We all have picky eaters to deal with. Whether it’s your child, someone you love or a dinner guest, diet diversity is important for the health of all humans. The good news is, there are ways to get people eating nutritious foods in different ways and this is why me and my partner created this blog. Here we will show you step-by-step how we do it!
Food For The Picky Eater
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 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.
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.
Check out this Homemade Baked Potato Skin Recipe
#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.
Grab a homemade apple chip recipe here
#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.
Grab a flatbread recipe here
#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.
Click here for an effective chicken nugget recipe for picky eaters
#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!
Check out this homemade granola bar recipe
#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.
Get the Immune Boosting Carrot Cake Smoothie
#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.
Click here for an amazing pumpkin waffle recipe
#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!
Learn how to bread veggies for picky eaters
#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.
Click here for the Wafflewich Recipe
#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!
Dishes Even Picky Eaters Will Love
Picky eaters—we’ve all heard the term and many of us have at least one at home. Our littlest diners can be tricky to cook for, especially when trying to make sure they get the nourishment they need. These kid-friendly recipes for tasty breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks are great for family members of all ages. Even your pickiest of eaters are sure to find something new here to love!
- 01of 16Homemade Chicken NuggetsThe Spruce / Leah MaroneyDo your kids love fast-food chicken nuggets? Here’s an easy recipe that lets you make a healthier version at home with the same great crunch and meaty taste. Chicken chunks are dipped into an egg-and-butter mixture, then coated with seasoned breadcrumbs and baked in the oven until golden brown.
- 02of 16Eggs in a BasketMichelle McMahon / Getty ImagesAlso called “toad in a hole,” this fun breakfast gives kids an eggcellent protein boost to start their day. Get the kids to help make this recipe—they can do everything from cutting shapes in the bread slices to cracking the egg and sliding it into the “basket.”
- 03of 16Apple PancakesIra Heuvelman-Dobrolyubova / Getty Images These homemade pancakes are a great way to sneak fruit into kids’ breakfast and have a delicious apple pie flavor that children love. For an extra treat, serve them topped with warmed, store-bought applesauce.
- 04of 16Easy Chicken Pot Pie CasseroleThe Spruce Everyone loves chicken pot pie, but some recipes take a lot of effort to assemble. This easier, family-friendly casserole version cuts down on prep time by baking biscuit mix right along with the nutritious chicken and vegetable filling, so you don’t have to make a separate crust. The whole thing is covered with cheese, for gooey topping kids love!
- 05of 16Cinnamon French Toast SticksThe Spruce / Diana RattrayKids will ask for seconds of these French toast sticks flavored with cinnamon and vanilla. The recipe makes a large batch for easy breakfasts throughout the week. Just freeze portions in plastic bags for reheating on the griddle or in a toaster oven. Serve with maple syrup.
- 06of 16Cheesy Meatball BombsThe Spruce / Leah MaroneyCheesy meatball “bombs” are basically a meat and sauce-filled snack that can easily replace frozen pizza rolls. Refrigerated biscuit dough is used to form the buns and you can bake the seasoned Italian meatballs from scratch with the recipe included or use pre-cooked frozen meatballs.
- 07of 16Baked Ham and Cheese QuesadillaEnvision / Getty ImagesThis ham and cheese quesadilla is the perfect cross between a cheesy grilled ham and cheese sandwich and the classic Mexican dish. They’re also baked rather than fried for a healthier lunch or after-school snack.
- 08of 16Perfect Tomato SoupAleksandr Kuzmin / Getty ImagesTomato soup is right up there with chicken noodle as one of the most kid-friendly bowls. This essential recipe is bursting with tomato flavor, silky smooth in texture, and not complicated by too many ingredients, though it does sneak in some extra carrots—kids won’t be able to taste the difference.
- 09of 16Chicken Noodle SoupLilli Day / Stockbyte / Getty ImagesClassic chicken noodle soup is like a big, warm hug for kids’ stomachs. You can pour it into a thermos for warm and comforting school lunch, or serve it with crackers and cheese for a light dinner. This version is made from scratch, so allow time to cook the chicken.
- 10of 16Loaded Baked Potato SkinsThe Spruce / Diana RattrayThese twice-baked stuffed potatoes with cheddar cheese, bacon, and green onions are always a hit at lunch or snack time. You can vary the toppings with your family’s favorite ingredients or add some browned ground meat to the filling to bulk it up for dinner time.
- 11of 16Black Bean and Corn Vegetarian ChiliThe Spruce / Andrea LivingstonVegetarian kids will love the hearty flavor and texture of this bean and corn chili topped with crunchy corn tortilla strips. Parents will love how quick and easy it is to make, with mostly canned ingredients. Omit the cheese and optional sour cream topping if you need it to be vegan and dairy-free.
- 12of 16Parmesan Crusted Baked FishThe Spruce If your kids enjoy fish sticks, this baked recipe is a great way to get them to eat healthier. Fresh or thawed frozen fillets are coated with a Parmesan cheese and seasoned breadcrumb crust, drizzled with a little melted butter, then baked to crunchy, golden, flaky perfection.
- 13of 16Fruity PopcornThe Spruce / Elizabeth LaBauKids will cheer for this treat made with colorful popcorn and salty peanuts, covered in a light, crunchy candy coating that’s bursting with fruity flavor from Jell-O. Let them choose which gelatin flavor to use for a customized treat that makes a great snack for birthday parties or family movie nights.
- 14of 16Favorite Spaghetti and MeatballsCarl Tremblay / Getty ImagesWhat could be more welcome on a cold winter night than a heaping plate of hot spaghetti noodles smothered in tomato sauce and topped with big, beefy meatballs? This essential family recipe for pasta and meatballs with Italian seasonings is sure to become a regular in your rotation.
- 15of 16Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana BreadThe Spruce / Diana RattrayKids will go bananas over this tender homemade quick bread. The batter is made with mashed ripe bananas, peanut butter powder, chopped peanuts, and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, along with some pantry baking ingredients, and optional chopped roasted peanuts. It’s a wonderful on-the-go snack.
- 16of 16Simple NachosThe Spruce / Diana Rattray These popular, easy nachos are cooked in the microwave oven for a hearty after-school snack that can be ready in minutes. This version tops them with jalapeño peppers, cheese, and taco sauce, but you can change up the ingredients according to what your kids like.