It’s not that I’m a picky eater, it’s just that I know what I like and what I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole under absolutely no circumstances whatsoever in my entire life.
I might be over 21, but I love kid friendly meals. Pizza and mac-n-cheese are life and dinosaur shaped food inexplicably tastes better. I’m immediately drawn to menus I can color on, and if we’re being honest, I could probably live on bread and cheese. I’ve been this way my entire life, my taste buds haven’t really changed since I was a toddler and most meals consisted of some type of beige cracker.
My mind knows I should eat healthy, (or at least eat something that is a color), but my heart mostly just wants a Pop Tart. Mmmm. If your diet generally consists of dry cereal and frozen tacos, you’re not going to enjoy hummus and a kale smoothie just because someone said it’s good for you. It’s a delicate balance of sneaking in the healthy stuff behind enemy lines like an undercover mission.
So if you’re waging war against a toddler, teenager, spouse (or yourself) who refuses to acknowledge all four food groups, consider these kid friendly meals and meal prep tips that will satisfy even the pickiest eater in your home.
Healthy vs. Healthier
I prefer foods that are often associated with “comfort” rather than those so-called “health foods”. When I see the anything at the store labeled as dairy, sugar, or gluten-free, I instantly know that they’ve replaced all the good stuff with like, beans. So, I breeze on past those aisles and head for the Oreos. At the end of the day, I’m cranky, tired, and completely lazy. I know I don’t want to whip up a chicken breast and baby carrots and so naturally I have potato chips for dinner.
The idea is to create realistic kid-friendly meals that are healthier than what you’re currently eating. Start with baby steps by introducing new foods one at a time and only once or twice a week. New foods aren’t nearly as scary if they covered in cheese or surrounded by comfort foods. Slowly, your kid may end up loving avocados or zucchini pasta instead of just vomiting all over a plate of black eyed peas (guilty).
Easy Meals for Picky Kids
I’m pretty sure it is physically impossible for a child to complain about something they made themselves. They have the best artwork, the best fashion, and the best taste in movies (just ask ‘em). The same holds true for their meal choices. They know what they like, so provide healthy-ish options and let them do the rest. These easy kid-friendly recipes are small portions that can be made in a microwave or toaster oven as an after-school snack or on-the-go dinner that both mom and kiddos can feel good about.
- Homemade Hot Pockets
Who doesn’t love hot pockets? It’s a delicious artificial pastry that cooks in its own individual cardboard case to ensure both crispy and melty results straight from the microwave.
Chicken sausage and broccoli tastes just like the store-bought version but it’s cheaper, less fatty, and won’t give you heart failure by sodium overdose. https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/chicken-sausage-broccoli-pockets
If using premade pizza dough is too much for the overprotective mom that MUST KNOW EVERYTHING about what their kid is eating, this recipe is 100 percent from scratch.
- Chicken Wings
Chicken wings pave the road to happiness, and now you can have them homemade, frozen, and ready to eat at a moments notice. This recipe is perfect for parents who are always asking, “Ahem, what is in that sauce?” and for those of us who just want endless chicken wings dunked in ranch dressing.
I’m all for sandwiches with less than three ingredients. Ham and cheese? Yes. Turkey, avocado and tomato? No thanks. Add Nutella and I’m all in every time. The best part is these kid-friendly options add fresh fruit, which just took chocolate and bread and made it a health(ier) food. You’re welcome.
Taco Tuesday? Yes. Taco Wednesday? Sure. Taco Thursday? Absolutely! Tacos are a no brainer any day of the week. This version makes tacos even better because it doesn’t require using the stove (because who knows how to turn that thing on anyway?)
School Lunch Prep
While it may be tempting to fill your kids lunch box with white bread and goldfish, there are a certain group of people who frown on this. I don’t understand these people. Generally, my favorite lunches are those that come out of the freezer and are in the shape of an animal, (even better if they have a smiley face on them). To add a little variety and vitamins into my lunches I’m trying to be more prepared by having things like pre-cut veggies or washed fruit ready to go. A little meal prep is essential because when it’s time for lunch and I’m starving, I definitely am not taking the time to cut a carrot or wash my grapes. But with a weekly healthy meal plan, if they are ready to go there’s a possibility I might actually eat it. Kids work the same way, if it’s ready to go and looks pretty, the chances of healthy food consumption increase. Here’s a few other healthy meal prep ideas for lunch I’m loving lately.
