Healthy Lunches Picky Eaters (2022)

Lunchtime or any mealtime has the potential to cause stress and anxiety for people who struggle with food. In this post, I’ll share my experience in learning to eat healthier lunch as an adult picky eater with 14 healthy lunch ideas for picky eaters.

As a recovering adult picky eater, I know firsthand the challenge of finding healthy lunch ideas that feel safe, satisfying and you feel comfortable eating in front of others.

All too often, being a picky eater or fussy eater is something that is only associated with kids or teens, but the truth is thousands of adults struggle each and every day with picky eating. Many think they are the only adult who struggles as a picky eater, so this post is for you! It is not just you, you are not alone, and you can find healthier food options even when you have limited food choices.

I want to honor that it is unlikely that all the foods in this post will be safe or tolerable food for you, and that’s ok. Some days you may be up to trying new foods, other days, that’s not an option—honor where you are at and do the best you can with where you are at.

My intention is not to provide you with the biggest checklist of lunch ideas or the most delicious meal there is, but instead some inspiration for some new healthy ideas to change up your current lunch routine, whether it’s by shifting to healthier versions of your comfort foods or considering a new lunch idea. The best part is you get to decide which foods are best for you and what you are most comfortable trying.

When it comes down to it, regardless of the variety of food you choose to eat, eating healthy meals is important for your health. Eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean you need to eat lunch like everyone else. It means eating food that will help you to fuel your body with nutrition.

In order to eat a healthy and balanced lunch, your ideal goal is to have protein, healthy fat, a vegetable, and/or fresh fruit and grains. You want to minimize processed foods, which means packaged foods. Increase foods made from real ingredients- real ingredients come from Earth, not a lab. You also want to limit the amount of added sugar in your foods.

If you prefer a hot lunch and don’t have access to a microwave or stove, you can find great insulated thermos containers to keep food warm or cold if that’s what you prefer. Get creative, make it your own, breakfast foods can go great at lunch too, or you may even consider creating a snack platter.

(Video) healthy things to eat for picky eaters! (from a picky eater herself)

Taking time to make yourself lunch or meal prep is a way of taking care of your body. Taking the time to enjoy prepare and enjoy your food is also part of the healing journey to developing a better relationship with food. Lunch is a meal that is not always eaten at home, but wherever it is that you are eating your lunch, try to create a peaceful and calm space to enjoy your meal.

Trying Different Foods

Before getting into the lunch ideas for adult picky eaters, I want to mention the importance of “food chaining.” “Food chaining” is the idea that you can use one safe food to lead you to another new food to try to begin to expand your diet in a slow and safe manner. This could be a lateral move, like changing the type of chips you eat to a similar but healthier version. We’ll talk more about this throughout this post as a simple way of eating foods that you already enjoy and just finding a healthier version, which tends to be easier for many than finding an entirely new food to eat. Food chaining also includes taking the chips you like and eating them alongside a new dip or another new food, so you have a safe food and a taste of a new food. All done at a comfort level that feels good to you!

Lunch Ideas for Picky Eater Adults

Healthy Lunches Picky Eaters (1)


Peanut Butter

When it comes to healthy peanut butter, opt for a butter that has the fewest ingredients. If you like peanut butter, it is a great food that can open you up to possibly other nut butters or adding some fruit or fresh jelly along with it to a healthy bread. You can also dip a fresh vegetable such as celery sticks in peanut butter.

Lunch Meat

Picky eaters seem to either have lunch meat they tolerate or like, or they don’t do lunch meat. If you are a picky eater who does eat lunch meat or already eat other types of meat and are open to giving lunch meat a try, buying quality lunch meat can be a really healthy choice. Look for meats that are hormone-free and pasture-raised if applicable. You also want meat that is real meat and not artificially processed with who knows what else.

