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Nutrition for Active Kids and Picky Eaters

Nutrition for Active Kids and Picky Eaters

The Best Recipes for Healthy, Happy Kids

By Elyse Kopecky

Feeding kids is often stressful, but it doesn’t have to be! I’ve got awesome news for all the exhausted parents out there dealing with picky eaters:

Your kiddos do not have to love vegetables to be healthy!

There are so many other nutrient dense foods out there that are even better for your children than kale!! Parents tend to only think of vegetables when they think of health food, but kid-favorite foods like pastured butter, grass-fed burgers, free-range eggs, high quality cheeses, wholesome (homemade) baked treats, soups, homemade dips like hummus, nut butters, and smoothies are also incredibly nutritious. Kids need plenty of healthy fats for their growing bodies and minds and there are so many options to choose from to suit your baby’s expanding taste buds. 

Of course vegetables are still a healthy choice and often kids love raw veggies like carrot sticks and red peppers or veggies cooked into flavorful foods (so many great options explained in Run Fast. Eat Slow.)

As a mom of two littles, I fully understand your struggles. It takes incredible patience to feed a picky eater. There is nothing worse than spending time creating a delicious home cooked meal that nobody eats. Ahh! Right?!

My 4 year old has always been an adventurous eater. As a baby she loved sardines, bone broth, beet hummus, and so many unusual “adult” foods, but we are currently dealing with a picky stage. I try not to stress about it as I know it's just a phase. She probably knows what her body needs best (within reason of course, she would happily eat ice cream for dinner if I let her).

I always give the kids options on their plates and let them decide what to eat. If the roasted cauliflower and potatoes get left behind but they devour the burgers, I’m happy. If I have to add chocolate chips to Oatmeal Banana Pancakes to get them excited, I'm happy to do it (plus chocolate chips are awesome in pancakes!). If she requests pasta to add to her soup, I’m happy to make this easy recipe adjustment. But one thing I never do is cook a separate dinner for the kids. They know that is not an option. Seriously who has time to cook two different meals every night?!

Challenge number two. My 12-month old has been finicky from the very beginning and half of his meal ends up on the ground. We call him Mr. Inspector because he inspects each morsel and decides not to even taste a new food based on looks alone. He refuses to be spoon fed anything and only likes finger foods that he can easily eat himself. Some days he’s more interested in playing with his food than putting it in his mouth.

This daily struggle to find foods that he loves has helped me better relate to what other parents are commonly going through. He won’t go near anything that resembles a cooked vegetable (except for roasted cauliflower and homemade sweet potato fries), but he’ll gladly devour fruit and veggie smoothies, meatballs and spoonful’s of pesto.

So from one parent who understands just how crazy mealtime can be, here are the top kid-tested and kid-approved recipes from my picky eaters to yours! These are the recipes that make a regular appearance in our home and I hope this will make meal time in your home a little bit simpler. 

In fact most of the recipes in Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. are super kid-friendly since my new cookbook is focused on approachable, easy wholesome meals for busy families and beginner cooks. 

I would love to hear what recipes from Run Fast. Eat Slow. or Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. your kids like best in the comments below.

Run Fast. Eat Slow. kid friendly meal prep

My little helper in the kitchen. Involving kids in preparing meals is a great way to get them to try something new.


Best Recipes for Picky Eaters (husbands included!)


From Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.

Immune Boost Smoothie (RFCFES page 55)

The only green smoothie my daughter will devour (and my husband!), she calls it the Green Dinosaur Smoothie. 

Apple Carrot Superhero Muffins (RFCFES page 60)

Add chocolate chips!

Spinach and Sausage Frittata (RFCFES page 79)

My 4-year old won’t eat eggs in any form, except this dish thanks to the flavorful sausage.

Oatmeal Banana Pancakes (RFCFES page 80)

Overly ripe bananas are gold in our home. We make these nearly every Sunday.

Slow Cooker Beef and Lentil Minestrone (RFCFES page 115)

So easy to toss everything into my Instant Pot (this is the version we have) before work and dinner is ready and waiting at 5 pm. Serve with fun-shaped pasta. 

Chicken Cannellini Soup (RFCFES page 116)

So quick and easy. Use chicken thighs (not white meat) for maximum flavor and nutrition. 

