out on the cutting board and place in the center of the table. You can add some fruit or fresh carrot sticks to the cutting board as well. This way you grab what you’d like.
For the tacos: Place cheese and taco filling of choice in the center of the soft shell. Roll up tightly then place in the airfryer for about 10-12 min on 375 or 400 degrees. Remove and serve on a big tray or place on everyone’s plates. Toppings can be placed on everyone’s plate or in the center of the table on a big cutting board or plate. This is such a hit at our house and one of the very easy family dinner recipes.
Wednesday: Roasted Salmon with roasted baby potatoes and snow peas
I love these types of family dinner recipes because it really isn’t a recipe and you can cook it all at once on a sheet pan. Win Win for everyone. My goal is to get out of the kitchen in under 30 minutes when it comes to cooking meals. I want easy, simple, and real whole food recipes. HERE is the link for sheet pan dinner recipes including how to make this dish of salmon, baby potatoes, and snow peas.
I can honestly say these are the easiest family dinner recipes because I can put at least one preferred food on a sheet pan so every family member is happy. Plus, you cook the meal all at once. BooYah!
Thursday: Beanies, Weanies, and Fried Potatoes (Kids typically love these throwback family dinner recipes)
Throwback to one of our family dinner recipes that my parent’s made. The kids get a kick out of this but this theme of throwback recipes has helped open up doors for trying new meals. Anything that I think will allow for new opportunities to be around new foods or foods that could open the door to newer foods then I’m all for trying them.
Weanies: We don’t eat these a lot (in fact I eat “carrot” hotdogs that my kids think is crazy) but when we do have this I buy Applegate brand organic nitrate free hotdogs. Other brands have also started making organic and nitrate free ones too and you can find them at almost any grocery now. Take the hot dog and cut a line down the top (not all the way through). Then cut some lines across the vertical line.
Beanies: These are simply baked beans. When buying baked beans make sure you buy them without High Fructose Corn Syrup because that is a highly processed and often gmo form of corn and no good for our gut or brain. I also buy the Vegetarian baked beans because I don’t want any made with bacon. That’s just another way to limit your animal intake. Annie’s Brand makes a clean one and Bush’s Vegetarian is made without HFCS.
You can also make your own. I used pinto beans and used this recipe when I make my own. I omitted the bacon and used pinto beans instead of navy beans. It’s very simple and quick to make so it’s worth the try.
Place the beans in a casserole dish. Place the weanies on top. Bake on 350 for about 25 minutes.
Wash and cut up potatoes into small pieces. Place in a glass dish with a little water just covering them. Then microwave for about 5-7 minutes. They should be tender when you take out. This is just a quick way to cook them.
Drain the potatoes and place in a pan with 1 tbsp olive or coconut oil on med heat. Heat for about 5 minutes then stir and turn up stove to med-high. Toss as needed and cook until crispy. Once crispy on the outside sprinkle with some sea salt and pepper.
For Vegan or Vegetarian options:
You can use the carrot recipe from above or buy an vegetarian based hot dog. Many brands like Beyond Meat, Smart, and Fieldroast make these but I know Fieldroast has gluten in it. I’m not sure about the others.
Friday: Homemade Pizzas (One of our favorite family dinner recipes)
Fridays are made to either eat out, order in, or make something very simple that everyone gets excited about. We all love pizza. Mellow Mushroom is our go to for dairy free/gluten free pizzas. Mod Pizza also makes a good dairy free/gluten free pizza but Mod doesn’t offer a separate oven for making gluten free pizzas so beware if you can’t tolerate food cooked in the same oven.
I love to buy pizza crust then have everyone just make their own pizzas. It’s fun, gets your kids in the kitchen, gets your kids exploring foods, and allows for opportunities to be around potential new foods in your kid’s diets. I do make my own pizza crust sometimes but to be honest, by Friday I’m just tired, ready for the weekend, a White Claw or glass of Reisling, and a pizza crust that’s already made. Can I get an Amen, mamas?