Homemade or Healthy Pizza

While pizza may not be on the list of every picky eater, it is certainly a common and popular food among picky eaters in general. The great thing about pizza is that you can start making healthy pizza at home. Making your own pizza is also a great way to become more comfortable in the kitchen. Many grocery stores sell pre-made pizza dough, which is a great jumping-off point add some fresh tomato sauce and any toppings you choose.

Pizza is a great food to serve as a base for trying additional ingredients or different variations. You can customize it any way you choose, which makes it a great option for the whole family. Pizza also works as a great leftover, making it an option for lunch.

(Video) Healthy Meals & Recipes for Picky Eaters

Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese is another common picky eater food. If you are a grilled cheese fan, you don’t need to give it up. But instead, try to make a healthier version. For bread, consider sourdough or whole-grain bread. You can swap out butter for grass-fed butter, olive oil, or ghee. And what’s grilled cheese without the cheese of course! The key is to use real cheese, not processed. Consider cheese that is pasture-raised or grass-fed.


Oatmeal can make a great food any time of day, especially if you are craving a hot meal. There are different types of oatmeal, a steel-cut you would have to probably meal prep ahead if you are eating lunch out of the home. Instant oatmeal packets are great on the go and just need to be combined with hot water. Many hotels, conference rooms, and office spaces provide access to hot water for tea- which you can use for your oatmeal. If you are eating it in a more on-the-go space, you can even make it in a smaller drink cup; just add a spoon!

I also find oatmeal as a great base food, where you can spice such as cinnamon, fruits, nuts, or seeds in time if you like. Oatmeal is also great because you can control the consistency and make it the way you like it!


Cereals can be a great healthy option for picky eaters of any age! Cereals are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, which can help you meet daily nutritional value intakes. The key to finding healthier cereal is to “put your blinders on” when it comes to all the sugar and artificially flavored cereals. You want to find some cereals, such as rice cereal or whole-grain cereal, that is low in sugar and has only a handful of real ingredients (always read the ingredients on the back of the box). You may have to look at some healthier grocery stores to find healthier options.


If you already eat salad, salad is a great lunch option as over time, you can begin to add more toppings to it. If a salad is not already on your tolerable foods list, you could try a romaine or spring lettuce mix with a simple dressing such as olive oil. Romaine is going to be crispier and crunchier overall than a spring mix. If you already like a dressing that is used as a condiment such as a ranch, give that a try. Once you learn to tolerate a lettuce, it is a great base to work with as over time, you can begin to add new toppings such as another vegetable, fruit, nuts, seeds, or protein.

Raw vegetables

Raw vegetables can be eaten alone or dipped in a sauce such as a ranch, peanut butter, or hummus. A few great lunch options are carrots, sliced cucumbers (remove the skin first), celery, sweet bell peppers, and cauliflower.

Fresh Fruit

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apple slices can be great options for new fruit that is bite-sized. If you already eat apple slices, try a different color or type of apple or keeping it whole instead of sliced or vice-versa. Changing the way in which you eat foods is a way of expanding your options.

Chicken Nuggets or Chicken Strips

Since chicken nuggets can be a common food for picky eaters, let’s keep them on the table and look for healthier options. Making homemade chicken nuggets or chicken strips is a great way to ensure you are eating healthy ingredients and real chicken without fillers. If this is a safe, comfort food of yours, try to get creative with how you might be able to eat them, given your lunch options. Maybe you can transition to eating them cold or discovering how to perfect reheating them in a microwave.

(Video) Picky Eating Isn't About the Food | Katie Kimball | TEDxHartford

Whole Grain Pasta or Chickpea Pasta

Mac and Cheese or pasta and tomato sauce can be a common food for picky eaters. Try using a healthier version of pasta such as a whole grain pasta, chickpea, orquinoa pasta. Pasta dishes can be made at home for lunch or meal prepped ahead of time. If you need to eat pasta warm and do not have access to a microwave or stovetop during lunch, try using aninsulated thermos bowl container, which is great for keeping pasta dishes and soups warm.

