- 10 Healthy Meals Picky Eaters Will Eat
- #1 High Fiber Chocolate Bites
- #2 High Fiber Chocolate Smoothie Bowl
- #3 Banana Split Oatmeal Bar
- #4 Ham, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Pizza
- #5 Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
- #6 Crunchy Turkey Pinwheels
- #7 Mini Pizza Quiches
- #8 Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets
- #9 Ranch Veggie Cups
- #10 Green Berry Juice
- The Picky Eater’s Guide to Losing Weight
- Picky Eaters May Be Born, Not Made
- 8 Tips to Help Picky Eaters Eat Healthier and Lose Weight
- Picky Eater Diet
- Breakfast Options
- Lunch Options
- Dinner Options
- Other Foods for Picky Eaters
- Enjoy What You Like
- Balanced Diet
- 10 Things You Experience If You’re a Picky Eater (But Trying to Eat Healthy)
- 7-Day Healthy Dinner Plan for Picky Eaters
- Getting Picky Eaters to Eat Healthy
- A Healthy Eating Plan for Fussy Eaters
- Snack Well in the Week
- What Your Picky Eater Might Be Feeling
- Picky Eater Progress Plan, Step-by-Step
- Avoid Habits That Can Worsen Picky Eating
- Seek Help for Extreme Picky Eating
- Progress Takes Time
- More Resources for Parents of Picky Eaters
- Picky Eaters and What to Do
10 Healthy Meals Picky Eaters Will Eat
Are you having a hard time finding quality recipes your picky eater will eat?
When it comes to feeding our picky eaters, it can be tough to find recipes that provide nutrition while pleasing the pickiest of palates. For this reason, we’ve put together a list of 10 healthy meals picky eaters will eat and have some nutritional value in them so that we can worry a little less.
If you have a child that wants to eat chicken nuggets for every meal, every day, and are tired of stocking up on homemade chicken nuggets (or whatever their favorites are) and wished your kids would eat healthier options, check out these ten ideas to help you add a little more variety and nutrition to their meals.
#1 High Fiber Chocolate Bites
Perfect for snack time, these add a little more nutrition in each bite. Pair them with a little yogurt for a delicious, protein-rich snack. Grab the recipe.
Nutritional goal: tons of natural fiber.
#2 High Fiber Chocolate Smoothie Bowl
This smoothie beats the fiber cereal and it tastes like chocolate. Eat it out of a bowl, with a straw, or pack it in a thermos for a nutrition-filled snack. Bonus: tastes like dessert but a lot healthier! Grab the recipe.
Nutritional goal: extra protein and fiber.
#3 Banana Split Oatmeal Bar
For kids that don’t’ like plain oatmeal, this strawberry-banana combination has everything they want and more. Grab the recipe.
Nutritional goal: fiber + protein balanced breakfast, and added fruit.
#4 Ham, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Pizza
Pizza for breakfast, you say? The eggs make the base, just a touch of cheese, and a little bit of ham make scrambled eggs so much more fun to eat! Bonus: add chopped veggies for added nutrition and then you can say they ate veggies for breakfast. Grab the recipe.
Nutritional goal: extra protein, introduce the texture of eggs in a kid-friendly way.
#5 Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
Baking the oatmeal changes the overall texture and my kids say it tastes like blueberry pie. Add a splash of milk and it’s now a-la-mode. Grab the recipe. Nutritional goal: hearty meal, fiber + protein balanced breakfast, and added fruit.
#6 Crunchy Turkey Pinwheels
Wrap it up and cut it into bite-sized pieces and many kids will eat it! Grab the recipe.
Nutritional Goal: something other than a sandwich, variety of textures.
#7 Mini Pizza Quiches
Pizza, but not really pizza. These bite-sized baked eggs are perfect for breakfast or lunch and add protein in each bite. Grab the recipe.
Nutritional Goal: something other than a sandwich and extra protein.
#8 Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets
When in doubt, make nuggets” as I explained in this recipe post, was my friend Anne’s advice to me. Broccoli and Cheese nuggets to the rescue for kids that need a little convincing when it comes to eating their veggies. Grab the recipe.
Nutritional Goal: veggies, get kids to like “green” foods.
#9 Ranch Veggie Cups
The truth is, a little bit of salad dressing is perfectly okay, especially if it gets your kids to eat their veggies. Pack these fun and easy Ranch Veggie Cups for lunches or for snacks on the go. Grab the recipe.
Nutritional Goal: additional veggies made portable. Note: substitute for favorite dip or hummus here.
#10 Green Berry Juice
It’s not a meal, per se, but it does work as a snack! Seriously though, how great is it to get your fruits and veggies in one delicious drink that the kids will love? Grab the recipe.
Nutritional Goal: additional veggies/greens in the classic smoothie.
What are your go-to nutritious recipes that please your picky eater?
GRAB THE 10 RECIPES PICKY EATERS WILL LOVE EBOOK.
One of the most common goals many of us have (beginning of the new year or not) is to start “eating healthy.” That’s easier said than done for those of us who don’t enjoy the usual healthy foods or are simply picky eaters. Whether you have the taste palate of a toddler or are bored to tears by health food, a few simple tricks could help get started eating better.
Health food doesn’t have to make you feel deprived, and it can be really inexpensive as well as easy and quick to whip up. To make eating healthy a lasting habit, start with small, simple changes and try new ways of thinking about eating. Here are a few tips.
Mix What You Like with New Healthy Foods
One trick most parents of fussy eaters have tried is hiding veggies in other, usually sweet foods (a trick that doesn’t always work, though. I still can’t get over finding white fish mixed in with my rice when I was a kid). You can try a more sophisticated version of this approach by pairing foods you love with ones you want to start incorporating into your diet more: Photo by Matt Scott.
- Kale is one of those powerful superfoods that you might even like if you pair it with bacon or sausage.
- Okay, everything’s better with bacon. Moderate amounts of cheese can also transform a dish.
- One study recently showed that topping a burger with an avocado can decrease the inflammatory effects of the red meat.
- Combining broccoli with mustard might not only make the vegetable taste better, it could boost its nutritional value.
- Spreading out veggies in a dish of pasta or grains can make the taste of them less offensive. Also, instead of going with the typical tomato sauce, try a pesto or other healthy sauce.
- As mentioned when we talked about eating healthy even if you hate cooking, a smoothie can not only be quick but also nutritionally complete. You might not even taste the spinach when combined with fruits and other ingredients.
- Some people don’t like healthy foods because they seem bland. To solve that problem, first buy better-quality foods (the fresher the better, which is why we like farmer’s markets and CSAs). Then go ahead and spice up that dish with your favorite flavors. Besides salt and pepper, consider other meal enhancers like chili sauce, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, salsa, teriyaki sauce, peanut butter, garlic, and so on. Appreciating food like a food snob by fully breathing in the dish could also help you taste its nuances.
Try Different Food Preparations or Versions
Up until a few years ago, I was convinced I hated eggs. Now eggs and egg hacks are among my favorite things. The reason? I discovered there’s a world beyond scrambled eggs and omelets, which were the only egg preparations I’d tried when younger. Photo by James Jordan.
- Roasted cauliflower or broccoli (instead of steamed/boiled) is a revelation. Seriously, try it if you haven’t yet.
