5 Delicious Family Meals to Help Curb Chronic Inflammation

A new kid-friendly cookbook serves up tasty, nutritious recipes to help thwart illness and fight the obesity epidemic.

If you’re looking to give your family meals a healthy boost, a new cookbook just out—the Anti-Inflammatory Family Cookbook: The Kid-Friendly, Pediatrician-Approved Way to Transform your Family’s Health—has some pointers.

According to the book's authors, an anti-inflammatory diet has been linked to decreased illness and mortality in adults from numerous chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, invasive breast cancer and other cancers, obesity, gastrointestinal (GI) diseases, fatty liver, depression, and cognitive decline. It is positively associated with better quality of life, good sleep, and healthy lipid profiles, which support heart health. (And who doesn't want that?)

As for kids, an anti-inflammatory diet is associated with less excess weight and obesity, improved cardiovascular and respiratory fitness, less asthma, improved academic performance, less sensory processing abnormalities, less ADHD, less fatty liver, less functional GI disorders, better mental health, and better overall quality of life.

Ready to give it a try? The recipes in this book draw on the science-based health benefits of feeding your family anti-inflammatory foods and giving you easy, practical ways to make anti-inflammatory eating enjoyable for everyone. You'll learn how to make substitutions, accommodate food allergies, and prep ahead to make mealtimes easier. Check out our five fave lunch and dinner ideas, here!

Anti-Inflammatory Family Cookbook COVER
Courtesy of Adams Media
Vegetable Pita Pizzas
Harper Point Photography; courtesy of Adams Media

Vegetable Pita Pizzas

This is a perfect recipe to cook with kids, either as a simple lunch for one or at a party with a large group. Kids can safely cut the vegetables and cheese with plastic knives (with supervision) and layer the ingredients onto the pita themselves. Like so many of our recipes, this one is infinitely customizable. Other great vegetable choices are baby spinach and blanched broccoli.

SERVES 4 | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 whole-wheat pitas

  • ½ pound mozzarella cheese, cut in ¼-inch cubes, or shredded 1 large tomato, sliced thin

  • ¼ medium green bell pepper, sliced thin

  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thin

  • ¼ medium onion, peeled and sliced thin

  • 8 leaves fresh basil, finely cut

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

  • ½ tsp. dried oregano

  • ¼ tsp. salt

  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  2. Evenly layer ingredients on each pita in the following order: half of cheese, tomato slices, other vegetables, remaining cheese, and finally top with basil.

  3. Evenly distribute oil, oregano, salt, and pepper over top of pizzas.

  4. Place pitas on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. If making for a large group, write each person’s name on the parchment next to their pita pizza.

  5. Bake 10 minutes until edges of pitas are browned and cheese is melted.

Nutritional Information Per Serving

  • Calories: 392

  • Fat: 16g

  • Protein: 21g

  • Sodium: 784mg

  • Fiber: 6g

  • Carbohydrates: 41g

  • Net Carbs: 35g

  • Sugar: 2g

Make It Baby-Friendly

This recipe is appropriate for children over 2 years of age or for younger babies with adequate chewing skills. For babies still on purées, cook shiitake mushrooms in a bit of olive oil and purée with breastmilk or formula.

Black Bean Burgers
Harper Point Photography; courtesy of Adams Media

Black Bean Burgers

These plant-based burgers make a fun lunch and taste great at room temperature. To save time and energy, double the recipe, which will give you both a quick weeknight meal and leftovers. Serve on buns with lettuce, tomato, and other toppings of choice. To make them gluten-free, substitute bread crumbs with fine cornmeal or almond flour.

SERVES 4 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 15 to 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 tsp. avocado oil, divided

  • 1 small carrot, cut finely into 1/8-inch dice

  • 1 small stalk celery, cut finely into 1/8-inch dice

  • ½ cup finely diced shiitake mushrooms

  • 1 Tbsp. gluten-free tamari

  • ½ tsp. cumin

  • ½ tsp. paprika

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

  • 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • ¼ tsp. salt

  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Warm 1 Tbsp. oil in a cast iron (or nonstick) skillet over medium heat and add carrot and celery. Cook 5 minutes.

  2. Add mushrooms, tamari, cumin, paprika, and garlic. Cook another 5 minutes. Set aside.

  3. Place beans in a medium bowl and mash well with a potato masher or fork. They should still have a coarse texture but come together in a sticky ball.

  4. Add cooked vegetables, salt, and bread crumbs to the beans. Mix well.

  5. Divide mixture into four equal portions and shape into burgers.

  6. At this point, they can be cooked one of two ways: Brush them well with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and bake them in a 425°F oven 8 to 10 minutes. Or, to make them on the stovetop, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil over medium heat in large cast iron pan. Add burgers and cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Take care when flipping—they are more likely than meat burgers to crumble apart.

Nutritional Information Per Serving

  • Calories: 218

  • Fat: 11g

  • Protein: 8g

  • Sodium: 672mg

  • Fiber: 9g

  • Carbohydrates: 23g

  • Net Carbs: 14g

  • Sugar: 2g

Make It Baby-Friendly

The burgers are good for babies 12 months and up or for those who can eat small pieces of soft solids. Make sure the vegetables are very finely cut so they are not choking hazards. The burger mashes up easily once cooked.

