20 Kid-Friendly, Gut-Friendly Recipes for Your Picky Eater
During early toddlerhood, my son H was an amazing eater. Avocado, salmon, broccoli, sweet potatoes, turkey chili, spinach omelettes, green smoothies...that kid would eat anything!
Picky eating was a hot topic in the Mommy and Me group we attended. During one of our weekly meetings, as the other moms fretted over their kids' refusal to eat anything green or try anything new, I vividly remember thinking, well, at least I don't have to worry about that.
Then, around two-and-a-half, H began refusing foods he normally loved. By three he was officially a Picky Eater. Damn, I thought we'd dodged that bullet.
As his preferred food list decreased, my anxiety increased.
How is he going to get enough nutrients? How can I make sure he has a healthy gut and a properly developing brain if he won't eat the right foods?
Out of my anxiety arose a determination to find a way to get gut-healthy foods in his diet. Of the many recipes I've tried (cooking isn't my strength, so I'm a big recipe follower!), here are the winners...
1. Smoothie - It took me forever to get my kids to try a smoothie. I’ve experimented with several recipes and this is the winner - my boys love it! I call it our Triple Chocolate Morning Smoothie (they were sold on “triple chocolate!”)
12 ounces almond milk
1 handful baby spinach
1 handful ice
1 packet Amazing Grass Kidz Superfood
2 teaspoons cacoa nibs
1 handful walnuts
½ cup frozen blueberries (or mixed berries)
½ scoop Bone Broth Protein Powder
liquid monkfruit to taste (I use 5 drops- my boys like it on the sweeter side.)
2. French Toast- My boys go crazy for this. I’m able to “sneak in" quite a few gut-friendly ingredients without compromising the taste or making my boys suspicious - ha!
Mix one egg with 2 teaspoons ground flax seed, 2 teaspoons ground chia, 1 teaspoon cinammon, 2 drops liquid monkfruit, 1 teaspoon hemp seeds. Mix thoroughly, then dip gluten-free bread in the mix and pan cook using coconut oil. We top it with a generous amount of grass-fed butter and a drizzle of maple syrup.
3. Pancakes- This recipe is delicious! I add 2 teaspoons of chia seeds and 2 teaspoons of hemp seeds. I cook with ghee or coconut oil and top with grass-fed butter and maple syrup.
4. Sweet Potato Toast- This is the easiest thing in the world to make. Step 1: Buy a sweet potato. Step 2: Wash it. Step 3: Slice it. Step 4: Toast it. Step 5: Top with your favorite toppings (my boys like it with almond butter). Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C and in beta-carotene - delicious and gut-friendly!
5. Granola- This recipe has the perfect amount of sweetness. Serve with non-dairy milk, or by itself as a snack. It’s a great way to get healthy fats into your child’s diet.
More gut-friendly breakfast tips…
- Serve turkey bacon or sugar-free pork bacon with breakfast for an extra dose of fat and protein to start the day.
- Try pairing a starchy breakfast (cereal, toast, pancakes, french toast) with a healthy fat like avocado, extra grass-fed butter, a serving of nuts or the granola recipe above.
- Serve a smaller portion of the morning smoothie with breakfast.
- Replace juice with water or buy juice with reduced sugar.
- Cook eggs with generous amount of ghee or grass-fed butter.
6. Grilled Cheese with Butternut Squash Puree- This is an easy and delicious way to get more veggies into your child's body.
7. Gluten-Free Almond Butter Sandwich- Toast gluten-free bread, spread coconut oil on top, then layer with almond butter. It’s simple and delicious. For some strange reason, my boys don’t like jelly/jam, but if your kids do, try an organic, low-sugar one and be sure to check the ingredients - regular jam is loaded with sugar and often sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
8. Zucchini Fritters- My boys were hesitant to try these. I offered them several times before my younger son finally took a bite and lo and behold, he loved them! Unfortunately, H won't touch them with a ten foot pole! Sigh.
9. Sweet Potato Pancakes- If it looks like a pancake, my picky boys will try it! These are easy to make and full of gut-healthy vitamins and minerals.
10. Zucchini Pancakes- These are great for breakfast and lunch. They make a great on-the-go snack as well.
More gut-friendly lunch tips...
- Put a pinch of sea salt on sliced veggies (carrots, cucumbers, jicama, bell peppers) - this made a big difference for my boys.
- Experiment with different veggie dips (hummus, Bithcin' Sauce, homemade mayo, paleo hummus).
- If your child is a peanut butter and jelly fan, try subbing almond, walnut or sunflower butter.
12. Almond-Crusted Chicken Fingers- If, like my boys, your child shies away from chicken and meat, try breading and frying it. It took making this a few times before they'd try it, but once they did, they were hooked.
13. Crunchy Quinoa Crusted Chicken Tenders- Another great breaded chicken recipe. I sub gluten-free breadcrumbs.
14. Simple Mills Pizza- Made with eight gut-friendly ingredients, this pizza mix tastes great and, as the name implies, is simple to make. My boys are obsessed!
15. Mac and Cheese- They go crazy for this classic kid-friendly dish, with a gluten-free twist.
More gut-friendly dinner tips...
- Use Ellyn Satter's feeding model (more on this next week).
- If your child refuses to try something you've made, don't take it personally and whatever you do, don't force it!
- When all else fails, remember to try breading and frying.
Snacks and Treats
16. Multi-Grain Crackers- The perfect way to get a variety of gut-friendly nuts and seeds in your child's diet.
17. Graham Crackers- What kid doesn't love a delicious graham cracker? These are a tasty, healthy option.
18. Chocolate Chip Cookies- These are addictive. The perfect guilt-free treat for your kids.
20. No Bake Homemade Rx Bars- I'll try any recipe that starts with "no bake!" This one is our favorite.
For more gut-healthy recipes, here are my favorite websites:
Having a picky eater can induce a lot of anxiety, especially when you suspect that your child's gut is playing a role in his atypical development and/or behavioral issues. Next week, I'll share a feeding model that dramatically changed my perspective on H's picky eating and made mealtimes much more enjoyable.
Do you have a picky eater? What are your main struggles and concerns? What have you tried that's helped? Leave your comments below, the Sensory Mom community and I would love to hear from you.