- Instead of canned vegetables (mushy asparagus, yuck), try fresh or frozen. Frozen vegetables are sometimes even better than fresh ones.
- You might not like certain types of seafood (the oiliness of salmon, for example, or the brininess of oysters), but there are many others you can try, such as the more mild white fishes, including tilapia.
- Kale chips are surprisingly similar-tasting to other, less nutritious chips. (Even my daughter, who lives on chicken nuggets, eats them.)
- Sometimes the brand matters. Campbell’s butternut squash soup tastes completely different than the one from Amy’s Kitchen.
- Some people swear a juicer has transformed their relationship with vegetables, including ones they’ve previously hated. You can make fresh juice with a food processor too.
- If veggies taste too intense to you, try the baby versions (e.g., baby carrots), whose flavors haven’t intensified yet.
Eat More of the Healthy Foods You Do Like (and Decrease Less Healthy Ones)
You don’t have to force yourself to learn to love kale or any other nutritious food. Healthier eating might just mean increasing the portion of the healthy foods you do like. In stews and foods like shepherd’s pie, for example, make the veggies a bigger ratio and the meat and carbs a lower one. The Kitchn suggests doubling the vegetables in any recipe for an easy way to start eating healthier (especially for vegetable-heavy dishes, it shouldn’t affect the flavor or your enjoyment of the meals). Photo by epSos.de.
If you want to eat less meat without giving it up completely, try meatless Monday or just one meatless lunch a week, which can challenge your creativity in a good way (though you can use the Meatless Monday website for inspiration). Another trick is to simply minimize the meat portion by skewering it, serving it on the bone, stewing it, and so on.
As with forming all kinds of good habits, you’re more likely to stay successful in your new healthy eating mindset if you start out gradually or commit to a short time first. Photo by William Warby.
Maybe just upgrading your brown-bagged lunch will seep into the other meals and snacks of the day.
If your mouth catches fire as soon as a hot Thai dish arrives at the table, you can build up your spice tolerance to gradually solve that problem.
Treating healthy foods like samples is another strategy to enjoy more foods and continue enjoying them.
…Or Go All In
Joining a CSA was a turning point in my eating and cooking habits. Previously I never ate greens a lot, but the weekly delivery of them (and eggs) forced me to not only try new veggies but also improve my cooking.
If you don’t want to join a CSA, a weekly food delivery service, like Blue Apron (in the Northeast) or Plated (nationwide), could also increase your exposure to new foods. These services deliver the ingredients and recipes for an entire meal (1-5 meals each week) so you can whip up a gourmet meal at home—and try new foods you perhaps didn’t even know about before. (Blue Apron is how I discovered the incredibleness of roasted cauliflower.)
Make the Meal Experience More Enjoyable
Up the experience of the meal—by having a dinner party with friends (it helps if they eat healthy too), going to a great restaurant, or cooking with the freshest ingredients—and as you become more mindful of the food you eat, you might find yourself expanding your palate to include more of nature’s good stuff. Photo by gwaar.
Finally, keep trying without being too hard on yourself, whether you’ve got a limited palate or the only thing that looks good to you is steak and potatoes. Ditching a dysfunctional diet for a healthier one takes work, but it’s well worth it.
The Picky Eater’s Guide to Losing Weight
Picky eaters, you know who you are: You’re that kid who had Mommie Dearest
-level standoffs over everything from “this tastes gross/weird/wet” to “omg, the green beans are TOUCHING my noodles!”
Now you’re an adult and you want to drop some pounds. But that means you need to dial in your diet and finally face the foods that make your palate pucker.
Or maybe not?
Whole, unprocessed foods like lean proteins, veggies and fruits, and whole grains help form the foundation of a balanced, healthy diet, but pickings can get slim if your taste buds don’t mesh with the foods that can help you lose weight.
Luckily, there are ways to get around your picky palate and expand your food horizons. But first, let’s take a quick look and see how it all started.
Picky Eaters May Be Born, Not Made
Picky eating is most often associated with stubborn kids who won’t eat their veggies or try something new.
But a person’s food preferences may be genetically preset: In a 2007 study, the long-standing debate of “nurture versus nature” was applied to picky eating. For some foods, particularly produce and protein, children simply showed an innate like or dislike.
Kids are also born with palates that tend to be more sensitive to bitter and sweet flavors than adults, so what you may have hated as a child (boo, spinach!), you may love as an adult (hello, spinach frittata!).
Then again, some picky kids simply grow into picky adults. The journal Appetite reports that adults who are picky eaters have the same taste sensitivity that they had as picky kids: Picky-eating adults described sweet- and bitter-flavor profiles as more intense than non-picky eaters.
Bad memories can steer you away from certain foods, too: “Oftentimes, picky eaters are remembering past likes or dislikes about certain foods that they haven’t even tasted in 10 years,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., founder of BZ Nutrition.
But that doesn’t mean you have to choke down those carrots or hold your nose while you shovel greens in your mouth. Here are 8 ways to work with what you’ve got.
8 Tips to Help Picky Eaters Eat Healthier and Lose Weight
1. Translate your favorites into something else
“You’re already eating more foods than you think you are, so try to deconstruct your favorite meals and see what other foods you can be eating from that,” says Zeitlin.
“For example, if you always get your burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion, then guess what, you like lettuce and tomatoes, you can add into a salad, or you can grill those tomatoes as a side dish, or create a stir-fry with tomatoes, onions, and a lean cut of meat.”
2. “Retrain” your taste buds
If you’ve said “pass” on certain foods for a long time, you might be in for a surprise. “Tastes change over time, so it is important to revisit foods every so often,” recommends Zeitlin.
If you find you’re still not a fan of specific flavors, even decades later, all hope is not lost. Try cutting out many sugary/salty/fatty processed foods for a few weeks and you may be able to retrain your taste buds to recognize the natural sweetness in foods like fruit, instead of the “hypersweet” version in processed foods.
3. Take baby steps
Instead of changing everything you eat all at once, start with small changes. Instead of a side of potato chips, try a veggie-filled pasta salad instead.
Or try a different way of cooking your food: Instead of frying, try baking or grilling. “Small changes can lead to big changes but feel less overwhelming at the time,” says Zeitlin.
Remember that just as baby steps take a longer time for a child to get from point A to point B, so does making small changes with your eating. However, if you stick with it, you can gain speed and make progress.
“One of my clients was eating fast food for every meal before we met,” says Stephanie Jensen, Certified Personal Chef of La Cuisine Personal Chef Service. Worried her client would never make the switch to a healthier plate, Jensen started simple, using ingredients the client was familiar with and branching out with new items slowly and occasionally.
She also paired new ingredients with old favorites to help make meals more palatable. “Five years later, I’m still cooking for ,” she says.
4. Rethink your go-to meals
If Taco Tuesdays are your jam, keep the Mexican-themed dinner but give the ingredients a facelift by using lettuce wraps in place of taco shells and swapping plain Greek yogurt for sour cream.
“A picky eater could be missing out on essential vitamins and minerals they are not getting by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein,” says Zeitlin. “Looking for ways to sneak more vegetables into your meal is a great way to get more vitamins and minerals and expand your taste palate at the same time.”
A few swaps to try:
- Lighten up classic mac and cheese by pureeing butternut squash or carrots to mix into the cheese sauce.
