This post contains affiliate links. 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 the following recipe “Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese” a couple of months ago through Pinterest. I have made a few changes to reduce the fat and sodium.
Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese (My changes are in green)
Ingredients (serves 8-10)
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into pieces
2 cups fresh or frozen butternut squash pieces
1/2 cup milk (I would use Nonfat Milk)
1 tsp salt (I would use 1/2 this amount)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (this is about 8 ounces cheese; you can buy the 2% cheese, which tastes just as good)
8 oz cream cheese
4 TBS butter
16 oz elbow pasta (gluten-free options, lentil–not elbow–but delicious, especially Lensi brand)*
Cook the cauliflower and carrots covered in a saucepan filled about a 1/4 of the way with water for about 5-7 minutes.
(I would steam the cauliflower to retain the vitamin C–not necessary with carrots or squash because vitamin A doesn’t leach into the water).
Add the squash and cook 2-3 minutes more. Drain the veggies and let them cool for a minute.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions.
Put the veggies in the blender with about 3/4 cup of water and puree until smooth. Add the puree to a large sauce pan. On medium-low heat, add in the milk, salt, cheddar, butter and cream cheese and stir until melted.
Drain the pasta, add to the sauce and stir.
**If you like, you can even bake it with some bread crumbs or extra cheese to make the top gooey, 15-20 minutes.
*My son likes macaroni and cheese in all forms, except I have had a hard 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?
Healthy Alternatives for Picky Eaters Number 2
Making pureed soups out of vegetables.
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
When you give your picky eaters vegetable soup, you are not only giving them more vegetables, you are 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 usually pretty high in sodium. So making homemade chicken nuggets (or tenders if you prefer), is a great 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 bread crumbs (gluten-free option)
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 probably 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 1st, and egg mixture 2nd, then dip chicken in panko mixture last.
Preheat canola oil in pan, about an inch deep, until temp 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