- Homemade Lunchables
These are perfect for kids (or full-grown adults) who like to eat two bites of this and two bites of that. I love this idea because it has great variety and it keeps everything segregated (don’t even ask me to eat ham if it touched a grape). Plus, it resembles those beautiful yellow packages from the store with no expiration date because it’s not actual food and the fake cheese that is spot on delicious.
- Apple Sandwiches
Peanut butter and chocolate chips speak to my heart. I don’t care what form they are in, I’m there. Every. Time. Put them in between an apple with a star in the middle and it’s a lunchtime winner.
- More than Bread
I think I speak for all picky eaters when I say simple is better. I don’t like a lot of unknowns in my sandwiches. I also don’t like a lot of saucy things touching other things, and don’t even get me started on the debate between crunchy and smooth. (Peanut butter shouldn’t be noisy). There are a few sandwiches that rival the classic PB&J by being healthy(ish), easy, and simply delicious.
- Raisin bread with cream cheese
- Honey and banana
- Cream cheese and grape jelly
- Strawberry and Nutella
- Ham and cheese
- Pepperoni and mozzarella
Family Dinners Do-Over:
Family dinner with a picky eater can be torture. Trust me, I’m usually the sitting at the corner until the sun goes down refusing to eat a bean. Fighting over eating habits is exhausting for everyone (including the one who’s desperately afraid of being poisoned by green things). Raise the white flag, end the battle and enjoy a family dinner that everyone can be happy with.
Freezer chicken tenders: What kid doesn’t love chicken tenders? Could save leftovers for cold chicken tenders in lunch? Mom and dad can dress them up with a fancy sauce if they must (just ketchup for me please!)
Meatball casserole: Once upon a time I discovered the frozen meatballs at the grocery store and my life was transformed. I can eat a million of them in one setting, but this fun take on classic spaghetti, gives you a complete meal with a noodle choice less messy than regular spaghetti and delicious meatballs. Of course if you’re opposed to frozen foods, you can make your own meatballs too.
BBQ chicken melts: Even the pickiest of eaters usually like bbq sauce, this yummy, slow cooker option makes it easy by saving time and reducing headaches of dinnertime rush. Plus, I love that these are open face sandwiches so I don’t have to play food detective and dissect it first to inspect what is inside. It’s simple, open, and delicious.
Sour cream burritos: Every once in a while it’s OK to reach outside the box and try something new. (Foodies everywhere are rolling their eyes right now at the mention of sour cream burritos being either “outside the box” or “new”.) News flash – for picky eaters, everything is out of the box (unless of course it came from a box). This is a great option for those who don’t like anything spicy.
Homemade chicken taquitos: If you’re OK with a little kick in your Mexican menu, give these a try. Seriously, knocks my socks off amazing, and they freeze well, so you can make a big batch and enjoy them day after day whenever you’re hungry.
Cheesy broccoli potato bake: Don’t be scared, I know I hate broccoli in the title, but it’s comfortably sandwiched between cheese and potatoes. This dish smells and tastes like pure comfort. You’re welcome.
Pizza: If all else fails, you can order pizza. Of course, even the pickiest of picky eaters agree that homemade pizza fresh from the oven is even more delicious than takeout Keep a few of these on hand for last minute dinner winner.
It is physically impossible for kids to go through life without a snack in at least one hand at all times. Trust me, I have Cheetos dust on my keyboard right now and I never leave home without a little something to tie me over until I get to where I’m going. Easy healthy meal prep at the beginning of the week can help provide snacks that have more actual food and less preservatives than traditional options.
- Buy pre-cut (or slice your own veggies) to easily grab on the go or add to lunch plates. http://www.superhealthykids.com/8-lesson-i-learned-for-prepping-healthy-meals/
- Portion out baggies of chips. (Don’t deny your child the good-stuff — Doritos — just limit it.)http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/feeding/healthy-eating/the-20-best-snacks-for-kids/
- Popcorn! Who doesn’t love popcorn? It’s easy and cheap and (aside from the 2000 calorie bucket at the theatre), it’s actually good for you!
- Snack mix. Put together a few healthy items like nuts, whole grain cereal, banana chips, and popcorn tossed with some chocolate chips or M&M’s to give everyone what they want in a portable, easy snack.
Even self-proclaimed food lovers have things they just don’t like to eat. Whether it’s taking on vegetables, testing foreign cuisine, or walnuts in brownies (who does that?), satisfying picky eaters doesn’t have to be impossible. Make it easy with healthy meal prep, creative options, and kid-friendly meals that the child in all of us will enjoy.