HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Help!! Recipes for extremely picky eaters.

I'm trying to help a friend out who's trying to eat healthier - she's getting married in a year and doesn't necessarily need to lose weight but is looking for a generally healthier lifestyle. I've offered to help teach her some new recipes so she can start cooking at home more. The problem is, she has the palate of a 5 year old. She pretty much only eats Hamburgers (well done, no condiments or cheese), pasta with plain sauce, pizza (plain cheese), hot dogs, macaroni & cheese, etc. I've been trying to get her to eat more vegetables, but over a year of working on this (we were roommates), the only things she will touch are: carrots, green beans, lettuce, corn, potatoes. Recently got her to consider eating broccoli. She doesn't eat any kind of rice or cooked grains (doesn't like the texture). Seafood is a big no. And the kicker is, her fiance, who she lives with and cooks for, doesn't eat any kind of poultry.

I'm trying to put together about 10, relatively healthy recipes, nothing too complicated, nothing too strange. Any recipe links would be GREATLY appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. That's a whole lot of issues with one person, and I think it's super hard to eat healthy if there are so many restrictions. How on Earth was she getting nutrients before? Here are some helpful tips...
    When I put myself on a diet, my dinners some nights are a salad of meclun greens (or greens of herbs), shredded carrots, tomatoes, grilled corn (when in season), cucumbers, avocado, and a protein of my choice. I also throw in some cheese for dairy. I make my own croutons.
    I saute blanched green beans or haricot vert in olive oil, butter, salt and pepper as simple side dish. It can pair with any protein.
    She can switch to whole grain pasta as a healthy alternative. I do a penne with sausage, onions, garlic, tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, and bell peppers. I stole the recipe from a Barilla box and have adapted it to my own purposes.
    Chili made with turkey instead of beef.
    A minestrone soup sounds like it might be applicable to her.

    1. Is she receptive to food mixtures, e.g. soups, casseroles, baked pasta dishes? If so, I'd say recipes that incorporate several ingredients she tolerates--pasta, ground beef, cheese, veggies--would be a place to start. Then she can gradually add things she doesn't like in small quantities--mushrooms, garlic, whatever. Like you'd train a kid to accept unfamiliar foods except she'll have to trick herself.

      1 Reply
      1. re: tcamp

        I think the casserole idea is a good one... will definitely use that. It really is like feeding a kid.

      2. If she has the palate of a 5 year old I would teach her to cook as if she were cooking for a 5 year old.

        You can hide an amazing amount of vegetables in pasta sauce when you cook and puree them first. Not to mention hidden in dips and sandwich spreads, blended into soups, you can even sneak some cooked vegetables into breads, cakes and desserts.

        (I often cook for a 14 year old that acts 5 at the dinner table complete with whining and crying if she doesn't like it. To save my sanity I figured out how to hide the veggies- she has no idea how many times she's eaten spinach, sweet potatoes, even brussels sprouts that no longer resembled brussels sprouts.....)

        1 Reply
        1. re: weezieduzzit

          Good point. Simple, simple. Fried or hardboiled eggs, simple salad, baked potato, turkey burger, salmon burger. If she likes salt, then make sure unfamiliar foods are salty, at least at first. Raw veggies. It would be helpful if she could learn to like broccoli because that is ubiquitous in restaurants

          But Weezie has the right idea I think. Keep it simple, and don't combine a lot of foods in one dish for now.

          Since she isn't thrilled about veggies will she eat apples, or applesauce? Or pears or bananas?

          And, a long time ago I read about someone who never liked veggies, but learned to like grilled or roasted veggies.


        2. With that list five-year-olds are insulted: )

          1. Sounds kind of like my wife, who I've been working on for a decade now. Most recent success: beans. Healthy, delicious, lotsa possible variety in how you use em and flavor em.

            1. What about roasted kale chips? I like them a lot better than potato chips and they're really healthy. Leafy greens aren't for everyone, especially not picky eaters, but a lot of people I know who don't like kale in other forms like it when it's a crispy, salty snack. Super easy to make too.

              1. Carrots, green beans, lettuce, corn, and potatoes sounds really great to me. Starting broccoli is good, you can then branch into ... brussels sprouts!

