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Picky Eater Meal Plan: Recipe and Snack Ideas

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boys staring at a bowl of fries and ketchup

What should you know about feeding your picky eater?

  • Picky eating is very common
  • Being consistent about introducing new and disliked foods repeatedly will help your little one eventually accept them

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.1, 2 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.8

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.3
  • Role model healthy eating. Eating as a family allows your little one to watch and learn good eating habits.4
  • 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.2
  • Try cooking foods differently (sautéed, roasted, steamed) or with different flavors to help your little one learn to like them.

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 baby should be allowed to choose whether to eat, which foods to choose, and how much to eat.6, 7

Know that exposure to a food – touching, seeing, licking, smelling – is just as valuable as eating it.8

Read more: Avoiding Picky Eating

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.

For 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

Breakfast

Lunch

  • 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

Dinner

  • 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

Snacks

  • 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 milk alternative, frozen or fresh berries, baby spinach, nut butter, yogurt

Let’s Chat!

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 dietitians 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-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!  

For more on this topic, check out the following articles and recipes:

Family Meals: Healthy Eating Patterns

Strategies for Creating a Healthy Kitchen

Healthy Snacks for Babies and Toddlers

 

Our meal plans offer recipe and meal suggestions for your child. They are not designed to replace your doctor’s recommendations, nor do they take into account special nutritional needs, including allergies and intolerances. The meal plans suggest serving sizes that may or may not be appropriate for your child. Please consult your doctor to determine what is best for your child.

For more information on picky eating, please visit our Picky Eating Hub.

Sources

More yummy meal plans.

Serve Up Those Superfoods

Serve Up Those Superfoods

Serve Up Those Superfoods

Our Happy Family Organic Superfoods Cookbook for Baby & Toddler is chock-full of yummy, easy-to-prepare meals your whole family will love.

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