- Trade carb-heavy white rice for cauliflower rice instead. Chop the florets very finely until they resemble rice or use a food processor. “You can then use the cauliflower just like rice — stir-fry in some sesame oil and add cooked protein and veggies, or heat in a skillet and add a healthy jarred marinara sauce and some dried herbs and spices,” Jensen says. “Cauliflower rice can also be cooked quickly in a sauté pan with olive oil and fresh garlic. Add a splash of fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs and you have a quick and healthy side dish in minutes.”
- Instead of regular potatoes, Jensen recommends sweet potato or zucchini “fries.” “Cut vegetables into sticks, toss with olive oil and paprika, and roast on a baking pan over parchment paper at 425 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes or until crispy.”
- Instead of prepackaged spice blends, salad dressings, or marinades, make your own at home. They’re easy to throw together, healthier, and less expensive than store-bought varieties.
- Mix fresh fruit with plain yogurt and a touch of honey for a less sugary version of the pre-flavored yogurt cups.
- Swap in “zoodles” in your next pasta dish, or shred spaghetti squash. But if veggie noodles are a step too far, try simply swapping out half of your regular white pasta for a bean pasta or a whole-grain quinoa or wheat pasta.
5. Order something different when eating out
Cooking with new ingredients can be tricky, especially if you’re not sure how something is supposed to taste. Leave your first bite to the professionals when ordering meals incorporating new-to-you ingredients such as quinoa, brussels sprouts, or eggplant.
“It might take some trial and error, but in the end you may find a whole new list of ingredients that you can put into your meal rotation,” says Jensen.
6. Get cooking
The good news is you don’t have to be a master chef to master new flavors. “There is no rule that says everything must be cooked,” says Jensen, who suggests trying new produce ingredients in their raw states first. “Raw fruits and veggies come in all shapes and sizes and can make a quick snack or accompaniment to any meal.”
When you are ready to turn up (or on) the heat, “get creative with spices (not salt!),” suggests Zeitlin. “Adding spices to your vegetables, salad dressings, fish, meat, or chicken can switch up the flavor profile while still keeping things lean and healthy.”
“Many times eating a vegetable cooked versus raw changes the taste profile,” says Zeitlin. “So if you don’t like raw broccoli, you may love roasted broccoli. Don’t discount the food until you have tried it a few ways!”
If it’s true that people eat with their eyes first, then a scroll through Pinterest or foodie Instagram account can make you very hungry, and possibly more adventurous.
8. Find a foodie friend
Not sure what kind of new foods you might like? Ask a foodie friend to be your guide. “The buddy system works in the gym as well as the kitchen,” says Zeitlin.
If you’re not ready to commit to a full meal, order shared plates or family style meals. Or steal a bite from your pal’s plate for a tiny taste test.
Whatever you choose to do, don’t get discouraged and don’t stop trying new ways to enjoy healthy food.
If you’re a picky eater who eats unhealthy foods, a healthy diet may seem unattainable. Food preferences often begin in childhood and are hard to change. However, armed with knowledge and a little ingenuity, it’s easy to come up with a meal plan to support your weight loss goals.
Picky Eater Diet
The goal for any eating plan is an arsenal of healthy meals. Picky eaters may be turned off by bland, so-called “health foods.” They might gravitate towards “comfort foods” that taste delicious, such as pizza, tacos, omelettes, and fried foods. These foods aren’t known for being healthy but with a little tweaking, they can play a role in a healthy diet.
This food plan “healthifies” popular comfort foods for picky eaters. It allows you to make substitutions based on your favorite foods and incorporates healthier ingredients you’ll hardly notice.
According to Nutrition.gov, to lose a pound per week, you first need to determine how many calories you should eat each day to maintain your current weight. Then, subtract 500 calories from that number to figure out how many calories you need for weight loss. Use this guideline as you plan your meals each day.
These tasty breakfast recipes are savory enough to be enjoyed at any meal. All nutrition values in the meals below were calculated using the USDA National Nutrient Database.
Bacon and Cheese Omelette
Some ham and cheese omelettes contain almost an entire day’s worth of fat, calories, and sodium. This version has 165 calories and 4 grams of fat. It also kicks off your day with around 26g of protein.
To make, combine two egg whites, two slices of Canadian bacon (roughly chopped), and 1/4 cup shredded, fat-free cheddar cheese in a non-stick frying pan coated with cooking spray. Cook about four minutes or until the egg turns from liquid to solid; fold over one side of the omelette and press gently. Cook about one minute more.
You can get creative with this omelette. Add 1/8 cup of your favorite chopped vegetables or try Swiss cheese instead of cheddar. Substitute a slice or two of turkey bacon for the Canadian bacon.
If you prefer something sweet for breakfast, try a breakfast sundae. This one has about 298 calories and 5 grams of fat (if you use about 1 tablespoon of chopped almonds). Layer one cup of fat-free vanilla yogurt with 1/2 cup fresh blueberries and 1/2 cup halved strawberries in a parfait glass. Dust each layer with chopped almonds.
Substitute your favorite fruits for the blueberries or strawberries. If you don’t like vanilla yogurt, use your favorite flavor. If you don’t like nuts, sprinkle each layer with granola instead.
Lunch doesn’t have to be the same boring thing day after day. Try these lunch ideas and change them up with your favorite ingredients.
Personal Pita Pizza
This pizza is crispy, cheesy, and satisfying yet comes in at only 210 calories and around 6 grams of fat.
Split a whole wheat pita into two rounds and place it on a baking sheet; spray each round lightly with olive oil cooking spray. Top each round with 1/3 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese and four Roma (plum) tomato slices; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Bake the pizzas for 15 minutes at 400 degrees or until the cheese is melted, and the crust is golden brown.
If you don’t like tomatoes, try chopped green peppers or mushrooms. If you love pepperoni, add a few slices of low-fat turkey pepperoni.
Creamy Chicken Salad
Store-bought and most homemade chicken salads get their creamy texture from high-fat mayonnaise. However, you won’t know the difference when you taste this lightened-up version, which gets it flavor from tangy Greek yogurt. Each 1/3 cup serving has around 200 calories and 2 grams of fat.
To make, put 1/2 cup of plain, low-fat Greek yogurt and one can of drained, chunk chicken breast in a medium bowl; combine well. Add 1/2 cup of chopped celery, 2 tablespoons of sweet pickle relish, 1 tablespoon of honey, and a dash of pepper and salt. Mix well and serve on a bed of lettuce or place in a butter lettuce leaf and eat taco-style.
If you don’t like celery, add grapes instead. If you enjoy nuts, stir in a couple tablespoons of chopped walnuts.
These healthy dinners will help keep your eating plan on track.
Using ground turkey instead of beef and fat-free toppings cuts fat and calories in these tacos. Two tacos are around 400 calories and 8 grams of fat (assuming 1/4 cup of cheese, and four ounces of meat mixture per two tacos). The recipe makes about four servings.
To make, brown one pound of extra-lean ground turkey in a non-stick skillet. Add one packet of low-sodium taco seasoning mix and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Warm eight whole wheat tortillas in the oven. Make each taco by placing chopped lettuce down the center of a warmed tortilla; top with the meat mixture, chopped tomato, fat-free cheddar cheese, and a spritz of lime juice. Roll up the tortilla.
