A mega list of easy and healthy foods for picky eaters so that you can mix up those meals that are the same day in and day out, and help them learn to eat new and different foods without a battle. Affiliate links used below.
Foods for Picky Eaters From an Occupational Therapist
While no two picky eaters like the same exact types of food, there are some new and healthy foods they tend to accept. And, there are other foods that I can almost guarantee you as an occupational therapist (and a mom) that they’ll hard pass on.
That would be the heavily sauced, mixed foods, like lasagna or chicken pot pie, which they can of course learn to eat, but it’s not where I’d start.
Instead, I like to be strategic by serving specific food for picky eaters. That way you can breathe a little easier knowing they’re getting some good nutrients into their system.
Leverage Food for Picky Eaters in the Best Way Possible
In this post, you’ll find over 27 different foods that can be used for any meal of the day. Mix and match when and how you serve them. And, use this list to inspire you to think of other foods that your picky eater might open wide for. You can also grab more ideas in Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters.
As you think about serving these foods for picky eaters, keep the following tips in mind:
1. Serve food as simple and basic as possible. Casseroles and mixed foods are usually way harder for picky eaters. All the textures mixed together is really overwhelming. Deconstructing foods and serving food family style gives picky eaters a sense of control that will help them be more willing to try a new food.
2. Think about what texture and flavor of foods your child likes. Do they like a lot of crunchy foods? Use that to your advantage. Also consider if they like bland or bold flavors. Whatever the case might be, offer them other foods with the same type of flavors. You’ll find examples of all foods below.
Picky eaters need a lot of exposure to get comfortable with new foods.
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Healthy + Easy Foods for Picky Eaters
Your picky eater is unique and won’t instantly love every one of the foods listed here. Even if you’ve got an extreme picky eater, try to be open minded and think about the tips above to choose some of the foods below.
#1. Applesauce Pancakes
Pancakes are a food that a lot of picky eaters can learn to love. I like to maximize them with some nutrition, but you’ve got to take it slow. Your picky eater will likely loose their mind if you plop some fresh blueberries in there. When you add other “healthy” ingredients, you want to start slow and by making the texture even. Applesauce does the trick. You can also try adding pureed blueberries, because there won’t be chunks.
Chunks are almost always a big no-no for picky eaters. Find the applesauce pancakes recipe here.
#2. Baked Potato Skins
A lot of picky eaters like crunchy foods. And, making some homemade potato skins is a great way to get added nutrients (the skins are packed with fiber, iron, and other nutrients). You can simply brush with some olive oil if your picky eater doesn’t like cheese. And, if they do, sprinkle some on top.
#3. Apple Chips
Apples in general are a great fruit for picky eaters, but if they won’t go for them, try apple chips. They’ll resemble more of a “junk food,” which may appeal to them. You can pick these up at the store or make a batch yourself. Also, try other dehydrated fruits, you can find just about every kind. Here’s some blueberry, banana, and apple chips that are available on Amazon.
#4. Shredded Chicken Quesadilla
Why shredded chicken? It’s a lot less texture than diced chicken breast, which means your picky eater will be more likely to eat it. Go easy on the chicken the first time you serve it if your kid doesn’t typically chicken. Focus on the cheese, and making it crunchy or soft, depending on the texture your picky eater prefers.
#5. Raw Veggies
Sound simple? It might seem so, but raw veggies are often the gateway to veggies for picky eating kiddos. I usually start with baby carrots, look for really thin ones or cut them in half or quarters if they’re really big. Cucumbers and snap peas are also often a hit. Work your way up to celery and cauliflower. Broccoli, because it has so much more texture, is usually last to be accepted.
Try serving just carrots or cucumbers to start, as you’re pulling the rest of dinner together. They might just try a few! Use some dips like ranch or yogurt to up the fun factor and mask some of the veggie flavor.
#6. No Sauce Flatbread
Not all picky eaters love pizza. For some, it’s overwhelming with globs of melty cheese that slide off the sauce. Flatbread with just some seasonings, olive oil, and a little bit of cheese is a great way to get them used to eating pizza, or an alternative to it, if that’s all your picky eater wants to eat.
#7. Homemade Chicken Nuggets
This is one of my favorite foods for picky eaters! I got my son to eat all kinds of chicken from making my own homemade chicken nuggets. But, you can’t use any ol’ recipe. You need thin and small nuggets to minimize the texture.
#8. Granola Bar
A granola bar is just a step away from a cookie, a food many picky eaters will gladly consume. Try simple granola bars that have ingredients your child already likes. If they like chocolate, get or make some granola bars with chocolate chips. If they like peanut butter. make sure it has peanut butter in it. Try serving the granola bar cut into smaller squares, almost like a cookie!
#9. Carrot Cake Smoothie (bonus immune-booster)
Smoothies are smooth, and shouldn’t have chunks. That’s good for picky eaters. Plus, they can be packed with all sorts of nutrients and vitamins. This recipe is very kid friendly. You don’t want to try a kale and sprouts smoothie right out of the gate, those flavors can take some time to get used to.
#10. Pumpkin Waffles
These are delicious and only look a little orange, so the color isn’t very different, which is good for picky eaters. They notice the color of their food. Pumpkin is smooth and loaded with vitamins. You can also add pumpkin easily and in small amounts to pancakes as well.
#11. Grilled Chicken on a Stick
Picky eaters often aren’t too keen on meat, but when you put it on a stick, it changes everything. Usually, preschoolers and older children can handle chicken on stick, but use your judgement and supervision. Simply weave some thin chicken breasts or tender loins onto a stick and grill, bake, or saute.