                I frequently get told "no green vegetables" when throwing a dinner party.

                2 Replies
                1. re: jaykayen

                  Really picky eater into my 20s. Broccoli with cheese sauce, Green Giant I think, started me loving vegetables. The big producer know what is popular tastes so that is a way to start. Sorry if this is offensive but now I eat all vegetables and cook them myself.

                  1. re: jaykayen

                    Maybe try cauliflower first--it's milder and still very healthy. And you can mash it like potatoes. Cauliflower mashed with cream and butter might not be very low-cal (if that's a concern) but it's still nutrient-dense.

                  2. I've taught myself to like mushrooms - first I cut them into really small pieces, cooked them thouroughly and mixed them into meatballs. Now I'll make a mushroom lasagna... start out with small pieces of some veggie cooked in with something she likes. Add more of it and larger pieces over time. I think this would work with peppers, summer squash, eggplant, cabbage... Sometimes it is a big hurdle to get over the "I don't eat that" mentality more than actual dislikes.

                    1. So like a 5 year old, she needs to start at square one and get hands on with her food. Take her to a farmers market and have her pick things out to try, look at the colors, smell the aromas, chatting with vendors about recipes. They always have simple, easy ways of making their produce taste good. Maybe if she knew how sweet red peppers get when grilled she might think about taking a nibble. She has to find out if she likes veggies steamed, grilled, or roasted with yummy oil+garlic+herbs. Maybe raw veggies with a fantastic creamy dip would thrill her. Encourage her to experiment. Whatever she doesn't like she can spit out and vow never to taste again ;)

                      I know with myself (former picky eater), I wouldn't touch an onion when I was a kid. Ew. Yuck. But when I started learning how to cook, I picked a recipe that sounded so good--and it had onions in it. I wanted to follow it exactly, and lo and behold I started liking onions. I'm quite sure I wouldn't like them today if I'd never picked one out then chopped and cooked it myself. Trying foods one by one, and choosing them because a recipe looks really good might help her. So I'd encourage her to help you pick out recipes.

                      A blog I love is Budget Bytes. Fantastic photos, a wide variety of foods, and everything is easy and budget friendly. There is a category for everything, so it's easy to find what you want. There's even an 'easy' category!

                      Perhaps broccoli mac 'n cheese would be a good start? She could put in just a tiny amount of broccoli to start with. I suggest it as a safe jumping off point for her.

                      You said no grains, but she could leave the barley out of this stew or use a handful of small wholegrain pasta instead. Though perhaps she might end up liking the barley like this since it's not a pile of grains.

                      OreIda makes frozen sweet potato fries. Maybe she could start out making these to go along with her plain hamburger? There are all kinds of dip recipes out there for sweet potato fries, everything from honey mustard or spicy mayo to healthier avocado dips. Sometimes a small start like this can get the ball rolling. Maybe this time next year her fiance will be slicing fresh sweet potatoes for her to bake.

                      Maybe just 2-3 recipes would be good to start with, since I'm guessing she doesn't really cook now. Get one she likes under her belt so she can make it without thinking, then go on to the next one. And maybe some old standards like glazed carrots, creamed spinach, broccoli with cheese sauce would appeal to her. They may not be the healthiest options, but it's far better than no veggies at all.

                      1. I think the main problem here will be that hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs and mac & cheese are in no way healthy. Sure, they're fine as a sometime treat, but as a tent-pole to your diet, they're a disaster.
                        How would she feel about roasts and braises? A pot roast is a pretty decent meal, and you can sneak carrots, potatoes and onion into it. Beef stew is another option. Would she consider a pork roast? That's low-effort, and pretty hearty.
                        Would she consider soups? A cup of tomato soup and a grilled cheese isn't the healthiest meal, but it's better than what she's eating now.
                        Finally, if she's eating lettuce, green beans and potatoes, why not try to turn her on to a Nicoise salad? You're basically just a can of tuna, some olives, some eggs, and some dressing away.

                        1. maybe you can use the foods she likes to incorporate healthier variations... in the mac'n'cheese, sub out some of the pasta with cauliflower? pizza (gasp) with toppings?
                          lean meatballs with a veggie pureed sauce?
                          healthy variation on tacos?
                          i'll keep thinking...