Picky Eater Food List: 5 Foods Picky Eaters Need More Of
- Your child needs all the right nutrients to grow up strong and healthy.
- Some children are picky eaters and therefore may be missing out on important nutrients.
- To teach your child healthy eating habits, let them know what they’re eating and get creative with our picky eater food list.
- Despite your best efforts, some children may still need extra nutritional support.
- If so, look for the highest quality, most natural supplement you can get your hands on.
The earlier you can teach your little one healthy eating habits, the better. Growing children need a wide range of essential nutrients for optimal health and development, and those nutrients come from healthy food.
If your child would rather live on endless chicken nuggets than eat their veggies at dinnertime, you may have a picky eater on your hands. Never fear though, because there’s a lot you can do to make things easier — starting with our picky eater food list. We’ll take you through five nutrient-rich foods and how to make them child-friendly.
Let’s explore why young children need healthy food and what exactly that looks like. Then we’ll look at some ways to help you introduce healthy foods in a way they’ll love.
What Is Healthy Eating?
Healthy eating starts with the right combination of fresh fruit and vegetables, protein, and whole grains. These provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, and other nutrients your child’s growing body needs, from vitamin A to zinc.
Healthy meals and healthy snacks can also be delicious. It’s all about how you prepare them — and how you “sell” them to your child.
Why Are Some Children Picky Eaters?
Picky eating is a common problem and there are several possible causes. Your little one may not like the way something looks, or they might have an aversion to its taste or texture. Or they simply may not be hungry at the time you set for meals. The good news is that all of these things can be changed — with the help of our picky eater food list.
As they get a little older, children may choose to be vegetarian or vegan. This is a very healthy choice but it also brings some of its own challenges, as they may then be at extra risk of certain nutrient deficiencies. Make sure you address those by including nutrient-rich, plant-based foods in their diet.
Another possibility is that your child may have an underlying health condition — like food sensitivities or digestive challenges — that makes eating uncomfortable for them. If you think that might be a possibility, consult your pediatrician for advice on the best way forward before experimenting with our picky eater food list.
Your Essential Picky Eater Food List
All children have their favorite foods. There are also some foods that many children love to hate — and that’s a shame because they’re full of essential nutrients. Our picky eater food list should help you get some of these trickier foods into their diet, along with those critical nutrients.
Feel free to adapt the basic principles of our picky eater food list to what you have in your pantry and what your child likes. If you’re looking for more ideas, you’ll also find a wealth of recipes online.
Let’s explore some of those healthy foods and how to prepare them to appeal to your little one’s tastes.
Avocado is full of heart-healthy fats and fiber, along with vitamins K, C, E, and B6, as well as magnesium, potassium, folate, and other helpful nutrients.
Kids’ main complaint about avocados is often the consistency. Try these workarounds:
- Slice the avocado very thinly and put it between other toppings on a whole-grain sandwich. Or mash it and use it instead of butter.
- Make some guacamole by mashing or blending the avocado then adding extras. Onion, tomato, and garlic work well (just leave out whatever your child doesn’t like), along with a dash of lemon juice and salt. If you want to up the protein quotient, add some cream cheese (low-fat if you choose, although if your child is generally eating healthily, full-fat should be fine). You can even try adding something unusual like mango and see how that goes down. Be sure to chop whatever you add quite finely so there aren’t too many “chunks,” which tend to be unpopular. Serve as a dip with crackers or baby vegetables.
- Blend avocados into smoothies — they go well with just about any other ingredient.
- Blend and add to pasta sauces or sandwich toppings.
- Use it to make “magic” green pancakes or a healthy and delicious chocolate pudding, using a natural sweetener like dates, honey, or maple syrup.
Beans are very high in protein — which is important for building muscle — plus fiber to keep your little one’s digestive system working well. They’re also high in magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, and other important nutrients.
Children tend not to be fans of the flavor or texture of beans on their own — or other similar legumes like lentils or chickpeas — so try mixing it up:
- Offer some tacos or whole-grain pita pockets with a selection of fillings, like black beans, rice or quinoa, bell peppers, avocado, and homemade tomato sauce or salsa. Let them choose their own combination that works for them. They may even come up with a creative blend of ingredients that you’re tempted to try.
- Mash or blend them with some lemon juice and olive oil, and use them as sandwich fillings. Or offer them as a dip (many kids won’t eat chickpeas but they will eat hummus) to scoop with crackers or child-friendly veggies like baby carrots, baby corn, baby cucumbers, or sugar snap peas. Experiment with arranging the veggies on a plate in interesting and colorful ways.
- Try roasting them with some olive oil and a little salt to make crunchy snacks.
- Make veggie tots or burgers with beans instead of ground beef. Try beans of pretty much any kind, plus shredded veggies like carrots, zucchini, or corn. The key is to make them bite-size and serve them with your child’s favorite sauce. You could also use them to top whole-grain pasta in whatever shape works, from macaroni to bowties, or choose a gluten-free alternative.
This cruciferous vegetable contains many of the same nutrients as broccoli — with the advantages that it has a mild taste and it’s not green (usually — cauliflower does also come in green, purple, and orange). It’s extremely high in vitamin C, and also contains vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron, along with fiber and even some protein.
