Not only are these healthy kid meals for picky eaters guaranteed to produce yummy looking meals for your kids, but they are also very easy to make with step-by-step instructions on how to make these meals.
Healthy foods for picky eaters might seem like an oxymoron to most, but there are actually a lot of foods out there that it seems as though everyone else in the world likes but your child just won’t touch. This article gives you healthy breakfast recipes for picky eaters along with the importance of food for kids.
Healthy Foods for Picky Eaters
These healthy meals for picky eaters use some simple food swaps to create an extra nutritious and delicious meal even the pickiest kids will love!
It’s no secret that cooking for picky kids can be a challenge! Whether you have little kids or older kids, if you have a fussy eater in your house, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of being a short-order cook, creating separate meals to satisfy the pickiest eater in your household.
If there is one thing parents of picky eaters are always on the lookout for — it’s those kid-friendly recipes and healthy meal ideas that can satisfy the whole family!
That’s where this post comes in! These healthy meals for picky eaters include easy swaps and simple ways to serve up a balanced meal that everyone can enjoy.
What do I mean by “easy swaps”? I mean small changes like using whole grains instead of refined grains, or baking instead of frying to make a healthier version of recipes your kids typically
It also involves “sneaking” extra veggies into recipes in unexpected and creative ways! These tips and recipes should help you encourage healthy eating for your whole family.
The key to avoiding that power struggle is to make meals are super comforting and satisfying, yet full of healthy ingredients that can easily be found at your local grocery store!
Top Food Swaps to Make Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters
SWAP #1: Bread: Always substitute whole wheat bread for regular white/sourdough/ciabatta/anything that’s not whole wheat or whole grain. BONUS – If you really want to go the extra mile, get sprouted grain bread like the kind
SWAP #2: Milk: Always use low fat (2% or 1%) or fat free milk instead of full fat (regular whole) milk.
SWAP #3: Cheese: You can use low fat cheeses instead of full fat/regular cheese, or just use less of the full fat cheese (try for 3/4 or 1/2 the called amount)!
SWAP #4: Chips: Eat baked potato or tortilla chips instead of regular/fried. BONUS – make your own baked fries or sweet potato fries at home!
SWAP #5: Cold Cereal: Buy whole wheat or whole grain cereal with at least 3-4g fiber per serving instead of … Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp – you get the idea :).
SWAP #6: Hot Cereal: Try steel cut oats or rolled oats instead of pre-sweetened/sugary instant oatmeal or cream of wheat (you can make your regular oatmeal flavorful on your own with a variety of toppings and mix ins like cocoa powder, fruit, nuts, stevia, cinnamon, and honey).
SWAP #7: Sides: Make healthy food choices when ordering out or making side dishes at home. Try carrot sticks, fresh fruit or a salad instead of french fries or potato chips.
SWAP #8: Cream Cheese: Use 1/2 the amount of regular cream cheese, or try low fat / whipped cream cheese (read the ingredients and watch out for too many stabilizers or preservatives in the list for the low-fat versions!)
SWAP #9: Burgers: Opt for veggie burgers or turkey burgers instead of regular full fat/beef burgers, and order them on a wheat bun or a lettuce wrap.
SWAP #10: Mexican Food: Opt for refried vegetarian/low fat black beans instead of regular refried beans (which are often cooked in lard)
SWAP #11: Sour Cream: Try 0% Greek Yogurt!
SWAP #12: Condiments: Try ketchup & mustard instead of mayo/dressings/oil on
Healthy Kid Meals for Picky Eaters
These nutritious meals will even have crustless sandwich fans hungry for more.
Butternut Squash Chipotle Chili
For the person that swears against vegetarian meals being filling enough, whip up a batch of chipotle chili in your Instant Pot or crockpot. The chunky, naturally sweet butternut squash paired with hearty beans and smoky spices will have even meat eaters feeling satiated.
Rainbow Hummus Veggie Pinwheels
One of the best ways to get young kids to eat naturally nutritious foods is to emphasize the rainbow a variety of veggies creates. The colors in the pinwheels are so incredibly vibrant, making for such a fun snack. Since different antioxidants create the different colors in fruits and vegetables, these wraps pack in all the important vitamins and minerals.
Mac and Cheese Muffins
Swap white flour pasta for nutrient-rich legume pasta (made from chickpeas, lentils or black beans) because they contain about double the protein and triple the fiber compared to most standard noodles. Then, kick things up a few notches by baking mac in a muffin tin to create portion-sized delights that are crunchy on the outside and ooey-gooey cheesy on the inside. Good-for-you mac and cheese that your kids can devour with their hands — what’s not to love?
Ricotta Gnocchi with Chunky Marinara Sauce
If your kids can handle modeling clay, they can make ricotta gnocchi! You may prefer to make the initial dough to assure the amounts are correct, and instead of knives, you can let the younger kids pinch out pieces by hand or give them small cookie cutters to make fun shapes.
Easy Oven-Baked Chicken Tenders
Chicken fingers are a family-favorite but restaurant versions are usually full of saturated fat and sodium. Registered dietician Frances Largeman-Roth created an oven-baked recipe that has all the flavor kids love without the excess breading. Feel free to experiment with the seasonings, like adding a little more spice for kids who can handle the heat.
Mason Jar Chicken and Ramen Soup
Anyone who is quick to slurp up a bowl of instant ramen noodles will love this homemade version that’s not laden with sodium. Whip up the cozy soup or make it ahead in a cute Mason jar. It’s an easy and enjoyable dinner idea for picky eaters.
