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11 Easy & Healthy Slow Cooker Meals Your Kids Will Love (We Hope)

Easy Healthy Family Slowcooker Crockpot Meals Chicken Chili7

In my attempt to “mother my children,” it has come to my attention that food, three times a day in their mouths is crucial to their success. So like any good mom, I tasked one of my team members, Sara, to research fast, easy and affordable meals with as few ingredients as possible (to avoid waste) that I can throw in a slow cooker or pot before I go to work. She found a bunch on Pinterest and blogs that claimed this “mom fantasy” trio, but I wanted to test one out to ensure they indeed tasted good before passing off to you guys. In case you are under the wrong assumption that I just don’t like to cook, it’s more that it’s just not the best use of my time, and instead, hanging out with my kids after I get home from work while a dinner simmers produces a better night for all.

Easy Healthy Family Slowcooker Crockpot Meals Chicken Chili4

Here are the rules I gave Sara while researching:

1.) The ingredient list had to be small. No one wants to spend $60 at the grocery store buying 22 new ingredients for one recipe that will end up rotting in my fridge.

2.) The instructions had to be simple. Sara says my cooking level is “burnt grilled cheese” and history has proved this, but I’d like to remind her that I won MANY a blue ribbon in 4-H cooking in front of judges when I was 10. There is a specific person that can handle what I do at work and then have the brain space to execute a complicated meal with two small kids begging for attention and distracting me from the kitchen. I am not this person and that’s okay.

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3.) They need to be healthy. I can make them a cheese quesadilla, what I need are more delicious recipes with vegetables.

4.) And finally, the recipes had to be meals that the whole family could eat—not kid specific but not adults-only either.

After researching for the Holy Grails of easy, minimal, healthy, kid-friendly meals, we’ve got 11 recipes for your cooking pleasure.

Today, we’re just focusing on meals you can make in a slow cooker (or Instant Pot if you’re cool, unlike me). Slow cookers/crockpots/Instant Pots are great for so many reasons, but the biggest one is the time they can save you (plus, who on earth wants to turn on their hot stove when it’s exactly 2,000 degrees outside?). You can dump everything in that thing before walking out the door and come home to a dinner that’s basically ready to serve. Slow cookers sound old fashioned, but they might just be heroes we need in our fast-paced, modern world.

The real question is, do these recipes work (as in, are they yummy, easy and kids will ACTUALLY want to eat them)? We were a little skeptical. So, I picked a recipe that sounded tasty and we took it for a test drive in my kitchen. Friends, it was so easy and so delicious.

Easy Healthy Family Slowcooker Crockpot Meals Chicken Chili1

We decided to try out a recipe for White Chicken Chili from food blog Gimme Some Oven. It only called for five essential ingredients—chicken breasts, chicken stock, canned great northern beans, salsa verde, and ground cumin. Sara picked up all these ingredients at the Trader Joe’s around the corner from our house on her way over and spent about $30 getting enough for two batches. I also grabbed sour cream, shredded cheese, avocados, cilantro, tomatoes, lime and chopped onion as garnish options.

Chickin Chili

The method of attack was this: Pull out the slow cooker, place the raw chicken breasts at the bottom of the pot, pour over the salsa, chicken broth, and cumin, then cover and let cook for 3 1/2 hours on high OR 8 1/2 hours on low (check out the recipe for all the right amounts, etc.). When your timer goes off, add in your canned beans (drained), and let cook for another 30 minutes on low (the perfect amount of time to set the dinner table, pull out the garnishes, and wrangle toddlers). Did it work? Yes. Was it delicious? YES. Any notes? We found the recipe called for a little more liquid in our chili than we would have liked, so we’d recommend omitting 1 to 2 cups of chicken stock for a thicker chili. There’s no dairy or sugar in this recipe, and you can top bowls with extra vegs like diced onion or avocado.

