People have been asking me what they should be feeding their kids who have ADHD. One of the major things you want to try to achieve is a balanced diet.

What I mean by this is, regular meals and healthy snacks, sufficient protein, calcium and iron, and as natural as possible. So, I have put together three healthy alternatives for picky eaters to help make transitions easier.

Three Healthy Alternatives for Picky Eaters

Most kids love macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and don't like vegetables much. This “problem” is exacerbated when the child will only eat macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets and won't eat vegetables.  OR when all they are eating is boxed macaroni and cheese and frozen processed chicken nuggets.

This is often the case for children with autism, ADHD, and sensory processing difficulties. As a result, I have looked for and found three healthy alternatives for picky kids, that hopefully won't be too time consuming or difficult to make. Especially because you can double the recipes and serve as leftovers and/or freeze for a later time.

It's kind of a “Instead of this, Eat that,” scenario.

Healthy Alternatives for Picky Eaters Number 1

Hiding vegetables in sauce by pureeing the sauce and vegetables together.

I discovered a recipe “Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese” a couple of months ago through Pinterest. We finally made the recipe (I had previously posted the recipe from the website–THIS IS AN UPDATE).

I decided after thinking about it for a few months that this recipe would probably not be successful because of the cauliflower and butternut squash. Our son hates cauliflower, and the texture of squash is just too much for him.

I evaluated the nutrition facts on last night, after my husband made the macaroni and cheese and my son loved it.

The vitamin A in each serving is increased from about 7% to over 40% from our original homemade macaroni and cheese. This with only 1/2 cup of carrots. I would've liked to add more to the recipe but didn't want to overdo it because my son is so picky.

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High Protein Mac and Cheese with Carrots

This delicious, creamy, healthy macaroni and cheese will tickle your kids' taste buds.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword adhd diet, autism diet, autism menu, high protein, kid friendly recipes, recipes kids love, vitamin a
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 334kcal
Author Deborah Hanyon, MPH, RDN, ACE-CHC



  • 3/4 cup water 1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup water
  • 3 medium carrots Yield 1/2 cup pureed carrots

White Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 dash white pepper


  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar or other favorite cheese 1 cup shredded



  • Cook carrots in 1/2 cup water until soft enough to puree.
  • Add carrots to food processor or small blender with 1/4 cup water.
  • Puree until smooth

For White Sauce

  • Melt Butter in medium saucepan
  • Add flour, salt and white pepper to pan
  • Mix with wire whisk
  • Add milk all at once, stirring constantly.
  • Use wire whisk to evenly distribute flour mixture and to prevent lumps
  • Stir milk mixture constantly at medium heat, until mixture is thickened and boiling.
  • Cook 2 minutes longer.
  • Remove from heat
  • Add shredded cheese and 1/2 cup carrot puree
  • Pour over pasta and stir
  • Serve as is OR sprinkle with extra cheese and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes for gooey topping


Calories: 334kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 219mg | Potassium: 543mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2150IU | Vitamin C: 1.7mg | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 3.6mg

My son likes macaroni and cheese in all forms, except I have had a tough time recently getting him to accept whole wheat pasta with his cheese. My solution to this problem is to use lentil pasta. This is perfect for those of you who are gluten-free or who are trying to reduce the amount of wheat in your diet.

Lentil pasta is super high in protein, and an excellent source of iron, folate, magnesium, and fiber.

When I cook lentil pasta, I usually cook it a little longer than the package directions say. This is because it doesn't taste as good al dente, and my son complains unless it's just right–past al dente state.

Personally, I think we all could benefit from eating a wider variety of grains and legumes. In fact, I've recently been scratching my head wondering when did we start eating only wheat pasta and bread?

He likes this better than the original mac and cheese recipe

Healthy Alternatives for Picky Eaters Number 2

Making Cream of Fresh Vegetable Soups.

This is one I've been using successfully for years.

Broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms all make excellent pureed cream soups. And there are others as well. However, my son likes the broccoli soup the best, especially if I add cheese. (Can anyone say, “Cheese Sauce?”)

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Click here for pureed vegetable soup recipes

When you give your picky eaters vegetable soup, you are not only giving them more vegetables, but you are also helping to make sure their fluid needs are being met. This is one way I use to help prevent my son from being dehydrated, since he won't drink water.

Healthy Alternatives for Picky Eaters Number 3

Processed chicken nuggets…Not only are they expensive, but most of them are filled with artificial stuff and preservatives galore. Plus, they are high in sodium. So, making homemade chicken nuggets (or tenders if you prefer), is a fantastic way to ensure you child is getting enough protein in their diet. The recipe below can be doubled or tripled, or even cut in half, and the rest can be frozen for future use.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets


2 pounds chicken breast meat (tenders, fillets) cut into 1-inch pieces/squares

1 cup flour of choice (wheat, rice, or Bob's gluten free flour, for example)

1 cup Panko or other breadcrumbs (gluten-free option)

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon garlic salt (We use Lawry's, because it has no MSG or artificial colors or flavors)

Canola oil (okay to use other vegetable oil, but don't use olive oil, because olive oil has a low smoke point, and will smoke)


Mix egg and milk together until combined in one bowl

Mix garlic salt with flour

Put flour mixture in separate bowl

Put Panko crumbs in separate bowl

(Keep flour, panko, and egg mixture in separate bowls)

Dip chicken in flour first, and egg mixture second, then dip chicken in panko mixture last.

Preheat canola oil in pan, about an inch deep, until temperature reaches 350 degrees F

Carefully place coated chicken pieces in oil, and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Place cooked chicken pieces on paper towel covered bowl to drain excess oil.

Makes about 20 nuggets

Click here for recipe

Other things you might find helpful:

Sensory Play for Toddlers Using Regular Household Items

Why are Kids Picky Eaters?

Preschool Food Theme Activities

Whole Wheat Versus White Flour Baking


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