Healthier Chips and Snacks

When it comes to chips and snacks, the good news is, there are many healthier options available while I understand this may take retraining your taste buds some (as I know picky eaters can often have only one brand they like), you do have some healthier options available for you. Siete brand foods have a great variety of chips made with real ingredients if you like tortilla chips. If you like potato chips, look for kettle-cooked in avocado, coconut, or olive oils, which are healthier oils and more minimally processed. When it comes to pretzels or other snacks, look for whole grains and ingredients that are “real” foods meaning the ingredients aren’t a bunch of chemicals.

Healthy dips such as great guacamole, salsa, or ranch can make great additions to these snacks. Most dips are available in healthier options, check out healthier grocery stores or make your own at home!


What are the three best lunches for picky eaters? As all parents know, lunchtime at school can be challenging. If your kids don’t like what is available or want to take their own lunch, it can be a little frustrating. Here are three of the best lunches I’ve found for picky eaters and for kids who don’t like what’s being served at school.

Healthy Lunches Picky Eaters (2)

1. Chicken Nuggets w/ Mashed Potatoes & Green Beans

You know the way you look at your glass of wine at the end of the night…that’s how you want your kids to look at their chicken nuggets. These chicken nuggets are slow marinated overnight and coated with gluten-free panko crumbs for a maximum amount of flavor. Paired with non-dairy Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and farmer’s market green beans, this meal makes a perfect lunch for picky eaters.

It’s a win for both of you, really. They’ll be happy that they’re getting to eat chicken tenders for lunch at school (or home!), and you’ll love the fact that it is healthy, hot, not shaped like a dinosaur, and gives them the nutrition necessary for added brainpower. What’s better than that?


2. Alfredo Shells w/ Broccoli

Choosing vegetables for picky eaters can sometimes be tough. Crowns? Florets? Green clouds? Poofy caps? Whatever your kid calls broccoli, we guarantee they’ll admit it’s delicious in our alfredo shells meal. These rich, sweet shells and turkey meatballs make it a truly well-rounded (and delicious) school lunch.

In fact, it’s so good that they probably won’t even realize it isn’t regular macaroni and cheese. (We certainly won’t tell if you won’t!)

3. Pizza Roll-Ups

If the above two options don’t do the trick (or you need a third to round out your weekly meal prep trifecta), this one is guaranteed to bring a smile to your picky eater’s face. As you already know, most kids will choose pizza over any other option. The good news? Our LunchBreak version is healthier than anything they can buy in the school cafeteria. These bite-sized Friday Pizza Roll-Ups are delicious any day of the week and come paired with broccoli parmesan and a side of our homemade marinara for dipping.

If you’re looking for a school lunch idea for a picky eater, this is definitely one meal option to try out. They’ll get their pizza Friday for lunch any day they want, and you’ll sit back and relax, knowing they’re getting the nutritious meal they deserve.

Pick Your Child’s Meal Plan

Of course, school lunches for picky eaters take a little bit of time and planning. At LunchBreak, we get it. That is why we always have tons of different options for choosing your child’s new favorites (because this week’s yum is often last week’s yuck).

Browse through our menu page to see what meal options are currently available and learn more about the nutritional information, ingredients, and more. Plus, we’ve included photos and descriptions so you can get a true feel for what to feed your picky eater. The most effective way we’ve seen picky eaters use LunchBreak is by having them pick out their own meals. Becoming invested in their choices, getting their own personal delivery…it’s worth seeing what happens!

Whether you have a child with special dietary needs or are just looking for healthy lunches for picky eaters, LunchBreak has you covered. Click here to explore our various meal plans and start your first order today.


How do you eat healthier if you are a picky eater? ›

Try vegetables with mild flavors

Aiming for vegetables with mild or sweet flavors can be the best way to begin because they tend to be more acceptable to picky tastebuds. Vegetables considered mild in flavor include cauliflower, cucumbers, zucchini, and spinach.

