Getting picky eaters to try new foods can be an incredibly frustrating experience for parents. No matter how hard you try, it seems like they want to eat the same handful of foods day after day. As a parent, you can’t feed them chicken fingers every day; they need a balanced, nutritious diet to grow.
The good news is there are ways to encourage picky eaters to try new foods. With a little creativity, you can make dishes so irresistibly delicious your kid will want to dig in. The key is finding recipes that sneak veggies into familiar flavors kids already love. Things like mac and cheese, nachos, grilled cheese, and soup can be transformed into healthy meals packed with good-for-you ingredients.
Keep reading for five kid-approved recipes that will please even the pickiest eaters in your family. These tasty dishes prove that you don’t have to sacrifice nutrition to get your kids to lick their plates clean.
Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches
Transforming an ordinary chuck roast into a mouthwatering Italian beef sandwich might seem challenging, but with a slow cooker, it’s quite effortless. In fact, this is one of those crock pot recipes that show how you can turn seemingly ordinary ingredients into gourmet delights. These sandwiches are sure to become a family favorite, not just for their flavor but for their simplicity.
To kick things off, choose a 3-4 lbs. beef chuck roast, perfect for creating a melt-in-the-mouth texture. Now, to bring out the flavors, pick two packets of the Good Seasons Italian dressing mix; not only does this add zest, but it introduces an authentic Italian flavor that’s hard to replicate.
For the tang and kick, nothing beats pepperoncini. Add a cup of pepperoncini rings and a quarter cup of its juice. Every great sandwich needs a bit of crunch and color, so the addition of roasted red bell pepper strips does the trick. And, for that deep, savory touch, whisk in some Worcestershire sauce.
To ensure the chuck roast is fork-tender, pour in beef broth and enhance the depth of flavor with whole garlic cloves. Once cooked, shred the meat effortlessly with two forks. And here’s a pro tip: if you find the sauce greasy, simply lay a paper towel over the top to soak it up.
When it’s time to serve, load up toasted hoagie rolls with the juicy, strained beef and peppers. Top it with a slice of provolone or Swiss cheese, and you’ve got a sandwich that’s both hearty and divine.
If you’re looking for an encore, why not use the juices from the beef as a dipping sauce? It gives that extra layer of yum to an already spectacular sandwich.
Stovetop Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Mac ‘n’ cheese is the ultimate comfort food for kids. The creamy, cheesy pasta is hard for little ones to resist. But, the pre-packaged and boxed versions are often lacking in nutrition. The easy stovetop mac ‘n’ cheese uses wholesome ingredients to create a healthier version that kids will love just as much.
To start, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside. For the cheesy sauce, melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Then, slowly whisk in milk and Greek yogurt, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a simmer and add shredded cheddar a little at a time, stirring until melted and smooth. The Greek yogurt gives a boost of protein and makes the sauce extra thick and creamy.
Now comes the secret ingredient – sneak in nutrition with pureed butternut squash. Butternut squash is sweet and creamy, so kids won’t detect it. But it packs in vitamin A, fiber, and potassium. Simply roast cubed butternut squash until tender, then blend or mash until smooth. Fold the puree into the cheesy sauce along with the cooked pasta.
For even more nutrition, you can stir in vegetables like diced ham or broccoli florets. The cheesy pasta coating will entice picky eaters to try veggies they’d normally avoid. Customize this family favorite with mix-ins to please all palates.
Cauliflower Fried Rice
On busy weeknights, takeout fried rice can seem like an easy dinner solution. But you can make a healthier version at home that your kids will love just as much. The secret is using riced cauliflower instead of white rice.
First, pulse raw cauliflower florets in a food processor until they resemble rice grains. This transforms cauliflower into a low-carb, gluten-free substitute for rice that packs extra nutrients.
To make the fried rice, heat oil in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the riced cauliflower and cook, stirring frequently, until tender. Now stir in diced carrots, peas, scrambled eggs, green onions, and soy sauce. For added protein, throw in leftover chicken, shrimp, or pork.
The cauliflower rice soaks up all the flavors while adding a serving of vegetables. Kids will be so focused on the familiar fried rice flavors that they won’t even notice the veggie swap. This dish proves you can still have takeout favorites on a busy weeknight but in a more nutritious way.
Loaded Chicken Nachos
For an easy weeknight meal with kid-friendly Tex-Mex flavors, try loaded nachos. Layer crunchy tortilla chips with baked chicken, beans, corn, cheese, and all your favorite toppings.
Start by seasoning chicken breasts with taco seasoning or chili powder, cumin, oregano, and paprika. Bake until cooked through and shred with two forks.
Pile tortilla chips onto a baking sheet and top with the shredded chicken. Next, add black beans, corn, cheese, and salsa. Bake until the cheese melts.
Finally, customize with your picky eater’s favorite toppings like guacamole, olives, jalapeños, cilantro, or Greek yogurt. The colorful array of personalized add-ons will tempt even veggie-averse eaters.
Nachos make the perfect interactive meal. Let kids build their own creations, and they’ll be excited to try this protein-packed dish.
Grilled Tomato Soup and Cheddar Sandwiches
Grilled cheese dunked in tomato soup is the ultimate nostalgic comfort food. But you can make this classic duo healthier with some simple ingredient swaps.
For the tomato soup, use carrots, celery, and red pepper to bump up the nutrition. Simply sauté the veggies until soft, then combine with tomato sauce and broth. Puree the soup until smooth. The sweet veggies provide extra fiber and vitamins without altering the flavor.
For an extra nutrition boost, use whole grain bread and real cheddar cheese for the sandwiches. Coat the outside of the bread with a little butter or olive oil to get it crispy and golden brown on the griddle or panini press.
The irresistible pairing of ooey-gooey grilled cheese and rich, creamy tomato soup will have your kids happily dunking each bite and asking for seconds.
Feeding picky eaters can be frustrating, but don’t give up hope. With a little creativity, you can transform family favorites like mac and cheese, nachos, grilled cheese, fried rice, and more into healthy meals. The key is sneaking nutritious ingredients like veggies into dishes your picky eater already loves.
So next time your child refuses to eat dinner, try one of these kid-approved recipes. With these tasty ideas, you can prove to even the pickiest eaters that healthy food really does taste great.