Favorite Kid-Friendly Side Dishes

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Teaching your children good eating habits doesn’t need to be difficult — or nuclear colored. These side dishes are delicious and easy to prepare. Plus kids love them!

Favorite Kid-Friendly Side Dishes | Life as MOM

As a mom, meal planning sometimes seems like a losing battle. What the kids like one day, they scorn the next. A 9×13 pan produces too many leftovers, but a week later there’s not enough. Kids’ preferences and appetites can change like the wind.

After reading French Kids Eat Everything, I started to take a second look at how I was enabling some of my kids to be picky. Nowadays, if you’re a child at my table, you get to sample everything. No matter what.

But, you also get to have as much of something you love as you want. While supplies last, of course.

These side dishes are some of my family’s very favorites. They go well with grilled and roast meats. I usually serve a simple steamed vegetable or a salad to go with.

Each of theses dishes is easy on the budget and simple enough to please any kid’s palate. Let me know which ones are your favorites.

Baked Rice with Lemon and Thyme

Rice is so easy to make and it’s pretty economical as well, making it a great family side dish. This Baked Rice with Lemon and Thyme cooks in the oven alongside your main dish or bread. It’s hands-free and foolproof. Feel free to mix up the seasonings and herbs to suit what you have on hand.

Rebel with a Cause Smashed Potatoes

It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned that mashed potatoes were supposed to be smooth. That’s not how we did it at my house. These Rebel with a Cause Smashed Potatoes are meant to be lumpy, so there! They’re also super quick to make, coming together in 30 minutes or less.

Easy Roast Potatoes

I love it when I can find small yellow potatoes on sale, so I can make our favorite Easy Roast Potatoes. These become so utterly delectable with tender insides and crisp kinds. Season generously and make a double batch. You’ll want to eat them all.

Jessika’s Roasted Vegetables

Most of my go-to side dishes are rice or potatoes, but Jessika’s Roasted Vegetables are a big hit at my house. Make use of what’s left in the vegetable drawer and get well tonight! This dish is very forgiving so mix it up however you like. I tend to add vegetables I know my kids don’t love and it all works out.

Seasoned Rice Pilaf

I grew up on the San Francisco Treat (Rice-a-Roni), but I haven’t bought a box in over fifteen years. Not since I learned how to make Seasoned Rice Pilaf myself. It’s super easy and a big hit with kids of all ages.

Panini Press Hashbrowns

Panini Press Hashbrowns

One of my favorite things to keep on hand in the freezer are shredded potatoes. I get the unadulterated kind at Trader Joe’s, nothing’s been added to them. Then I toss with oil and seasonings and let them cook in the panini press. Talk about easy! Panini Press Hashbrowns are also quite the novelty, don’t you think?

Tastiest Scalloped Potatoes

I’ve been making the Tastiest Scalloped Potatoes for over 20 years now. The recipe list is short and simple: cream, half and half, butter, salt, pepper, and potatoes. The end result? Divine. We make two pans at Easter and Christmas — and sometimes there’s even leftover.

White Bean Salad

Beans and rice are common fare at our house. This White Bean Salad is a tasty way to lose the rice and still enjoy beans. This is a perfect side dish for warmer weather. My kids practically inhale it, it’s so good.

Have you got a favorite side dish your kids love?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. LeesaB says

    The only time mashed potatoes are supposed to be smooth are when they’re instant. There’s no cause to mess up good mashed potatoes by running them through a ricer or however those crazy people make ::shudder:: smooth mashed potatoes.

    Just sayin’.

    My kids are big fans of “Nana’s mac and cheese.” I think my mother based it on a Paula Deen recipe though, so it’s not something we have often. Corn on the cob is something they will both eat as well.

  2. Janet says

    A simple salad of spinach and baby tomatoes is my older daughter’s favorite side dish. A bowl of fresh blueberries or strawberries is the favorite of my youngest. My husband’s favorite side is baked beans. My favorite side is sliced carrots and radishes with a bit of cream cheese. We all enjoy a simple rice pilaf. And nothing beats a baked potato fresh from the oven served with a bit of sweet butter.

  3. Kristi says

    Last week I made your tortellini pasta salad along with sesame grilled chicken. It’s always a big hit with my family. The leftovers are yummy too. I also sometimes make fettuccine with cream sauce as a side to roast chicken or baked chicken parmesan. I combine a little melted butter, cream, and spaghetti sauce and toss it with cooked fettuccine.

  4. I’m looking for side dish ideas for my picky eater both every night, and especially for Thanksgiving. He won’t eat any of the sides I am making, or the turkey. (Green beans, sweet and mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad, cranberry sauce). He really only eats pasta, which I hate serving nightly as it has no nutrition and is fattening. He will eat apple slices or baby carrots, but neither cooked. Thanks. (PS many folks will just recommend that I kick his #$%. I get where you’re coming from, but my husband is firm on not forcing him and ruining our dinners, as we tried that for a few years.)

    • I hear ya. We had/have one child who is veggie-phobic. It’s taken a lot of work and patience. I think with some kids it is a power struggle and it can ruin dinner, for sure. Have you read this series? It might help. I hope.

  5. I’m not sure where you get these kid that will eat beans? But I wish I had them. It would make dinner so much easier. I have looked and looked online everywhere to find side dishes my kids will eat. The problem is they say kid friendly but that they are not. I have asked every mom I know and they agree. So if anyone knows of a website where I can find actual kid friendly dishes please help? It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling to get your kids to eat. It happens to us all. I have six kids, currently aged 8 to 19. Some are pickier than others; believe me, some are very picky. All would eat these side dishes, including the beans. In fact, when we were getting out of debt, beans was a main dish for 2-3 meals/week.

      It may be a question of what the dinner time expectations are, how old the kids are, and what else is being served. We serve milk or water for a beverage, a main dish, a vegetable side, and a starchy side (if the main dish doesn’t already have it included). I don’t buy kid-targeted processed foods, like dinosaur nuggets and things like that. That said, I think that any child can become accustomed to eating good real food. We’ve had to work at it, but slowly it’s happening.

      • Jessica thank you replying. My kids are 5 and 11. The 11 yo will eat whatever dinner is. And as you do, we also do main dish, starch and veggies with salad. My 5 yo has been a picky eater his whole life. We went thru an entire 6 months where all he ate was peanut butter. We finally got over that. I’m still pretty sure he won’t eat a bean. But I’m gonna give it a shot. Thank you so much for you reply again. I’m enjoying your site

        • The picky eater battle is a HARD one. My first child with that tendency one day stopped doing it and now eats most things without any prompting, including vegetables. My other picky child is still there and some days it breaks me. Hang in there. Keep offering options with the expectation to try one bite. Eventually it will take. I hope!

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