Foods and recipes for extremely picky eaters
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
I wanted to challenge myself as a mom to find dishes that would be more appealing to "picky eaters" (what did I get myself into!). I can't say that I was a perfect eater all my life. In fact, I was the pickiest of them all in a family of 5 with 3 siblings.
My mom struggled with me growing up, trying to get me to eat everything, and then it turned into anything that she could think of. I would literally give my lunch away to the cute boys at school or hide them in my school bag for days on end. Yes, I was the worst of the worst, I would say.
Now as a mom, I cannot even imagine the struggles that my mom went through trying to get me to eat. I can definitely relate to any mom struggling with picky eaters as a result.
My boys are not the typical extreme picky eaters, as they do have an appetite. My eldest son will eat what is prepared, but struggles at times with vegetables, while my youngest son just loves exploring all types of food (his dad's genetics, not mine). However, sometimes they do have their moments and may like only certain foods, fruits, or vegetables.
My sister's kids on the other hand are a bit pickier with their foods, especially one particular niece who I would consider the extreme of them all. She does not like any dish prepared with a sauce, her eggs have to be perfect with no burns or cheese added, and she refuses to eat anything but chicken. She is my ultimate showdown when it comes to testing my chosen dishes.
These are a few of my favorites that you can try with your picky eaters. I will add more dishes as I explore other options, but for now, try these and let me know what you think.
If you have tried any of these dishes or have a few of your own, let me know. Please feel free to share your own experiences or ask your questions or concerns in our FORUM section. I will be happy to help you!
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“Recipes that I have tested on the extremely picky eaters!"
MACARONI AND CHEESE
Now you may be wondering why I included macaroni and cheese. That's every kid's favorite dish, right? Not so much. Picky eaters are picky eaters and even the famous kid's mac and cheese have been rejected and thrown in the garbage several times.
This is my insider's trick to mac and cheese; not all mac and cheese are created equal. My kids and my sister's kids absolutely hate any box-prepared version of macaroni and cheese. They can identify it very well and will refuse to eat it. I have thrown enough of it in the garbage to get the point. Unless you decide to revamp the box of mac and cheese (throw out the cheese packet), which I have tried and gotten success on, don’t waste your precious time.
I recommend trying a good, from-scratch recipe that they will love. It is so quick and easy to make it from scratch, that it is a no-brainer if you ask me. You will never purchase any box version of mac and cheese ever.
Here is a really easy-to-prepare homemade mac and cheese that your picky eater will definitely love and ask for more.
In addition to this recipe, I like to add a little black pepper, garlic powder, old bay season, and mustard to add even more flavor to this classic kids' dish.
PILLSBURY DOUGH CRUST
This crust is heaven! If you haven't tried it as yet, I think you should give it a try with your kid. Anything I can make from this crust is a winner. That includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Anything done with this pastry is a big-time winner with every picky eater. Even Pillsbury doughboy approves it for picky eaters and advertises it on his packaging.
I can make an omelet for my kids using the same ingredients and they don't eat any of it. I can then use the pastry and wrap the exact same ingredients in the crust and it's gone in seconds. Thanks, Pillsbury doughboy!
Mini Crescent Dogs -Pillsbury
If you haven't tried this bread yet, I urge you to give it a go! Naan is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread found in the cuisines mainly of Western Asia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Caribbean. The fascinating thing about this bread is just the simple ingredients used to make it. It is fresh and so easy to use. You can prepare it at home, or like myself purchase it in stores ( I purchase a pack in Costco - Reya naan bread ). I use this bread whenever I can to make quick, tasty, and easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner meals.
For the moms who enjoy cooking and baking, then the bread can be easily made from scratch using the recipe below.
With the prepared naan bread, I like to make fresh flatbread pizza. This is where you can get creative based on the ingredients you have on hand. My favorite sauce to add to this bread is a marinara sauce or my hubby's favorite (chic-fila Polynesian sauce).
I then add anything from leftover baked, grilled, or rotisserie chicken, ham, tuna, pepperoni, etc. I can then add any type of cheese, whether cheddar, mozzarella, or swiss cheese to the top. I can also add any vegetables that my kids will eat, for example, spinach, corn, tomato, etc. It is a definite winner for picky eaters!
