If you regularly prepare food for others, chances are you’ve had to cope with a picky eater at some point. It’s even possible that you yourself are a picky eater. And while life would be much easier if all picky eaters liked or disliked the same foods, the reality is that just as every individual has different taste and texture preferences, the same is true for picky eaters.
While we tend to think of a picky eater as someone who will only eat plain foods such as buttered noodles and white bread, the reality is that the tastes of picky eaters can be incredibly different. For example, I knew a child who would only eat 5 foods and his list included fish, eggs, and olives!
The truth is that picky eating can be due to a range of factors. When flavor is the deciding issue for a picky eater, sometimes bland is what they are looking for, but sometimes bigger flavor is what they desire (this was the case for my son and condiments helped us hugely, along with a change in approach to feeding him). Sometimes, though, it is less about flavor and more about texture and consistency with strong preferences for either crunchy or smooth. For others, it is tied into anxiety, either about experiencing new things or needing to have a sense of control over their own bodies. And, of course, for some it is a combination of these factors.
What to Feed Picky Eaters
Because of all of these different motivations and desires, it can be hard to know how to feed a picky eater. In the past, I’ve shared lots of advice about coping with picky eaters, including what has worked for my own son, but occasionally Scramblers have asked me to suggest meals that are best for this selective bunch.
Given the varied preferences that picky eaters may ascribe to, coming up with a fail-proof list is a challenge. But I wanted to share with you a list of Scramble recipes that other parents with selective eaters recommend (I was surprised none of them mentioned any of our macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, or pizza recipes!).
A note: In order to help you to best use this list of recipes, in parentheses behind each recipe title, I have given some clues as to the kind of selective eaters that might find this recipe appealing. I hope this will help!
30 Best Recipes for Picky Eaters
1. Baked Flounder With Parmesan Crust (crunchy, neutral tasting, chicken nuggets fans, good for adding condiments)
2. Baked Turkey And Corn Burritos (soft consistency, savory, easy to add big flavors)
3. Cajun Fish Sandwiches with Crunchy Slaw (crunchy, neutral tasting, chicken nuggets fans, good for adding condiments)
4. Cheesy Tortilla Pie (pizza fans, cheese lovers, softer consistency)
5. Chicken Parmesan with Garden Herbs (chicken nugget fans, pizza fans, cheese fans, crunchy-ish)
6. Chips Ole (meat fans, crunchy, interactive/fun, easy to add big flavors)
7. Cornmeal Crusted Catfish (crunchy, neutral tasting, chicken nuggets fans, good for adding condiments)
8. Crispy Baked Taquitos (crunchy, fans of tacos and quesadillas, finger food)
9. Farmer’s Market Pasta With Sweet Corn And Tomatoes (pasta lovers, sweet and savory, can be enjoyed warm or cold)
10. Flawless Roast Chicken With Sweet Onions (chicken fans, neutral tasting, good for adding condiments, drumsticks and wings can be eaten with hands)
11. Garden Quichelettes (egg fans, soft consistency, neutral tasting, can be enjoyed warm or cold)
12. Lemony Greek Chicken (chicken fans, neutral consistency, can be sliced and added to wraps or sandwiches for fans of those)
13. Herb Roasted Chicken (chicken fans, neutral tasting, good for adding condiments, drumsticks and wings can be eaten with hands)
14. Lentil And Cheese Casserole (vegetarian meatloaf, soft consistency, good for adding condiments)
15. Mumbai Meatballs (meat or meatball fans, good for wraps or sandwiches for fans of those, fun for dipping/interactive)
16. Rigatoni with Mushrooms, Marsala, and Mascarpone (pasta fans, creamy, savory)
17. North Of The Border Veggie Chili (chili or beans fans, can be interactive by dipping tortilla chips or adding grated cheese, good for adding big flavor with hot sauce)
18. Not My Mom’s Sloppy Joes (meat fans, sandwich fans, soft consistency, good for adding condiments)
19. Pad Thai (pasta fans, Asian food fans)
20. Panzanella (crunchy, bread fans, good for taste-testing different components)
21. Turkey Parmesan Meatloaf (meat fans, soft consistency, good for adding condiments, can be sliced and added to sandwiches or wraps for fans of those)
22. Pulled Pork Sandwiches (meat fans, soft consistency, good for adding condiments)
23. Rosemary-Garlic Pork Roast (meat fans, good for adding condiments)
24. Salmon with Maple-Soy Glaze (seafood fans, sweet fans, soft consistency)
25. Sesame Noodles With Peas (pasta fans, nutty flavor fans)
26. Spiced Chicken With Maple Butter Glaze (chicken fans, sweet fans)
27. Sweet Potato Pie (dessert fans, creamy consistency)
28. Sweet Potato Quesadillas (quesadilla fans, cheese fans, sweet fans, good for adding condiments)
29. Teriyaki Noodle Stir-Fry (pasta fans, Asian food fans, sweet fans)
30. Giant Smoked Turkey And Cheddar Omelet (egg fans, cheese fans, soft consistency, can be cut up and added to wraps or sandwiches for fans of those, good for adding condiments)
Introducing New Foods
Before you launch into introducing these new foods to your picky eater, I wanted to give you a trick that I have found to be helpful. Many picky eaters find it very stressful to try new things. So giving them context can help to decrease that anxiety. You can do this by comparing the food they are about to eat to other foods they are already comfortable with. “This cornmeal crusted catfish is a lot like chicken nuggets. It is crunchy on the outside and white on the inside and you can dip it in your favorite sauce just like the nuggets!” Or, “These sweet potato quesadillas are just like your favorite quesadillas, they just have some sweetness in them, too!”
A Final Tip
One Scrambler, Carli W., shared this piece of wisdom: “I find that my picky 4-year-old is much less picky when he helps make dinner. One of the reasons we love The Scramble is that the meals are easy and there is so much he can help with. His favorites are a toss up between Chinese Lo Mein and the Chicken Parmesan with Garden Herbs.”
If you are coping with a picky eater, I recommend that you continue to cook and serve a variety of foods rather than catering too strongly to their preferences, and involve them in cooking and food prep as much as possible. But for those times when you need a drama-free dinner, hopefully this list will help.
Please let us know what Scramble recipes you would add to this list of best recipes for picky eaters.