Pasta with Ricotta, Peas, and Mint
Harper Point Photography; courtesy of Adams Media

Pasta with Ricotta, Peas, and Mint

This is a very quick weeknight dish. Using ricotta as a pasta sauce is a tried-and-true Italian technique to making a creamy pasta, and it also gives you more protein and less fat than heavy cream. The shells are a fun shape for kids, especially because the peas can snuggle inside them. Alternatives to peas include sautéed zucchini or Swiss chard, and you can use gluten-free pasta if you wish. Serve alongside a hearty green salad.

SERVES 4 | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. whole-wheat medium pasta shells

  • 1½ cups frozen peas

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese

  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped mint leaves

  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper

  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions. In the last 2 minutes of pasta cooking, add peas to same pot. Reserve 1½ cups pasta cooking water and then drain pasta and peas.

  2. Return pasta and peas to pot and reduce heat to low. Add reserved pasta water, oil, zest, ricotta cheese, mint, and pepper. Mix well for 1 minute.

  3. Portion pasta into bowls and top with Parmigiano. Serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving

  • Calories: 384

  • Fat: 15g

  • Protein: 16g

  • Sodium: 276mg

  • Fiber: 7g

  • Carbohydrates: 38g

  • Net Carbs: 31g

  • Sugar: 4g

Make It Baby-Friendly

This recipe is fine for babies with appropriate chewing skills. Mash the peas if needed to accommodate the baby’s level of chewing skills.

Tempeh Coconut Curry
Harper Point Photography; courtesy of Adams Media

Tempeh Coconut Curry

Use this recipe as a basic template and then add or substitute with odds and ends from the refrigerator. To make it even quicker, your favorite prepared curry paste can replace the ginger, garlic, scallions, lime zest, and red chili flakes. Extra-firm tofu, chicken, or shrimp work well in place of tempeh. Serve with sticky (sushi) rice or rice noodles.

SERVES 4 | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2½ Tbsp. coconut oil, divided

  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • 4 medium scallions, cut into thin rounds

  • 1 medium lime, zested 1 tsp. red chili flakes

  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into ½-inch slices

  • 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced

  • 2 medium carrots, diced medium

  • 1 (15-oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk

  • 2½ cups vegetable stock

  • 1 tsp. salt, divided

  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper

  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric

  • 2 Tbsp. gluten-free tamari

  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice

  • 8 oz. tempeh, cut in ½-inch cubes

  • 2½ cups packed baby spinach

Instructions

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, warm 1 Tbsp. oil. Add ginger, garlic, scallions, lime zest, and chili flakes. Sauté about 2 minutes or until fragrant.

  2. Add bell pepper, mushrooms, and carrots. Cook about 5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.

  3. Add milk and stock. Add ¾ tsp. salt, black pepper, turmeric, tamari, and lime juice. Bring to a simmer. Cook about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender.

  4. In the meantime, heat remaining 1½ Tbsps. oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.

  5. Add tempeh and ¼ tsp. salt. Sauté until golden brown on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes.

  6. Add spinach and tempeh to pot with vegetables. Cook another 3 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Serve hot!

Nutritional Information Per Serving

  • Calories: 500

  • Fat: 38g

  • Protein: 18g

  • Sodium: 1,689mg

  • Fiber: 6g

  • Carbohydrates: 26g

  • Net Carbs: 20g

  • Sugar: 8g

Meatball and Escarole Soup
Harper Point Photography; courtesy of Adams Media

Meatball and Escarole Soup

This is a satisfying one-pot meal that can feed a family of four with significant leftovers that you can freeze or save for later in the week. Make it gluten-free by substituting leftover rice or almond meal for the bread crumbs.

SERVES 8 | Prep Time: 30 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained

  • 16 oz. ground turkey

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

  • 3 Tbsp. bread crumbs

  • 6 Tbsp. grated pecorino cheese, divided

  • 1 large egg

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup medium diced celery

  • 2 cups medium diced carrots

  • 2 cups medium diced red potatoes

  • 1¼ tsp. salt

  • 8 cups water

  • 4 cups chopped escarole

Instructions

  1. Mash chickpeas to form a smooth paste, either with a potato masher or in a food processor.

  2. In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, turkey, garlic, 1/3 cup parsley, bread crumbs, 3 Tbsps. pecorino, and egg. Mix well using clean hands into a uniform consistency.

  3. Fill a small bowl with warm water and set it near turkey mixture. Make meatballs by pinching off a piece of mixture and rolling it between your palms to form a 1-inch ball. Place them on a plate while working. In between meatballs, dip your hands in the water bowl to keep your hands clean and wet—this will make the process less sticky! The mixture will yield about 30 meatballs.

  4. In a large pot over medium heat, warm oil. Then add celery and carrots. Cook 5 minutes.

  5. Add potatoes and salt. Cook another 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil.

  6. Add meatballs, dropping them one by one into soup. Cook 5 minutes.

  7. Reduce to a low boil, add escarole, and cook another 15 minutes.

  8. Serve hot, garnished with remaining parsley and pecorino.

Nutritional Information Per Serving

  • Calories: 256

  • Fat: 12g

  • Protein: 16g

  • Sodium: 619mg

  • Fiber: 5g

  • Carbohydrates: 20g

  • Net Carbs: 15g

  • Sugar: 4g

Excerpted from The Anti-Inflammatory Family Cookbook by Stefania Patinella; Alexandra Romey; Hilary McClafferty, M.D., F.A.A.P.; Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D.; and Maria Mascarenhas, M.B.B.S. Copyright © 2021 by Stefania Patinella, Alexandra Romey, Hilary McClafferty, Jonathan Deutsch, and Maria Mascarenhas. Photographs by Harper Point Photography. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.