Need some inspiration to feed your picky eater? Here’s a picky eater menu plan loaded with real food that is kid-approved!
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Do you have a picky eater?
You know who I mean – that kid who won’t eat anything unless it’s drenched in cheese or breaded and fried?
On the one hand, I can’t blame them. I love cheese sticks and fried chicken too. However, part of our job as parents is to expose our kids to all kinds of tastes and textures.
But what do you do when your child refuses to try them?
One of my sons is very sensitive to textures. He doesn’t like tomatoes, peppers, rice, quinoa, couscous, eggs, mushrooms, or what he calls “wet chicken” (which as far as I can tell is any chicken that isn’t a nugget). And that’s just the beginning of the list.
So what is a parent to do when you have a picky eater but you still want them to eat well?
How do You Deal with a Picky Eater?
In a sense, we are all picky eaters. We all have likes and dislikes, and that is okay. In this post I want to encourage you in two ways:
1. I want to encourage you to not take your child’s eating preferences personally.
2. I want to empower you with tools and ideas to feed your eaters well.
Kids are who they are, and in the end, the fact they do not like tomatoes does not define your parenting. Your responsibility is to expose them to a wide variety of foods and flavors. Making your kids like them all is not.
There are so many ways to empower your picky eaters!
- Go here for 6 simple, unconventional picky eater tips
- Here is a list of 10 real food picky eater recipes
How do You Eat Healthy on a Budget with a Picky Eater?
When you are on a tight budget, dealing with picky eaters is especially hard. I know my kids would love to live off of cheese sticks and yogurt cups.
However, we are a budget, and we are trying to eat healthy. This means we have to be flexible, and we don’t always get to eat what we want. In our house, this applies to my kids as well. Would I like to feed them their favorite foods every day? Of course! I love them.
But I love them enough to say no sometimes, too.
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.
How do You Meal Prep for a Picky Eater?
There are many ways to meal prep for a picky eater. As a parent, you probably already know what your child loves and does not love. Which of those foods can you work into your menu plan this week?
Experts generally agree that parents of picky eaters typically handle their picky eater menu plan like this:
- Make a separate, familiar meal for the kids and make an adult meal for later
- If the picky eater chooses not to eat dinner, they make a quick go-to alternative.
Let’s be honest. I’ve done both of these things. The reality is that sometimes, it’s not worth the struggle. But I don’t do this every night.
Instead, I try to make a healthy variety of food full of ingredients and recipes that the whole family enjoys. By that, I don’t mean I only make meals that everyone in the family enjoys. If I did that, we would only eat pizza and tacos.
Some dinners feature meals that my picky eaters prefer. Some nights, we eat what Mama likes. Some nights, it’s Pop’s turn. We are all unique people with different tastes, and it is okay that we don’t all like the same thing.
Most meals have some elements that my picky eaters will enjoy. If they don’t like the rest, that is fine. They are welcome to have a No-Thank-You Portion and be done.
Picky Eater Menu Plan Meal Prep
When we meal prep, we keep all of our eaters in mind. I have kids who like rice and one who does not. We bake sweet potatoes so that on nights we eat rice, after he has his No-Thank-You Portion, he is welcome to get a sweet potato if he is still hungry. Some nights, we will eat sweet potatoes instead of rice.
As my kids grow older, they help with more meal prep and cooking. We work on our picky eater menu plan together. Not only does this help empower them for their adult life, it takes some of the meal prep work off of my shoulders. Sometimes my picky eater is more willing to simply eat what’s for dinner when he sees how much work goes into meal prep.
As tempting as it is, experts agree that making separate meals for our picky eaters is not helpful or healthy. Depending on how stubborn my eater is that day, I try to follow that advice. So I do not meal prep specifically for my picky eaters. Rather, I meal prep with them in mind, because I love them, but I also meal prep or our family as a whole.
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.
Picky Eater Menu Plan
Here is a Budget-friendly, real food menu for picky eaters. These are simple recipes made with clean ingredients that many picky eaters have loved over the years.
I’ll note which ones are good for make-ahead or meal prepping!
In order to keep up with real food scratch-cooking, I almost always double or triple our recipes and rely on “planned-overs” (or call it meal-prepping – apparently if you don’t call them leftovers, they taste better) for several meals.
Keep in mind that every child is different, so if they have a thing against the texture of oats, they might not like the no-bake energy bars. But generally speaking, these picky eater meals are very kid-friendly, they feature real, whole ingredients, and they are budget-friendly!
- Monday – Baked oatmeal (make-ahead), fruit, milk (or try sneaky veggie baked oatmeal (make-ahead)
- Tuesday – Smoothies or Yogurt, granola, berries (make-ahead)
- Wednesday – Baked oatmeal, fruit, milk
- Thursday – Egg and cheese muffins (make-ahead), fruit
- Friday – Egg and cheese muffins, fruit or toast
- Saturday – Whole wheat pancakes or waffles (make-ahead), fruit
- Sunday – Pancakes, fruit
- Sunday – Snacky lunch
- Monday – Freezer sandwiches (make-ahead), fruit, veggies and ranch dip (make-ahead)
- Tuesday – Yogurt, granola, berries (make-ahead), veggies and ranch dip (make-ahead)
- Wednesday – Snacky lunch
- Thursday – Freezer sandwiches (make-ahead), fruit, veggies and ranch dip (make-ahead)
- Friday – Tomato soup (make-ahead), grilled cheese (try this Easiest bread!)
- Saturday – Leftover pizza, veggies and ranch dip (make-ahead)
Typically, snacks in our house just follow our snack rule, and I don’t usually make anything extra. However, here are some other ideas if you need them!
- No-bake energy bars (make-ahead)
- Apple sandwich
- Chocolate chip peanut butter dessert hummus (make-ahead)
- Veggies and ranch dip (make-ahead)
- Celery, raisins, peanut butter
- Apples with peanut butter fruit dip (make-ahead)
Go here to get our 28+ Snack Ideas plus our simple Snack Rule.
- Sunday – Real food fried chicken tenders, veggies and ranch dip (make-ahead), baked crispy home fries
- Monday – Hamburger vegetable soup with bread (make ahead)
- Tuesday – Breakfast for dinner (any of the breakfast options!)
- Wednesday – Hamburger vegetable soup with bread (make ahead)
- Thursday – Macaroni & cheese, veggies and ranch dip (make-ahead) or my kids’ favorite salad
- Friday – Homemade whole-grain pizza, my kids’ favorite salad
- Saturday – Use today to eat the last of the leftovers. If you have no leftovers, make some Mostly meatless nacho dip!
If you want more simple, creative ideas and recipes for picky eaters (and more picky eater meals!), check out Picky Eater Playlist!
More Picky Eater Tips:
Check out these tips for empowering our picky eaters to eat well!
- 6 Simple Creative Tips for Picky Eaters
- 10 Real Food Picky Eater Meals
- 28 Easy, Real Food Snacks
- How I am Working Myself Out of a Job
What You Can Do Now:
What are your go-to picky eater meals?
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