Sadly, many children say they don’t like cauliflower because it tastes and/or smells “funny” — and they may be right. With clever treatment though, you may be able to persuade them to eat it:
- Toss florets in olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning and whole-grain breadcrumbs, and then roast them. This one works well with broccoli too. Serve the crunchy mouthfuls with your little one’s dip of choice.
- Use cauliflower as the base for a pizza — after all, what kid doesn’t like pizza? You can get as creative as you like with the toppings.
- Cut cauliflower into small pieces then steam it. Mix the steamed cauliflower into other dishes like lasagna or mac and cheese. You can even mash it into mashed potatoes.
- Rice it and saute with a little olive oil. Then use it like rice, or mix it into normal rice.
Bananas are packed with nutrients like vitamin B6 and fiber, which acts as a prebiotic. They contain respectable amounts of vitamin C, potassium, and manganese. They’re also naturally sweet, which is always a bonus for children.
Unfortunately, picky kids can find their texture “mushy.” Luckily, there are ways around this. Try these ideas:
- Make a smoothie by blending a banana with a liquid such as yogurt, or nut or soy milk. Then add your choice of other ingredients like berries, stone fruit, seeds (chia, flax, or hemp are good options), nuts or nut butter, plus unsweetened cocoa or raw cacao for a chocolate flavor. Apple sauce works well for some extra sweetness and it’s also natural (just make sure it’s free of added sugar). Blend it all together well so it’s completely smooth, or you may get complaints about “bits” in it. No one will complain if you sprinkle a few low-sugar chocolate chips on top though.
- Make some crunchy banana chips for snacking.
- Cut a banana into slices, sandwich them together with some natural peanut butter or nut butter, then freeze them like that or on a stick to create a banana pop.
Spinach is exceptionally rich in nutrients — in fact, it’s sometimes classified as a superfood. It’s high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A (especially if you cook it), as well as potassium and folate. It’s also full of good-for-tummies fiber and chlorophyll, which is an antioxidant.
Kids often complain about the bitter taste of spinach (and some other green veggies), so the key is to find ways to reduce that bitterness:
- Add it to a smoothie, along with a banana for sweetness and some blueberries — which go surprisingly well with spinach.
- Saute then blend it to make a puree, which you can add to many other dishes like hummus, pasta sauces, chicken dishes, or meat-free lasagna.
- Chop it up finely and add it to scrambled eggs to make “green eggs” (with thanks to Dr. Seuss).
- Mix small pieces into a salad as a leafy green, along with the usual lettuce.
- Make naturally sweetened banana and spinach muffins or delicious popsicles.
Picky Eater Tips to Encourage Healthy Eating
Now that our picky eater food list has got your creative juices flowing, let’s look at a few basic principles to manage your picky eater:
- Introduce new foods often and keep offering them — without applying any pressure. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of putting something in front of your child multiple times before they finally get used to it.
- While it may be tempting, don’t disguise absolutely everything. Healthy eating habits stick best when your child knows what they’re eating and why.
- Even better, get kids involved in preparing meals from an early age.
- At family meals, talk about the benefits of different foods. For example, “carrots help you see well” and “beans help your muscles grow big and strong.”
- Try to keep mealtimes as regular as possible, so your little one knows exactly when the next one is.
- Serve appetizer-size portions, cut into kid-friendly sizes that work for little fingers and mouths.
- Put a variety of foods, with different textures and colors, on their dinner plate and in their lunch box to vary the nutrients they’re getting. Give them a sense of control by allowing them to choose which of them to eat.
- Pay attention to what they like — strong flavors, smooth or crunchy textures? — and give them more of that in different foods.
- Don’t keep unhealthy foods like candy and chips in the house. Rather, display healthy snacks like fruit and nuts, so they become the norm.
- While sauces like ketchup are often very popular with kids, be aware that many of them are full of added sugar. Check the label carefully when you buy or even better, make your own at home.
When Your Picky Eater Just Won’t (or Can’t)
Sometimes, no matter what you try from our picky eater food list or how perfect your meal plan is, your little one still won’t eat enough fresh fruit and veggies. If that’s happening regularly, or if your child has a condition like celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that reduces nutrient absorption, they may need extra support.
In any of these cases, consult your pediatrician to find out if you should give them a nutritional supplement to top up their nutrient intake.
If your healthcare practitioner agrees that a supplement is the way to go, choose carefully. A good place to start is with a plant-based multivitamin that’s as natural as possible.
Llama Naturals Multivitamin Whole-Fruit Gummies are made from real fruit and packed with 13 naturally sourced vitamins. They contain no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, and they’re also free of artificial colors and flavors, gluten, and other nasties. With Llama Naturals, it’s goodness all the way — and kids love them.
Picky Eaters Grow Up Too
Even if they never become an adventurous eater, even the pickiest eater eventually grows up and is likely to be happier to try different foods.
In the meantime, use the ideas from our picky eater food list to do what you can to encourage them, and if you’re still concerned they’re not getting all the nutrients they need, consider adding a natural, plant-based supplement to their diet. It’ll take a weight off your mind. Then you can focus on other important things, like playing games, reading stories, and hugging.
Llama Naturals is a plant-based nutrition brand that has created the World's First Whole Fruit Gummy Vitamins that are made with no added sugar and whole-food vitamins. They are USDA Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, free of common allergens, and are slow-cooked on low heat to retain rich phytonutrients & fruit flavor. It’s a win-win gummy vitamin that the whole family will love.