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Dinner Ideas for Picky Eaters: 7 Healthy Meals & Recipes

Jan 26th, 2024 | by Mei-Li Smith, M.S., SLP

Mei-Li Smith, M.S., SLP

January 26th, 2024

Healthy Meals, Recipes, and Dinner Ideas for Picky Eaters

Embarking on the journey of finding dinner ideas for picky eaters can be both a challenging and an exciting adventure. Whether you’re a parent trying to entice your toddler or child to eat more healthy meals or an adult with a discerning palate, finding recipes for picky eaters requires creativity and a dash of culinary finesse. In this blog, we will explore a variety of relatively easy ideas for mouthwatering recipes designed to satisfy even the most selective of tastebuds. Let’s dive right in!

1. Veggie Delight: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Picky eaters often shy away from vegetables but putting them into delicious dishes can be a game-changer! Consider recipes like spinach and feta stuffed chicken breasts or this butternut squash mac ‘n’ cheese. The veggies blend seamlessly into these dishes, offering a burst of nutrition without compromising on taste. 

  • What you will need:  
    • 1 ½ cups of uncooked pasta (macaroni, spirals, bowtie, etc.)  
    • 1 ¾ cups of cauliflower 
    • 1 cup of butternut squash 
    • 2 tablespoons of butter 
    • 1 medium onion 
    • 1 cup of milk  
    • ½ cup of cheese 
  • Instructions:  
    • Steam butternut squash and cauliflower until soft  
    • Use an immersion blender, blender, or food processor to puree veggies. 
    • Heat the butter in the saucepan adding onion, stirring until soft.  
    • Add flour and cook on low heat for 2 minutes while stirring. 
    • Gradually add warmed milk. 
    • Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce the heat (you should have a thick and smooth sauce)
    • Stir in the grated cheese until melted. 
    • Add through vegetable puree on low heat. 
    • Mix cooked pasta into the cheesy vegetable mixture. 


2. Create a Customizable Toppings Bar (Variety of Styles!)

Turn mealtime into a fun, interactive experience by setting up interactive experience by setting up a customizable toppings bar. Whether it’s tacos, pizza, or baked potatoes, this dinner idea for picky eaters allows them to choose their own toppings. This not only empowers them but also encourages them to try new flavors and textures. 

DIY Pizza Bar: 

  • What you will need:  
    • Flatbread like large tortillas, naan, premade crust 
    • Pizza sauce (homemade or store-bought)  
    • Toppings can include: mozzarella, ricotta, mushrooms, pepperoni, cheese, olives, cheddar, onion, peppers, chicken, pineapple, sundried tomato  

DIY Burrito/Tacos:

  • What you will need:  
    • Tortillas – soft, crunchy, flour, corn
    • Fillers like chicken, beef, chickpeas, roasted veggies (peppers, onion, zucchini, mushroom)  
    • Toppings like diced avocado, sour cream, red onion, lemon, cilantro, corn, black beans  


3. Have Fun With Dips!

Elevate the appeal of vegetables, fruits, chips, or crackers with enticing dips. Hummus, guacamole, onion dip, almond butter, and tzatziki are not only delicious but also versatile. Experiment with different flavor profiles to discover the perfect dip that complements your picky eater’s preferences. 


  • What you will need:  
    • ½ cup of finely grated cucumber 
    • 1 cup Greek yogurt 
    • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil  
    • 1 garlic clove 
    • ¼ tsp sea salt 
    • 1 tbsp chopped or dried dill 
    • 1 tbsp chopped mint (optional)  
  • Instructions:  
    • Grate the cucumber and squeeze water out with cheesecloth or paper towels. 
    • Mix everything together


  • What you will need:  
    • 4 ripe avocados 
    • 2 limes 
    • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (optional)  
    • 1 tbsp olive oil 
    • ½ tsp salt 
    • ½ cup diced tomatoes 
    • ¼ tsp garlic powder 
    • Cilantro (optional)  
    • Diced red onion (optional) 
  • Instructions: 
    • Halve avocados by removing the pit, scoop flesh into a large bowl 
    • Squeeze lime juice onto avocados  
    • Add Greek yogurt and the remaining ingredients
    • Mash together until well incorporated  


Nut Butter Fluff  

  • What you will need:  
    • ½ cup of Greek yogurt 
    • 1 tsp of your choice of nut or no-nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew, sunflower, etc.)  
    • 1/8 tsp cinnamon 
    • 1 pinch of sea salt 
    • 1 tsp mini chocolate chips  
  • Instructions:  
    • Whip yogurt, nut butter, cinnamon and salt together with a whisk 
    • Stir in chocolate chips and add more on top 
    • Serve with sliced apples or pears, carrots or celery, animal crackers, pretzels, crackers


4. Creative Finger Foods (A.K.A. Charcuterie Board for Kids)

I LOVE a charcuterie board. Who says we can’t make them kid-friendly?! For picky eaters, the texture of food is just as important as the taste. Create bite-sized, finger-friendly snacks on a one-stop-shop board. Don’t forget to include a variety of categories like sweet, salty, crunchy, fresh, dried, and dippy! Have fun with shapes and sizes – cookie cutters and little containers are your friends! Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack, this is a fun way to provide their favorite snacks while mixing in something new! 