These tacos are also delicious with diced avocado, salsa, or corn. You could even spread a thin layer of fat-free, refried beans on the tortilla before adding toppings. Alternatively, enjoy your refried beans on the side sprinkled with a tablespoon of fat-free cheese.
Baked Chicken Fingers
Many picky eaters love fried chicken. Eating too much, however, will derail your diet. Instead, make this baked chicken fingers recipe adapted from The Skinny Kitchen. Each serving of three chicken fingers has about 270 calories and 1 gram of fat.
To make, line a baking pan with foil and coat the foil with cooking spray; mix 3/4 cup of cornflake crumbs, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of garlic or onion powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cut one pound of chicken tenders into 12 equal pieces; dip each chicken piece into plain greek yogurt and coat with the cornflake mixture. Place each piece of chicken on the prepared baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until crisp and cooked through, turning the chicken halfway through cooking.
Serve chicken with your favorite steamed vegetable or a green salad with fat-free dressing.
Healthy snacks are a part of any healthy eating plan. Skip them, and you might binge on whatever unhealthy food is nearby. Eat a couple of these snacks a day to help keep hunger pains at bay.
- Your favorite raw veggies with 2 tablespoons of hummus (70 calories; 6g fat)
- A wedge of Laughing Cow cheese with your favorite raw veggies (35 calories; 1.5g fat)
- 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese topped with 1/4 cup diced pineapple or your favorite fruit (110calories; trace fat)
- Berry yogurt popsicle (51 calories; trace fat)
Other Foods for Picky Eaters
Following is a list of other healthy foods picky eaters may enjoy:
- Air-popped popcorn tossed with olive oil and Parmesan cheese
- Low-fat string cheese
- Nut butter (almond or cashew) on celery sticks or apple slices
- Nut butter, banana, and honey on whole wheat bread
- Guacamole and baked tortilla chips
- Baked sweet potato chips
- Low-carb fruit smoothie
- Dried fruit
- Frozen grapes
- Rice cakes
Enjoy What You Like
Being picky about the foods you eat doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste and health. There are many simple ideas that make your favorite foods healthier, such as substituting low-fat or fat-free ingredients for full-fat, switching to whole wheat breads and pastas, using Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise, and using lean ground turkey or chicken instead of beef. Make a list of your favorite foods and explore how to make them healthier or incorporate them into the recipes above.
At the core of a balanced diet are foods that are low in unnecessary fats and sugars and high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The following food groups are essential parts of a balanced diet.
Besides being a great source of nutrition, fruits make tasty snacks. Choose fruits that are in season in your area. They’re fresher and provide the most nutrients.
Fruits are high in sugar. This sugar is natural, though, so fruit can still be a better choice for you than other foods with added sugar. If you’re watching your sugar intake or have a condition such as diabetes, you may want to opt for low-sugar fruits. Read on to learn about the 11 best low-sugar fruits, from citrus to peaches. People who are watching their carbohydrate intake may reach for fruits such as melons and avocadoes.
Vegetables are primary sources of essential vitamins and minerals. Dark, leafy greens generally contain the most nutrition and can be eaten at every meal. Eating a variety of vegetables will help you obtain the bountiful nutrients that all vegetables provide.
Examples of dark leafy greens include:
- green beans
- collard greens
- Swiss chard
According to the USDA, Americans consume refined white flour more than any other grain. Refined white flour has poor nutritional value because the hull of the grain, or outer shell, is removed during the refining process. The hull is where the majority of the grain’s nutrition lies.
Whole grains, however, are prepared using the entire grain, including the hull. They provide much more nutrition. Try switching from white breads and pastas to whole-grain products.
Meats and beans are primary sources of protein, a nutrient that is essential for proper muscle and brain development. Lean, low-fat meats such as chicken, fish, and certain cuts of pork and beef are the best options. Removing the skin and trimming off any visible fat are easy ways to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in meats. The health and diet of the animal are important and influence the fatty acid profile of the meat, so grass-fed choices are ideal.
Nuts and beans are good sources of protein and contain many other health benefits, as well as fiber and other nutrients. Try to eat:
- sunflower seeds
Tofu, tempeh, and other soy-based products are excellent sources of protein and are healthy alternatives to meat.
Shop for tofu and tempeh.
Dairy products provide calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients. However, they’re also major sources of fat, so it may be best to choose small portions of full-fat cheeses, and reduced-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt. Plant-based milks, such as those made from flaxseed, almonds, or soy are typically fortified with calcium and other nutrients, making them excellent alternatives to dairy from cows.
Shop for almond and soy milk.
Oils should be used sparingly. Opt for low-fat and low-sugar versions of products that contain oil, such as salad dressing and mayonnaise. Good oils, such as olive oil, can replace fattier vegetable oil in your diet. Avoid deep-fried foods because they contain many empty calories.
Shop for olive oil.
The USDA has an online checklist that can help you determine how much of each food group you should consume daily.
Besides adding certain foods to your diet, you should also reduce your consumption of certain substances to maintain a balanced diet and healthy weight. These include:
- refined grains
- solid fats
- saturated fats
- trans fats
If you have questions about your diet or feel that you need to lose weight or change your eating habits, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a dietitian. They can suggest dietary changes that will help you get the nutrition you need while promoting your overall health.
10 Things You Experience If You’re a Picky Eater (But Trying to Eat Healthy)
The struggle of not being a health-minded foodie in today’s world is real AF. Don’t get me wrong-all the smoothie bowls and mermaid toast photos taking over my Instagram feed look glorious. All the colors! But when you’re a picky eater, hopping on some of these trends is easier said than done. It’s hard to figure out what the heck to eat when you’re trying to be healthy but your palette is giving certain foods a big fat no.
And on that note, it’s time we bring light to the struggles all picky eaters out there (*raises hand*) face.
1. Envying foodies who are open to trying new things-and actually enjoying it.
“So, what you’re saying is that you actually enjoy drinking bone broth?!” Hmm…there’s something fishy about that…
2. Wanting to like a trendy health food, and trying (and trying), but failing.
*Gives another go at green juice* *Convinces self that it’s tolerable* …
…but in reality, that was revolting and you don’t know why you tried it for a third time. Give it a rest!
3. Not being able to hide your “EW” face.
SORRY. (Come on, you can’t tell me you don’t think arugula tastes bitter AF.)
4. Googling “How to eat healthy when you’re a picky eater,”… but that still doesn’t help.
Basically, the entire Internet is telling you to eat colorful veggies and protein as if you didn’t already know that. Ugh, thanks for nothing!
5. Always being hungry…because salad.
Yeah, salad is great, but there are just so many times you can have a salad for lunch and dinner-AMIRITE?! Give me the pizza and cookies, please.
6. Nevertheless, you still have to eat some form of superfoods, so you force yourself…
…but you’re miserable when you do.
Why can’t broccoli taste just as good as the health benefits?!
7. Finally, finding a meal you actually enjoy, so you meal prep it to death and eat it every day…
…until it turns revolting, then you’re back to square one.
Can’t. Eat. More. Chicken.
8. Going out to eat, and always needing to modify the dish you’re ordering.
“Can I get this without green peppers?” “I can’t? Never mind.”
9. Trying healthier versions of your favorite foods thinking it’s going to taste like the original.
No. Just no. Nothing will ever replace REAL pizza crust, not even a friggin’ cauliflower. Or avocado pizza.
