Frustrated with your picky eaters? Here are 10 healthy picky eater meal ideas that many picky eaters love – and they might surprise you!

If you like this post, you might like our other picky eater tips.

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We all struggle with picky eaters. They play with their veggies, fuss about dinner (let’s not pretend our kids don’t fuss, mkay?), and will never ever get tired of pizza.

We’ve been talking about different ways to empower and encourage picky eaters, and in this post, I want to emphasize that sometimes, they just love different food. Then I’m going to show you 10 healthy picky eater meals that might surprise you. They are deeply loved by many picky eaters, made with real food, and are not your classic mac-n-cheese picky eater meal ideas.

When I was growing up, I had a friend who hated egg yolks, yogurt, sausage, and fruit. But she loved capers, sushi, olives, and cauliflower. Although she looked like a picky eater when people tried to feed her normal kid food, she actually just liked different food. 

My son might hate eggs, tomatoes, peppers, rice, and chicken. But he loves salad, sourdough bread, pickles, ground beef, carrots, and plain yogurt.

Sometimes kids just like different food.

girl eating

What Should Picky Eaters Eat?

Obviously, picky eaters need to eat what any healthy human should eat – a wide variety of plants, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, clean protein, natural sweeteners, and healthy fats.

And of course, plenty of picky eaters just refuse to eat any kind of vegetables or only certain kinds. That’s normal. I shared some simple creative ways we help those eaters here.

The reality is that many picky eaters prefer bland, simple food like french fries, toast, crackers, and cheese. There are all kinds of ways to take those foods and make them healthier and better for you. I talk a little bit more about that in that same post here.

But sometimes, our picky eaters just like different food.

In my experience, sometimes picky eaters are the ones who don’t like eating those foods the way the rest of us do.

My brother was well into adulthood before he told my parents that he didn’t like pasta. He never has.

Growing up, we had pasta multiple nights a week. We were a large family living mostly on a teacher’s salary, so cheap, simple food was a staple. We ate spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and tuna noodle casserole constantly.

My brother was always the picky eater who nibbled at his food and sat at the table long after the rest of us had finished.

It turns out he just didn’t like pasta. Now, he and his Colombian wife serve a huge variety of foods and flavors – all the healthy good stuff – but most of it is served and cooked in ways that never graced our table growing up.

He just liked different food.

boy eating chicken

How Can a Picky Eater Eat Better?

There are all kinds of budget-friendly ways to help train your child’s (or yours!) taste buds to branch out of their comfort zone.

1. Take the flavors they love and redress them into something else

2. Try the No-Thank-You Portion

3. Make simple, real food picky eater meals

4. Watch cooking shows (I swear this works for my kids)

5. Find the weird foods they actually like – don’t give up exposing them to a variety of tastes and textures.

What Causes Picky Eating?

There are many experts who talk about feeding young kids and the stages of development. The main thing I want to emphasize here is this: it is completely normal for kids to start out eating everything and then suddenly start refusing foods they used to love. It is normal for a kid who has always eaten his peas and sweet potatoes to suddenly refuse everything but bread.

Sometimes it’s a texture thing. Sometimes picky eaters prefer salty over of sweet – like my friend who hated jelly but loved capers.

Sometimes we make it worse when we take our child’s picky eating personally (guilty).

boy eating grapefuit

How Do You Eat Healthy on a Budget with a Picky Eater?

When you are on a tight budget, finding picky eater meals is especially hard. I know my kids would love to live off of pizza delivery.

However, we are a budget, and we are trying to eat healthy. This means we have to be flexible – cooking with the sales and what’s in season. We don’t always get to eat what we want.

Would I like to feed my kids their favorite foods every day? Of course! I love them. But I love them enough to say no sometimes, too.

We encourage our kids to eat healthy on a budget like this:

1. We make simple, real food that they love (like these recipes)

2. We follow our Snack Rule

3. We learn what foods they do like (even the weird or surprising ones) and make those.

When I plan our menu with my kids, we talk about our grocery budget. We talk about how sticking to our budget helps us save more money so we can do other things that matter to us.

Maybe for your family, that means paying off debt, saving up for a home, or saving money to travel. Every family member is part of the grocery budget, whether we are making the money, cooking the food, or eating it gratefully at the table.

Every family member is part of the grocery budget, whether we are making the money, cooking the food, or eating it gratefully at the table.

What are Healthy Foods for Picky Eaters?

In our house, we celebrate our favorite foods and try not to shame our kids for disliking other food.

Picky eaters can literally like any food, and there are plenty of healthy foods to choose from.

I think it is a good exercise in politeness and respect to learn to eat food that is served to you. We all need to learn to honor and respect others. We should also be willing to at least try new foods and textures. 

But it is okay if we do not like certain foods. 

One of my kids would happily eat macaroni and cheese every day. Some days, we make macaroni and cheese. Another one of my kids loves rice and meat and would rather have a big bowl of rice than ever have to eat macaroni and cheese again. That is okay too. Some days, we make rice and meat.

Maybe our kids do not like food that we think they will. But what other good food do they love?

picky eater playlist eBook

Picky Eater Help

Sometimes our biggest struggle with saving money and eating healthy has nothing to do with us.

Parts of this post is an excerpt from my eBook, The Picky Eater Playlist: 25 Tips & 55 Recipes to Bring Harmony to Your Table.

10 Surprising Recipes for Picky Eaters

This is a list of picky-eater approved recipes that might surprise you. Many of them have won over generations of picky eaters!

We love our picky eaters – including their quirks and weird food obsessions. If you have a picky eater, try some of these surprising picky eater meal ideas!

More Picky Eater Tips You Might Like:

What You Can Do Now:

What’s your go-to picky eater meal?

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