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Wholesomely Delicious Low-Carb, Family Friendly Recipes

By Catherine Newman 

All the fun without the carbs! Chicken fingers, dumpling-style meatballs, the perfect edamame, and more

What counts as “family-friendly” is as unique to each household as the fingerprints inside that household. Which is to say: my kids are different from your kids, and my own kids are different from each other, what with one of them being a gluten-free dairy-loving vegetarian, and the other being a passionately dedicated carnivore. In fact, kids are different from themselves too: the 8-year-old who will only eat the yolk of an egg turns into the 10-year-old who will only eat the white; the person who gulped water after eating a bite of mild curry becomes the person who craves the fireball buffalo wings; salad haters become lovers and vice-versa.

All of which is to say: These recipes are generically “family-friendly” by way of being classic favorites for the kids – chicken fingers, mac and cheese, meatballs – that are deliberately low in carbohydrates with the interests in mind of kids with diabetes – or simply of households concerned with the low-energy way eating too much carbohydrates can make people feel. As diaTribe covers in their nutritional principles, found here, eating less than 100 grams of carbs per day (or about 30 grams of carbs per meal) can be really helpful for people with diabetes in smoothing out blood sugar fluctuations. They’re also adaptable for different or changing tastes. It does, I think, go without saying that these are dishes that most grown-ups like too. (I mention this as a person who would happily eat chicken fingers at every meal.)  

One last bit of, well, I guess it’s advice: feel free to think outside the box when it comes to dinner. If you don’t need to keep precise track of portions, consider serving food in a fun, appetizery way, on a shared plate with dipping sauce. Put out a festive platter of veggies and dip instead of a usual salad or vegetable side. Edamame eaten while watching TV gets to “count” as a vegetable, as do clementines snacked on from a bowl on the coffee table. “But it’s fruit, not a vegetable,” your daughter might observe, sensibly enough, and you can just say, “That’s true.”

1. Baked Chicken Fingers

If your kids (or grownups) are chicken-finger lovers, these will hit that spot – but in a more wholesome way, what with their easy oven bakedness and their nutritious coating. Unlike breadcrumbs, almond flour adds protein and crunch, but without a big carb investment.

View the recipe.

2. Cauliflower "Mac and Cheese"

This is truly, deeply delicious: cheesy, rich, and very un-vegetable-y. Plus, it’s full of nutrients from the cauliflower, and it’s very low-carb. That said, it’s not pasta, and you will feel its not-pasta-ness under your teeth.

View the recipe.

3. Dumpling-Style Meatballs

The Asian seasoning of these meatballs makes them taste like the inside of a dumpling – which means they’re a huge hit with most of the kids we know. And the crumbled tofu subs in for bread crumbs here, keeping the meatballs moist and held together in a protein-rich, carb-poor way.

View the recipe. 

4. Basic Edamame

This is in the class of foods I used to call, when my own kids were little, Busytown Vegetables. It includes artichokes, corn on the cob, celery sticks with ranch dressing – anything that required a little bit of (happy) effort on the part of the eater. 

View the recipe. 


5. Cottage Cheese Pancakes

6. Mini Ricotta Frittatas

7. Hero Roll-Ups

8. Quesadizza

9. Salami Chips

10. Guacamole

11. Everyone’s Favorite Salad

12. Caprese Salad

13. Two-Bean Beef Chili

14. Rotisserie Chicken Ideas