Looking for meal train ideas? Here are our favorite healthy recipe ideas for those times when you want to bring a family dinner after a new baby or an illness. 

A basket filled with dinner for friends in need.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the honor of delivering several meals to friends in need. Two families have had small children in the hospital. In the PICU no less. For over a week each. The last thing these mamas and dads need is to think about grocery shopping and feeding themselves and other family members healthy meals. And take-out gets old quickly.

Meal trains have been set up for these families, just like when we have friends with new babies. Two websites make this super simple. I’ve used MealTrain.com and TakeThemAMeal.com. Both are free and easy to use.

One of the most common things I hear friends say is, “Oh no, I can’t bring them dinner. I’m not a good enough cook! I can’t think of anything to bring!” Delivering dinner stresses me out sometimes too, so I’ve compiled some tips and recipe ideas for the next time we want to help out a friend by dropping off dinner.

meal train recipes
A few tips for delivering meals

  • Always inquire about dietary restrictions before planning the meal.
  • Text the family to find out the best time to deliver dinner. Keep in mind that the family is dealing with an important issue (either good in the case of a new baby, or difficult in the case of illness) and may not want to visit with friends, so plan on dropping off on the porch.
  • If you don’t want to come back to retrieve your dishes, use disposable food containers.
  • Choose foods that are easy to reheat.
  • Know that even if you don’t hear from your friend, your contribution is appreciated.


Soups and stews are a great choice because you can make them early in the day, drop off early, and your friends can reheat them when they are ready. Add a bagged salad mix kit and some crusty bread, and you’re good to go.

Casseroles & Savory Baked Dishes

Other Dinner Ideas

  • Falafel Pitas 
  • Soba Noodles – this one on Cupcakes and Cashmere looks yummy!
  • Veggie Stir Fry with Rice or Quinoa
  • Taco Fixin’s: Pack corn tortillas, guacamole, chopped lettuce, chopped onions, chopped cilantro, chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes, beans and rice, and cooked shredded chicken breast (unless vegetarian).
  • Curry and rice



If you have extra time, bonus points for including something for the morning.

Comforting Touches

If I have time, I like to add a bottle of wine, flowers, Cowboy Cookies, or some good chocolate. If the occasion is a new baby, I like to add something to make the big brother or sister feel extra special – some stickers, a congratulations card, or a book is all it takes.

Out of Town Meal Delivery

Sometimes our friends in need of help are out of town, or we simply don’t have time to deliver a home-cooked meal. You can still help. Look up a healthy meal delivery service in your friends’ town. In Santa Barbara we have Le Petit Chef, which can deliver gourmet meals, as well as other companies. A gift certificate for a box of ingredients your friends can use for an easy dinner, such as from Blue Apron, is another great help.

Tell us: What are some of your go-to meals to deliver to friends? Let me know in the comments!