Healthy Eats: How to Satisfy the Picky Eaters in Your Family

The secret lies in offering variety while avoiding cooking everyone separate meals. Plus, check out our fail-proof chicken breast recipe.

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on July 08, 2010
From the WebMD Archives

I am a chef, but I'm also a mom. So believe me; I know "picky eater syndrome." But I've also found ways to cut the stress and dread of mealtimes with finicky eaters down to a minimum -- and to keep you from turning into a personal chef for each family member.

Introduce new ingredients. Grow a garden (even if it's a potted one) with a variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Have your children help you shop and then cook -- picking herbs, peeling garlic, rinsing lettuce, mixing ingredients. It's all about exposure.

Bring in veggie interventionists. Invite friends who love to eat healthy foods for a dinner or snack -- especially kid friends. Serve them a healthy food you know they like. Then sit back and watch how your kids react. Make sure to serve that same meal again within a couple of days.

Customize -- a tiny bit. Provide a slight twist on meals for each person. Put out two or three dips for veggies. Try pasta with basic tomato sauce, and offer a few toppings on the side for everyone to try --consider grilled chicken, white Italian beans, and fresh chopped herbs.

Starve them. I'm kidding, but don't forget the importance of hunger. When trying a new food, make sure your family is hungry -- no soft drinks, milk, or snacks before dinner.

Be patient. Young children who are still developing taste buds can reject foods up to 10 to 15 times before liking them. This is frustrating, but natural. Keep offering a food, even if they try one bite and spit it out. It's all about giving them the chance to develop a taste for it.

Thinly Pounded Chicken Breast

I cannot tell you how many parents I meet who cannot properly cook a chicken breast -- it comes out either dry or like rubber. Pounding is the simplest, most basic way to handle a chicken breast. Extra bonus: It's cost-effective, quick, and provides the perfect canvas for experiments in taste.

Ingredients (1 serving)

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

dash of salt and pepper


1. Heat oven to 450˚F. Using a meat mallet or small skillet, pound the chicken breast half between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper until it's 1/4 inch thick.

2. Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and pepper on both sides, drizzle with olive oil, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes.

3. For more adventurous eaters, try coating the breasts in breadcrumbs (mixed with a little Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley) before cooking. Or add one of these three combinations of ingredients just before serving: lemon zest and chopped basil; soy sauce and sesame seeds; or avocado, lime, jack cheese, and cilantro.

Per serving (chicken only): 254 calories, 27 g protein, 15 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 68 mg cholesterol, 155 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 54%.