Over 25 healthy meals for picky eaters that the whole family will enjoy. Simple, easy, and totally do-able. Plus, get a free printable and picky eater tips!
We’ve all done it. You’re scrolling through Pinterest or Facebook and see a link for a special super healthy food that any picky eater will supposedly eat. Of course, you’re interested so you click through, the recipe seems promising, so you decide to go ahead and give it a go.
The recipe is kind of involved and you have no idea when you’re going to find time to make it. Plus, it has a couple of ingredients you don’t have on hand, so you need to find a scrap of paper or put a reminder in your phone that you forget to look at when you’re actually at the store. Eventually, days or weeks later, you carve out the time one evening to make this magical recipe now that you’ve acquired all the ingredients.
As soon as you start cooking, you’re previously occupied toddler comes waddling into the kitchen saying “up, up, up”. You try distraction, but her little chubby fingers are clawing at your pants, nearly pulling them down. Then, your son starts to play Batman and is running around the kitchen fighting villains as you desperately try to find the next step in the recipe on your phone.
You cave and put the toddler on your hip because the whining is just wearing you down. It just needs to stop.
The recipe says 20 minutes of prep, you glance at the clock and notice that its already been 30, and you’re only half way through. FINALLY, miraculously, you get the recipe made, collapse into the couch for a second, at which point your toddler slides down and plays on their own. But, you’ve accomplished something here, you’re trying to get a healthy meal in your picky eater.
You serve dinner, nervous and beyond hopeful that they’ll devour this whole delicious healthy meal designed for picky eaters. Instead, they refuse to even put it on their plate.
And, well, you don’t know if you should throw the plate across the room or cry.
The last time this happened to me it was a recipe for cauliflower bread sticks. As a mom to a picky eater or two, and a pediatric OT, I do have some tricks to plan healthy meals for picky eaters WITHOUT losing your mind! Plus, lots of ideas that are easily adaptable and simple to make.
Tips for Making Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters
No matter what recipes and food ideas you gain here, it’s critical to follow a few steps before you plan a healthy meal for picky eaters because every child is different and what one picky eater might eat, the next might not. Often times, that’s why the special “picky eater” recipes are a flop. Stick to these golden rules:
#1. Include a food they eat most of the time.
- Add a side dish of something they normally eat. That can be anything from bread to cheese to carrot sticks. They will have much less trepidation when they see a familiar food as they sit down to eat. Read about some basic strategies in The Best Eating Habits for Kids.
#2. Make the meal for yourself.
- This is all about mindset really, but if you’re going out of your way to make a healthy meal for your picky eater, make sure you’ll enjoy it, too. If you go through all the trouble just hoping and praying they’ll eat it, you’re setting yourself up for massive disappointment. Instead, go into the meal thinking, “I’m really going to like these potatoes, and if Sam eats them, that’s a bonus.” Get some more tips for Practicing Patience When Your Child Doesn’t Eat
#3. Schedule a bed-time snack.
- If the healthy meal your making is dinner and you know your child won’t eat a lot of it, then 2-3 hours later have a snack before bed to give you peace of mind they aren’t going to be on an empty stomach. Of course, many kids are fine with waiting to eat breakfast in the morning! Head to Healthy Snacks for Picky Eaters for some new ideas.
#4. Think outside the box.
- Meals don’t need to be conventional, it’s okay to serve dinner for breakfast or vice versa. Often times we adhere to cultural rules that really have no bearing whatsoever on a child’s nutrition or long term eating habits. Get more details on how to use this fun out of the box idea: Help for Picky Eaters: Using Dips.
#5. Don’t be too focused on being healthy.
- As parents, we all want our kids to be healthy, we want to give the best nutrition so they can grow and learn to the best to their ability. But for me, a healthy meal is more about variety of foods that aren’t high in sugar or salt. If we get to obsessed with healthy meals for picky eaters, we may make the picky eating problem worse because they feel so pressured to eat better and start to associate negative thoughts about some foods. Healthy is good, just a word of caution! Read more about if your picky eater is healthy.
Simple Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters
I’m going to break down all my suggestions into some different categories so you can pick, choose, and be inspired by foods that your child is most likely to eat or be interested in. If you have any healthy foods that your child has enjoyed, let us know in the comments!