Easy Healthy Family Slowcooker Crockpot Meals Chicken Chili9

Most importantly, it was 2-year-old approved by Birdie herself. The recipe checked all the boxes. But watch stories for her real reaction (the first thing she said was “what are these?” to the cherry tomatoes and when I reminded her what they were, she said, “oh, I DO NOT LIKE TOMATOES.” We’ve had this conversation so many times, by the way. Cherry tomatoes are deceptive. I get it.

Now, we haven’t tried the rest of the recipes in this post, but they all sound as simple and delicious as the chicken chili. We went ahead and mentioned the ingredient number for each, in case that’s super important for your time/budget.

Sara took over writing the rest of this post because she did the research and cares far more about food writing than I do. So, here are the other 10 easy, fast, affordable and healthy recipes she found for you.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals 3 Ingredient Mexican Shredded Chicken Recipe 5

3 / Shredded Chicken (also via Gimmie Some Oven

Wait, THREE ingredients?! All we’re talking about in this recipe is uncooked chicken breasts, one can of salsa, and one packet of taco seasoning (Trader Joe’s has a GREAT taco seasoning packet, FYI). Let it all simmer in your slow cooker for 6 to 8 hours on low (3 to 4 on high), and then use two forks to get that chicken shredded. This would be great for tacos, in a burrito bowl, or on top of a salad with fresh corn and black beans.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals 5 Ingredient Crockpot Pork Roast And Potatoes 6

5 / Pork Pot Roast (via SweetPhi

This dish is going to make you look so much fancier and put together than you actually are (this is a broad generalization—disregard if you are currently very fancy and put together). All you’re going to need is uncooked pork roast, potatoes, garlic salt, an Italian seasoning packet, and chicken broth. Imagine all the added veggie options you could sneak in here. Carrots would be my first choice, but green beans, pearl onions, turnips, sweet potatoes, or cabbage would all do well. A chuck of beef would also do well with this same treatment (though I might omit the chicken stock and use a bit of water and cornstarch instead, like in this Tasty video).

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Slow Cooker Beef Broccoli 5

9 / Beef & Broccoli (via Creme de la Crumb)

Okay, so this recipe technically calls for nine ingredients, BUT I almost guarantee you that you probably have at least four of them sitting in your pantry and fridge. A bottle of soy sauce that’s rarely used? That box of cornstarch from a past science experiment that’s sat untouched in the back of your pantry? They’re about to become useful again. Eat it over brown rice or straight out of the crockpot, all at once, by yourself. Your family can fend for themselves.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Turkey Slaw Wraps

5 / Turkey Wraps (via Better Homes & Gardens)

If there’s one thing I know about Brian Henderson, it’s that he loves a wrap almost as much as sandwiches. This recipe combines tender shredded turkey with healthy broccoli-and-carrot slaw to create a super easy wrap that could work for dinner with leftovers for lunch. To be fair, this recipe does call for a pre-bottled sauce but that’s kind of the beauty of these easy recipes. Turning something pre-packaged into an actual meal with minimal effort. And if you’ve never bought broccoli-and-carrot slaw before, you can find it in the salad aisle of most grocery stores these days.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Tortellini Spinach Soup 2 Final

8 / Crock Pot Tortellini & Spinach Soup (via Lil’ Luna)

This is another recipe that leans on a pre-packaged item to round it out. Just seasonings, a bag of spinach, chicken broth, canned tomatoes, and a package of chef’s choice tortellini (the chef being you). The recipe calls for a block of cream cheese as well, but while that sounds SO GOOD, I’m sure it can be omitted in the name of “health” or something. Make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock!