10. But then you try something that you sort of, kind of like!?
- By By Sophie Dweck
7-Day Healthy Dinner Plan for Picky Eaters
Photos: Erin Alderson
The term “picky eater” is a little unfair: it suggests a certain grumpiness associated with food. My kids are certainly not grumpy about food. They love it! They just want to be in control of what they put in their mouth. This is all fine and good, except when, for example, my son’s desire to eat nothing but steak for dinner conflicts with my desire for him to eat a balanced meal. Inevitably, frustration ensues-on both sides of the argument.
Related: Healthy Meal Ideas for Picky Eaters
So how do you feed a hungry family healthy meals every night that satisfy everyone’s taste buds? Give everyone choices, without cooking four separate meals. Offer a meal as deconstructed parts and everyone gets the choice to fill their plate with what they want to eat. Just lay out a few simple rules for those picky eaters: everyone’s plate must include a healthy protein, vegetables and a whole grain (sometimes we’ll do a starchy veg instead, like sweet potatoes or corn on the cob). We also serve up classic kid favorites-like chicken tenders and pizza-with a healthy twist.
When it comes to drinks, water, milk and unsweetened nondairy milk, such as Almond Breeze almondmilk, are all great choices to round out the meal. But some picky eaters might struggle with the taste. Try adding a splash of 100-percent juice to plain seltzer water for a homemade “soda” kids will like. Or make your own chocolate milk so you control the amount of sugar. Use less and less chocolate each time to help wean your picky eater off the sweetness.
No two “picky eaters” have the same selective preferences. A kid who hates salad one day could love it the next. But hopefully you’ll find some inspiration below to help keep you from becoming a short-order cook.
Related: Don’t Give Up: 5 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat Everything
Sunday: Sheet-Pan Mini Meatloaves
The genius of this sheet-pan dinner is that everything is cooked together-but separately-which is key for some picky eaters. The healthy meatloaf recipe and side dishes are all made in the oven on two sheet pans so that everything’s ready for the dinner table at the same time. The potatoes go into the oven first to start roasting while the mini meatloaves and green beans are prepped and added to the oven partway through.
Mini Meatloaves with Green Beans & Potatoes
Picky-Eater Tip: Serve with a side of ketchup for dipping.
Monday: Classic Mac & Cheese
No sneaky ingredients here, just delicious comfort food. You can enjoy this super-cheesy mac and cheese in the same time it takes to cook the boxed version. Whole-wheat noodles add fiber, while sharp Cheddar adds richness. A hefty twist of black pepper balances the cheese’s salty tang. Serve with simple roasted broccoli.
Classic Mac & Cheese
Picky-Eater Tip: Top the broccoli with a small pat of butter, then watch your kids gobble it up. Omit the ground pepper from the mac & cheese and let everyone add their own at the end, if they choose.
Tuesday: Taco Night
Taco night is the ultimate meal for picky eaters, because everyone can choose their favorite taco toppings-or just keep it plain. Mixing mashed canned beans with whole beans and seasonings makes an incredibly simple taco filling from your pantry. Top these speedy five-ingredient tacos with lettuce, tomato and salsa or any of your favorite taco toppings.
Black Bean Tacos
Sliced red & yellow bell peppers
Picky-Eater Tip: Let everyone choose their own toppings-they’ll be more likely to eat what’s on their plate.
Wednesday: Chicken Tenders
Ever-popular kids’-menu fare, crispy chicken tenders are an easy dinner the whole family will love. Serve with marinara sauce for dipping, steamed green beans and quinoa.
Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Tenders
Steamed Green Beans
Picky-Eater Tip: Try seasoning the quinoa with a pinch of salt and a small pat of butter to mellow out the flavor.
Thursday: Pizza Night
Now, who doesn’t love pizza?! You won’t believe how quick and easy it is to make this healthy pie. Thanks to a two-ingredient dough that combines self-rising flour and Greek yogurt, there’s no need for a rise time. Just roll, top and bake, and you’ll have a delicious dinner on the table in under half an hour.
Two-Ingredient-Dough Margherita Pizza
Picky-Eater Tip: Make personal pizzas so everyone can choose their own toppings. Another option? Only top half of the pizza with basil and leave the other half without for those who want plain cheese pizza.
Friday: Fish Sticks
You can make these homemade fish sticks in about the same amount of time it takes to bake a box of the frozen kind.
EatingWell Fish Sticks
Oven-Baked Curly Fries
Homemade Ranch Dressing with Veggies
Picky-Eater Tip: Kids love dips! Serve this meal with ranch dressing and ketchup and let them dip away.
Saturday: Baby Back Ribs
This easy load-and-go crock pot recipe is a great dinner to make with your kids. Let the kids stir the sauce while you rub the ribs, then just let the slow cooker do the rest of the work! Serve with a colorful coleslaw and mashed sweet potatoes.
Slow-Cooker Baby Back Ribs
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Picky-Eater Tip: When kids are involved in making the meal, they’re more likely to eat it.
Watch: Kids React! What’s In My Lunch Box?!
25 Vegetable Side Dish Ideas Kids Will Actually Like
5 Ways to Sneak Veggies into Family Meals
9 Vegetables You Can Eat for Dessert
Getting Picky Eaters to Eat Healthy
It’s natural for you to be concerned that your picky eater isn’t getting the nutrition he needs to grow and be healthy. It’s also natural for young ones to be a little hesitant to try new foods. Adopting a few basic strategies get picky eaters to eat healthy – or at least lay the foundation for good nutrition in the future.
Meal times don’t need to be a battle. Start breaking your picky eater’s habits early, while still having respect for her tastes and appetite. Help shape healthy eating early by:
- Starting Before Meal Time: Sometimes children are picky eaters as a way to exert control in their life. Help avoid this by involving them in meals before they hit the table. Choices about purchasing and help preparing meals helps give children a sense of control over their food choices.
- Defuse the Power Struggle: If your child doesn’t want to eat, respect that. Forcing children to eat, or forcing them to eat foods they don’t like, can cause anxiety for both of you. Take anxiety out of meal time by allowing your child to make choices about his food.
- One Meal For Everyone: Finicky eating may be an expression of control , but don’t put too much power in your toddler’s hands. She gets to eat the same things everyone in the family does. Hopping up to cook a separate meal when the first one is rejected only empowers her to refuse anything she doesn’t like.
- Be Patient: Introducing a new food to a child isn’t always a one-step process. It’s normal for children to touch and smell new food, and this experimentation may extend to mouthfeel. Let them put small amounts in their mouth to taste. If they’re not comfortable with it, it’s OK for them to take it out of their mouth. You can work on etiquette when they’re older.
- Be Crafty: The best way to sneak new foods into your child’s mouth is under the cover of foods they already like. Add fruits to pancakes or vegetables in macaroni and cheese.
Picky eaters eat healthy – eventually. Be patient and, most importantly, provide a good example yourself. Kids tend to model their parents’ behavior, and they’ll likely end up owing a lot of their eating habits to your influence
A Healthy Eating Plan for Fussy Eaters
Healthy eating. Clean eating. Dieting. Five-a-day.
Call it what you will, we’re used to being bombarded with guilt-inducing information on the importance of eating well. The problem is that many of the healthy options glamorised by the rich and famous frankly aren’t very appealing or easy to make.
