Fussy eating is something almost ALL parents will struggle with at some stage of their journey. It can be an incredibly frustrating thing to go through and also worrying if you’re not sure that your child is meeting their nutrient requirements.
I’ve got plenty of resources on fussy eating, including my factsheet on how to cope with fussy eating. I’ve also written before on why your toddler may be a fussy eater, as well as tips for helping fussy kids to eat more. In this blog, I wanted to share some of my favourite healthy meal ideas that are popular with many kids, including those that may be a little more picky.
1. Toast & toppings
I have a blog all about ideas for toast toppings for kids which has some of my favourite, nutritious toppings to add to toast. Bread tends to be a readily accepted food for most children and there are plenty of ways to jazz it up and add extra nutrition. If your child doesn’t yet like bread with any toppings, you can try serving these as a dip alongside the bread to build up their familiarity, before trying to add them to directly to the bread.
Another firm favourite with kids, pasta is an ideal meal for subtly adding extras into sauces – e.g. meat, lentils and veggies. I’m not talking about “hiding” them in the sauce, as it’s important that children trust that you’re not tricking them into trying rejected foods. But mixing them in as part of a sauce can make them a little more interesting! Adding toppings like cheese, nutritional yeast, milled seeds or ground nuts can be great ways to add in a bit of boost in terms of nutrients as well!
3. Potato & filling
One of my favourite comfort foods and a great way to get little ones a bit more interested in accepting more foods, is a jacket potato and any filling. You could start with just a little fish, for example and gradually add more and more, then try to add some sweetcorn, before building it up to try more variety in terms of toppings. Gentle exposure is really important when helping little ones to become interested in foods – it’s so important they don’t feel pressured. If you’re looking for a recipe to make something a little different, try my Mexican stuffed sweet potatoes for a fun twist on the classic recipe!
4. Dips & veggie sticks
Research shows that kids are more likely to eat more of a new vegetable if it’s offered alongside a familiar dip. Dips can also be a nice way to add extra nutrition to a meal, and also a little bit of fun! The novelty of dipping their veggie sticks can make it a bit more interesting and exciting for kids. Some of my favourite dips include my butterbean hummus recipe, pesto or simply some yoghurt with a little lemon juice or tahini mixed in.
5. Porridge / cereal
Offering porridge or cereal at lunch or dinner is absolutely fine. Both of these meals can easily adapted to really pack in the extra nutrients, making them ideal options for fussy kids. My blog all about how to choose a healthy breakfast cereal should help you when searching for cereals for the kids. I also have a blog with my favourite porridge recipes for kids which has lots of ideas for adding variety to a family favourite!
It’s like pasta, but slightly different! Variety doesn’t always have to be complicated or offering a totally different meal for every single meal of the day. Sometimes, simply changing up the type of carb they have or offering it in a different way can help to build in a bit more variety. Orzo is quick and easy to prepare and is a food that many little ones like. I love to serve it with a ratatouille sauce and top with grated cheese and ground nuts!
7. Rice & peas
Similar to orzo, rice is a food many kids love, even more fussy ones! Rice and peas is a classic combo, and actually a really balanced option, with peas providing a source of protein. You can add some cheese, egg, yoghurt or hummus which helps to add a little moisture and then gradually start to add in extra veg.
Of course, sandwiches are a staple for many families and particularly with picky eaters. Whilst sandwiches often get a bad reputation, they can actually be a perfectly balanced meal. If you’re stuck on the same filling, start slowly and try to build in more variety over time. Change up the TYPE of bread you’re offering too – pitta bread, bagels, English muffins, wraps, chapatti – this is all part of exposing them to a variety and them becoming more familiar with different types of foods.
When thinking about your sandwich filling, try to think about balance where you can. Some of my favourite, balanced sandwich fillings are below – not all of these will be realistic for your little one just yet. You can try offering one half of the sandwich with the full filling, and one half with just marmite, or peanut butter, for example.
- Marmite and cheese
- Peanut butter and banana
- Cheese and tomato
- Tuna and sweetcorn or cucumber (with yoghurt “mayo”)
- Chicken and avocado
- Hummus and pepper
- Egg and avocado
9. Pitta Pizzas
These are an absolute favourite in our house, and a meal that most kids (and adults) enjoy! They’re super simple to make and also make a really balanced meal too. Again, you can start by keeping it simple with just tomato puree and cheese as toppings before slowly building in additional toppings like sweetcorn, mushrooms, peppers or olives. You can also start by adding some of the toppings on the side, rather than on the pizza, just to keep up the exposure, without any pressure for them to try. Try my pitta pizza recipe here.
10. Savoury muffins / pancakes
Muffins and pancakes don’t have to be sweet, and they can be a great way to add in extra veg and nutrients for fussy eaters! It is important to continue to offer vegetables in their full form, and not only in muffins and pancakes. This is so that children have the opportunity to become familiar with them, and won’t only eat them in the form of a muffin. However, for fussy eaters, it can be a first step to them tasting a veg they might have rejected. Serve along with a dip, such as yoghurt or hummus for added flavour and nutrients. Try my veggie breakfast muffins recipe or my cheddar and spinach muffins from my book, How To Wean Your Baby.
I hope you’ve found this blog helpful, and that some of these meals help if you’re struggling with a fussy eater. For more on navigating the ups and downs of feeding toddlers, check out my Fussy Eating Crash Course.