Just imagine: Serving a delicious and easy dinner that will help your child fall asleep later that night. No, it’s not just a fantasy! Research shows that certain foods make us sleepy, and preparing a meal full of them at dinner time is sure to ease your child’s transition into dreamland. Some of the most common food items have pretty spectacular sleep-inducing properties. Chicken and dairy products, for example, contain tryptophan, an amino acid which aids the production of melatonin (the “sleep hormone”). Even some favorite snacks and desserts are jam-packed with the nutrients your child needs to fall and stay asleep. Easygoing and picky eaters alike are sure to find something to love among these 10 kid-friendly recipes that help induce sleep. Choose your favorite, and watch the struggles of bedtime slowly melt away!
10 Kid-Friendly Recipes that Help Induce Sleep
You’ve probably served this kid’s favorite before. But did you know that everything in it helps promote better sleep? Bananas, usually known for being rich in potassium, are also a great source of Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is necessary for the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells us when it’s time to sleep. Nut butters like peanut butter contain valuable unsaturated fats which improve serotonin levels. And whole grain toast is rich in magnesium; not getting enough magnesium may make it harder to stay asleep, according to the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.
Sprinkle on some almonds for added crunch — almonds are rich in magnesium, too. Or turn the treat into a grilled sandwich, just like grilled cheese, for extra comforting warmth and melty goodness. Yum!
Fish seems to be one of those foods that kids either totally love or totally hate. If your child is an example of the former, try this delicious and kid-friendly salmon recipe to help him get better sleep. Salmon is very rich in vitamin B6, vital to our body’s production of melatonin and serotonin. Both of these hormones play a huge role in falling — and staying — asleep. And salmon is also great for your child’s heart health and weight, so it’s a win on every level!
Okay, this one’s more of a dessert! We’ve all heard that a glass of warm milk can produce the desired droopy-eyelid effect. But the truth is, any dairy product can produce this result. The calcium in dairy products like yogurt helps the brain process amino acids like tryptophan, also found in dairy products. Together, calcium and tryptophan aid in the production of melatonin. What’s more, research suggests that calcium-deficient kids may have a tougher time falling asleep. Serving meals (or desserts!) rich in calcium can help alleviate insomnia symptoms in kids who are lacking in calcium. And according to research, cherries are natural melatonin-boosters. One study showed that drinking cherry juice before bed can help get rid of insomnia symptoms. Who knew dessert could be so helpful?
Any highly-rated recipe with the words “one pot” in the title is an automatic win in our book. In a busy house, less dishes are always a huge plus! This one pot recipe is a natural sleep-booster, too. Lean proteins like chicken are high in tryptophan — the amino acid responsible for that “I need a nap” feeling that comes right after eating that thanksgiving turkey! Tryptophan helps boost serotonin levels, so tryptophan-rich chicken is sure to work wonders on your child’s sleep patterns. White rice plays a big part, too. It has a high glycemic index, so serving rice for dinner will slash the time it takes for your little one to doze off. For extra sleep-promoting power, choose jasmine; one study found that people who ate a meal that included jasmine rice fell asleep faster than when they ate other rice types.
Kids can pick fights with each other all day, but if there’s one thing they all seem to agree on, it’s quesadillas. Though when we think of the melty, cheesy goodness, we really can’t blame them! As it turns out, this classic kid favorite is actually full of nutrients that promote better sleep. Beans are another food that packs plenty of tryptophan, which helps the brain’s production of serotonin. The low-fat shredded cheese that melts oh-so-nicely is full of tryptophan, too — and it’s packed with calcium, another necessary nutrient for healthy sleep. Add some chicken to this recipe for extra sleep-inducing power and flavor.
We love oven-baked meatballs because they cook so evenly and are so juicy and delicious. This recipe calls for ground turkey instead of beef. It’s a perfect candidate for kid-friendly recipes that help induce sleep, since lean proteins are high in tryptophan. Pair the meatballs with whole-grain pasta (rich in sleep-promoting magnesium) for a complete and tasty meal.
Maybe not a good meal – but bedtime snack? Certainly! Yogurt is full of tryptophan and calcium, while bananas are rich in vitamin B6 — all of which are necessary for getting good sleep. This smoothie recipe is pretty simple, so feel free to dress it up to accommodate your child’s tastes. We recommend adding honey for added sweetness and sleep-promoting effects; honey contains natural sugars which raise insulin levels slightly, allowing tryptophan to enter the brain more easily.
As it turns out, snacks can help promote better sleep! Magnesium-packed whole grain crackers combine with tryptophan- and calcium-rich low-fat cheese to create the perfect bedtime snack. Mix it up by using almond or peanut butter instead of cheese; the unsaturated fats found in nuts help increase serotonin levels. Plus, apples and peanut butter are a match made in heaven. Yum!
The best part about tacos is that they’re super versatile — it’s easy to add and subtract based on kids’ preferences. The same is true for this delicious and simple taco salad. You can use either chicken or ground turkey, since both are packed full of sleep-promoting tryptophan. Cheese and beans are both full of tryptophan, too. As for the lettuce: you may be surprised to learn that leafy greens like lettuce have some amazing sleep-promoting properties! Lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties similar to the effects opium. If only it was easier to get kids to eat their greens — when they’re not piled high with delicious taco ingredients, that is!
This recipe is filled to the brim with sleep-promoting tryptophan, which is found in both the whole milk and low-fat cheese chunks. Make sure you substitute whole grain pasta, since whole grains contain the magnesium necessary to get a good night’s sleep. A word of caution: High-fat foods like bacon take longer to digest, so they’re not ideal for serving before bedtime. Keep the bacon bits to a minimum, or substitute for a lean protein like chunked chicken.
Have you tried preparing sleep-promoting foods for your child? How did it go? Tell us about your experience (and your favorite recipe from above) in the comments below!