Picky eaters. Is there a more demanding crowd to please at the dinner table? Mealtime can be stressful enough, but when you’re unsure if bellies will be full and plates will be empty, it’s enough to make anyone think twice about dinnertime.
Rest assured, you can find a way to please the whole family, including a fussy eater. We’ve gathered a list of kid-friendly meal ideas to serve as inspiration in the kitchen and help you feel more confident that everyone at the table will be happy. Whether you need meals for picky eaters (toddlers or school-age children), you’re sure to find something they’ll love on this list!
Tips for Feeding Picky Eaters, Toddlers, and Other Wee Ones
Picky eating habits are pretty common among kids, so if you’re just starting out with your little ones, it’s a good idea to expose them to a variety of new foods to help develop their taste buds. Even if you have young children past the toddler stage, you can still help them embrace healthy food and find new favorite foods too!
The best thing about toddler food is the exploring — it’s all about different tastes, textures, and colors. Keep in mind you’ll want to be careful and steer clear of certain foods when getting started. Avoid large pieces of food, anything slippery, and small, hard foods until your kiddo gets a little older. Also, if your child has food allergies or digestive issues, don’t hesitate to talk to your pediatrician for guidance or a nutritionist to help you develop a meal plan that works for your family.
Whether you’re focusing on meals for picky eaters, toddlers, or school-age kiddos, spend more time finding foods they enjoy instead of emphasizing ones they don’t. Children won’t always eat the same amount from day to day. Don’t worry if they’re eagerly munching on chopped cucumbers one day or barely touching their applesauce the next.
And remember: Kids take their cues from the adults around them, so eating wholesome foods as a family can go a long way in instilling healthier eating habits.
Meals Even Your Littlest Picky Eater Will Love
Finding meals for picky eaters doesn’t have to be intimidating. It can come together in a snap, so you don’t have to spend extra time in the kitchen. If you're tapped out in the creativity department, never fear! We're happy to lend a hand with some easy meals for picky eaters and toddlers that will fill your kiddo’s tummy.
Easy Peasy Breakfast Ideas
OK, we know most toddler foods turn into finger foods whether they started that way or not, but it really is the perfect way for your toddler to discover what they love and what they don't.
First things first, you don't have to make separate breakfasts (or any meals) for your toddler and the rest of the family. In fact, it might even encourage picky eating later on. (Zoinks!)
If waffles and pancakes are on order, go ahead and let your little one tear into their own. Try these 5-ingredient vegan pancakes that require nothing more than rolled oats, half a banana, water, flaxseed, and a dash of cinnamon.
Breakfast can also be something as simple as your choice of Greek yogurt (we love Oatly’s dairy-free oatgurts) topped with fresh fruits like blueberries, strawberries, or bananas.
Sneaky Veggie Meatballs
If you've already got a picky eater on your hands and need to find a way to sneak in some nutrient-rich veggies, try hiding them in meatballs. For a yummy lunch or dinner idea, try Running on Real Food's lentil meatballs, which are made with lentils, mushrooms, olive oil, and fresh herbs. While they pair beautifully with regular noodles, spiralizing some zucchini noodles is another fun way to include more veggies in your family meals.
A tomato sauce is standard but a bright and zesty pesto would be a fun change. Add a sprinkle of your preferred non-dairy parmesan for a totally toddler-friendly, plant-based meal. Check out our list of favorite vegan food brands for other cheesetastic options.
Grilled Cheese and Quesadillas
Grilled cheese sandwiches and quesadillas are always a favorite for kids and grownups alike. And with so many different ways to customize each of them (including dairy-free cheeses!), everyone will be asking for seconds.
For grilled cheese, add a few slices of tomato and cut your toddler's sandwich into pieces. It'll be easier for them to eat, and they'll still get some antioxidant power from the tomatoes.
For quesadillas, try adding white or black beans, roasted red pepper, sweet potato, or butternut squash. Or what about adding some plant-based chicken nuggets? Kids will love ‘em!
You can always mix things up and grab some extra tortillas to turn your savory filling into tacos with fresh pico de gallo. While these will probably turn into deconstructed tacos in the hands of your toddler, at least you'll know they'll be expanding their palette.
Nuggets and Other Finger Foods
A snack board is possibly the easiest of all meals for your picky eaters, toddlers, and beyond. Think charcuterie but with plant-based snacks and bites. You can take a peek at our rainbow snack platter or build your own.
This easy meal is fun for discerning toddlers (and other kiddos) and can be filled with an array of treats that will please all ages. Try a combination for the perfect toddler meal:
- Freshly cut veggies paired with hummus, peanut butter, or other delicious sauces perfect for dipping nuggets and more
- Gently steamed green beans, broccoli, and sweet potato (you can also use those sauces!)
- Whole-grain crackers and your preferred dairy-free cheese
- Berries and freshly sliced bananas sprinkled with cinnamon
- Crispy plant-based chicken nuggets like Nowadays or leftover lentil meatballs
Leftovers are perfect for repurposing here, but if you're looking for a warm addition to your snack board, Nowadays original nuggets may be just what you're looking for. Made with simple, 100% plant-based ingredients you’ll actually recognize, they're easy to incorporate into other dinners — like tacos, sandwiches, and quesadillas — but delicious enough to stand on their own as a tasty snack or meal.
Sweet and Simple Chicken Teriyaki
Sometimes you need something super-simple, super-quick, and super-delicious. Enter our chicken teriyaki bowl. This bowl is ready in under a half-hour, and if you've done any meal preparation or batch cooking ahead of time, you really can pull this meal together in minutes.
The savory sauce is the perfect match for Nowadays nuggets, which offer 13 grams of high-quality, plant-based protein and cook up hot and fresh in under half an hour. You can skip the takeout and tuck into a home-cooked meal in no time.
Feeding Your Picky Eaters a Variety of Foods Can Be a Cinch
Finding meals for picky eaters, toddlers, and other young ones can feel like a challenge, but it doesn't have to be. Focus more on building healthier habits as a family. Learning about new and different foods at mealtime can help your little ones get excited about eating and trying new flavors. As they grow, they can discover even more about their food by tagging along on shopping trips to the grocery store or playing sous chef while you're in the kitchen.
For more meal ideas and recipes to kickstart your mealtime creativity, check out our Crave Better Blog!