8 Proven Family Dinner Ideas Your Picky Eaters Will Love

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picky eaters

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!

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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.

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Family Dinner Ideas Your Picky Eaters Will Love

#1. Spaghetti Bolognese

spaghetti bolognese

The one food my daughters both agree on is pasta. Follow my easy bolognese recipe and once cooked, blitz with a handheld soup blender to have them coming back for seconds.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  • No need for oil, just 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 mushrooms, 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.

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#2. Homemade Chicken or Fish Goujons

chicken nuggets

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  • Heat the oven to 180C / 350F.
  • 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.

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#3. Homemade Soup

pea 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.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 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
  • Butter
  • 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

Method

  • 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.

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#4. Homemade Pizza

Home Made 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 when your picky eater can choose their own toppings, that helps too.

By being clever with your sauce, you can add vegetables that they won’t even realise are there! Make your pizza dough then whizz up my healthy pizza sauce and get the kids spreading and topping!

Ingredients

  • 1 carrot finely chopped
  • Half a stick celery
  • Half a leek or a small red onion
  • 1 jar passata
  • Mixed herbs
  • Olive oil
  • Half a vegetable stock cube

Method

  • 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.

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#5. Risotto

Risotto

Soft sticky rice flavoured with parmesan cheese and peas is always a winner in our house.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 300g / 10.5 oz Arborio rice
  • 120g / 4 oz fresh or frozen peas
  • Approx. 750 ml / 25 fl.oz. hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • Unsalted butter
  • 100g / 3.5oz grated parmesan cheese

Method

  • Heat olive oil in a heavy based frying pan and add finely chopped onion and crushed garlic and cook gently until the onion has softened but not browned.
  • Add rice and coat with the oil, cook for 1 minute before adding hot stock. I usually add enough stock to cover the rice – allow this to become absorbed before covering for a second time.
  • Add your peas now too.
  • Keep the heat low and stir occasionally to ensure the rice does not stick.
  • Keep adding stock until the rice has cooked. It will take approximately 20 minutes.
  • Test the rice to ensure it is cooked.
  • The mixture should be creamy and not too dry or wet.
  • Stir in half the grated parmesan, add a knob of butter and serve.
  • Sprinkle the rest of the parmesan onto the plates.

Top Tip: Add small pieces of cooked chicken breast  for added protein.

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#6. Moroccan Lamb

Lamb with Apricot

This recipe has been adapted from Cooking With Daisy. It can be pureed so that even the smallest member of  the family can eat it. Serve it with boiled rice, mashed potatoes or couscous.

Ingredients

  • 250g (9 oz) lamb in small cubes
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots finely diced
  • Half a medium butternut squash finely diced
  • 6 to 8 dried apricots finely chopped
  • 100ml (3.5oz) vegetable stock
  • Olive Oil

Method

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan and brown the lamb and soften the onions.
  • Add the chopped apricots and vegetables and stir over a low heat for 5 minutes.
  • Add stock and season if you wish with a little salt and pepper.
  • Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes or rice.

Top Tip: The lamb can be substituted with either beef or chicken.

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#7. Macaroni Cheese

macaroni cheese

Most kids tend to love pasta, even fussy eaters and this macaroni cheese recipe is comforting family food that everyone should enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz (400g) dried macaroni
  • 7 oz (200g) grated cheddar cheese
  • Large tub (400g) mascarpone cheese
  • 7 oz (200g) mozzarella cheese grated or cubed
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard if desired

Method

  • Heat the oven to 180C / 350F.
  • Cook macaroni as per instructions.
  • Drain and add mascarpone. Stir to coat the pasta.
  • Add the other cheeses and mustard, if using.
  • Transfer to an ovenproof dish and bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling.
  • Serve with peas, broccoli or spinach.

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#8. Toad in the Hole

Toad in The Hole

I add vegetables to my Toad in the Hole to make it a complete meal, and I get low fat butcher bought sausages.

Ingredients

  • 6 lean sausages
  • 3 medium carrots sliced in rings
  • 1 courgette sliced in rings
  • 8 to 10 button mushrooms halved
  • 4 oz (125g) self raising flour
  • 300 ml (half a pint) milk
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Oil for cooking

Method

  • Preheat the over to 190C / 375F.
  • Add the vegetables to a casserole dish and coat in oil.
  • Prick the sausages with a fork and add to the dish.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Make the batter by sifting flour into a mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the centre and add the milk and beaten egg.
  • Use a hand whisk to combine the flour with the liquid.
  • Beat until smooth.
  • Remove your sausages and vegetables from the over and pour over the batter.
  • Return to the oven and cook for a further 40 minutes, until the batter is golden.

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Have your say! Any tried and tested good recipes for picky eaters? Let us know in the comments box below.

8 Proven Family Dinner Ideas Your Picky Eaters Will Love

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