Catherine McCord is a former model who started the website weelicious, which teaches parents how to involve their kids in cooking. Her site focuses on family-friendly recipes that are quick, easy to prepare and packed with flavor. And for new parents whose toddlers are just learning to say “no!” to the green stuff, that could be a godsend.

An Institute of Culinary Education graduate and author of two weelicious cookbooks, McCord has a crew of in-home taste testers: her three children and her husband. She credits her own family for her healthy attitude toward cooking and eating. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where her mom introduced her to nourishing food. “I also learned from my grandparents about gardening, composting, and canning,” she says, and these are traditions I’m passing along to my own children.”

Related: How to Cook (Safely) with Children

Catherine  McCord cooking with her daughter ChloeCatherine McCord cooking with her daughter Chloe (Photo: Courtesy of Catherine McCord/Weelicious)

McCord favors recipes that use just a few wholesome, fresh ingredients and appeal to a range of ages, so you don’t need to be “a short order cook,” she says, preparing different meals for different family members.

Here are some of her tips for cooking nutritious meals everyone from toddlers to grandparents can enjoy.

Get thee to the farmers market. McCord advises food shopping with your kids. Farmers’ markets are a great place to help them learn about smart food choices, she says. A bonus: free samples to savor.

Get the creative juices flowing. McCord advises asking your kids, “What should we do with this sweet potato? Could we mash it?” Listen respectfully, even if you have to nix plans to put a whole coconut in the blender.

Invite them into the kitchen to help. “My son loves peeling bananas and pouring frozen fruit and rice milk into the blender to make his own smoothies,” McCord says.

Think outside the box when it comes to lunchboxes. Offer fun fruits and veggies like melon balls, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, avocado and sugar snap peas in addition to apples, oranges and bananas.

Related: How to Get More Fiber into Your Kids' Diet

Eat together as a family. “I know it’s tough with everyone’s hectic schedules, but if your kids see you eating and enjoying broccoli, then there’s a good chance they’ll learn to like it too,” she says.

McCord recounts a story from a frustrated mother whose daughter wouldn’t eat much besides plain noodles with butter, except for something she calls “Nana juice,” a breakfast drink she made with her grandmother that includes kale, fruit and flax. “The fact that that drink is her favorite breakfast tells me that kids take their cues about food from their family,” McCord says.

Here is one of McCord’s tot-pleasing recipes:

Creamy Avocado Lime Parfaits

Serves four; cooking time: 10 minutes

Creamy lime-avocado parfaitCreamy lime-avocado parfait (Photo: weelicious.com/weelicious)

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons lime zest, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates (about 12 medjool dates)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • pinch of kosher salt

Preparation

  1. Using an electric mixer, combine the avocado flesh, lime juice, honey, coconut oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the lime zest and mix until smooth and creamy.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the remaining lime zest, pistachios, dates, coconut and salt and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.
  3. Place a heaping scoop of the avocado puree in a glass or bowl and top with a scoop of the pistachio/date crumble.
  4. Layer another scoop of the avocado puree, top with the date/pistachio crumble and finish with a scoop of whipped cream if desired.

Vegetarian Calzones

Vegetarian calzonesVegetarian calzones (Photo: weelicious/weelicious.com) Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon italian herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped kale, stems removed, about 1 large leaf
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups weelicious tomato sauce, recipe linked below
  • 2 pounds pizza dough, recipe linked below

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, until they’re soft.
  3. Add the garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms, Italian herbs, and salt, and cook an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Place the veggie mixture in a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Add in the kale, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and tomato sauce into the veggie mixture and stir to incorporate.
  6. Divide the pizza dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out each piece to a 6 inch circle.
  7. Place about a 1/4 cup filling onto center of the dough circles, fold them over to form half moons, and crimp the edges to seal.
  8. Bake the calzones for 16-18 minutes, until golden brown.

Accompaniments: Weelicious Tomato Sauce, Weelicious Pizza Dough

Sarah Henry is a food writer who has contributed to Grist, Afar, Civil Eats, KQED, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Atlantic and other outlets. She is a contributing editor at Edible East Bay and a regular writer for Edible San Francisco. She has also worked at Time Inc. and has a food blog called "Lettuce Eat Kale."