Is Picky eating a mental disorder? ›

Although pickiness has not yet been officially recognized as a mental disorder, the American Psychiatric Association is considering its inclusion in the next edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the official compendium of emotional and mental disorders.

What are some healthy snack ideas? ›

  • Mixed nuts. Nuts are an ideal nutritious snack, providing the perfect balance of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. ...
  • Red bell pepper with guacamole. ...
  • Greek yogurt and mixed berries. ...
  • Apple slices with peanut butter. ...
  • Cottage cheese and fruit. ...
  • Celery sticks with cream cheese. ...
  • Kale chips. ...
  • Dark chocolate and almonds.
Aug 8, 2022

How can I eat healthy if I don't like vegetables? ›

Some sneaky ideas:
  1. Add puréed veggies to your pasta sauce.
  2. Mash cauliflower into mashed white potatoes.
  3. Blend baby spinach into your fruit smoothie.
  4. Add puréed pumpkin to your pancake batter or prepared oatmeal.
  5. Top your pizza with mushrooms.
  6. Mix half spaghetti noodles with half zucchini noodles.
May 10, 2022

How do you reverse picky eating? ›

How To Reverse Picky Eating Habits
  1. Don't stress about mess. If mealtime is getting messy, let it happen! ...
  2. Think about your reactions at the dinner table. ...
  3. Keep introducing new foods. ...
  4. Rotate! ...
  5. If you're using distractions - stop. ...
  6. Eat dinner as a family. ...
  7. Bring them into the kitchen.
Apr 22, 2021

How can I start eating healthy when I never have? ›

Healthy Restaurant Options
  1. Eat a small salad or broth-based soup first. ...
  2. Choose veggie-based entrees or those with baked, broiled or grilled fish or skinless chicken.
  3. Look for meals that aren't greasy or oily. ...
  4. Ask to substitute veggies or salad for fattening sides such as fries, coleslaw or butter-laden mashed potatoes.

Is picky eating caused by parents? ›

Picky eating habits are more likely to develop when parents punish, bribe or reward their children's eating behaviors. The goal for feeding a picky eater should be to try new foods and to keep food from starting a battle.

What is picky eating a symptom of? ›

Picky Eating May Be Sign of Anxiety, Depression. Children who are overly selective about the foods they eat are more prone to anxiety and depression, researchers say. To most parents, a young picky eater is merely going through a negative phase.

Is it OK to starve a picky eater? ›

Picky Eating Won't Lead to Malnutrition

And even if a kid is a defacto fruitarian, they will most likely get the essential nutrients they need in order to grow. But even if the worry is related to calories, it's unlikely that a child in a typical American family will put themselves at risk for starvation.

How do you eat healthy with food aversion? ›

For example, if you have an aversion to meat, eat plenty of other high-protein foods such as nuts and beans. You can also get around aversions by “hiding” the food that you don't want in other foods. For example, if salads make you feel sick, try putting your leafy greens in a fruit smoothie.

What should a picky eater eat to lose weight? ›

A perfectly acceptable weight-loss menu might include a cup of fortified, low-sugar breakfast cereal with low-fat milk; a sandwich made with turkey breast on whole-wheat bread with a side of carrot sticks, apple or grapes for lunch; and rotisserie chicken breast with a whole-grain roll and sliced cucumbers at dinner.

Is Picky eating genetic? ›

Innate and genetic taste sensitivities play a key role in the development of picky eating behaviors in young children but are not the only factors involved.

What's a healthy lunch? ›

Centering your lunch on protein and deep green vegetables is the healthiest way to go. Fresh spinach, albacore tuna, chopped almonds, tomatoes and avocados with a low-calorie dressing is a delicious option to add to your lunch repertoire.