But the good news is that you don’t have to live a miserable existence on carrot juice and kale to eat well; there are lots of other more appealing foods that are still good for you.
Don’t believe it? Take a look at this week-long healthy eating plan for some inspiration – there’s not a beetroot in sight!
Fruit salad – there’s something about fruit salad that somehow makes eating fruit more fun; chopped fruit seems to taste better, too. Slice and dice a selection of your favourite fruits (you can include tinned fruit, but make sure it’s in juice rather than syrup) and serve with a spoon or two of Greek yoghurt.
Tomato soup and wholemeal bread – Make your own soup if possible, as tins of soup tend to have lots of added salt and sugar.
Bangers and mash – choose lean sausages (venison if you can) and grill them on a wire rack, as this lets fat drip away. For the mash, substitute your normal potatoes for tasty sweet potatoes, which count as one of your five-a-day. Serve with roasted carrots for an extra vegetable, and follow with a low-fat fruit yoghurt for dessert.
Porridge with fresh fruit – porridge (and oats in any form) is a great choice for breakfast because it’s filling, and releases its energy slowly throughout the morning. Top your porridge with your choice of fresh fruit (bananas, strawberries and blueberries go particularly well) to finish it off.
Crusty granary bread with low-fat cream cheese and tomato – think of it as a bit like a pizza, with the bread for the base and the low-fat cream cheese (try Philadelphia Light or ricotta) and sliced tomato for the topping.
Chilli con Carne with brown rice – you can make this just as you normally make chilli con Carne, but ensuring that you use the leanest minced beef, and swapping white rice for brown. Cook the meat in a low-fat cooking spray and serve with a low-fat sour cream or cheese.
Tropical breakfast smoothie – chop up a banana, a small mango and three passion fruits, and blend them together with 300ml of orange juice for a refreshing and healthy start to the day.
Baked beans on granary toast – yep, you read correctly. Good old beans on toast is a perfectly legitimate healthy option; the beans count as one of your five-a-day, and the granary toast gives you plenty of healthy wholegrains.
Healthy homemade pizza – it’s easier to make than you’d think. Use wholemeal flour for the base, pure tomato passata with basil, garlic and oregano for the sauce, and top it with shredded mozzarella, rocket leaves and halved vine tomatoes. You can put other vegetables on it as well – red peppers, onions and mushrooms all work well.
Poached egg and avocado on toast – place a poached egg on top of a slice of granary toast spread with crushed avocado, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Tuna and cucumber wrap – it’s a winning combination, especially when you throw in some red onions or spring onions to add to the flavour. Use a wholemeal wrap for added health benefit.
Lemon chicken – cook the chicken in low-fat cooking spray, then remove and simmer onion and mushrooms in white wine. Add lemon zest and juice, parsley and seasoning and cook until reduced, before adding the chicken back into the pan for another 15-20 minutes. Serve with brown rice and your choice of green vegetables or carrots. Choose a piece of fruit for dessert.
Pineapple and raspberry parfait – layer up natural low-fat peach yoghurt with raspberries and chunks of pineapple.
Chicken salad – salads don’t have to be boring. Dress up a selection pack of a variety of lettuce leaves by adding some grilled chicken, tomatoes, spring onions and any other salad-y things you fancy.
Fish and chips – it’s a Friday, so why not treat yourself to fish and chips! This version of the British seaside staple is somewhat healthier than the greasy, newspaper-wrapped variety though!
Wrap a seasoned fillet of fresh fish in foil (salmon, cod and hake work well) and bake in the oven, accompanied by homemade sweet potato chips roasted with light olive oil and a sprinkling of herbs. Don’t forget to serve it with some peas.
For dessert, try making your own fruit juice ice lollies by filling moulds with fruit juice and freezing them.
There’s more time for breakfast at the weekend, so treat yourself to some homemade breakfast muffins. This easy recipe is sweetened with apple and banana puree and honey, and it’s made with wholemeal flour and oats for a tasty yet healthy start to the day.
Mushrooms on granary toast – mushrooms are delicious lightly fried in olive oil with a little milk, low-fat Philadelphia and wholegrain mustard. Serve on a slice of granary toast for a quick and healthy lunch.
Chicken fajitas – this fun yet wholesome Mexican favourite is easy to fit into a healthy eating plan. Cook the chicken in a smidgeon of light olive oil and spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt and pepper), and serve in a wholemeal wrap with plenty of salad, homemade salsa (finely chopped tomatoes, coriander, red onion, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper), low fat sour cream and low fat cheddar cheese.
A healthier full English – there’s no reason why you can’t still have a fry-up when you’re on a healthy eating regime; just make a few modifications. Don’t overdo it on the cooking oil – swap it for a low-fat cooking oil spray.
As I mentioned earlier, baked beans are fine, and extra lean sausages are OK too. Slice a nice big beef tomato in half and gently grill it, and try poaching your egg instead of frying it. Swap fried bread for a slice of granary toast and voila – you have a healthy full English.
Vegetable stir-fry – these are great for getting rid of unused veggies from the rest of the week, as you can add pretty much anything. Brown sliced onions, garlic and ginger and set to one side, then thinly slice the vegetables (pepper, broccoli and carrots all work well) and fry in a wok with sunflower oil.
Once they’re soft and nearly cooked, add the more delicate vegetables, such as spinach, pak choi and beansprouts, along with the onions, garlic and ginger and a stir-fry sauce of your choice. Add noodles, sesame seeds and soy sauce to add that final ‘zing’ of texture and flavour.
Snack Well in the Week
Choose from the following healthier options when you’re feeling too peckish to wait for your next meal.
Wasabi peas, these are spicy, crunchy, and good for you (in moderation, of course!).
Dried banana chips have all the great taste of a fresh banana, conveniently packaged for grazing throughout the day.
Vegetable crisps are a delicious alternative to traditional crisps. Vegetable crisps are made from dried parsnip, carrot and other root vegetables, but don’t let that put you off. These crunchy treats taste nothing like their raw form, and they’re better for you than normal crisps.
Yoghurt-coated dried strawberry pieces, who knew that healthy snacks could taste so good? Dried fruit counts as one of your five-a-day and yoghurt-coated dried strawberries are a delightful way to up your intake.
And that’s it! Hopefully, this healthy eating plan will satisfy even the fussiest of eaters! You can adapt each meal to make it perfect for you, or swap out meals entirely for something that’s more suited to your taste buds using other recipes that you find online.
- The Healthy Eating Pyramid
- Healthy Eating Guide for British Teenagers
- Nutrition & Healthy Eating Quiz
- Nutrition Course
NutritionTeachers and Parents
Having picky eaters is common. But that doesn’t make it any easier! Fortunately, there are ways you can help your kids accept a wider variety of foods and feel more positive during mealtimes. Read on to learn step-by-step strategies for overcoming picky eating, what habits to avoid, and when to call in professional help.
You’ve just set the table for dinner. It’s a simple meal of baked chicken, steamed veggies, and rolls. But before you can even sit down, one of your kids is crying. What’s going on?
Your picky eater is upset. And you’re not exactly surprised. She doesn’t see the food she likes to eat best, and she’s melting down.
So what do you do? You watch her sniffle and only eat the rolls. Or you cave and play the short-order cook, getting her a preferred food while the rest of the family eats the main meal.
