Healthy Recipes for Picky Teenagers

If you’re like me and raising teenagers, you know the challenge of having home-cooked meals that everyone in the house will like and eat. It’s easy for them to grab unhealthy food through the day, so I’ve had to be flexible and creative to lure them back to family mealtime.

Easy Meals for the Whole Fam

I’ve gotten pretty crafty in the kitchen with my twin 14-year-olds, and when I asked them to share their favorite go-to meals at home, the following is what they told me.

Quinoa Bowls:

Super easy. Cook up some quinoa, then just have your kids dump what they love in it. Two of mine like to add some salt, pepper, and garlic, then top it with black beans, sour cream, and cheese. The third child wouldn’t dream of anything other than some sauteed chicken, topped with a little steamed broccoli and teriyaki sauce.

French Bread Pizza:

Actually, French bread anything! Dip the bread in oil and parmesan, load it up with turkey and cheese, or put some pizza sauce on and add toppings. During family movie nights, this is one of our family favorites. Every member of the family likes something different, so we have an array of toppings. Pop these in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, then broil for 2 minutes, and you’re in French bread pizza heaven!

Rice Anything:

We’re a “add anything to rice” family. I make a large pot of rice in the cooker once per week then use it to make up various things. For example, add some diced chicken, a couple of fried eggs, and a few leftover veggies (minced up small so the kids will eat them), then add some soy sauce and you’re good to go. Or, make your rice like you’d make oatmeal. Add some butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and milk, and enjoy! For the kids who don’t like quinoa, or for a variation, add diced chicken with some teriyaki sauce (or other sauce of your choice).

Egg Anything:

My kids love eggs! Egg salad, deviled eggs, boiled whole eggs, poached eggs, and scrambled eggs. Because my teens are old enough to cook for themselves, this is a meal they put together pretty quickly. In our family of five, we go through about 36 eggs per week—most of those are for my growing teenagers! Also, plop a poached or fried egg over your rice bowls or quinoa bowls. Finally, if your teens eat Ramen as mine do, add an egg to the boiling water for some protein. 

Oatmeal with All-the-Things:

One of my teens cooks oatmeal pretty regularly. On top, add some banana drizzled with honey, blueberries, raspberries, or granola. Pretty up your oatmeal with some butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and milk. Finally, add in some healthy ingredients they won’t even know are there, like flaxseed.

Peanut Butter Toast with a Side of Banana:

Does this need any introduction at all? And, do you need permission to serve this as a whole meal? If so, here it is. I give you permission. You’ll feel better knowing there is some excellent protein here, plus you can add sliced banana on the side and you’ve just made a five-minute meal!

DIY Salads:

I realize not all teens will eat salads, but if yours are like mine, they’ll eat ONE kind of salad, and I’m okay with it because at least there’s one. You can get pre-made bagged salads, or stock your fridge with things your kids will love. You can make this fun by letting kids add in their own colors of the rainbow. I highly suggest adding in fruit: plums, grapes, diced apples, and even avocado. The kids love the sweetness of the fruit, and it almost covers up the fact that they’re eating a salad.

Pasta Bar:

Again, we have various ingredients our kids can add to their pasta. For example, rather than making a full pan of spaghetti with meat sauce, we’ll have a pan of spaghetti noodles, another with sauce, another with meat, and yet another with some extra toppings (like cheese, meatballs, or even veggie noodles). 

Picking My Battles with Picky Eaters

My kids hardly eat meat, even though I’m a solid omnivore. They’re also very picky about the veggies they eat—they’ll eat broccoli and edamame like it’s their last meal. One of them eats raw carrots, another loves Caesar salad, another child loves green beans. They don’t all love the same things; they don’t all hate the same things. However, I’ve found ways to create food bars and DIY dishes to all be together and have some fun while we’re having meals. 

When your kids are picky, more than anything, I suggest inclusivity and honoring what they naturally want to eat. It’s a bit different for really young kids, whom I suggest try everything at least once. But for the teens, they’re already pretty set and as you know, we’re struggling with other more pertinent teen issues. Food is the last battle I’m interested in fighting! 

What are some healthy recipes for picky teenagers that have worked for you?


Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer is a mom of twins who are sweet as sugar, but just hit that tween stage so all bets are off. Her youngest is...a joy. Let's just stop there. Most days you can find her in her office seeing clients, doing laundry, loading or unloading the dishwasher, or catching up on the latest episode of Real Housewives of (Insert City Here), Walking Dead or This Is Us. She is a tree-hugging country girl from West Texas who reads, writes, and teaches about human development and families as a hobby and profession. You can read more from Jennifer at her therapy blog,