Your child refuses to eat the meal you carefully prepared yet again and you’re at a loss about what to do. Dealing with picky eaters can be stressful for parents who especially worry about whether their child is getting adequate nutrition to fuel their growth and development. However, if you know what type of picky eater your child is (take this quiz to find out), then it becomes easier to craft a nutritious and delicious meal plan that works for your little one’s particular “picky eater traits.”
If you have a behavioural picky eater1 who refuses to eat regular meals, it’s probably because your little one needs everything to be “just right” when it comes to food. For example, your child might gag if you make them a sandwich with brown bread instead of white. Or they might not even come to the table at all during mealtimes. The trick to making your little behavioural picky eater happy at mealtimes is to provide meals that your child can eat alone and also take out items they don’t like, if they prefer it that way. The meal plan provided here is especially tailored to suit the preferences of a behavioural picky eater.
Recipes for your behavioural picky eater
Breakfast: Stewed Ee-fu Noodles
Full of nutritious ingredients like mushrooms for B vitamins and potassium2,3, this breakfast dish is ideal for a behavioural picky eater to eat on their own. If they don’t like the mushrooms or any other ingredient, these can easily be picked out, too. This recipe is adapted from The Gourmet Traveller4. You can use any type of mushroom your child likes.
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
- 120g fresh enoki mushrooms, woody ends trimmed
- 200g ee-fu noodles
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 200g chicken breast, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 250ml (1 cup) chicken stock
- ¼ tsp sesame oil
- 1 spring onion, cut into 5cm batons
- Squeeze excess water from shiitake. Cut off stems (discard) and cut into thin strips. Separate enoki into clusters.
- Cook noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water until just soft (1-2 minutes), drain, and rinse under cold running water.
- Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add chicken, stir-fry to seal (1-2 minutes), then add oyster sauce and chicken stock
- Bring to a boil, then add noodles and mushrooms. Stir gently to prevent noodles from breaking up. As soon as noodles come to a boil, add sesame oil and spring onion. Stir gently for sauce to thicken, and serve warm.
Lunch: Hong Kong Style Steamed Fish
Fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, iron, zinc, iodine and other essential nutrients5 to boost the development of your child. This Hong Kong style steamed fish with its delicate flavours and soft flesh is bound to be a favourite with your little one. The recipe, adapted from The Woks of Life6, is quick and easy and can be enjoyed by the whole family, too.
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- 10 ounce fillet of delicate white fish (such as sea bass, grey sole, flounder, fluke, tilapia, or haddock)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Combine the light soy sauce, salt, and hot water in a small bowl. Mix and set aside.
- Prepare your steaming set-up, and fill with 1-2 inches of water. Bring to a boil.
- Rinse your fish fillet, and carefully lay it on an oblong heat-proof plate that will fit into your wok or steaming setup. Carefully place it in the steamer, and adjust the heat to medium.
- Cover and steam for 7-10 minutes depending upon the size and thickness of your fish fillet. If you have extremely small, thin fillets (half an inch), cook for 4-5 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
- Turn off the heat, and carefully drain any liquid on the plate.
- To make the sauce, heat a small saucepan to medium high heat, and add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add the ginger and fry for 1 minute. Add the white parts of the scallions and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the rest of the scallion. The mixture should be sizzling. Add the soy sauce mixture. Bring the mixture to a bubble, and cook for about 30 seconds.
- Pour this mixture over the fish. Serve chunks of deboned fish to your little one with some steamed white Jasmine rice and some vegetables.
Snack: Sweet Potato Soup
Your child won’t even know they’re eating a vegetable because this sweet potato soup is that yummy. Mum and dad will also be happy to know that sweet potatoes are a super-food rich in carbohydrates, potassium, and carotenes.7 The following recipe for sweet potato soup is adapted from BBC Food.8
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 ½ cups of vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Heat the oil in a saucepan.
- Sauté the onion and garlic until golden.
- Add the sweet potato and vegetable stock.
- Simmer until the sweet potato is soft.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and blend using a stick or regular blender.
- Pour back into the saucepan and stir for a minute
- Serve warm.
Dinner: Fried Bee Hoon
This classic Singaporean dish won’t be rejected even by the fussiest behavioural picky eater. While bee hoon is easy for your child to eat on their own, they can easily pick out items they don’t want to eat if they wish to. It’s an easy-to-make, one-wok dish that offers a wide range of nutrients to your child thanks to the addition of vegetables and meat. This recipe is by Little Day Out.9
- 3 portions of beehoon
- 6 medium-sized black mushrooms, soak and sliced thinly
- 150 grams of pork or chicken, sliced thinly and marinated in 1 tablespoon of cornflour, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and ½ tablespoon of sesame oil
- 300 grams medium-sized prawns, shells removed and deveined
- 300 grams cabbage, sliced into long strips
- 1 small carrot, sliced into long strips
- 300 grams bean sprouts, both ends removed
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- Soak bee hoon with tap water for about 15 minutes. Remove and drain in a colander.
- Heat wok and with a little oil, add one third of the minced garlic and fry.
- Add in pork or chicken and mushrooms and three quarter bowls of water.
- Add prawns and salt to taste. Remove and put aside.
- Add 3 tablespoons of oil and stir-fry the rest of the minced garlic.
- Next, add the cabbage and bee hoon. Cover the wok and cook for 5 minutes.
- Remove the cover and add all of the cooked items set aside earlier, together with the bean sprouts and carrot. Cover and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed.
- Serve warm.
Dealing with a picky eater and not quite sure what to do? In addition to tailoring healthy menu plans based on the type of picky eater that your little one is, you could complement the nutrition they get from these meals with Enfagrow PRO A+ milk formula. Enfagrow PRO A+ could also help make up for nutrients your picky eater might be missing out on.
Every tin of Enfagrow PRO A+ contains a unique blend of nutrients to support your child’s overall mental and physical development. These include MFGM (Milk Fat Globule Membrane) and 2’-FL. Also with 360° DHA Plus that help meet your child’s recommended daily DHA intake*. Complemented with Iron and Zinc that help support your child’s natural defences^; and Prebiotic FOS which promotes growth of good Bifidus bacteria to help maintain a healthy digestive system.” There is no added sucrose in Enfagrow PRO A+.
Support your picky eater’s nutritional needs with Enfagrow PRO A+. Here is a $10 Enfashop voucher specially for you▴!
Other meal plans
For a meal plan tailored to the needs of a sensory dependent picky eater, click here
For a meal plan tailored to the needs of a preferential picky eater, click here
For a meal plan tailored to the needs of a perfectionist picky eater, click here
The contents of this article has been reviewed by Ruben Dela Peña Macapinlac, M.D. who is a graduate of De La Salle Medical & Health Sciences Institute, Doctor of Medicine. He had his Pediatric residency training at De La Salle University Medical Center. During his residency training, he wrote an award-winning case report and research. He also became the department’s Chief Resident. Dr. Macapinlac is now a General Pediatrician and the doctor behind “Pedia On-The-Go” Facebook page.