8 Back to School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

Picky Eater

It can feel impossible to encourage healthy eating for picky eaters. Kale garners a disgusted “ew” and broccoli “looks funny.” Despite the challenge, you still have options. If you’re worried about your kiddo eating healthier and getting more nutrition throughout the day, keep the following healthy foods in your home. When you need a healthy snack or picky eater-friendly lunch idea, you can reach for these items and know your child is getting a healthy, nutritious meal.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potato is one of the most versatile veggies, and packs a nutritional punch. One cup provides 377 percent of the average daily RDA of vitamin A, plus dietary fiber and a healthy amount of calories.

One way to serve this food to your picky eater is in chip form. This healthy snack is perfect for young picky eaters because your little one is looking for that crunch, says Melanie Potock: “Toddlers typically like a moist crunch, especially if they are still teething, and the sound of that crunch gives them satisfying feedback to keep them interested.”

You can purchase sweet potato chips at the store, but a healthier option is to make your own at home. Check out this recipe from The Cookie Rookie to give this fun picky eater-approved food a try. You can also make loaded sweet potatoes, topped with all your kiddo’s favorite toppings, or blend roasted sweet potato into a smoothie, adding a creamy texture but no off-putting flavor.

Apples

Another healthy and crunchy food that’s also sweet, is apples. Apples are another versatile healthy food, making them perfect for a picky eater. Slice them, swipe on some nut butter and serve as a snack, or send them with your little one for a lunch side. Better yet, add them to your favorite healthy muffin recipe. Make a batch of these oatmeal, apple & cinnamon muffins on Sunday so your picky eater can have a tasty healthy snack all week long.

Healthy Height Shake Mix

Our pediatrician developed and tested shake mix is a must-have for picky eaters. Not only is it gluten, soy and corn syrup free, but it also comes in chocolate and vanilla, so your child can choose the flavor he or she loves most. The good news is, you don’t have to use it only for smoothies. Healthy Height Shake Mix can be stirred into oatmeal or yogurt, mixed into muffins (like with the recipe above) and much more.

Lentils

This is a must-have food for picky eaters because lentils can be blended, pureed, and added into soups, providing minimal flavor but a lot of nutrients. One cup of lentils packs 18 grams of protein, along with iron, vitamin B-6 and iron. If you’ve never cooked with lentils, start with this lentil salad recipe from Natalia Stasenko, RD and children’s nutrition expert. It’s a favorite with her three kids so it may be the perfect addition in your house too.

Marinara Sauce

Pasta is an easy dish to make and is the perfect vehicle for adding in veggies without making it obvious. Just blend bell peppers, carrots or even zucchini into the sauce and serve with your kiddo’s favorite pasta. Pack it in a thermos to keep it warm for lunch!

If you want to make a healthy pasta sauce from scratch, try the veggie pasta sauce (made with six veggies!) from Healthy Little Foodies. If you want to blend extra veggies into pasta sauce from the store, keep an eye on the ingredients and nutrition label. Watch out for added sugar, which is commonly found in store-bought pasta sauce.

Lentil Pasta

This item, which can be bought at most stores, will satisfy your child’s desire for pasta without the gluten. Plus, it’s packed with nutrients. For example, this red lentil spaghetti from Explore Cuisine is not only organic, but provides 11 grams of protein per serving, plus 3 grams of fiber, no added sugar, iron and potassium. Serve with your child’s favorite pasta topping for a healthy dinner that your picky eater will love.

Cauliflower

In its raw state, cauliflower may send your kids running in the other direction. However, this veggie is a great way to encourage healthy eating for picky eaters because it can be used in so many ways. When blended into smoothies or shaved into fritters, the taste is undetectable.

If you want to make cauliflower the star of the show, while still appealing to your picky eater, bread the florets. Alisha Grogan, pediatric occupational therapist, explains, “Most picky eaters LOVE breading! It’s often a familiar texture and it helps to mask the strong flavor or texture that they’re avoiding beneath.” Check out these vegan and gluten free breaded florets to give this idea a try at home.

Yogurt

Yogurt is a healthy staple for every picky eater household. If your child loves the creamy texture of yogurt, it can be the base for a variety of healthy toppings that boost their nutrition for the day. Think: fruit, gluten free or whole grain granola, unsweetened coconut shreds, or Healthy Height Shake Mix. Empower your picky eater to make healthy decisions by allowing him or her to build their own yogurt bowl for lunch. Put out a few healthy toppings and let your child decide what to add, or ask your kiddo which of these four Healthy Height yogurts he or she would like to try. 

For dairy-intolerant kiddos, there are still many yogurt options to choose from, including: almond-based yogurt, coconut yogurt and sheeps or goat milk yogurt. Each option is a healthy alternative that makes for a great afternoon snack or quick breakfast.

Healthy Eating for Picky Eaters is Possible

Don’t let a few failed attempts at healthy eating keep you from finding the foods that will get your kiddo to indulge. Healthy eating for picky eaters is possible—you just need to get a little creative. Keep these healthy foods in your house so it’s easy to make a healthy meal at any time, ensuring your picky eater gets plenty of nutrients.

Supplement a Picky Eater's Limited Diet

Healthy Height shake mix is a great supplement for a picky eater. You'll get peace-of-mind knowing you're rounding out your child's diet with the key nutrients needed for growth. Serve daily as a shake, in a smoothie, or in one of our recipes! 

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