PEANUT BUTTER SOUP OR STEW
This is not your typical chicken soup, I get it. It's peanut butter you may say! Yes, I am very aware of that, but I must admit that it makes a really good soup base that even the extremely picky eaters will like. I have tried the basic noodle soups with my kids and yes they may like it now and then, but the peanut butter-based ones are gone literally of the plate. I kid you not. My husband is of African descent and they prepare dishes with a peanut base all the time. My favorite dishes from his culture are actually the peanut-flavored ones. My kids are the same. They love it. The sauce itself can actually be eaten with rice or by itself in a soup version. If you're up for an adventure, then try this recipe and let me know what was your picky eater's reaction.
When preparing this dish for kids be careful of the spice level (FYI- leave the spice out of the kid's dish and add it to the grown-ups dish).
Let me introduce you to a quicker and newer version of the good old fashion lasagna because let's face it as moms we have zero time whatsoever to be slaving all day long in the kitchen trying to make the perfect lasagna from scratch. I found this really cool recipe idea and thought that I would try it on my kids. Can I tell you that it was a success! Skip the traditional lasagna noodles and opt-in for the bow tie pasta instead.
I substitute the ricotta or Romana cheese from this recipe, for cheddar cheese instead based on the ingredients that I have available at preparation.
Teryaki seems to be a popular choice in my opinion for picky eaters. I am not sure if it's the sweet or tangy flavor of the sauce that kids like, but whenever I prepare anything with teriyaki, whether a stir fry, meatballs, or plain noodles, it's a hit with my kids.
To prepare the meatballs, I purchase a bag of Aidells Chicken Terikayi from Costco, then make the teriyaki sauce and add them to the meatballs. I then serve the meatballs with plain white rice or spaghetti. If you are short on time, you can opt-in for a bottle of teriyaki sauce instead and throw it on your meatballs (my favorite bottle of pre-made teriyaki sauce is Kinders).
SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN
Here is a great way to revamp plain old nuggets by adding a sweet and sour sauce that will even win over any extremely picky eater. It is commonly used in East Asia and Southeast Asia and has been used in England since the Middle Ages. The chicken breast or thighs is cut into small pieces and lightly fried, after being coated in a batter first. A sauce is then prepared and added to the nuggets. It is definitely a favorite in my household.
INSTANT POT CHICKEN ALFREDO
There is stovetop chicken alfredo, and then there is instant pot chicken alfredo. The instant pot alfredo is by far my favorite way to prepare this dish. It is also a favorite for picky eaters. The difference in the method of cooking is the actual addition of chicken stock to the water when cooking it in the instant pot. It adds so much more flavor to the noodles as it soaks up the chicken stock while being cooked in the instant pot. This dish has been my favorite to make for my extremely picky, no sauce-eating niece.
BANANA BREAD MUFFINS
I couldn't write about recipes without giving you my favorite baked product for picky eaters. This is good old fashion banana bread or muffins. You can make a bread version of this, or muffins, which I prefer for my kids. There is just something about the taste of bananas that is a winner for kids, especially my kids. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use bananas that the kids or hubby don't want to eat anymore because the skin is spotted. I refuse to waste precious commodities such as bananas and so I make bread or muffins with them. Good trade-off!
FYI- you can freeze the bananas and have them on rotation until it's time to prepare this recipe. Just pre- thaw them before use.
"Plain rice is just plain boring rice!", says my kid's face. As much as it may be ok for grown-ups to like plain white rice, it may not be the same for kids. I like to prepare rice a little bit differently for kids with color and flavor. My kids for example are more drawn to yellow-colored prepared rice dishes I make with saffron than a bowl of plain white rice.
Rice dishes are also great to try with picky eaters. Doing several dishes, for example, my favorite one-pot rice meals with everything included is a winner. Here is a recipe that I have tried with my kids and picky eater nieces and nephews, that they enjoy and ask for more of.
Jambalaya is a Creole rice dish of West African, French, and Spanish influence, consisting mainly of meat and vegetables mixed with rice.
When preparing this dish for kids be careful of the spice level (FYI- leave the spice out of the kid's dish and add it to the grown-ups dish). You can mix it up with their favorite meats, whether chicken, shrimp, sausage, etc.
Did you find the strategies listed in this article helpful? What were some of your favorite tips? How have they worked for you? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know what you think.
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