Healthy Meals (on a budget) for the Picky Eater

Jenny/ February 3, 2020/ Thrifty Homeschool Mama Tips & Tricks

I get this question all the time, “Is your kid a picky eater?” So I’m guessing this is a HUGE problem for so many moms! Read on to find my solutions for Healthy Meals (on a budget) for Picky Eaters!

Let’s define a picky eater…

First off I think it might be beneficial to define what a picky eater is. A lot of times I think we just think if someone doesn’t like the same things to eat that we do then they are picky. That’s really not the case. Everyone is picky to some extent.

As a child I basically ate meat and potatoes. I was huge on textures and smells. If it had what i perceived as a gross texture or smell i refused to eat it amd there was NOTHING you could doto make me. In fact I think that was the most harmful thing my mom did was to try and force it.

Now that I’m a mom I do some things differently. When my kids first start eating solids I give them EVERYTHING and I mean everything that is healthy. They eat a huge range of foods and all 4 of my kids have pretty much eaten everything I gave them. One reason I think this is because I never gave them baby food. I just smashed up my food. Much yummier and so much cheaper!

Anyway as they’ve gotten older they’ve naturally gravitated to certain foods. My oldest eats basically anything except yogurt and peanut butter. My 6 year old son has sensory issues and is actually the only “picky” kid I have. That being said, he eats a wholesome diet because that’s all I keep in the house. He eats peanut butter (natural) on 100% whole wheat wraps or bread. He eats any kind of fruit too. Now vegetables are another issue altogether. I’m really not sure he will eat a vegetable (he even dislikes any form of potatoes, seriously).

So this kid lives on plain meats, fish, peanut butter, fruits and whole grains.  Guess what?  I don’t even make an issue of the stuff he doesn’t like. I offer it every time we eat then go on to something else.  He did branch out a bit this year and try cornbread dressing. And I think he does eat baby carrots in small amounts.

Some parents would be freaking out but I don’t stress about it. He’s super healthy and eats plenty of protein and fruits with his whole grains so he’s fine.

The problem starts when you cave to unhealthy eating.

Yep this is really where the problem lies. Its not in the fact that your kids have certain eating preferences. Its when you cave and give them unhealthy options. Guess what? They’ll pick those over the good stuff.

So lets just say your kid will eat only chicken nuggets and French fries. Guess what Mom? Its your fault because she has that option. She won’t starve herself so give her homemade wholesome chicken strips and oven fries. She may balk at first but she’ll get used to it. Don’t make her eat spaghetti if she hates it but don’t let her have a poptart instead. Only keep healthy food and her diet will reflect that.

What if you have a super difficult child?

Ok so I don’t have this issue with food but some of you all might. Lets pretend your kid will only eat peanut butter and bread. Yeah even with only healthy ingredients thats probably not optimal. So what you need to do is sneak it! Its a tough kid who can refuse a delicious almond milk smoothie with fresh fruit. Or make popsicles of fruit and stevia sweetened milk.

You can also sneak oats into waffles, puree vegetables into meatballs or pasta sauce for pizza. I’m yet to meet a kid who won’t eat pizza! Get really creative but take no prisoners. Don’t allow the bad to get into your house or you will have a standoff and they’ll win!

Ok now how to we do it on a budget?

I’m betting if you’ve been buying for a picky eater then you’ve been spending WAYYYY too much on food. I bet your probably a bit guilty of pickiness too. Ahhh, I completely understand, my foods have completely changed over the last 20 years. But I still have things I don’t like (mustard, hotdogs, bologna, and pickles come to mind).

Healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive! Read my post on How To Eat Healthy on a Budget to get the nitty gritty details on that.

But it really doesn’t and its so simple to make homemade healthy. Use whole grains in baking, maple syrup or honey for sweetening, extra virgin olive oil for cooking and just use whole foods. Don’t use processed foods which will save you enormous amounts of money. Just think 5 pounds of frozen french fries costs the same as 20 pounds of whole potatoes.

Pick the healthiest options you can when shopping and then prepare them the healthiest way you can. If you have picky eaters leave off spices they don’t like and let everyone put on their own toppings. For example in my house we love baked potatoes (everyone except Gabe). But I like mine with shredded cheese, cream cheese, olive oil and meat. Jake only likes olive oil on his so its so much easier to just let each person make their own.

What if you’re starting later & they’re already used to a certain diet?

Ooh boy this one is going to be tough! My recommendation is to start slowly and add in new things each week. If your kids are used to chicken nuggets each day you might have to come up with a recipe that tastes like those frozen ones (or find a healthy frozen one to transition with).

Gradually get them used to the healthy foods but honestly expect a fight at first. We can ALL get locked down on our choices and refuse to see the sensibility of different options.

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If your children are older explain why your menu is changing. Perhaps use how they will feel better, have more energy, clearer skin ECT…

Know that YOU are the mom and while its not a good idea to force feed your children you can and should help them develop a healthy palate. You are essentially equipping them for a lifelong habit that will be a blessing not a curse to them! Think about that next time you are tempted to placate their demands with an unhealthy food choice!

Don’t forget to look at your own food choices!

Setting a good example for our children doesn’t just apply to things like managing money or showing patience. It also means that our food choices affect their food choices. So if you’re preaching a healthy variety of foods but living on fast food its probably going to make ZERO impact! But if they see you consistently choosing the wholesome foods over the junky ones it WILL make a difference😉

Start Mama! Just START! You’ll be so happy you did. And one day you may wake up and find that your picky eaters are no longer picky! That’s exactly what happened with me!

What’s your biggest eating challenge with your kids?

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About Jenny

Jenny is a homeschooling mom of 4 and wife to a wonderful husband. She enjoys reading, a good cup of coffee, and spending time outdoors with her family. You can find her writing about Jesus, homeschooling, and life on her blog Our Inconvenient Family, and contributing regularly at Lifeschooling Conference.


  1. I’m a huge advocate for not having picky eaters. I agree most parents are to blame for their picky eaters. I love your suggestion of starting them off as babies!!

    1. It is hard sometimes especially with so many “well intentioned” family and friends offering junk. But its so worth the hard work!

  2. I had 2 picky eaters. Sticking to it and fortunately, they are better now. Starting cooking with them has helped them getting more adventurous with new food.

    1. Oh yes, my kids love to cook with me and are definitely more likely to try new foods when they prepare them!

  3. So many good points in this article. I have a picky eater too and know how easy it would be to cave to the unhealthy. I refuse to do it. He’s healthy and gains weight so for now I model good eating habits and wait for him to come around.

    1. That’s right! Just stay faithfully healthy lol and I think they’ll become more adventurous.

  4. You have some great tips here! I also believe firmly in starting them out as babies eating real food, not having unhealthy options in the house, and being a good example yourself!

    1. Yes its so much easier with real food. Not only is baby food crazy expensive but it has such weird additives so many times and its usually just plain gross, lol.

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