Deconstructed meals are my favorite way to have a peaceful healthy meal with a picky eater. Read about why it’s so effective here. Basically, instead of mixing everything together like a casserole, you serve it all separately. Instead of a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, you have noodles in one bowl, sauce in another bowl, and meatballs in a bowl. I try to bring pans right to the table to cut down on dishes or I’ll put the food in the plastic containers the leftovers will end up in anyways. Here’s are some of my favorite healthy deconstructed meal ideas:
Baked Potato Bar (Think broccoli, cheese, bacon, ham, peas, shredded carrots, etc.)
Taco/Burrito/Quesadilla Bar (Consider using chicken, fish, or beans too!)
Pasta Bar (Different sauces, veggies, meats, beans, or nuts to mix in)
Salad Bar (Chicken nuggets and fries can be a topping, think outside the box!)
Yogurt Bar (Healthy fruits, seeds, and nuts as toppings with a side of fresh bread or crackers)
Oh, most picky eaters LOVE breading! It’s often a familiar texture and it helps to mask the strong flavor or texture that they’re avoiding beneath.
After your child eats foods that are breaded consistently, you can pull back from them. This list is mostly one idea for you to build the rest of the meal around. Make sure you grab the free healthy meals for picky eaters printable at the end because you’ll get a cheat sheet that allows you plan your meal easy peasy! For more fun breading options, click here.
Healthy Homemade Mini Chicken Medallions, noodles with olive oil, and broccoli (If you want to buy Sam’s Club Dino Nuggets, (I don’t get a penny for saying that) they are one of my favorite brands because they are thin and picky eaters love that too!)
Breaded Green Beans, french fries, and mini meatballs (My kids LOVE these and they are not too difficult to make)
Popcorn shrimp, sliced apples, and quinoa (A great way to get fish into their diet!)
Breaded fish, cous cous, and red peppers
Blueberry cornbread, meatloaf, and peas (Frozen peas are often a big hit with picky eaters)
Homemade hot pockets (you pick the filling) and apple slices
A large portion of picky eaters prefer crispy textured foods. Building on the preference can lead to more healthy meals for picky eaters!
Bacon Sandwiches with raw veggie platter (This meal works great deconstructed, too!)
Fish Cakes, rice, and watermelon
Grilled Turkey or Chicken Legs with mac and cheese and broccoli (Grilling them gets the crispy!)
Pan fried ham, baked potato skins, and sliced pineapple rings (My kids love homemade potato skins. Simply bake your potatoes, empty the filling (serve as a side) and paint with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake again in the oven till crispy!)
Crispy chicken wings (sauce on the side), rolls, and corn on the cob (Break the corn on the cob in half and put it on a Popsicle stick for extra fun motivation!)
Cheese and barely noticeable spinach grilled waffle-wich (Make a grilled cheese with some fresh spinach inside your waffle maker!)
Off the Wall Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters Ideas
Remember I told you to think outside the box! Think untraditional to have a successful fun meal. Here are some of my favorite ideas, but don’t stop there, think about what else you can add to the list!
Pumpkin Waffles, sausage, and bananas (Yes, this works for lunch and dinner too!)
Made your own way quiche with side of crackers (Quiche is a mixed food/casserole type food which usually doesn’t go over too well, but with a few amount of mixed ingredients that your child chooses it could be a winner.)
Crispy french toast with cream cheese spread and peaches
Healthy Carrot Cake Smoothie with rice cakes and peanut butter
Super healthy pancakes, bacon, and berries
High fiber banana, sweet potato, pumpkin bread with yogurt and melon
My Favorite “Tools” for Healthy Meals with Picky Eaters
I do like to keep simple, but there a few fun items that I’ve used with my own kids and those that I work with that give kids a little extra motivation to enjoy their food. If you’re looking for some tools and tricks, I’ve got you covered! These are my top pics:
Taco Holder Truck (A huge hit in my house!)
Fun kid friendly mini forks and pics to stick in food (Perfect for little hands or just to make food a little more exciting!)
Fun bites cutters (Cut food quickly and easily into fun shapes and let your kid make pictures with them!)
Adorable little cups for dips (If your picky eater isn’t keen on dips these could really help win them over)
The Free Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters Printable
Now that you’ve got over 25 ideas for healthy meals for picky eaters, it would probably be helpful to access them again quickly, right? Well, I’ve got you covered because I’ve taken all the foods here and placed in a printable you can download and print.
Enter your name and email, and on the next screen and we’ll send the printable to you!
More Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters Ideas
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