Cooking One Meal with a Family of Picky Eaters

Picky Eaters pinnable

I don’t know about you, but it wears me out when I have to cook several different things per meal. Not only is it frustrating for this Mommi when my kids ask for 4 different items and no one wants to compromise, it can get quite expensive!! Several years ago I began meal planning to help reduce our family’s grocery budget. Not to mention I was tired of running to the store every other day to get just one or two items I needed to make dinner. Up until the past 6 months or so, this worked wonderfully for our family. That is…until my growing Littles decided to become those dreaded picky eaters! It has been a battle some days to get them to eat what I fix – if they eat at all!! I finally decided I’d had enough of this “multi-meal-making” and put some new methods into practice. Something had to be done about these picky eaters!

5 steps pinnable


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5 Steps to Help those Picky Eaters Eat

  1. Let them pick a meal ~ I felt like a real genius when I came up with this one. HA! Each week as I’m working through my meal plan I ask each one of the kids to pick a meal they would like to have. Most of the time they are the same each week (which is okay), but they each get to pick one lunch meal and one dinner meal. They often get to pick a snack item for the week too (depends on if we still have a stash or not). Letting them choose a meal during the week gives them the feeling that they are “in control” and they are more likely to participate in family meals.
  2. Sneak in those fruits and veggiesI don’t know about your kids, but my boys despise most fruits and veggies. However, my girls eat most fruits and veggies. It can make getting those essential fruits and veggies in them tricky at times. I have found that my boys really like some of the smoothies we’ve tried, where I can sneak in some greens and fruits. I have also found a few recipes that sneak those veggies in them when you are cooking. This works so long as your kiddos don’t help you prepare the meal! One example I have yet to try, but have heard rave reviews about is the Cauliflower Pizza Crust. I am still working on perfecting this, as I’m not a great “experimental” cook, but I have high hopes! Try these Baked Carrot Fries for fun twist on an old favorite. What about making fruit popsicles out of some fruit and chocolate? (Make your own homemade chocolate for a healthier option.) And you can try freezing some bananas with peanut butter for a semi-sweet treat. Make this healthy gummy snack made with real fruit! What kid doesn’t love gummies, right? And of course, you should definitely try these Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups to sneak in even more fruits! There are also quite a few homemade recipes out there for some great popsicles using real fruit or this one using Sprite and gummy bears!
  3. Make the meals FUNI have found that if the meals have a theme or I get creative with the presentation they are more likely to eat it. For example, my kids love to eat pigs-in-a-blanket. However, I find they devour them when we call them “mummy dogs”. For some reason they think that’s super cool! What about trying “Ants on a Log” to sneak in some peanut butter and raisins? Why not try cutting those boring grilled cheese sandwiches (or any sandwich for that matter) into fun shapes that go with the season (leaves, sun) or a holiday (hearts, tree). What kid wouldn’t like to eat a tree-shaped grilled cheese?
  4. Let them help ~ Get the picky eaters in on the kitchen action! Often times I’ve enlisted the help of my picky eaters in making the dough for the pizza or the stirring the cheese into the macaroni. For whatever reason, when they help with the meal they are more apt to eat what they’ve fixed. It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a shot! Plus you get some great help in the kitchen and some good training for the kids!!
  5. Don’t react ~ More often than not I find that when I don’t react to my kids’ whining about the food item they refuse to eat and leave it alone – they will come back around and eventually eat it. I cannot even tell you how many times I have “ignored” their pleas for another food and then 20 minutes later I find them asking for more! Sometimes they just want to get their way, which doesn’t fly in our house. Do your best not to react one way or the other and you might find them begging for more.

Now, I am no expert on this subject – believe me. There are times that my kids go without food for a meal, especially when I know they like what I fixed. It’s usually just a power struggle between them and me – and Momma wins…Momma always wins. Before I get hate mail, please understand that my children do not go hungry! I do feed them. But when I have fixed shells and cheese because I know they love it – as evidenced by the fact they devoured it last week – and today they refuse to eat it, they go without food for that meal. There is no substitute. On the other hand, there are times I do make two meals because I have a very strict diet. For example, when I make Cheesy Potato Soup, I know my kids don’t like it because of the texture. So I typically make them a meal they will eat. The Hubster and I will eat the soup for a nice, warm meal and then have enough left over for me to eat several times that week for lunch. It works out rather nicely, actually. It keeps me from making two meals for lunch every day…and I use up the leftovers in my fridge! How do you deal with a picky eater? Want more ideas for picky eaters? Follow my Snacks and Kid Food boards on Pinterest.

Annette has been married to her husband and best friend for 10 years. Together they are raising their four children to follow the Lord’s will, no matter what. Annette longs for the day when she will meet her 5 angel babies who have entered heaven before her. She enjoys creating UNIT STUDIES with FREE PRINTABLES (more coming soon) for homeschool families and she gets her scrapbooking fix in by making Subway Art for herself and her readers. You can follow her crazy life at In All You Do where she blogs about homeschooling, gluten- and grain-free recipes, homemaking, the occasional DIY projects and maintaining her sanity. You can also keep up with her via FacebookTwitter, Google+ and Pinterest.


  1. My kids are a little older. Everyone must try a taste of everything on the table. Even if you “know” you don’t like it. Tastes change over time and we have to give our tastebuds a chance. If you absolutely cannot eat what’s on the table, you can make yourself toast (with a spread). Nothing else and no dessert. Toast is something they eat but are not crazy about so it’s a good substitute. Unless they completely hate the meal, they’d rather eat it than have to make themselves toast, a not so desirable food. I think it’s only been used maybe twice ever.

    • That’s funny that they don’t like toast, Penny. My picky eater wouldn’t like toast either! LOL But, that’s a great idea – using something they only marginally like if they don’t eat what’s on the table!! We might try that. Great tip! Thanks for stopping by, Penny!!

  2. I understand, Annette! I’m not sure how old your children are, but mine are 5, 3 1/2, and 1 1/2. The baby will eat anything and everything. I’m expecting this to change in the next 6 mo, though. The 3 1/2 yo is my picky one. Especially if it’s green. Or has a weird texture. Or… You get it! Funny thing is that he used to eat everything, no questions asked. Until he was 2. I’m hoping he will out-grow this by the time he’s 5, like his brother has. Yes, my 5yo will eat or at least try just about anything, now. From the time he was 2 ’til 4 1/2 though, he was picky! It seems to be a stage they go through.

    But, we’ve tried to be consistent with having them eat their food or no dessert, and Mommy doesn’t do special orders. (I get this from my Mom who would say she wasn’t a short order cook!) We’ve tried different tricks/ ideas for getting them to eat. Ultimately, if they are hungry they will eat, especially if they aren’t allowed dessert until they’re done with the food I’ve given them. They won’t starve, even without a snack to “hold them over”. It becomes their choice: Eat what they are given or don’t. That’s it. Also, they have to try everything on the plate, at least one bite if I know that they don’t care for whatever it is. The more they try it, the more used to it they will get.

    Anyway, that’s what we’re doing. =) Hope your picky eaters become good eaters! Being a parent is a learning experience. =)

  3. You might like my 2 plate dinner solution to picky eaters – It’s working well for us and number 6 is improving!

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