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Ohsweetbasil.com 2

1 (ish) / Slow Cooker Whole Chicken (via Oh Sweet Basil)

One of my favorite meals growing up was when my parents would get a rotisserie chicken and just make some mac and cheese or rice and microwave some frozen veggies to go along with it. This is also how I survived through a lot of finals during college. Plus, leftover chicken is easily used in wraps, sandwiches, salads, or soups. This recipe looks absolutely fool-proof and delicious.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Instant Pot Vegetarian Black Bean Chili Recipe 1

8 / Black Bean Chili (via Gimme Some Oven)

I’m guessing at least a handful of you are vegetarians out there, so this recipe is for you. There are eight main ingredients, but most of them come in a can, jar, or can be bought pre-chopped. Just dump everything into the crockpot for 8 hours and serve topped with sour cream, avocado, cheese, or cilantro for a protein-rich vegetarian chili.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Chicken Noodle Soup

10 / Chicken Noodle Soup (via The Spruce Eats)

Everyone needs a good chicken noodle soup recipe in their arsenal. Mine comes from my best friend’s grandmother in Kansas and involves homemaking egg noodles that need to rest before cooking, and slowly sautéing chicken and veggies in a bath of butter and garlic. It’s decadent, it’s delicious, it requires a lot of effort. We don’t have time for that. So instead, we’re going to rely on dry, packaged egg noodles to get the job done. Looking at the ingredient list, you might think “Uh, Sara this list is LONG and you are a liar,” to which I say Trader Joe’s sells this thing called mirepoix mix, which is a container with pre-chopped carrots, celery, and onion all in one. Buy that and send me cookies as a thank you (I like chocolate chip, thanks). This could also be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock and omitting the chicken.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Broccoli Mac And Cheese

6 / Broccoli Mac & Cheese (via Eat Good 4 Life)

Okay, so this one might cater to kids a little. But sometimes everyone just needs a bowl of mac and cheese (don’t act like you’re above this). And at least with this recipe, you could source a good quality cheddar cheese and sneak in some broccoli. Oh, and this recipe only calls for six main ingredients. Don’t have a food processor or the will to drag it down from whatever shelf it’s hibernating on? A blender or knife can do a similar job on those broccoli florets.

Easy Kid Friendly Slow Cooker Meals Garlic Butter Chicken And Veggies 1

7 / Garlic Butter Chicken and Veggies (via The Magical Slow Cooker)

You can’t really go wrong with chicken, carrots and potatoes covered in an herby butter. And I would probably sneak some extra vegs in here in the form of green beans. Just dump your chicken and veggies in the pot, melt your butter in the microwave, mix in your herbs, and drizzle that mixture over everything. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Watch your family eat and feel accomplished.

Easy Healthy Family Slowcooker Crockpot Meals Chicken Chili11

Well, that’s all we have for you today. We’ve got a few more posts on the back burner if you guys are into them (see what I did there? That was a subpar cooking pun, just for you). Think one-pan sheet meals, easy salads, and quick stovetop dinners. And if you have any favorite slow cooker meals or tips, let us know in the comments!

If you try any of these, please come back and let us all know how they turned out. I know some of team EHD was talking about testing more of these out themselves, so wish us luck. And don’t forget to pop over to my Insta Stories to see some behind-the-scenes Birdie goodness.

More recipes (for tummies and faces):

 

  1. Love this post! The slow cooker is absolutely the mvp of my kitchen. I have been making both of those shredded chicken and beef and broccoli recipes for a long time and they are both winners with all 3 of my kids! (For the beef and broccoli, I halve the sugar – it doesn’t need it…and I microwave frozen broccoli and just throw that in at end!) And while my kids can be picky, I find that soups are an easy way to get them to eat lots of veggies without complaint. Looking forward to those upcoming, backburner posts!

    1. This is a good idea about the broccoli. For slow cooker newbies the veggies frequently are overcoooked, so my kids won’t touch them.

      Great post Emily!

    2. I agree about soups being a good way to get vegetables in. My family loves Italian wedding soup. I’ve never made it in the crockpot, but I assume you could. I make my own meatballs, but if you bought frozen meatballs, it would be an incredibly easy meal to make, that includes leafy greens in a way my kids eat.

  2. I’ve been doing a whole chicken in the Crock-Pot for a long time…at one point we even had weekly Crockpot Chicken Thursday, so I can vouch for the deliciousness and fall apart tenderness! These look good…esp that broccoli Mac comfort food.

