Dinner's Ready! 4 New Family-Friendly Cookbooks

Studies show that eating dinner together as a family has many health, emotional and social benefits. But with little time for weeknight cooking and picky young eaters who'd rather eat in front of the TV, weeknight dinners can often feel like a chore.

Thankfully, there's a slew of new family-friendly cookbooks on the market that are created with busy moms and dads in mind. Here are our top four picks for delicious and healthy recipes that are sure to draw the whole family to the table.

First up is The Ultimate Kid-Approved Cookbook from the editors of Cooking Light magazine. Many parents know that one of the best ways to open kids up to the world of food and cooking is to get them into the kitchen and The Ultimate Kid-Approved Cookbook does precisely that. With recipes approved by a "kid taste-testing panel," it's a cookbook that not only provides recipes for foods kids will want to eat, it also includes ways to make cooking more engaging and kid-friendly. For those of you who might have concerns about an underage tasting panel, rest assured that this book is more about Edamame Succotash and Jerk Seasoned Turkey with Black Beans and Yellow Rice than chicken fingers and French fries.  

The American Heart Association cookbooks are always a wonderful source for healthy meal ideas and their latest cookbook, Healthy Family Meals, is no exception. Focusing on making healthy meals in a limited amount of time, Healthy Family Meals is divided into sections including Make-Ahead, Everyday Dinners, and Cook Once, Eat Twice. Staying true to its name, Healthy Family Meals makes a point to include as many fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains as possible, while avoiding unnecessary fats. Recipes include Good-For-You Fried Rice, Veggie Burgers with Kicked-Up Ketchup and Strawberry-Chocolate Pudding Cake.

Sarah Matheny, the "Mama Pea" behind the popular food blog Peas and Thank You has recently come out with companion cookbook all about her family's transition from mainstream eating (think burgers and sodas) to a meatless life of healthful and tasty meals. If you're trying to cut down on your family's meat intake, Peas and Thank You provides lots of inspiraton. Filled with charmingly quirky family anecdotes and satisfying recipes for Black Bean Burgers, Guacamole and an intriguing "Crack Wrap" made with tortillas, hummus and cheese, Peas and Thank You will have your family enjoying vegetarian meals in no time.

Ann Gentry is another proponent of the meatless family meal. She's Hollywood's vegan chef to the stars and founder of Real Food Daily, a mini chain of L.A.-based vegan restaurants.  Vegan Family Meals is her collection of family-pleasing (and budget-friendly) recipes that also happen to be meat-, dairy-, and sometimes even gluten-free. She's mastered the art of keeping things interesting while adhering to a limited diet with her recipes for vegan versions of Bangers and Mash, Lasagna and even Chocolate Cupcakes.  

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