If your kids are picky eaters, you know that every meal can be a battle. Their growing bodies are in need of vitamins and nutrients, yet all they crave are unhealthy foods with no nutritional content. What you need are creative meal ideas they can eat for lunch at home or at school, designed to appeal to their palate.
The recipes listed here contain lots of vegetables, minimal or no processed ingredients, and most importantly, flavors that even the pickiest kids will love! The ingredients for each meal are listed below. Click on the name of the dish to see the full recipe!
1. Asian-Style Fish Cakes with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
Do you have a finicky eater that refuses to eat fish? This is a great way to make this omega-3 fatty acid rich protein appealing and fun to eat. And it’s much better for you than frozen fish sticks.
Just so you know, these fish cakes freeze amazingly well! To save time, make a big batch and freeze them for whenever you need a quick meal or snack.
2. Chicken Zucchini Poppers
Some kids don’t like the texture of zucchini, but in this recipe, they add moisture and the zucchini is barely detectable. Make sure to squeeze out the excess water in the zucchini so that the poppers stay together and don’t fall apart. They can be pan-fried or baked! The poppers pair perfectly with the citrus avocado dressing.
3. Baked Crispy Chicken Fingers with Apple Fries
If your kid asks for chicken fingers, you don’t have to say no. This version is made with white meat chicken and baked. Substituting fries with apple fries makes this an appetizing lunch that both you and your kids will approve of. Turkey breast can be used instead of chicken.
4. Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets (Vegetarian)
Broccoli is notorious for being a hard sell. Who knows why kids don’t like eating these miniature trees? But when mixed with cheese and formed into a fun shape for easy dipping, kids may give these broccoli-filled nuggets another try. Another positive is that they are baked, not fried.
The Salad Bar
5. Chicken Taco Salad
Kids love tacos, so why not make them a healthy taco salad? This one is packed full of leafy greens, tomatoes, corn, avocado and grilled chicken. Adding crushed chips on top gives it the perfect amount of texture and appeal for your young kids to enjoy without a single complaint.
6. Chicken Salad with Grapes
A colorful chicken salad with crunchy roasted nuts, dried cherries, grapes and celery, it can be served alone, in a sandwich, or on a bed of lettuce. Apples can be used in place of the cherries or in addition. Greek yogurt can also be used in place of the mayonnaise to up the healthy factor even more!
7. Salad Stuffed Pepper Bowls with Creamy Avocado Dressing (Vegan)
As many of you moms know, a huge part of the appeal of a meal is the presentation. These pepper bowls are such a clever idea for a kid-friendly lunch. The salad AND bowl are made from a plethora of colorful, nutritious veggies. How often do you get to tell your kids to eat their bowl? You can add a protein to the salad if you prefer, such as grilled chicken.
Soup of the Day
8. Vegan Chili
This vegan chili recipe contains primarily of vegetables and beans, making it very healthy and filling. Making a flavorful and rich tasting chili doesn’t have to take all day. By blending a small portion and adding it back in, the chili will be thick and satisfying, and no one will be able to taste the difference! Make a big batch because the leftovers keep very well.
9. Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Get all the flavors of chicken pot pie in half the time with this chicken pot pie soup recipe. This is such a comfort food, but also contains a lot of nutritionally dense ingredients, such as carrots, celery, peas, corn and green beans. The crust and filling are cooked separately, which is a major time saver for busy moms.
10. Slow Cooker Taco Soup
Another spin on the beloved taco, a fan favorite of young kids. This recipe is slow cooker friendly, so you can prep all of the ingredients in the morning, throw it in the slow cooker and come back to a house smelling of aromatic taco soup. Serve with tortilla chips or over a baked potato.
Oodles of Noodles
11. Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne
Swap out typical Chicken Parmesan with healthier but just as tasty eggplant, which is sauteed instead of deep fried. But you don’t have to sacrifice the crunch from the breading by adding panko on top. You can also use whole wheat pasta to cut calories and add fiber, minerals, and protein.
12. Roasted Chicken and Tomato Pesto Spaghetti Florentine
This recipe incorporates roasted grape tomatoes, baby spinach leaves and rotisserie chicken breast for a light and easy lunchtime pasta. You can make your own homemade pesto if you have the ingredients on hand. Store-bought also works just as well.
13. Thai Noodle Salad (Vegan)
Filling your meals with plants of different colors will ensure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. This recipe alone covers four colors! You can use any type of noodle (wheat, rice, soba, etc.) to make this dish, and customize the veggies to your heart’s content.
