Your child is not going to like every dinner you create for them, and if you have a picky eater it can be difficult to resist offering alternatives, or the same foods over and over, to avoid mealtime battles! Based on my experiences as a Mum of two, who have wildly differing tastes, here are 8 proven family dinner ideas your picky eaters will love, and might even have them coming back for seconds!
To ensure they develop good eating habits from a young age, you should offer your child a wide variety of foods, spices and herbs. There are many great cookbooks available with meal plans for babies and toddlers but less help for parents with a picky eater. The dishes below are all tried and tested favourites in our house. They serve 2 adults and 2 children, unless stated otherwise. I try not to add salt to my cooking but season to taste.
#1. Spaghetti Bolognese
The one food my daughters both agree on is pasta. Follow my easy bolognese recipe and once cooked, blitz with a hand held soup blender to have them coming back for seconds.
- 500g Minced Beef/lamb/turkey
- 1 onion chopped finely
- 2 or 3 carrots chopped finely
- 10 – 15 Mushrooms
- 1 Tin Tomatoes or 1 Jar Passata
- Mixed Herbs (oregano and Marjoram)
- Half a stick Celery
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 beef or mushroom stock cube/pot
- No need for oil, heat your saucepan and brown your mince.
- Remove meat and add onions, cook until softened.
- Add the chopped carrots and mince back to the pan.
- Add the herbs and bay leaf, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- Once the carrots begin to soften add the tomatoes and stock – there is no need for water.
- Cover and cook for 20 minutes on a low heat.
- Cook your pasta. Once your pasta is ready blend your meat sauce and spoon over the pasta. Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy.
Top tip: If you make a double batch of the meat sauce it can be turned into Lasagne for the following day.
#2. Homemade Chicken or Fish Goujons
These are a healthy alternative to shop bought chicken or fish goujons/fingers and can be served with baked potato chips, peas, sweetcorn or beans and a homemade tomato sauce(I like this recipe from Jamie Oliver) or real baked beans. If using Fish pick a firm white fish such as cod, basa or haddock
- 1 chicken breast or 1 Fish fillet per 2 children
- 1 slice of bread per breast
- Small chunk of parmesan cheese
- 1 Egg beaten
- Flour for dusting
- Heat the oven to 180C.
- Chop your chicken into bite size pieces.
- Blitz your bread and cheese in a food processor to make breadcrumbs.
- Coat the pieces of fish or chicken first in flour then egg and finally in the breadcrumbs.
- Place on an oven proof tray and drizzle with oil.
- Bake until crispy on the outside and cooked through.
- Serve with homemade potato wedges, peas or beans and tomato dipping sauce.
In this recipe for Chicken Nuggets from Wholesome Ireland, Catriona suggests soaking chicken in milk to tenderise the meat.
#3. Homemade Soup
Soup is a great way to get your child to eat vegetables without knowing they are there. I usually see what vegetables I have that need to be used and add those to the pot. Don’t be tempted to add everything in your fridge, but a mix of any of these will give you a lovely flavour.
- 3 medium carrots
- Half a medium parsnip
- Half a leek
- Quarter of a butternut squash to thicken if not using potato
- 1 to 2 sticks of celery
- 2 to 3 florets of cauliflower (or use stalk)
- 2 to 3 florets of broccoli (or use stalk)
- A handful of mushrooms
- A chopped onion (only use if you are not using leek)
- 1 potato to thicken (if not using butternut squash)
- 3 Low Salt Stock Cubes/Pots (chicken or vegetable)
- Small bit of red or yellow pepper
- Green beans
- Handful of Peas
- Half a courgette
- Olive Oil
- 3 pints water
- Half pint milk
I would recommend that you don’t include the following vegetables as they taste too strong: Turnip, Cabbage, Sprouts
- Chop all your vegetables to roughly the same size.
- Heat a dash of olive oil and a knob of butter in a heavy based saucepan.
- Add all your vegetables to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.
- Cover with a tight fitting lid and let them soften over a low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Stir occasionally to ensure they don’t stick.
- Add 3 low salt stock cubes/pots, and 2 to 3 pints of cold water and bring to the boil.
- Turn down heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft.
- Add a half pint of milk and bring back to the boil.
- Remove from heat and blend with a hand held soup blender
- Serve immediately or keep warm over a low heat.
Top Tip: This soup freezes well. To make it into a more substantial meal you could use fish stock and once blended, add some bite size chunks of Salmon, firm white fish, prawns and smoked fish. Cover and simmer over a low heat until the fish is cooked through.
You may also like 16 Splendid Soup Recipes Kids will Love
#4. Homemade Pizza
Often if you involve your child in making the dinner they will be happier to eat it. Homemade pizzas are simple to make and by being clever with your sauce, you can add vegetables that they won’t even realise are there!
Healthy Pizza Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 carrot finely chopped
- Half a stick celery
- Half a leek or a small red onion
- Half a small parsnip
- 1 jar passata
- Mixed Herbs
- Olive Oil
- Half a vegetable stock cube
- Heat your oil in a large frying pan and saute your vegetables.
- Once softened add your passata and stock cube.
- Cook in the frying pan until the sauce thickens.
- Remove the sauce and allow to cool before blending.
Let your child add the tomato sauce and their favourite toppings to their pizza base, sprinkle with cheese and cook.