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10 Great Holiday Foods For Picky Eaters


Moms of picky eaters, we have an early holiday gift for you: a list of festive, kid-friendly fare to help you serve up a meal that even the fussiest, most finicky eaters will enjoy. Whether you’re hosting the holiday gathering or heading away from home to celebrate, preparing a dish or two you KNOW your little one will eat means he or she can feast right alongside the rest of the family. Then sit back, ignore any judgmental commentary from relatives, enjoy the meal, and don’t sweat about what your kid is (or isn’t) eating!

1. Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoes

Any way you slice, mash, bake or oven-fry them, these tasty tubers are often a hit with picky palates. The classic casserole, with its crown of gooey caramelized marshmallows, may prove irresistible if you pitch it as a special “dessert at dinner” dish. (Hey, it’s a holiday!) Baked sweet potatoes travel well, too, making them a good portable option for destination dinners (just mash with butter and cinnamon at your host’s home).

2. Pumpkin Bread or Muffins

a loaf of pumpkin bread

Serve these at the start of the meal or with the main course instead of plain-old white rolls. The addition of pureed pumpkin to the batter means they’re full of good stuff like vitamin A and fiber, and their slightly sweet flavor makes them a hit with little ones. Look for healthier recipesthat don’t call for a mountain of sugar.

3. Individual Mini Meatloaves

a plate of mini meatloafs

Some kids are not fans of sliced turkey, roast beef or ham. But they’ll devour meatballs or burgers without complaint! Sure, you could make either of those for the holiday meal, but a batch of single-serving, muffin-tin meatloaves seems way more festive. They can even double as appetizers for the grown-ups. Modify your favorite recipe or try a new one that your little one will love.

4. High-Quality Butter

a slab of butter

It’s (unfortunately!) not main-dish worthy on its own, but butter can make everything from plain broccoli to baked potatoes taste so much more delicious. And despite its bad reputation, organic pastured butter is actually a good source of fat for growing kids, says nutritionist Jane Schwartz, RD, of The Nourishing Gurus.

5. Carrot Coins

chunks of carrot cut up

Here’s another sweet veggie favorite that doesn’t offend picky eaters like (gasp!) green vegetables often do. Peel, slice and steam carrots and serve plain or with butter, or toss with a little honey for toddlers over 12 months old. Make them even more enticing for older kids by calling them “Elf Coins” or similar—one study showed kids were twice as likely to try foods with a cool name.

6. Stuffing

a bowl of stuffing

Let’s be honest—stuffing is mostly bread, and picky eaters love bread. If your traditional holiday recipe calls for lots of herbs, nuts, or other mix-ins your kid won’t touch, make a separate small batch that’s a little more back-to-basics (or even try a from-the-box mix variety if it will be more appealing).

7. Custom Crudités

some celery and carrot sticks with dip

Even some picky toddlers like certain raw vegetables, especially when ranch or yogurt dip is offered alongside. Others might hate veggies but adore olives or pickles. Some older kids may even nibble on nuts! Here’s a chance to put together an assortment of finger foods you know your child will eat under the guise of setting out a sophisticated array of appetizers that grownups can pick from, too. Let your child make a “pick platter” of her favorites using paper or silicone muffin-tin liners on a tray or plate.

8. Cheese and Crackers

a plate of cheese and crackers

Here’s a super-reliable standby that also doubles as a crowd-pleasing starter. If you are feeling particularly ambitious, use holiday cookie cutters to make shapes from cheese slices, or arrange crackers in a holiday design on the serving platter. Add more adventurous offerings (like herbed crackers and spiced or very pungent cheeses) to a separate “adults only” section.

9. Festive Fruit Salad

a bowl of fruit salad

For Christmas, try a super-festive mix using only red and green fruit: strawberries, grapes, kiwi, honeydew, watermelon, raspberries, and peel-on apple slices (toss with a little lemon juice to prevent browning). Otherwise just use whatever combination of fruit you know your child will like—and serve it with the meal if he’s rejecting the other food on the table.

10. Reliable Old Standbys

a bowl of pasta

There’s nothing wrong with feeding your kid an “everyday” dinner you know she’ll eat if it means you’ll be able to enjoy the holiday meal (and the company) in peace. So confidently bust out the chicken nuggets, hot dogs, plain buttered noodles or any of your usual “go-to” options. Dress ‘em up a little on a pretty plate if you want to make it festive.

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