14. Southwest Pasta Salad (Vegetarian)
This pasta salad is bursting with flavor — with tons of spices, lime juice and chipotle peppers. Don’t worry about making too much because the leftovers will be even more flavorful, after marinating in all of the seasonings overnight. And there is no heating needed! Use a lentil and quinoa pasta to make this dish gluten free.
15. Avocado Hummus Pasta (Vegan)
This recipe is one that I created when I had no clue what to do with the vegetables, ripe avocados and leftover hummus I had to use up in my fridge. The textures and flavors of each ingredient somehow just works magically together. The creaminess from the avocado and hummus ties it all together. This accidental discovery is a huge hit with my husband and son!
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
A 30-minute creamy vegan pasta loaded with veggies and tossed in a creamy sauce made from ripe avocados and hummus.
- 1 lb rotini pasta (substitute as needed)
- 3 tsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
- 8 oz sugar snap peas
- 1 cup frozen or fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 large cucumber, chopped
- 3 oz sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
- 2-3 ripe avocados, chunks
- 10 oz hummus, any flavor
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- salt, pepper to taste
- Cook noodles according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
- Chop veggies and set aside.
- Add olive oil to a large saucepan. Saute minced garlic until aromatic. Add mushrooms, asparagus, cucumber, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute until tender.
- Add pasta, avocado, and hummus to the pan and mix gently.
- Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Serve warm. Store leftovers in the fridge for a few days.
Some Assembly Required
16. French Bread Pizza
This is one of the most versatile recipes I’ve ever come across. Not only can you completely customize the toppings on the pizza, you don’t even have to use French bread. Deli rolls, Italian rolls or hoagie rolls work just as well! The possibilities of toppings that you can add are endless. Have your kids customize their own individual pizzas with their favorite toppings to ensure they will create a meal they love.
17. Rainbow Pizza
Look at the colors on this pizza! Not only is this pizza visually appealing, it’s also extremely healthy and delicious. The combination of bell peppers, broccoli, red cabbage and beets add a variety of complementary textures and flavors to this creative pizza recipe.
18. Asian Lettuce Wraps
Chicken lettuce wraps are a crowd-pleaser at P.F. Chang’s, but there’s no reason you can’t make a just as good if not better version at home. Requiring only 15 minutes, these lettuce wraps are scrumptious and fun to eat. Your kids will love assembling their own lettuce wraps and devouring this healthy lunch.
19. Fish Tacos
Another way to get kids to eat fish is to serve them into tacos! These flaky pieces of fish are topped with a tangy, crunchy slaw loaded with veggies. The fish can be pan-fried or grilled and served in a flour or corn tortilla. Your kids will be requesting this dish over and over again.
20. Skirt Steak Fajitas
This tortilla friendly recipe that incorporates skirt steak, onions and bell peppers has decided to go the fajita route. All of these ingredients can be combined on one baking sheet. That means fewer dishes and easier clean-up! You can serve with your favorite toppings such as avocado, sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese.
No Utensils Needed
21. Avocado Egg Salad Wraps
Eggs are a great ingredient to include in a nutrient-dense lunch for growing kids. Egg salad is one of the best ways to serve it, but the large amounts of mayonnaise introduces a lot of unnecessary saturated fats. This recipe cuts out a lot of the mayo and uses nature’s mayo — avocados, for creaminess.
22. Spicy Tuna Avocado Wrap
Canned tuna is such a convenient ingredient and is also a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and potassium. This wrap contains lots of hearty vegetables and uses avocado and Dijon mustard to flavor the tuna. Sriracha is used for added spice if your kids can handle spicy food! These wraps can be packed easily in a lunch box to take to school.
23. Chicken and Avocado Roll-Ups
These easy roll-ups take only 10 minutes to make! And they’re packed with great veggies like avocados, tomatoes and onions. You can pack it with even more veggies like spinach, cucumber, or whatever you might have in your fridge.
24. White Bean Veggie Burgers (Vegan)
Do you have kids that love eating burgers? These 100% vegan burgers with plant-based bacon and cheese will be so delicious that they won’t even realize they’re not eating meat. Beans contain lots of vitamins and fiber and are a great source of protein. You can bake or grill these delectable burger patties.
25. Turkey Spinach Slider
One of the problems with turkey burgers is that they can be flavorless and unappetizing when prepared incorrectly. This recipe incorporates ingredients that pack a punch like cumin and garlic. There’s also spinach leaves blended right into the patty, but your kids will be too busy chowing down to even notice!
Making healthy lunches for home or school doesn’t have to be daunting task. Armed with these recipes, you have all the tools you need to find meals that the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.
By incorporating nutritional but less appealing ingredients into forms your kids recognize and love, you can introduce them to new flavors and hopefully, open their minds to trying new things.
Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com