Easy dinner ideas for picky kids
One of the greatest problems with a picky eater tends to be main meals. You may be able to get your child to eat a snack or side item, but chowing down on the main meal seems like a distant dream. The dishes in this section may help your finicky eater be more interested in taking a bite out of his picky eating.
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Sauteed Hamburger with Zucchini and Squash
We love any sautéed food and for good reason. Sautéed foods simply have a different flavor than foods cooked in other ways. If you can introduce your selective eater to sautéed veggies, he’s more likely to eat them once he acquires the taste. This simple hamburger and veggie mix is one that you may have luck getting your kids to eat.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Yield: Seven 1⁄2-cup servings
1 teaspoon garlic1 pound hamburger meat
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 medium yellow squash, finely sliced
Medium zucchini, finely sliced
Salt to taste
- In a medium saucepan, brown the hamburger meat. When the meat is near completion, add garlic and Italian seasoning. Stir well. Set aside.
- Lightly oil the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the squash and zucchini until slightly brown.
- In a serving dish, mix the meat with the veggies. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and toss well. Salt to taste and serve.
Picky Eater Spaghetti
Kids often eat pasta dishes even when they reject every other food. So, as the parent of a picky eater, you can take advantage of that fact with this spaghetti. This recipe is easy to make and makes a lot of food, but it freezes well so you can easily keep it on hand.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Yield: Seven 1-cup servings
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
4-ounce can mushroom, sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
26-ounce jar plain spaghetti sauce
1-pound box spaghetti, any variety, cooked
- In a medium saucepan, brown the hamburger meat. Drain the excess fat. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Stir well and set aside.
- Lightly coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil. Sauté the mushrooms, carrot, and zucchini together until they turn slightly brown, about 7 minutes.
- Add the spaghetti sauce to the frying pan and stir. Add the hamburger meat. Stir well, and after the mixture is hot and bubbly, remove from the heat.
- In a large bowl, stir together the sauce mixture and the pasta. Serve.
This recipe combines chicken pieces, veggies, and mushroom soup in mashed potatoes for a delicious “pie.” Consider having your child help make this dish. Chicken Whips freeze well for later use.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Tools: Custard cups
Yield: 7 servings
16-ounce package frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups cooked chicken breast, cubed
10 1⁄2-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1⁄4 pound shredded American cheese (about 1⁄2 cup)
2 1⁄2 cups prepared mashed potatoes (can be instant)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray the custard cups with nonstick cooking spray and place on a cookie sheet.
- Prepare the mixed vegetables according to the package directions. Mix the veggies, chicken, soup, and cheese in a large bowl.
- Spoon the mixture evenly into custard cups (about 3⁄4 cup per custard cup) and top with mashed potatoes (about 1⁄2 cup per custard cup).
- Place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm.
Homemade Fish Sticks
Picky eaters often reduce themselves to eating only a few items, and fish sticks tend to be one of those items. You can replace the store-bought frozen box of fish sticks with this homemade, healthy version and feel good about your child’s fixation on them. (You can also freeze your healthy sticks for a quick meal later.)
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 8 to 10 minutes
Yield: 5 servings (2 fish sticks per serving)
1 1⁄3 pound fresh cod
1⁄3 cup whole milk
1⁄2 cup cornflakes
1⁄2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Olive oil for cooking
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Cut the cod into strips, roughly 4 inches long by 1⁄2 inch thick. Soak the strips in the milk.
- In a food processor, mix the cornflakes, bread crumbs, and salt. Dump the processed mixture in a bowl, and roll the fish strips in the mixture.
- Place strips on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until crispy and firm.
Hidden Treasure Mac and Cheese
Vegetables are one of the biggest problems with picky children — they tend to avoid those veggies like the plague! However, even the pickier children typically eat mac and cheese — and this recipe hides the veggies. Shhhh! Don’t tell!
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Yield: Six 1⁄2-cup servings
7 1⁄4-ounce box macaroni and cheese, any variety
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
- Cook the mac and cheese according to the package directions.
- While the mac and cheese are cooking, cook the mixed vegetables on the stovetop or in the microwave. Be careful not to overcook.
- Stir mac and cheese and vegetables together and serve warm.
Breadsticks and Homemade Pizza Sauce
Children often like meals where they can dip their food. This quick recipe is sure to be a hit. You may also use this recipe to serve as a side dish to go along with any Italian meal.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Yield: Breadsticks: About 7 servings (2 sticks per serving); Sauce: Eight 1⁄4-cup servings
6-ounce can tomato paste
8-ounce can tomato sauce
1⁄4 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic salt
1⁄4 cup grated, fresh Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoons butter
1 loaf French bread
- In a large saucepan, mix tomato paste, tomato sauce, oregano, brown sugar, minced garlic, garlic salt, Parmesan cheese, and parsley. Heat the mixture on the stove until it’s warm. Set aside and serve as a dip.
- Melt the butter and brush it on the bread. Place the bread on a baking tray, and brown the French bread in a toaster oven. After the bread has browned, slice it into sticks.
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