Neither of these outcomes feels satisfying to anyone. And it’s likely to repeat tomorrow. But rest assured, you CAN move the needle on picky eating. We have some strategies that can help.
The first step is to step into your kids’ shoes for a minute…
What Your Picky Eater Might Be Feeling
We’re often so rooted in our perspective as parents that we can forget that picky eating is hard on our kids, too. But the better we can understand what they’re thinking and feeling, the better we can problem-solve and overcome picky eating as a family. Your picky eater might be thinking…
- I don’t like the way that food tastes or feels in my mouth.
- I don’t feel safe or comforted by this food.
- I’ve never seen this food before and I have no idea what to expect.
- This food looks like something else I know I don’t like.
- I’m worried there’s nothing here that I can eat, and I’ll go hungry.
- I’m embarrassed or ashamed that I can’t face the foods that others are eating.
Picky Eater Progress Plan, Step-by-Step
This plan can help you and your picky eater make incremental steps toward greater food acceptance skills. This kind of plan is often used to help coach kids’ with medically-significant feeding challenges to become more accepting of new foods. So it can really work! Try it at home. And as you move through this steps, remember the power of modeling eating well for your kids.
- Start small (so they can be successful.) If your child only eats meatballs and toast at dinnertime, then start with meatballs and toast. Enjoy family mealtime eating this food that comforts your child. Talk about what you and your child like about these preferred foods.
- Make slight changes to preferred foods. Serve preferred foods again, this time with slight changes. Serve turkey meatballs instead of beef meatballs. Try Parmesan toast instead of plain toast. The idea here is for your child to be aware of the changes and still accept the food. Use positive and encouraging words to remind them that these foods taste a lot like the foods they already like.
- Add in new foods. Add a new food to the table that you think your child might like. Let them see you enjoying this food and let them decide if they would like some on their plate to touch it, taste it, etc. Instead of just describing the new food as “yummy,” tell them what they can expect from eating it. Is it crunchy, chewy, sweet, salty, or similar to another food they might know?
- Stay in the habit. Progress takes time! Keep making slight changes to preferred foods, and adding in new foods regularly. Consistency helps your child know that new foods are part of your mealtime routine, and not something to fear.
- Share in your kids’ success. Tempted as you may by to jump for joy when your child eats something new, a little gentle positivity is probably best. Reminding them that “you learned to like apples this week!” can help them internalize their success and carry it on into the future.
Avoid Habits That Can Worsen Picky Eating
Sometimes our best efforts to manage picky eating can actually do more harm than good. Look out for these feeding pitfalls that can prolong picky eating and make it more deeply ingrained. (Don’t feel guilty if some of these apply to you!)
- Making separate meals for your picky eater.
- Pressuring your child to eat during meals (this can sound like “just one more bite.”)
- Letting your child snacks continuously throughout the day, “grazing” on preferred foods instead of sitting down for planned meals.
- Serving the same foods many days in a row.
- Serving ONLY new foods at dinner, without a balance of “safe” or preferred foods.
- Letting kids decide what’s for dinner.
Seek Help for Extreme Picky Eating
If you’re concerned that your child’s picky eating is more than just a phase, or that it’s negatively impacting their nutritional status, it’s perfectly OK to seek help from your child’s pediatrician. She’ll be able to refer you to a feeding expert who can work with you and your child to help customize a program for overcoming these challenges as a family.
Progress Takes Time
The good news is, most kids do grow out of their pickiest phase. Becoming an adventurous eater is a multi-year process, even for “good” eaters. (Are there any foods you didn’t learn to like until you were a full-grown adult? Then you know it can really take time!)
As we tell our kids, we have to “practice our patience.” Keep offering a variety of healthy foods, some new and some familiar, and enjoy the journey as much as you’re able.
More Resources for Parents of Picky Eaters
21 Days of Things to Do with Picky Eaters
My Top Tip for Getting Picky Eaters to Eat
9 Veggies Kids Like that Might Surprise You
Picky Eaters and What to Do
Your child might not like every food you give him or her on the first try. Give your child a chance to try foods again and again, even if he or she does not like them at first. Children may need to try some foods many times before they like them. Here are some tips that might make trying foods again and again easier.
- Try freezing small bites of different foods. You can use these later and it avoids throwing a lot of food away.
- Wait a week before you try the new food again.
- Try mixing the new food with a food your baby likes, such as breast milk.
As your child gets older, he or she may start refusing foods he or she used to like or he or she may start showing signs of picky eating. Favoring just a couple of foods or not wanting foods to touch each other on the plate are normal behaviors. These behaviors often go away by the time your child is about 5 years old.
To learn more about picky eaters and what to do, watch Tips for Feeding Picky Eaters from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Tips to Help
- Try again: Wait a couple of days before offering the food again. It can take more than 10 times before you toddler might like it.
- Mix it up: Mix new foods with foods you know your child likes.
- Be silly: Make funny faces with the foods on your child’s plate. It might help your child get excited to eat it.
- Me too: Try eating the food first to show your child you like it. Then, let your child try it.
- Choices: Give your child a choice of different foods to try. Let your child decide which one to try today.
Top of Page
Here’s an article I wrote for an upcoming edition of Elle/Elle Magazine on Coffee Culture in Toronto
Toronto Coffee Culture – You Pay To Be Picky
By: Natalie Greenspan @ngspan
Traditional. Ritualistic. Full-Sensory. Highly Addictive. Coffee’s more than just a beverage in Toronto, it’s a culture. And a cult of many it is. From the actual bean product to the wi-fi speed, to the staff’s vibe, music, and overall ambiance, the array of options are seemingly endless. With every new indie shop opening it’s doors, the paradox of choice has never been more in play.
That said, here’s a play by play of the scene and what it does and in some cases doesn’t offer. From the masters of mass customization to the “everybody knows your name” mom and pops and every craft and indie in-between, the culture of coffee extends far beyond the “just a hot fresh cuppa joe” it use to be.
With a bevy of choices to choose from, let’s start with the big guy. While coffee shops come and go from every corner in Toronto, Starbucks has remained a staple in every hood since it opened it’s doors with five stores in 1996. Forget about the stock price dropping or rising, the sheer number of them today and their longevity in a saturated market speaks for itself. Why? Because at Starbucks, you pay to be picky. The entire brand premise and promise is that you’ll get the exact drink of your choice to your exact liking. The milk, the temperature, the foam, the flavour – you name it – they make it and even write your name on the cup along with the novel that often results on the side of it as an added level of personalization. As to say to the crowds “hey look, this is Danny’s drink.” Talk about a personalized, customized, if you’re not satisfied we’ll make it again and again until you are policy. This is the Starbucks mantra. With zero attitude from the staff – and if there is, they’re way off brand and won’t be there long. Which, is a pity because this is a brand that sure knows how to treat its eclectic and often eccentric group of employees right. The founder Howard Schultz grew up in a blue collar family and his father had no medical and dental coverage for the family. So he pledged that if he ever founded his own company he’d be sure to include these perks. So he did and it shines through in the service with a smile vibe you’re guaranteed when you walk through the designed for your neighbourhood interior door.
The experience is also always satisfying because they know you can go down the street and either get a beverage for half the price at Tim Horton’s or deal with the oft snobbery of craft competitors. Loyalty’s another reward here with free coffee re-fills for card carrying members to encourage them to stay awhile – unlike some of the grab-and go’s like Jimmy’s or Portland Variety. Starbucks also knows a staple to their business is solid, reliable wi-fi. Like many other shops around the city, Starbucks knows there an office or second home to many of their patrons. The routine of coming in, setting up your computer, and making sure you can connect to their network often precedes even ordering a drink.