What's the healthiest snack? ›

Healthy Snack Ideas
  • Fresh or frozen berries with cottage cheese.
  • Banana slices with peanut butter.
  • Fresh fruit skewers with Greek yogurt.
  • Canned fruit such as peaches or pears with yogurt.
  • Apple slices topped with almond butter or cheese.
  • Peaches with soft tofu.
Mar 1, 2021

What is the healthiest snack in the world? ›

Here are our top 10 healthy snacks* from around the world:
  1. Pumpkin seeds (Mexico) Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, as they are known in Mexico, are a great healthy snack. ...
  2. Goji berries (China) ...
  3. Summer rolls (Vietnam) ...
  4. Hummus (Lebanon) ...
  5. Edamame (Japan) ...
  6. Crispbread (Sweden) ...
  7. Tzatziki (Greece) ...
  8. Pretzel (Germany)

What food can replace vegetables? ›

Vitamin A: Great for vision development and cellular growth, vitamin A can be found in sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, turnip greens and cantaloupe. Those on a no-vegetable diet will need to rely on organ meats, such as liver or giblets, to get their vitamin A.

What vitamins should I take if I don't eat vegetables? ›

I Don't Eat Vegetables, What Vitamins Should I Take?
  • Fiber.
  • Vitamin K.
  • Phytonutrients and Antioxidants.
  • Vitamin A.
  • Potassium.
  • Magnesium.
  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
  • Whole-Food Raw Multivitamins.

What happens if you never eat vegetables? ›

Without fruits and veggies, you're more prone to digestive ailments such as constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. “Fruits and vegetables contain cellulose, which increases stool weight, eases passage and reduces transit time,” Moore explains.

What age does picky eating end? ›

Do remember that picky eating is often “developmentally normal.” Children across the globe go through a picky eating phase from about age 2 to about age 4.

When should I be worried about a picky diet? ›

In general, parents with concern over if their child's picky eating is not average should consider some key traits commonly seen in children with more extreme picky eating (also outlined on this printable): Will eat less than 20 different foods on a consistent basis. May refuse whole food groups.

What do you feed a picky eater? ›

Offer snacks that are naturally sweet (low-fat yogurt, fruit, frozen bananas or grapes, apple slices with peanut butter). Don't keep many sweets in the house. If they're not around, they won't be tempted by them (and neither will you). Don't use sweets as a bribe or reward.

What are the 8 clean eating foods? ›

Other Clean Foods
  • Non-Starchy Veggies: Leafy Greens, Radishes, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Tomato, Eggplant, Zucchini, Cucumber, Peppers, Green Beans, Celery, Bok Choy, Jicama, Mushrooms, Artichokes, Cabbage, Beets, Onions and Carrots.
  • Sea Vegetables: Seaweed, Kelp, and Algae.
  • Melons: Watermelon, Cantaloupe, and Honeydew.
Jun 30, 2019

Why is eating healthy so hard? ›

We may not have enough time to prepare healthy meals, or even enough money to buy nutritious foods. Our social interactions may revolve around food, or we may need to consider others' preferences when cooking. And we can't forget about how easy it is to get less-than-healthy options.

How can a beginner start eating healthy? ›

We've broken down the basics of healthful eating to help you get started.
  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals your body needs, like: ...
  2. Choose whole grains. ...
  3. Limit processed foods. ...
  4. Practice portion control. ...
  5. Eat more healthy fats. ...
  6. Create a plan.
Jan 13, 2021

How do you feed a picky eater? ›

  1. Respect your child's appetite — or lack of one. If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack. ...
  2. Stick to the routine. Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. ...
  3. Be patient with new foods. ...
  4. Don't be a short-order cook. ...
  5. Make it fun. ...
  6. Recruit your child's help. ...
  7. Set a good example. ...
  8. Be creative.

