Nutrition

5 Foods for Picky Toddlers: Kid-Friendly Meals for Picky Eaters

Choosing foods for picky toddlers can be tough. And if you’re currently caught in this predicament, you definitely aren’t alone. In fact, up to 50 percent of parents state their preschool-aged children are picky eaters. [1]

But why is this so common? Research has shown that children naturally begin to balk at trying new foods around 2 years old. Moreover, even babies who were previously labeled as “good eaters” naturally tend to reject both their past nutritional favorites and any new healthy options around this time. [2]

So, now you’re faced with a problem. You know it’s crucial for your child to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet, but she’s refusing everything you offer her. Instead, she’s demanding sweets and processed foods. What’s a parent supposed to do?

If you’re spending countless hours scouring Pinterest looking for healthy foods for toddlers without luck, you’ve come to the right place! Here are some of my kid-tested and doctor-approved simple swaps and kid-friendly foods for picky toddlers.

 

5 (Surprising!) Foods for Picky Toddlers

Take a look at my top 5 healthy foods for picky eaters that your kids will love. With a little prep, you can have even your pickiest child eating healthy, filling dishes on a regular basis. (And if you’re short on time, check out my Top 10 Healthier Food Swaps for Picky Toddlers!)

1. Veggie noodles

Whether it’s spaghetti or mac and cheese, most toddlers seem to love eating pasta. Instead of serving them boxed noodles, you can sneak in some veggie-based options, such as spiralized zucchini.

Zucchini doesn’t have an overly strong taste and can easily be hidden in the pasta sauce, making it a great option for even the pickiest eaters. And as a bonus, it comes with a whole host of health benefits. It’s rich in vitamin C, contains health-promoting antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and is even rich in fiber! [3]

2. Chickpeas 

Toddlers tend to love sauces and dips, so consider making some homemade hummus with chickpeas, heart-healthy olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt (and tahini, if you so desire). You could also simply roast some chickpeas with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt to offer your little one healthy, crunchy snack!

Chickpeas are rich in vitamins and minerals, and they’re a great plant-based source of protein as well. In fact, studies have shown that people who eat chickpeas actually have higher nutrient intakes of dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, E, and C! Additionally, research states that eating chickpeas can help fight cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and even promote healthy weight management and satiety. [4]

3. Yogurt with customized toppings

If you’re looking for food that a kid will love, yogurt is usually a pretty safe bet. It’s smooth, creamy, and can be easily flavored to your child’s liking. To provide the most health benefits, just be sure to avoid the sugar-filled options that currently line our grocery store shelves. I like to stick with organic or plant-based (coconut or soy) yogurts and sweeten them with honey and organic fruits.

Not only will your child love the taste, but you will rest assured that she will be getting some much-needed health benefits as well. In fact, a 2015 study revealed that children who ate yogurt at least once a week also ate more fruits and whole grains than children who ate yogurt less frequently. In addition, those children also had healthier insulin levels. [5] Children who eat yogurt also tend to have higher levels of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. [6]

4. Sweet potatoes

If you’re like most parents, there’s a decent chance your child has a penchant for a rather unhealthy food: French fries. Luckily, there’s a healthier spin on this much-loved toddler food, and it’s just as delicious. The next time you find yourself asking, “What can I feed a picky kid?,” serve up this time-tested finger food: baked sweet potato fries or chips! Just add a little coconut oil and sprinkle them with some cinnamon and sea salt for added flavor. (Hint: You can even serve it with a little organic ketchup to seal the deal!)

High in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, sweet potatoes are known to support a healthy gut, vision, and even brain. In addition, sweet potatoes are rich beta-carotene, which your body naturally converts into vitamin A. Multiple studies have supported the fact that vitamin A is not only crucial for a healthy immune system, but it also supports the health of the lining of your gut. [7] At an age when children are exposed to so many new germs, it’s crucial to make sure they’re receiving adequate doses of vitamin A each day.

5. Avocados

Whether you’re making a smoothie or a delicious chocolate-based dessert, avocados can easily be hidden in your child’s dishes again and again. I like to make my Decadent Vegan Chocolate Tart filling for my boys as a pudding. It’s so smooth and creamy that you’d never know it’s rich in this healthy fat. They now ask for it almost nightly, and I can feel confident knowing they’re getting some great health benefits while feeling like they’re splurging on a delicious dessert. (And as a bonus, it only takes me five minutes to make that delicious filling!)

Avocados are rich in antioxidants, which are known to fight inflammation and even support heart health. [8, 9] They’re also high in fiber, which support health digestion and can help prevent tummy aches and constipation in little ones.[10]

Healthier food swaps for picky toddlers - Dr. Pingel
Key Takeaways

  • Approximately half of all preschool-aged children are labeled as picky eaters by their parents.
  • Finding foods for picky toddlers can be hard, but there are some easy ways to sneak in some healthier options.
  • Five of my top go-to foods for picky toddlers include veggie noodles, chickpeas, yogurt (preferably organic or plant-based), sweet potatoes, and avocados. There are even some brands that serve up healthier options if you’re on-the-go!

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