This is a no-go at places like Early Bird Coffee. During the day they have a communal table for laptop users but the individual tables have little signs that say something like “reserved for no-laptops.” They take up 50 percent of the space as which to say “socialize people – look up from your screens.” I back this concept. Afterall, not all of us have a perma-coffee date with our laptops or desire to be glued to our phones screens 24/7. It’s a great concept I can get behind. Fun fact – In 1997, Starbucks formed an alliance with Chapters – now Indigo – creating what has become the ultimate Canadian book and coffee lover’s experience. From the jazz music, to the tactility of an actual book or magazines, it’s a ritual for many even in this day and age to spend a weekend morning or afternoon at Indigo with a caffeinated beverage and great read in their hands.
Then there’s the pioneers of the double-double since 1964, tried and true quintessentially Canadian Tim Hortons. At least until the fiasco when they decided to take away their employee’s breaks when minimum wage raise was announced and enforced as part of the Ontario Labour Laws. I bring this up because the happiness of employees has a huge effect on the overall brand experience for patrons – or as Tim’s call you – a guest. Anyways, a solid Canadian staple that has worked hard to keep up with changing tastes and dark roast demands. From the interior decor to labelling themselves “your neighbourhood coffee house” to offering soy milk at NO extra charge – a huge bonus compared to the surcharge you pay at most every other venue. But too much sugar and sodium are still on the menu here. So too are digital screens that tell fun facts, horoscopes, trivia, sports updates and more – so the notion of a neighbourhood coffee house includes watching a TV screen. Overall however, if you’re looking for an economical cuppa coffee this is still the place that reigns supreme from a price stand point only. That said, you don’t get to choose the temperature or foaminess of your latte – it comes standardized to their’s. As for the wi-fi, it doesn’t offer Second home or out of office security like many of the other hot spots do.
Next up is Second Cup. Worth a mention because they’re one of the only shops in town that still serve flavoured coffee. While my beloved other flavoured bean brew Timothy’s are nearly impossible to find, you can still find a Second Cup in most neighbourhoods. Price wise, it’s comparable to Starbucks and you get four to five choices of roasts verses three. Vibe wise, there’s not much of one unless you consider the pop-ups they host inside of them. Kiva’s bagels – the quintessential Jewish bagel and Pinkberry Frozen yogurt being two example of them. If you ask me, this place owns the Hot Chocolate game with their Vanilla Bean exclusive. At 4+bucks it’s not cheap, but it’s well worth it if you have a soft spot for the nostalgic beverage and wanna cozy up with something non-caffeinated for a change. Also, if you do fancy a flavoured coffee, you can always hit up my personal favourite Brioche Doree for their Hazelnut Cream brew. A pseudo French cafe, their roasts are high quality and priced competitively with Second Cup. It also always smells delicious with freshly baked croissants and the butter-based pastries.
Which brings us to the fourth and last of the chains you’ll find throughout the city, Aroma. With healthy, if not a little pricey for the portion size fare, great wi-fi, decent curated cafe playlists and coffee that comes with a free piece of chocolate, it leaves a good taste in generic’s mouth. I tend to put my piece in the actual coffee to give it a mocha like taste as a quarter of the price.
Now it’s time to talk about the so called “craft” coffee shops that fancy themselves indie even though many of them serve the same Pilot coffee roast that has a very distinct flavour Toronto has come to love. Many are also the anti-thesis of Starbucks. You pay a premium for what they’ve connoisseured (I made up that word) as your ideal taste. They have one roast – often highly acidic and often not even in a steel vat – which I’m convinced keeps the coffee taste, and body, better longer. Instead, it’s in a cheap plastic canister and they look at you like you’re beneath a basement level suite if you order it. Why? Because it’s three dollars so they just want you to prescribe to their snobbery and order an Americano instead for three-fifty. Seriously. A coffee shop that goes out of it’s way to not serve coffee should change it’s name to the Americano or Espresso Shop. This is the opposite of how a so called coffee shop or house should roll. Also worth a mention are the indies that have moved beyond accepting cash.
A cash-free coffee shop – who’d ever conceived of that. A place that charges more than a few bucks for one is the answer. Now this is certainly not the case for all craft shops but I’ve had the experience too many times to not vent-i about it. Sorry, I just had to!
But let’s move on to the positives – because there are a great selection of them. The first being that while your still paying a premium for drinks, paying to be picky extends into the non-generic nature of the joint as well. Original decor, a curated collection of limited-run niche magazines and even board games make you feel like your somewhere unique. One of my favourite touches is some shops use of spaghetti as stir sticks to save on waste. How savvy is that? This is the local flavour that’s made craft coffee shops pop-up like wildfire in the past few years. Supporting local, not the big guys is a big thing in our bustling city. That and catering to the more health conscious even vegan crew that’s on the up in the past year especially.
One of the more interesting and authentic craft shops is Strange Love. They actually offer by-invite hosted coffee tastings in their backrooms. Just like a wine and scotch tasting, yogurt the pleasure of smelling and trying different blends and are educated on the craftsmanship that goes into the final brew. From the bean, to the processing, to the acid levels – the whole shebang. It epitomizes the art of coffee and captures the obsession we have with it in a not so strange way. Their lover’s latte is to die for – complete with the craft touch of a latte art heart on top. They elevate the game here.
Believe it or not, there’s also room for department stores in this conversation. Yes. They’ve managed to slide themselves into this equation with all the at home brewing options that now exists. That’s how deep our obsession with coffee goes. Those of us who love it don’t just drink it out, we want the same sensory and taste experience as a ritual at home. Enter Nespresso, Tassimo and the likes. Hit up the bottom floor of the Bay for your free samples of coffee & espresso based beverages made every which way under the sun at one of the booths selling hundred dollar machines that require an individual packet or ‘pod’ for each cup you desire once you bring your new baby home. According to them, gone are the days of just brewing a pot of coffee with a re-usable filter. It’s all cup by cup servings here. Even though they have a recycling program – talk about waste. What’s more, is that after you have your free samples at the Nespresso stations and crave a bigger cup, there’s at least three locales on the same bottom floor you can grab a real-size cup to stay or go. How telling is that?
Finally, we have the true originals. The mom and pops. The solids that have been around since before Starbucks, and perhaps even you, me and Timmies. They don’t need to write your name on the side of your cup because they know it. They’re the little bakeries in the little Portugal’s and Italy that haven’t and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Speaking of going, asking for your java to go is a no no at one of these heritage sites. Be it an espresso, cappuccino, latte or bottomless drip, you sit down, take a breather and enjoy your beverage in a glass mug knowing the value you got it for. You’re with family here and it’s old school all the way. From lotto ticket sales, to 50 cent ciabattas, to a yard sale at a back table courtesy of elderly women and they’re retired jewelry, this is the original coffee culture in our city.
Lastly, if you happen to be in any of the aforementioned places when they cut open a fresh bag of coffee or espresso beans, you’re in luck because the smell is truly heavenly. So while trends may come and go, coffee’s one that has no end. Even in a saturated, over caffeinated market like Toronto.