I asked a question recently on my Facebook page about what to do with picky eaters on holiday. Let me set the scene for you: We had 6 Things on this part of the vacation, all with their own little quirks and preferences. I’ll be honest with you, mine drive me bonkers at the best of times – one will eat scrambled eggs, the other won’t. One will eat baked beans, the other won’t. One will eat ravioli, the other won’t. One will eat salmon…. you get the picture.
Most days at home I feel like a short order cook. Or I find myself racking my brains for the few things that both will eat so I only have to cook once. Occasionally, feeling feisty, I’ll make a combination meal with something they both like and something they both don’t like. And of course then the fireworks begin. I’m a big believer in continually offering different foods to kids. Ravioli Thing only started liking it in the last 2 months so persistence paid off but, man alive, you have to be up for the battle.
Anyway, back to the holiday.. So…
We were stumped! I put the call out to you lovely people out there for tips and advice… And menu options for these picky ones. I have to say almost all were rejected by one or more Things *sob*. But there were some overwhelmingly popular options that I felt I had to share.
Top 5 meals for picky eaters
- This was the hands down winning suggestion from y’all.
- You suggested spaghetti (fun to suck noodles!) and others such as penne pasta (strings? Too messy!). I know some of you also like things like tortellini or ravioli.
- The great thing with pasta is there are so many options – serve it with or without sauce. And with sauce there are more choices – tomato, creamy, cheese, pesto, with veggies, with meat… the possibilities are endless! Sauces can be pre-bought for ease.
- Someone suggested a pasta buffet with plain pasta plain carrots, peas, corn, broccoli (can get frozen for ease) and even some plain chicken so the Things can choose their ‘combo’ giving them an element of control.
- Garlic bread was suggested by a few people as an optional extra.
Pros: Super flexible and adaptable to the tastes of the Things in question. Can be used in different guises on multiple days. You’re giving control to the Things which they don’t often get when it comes to meals.
Cons: You end up with endless leftovers creating a buffet that they may or may not eat or you end up as a short order cook making different sauces / types of pasta for different Things. Obviously we couldn’t get all things to agree on the sauces or pasta they wanted (*sighs).
2. Tapas / picnic
Offer a kid version of a charcuterie plate with cut meats (think salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, cooked ham, etc) and cheeses with crackers and a little fruit or raw veggies. Want to make it more fun? Let them have it as a picnic!
Pros: Kids LOVE picnics to the novelty factor can distract them from what they are eating. This is another flexible option and another one that can be adapted depending on who likes what. Parents are also quite likely to eat the leftovers or even share the picnic. In a similar way to the pasta buffet idea, this gives the control back to the kids.
Cons: Kids can be so distracted they don’t eat but whatever, not all Things are as irritating as mine at meal times. Cured meats might be a bit too exotic for some Things (the other fussy Things loved them but mine are still only just getting into luncheon meats).
- I’ll be honest, pizza is one of my go to easy meals for the kids. They absolutely love it and will eat it at pretty much any given opportunity! That being said there were 2 Things on our holiday who Wouldn’t Eat Pizza. I know. I was shocked too.
- Its not ideal as they will only eat margarita pizzas so you can’t really add much protein or veggies or variety to this but if they will accept toppings then its a fun way to get more in them without making it a separate battle.
- Make your own – we had a pizza oven in the villa and it would have been downright rude not to have tried it! You can use a regular oven though and this is a fun way to have the kids make their own meals.
Pros: Another tick for the control and novelty factor aspects. Plus pretty much all Things like pizza (with notable exceptions!).
Cons: If its not a thin pizza then it can be a bit carb heavy filling them up but leaving them hungry not long after.
4. Breakfast for dinner
- This was suggested by a few people in different ways.
- Options include: eggs (scrambled, poached, boiled, however they will eat them!), cereal or oatmeal, toast, bacon or sausages and / or pancakes.
Pros: Ok so you’re not going to give them cereal for dinner every night, but in a pinch it will work. This is one that you have to almost guarantee most picky eaters will swallow. You can even modify for gluten and lactose intolerances. There is more novelty factor in play here – how rebellious to have breakfast for dinner! Most of those options are quick and easy to make: If you are running late for bedtime or are coming off a meal out where a Thing refused to eat anything and is now starving they’re a great time saver.
Cons: Cereal isn’t going to be very filling or satisfying – you might have Things waking up the next day starving.
- Chicken does seem to be the universal everyone will eat meat so it makes sense that this is a good go-to meal.
- Lots of ways to cook this – if you are lucky enough to find a rotisserie chicken then you have immediately saved a load of time on meal prep! If you can’t, no fear. Its an easy one to cook – roast it in the oven or grill it on the BBQ or stir fry it to serve with pasta (!!!) / rice / vegetables / salad.
Pros: Quick, easy, versatile and generally acceptable nutrition for most Things.
Cons: A bit boring for kids if this is what you eat all the time at home. That said they might appreciate the familiarity.
A good alternative
You know what? If all else fails, if the picky eaters are just too picky for words, just go out to eat. Restaurants have the bonus that you don’t all have to eat the same thing, you don’t have to cook and you don’t have to wash up or tidy up. Winner winner chicken dinner. Literally.
More more more!
There were so many good recommendations on the post that I felt I would be cheating you if I didn’t include some more categories! So here are your other suggestions:
Top 5 snacks for picky eaters
- Raw veggies
- Plain biscuits
- Bread based options: think sandwiches / grilled cheese / grisini and serve it with cheese / ham / peanut butter and jam / etc
- Tex Mex – so any options within this category – nachos, taco meat or chicken on top of chips topped with melted cheese, quesadillas (cheese only or with meat), chicken fajitas…
- Some sort of stir fry
- BBQ (the English or Australian kind – this is known as grilling for our American friends): burgers or hot dogs/sausages or marinated chicken
- Mini meat loaves
- Caesar salad
- Baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, zucchini and carrot sticks (baked with potatoes), lamb chops
You want more?
I was so inspired by the reaction and response to my Facebook post that I’m also writing a post on tips for travelling with picky eaters so watch this space!