  3. Yes, more posts like this please! We love this one for BBQ pulled pork. Sooooo easy and delicious. Put in a sandwich/wrap, on a salad, on its own — we’ve even used it on nachos. https://www.mccormick.com/recipes/main-dishes/slow-cookers-bbq-pulled-pork

    Another fave is to roast a bunch of veggies, put over rice (I only buy the kind you microwave in 90 seconds these days), add avocado, a soft-boiled egg, and some sriracha — or whatever condiments suit you — for a homemade Buddha bowl.

  4. Thank you so much for including my slow cooker pork roast recipe in your roundup, it’s definitely an easy recipe that parents love making, and kids love eating 🙂 Now off to add the rest of your suggestions to my list 🙂

  5. Yes! SO INTO THIS! Such a good idea!

  6. yes please! I love real life recipes, the kind I’m tempted to actually try without feeling like it needs the same amount of time and expertise as dry-walling a ceiling. Busy mom type food, you know, more than just take out and mom-guilt for dinner three times a week.

  7. I started reading this post a little disappointed that it wasn’t a design post but then I realized that I will totally be coming back to it next week to make dinner. My baby is transitioning to solids and I somehow have to learn how to cook now. Thank you!

  8. Thank you for this post! It’s very appreciated. More like it please!

  9. What fantastic ideas as we head into back-to-school season! But, may I ask where your apron/denim overalls are from? So cute!

  10. Another great tip that has saved my ears from the horrifying sound of metal on metal when shredding chicken: put the cooked chicken breasts in your kitchenaid mixer with the hook attachment and turn on a medium speed for a minute or two… voila! shredded chicken that you didn’t need two silly forks for!

    1. Omg. This is potentially going to change my life. I HATE shredding meat!!! The feeling of forks scraping against one another gives me the willies. Trying this for chicken and carnitas!

      1. Buy something called PIT GLOVES. heat and oil resistant gloves that are meant to shreadd meat you take off the smoker. Life changing, just pop on the gloves and shred the meat with your hands! That way you don’t need to transfer the meat. You just throw them in the dishwasher after or wash by hand.

      2. Ha! I think I hate washing the mixer more that the sound of forks clashing. 🙂

      3. I also recently discovered this life changing trick, although my version is with a hand mixer and is easier to clean since it’s just the two beaters. I shredded 3lb of pork carnitas in 15 seconds—no joke!

    2. I love and use this trick all the time!!!

      1. I use this trick too, just don’t walk away and leave it, I had pulverized chicken the one time I did that.

    3. Yes!! Also, I use a potato masher…the wavy metal kind, not the kind with holes. Just press and twist and it shreds meat beautifully!

  11. Haha this came at just the right time as I sat down to make a menu/shopping list for the week and got super depressed about it so came here instead. 🙂 Now I’m covered, thanks! xo

  12. not what I expected when I clicked on this morning, BUT…I LOVE IT. I love the idea of assigning someone to research this and pass it on!! I noticed you used Gimme Some Oven a lot and I use her baked chicken breast recipe all the time and love her stuff. Thanks!

  13. Some types of slow cooker can be used on the stove top. I can sauté garlic and onion or brown meat to deepen flavor and then add other ingredients and slow cook. After dinner the leftovers can go right into the fridge.

    1. I have one like this as well! I tend to use it more than my Instant Pot because it’s oval and fits large pieces of meat better than the round Instant Pot: https://rstyle.me/n/c7hck8sdhw

  14. I liked this post! Thanks for testing the recipe out. So many blogs just dump a pretty recipe photo in a list and you never know if it’s actually worth doing

    1. The thing is they only tested one recipe and then “recommend” the others without testing. I’m pretty disappointed.

      1. Agree. Im fully capable of using Google. The point of reading a blogpost about food is that they’re able to give feedback.

