The best kids' dinner ideas for picky eaters

Happy children, easy recipes, clean plates!

By Ruth Devine

If you have ever had to cook for a child who is a picky eater, you will understand the frustration of having your food rejected.

A turned up nose. A plate pushed away. A bowl tipped over even.

But the worst is that one word said with all the disgust that a small person can muster. "Yucky".

Yucky is a word that can drive the most patient parent on the planet to distraction.

That carefully crafted meal that took time, effort, care and money to create has been dismissed on the whim of a person whose diet you take very seriously indeed.

But if you have a picky eater in your family, fear not for you are not alone. And the likelihood is that it's not because of anything you are doing or not doing.

There are tips and tricks to getting a picky eater to eat. *(Image: Getty Images)*
There are tips and tricks to getting a picky eater to eat. (Image: Getty Images)

A recent review of dozens of studies dating back to the 1990s that all looked at kids' eating patterns found that fussy, picky or choosy eating habits were linked to and affected by everything from parental control at mealtimes to social influences to maternal eating patterns to personality traits.

But the good news is that there are tricks and tips that can help mealtimes become less fraught.

READ MORE: Fussy eaters Q&A

How to help a picky eater

  • Introduce a wide variety of foods from as early as possible and remember to exercise enormous amounts of patience in the face of rejection. It can take a young baby 10-16 tries to accept a new food.
  • When offering a new food, start with small portions even if this means only one taste or teaspoon at a time.
  • Set realistic expectations. Getting your child to move from white bread to a white preservative-free sourdough is a small step but can make a big change at a nutrition level.
  • As your child gets older, continue to offer variety. Even if your child has 15 things on their food list, introduce more. If your child loves a bagel with cream cheese, for example, and typically eats it every day for school, start offering it every other day.
  • Rotate your meals so that your child becomes familiar with a wider range of different foods.
  • Don't be afraid to use herbs and spices. Work with your child to identify herbs and spices they may like to try. Start, for example, with a sprinkle of oregano on a pizza.
  • Choose a new vegetable and spark your child's interest by letting them get involved with preparing it in various ways. For example carrot can be eaten steamed, roasted, fermented, cut into strips and cooked like pasta, baked in muffins or cake or turned into Bliss Balls.
  • If you are stuck for ideas take into consideration the eating preferences of the fussiest member of your family and choose meals and recipes based on the foods they love to eat. For example, if your child loves pizza, try a cauliflower or sweet potato pizza base.
  • Stretch their food choices focusing on the foods they love to eat. If they are an avid cheese sandwich eater, then offer them a wrap with cheese instead of a sandwich. Then move onto cheese melted over a jacket potato, then add tuna to the melt. Or if they love chicken nuggets, offer homemade turkey schnitzel.
  • Most importantly, seek help early. Obviously, every child is different, but if you find that meal times are way more stressful for you than they are for your peers, it's time to speak to a nutritionist or feeding therapist. Remember, the main aim is to bring the joy back into meal times.

WATCH: Healthy meal ideas that will get eaten!

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Take a look at our gallery below for 15 simple dinner ideas that will please even the pickiest of eaters!

Many kids go through a picky eating stage. *(Image: Getty Images)*
Many kids go through a picky eating stage. (Image: Getty Images)

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