#12. Homemade Hot Pockets
Many picky eating kids love bread. I always want to use that to my advantage. When you make a homemade hot pocket, which is basically a pouch of bread, picky eaters that like bread will be more likely to give it a try. Keep your fillings super simple at first, maybe just cheese and a little sauce. Then, as your picky eater gets more comfortable, you can add more ingredients.
Click here to get a simple hot pocket recipe! (You’ll be surprised at how easy and fun they are.)
#13. Breaded Broccoli
Broccoli can be a hard texture for kids to get past, but when you bread or batter it, your picky eater may be curious and willing to give it a go. You don’t necessarily have to fry the broccoli either. That’s up to you. Baking works great. If your picky eater likes this, you can also try battered green beans, cauliflower, mushrooms, and other veggies!
#14. Cheese + Spinach Waffle Sandwich
Does your picky eater love grilled cheese? Try making one in a waffle maker, it’s really cool. And, add some fresh spinach leaves in the middle. With all the cheese, it’s almost undetectable, not that I’m encouraging tricking. Have your picky eater help make this, they’ll get a big kick out of watching the bread turn into a waffle.
#15. Beef Jerky
Not all beef jerky is unhealthy. Look at the packages for no preservatives and sodium. I like these kind and buy them regularly on Amazon. Jerky does have a bold flavor, so it’s perfect for the picky eaters that like a punch of flavor in their mouth. Obviously, its a great source of protein.
#16. Taco Bar
Make your taco meat using this mild taco seasoning for picky eaters that don’t like any spice. Then, set up all of the toppings in different bowls in the middle of your dining room table and have fun letting everyone make their own tacos. You could offer soft or hard tortilla as well. Picky eaters are often way more likely to try a food when they don’t feel pressured and are having fun!
#17. Roasted Chick Peas
When roasted chick peas turn hard and crunchy, they taste totally different. Picky eaters that love crunch will likely give these a go, and it’s such a good source of protein. You can buy some here on Amazon or make your own with all sorts of different seasonings
Peanuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, and other nuts can all be successful foods for picky eaters. They’re crunchy and small! Nuts can be a choking hazard for kids under 3 so again use your judgement. Lastly, try different types of nuts with different coatings. Plain peanuts might not be a win, but honey roasted ones could be.
#19. Juicy meatballs
Meatballs are a great food to try with the picky eater that loves softer foods. Problem is a lot of store bought meatballs (and recipes) are sort of dry. You want to make sure they’re juicy and taste pretty darn good. Also, size matters. Small meatballs are likely to go over way better. I created that recipe below that can also be adapted for gluten-free.
#20. Rice Cakes + Peanut Butter
I like to grab brown rice cakes to up the nutritional value, but either way, expanding your picky eater’s variety of food to anything new is great. If your kid isn’t into peanut butter, you can serve them plain, with jelly, or Nutella as well.
#21. Dilly Green Beans
Does you kid like pickles? Want them to eat some veggies? Dilly green beans are genius. This is a fermented food so think, probiotics! The awesome part is that you don’t cook the green beans, but they soak in seasonings over a few days so that they taste and crunch like a pickle.
#22. Ham/Turkey Pinwheels
Grab a tortilla. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese. Lay down a few thin slices of deli meat. Roll up the tortilla shell tightly and then slice thinly to make bit sized pinwheel sandwich. Some picky eaters will prefer to take bites out of the tortilla instead of it being cut, so try that too. You can also add leaves of fresh spinach.
It’s that simple. Crispy bacon. This, apart from the home-made chicken nuggets above, is often one of my go to meats for picky eaters. It’s crunchy and full of flavor. Try serving it alongside a meal and offering it in strips or crumbles.
#24. Frozen Fruit
Give your picky eater some frozen berries or mango chunks. The texture and flavor are greatly minimized because it’s frozen! Use it as a side dish or as a snack with some nuts.
#25. Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Mini chocolate chips seem to attract lots of picky eaters. Muffins are a perfect way to entice. Add some zucchini (or blueberry or banana) and you’ve just added some additional nutrients too. If muffins are a totally new food for your picky eater, try mini muffins first. Smaller is always better because it’s not as overwhelming.
#26. Banana Bops
This is so simple you could do it right now, if you have a banana that is. Cut your banana in half, don’t break it because that could leave a ragged edge and the sloppy texture can turn off a picky eater asap. If your child never eats banana, start with a chunk of banana instead of half. Stick it onto a straw or a popsicle stick! Sticks are powerful, don’t underestimate them when it comes to a picky eater.
Try other kinds of fruit pops too. Strawberry and mango are also good ideas.
#27. French Toast Sticks
Picky eaters love stick shapes. Something they can pick up and hold in their hand. Use your favorite french toast recipe, but cut your bread into strips. If you think it would entice your kid, then you could sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, but if not, skip it.
Learn More About Choosing Foods for Your Picky Eater
Join me live on Wednesday April 8th, 2020 at 2:30 pm EST to learn how to choose the foods your picky eater is most likely to eat! Join me live or catch the replay. Click here to watch.
Grab a Free Printable List of Picky Eater Meal Ideas
Want a cache of ideas you can save and print? Something to look at when you don’t know what to make for dinner? I’ve got you covered. You can grab the most effective foods to leverage with a picky eater in a convenient printable.
More for Picky Eaters
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 15 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.