        1. It would be AWESOME if they had tried them all, but that probably seemed daunting at the time. Since Sara was assigned to “research” it, I am going to assume she spent some time reading comments of the recipes she chose to include. Considering the thousands of entries Google or Pinterest would pop up for “healthy family-friendly slow-cooker recipes,” I greatly appreciate the time and thought that went into this post–even if it could be improved by more hands-on and in-mouth research. 😉

          Great job, EHD!

  15. 3 words: SLOW COOKER LINERS

    They will take your crock pot clean up experience to the next level!

    1. but more garbage in the landfill!

      1. I agree completely! My slow cooker has a removable pot, so I just fill it with hot, soapy water, let it soak overnight, and then throw it in the dishwasher.

        I get the appeal of the liners, but I much prefer the extra work to extra waste AND personal expense. 🙂

  16. Grandma Sue Sue here. I can vouch for the White Chicken Chili. There was some in the fridge when I babysat last weekend and it was delicious. Since it’s sweltering hot in Sac Town this week, I’m all over these recipes. Thanks Sara!

    1. ^^^^ This made me smile! So sweet 🙂

  17. I was ready to skip this post, assuming it was sponsored, not in your wheelhouse, and therefore forced. I was so wrong. I love this post and look forward to the next round! Thanks, Sara, for the great finds.

  18. Excited to try these! This isn’t a slow cooker meal but SO easy and one of our faves…. https://www.marthastewart.com/978784/one-pan-pasta#One-Pot%20Meals%7C/275672/one-dish-dinners/@center/854190/comfort-food-recipes%7C978784

  19. I don’t have a slow cooker, but I often translate recipes to a dutch oven and then eat the leftovers. I love the idea from Gimme Some Oven to make plain shredded chicken to use throughout the week. I reheat with taco seasoning, add to an Asian style stir fry, mix into pasta…the list goes on and the heavy lifting for the meal is done.

    To do this in the oven, I place a few chicken breasts in a pyrex with a little salt, pepper, onion powder and about 1/4″ of water. Cover with foil, cook at 325 for about an hour, drain liquid and shred with forks. EASY!

    Also, a new fave 15 min dinner from TJ’s: make a slaw or salad of veggies you like (I’ve been using thinly sliced purple cabbage and corn off the cob with lots of scallions and lime), make the carnitas (they’re in the refrigerated section–you just microave for 2-3 min and shred), and top with your fave salsa/sour cream/avocado. My husband and I can’t stop eating this combo.

    1. Google “crock pot freezer dump meals.” They will change your life. Most of these listed can be made in batches and frozen. Buy a deep freezer to keep your meals. I will NEVER go back to regular cooking again. Also, an effective way to do this is get a few friends and do a freezer meal swap, where you each just do 1 recipe x 12 or whatever to swap with your friends. Meet up for brunch with a cooler and swap your meals. It is so easy to do 12 meals of the exact same type.

  20. Maybe I just have a picky 2-year-old but I do not think she’d eat most of these recipes 🙁 I may give some a try for me and my husband though. Would LOVE to see more food-related posts!

  21. Love this post! We love our slow cooker and instant pot and these recipes look amazing. Bonus, maybe my toddler will like them too!

  22. Some really good ideas here – thanks! Thought I’d add a quick plug for my fav recipe site: http://www.realfoodwholelife.com/slow-cooker/ Lots of simple easy-to-tweak recipes. Her crock pot “chicken pot pie” (basically a soup) has become a staple with my picky kids.

  23. Thank you! When I google for slow cooker recipes all I find is recipes that were only considered healthy in the 80s. I count on you to curate ideas for me, and now in the kitchen!

  24. Quick tip: don’t shred meat with two forks if you don’t have to. Just throw the whole hunk of meat in a stand mixer with your paddle attachment and it will shred perfectly in 30 seconds.

  25. I love all of these recipes! I will have to try them once I pull out the slow cooker for the warmer months. I am wondering where you bought your denim apron from?