Superfoods Soup (RFCFES page 112)

My kids prefer it made with chicken instead of chickpeas. Simply simmer the raw chicken in the soup until cooked through, remove from pot, shred, return chicken to pot.

Oven “Fried” Chicken (RFCFES page 134)

What’s not to love! The breading keeps the chicken super moist.

Honey Balsamic Grilled Chicken (RFCFES page 135)

So easy to marinate in the am and toss on the grill after work, plus grilling means no mess.

Bonk Burgers (RFCFES page 139)

I always double this recipe to ensure leftovers.

Turkey Trot Meatballs (RFCFES page 147)

Fun for kids to dip in marinara sauce. 

Marathon Bolognese (RFCFES page 144)

This recipe is super easy to adjust to use any kid-favorite veggies, we usually keep it simple with just onion, carrot, and celery.

Miso Butter Salmon (RFCFES page 155)

My kids would never touch salmon, until I made this. Be sure to include the honey!

Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes (RFCFES page 162)

What is it about kids and roasted cauliflower?! Surprisingly my kids devour the cauliflower and leave the potatoes.

Sunday Sweet Potatoes (RFCFES page 161)

So simple, I always gotta have these available in the fridge for rice bowl night. 

Coconut Rice with Nori (RFCFES page 164)

Adding virgin coconut oil to the rice sneaks in a healthy fat. 

Power Bowls (RFCFES page 122)

We leave these deconstructed and let our 4 year old make her own plate. She loves the OXO Tot melamine plates with all the dividers. My kids won’t eat a rice bowl if everything is combined. 

Presto Pesto (RFCFES page 172) and Pesto Pasta with Sardines (RFCFES page 148)

Kids (and babies) love pesto and it’s a great way to sneak in some greens.

Garlicky Guac (RFCFES page 177)

Topping for rice bowls or serve with chips. I make it a little less garlicky for the kids, great for boosting immunity.

Nori Popcorn (RFCFES page 198)

Movie night must-have for my 4 year old.

Crispy Chickpeas (RFCFES page 196)

Great for snacking alternative to chips/pretzels.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (RFCFES page 210)

Kids love helping with this recipe, no bake and so easy.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (RFCFES page 207)

We always keep a roll of this cookie dough in our freezer for a last minute play date. 

Warrior Pops (RFCFES page 220)

Summer time backyard must-have. If your kids are used to the sweetness of store-bought popsicles they might not like these as much.


From Run Fast. Eat Slow.


Can’t Beet Me Smoothie (RFES page 28)

My kids love the color. Lately they’re loving the swap of frozen raspberries instead of blueberries. They like to match their reusable straws to the smoothie color.

Original Superhero Muffins (RFES page 42)

Make mini muffin versions for your mini superheroes. I'm obsessed with this OXO 24-count mini muffin pan

Sweet Potato Breakfast Cookies (RFES page 56)

The best for long flights and quick breakfasts on-the-go.

Don’t Get Beet Hummus (RFES page 73)

Kids go crazy for the color. Serve with tortilla chips and carrot sticks.

Broccoli Chevre Soup (RFES page 102)

Since my 12-month old makes a huge mess when eating soups with a spoon, I let him slurp it with a straw (we found these easy to clean, silicone reusable straws on Amazon)

Classic Chicken Bone Broth (RFES page 113)

So nourishing for sick kiddos. Is it weird that my kids will drink broth with a straw?

Flu-Fighter Chicken and Rice Stew (RFES page 108)

I like to make this in my Instant Pot on the slow cook setting, so its ready after work. The rice gets super soft and thick like congee, some kids might not like the texture.

Bison Meatballs (RFES page 120)

Serve with spaghetti. Don't even try to get your kids to eat veggie pasta or whole grain pasta.

Sweet Potato Fries (RFES page 161)

We make these at least once a week.

Dark Chocolate-Dipped Banana Pops (RFES page 202)

So fun in the summer, let the kids do the dunking!

Baby Ry at 10 months enjoying a Beet Molasses Superhero Muffin

Deconstructed "Power Bowl" from Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. Chicken, roasted cauliflower, sweet potato fries, rice.

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