Best Gluten Free Pizza Crusts:
- Schar (Can be ordered online at Thrive or at Walmart
- Banza (made from Chickpeas and is gluten free/dairy free/egg free
- Naked Pizza Crust (found at Harris Teeter, Publix, and Whole Foods
- Caulipower Pizza Crust (Found at most grocery stores)
- Bob’s Red Mill make your own pizza dough. It’s simple but you do have to bake first then load toppings then bake again. I missed this step but my Mom filled me in on it for next time. Even though I didn’t bake it first it was still good but kinda flimsy on the bottom.
Use whatever cheese you like. We use the Daiya Mozzarella cheese. You can also leave the cheese off and it’s actually good like that too. I like to use a pesto or dairy free ranch as a base too. My son doesn’t do sauce so he has his plain or with a drizzle of olive oil and garlic.
- Uncured pepperoni or sausage
- Chopped chicken or bbq chopped chicken
- Sliced tomatoes
- Sundried tomatoes
- Feta (dairy or vegan)
- Celery (chopped finely)
- Chopped eggplant
Serve with a salad, fresh fruit, or simple veggies like raw carrots/cukes/celery sticks and DF ranch dressing or hummus. It’s fun to lay out the pizza crust and toppings then let the kids make them for everyone or for themselves. As a pediatric feeding therapist I’m always looking for great opportunities for my kids to engage in food without pressure to eat it. Letting them make your pizza allows for a no pressure environment and opportunities to explore new foods. Food is a sensory experience and we need to engage and explore food long before we will think about eating it.
HERE is another one of my husband and I’s favorite vegetarian pizza recipes.
Saturday: Turkey and zucchini Burgers with corn and lima beans
Burgers: 1 lb ground organic turkey mixed with seasoning of choice (I like McCormicks Montreal Seasoning), 1/2 shredded zucchini, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, and 1/2 tbsp Coconut Aminos. If you don’t have coconut aminos you can also use a Worcestershire sauce like Lea & Perrins that is GF. Nutritional yeast is also optional. If not dairy free you can use parmesan cheese or even the vegan parm. Mix all together then grill.
Buns: We love Trader Joes gluten free hamburger buns. They are so good and taste very much like a regular hamburger bun. Of course there is Udi’s and Canyon Bakehouse too that make pretty gluten free good buns. You can also go bunless or you can wrap in a big romaine lettuce leaf and still put your toppings inside the middle of the lettuce leaf.
Corn and Lima Beans: I usually buy a bag of organic frozen corn and organic frozen lima beans. I use about 1/2 the bag of each veggies. Pour into boiling water and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then turn off the burner and drain liquid. Mix in about 1 tbsp vegan butter. I like to add nutritional yeast but if you don’t have it don’t worry about it. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. It’s a simple yet refreshing side.
We also have let the corn and lima beans completely cool. Then add in 1/4 cup Italian dressing or Garlic Expressions Dressing. 1/2 cup chopped baby sweet bell peppers and cucumbers. Mix all together and serve as a summer salad. If you aren’t dairy free it’s really good with feta cheese in it too. This is one of our easy weekend dinner recipes for the family.
I love to use a Portobello mushroom. My husband seasons it with McCormicks Montreal seasoning and either Worcestershire or Coconut Aminos then grills it. Beyond Meat also makes a pretty tasty vegan burger. I’m not that crazy about the ingredients but you can use it as a transitional food. Transitional foods are foods that get you one step closer to a plant based option.
Wanting To Transition To More Real Whole Foods and/or Gluten Free? I’ve Got You Covered Friend
Transitioning to more real whole foods and gluten free family dinners can be tough at first but it can happen and just making small changes along the way will get you one step closer to eating real whole food. Sure, our family meals and family dinner recipes aren’t perfect but they are a heck of a lot cleaner than a lot of what’s out there today. But it took me time and patience and an open mind to try new foods. I’m here to help when you are ready!
Rely on people like me that have been there and are doing it. I love to find recipes then make them my own based on my own family’s preferences. You can do that too. It’s a marathon not a sprint and the small changes you make will help you through your lifetime. Transitioning your child to a gluten free diet can be challenging but it can also be so rewarding when you see their body and brain responding differently in a positive way.
Join me weekly for extra help on eating more real whole foods and gluten free/dairy free recipes plus help making mealtimes positive, help with feeding your kids, and living your best life from the inside out. HERE you can get your free 27 page guide to gluten free products, recipes, and a kid friendly two week meal plan with family friendly dinner recipes.