While most toddlers love a chicken nugget it can be hard to get them to eat chicken in a gravy or mixed up with other not liked ingredients.
As a rule it is better to avoid making separate dishes for children. Not only does that increase the work load on you, but it also becomes harder as time passes for the child’s palate to evolve if all he has tasted is fried chicken nuggets.
Today we will look at how you can introduce chicken in different forms to picky eaters and list out family friendly chicken meals for toddler that can be used to increase exposure without overwhelming the child.
Why is chicken important in a toddler’s diet?
Toddlers (2-3 year old’s) need about 2-4 ounce equivalents of protein per day. (source)
And while most children will get this quantity from their milk and cheese, we know that too much dairy can lead to anemia and it is always better to include a variety of protein sources in their diet and not simply stick to dairy. A 3 ounce (85gms) portion of chicken contains about 20-30 gms of protein depending on the cut of the meat.
Chicken also contains good amounts of a variety of nutrients like Vit B6, Vitamin B12, Copper, Selenium, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
Adequate protein intake helps in building and repairing muscle tissue.
How to introduce chicken into your picky eater’s meals?
The trick with picky eaters is to provide exposures to foods without pressure. Some may not think of the “one bite rule” as pressure, but even something as polite sounding as “have one bite please” is telling our children to try something they aren’t yet ready to do so, and such rules are like a slippery slope.
Before you know it you will be saying things like, “Have one bite and then you can have a cookie.”
All these pressure tactics teach children to not listen to their own hunger cues or put them off trying new textures and tastes. We want them to have a healthy relationship with food and be intuitive eaters.
Instead, here is how we can talk about food at the table.
For children age 2-4 year olds describe the food, talk about how it looks, what texture to expect, the flavor and color and give easy to understand information about what the food does inside the body.
For example, you can say,
The chicken is
Texture: Chewy/ juicy/crispy/
What it does: Chicken helps us build muscles and grow tall.
As the child grows older, you can give more detailed information about how chicken contains protein. Proteins help us repair and build muscle tissues. Eating protein at each meal helps keep us full until snack time, etc. etc.
The jist of it being, give more information about each food the child is eating, where appropriate invite the child to prep and cook with you in the kitchen and leave the decision to eat or not on the child.
Healthy chicken recipes for picky eaters
Here is a list of healthy chicken recipes for picky toddlers other than the same old chicken nuggets. Don’t get me wrong chicken nuggets are also a good option, but, we don’t want that to be the only type of chicken meal our child is used to eating.
A simple and flavorful recipe by Once upon a chef. When creating exposures for picky eaters, it is best to start with simple recipes and move up the flavor profile ladder as the child gets comfortable with different textures and tastes.
I like a simple grilled chicken recipe because it is easy to make on week nights, add in a salad, some grains and you can build a chicken bowl or build wraps. One recipe can be used in multiple new ways.
A twist on a classic, here the chicken is breaded in a mixture of pecans and panko, then pan-fried until crispy and golden and served with a creamy whole grain honey mustard sauce.
Here is an easy chicken casserole recipe that any picky eater would love. Its cheesy and mild with veggies hidden inside.
This mom has a healthy and super tasty popcorn chicken recipe that any picky eater would love, In-fact, I am sure this recipe will soon become one of your child’s safe foods as he learns to love other foods.
I love simple family meals and this chicken tomato orzo pasta is one such recipe that everyone in the family can enjoy together without much fuss. Add this one to your meal plan for a fun new twist to your regular pasta meal.
Most picky eaters love eating rice (bland food is their best friend). But, this coconut chicken meal for kids is a great way to introduce mild yet warm spices, get in more calories from the coconut milk and added protein from the chicken. A pretty balanced meal in my opinion.
A good chicken soup recipe should be in every mom’s arsenal against the cold and flu season. This recipe has been passed down the generations by the author’s grandma and is still in family favorite as a winter flu home remedy.
These chicken burgers are super easy to make and contain some carrots to bump up the nutrient content. I am sure your picky eater would enjoy these.
Who doesn’t love cheese, chicken and rice. This recipe can be a safe bet with picky toddlers and get the thumbs up from adults as well.
I love one pot recipes as a busy mom. This recipe checks all the boxes, quick, easy and tasty.
Indian curries can feel intimidating to make and scary to try. But, there are many Indian curries that are not too spicy, butter chicken is one of them. It’s not that complicated a dish to make and has a balanced flavor profile of creamy and mild. The cream or coconut milk addition in this case helps level off the heat from the spice.
I wanted to add more curry recipes to this list. Children who get exposure to different tastes from an early age grow up to be confident and adventurous eaters.
This mama has mastered the flavor profile in her chicken curry for kids. It is not too spicy, contains chutney and looks super creamy. The perfect company to a bowl of steamed rice.
I loved the twist on the classic chicken meatball recipe here with some Indian spices. Perfectly spiced and toddler friendly.
What child does not like noodles. This classic chicken noodle soup recipe is a great option for your winter family menu. The combination of protein from the chicken, some veggies and noodles make this a balanced and filling dinner option.
This no work chicken is a time saver on busy week nights and meal plan friendly too. A simple side salad and crusty bread make the meal complete.
I loved the simplicity of this meal. It includes a good balance of flavorful veggies, slurpy noodles and some chicken. You can always change up the veggies to suit your picky toddler’s preference.
A super simple pan seared chicken recipe that can then be used in many different recipes. If you are into meal planning, you must add this recipe to your weekly meal plan. You can pair it with any number of sides or add into burritos, wraps and tacos. I loved the versatility of this recipe.
If your toddler enjoys meat balls you can try a variation like these chicken balls with quinoa and pear. It is a simple way to add variety without the toddler noticing.
Garlic and tomatoes is no-fail flavor combo for taste and acceptability. This recipe will save you time on a busy weeknight with less fuss at the table.
A super simple, flavor packed recipe that is going to be a sure fire hit with kids and adults alike. I like that the recipe contains both vegetables and chicken and the peanut sauce sounds delish.
Do try these yummy and healthy chicken recipes for toddlers and let me know in the comments how your child liked it.