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Meal Ideas For Fussy Eaters

Published by: Chef Amy Hand • Updated: February 6, 2024 • Checked By: Chef Matty Riedel

As most of us have experienced, the fussy eaters tend to be, you guessed it, kids! And man, those little ones can kick up a real fight!

“My kids can never find their shoes but they find a tiny piece of onion in their dinner IMMEDIATELY!”

Great Meal Ideas For Fussy Eaters: Tips & Tricks

The main issue is that it can be very hard to get a fussy eater to eat a balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables so they grow up strong and healthy. I will give you a few tips to help you round out your child’s, or fussy adult’s, diet in a way that will be subtle and devoid of angry tears.

A classic technique to trick fussy eaters into eating a wider range of foods is to use familiar, well-loved meals and adjust them to include some sneaky goodness. Combining the ingredients they are more averse to with favourites like cheese or tasty sauces to make them a little palatable is a quick and easy way to open their eyes to new foods.

So here are some foods that are appealing to most people, especially kids, that you can tweak to include some healthy ingredients.


Pasta

Is your kid a pasta lover? Well, I’ve got some tricks for you. Gnocchi is a delicious, homey meal that is filling and comforting. The easy way to make these potatoey pillows healthier is to substitute potatoes with sweet potatoes. They can be directly swapped with no changes to the recipe necessary and very little flavour difference, in fact using sweet potatoes actually makes mixing gnocchi easier as they don’t become gluey when overmixed like regular potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a superfood high in fibre, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium, so they are a welcome addition to any diet.

Another family hit that can be adjusted is lasagna. If you stick with the meat option, you can add vegetables to the beef (this technique can also be used to jazz up spaghetti Bolognese) and cut them small enough that they almost melt into the meat and hide under the layers of pasta, cheese and béchamel.

meal ideas for fussy eaters: lasagna

This is also a great way to rework a fussy classic tomato sauce and pasta by creating a healthy homemade marinara free from preservatives and vitamins that you can use as a base to blend in even more vegetables if you want to get creative.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a vegetable notoriously unpopular with kids yet very easy to slip sneakily into many dishes, especially ones already popular with fussy eaters. This is important because they are a great source of fibre, protein, calcium and iron and are high in vitamins C and K. 

The name of the game is familiarity and comfort. I managed to get a notorious cauliflower hater to eat a whole bowl of it by serving it in the form of some crunchy and sticky sweet and sour cauliflower, which tastes way too good to be good for you. Another favourite, cheese sauce, can be completely substituted using blended cauliflower instead of a roux that gives all the satisfaction of a creamy sauce with far more health benefits. You can transform this simple vegetable into so many things with a little creativity!

meal ideas for fussy eaters: fried cauliflower slices

Cauliflower in different forms can also replace a lot of empty carbs like rice or mashed potatoes by serving cauliflower mash or rice as a substitute. However, this might not be as easy to sell to a beady-eyed, fussy eater.

Soup

The beauty of soup for fussy eaters is all in the blending! This way, you can pack as many flavourful and disliked vegetables into the dish as you want. Pick a popular base ingredient with the fussy mouth you are trying to feed, get out your trusty soup maker, and cook it with other vegetables you want to use up. If you want a dairy-free option, using plant-based milk as a finisher is a great option and almost undetectable in this context.

carrot soup in a white bowl with black trim

Burgers

Burgers are a massive hit, no matter the picky eater’s age. They are associated with an unhealthy indulgence you get as a treat if you are really good. Now that being vegan and vegetarian has become so common, so many recipes for meat-free patties are so convincing in texture that you could easily trick the burger enthusiast into eating a whole bun full of veggies with no problem. The patties could be mushroom, beetroot, lentil, and even chickpea, which are carefully flavoured and seasoned to be just as tasty as the real deal without anyone realising it.

These substitutes can also be used for meatballs, in the same way, served with a big bowl of pasta and nutritious homemade marinara sauce.

burger with chesse bacon and pickles

Loaded Baked Potatoes

Loading up a steaming hot potato with all the fixings is an indulgent treat that can be switched up to be healthier without compromising on flavour. Swap the potato for a sweet potato and load it up with diced tomato, spring onions and cheese to taste like a soft, pillowy pizza. This is also a great budget-friendly option that you could whip up from pantry staples on a weeknight with no bother.

loaded baked potatoes alongside a small bowl of dipping sauce

Crumbing And Battering

Fried food is an unhealthy treat that can get anyone eating salivating, and luckily, it’s super easy to hide some goodness in its crunchy coating. From fritters to samosas and crumbed proteins, the classics can all be substituted or added to include healthier ingredients like zucchini, lentils, and chicken with tofu. Whatever you can think of, you can probably hide it in crumbs or batter with a good dipping sauce to top it all off.

crumbing and battering

Meal Ideas For Fussy Eaters: Summing Up

Although it might seem like fighting a losing battle when feeding a truly fussy eater with these little tricks, hopefully, mealtime will turn from a battleground to a moment of peace.

I’ll leave you with one age-old piece of advice when cooking for fussy eaters:

Never underestimate the power of cheese. Thank you.

Chef Amy Hand