Picky Eater Meal Plan: Recipe and Snack Ideas
Do you have a picky eater?
Picky eating, while fairly common, can be very frustrating. So what can we do to help our picky eaters? Turns out there is plenty we can try.
Read on for some tips and tricks that just might help your little one taste and even enjoy new foods!
Offer disliked or new foods over and over
Multiple exposures to a food is one of the best ways to get your little one to eventually try it.12 Even if in the beginning they don’t touch or taste the food, continuing to offer new foods is essential for working toward a varied diet and an adventurous eater.
Remember to stay calm and try not to show emotion if your little one refuses to eat a food. Too much emotion or pressure may backfire and cause more resistance to eating.9
Read More: Picky Eating Guide
Other ideas to help move your child away from picky eating include
Make sure they come to the table hungry. Avoid snacks within 1 to 1.5 hours before a meal.
Role model healthy eating. Eating as a family allows your little one to watch and learn good eating habits.
Offer a few foods at each meal. Provide 1 to 2 other foods you know your little one will eat alongside the food that is new.
Try cooking foods differently (sautéed, roasted, steamed) or with different flavors to help your little one learn to like them.234
Practice the Division of Responsibility
If your child doesn’t seem to like a new food, don’t pay too much attention. It might take up to 10 or more times before they like it.5 Rather than forcing your little one to eat, which may backfire, use the “parent provides, child decides” philosophy.
Parents choose which foods are offered, but your child should be allowed to choose whether to eat, which foods to choose, and how much to eat.67
Know that exposure to a food – touching, seeing, licking, smelling – is just as valuable as eating it.8
Read more: The Division of Responsibility: Helping Avoid Picky Eating
Have fun with food!
Getting your child involved in playing with food or helping prepare food can be a great way to introduce them to new (or disliked) foods without the pressure of eating it. This may help pave the way to them eventually trying – and maybe even liking - those foods.1011
Try it out:
Family Dinner Ideas: Fun and Easy Interactive Meals to Make with your Child
Fun Food Activities to do with Toddlers
Pro-tip: Interactive Meals
A fun way to expose your child to new or previously disliked foods is setting up interactive meals. Your child can choose from a balanced offering of: one or more types of vegetables and/or fruits, a protein, whole grains, and a dipping sauce (if the meal calls for it).
You can do this with the recipes you already make. Arrange them in a way that gives your picky eater the freedom to choose the components they want to eat.
Interactive meal example
Instead of chicken and veggie teriyaki stir fry over rice, try separating the meal components into separate serving bowls: rice, cooked veggies, cooked chicken, and a teriyaki dipping sauce. Place them on your child’s plate separately or have your little one serve themselves from the options.
Having the meal components separate might be less intimidating for a picky eater than all foods mixed together. See more examples of interactive meals in the meal plan below!
Read more: When It’s More Than Picky Eating: 4 Warning Signs
Check out our Picky Eating Guide
Picky Eater Meal Plan
The below meal plan, snack, and recipes will help you come up with more ideas for fun and alternatives ways to feed your picky eater, while also provide a variety and balance.
Be sure to modify the below foods to provide your child with food textures they can handle at their age and stage of eating.
Option 1: Muffin Tin Eggs made with minced bell pepper and spinach
Option 2: Whole grain waffle with ricotta cheese or yogurt and berries
Option 3: Surprise! Instant Oatmeal
Option 4: Almond Butter Whole Grain Toast with Sliced Banana and Pumpkin Seed Sprinkles
*Interactive Meal*: Oatmeal bar: cooked oats, nut butter, fresh or frozen berries, chia or hemp seeds, sliced bananas, no sugar added jam, pureed fruit/veggie pouch
Option 1: Chicken vegetable soup with fun-shaped pasta
Option 2: Tex-Mex Pizza: whole grain English muffin topped with pasta sauce, cheese, and black beans (let your older tot choose their ‘pizza’ toppings from a few options you offer)
Option 3: Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Bites
Option 4: Turkey, Carrot & Hummus Roll-Ups
*Interactive Meal: Sandwich bar: sliced whole grain bread or sandwich rolls, sandwich condiments like mustard, hummus or mayonnaise, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, sliced cheese, rotisserie chicken pieces, tuna salad, or sliced turkey
Option 1: Whole grain spaghetti with pasta sauce, ground beef, chicken or turkey, and finely grated zucchini cooked into the sauce
Option 2: Honey Mustard Chicken Strips with steamed carrots and whole grain dinner roll
Option 3: Baked fish with green beans and roasted sweet potato strips
*Interactive Meal 1: Party platter: rice crackers, grapes, olives, cheese cubes, sliced apples, hummus, baby carrots, pita triangles, rolled up turkey slices
*Interactive Meal 2: Taco bar: sautéed or raw peppers and onions, crunchy or soft tacos, shredded cheese, mashed or sliced avocado, black beans, grilled chicken or fish, salsa
Option 1: Homemade Apple-Strawberry Butter mixed into yogurt or spread onto whole grain toast strips
Option 2: Cottage cheese and fruit
Option 3: Veggies and hummus dip
Option 4: Easy Baked Cheese Crackers
Option 5: Smoothie: Milk or plant-based milk alternative, frozen or fresh berries, baby spinach, nut butter, yogurt
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). Chat Now!
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For more on this topic, check out the following articles and recipes:
Family Meals: Developing Healthy Eating Patterns
Strategies for Creating a Healthy Kitchen for your Family
Healthy Snacks for Babies and Toddlers
Helping Prevent Picky Eating in Babies and Toddlers
6 Tips to Help Manage Picky Eating in Children