5. Introduce International Flavor Such as Chicken Teriyaki

Introduce picky eaters to a world of flavors by exploring international cuisines. Dishes like chicken teriyaki, vegetable stir-fry, or shrimp tacos can offer a break from routine while providing a spectrum of tastes and textures.   

  • You will need:  
    • 1 ¼ lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast diced into 1-inch cubes 
    • 1 tbsp of olive oil 
    • ¼ cup soy sauce 
    • 2 tbsp honey 
    • 1 ½ tbsp of packed light brown sugar 
    • 1 tbsp rice vinegar 
    • ¼ cup water 
    • ¼ tsp toasted sesame seed oil 
    • 2 tsp peeled and minced ginger 
    • 2 tsp peeled and minced garlic  
    • 2 tsp cornstarch  
  • Instructions:  
    • Make sauce mixture – Mix soy sauce, water, honey, brown sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and cornstarch 
    • Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet or pan 
    • Add chicken and let cook, giving space between pieces until slightly browned mixing when needed 
    • While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the teriyaki sauce mixture 
    • Pour sauce into skillet once the chicken is nearly finished letting the sauce simmer until thickened  
    • Serve over brown or white rice and steamed veggies


6. Have a Fruit Frenzy With Smoothie Bowls

Mix fruits, veggies, and even a handful of greens into a delicious smoothie bowl. The vibrant colors and enticing textures make it an appealing option for breakfast or a refreshing snack. Allow picky eaters to customize their bowls with a variety of toppings like granola, nuts, and fresh fruit.

  • What you will need:  
    • 1 cup milk (non-dairy is easily interchangeable)  
    • 1 small banana (fresh or frozen)  
    • ½ cup of veggies (kale, spinach, raw fresh or frozen cauliflower, slices of zucchini, roasted sweet potato, beets)  
    • ½ cup frozen fruits (mango, pineapple, apple, papaya, berries)  
    • Optional add-ins (1 tsp of hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, nut butter, cocoa powder, honey., maple syrup, rolled oats)  
    • Additional fresh fruits, oats, granola, chia seeds, flax, and chocolate chips to let your child decorate their smoothie bowl.  
  • Instructions:  
    • Blend all ingredients together, pour into a bowl 
    • Place additional toppings in small containers for your child to pick and choose to add on top.  


7. Incorporate Veggies Into Sweet Surprises

For those with a sweet tooth, experimenting with desserts can be a delightful endeavor. Consider dessert recipes that incorporate fruits, nuts, and even vegetables in disguise. Zucchini brownies or avocado chocolate mousse are innovative recipes for picky eaters that satisfy a craving for sweets while incorporating nutritious elements. 

Zucchini Brownies

  • Ingredients for the brownies:
    • 2 cups of all-purpose flour 
    • ½ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder 
    • 1 ½ tsp baking soda 
    • 1 tsp salt 
    • ½ cup of vegetable oil 
    • 1 ½ cups of granulated sugar 
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
    • 2 cups shredded zucchini 
    • 4 tbsp water 
    • ½ cup chopped nuts (optional)  
  • For the frosting: 
    3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
    ¼ cup unsalted butter melted
    2 cups powdered sugar
    ¼ cup milk
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Pinch of salt
  • Instructions:  
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13″ baking pan with baking paper and spray with cooking spray 
    • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.  
    • Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the oil, sugar, and vanilla until well combined. 
    • Add all the dry ingredients and stir.  
    • Fold in zucchini.  
    • Let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the batter can absorb the moisture from the zucchini. (If your mixture is too powdery, add up to 4 tbsp of water working up from 1 tbsp at a time)  
    • The batter will be thick like cookie dough so you may need to mix it with your hands 
    • Spread in prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until brownies spring back when touched gently.  
  • Frosting instructions:  
    • Whisk butter, cocoa, salt, And powdered sugar. Whisk in milk and vanilla. Spread over cooled brownies. Cut into squares and chill to semi-set.  

Zucchini brownies recipe by: Crazy for Crust

Experiment to Find the Best Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters

Finding the right dinner ideas for picky eaters requires a mix of patience, creativity, and a willingness to explore new culinary territories. By incorporating veggies, offering customizable options, and experimenting with bold flavors, you can transform mealtimes into an enjoyable experience for even the most selective palates. Remember, the key is to make the mealtime experience both visually and gastronomically appealing, turning each meal into an adventure!  

Find More Recipes for Picky Eaters in the NAPA Blog:


About the Author 

Mei-Li Smith is a pediatric Speech and Language Pathologist at the NAPA Centre in Melbourne, Australia previously in Los Angeles. She loves all things traveling locally as well as abroad. When she is not outdoors hiking and swimming, she can be caught in the kitchen cooking up new recipes for friends and family.  

About NAPA Center

At NAPA Center, our occupational and speech therapists take a comprehensive approach to feeding therapy, targeting muscular coordination, sensory processes, and social experiences associated with eating.

TAGS: Blogs, Feeding
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