  26. Um, who else wants the BF’s grandma’s Kansas chicken soup recipe! I mean yes time consuming, but I wanna try it!!

  27. The shredded chicken is a staple in our house — except we always add frozen corn and a can of black beans! Adds some nutrition and makes more to boot. Just layer: a bag of frozen corn (I love the Trader Joe’s roasted corn), 3-4 large chicken breasts, a packet of taco seasoning, a small jar of salsa, and an undrained can of black beans. Cook for 4-6 hours or so, then shred the chicken and serve! (We love it on tortillas with pico [which you can get premade at TJ’s and is the best], guac, cheese & sour cream)

  28. I can’t say enough good things about Skinny Taste’s blog and cookbooks. Her second cookbook is under 30 mins prep. And she has a picky child so will post what her daughter will eat. I highly recommend her recipes. Plus she is friends with Ali from Gimme Some Oven ;-).

    I also love to make Nom Nom Paleo’s carnitas recipe (SOOOO easy) and will use it for tacos, Chinese Carnitas Salad, weekend hash, etc.

    I love this post. And I highly recommend the Instant Pot. Was a game changer for fast meals.

  29. Simply Recipes is a great food blog where I have found several recipes that are now family favorites. The recipes are always well-tested and flavorful, and I have found them easily adaptable for a busy lifestyle, even if they weren’t originally written for the crockpot. I love this post so much, and plan to try out many of the recipes! My kids are teenagers now, but we still need recipes like this. Thanks!

  30. This was great! Would love to see more posts in this series!

  31. I can’t wait to try all of these – thank you so much for the research!
    My biggest pet peeve is a 30 ingredient recipe, 3/4 of which I’ll never use again.

  32. Hmm. None of my comments are showing up. How about this one?

    1. And now they all appear at once and I feel stupid. Once last comment, the butter and chicken recipe is delicious!

  33. I don’t have a slow cooker. For some reason they have never really appealed to me because I really enjoy cooking. Helping in the kitchen has also been a great way to get my now college age offspring to learn about food in general, and they eat a huge variety of foods because they have a lot of knowledge about cooking and food.

    I am a big fan of sheet pan or tray bake dinners when we need easy meals or extras. But like most styles of recipe, you have to wade through a lot of bad ones to find the truly excellent ones. One favorite in our house is Nigella Lawson’s Pea and Chicken Tray Bake, which you can google. The leeks can get a bit expensive, but there are enough veg leftover to have as a side dish later in the week with something else. Another is by Molly Gilbert, Baked Turkey Meatballs and Slow Roasted Tomatoes. Find it here: http://www.costcoconnection.com/connection/201612?pg=70. I quit making the tomatoes because they were too much trouble. Now I serve with a good jarred marina sauce, and I use ground chicken instead of turkey. You can easily cook some pasta to serve with it for little kids that absolutely need noodles, and the cooked meatballs freeze well.

    1. And I need to clarify a point on the meatball recipe. The author instructs to check that the meatballs are done by cutting them open with a knife. That is a horrible instruction, and not a safe way to check that, especially for ground meat. Use an instant read thermometer, the temp should be a minimum of 165. This is why teaching you kids some kitchen basics is a good idea!

  34. THAT SHREDDED CHICKEN RECIPE. So easy, so good, SO AMAZING! Just made it and topped it with TJ’s shredded lite mexican blend!

  35. I LOVE your apron! Can you tell me where you got it?

  36. Wow these look so good but how do I deviate the recipe if I am cooking for 4 ?

  37. This is what I’ve been looking for! We got a slow cooker in the winter and have made the odd broth but really wanted it to make easy suppers for four (including two kids). I’m definitely going to try these out!

  38. more like this, please!! i love the shredded chicken – we eat it at least 3 times a month. another favorite is nom nom paleo’s kalua pork (https://nomnompaleo.com/post/10031990774/slow-cooker-kalua-pig). i serve it with bagged slaw and hawaiian rolls.

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