7 Healthy Meal Ideas Your Kids Will Love: Great for Picky Eaters

Healthy Food for Children

Ensuring your little ones are well-nourished and content during mealtimes can be a mammoth task. It’s unsettling when a once enthusiastic eater abruptly shuns everything you serve them.

However, most children will experiment with some form of fussiness or food refusal at some stage, often avoiding the very foods you wish they’d embrace. The reassuring news is that this is a normal part of child development, likely a manifestation of their blossoming autonomy and independence.

While you may feel your child’s picky eating is restricting their diet, if they are consuming foods from all the major food groups, staying active, and maintaining a healthy weight, chances are their nutritional intake is adequate.

Instead of fixating on what they consumed today, consider their dietary patterns over the course of a week. Ensure you offer balanced meals and healthy snacks incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy (or fortified alternatives), beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat, and other protein sources to support their growth and development.

There are some hints on how to get them to eat it all, as well as some top meal ideas below.

Involving Kids in the Kitchen

One effective strategy to win over fussy eaters is to involve them in the meal-planning and preparation process. Getting them hands on will also teach them an appreciation of the time and effort that goes into making their food.

Browse through cookbooks or cooking apps together, and let them suggest ideas for the weekly menu. You could also take them grocery shopping and allow them to select a new fruit or vegetable to try.

Ultimately, this is about giving them some sort of ownership over the food they eat.

Cultivating your own produce is another option if it is available to you. ‘Growing your own’ offers numerous benefits, including fresher ingredients, reduced waste, and cost savings.

If you have the space, consider starting with easy-to-grow options like cress heads, herbs, or tomatoes that can thrive in a window box. Children will delight in the growing process and enjoy tasks like giving the cress a ‘haircut’ or picking tomatoes for their supper.

Sneaking in Veggies

If you’re dealing with a serious vegetable-dodger, there are plenty of clever ways to incorporate the good stuff.

Recipes like spaghetti and meatballs with hidden veggies, ‘more veg less meat’ summer Bolognese, and pasta with tomato and concealed vegetables can help boost their daily intake.

All you are doing is chopping the veg up so small that the kids don’t realise they are eating it. You can do this in any meal you know they like, so long as they won’t notice. It’s sneaky, but it works.

Finishing a meal with fresh fruit-based desserts like frozen fruit skewers of apple slices to dip in yoghurt is another excellent way to add extra nutrients.

Portion Control and Persistence

Child Helping Prepare Dinner

Offering small portions of new foods can make them appear less daunting; you can always provide more as needed.

A starter of daintily sliced, colorful veggie crudités is an excellent way to introduce some nutritious options when they’re at their hungriest. Alternatively, you could offer them something like carrot sticks while they wait for the real food to cook. If they are hungry this will keep them occupied as well as getting some nutrients into them, and it won’t feel like they are being made to eat vegetables either.

Keep sweet treats out of sight until the end of the meal, and if packing a lunchbox, consider separating sweet and savory items.

Don’t expect immediate results though; changing a child’s attitude towards food can be a gradual process.

You may need to present a particular vegetable or dish multiple times before they’re willing to try it. Perseverance and patience are key, as it’s widely reported that a child may need to be exposed to a new food at least ten times before accepting it.

Leading by Example

Your household’s eating habits play a significant role in whether your child accepts or rejects new foods, so make an effort to lead by example. Watching parents and siblings enjoy their meals can be a powerful incentive for younger children to follow suit.

You often find that children eat very differently at school or nursery than when they are at home. This is because a group setting is a controlled environment, where everyone is eating the same thing, so each child is more likely to go along with it.

It’s the same principle at home. If everyone else is eating the food, the child is more likely to do the same.

Establishing a relaxing atmosphere during mealtimes can work wonders in defusing challenging behavior too. Play soothing music and aim to sit down and eat together as a family. Making it an enjoyable experience from the outset can foster a more positive association with food.

Timing and Treats

Ironically, overly hungry children tend to be the most challenging to feed – miss the optimal window, and mealtime meltdowns may ensue. Batch-cooking freezable recipes like a hidden veggie ragu can help reduce stress, allowing you to sit down with your children as they eat and give them your undivided attention.

Moreover, cooking after a long day at work with a clingy toddler can be a daunting task.

One thing you absolutely should not do, is reward healthy eating with treats.

Offering desserts or sweet treats as a reward for eating the main meal can inadvertently reinforce the idea that healthy, savory foods are something to endure rather than enjoy in their own right.

Alternative rewards like stickers for a reward chart might be just as effective at encouraging them to eat up. You could also consider giving them a sticker for other achievements, such as trying something new or sitting patiently at the table.

Nutritious and Kid-Friendly Meal Ideas

Meal Ideas for Fussy Eaters
Happy Face Frying Eggs

Here are some delicious and healthy meal ideas that your little ones are sure to adore:

  1. Veggie-packed omelette: Beat eggs with a splash of milk and fold in finely chopped vegetables like bell peppers, spinach, and mushrooms. Top with a sprinkle of cheese and cook until set. Serve with whole grain toast.
  2. Homemade pizza: Let your child get creative by topping whole wheat pizza dough with their favorite veggies, cheese, and lean protein like grilled chicken or turkey sausage. Bake until the crust is golden and crispy.
  3. Mini turkey meatballs: Mix ground turkey with grated zucchini, carrot, and onion. Roll into bite-sized meatballs and bake until cooked through. Serve with whole wheat pasta and a side of marinara sauce for dipping.
  4. Taco night: Offer a build-your-own taco bar with lean ground beef or turkey, whole wheat tortillas, and a variety of toppings like diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, avocado, and low-fat cheese. Let your child assemble their own tacos for added fun.
  5. Chicken and vegetable stir-fry: Sauté chicken breast strips with a mix of colorful vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, and snap peas. Season with a low-sodium sauce and serve over brown rice or quinoa.
  6. Baked sweet potato fries: Cut sweet potatoes into thin strips, toss with olive oil, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Bake in the oven until crispy and serve as a tasty side dish or snack.
  7. Fruit and yogurt parfait: Layer low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit and sprinkle with granola for a nutritious and delicious dessert option.

Remember, the key is to keep meals balanced, nutritious, and appealing to your child’s eyes and taste buds.

Don’t be discouraged if they don’t immediately embrace new foods. With patience, persistence, and a positive mealtime environment, you can help your picky eater develop a more adventurous palate and a lifelong love for healthy eating.