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Eating Healthy with Picky Eaters

Eating healthy with picky eaters can be really tough. There are many reasons why a family or household would have multiple eating lifestyles. Someone decided to go vegan, paleo, clean, autoimmune protocol, or maybe they were diagnosed with a dairy allergy and no one else wants to live without cheese. Or maybe your spouse and kids just “really don’t like vegetables.” The question now becomes “How do I cook for everyone without cooking completely different meals?!”   It’s expensive and time-consuming to cook 2 (or more) meals every single day.

This is a dilemma I’ve helped clients work through for years. I have shared tons of advice and strategies to try but never had to live it personally….until now. Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to test out the suggestions I’ve given over the years first hand. Thankfully, what has worked for other is also working for me! (Whew!)

The Inspiration Behind This Blog

When I first met my boyfriend, of course, we talked for hours on end about everything. Being the foodie that I am, we started talking about food. He told me that he doesn’t really eat fruit and vegetables. It was like the world stopped for a second. “What does he even eat?!” was my first thought. Well, he thought the same about me, haha! After our first couple dates, we knew we were going to keep seeing each other. So then I had to figure out how to cook for us (and 4 kids) without making a million different meals. It’s been quite fun honestly. I’m excited to share my strategies with you! Let’s dive in.

Eating Healthy With Picky Eaters

#1: Respect The Person(s) Eating Differently

Relationships come first. Why let food get in the way? While some people believe that you eat what you get or starve, there’s a big difference between wanting to skip dinner and go straight to dessert, and having a darn good reason for wanting/needing to eat differently. Respecting the person’s allergy/sensitivity/dietary preference is an absolute must. Don’t make fun of them, make passive aggressive comments, make them feel guilty, or like they are a burden. It does nothing to change their mind or situation and will hurt your relationship with them.

#2 Get Your Kids On Board

kids in the kitchen Getting kids to eat healthily is a challenge even if their first foods were vegetables like mine. The best way to get the kids eating different foods is to have them help you prep and cook them. Most kids love to help. If yours are still resistant, I recommend having them take 2 bites. It will be a challenge, but it’ll also be worth it. I promise. The other thing I like to do is buy the produce they enjoy eating and letting them eat as much of it as they want. Anything to get them eating more fresh fruits and vegetables!

#3 Make The Same Meal….With Adjustments

It’s not as difficult as you’d think to make the same meal yet modify it per dietary lifestyle. It may require an extra pot or pan, but everyone can enjoy the same meal together. It’s truly possible!

First: Find the foods that everyone likes that you can eat

Does everyone like rice? Pasta? Quinoa? BBQ chicken? Tacos? These kinds of meals. Find all the common foods and write them down. Writing them down is very important so don’t skip this part.

Then: Adjust your favorite recipes

Most people love foods like tacos, burgers, spaghetti, chicken, and the like. It’s much easier than you think to make adjustments. The best suggestion I have is to make all aspects of your meal separate, then let everyone combine as they like it. Here are a couple examples of what I’ve cooked and we’ll then dive in together on more options.

Cooking for multiple diets in a family
Pesto chicken. One side full of veggie and one just chicken which was then put in a wrap with cheese.

 

Cooking for Different Diets in a family
Spaghetti and Meatballs. Zucchini noodles for one, gluten free rice pasta for everyone else.

 

Cooking for multiple diets in a family
Gluten free teriyaki chicken with rice. Veggies for the people who like veggies, and none for those who don’t.

Now, these are just the meals I’ve remembered to take a quick picture while cooking or just before serving. As you can see, we eat the same meals with adjustments. Food brings people together and no one wants to miss out!

Traditional:

  • Tortillas
  • Buns
  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Tacos/Burritos
  • Lasagna
  • Mac and Cheese
Healthier Picks:

  • Lettuce or Paleo wraps
  • Lettuce, tomato slices, grilled peppers, or sweet potato patties
  • Cauliflower pizza crust (my recipe)
  • Spiralized vegetable noodles: Zucchini, Potato, Sweet Potato, etc
  • Cauliflower rice
  • Taco salad
  • Zucchini or eggplant “noodles”
  • Vegetable noodles with a cheesy sauce like alfredo

 

It’s really worked well for the 6 of us and countless clients and their families. Making the same meal but letting everyone put it together the way they like! It doesn’t solve all food battles (especially with kids), but it sure does make dinner so much less of a headache.

Do you have any other tips? Share them with us below!

eat healthy picky eaters

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30 thoughts on “Eating Healthy with Picky Eaters”

    1. Marian Mitchell

      I agree! Getting the kids on board can be difficult. Making it fun and having them help gets kids to eat all kinds of things. My kids love kale chips!

    1. Marian Mitchell

      Unfortunately I know plenty of adults who are pickier than kids. They refuse to eat any sort of fresh fruit or vegetable. Everything is from a box or bag and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Spouses are usually the most difficult hurdle for my clients to overcome when it comes to eating healthy.

  1. This is a great post thanks so much for sharing. I have food allergies (gluten) and I’m always trying to balance my allergies with my husband and toddlers preferences and it can be hard.

    1. Marian Mitchell

      It definitely can be. My daughter and I have the food sensitivities (she’s celiac) and my boyfriend and his kids have none. Finding things we all enjoying eating is definitely challenging sometimes.

  2. I love your first point. Relationship comes first, we should not broke with peoples we love just for food. Well, the idea of taking kids on the board is amazing !

  3. These are such great suggestions! I love the alternitives to certain foods! my son eats whatever i put infront of him, however my hubs and 2 kids are picky as picky gets which makes life impossible

  4. I have the pickiest eaters BUT, all three of my kids LOVE their fruits and veggies. They are picky with weird things like pancakes, bread and macaroni and cheese.

  5. I think I’m still a picky eater! Haha I never grew out of it. There are so many different places that make the adjustments for you though so it’s great!

  6. I think getting them involve would be fun. Also adjusting the meal will slowly get them to adjust to new and healthier food options.

    1. Marian Mitchell

      For sure! By having the healthier options on the table, not mixed in, my kids usually at least try one bit on their own accord.

  7. What a great method. I’m really going to try this out. Healthy food is so important to our kids and we must try whatever ways to get them to eat more healthy food.

    1. Marian Mitchell

      It’s always amazing to me with just having the healthy options on the table how often my kids will try the foods they say they “don’t like.”

  8. Thank goodness my boyfriend will eat anything I put on his plate. However, it’s a different story when my grandchildren are here. My grandson doesn’t like any sauces or condiments. My granddaughter will only eat raw veggies. With just a few changes to each plate, everyone is fed and happy.

  9. This is a great post ! My husband and kids are so picky and I’ve always been a healthy eater and since getting married I have completely lost touch with my nutrition

    1. Marian Mitchell

      It’s incredibly easy to lose touch with our nutrition trying to feed everyone. I hope these tips help you get back in touch while keeping everyone fed and happy.

  10. These are all really great tips. My son isn’t necessarily very picky, but he has a wheat and milk allergy so a lot of foods are limited. I have found some troubles with vegetables though. so I’ll have to try some of your methods out. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Marian Mitchell

      My daughter and I are gluten and dairy free as well! Please let me know if they work for you and if you find any other successful strategies.

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About Us

Hi friend!

I’m Marian Mitchell, Health Coach, Chronic Illness Warrior, Mom, and Food Lover. I help you navigate the food and lifestyle side of Chronic Disease Management with coaching, meal plans, recipes, podcast, and this blog. You can thrive without eating the same 4 things every day. I’m here to show you how.

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