What can I feed my picky toddler for lunch? ›

50 Toddler Lunch Ideas Even the Pickiest Eaters Will Love
  1. Peanut Butter And Banana Rollups Snack Box. ...
  2. Broccoli Pesto Pasta. ...
  3. Soft And Cheesy Pepperoni Pizza Puffs. ...
  4. Tic Tac Toe Sandwiches. ...
  5. Sweet Potato Noodle Ham And Cheese Cups. ...
  6. 4-ingredient Banana Pancakes. ...
  7. Sweet Potato, Bacon And Broccoli Egg Muffins. ...
  8. Homemade Spaghettios.
Aug 27, 2021

What food should parents not pack in the lunchbox? ›

Parents may unintentionally be giving their children foods that are packed with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and food dyes.
15 Items You Should Never Pack In Your Child's Lunch
  • Fruit Snacks. ...
  • Lunchables. ...
  • Deli Meat Sandwiches. ...
  • Potato Chips. ...
  • Drink Pouches and Juice Boxes. ...
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches.
Dec 8, 2016

What are the most popular school lunches? ›

Of all the lunch options given to them in the poll, including pasta, chicken nuggets, quesadillas, and deli roll-ups, a vast majority (37 percent) chose sandwiches as their favorite.
Best: Sandwiches
  • 53 percent prefer PB&J.
  • 25 percent would choose ham.
  • 12 percent like turkey.
  • 8 percent prefer cheese.
Jul 26, 2018

How do you pack a healthy school lunch? ›

The goal is to have variety, color and to include three-to-five of the food groups at each meal. Pack a small serving of cottage cheese with fruit, nuts, dried fruit or trail mix.
Packed lunches made easy
  1. Grains.
  2. Vegetables.
  3. Fruit.
  4. Meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts.
  5. Dairy.
Mar 16, 2017

What age does picky eating end? ›

Do remember that picky eating is often “developmentally normal.” Children across the globe go through a picky eating phase from about age 2 to about age 4.

How do you reverse picky eating? ›

How To Reverse Picky Eating Habits
  1. Don't stress about mess. If mealtime is getting messy, let it happen! ...
  2. Think about your reactions at the dinner table. ...
  3. Keep introducing new foods. ...
  4. Rotate! ...
  5. If you're using distractions - stop. ...
  6. Eat dinner as a family. ...
  7. Bring them into the kitchen.
Apr 22, 2021

What is extreme picky eating? ›

Extreme Picky Eating (EPE) is a selective eating disorder that doesn't fall into the category of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), namely because it hasn't been sustained for long enough.

What is the healthiest school lunch? ›

What to put in healthier school lunches
  • Fruit - best choices include fresh or tinned fruit. ...
  • Vegetables - try fresh crunchy vegetable sticks with dip or a small container with mixed vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, capsicum and cucumber.

What should a 12 year old eat for lunch? ›

Feeding Your Child - Ages 10-12
Food GroupSuggested Servings
Meat/Protein* Beef, Pork, Fish, Poultry Eggs Peanut Butter4 daily
Fruit/Vegetables Fruit Fruit Juice Vegetables4-6 daily
Breads/Cereals Whole grain bread Hot cereal, rice, pasta Ready-to-eat cereal Crackers6-11 daily
Fats/Oils3 daily—significant source of calories
2 more rows

What is a light lunch? ›

A light meal consists of a small amount of food, or of food that is easy to digest.

Will a toddler starve themselves? ›

Food and growth

Unless they are ill, a young child will never voluntarily starve themselves. If your child seems healthy and energetic, they are eating enough. If you are still concerned, keep an eye on how much food they eat over the day.

What should a 4 year old eat for lunch? ›

Healthy Packed Lunch Ideas for 2- to 5-Year-Olds
  • Pasta salad.
  • Homemade Lunchables.
  • Chicken and guacamole.
  • Nut or seed butter cracker sandwiches.
  • Deconstructed tacos.
  • Chicken salad.
  • Ham and cheese roll-up.
  • Leftover pasta.


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