A quick run to the grocery store somehow always ends up taking much longer than anticipated when kids come along, am I right? With a small list in hand, you set out as a super smart shopper, planning out which aisles to hit first. The next thing you know, thirty minutes have gone by, and various boxes of chips and fruit rollups have managed to sneak their way into the cart. We all know this scenario all too well. What happened to the days when there were only a select few snacks that were on the top of kids’ minds? Now, it seems like there are literally hundreds of varieties of basically the same thing and they all do the same thing: fill up small tummies before actual meals are served.
Appetites definitely change and get more diverse as we get older, but it’s pretty crazy to think how simple and…well… unhealthy basic habits can take hold early on. Let’s face it; completely removing sugar-loaded foods from our kids’ diets is not realistic, at all. However, there are many foods out there that our kids may actually eat that are complete nutritional powerhouses compared to their sugary counterparts. Mealtime doesn’t (always) have to be a battlefield when trying to get them to eat what is prepared. Check out some of these ideas, I so hope they can help crack the picky eating code with your kids!
One big reason that kids start to get really picky is because they start to get used to eating the same things every day. Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to get caught up into a routine when cooking breakfast in the before school rush. Whether it’s bowls of cereal or French toast, it’s really important to try introducing new foods alongside what they usually eat. Being the first meal of the day (i.e. they generally should be hungry), breakfast is a great place to start switching things up. Sneak some oatmeal or fresh fruit next to their bowl of cereal to make things a little bit more interesting.
There are few things easier on the eyes than a nice fruit ‘n yogurt parfait. Try presenting it in something that will be appealing to kids’ eyes, like a sundae dish. Add some fresh oats and plain, low-fat yogurt mixed in with their favorite berries. The grains will give them some long lasting energy and can provide that extra boost they need to get through the long day at school!
This may cause a bit of a fuss at first, but if you can pull it off, try switching out regular flour with whole-wheat flour when making pancakes or biscuits for breakfast. The tricky part about this is that the wheat flapjacks are a bit less sweet and have a texture/color that could turn some kids off but, a drizzle of syrup on top and they should be good to go. As we know, whole-wheat snacks are much more filling than the processed, starchy classic grainy foods so you’ll feel extra satisfied dropping them off for the day with full stomachs.
Last but not least, whip up a chocolate shake! Stay with me here. By switching out the thick and gooey chocolate syrup with cocoa powder, you can give the kids a yummy drink in the morning that they will ask for again and again. Blend bananas, frozen berries, honey and the cocoa powder with low-fat milk and enjoy.
This may sound crazy and I’m not one to promise a fool proof method for making your kids less picky but I do feel like cutting down on snacking and making sure they stay active often times leans towards them being more, well, flexible at dinner. I feel like the reason that kids may get picky and grumpy at the table is because they’ve already filled up on snacks from the pantry throughout the day and sometimes aren’t hungry when it’s time to eat a family meal. Repeat after me: starve them, then run them, then feed them.
While of course nothing is 100%, I’ve found that spreading out meals a bit and making sure that I monitor their snacking makes for a much less picky eater. Instead of allowing free reign over the pantry where the snacks are I try to have bowls of nuts or grapes on the counter for the boys. These options are much better for them than the fruit snacks, pirate booty, and who know what else that seem to fly off the shelves.
It’s also pretty crazy how simple it is to get the kids to eat healthy things like fruits and veggies if you present them in a fun way. Try making fruit or veggie kebabs on skewers and serve with a small amount of peanut butter for dipping. To die for! Now that they’re tummies are satisfied with healthy minimal snacks, it’s time to tackle the most tedious meal of the day when it comes to picky eaters: dinner. That is, after you run them outside for a few hours.
No parent wants to be a short-order cook in the kitchen and make separate meals modifications for everyone is enough to drive you batty. Believe me, I get the frustration. L was the child that would, for years, only eat five things. Luckily, as the boys get older they are willing to try more and more, but we’ve all dealt with the struggles of serving a meal that you spent all day planning and having to pull out the mac n’ cheese because, heaven forbid, they found a spec of onion in their pasta.
Now for specific recipes. I’m not promising your kids will love these dinner recipes, but, they do work on my boys! I hope at least one (or more!) can work for your family.
- His & Hers Pizza: This is a great recipe for family dinner. Whole wheat dough for the win, and you can customize things accordingly. The current fav for the boys is pepperoni + green peppers.
- Lasagna Roll Ups: Another customizable recipe.
- Glantz boy Roll Ups: Not necessarily the most traditional dinner but when dad is traveling and mom picked up some grilled salmon and salad at Whole Foods? These are my go to.
- Grilled Italian Sausage: So basic, but it works. We pair it with fresh cut fruit, veggies, and whole wheat rolls. Easy dinner for everyone!
- Slow cooker flank steak: This recipe, also known as Ropa Veja, is a huge hit in our home. The boys won’t eat the rice, but they gobble up the steak and even some peppers.
- Chicken parmesan meatballs: The white chicken keeps these nice and lean and baking instead of a frying is a win!
- Chicken sausage skillet: There is sausage. There is cheese. There is breadcrumbs. And yes, veggies too! This one is a family fav.
- Grown up chicken nuggets: These are good.
Think any could be a win for your family? I so hope so. When all else fail, keep changing things up. Keep trying. And, as hard as it can be, don’t stress about it all. There are times when a premade smoothie, grilled cheese, and heck even pirate booty are A OK.