Oven-Baked Crispy Herbed Shrimp
Another way to swap out fried food for something healthier but just as satisfyingly crunchy is to oven-bake breaded shrimp. This recipe is super simple, plus it uses ingredients that normally get thrown away, including stale bread and parsley stems.
Z’paghetti Bolognese (Zucchini Noodles with Meat Sauce)
This lightened up yet totally satisfying pasta Bolognese calls for extra-lean ground beef and is served over a bed of spiralized zucchini noodles (zoodles) instead of pasta.
Healthy Breakfast Recipes for Picky Eaters
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day…
But it can also be the biggest struggle of the day for those of us with kids! You coax your kids out of bed, try to get them ready as fast as possible, and then find yourself urging them to eat faster so that they won’t be late for school.
It’s even more difficult if you have picky eaters on your hands! Which is why I came up with a few tried-and-true, picky-eater-proof breakfast (or brunch) recipes that are guaranteed to motivate your kids to get going in the mornings
Recipe #1: TOAST. Let’s face it – most kids love bread. I like to make “toast” a little bit heartier by using a few healthy swaps:
- Use sprouted wheat bread (like Ezekiel/Food for Life, or Trader Joe’s Sprouted Bread, Alvarado Bakery, Angelic Bakery or Silver Hills Bakery-Little Big Bread)
- Add healthy fats and filling protein
- Add a fruit or veggie!
Some of my favorite ideas include Nut Butter Stackers
Avocado Toast: (with salt, pepper and scrambled eggs; with salt/pepper and fresh greens, or with sliced strawberries and seeds on top!)
Cream Cheese Toast: with any sort of fix-ins you like! Fresh tomatoes & herbs, cucumbers & cheese, nuts & dried fruit, sliced radishes – the possibilities are endless. These fun toasts were inspired by a meal I had in New York a couple years ago, at High Street on Hudson – a restaurant I found on this list of Top Brunch Spots! I think I had 4 different toasts there – all super inventive and flavorful, that I decided to recreate it at home. When it comes to feeding my family, I can’t go wrong with toast!
Recipe #2: Baked French Toast. This one is great because you can make it the night before, pre-portion it for the morning, and all you have to do is warm it in the microwave before serving. It’ll last in the fridge for 4-5 days (enough for healthy breakfasts every day of the week!)
Recipe #3: Two Ingredient Pancakes with fresh fruit. You need: 2 eggs and 1 ripe banana. Whisk eggs, mash the banana well and then combine. Warm a skillet to medium heat, spray with olive oil cooking spray. Take silver-dollar sized portions of the batter and add to the pan. Cook pancakes 30 seconds on each side (until brown and crispy) and then serve. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like pancakes, and these are both nutritious and delicious for the whole family!
Recipe #4: Overnight Oats, or Oatmeal with Toppings! The oatmeal pictured below was made with 1/2 cup rolled oats cooked with water, topped with granola, nuts, peaches and greek yogurt!
Recipe #5: Grab-and-go breakfast muffins. These hand-held treats look like dessert but are actually secretly healthy. They’re perfect to take in the car for a filling and satisfying on-the-go breakfast.
If you happen to be dining out with a picky eater, most restaurants will have some versions of these recipes on their menu (from breakfast to lunch), so you can’t really go wrong there, but you can also serve these recipes for breakfast, brunch or even lunch any day!
Importance of Food for Kids
1. Normal Development
When your child is growing, nutritious foods can help ensure normal development. Children need sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D for strong, healthy bones, for example. Children ages 4 to 8 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium. This increases to 1,300 milligrams daily from ages 9 to 18. Most kids can meet their needs for these nutrients through foods such as low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products, which are fortified with both. Fortified cereals, dark leafy greens and salmon also provide calcium.
2. A Healthy Body Weight
Ideal body weight varies from person to person, but eating nutritious foods lends itself to appetite control, making it easier for your child to stay within his recommended weight range. An analysis of data published in Nutrition Reviews in 2015 showed that children’s diets changed dramatically through preschool years, with spikes in added sugar intake that stayed around until adolescence. Eating primarily low-nutrient processed fare was linked with obesity development at midchildhood. Rather than focus on weight with your child, which can fuel poor body image and unhealthy eating habits, cultivate health-promoting habits for your whole family. Make nutritious foods available and seek fun ways to incorporate them into meals and snacks.
3. Stronger Immune Function
Stronger immune function can mean fewer bugs like colds and the flu. Fruits and vegetables can help kids get there. A study published in the journal Lung in 2017 analyzed the diets and respiratory health of children in 11 different Latin American countries. The researchers linked high fruit and vegetable intake with a reduced risk for rhinoconjunctivitis, which causes nasal symptoms, congestion and red eyes, and for the common skin condition, eczema. Routine fast-food burger intake was linked with a higher risk for these types of conditions.
4. Better Brain Function
A healthy diet really fuels the brain, making kids more likely to focus easily and perform well at school. Foods especially helpful for children’s brain function are the same ones that benefit adults. They include fatty fish, such as salmon; eggs, for the memory-supportive choline in the yolk; and peanut or almond butter, both of which supply vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps the brain use glucose as fuel. Whole grains are additional healthy brain foods for kids, due to their content of B vitamins and fiber.