Healthy Food for Picky Eaters

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As someone who's cleaned up her eating routine within the last year, I've also encountered a little bit of "push back" from family members who are not so keen to have their normal eating schedule interrupted. So I've learned to cope, coax and invite my brood of picky people along with me and here are some of my favorite methods...

1. Hide the veggies - yes, I know, not the most honest thing to do, but seriously... what you don't know can't hurt you and in this case it will actually HELP you. Some of my favorite "hidden" veggie recipes are:

  • veggie marinara sauce - diced tomato, onion, garlic, italian herbs, seasoning, celery, and steamed veg of choice - carrots, cauliflower, or any root veg on hand work really well! blended together and then served over zoodles or store bought pasta made from chickpeas, quinoa or brown rice. 
  • mac & "cheese" - you can use real cheese in this, but blend it up with some squash, carrots or cauliflower, or better yet go full vegan and try a nice cashew based sauce (you'll barely notice the difference I swear!)... again, served over a bed of store bought chickpea, quinoa or brown rice pasta - no one EVER complains!
  • smoothies - dark leafy greens blended with sweet fruit makes that medicine go down niiiice and easy (my 3 year old loves "superman juice"!)
  • Chilis and Soups - With strong flavors like classic chili or chicken noodle, you can hide almost any vegetable if its cut up small enough or looks like it blends in. I love to add carrots, parsnips, yellow peppers, cauliflower and celery to my chicken soup and chili gets red and orange peppers, carrots, tomato, beets, and any other root vegetable I've got around the kitchen. 

The moral of the story is... the smaller the veggies get, the easier they are to hide and the fewer complaints you'll hear from your picky eaters at the dinner table!

2. Build your own - this works especially well for the wheeling and dealing preschooler.  This type of dinner allows each picky eater to choose what they want to eat, and when you only put out healthy options, who cares if they end up with a plate of bare rice, avocado chunks, a couple bites of chicken and half a carrot amirite?! My fave BYO meals are:

  • Burrito bowls (or any Mexican really - nachos, tacos, etc!) Simply lay out the shells/chips/rice bowls out and let each person grab from a feast of healthy toppings like chicken, beef, sprouted tofu, lettuce, tomato, salsa, cheese, avocado/guac, onions, corn, plain yogurt, black or pinto beans... think chipotle, but at home. 
  • Asian noodle or rice bowls - I love this one because you can use basic ingredients and transform it with a variety of sauces - thai peanut, curry, terryaki, korean bbq, or just plain soy sauce! Same idea as the burrito bowls, but instead maybe grill some salmon, slice up cucumbers, shred carrot, cabbage, slice green onion, steam broccoli, scramble a few eggs, and top with the sauce of your choice.

3. Health-ify family favorites - love pizza? burger and fries? sweets? Don't stop eating them! Just make them more nutritious by switching up the ingredients.

  • Pizza - Instead of a traditional wheat crust, make or buy a cauliflower crust, add extra veggies on top, or simply use grass-fed cheese (more nutrient dense than regular) and leaner meat choices. 
  • Burger & Fries - choose grass fed beef, a veggie burger or black bean burger, pile on the veggie toppings, and find the most nutritious buns possible (lettuce "buns" are great, whole wheat, sprouted or gluten free are also great choices too!), and slice up your own potatoes to roast in the oven for a perfect side, or better yet, add in some carrot, zucchini or parsnip "fries" in with them!
  • Sweets - oh my gosh, the possibilities really are endless if you get a little bit creative... some of our favorite treats are "bliss balls" (chocolate almond butter ones are our fave because they taste like Reese's PB cups - you can recreate just about any of your fave chocolate bars this way!) and "N"ice Cream made with almonds, dates, frozen bananas and your favorite flavors. When in doubt, just blend all of your ingredients together for a nice smooth easy soup.

4. Share the experience - picky eaters love to know as much about their food as possible, and what could be more exciting than knowing, controlling, and participating in creating the food you're going to eat? This works especially well with young kids - plus it gives them exciting 1 on 1 time with their parent.   

Do you have any favorite recipes/tips/tricks for picky eaters? Leave them in the comments below!