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Karen Wang
BY Karen Wang

11 Healthy Summer Treats For Your Picky Eater

Fresh fruits and vegetables are in season, and parents everywhere are trying to find ways to add them to the diets of their picky or reluctant eaters.  If you love someone who:

  • gags from certain food textures or odors
  • has food allergies
  • is sensory-seeking or sensory-defensive
  • struggles with self-feeding
  • would rather starve than eat non-chocolate

…then I have 11 nutritious summer treats for you to consider.

1. Smoothie

Feeding therapists and speech therapists often recommend thick or viscous fluids for oral-motor awareness.  Smoothies are both nutritious and therapeutic!

  • 1 ripe banana, sliced (room temperature or frozen)
  • Half cup of frozen fruit (peaches, strawberries or blueberries are recommended)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • Quarter cup of favorite juice
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

Puree in the blender until smooth and serve immediately.  I do not recommend fresh blueberries for smoothies, because the skins remain mostly whole and may cause gagging.  Peeled peaches can be pureed very smoothly without seeds.

2. Fruitsicle

Because small pieces of fruit can be a choking hazard, some families prefer to offer fruit in pureed form. In the summer, frozen pureed fruit provides delicious sensory input!  Picky eaters usually prefer one type of fruit at a time, so put some strawberries or blackberries or blueberries in the blender, and when the puree is smooth, pour it into popsicle molds.  No sugar is necessary.  Freeze for 4 to 6 hours before serving.

3. Frozen banana

Cut a ripe banana in half, stick a popsicle stick in each half, and freeze for 4 hours.  Individuals who have difficulty with the texture of bananas at room temperature may have an easier time with frozen bananas. For the adventurous type, try dipping each banana half in chocolate or yogurt before freezing.

4. Fudgesicle

Fudgesicles are a quick way to provide a serving of fruits and vegetables to chocolate lovers – if you know the right ingredients to pass it off!

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted
  • Quarter cup raw honey
  • Quarter cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.  The mixture will look and taste like chocolate banana pudding.  Serve it up at room temperature or scoop it into popsicle molds and freeze for 4 hours.

5. Fruit kabob

I was surprised when all of the fruit kabobs disappeared at my son’s first grade picnic.  We cut 12 inch bamboo skewers in half for a less intimidating serving size, and alternated grapes and strawberries with chunks of melon and pineapple.  It may be safer to start a kabob with a single type of fruit, then gradually introduce small pieces of new fruits later.

6. Chips & dip

Providing a dip is a great way to get picky eaters to experiment.  Summer provides all of the ingredients for fresh salsa.

  • 3 cups chopped tomato
  • Half cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Quarter teaspoon ground cumin
  • Half teaspoon salt
  • Half teaspoon black pepper
  • Dash of cayenne pepper

Stir everything in a bowl and serve immediately.  For a mild version, don’t add jalapeno pepper, black pepper or cayenne pepper.

7. Non-dairy ice cream

Looking for ways to introduce more vitamins and healthy fats into my son’s diet, I started making coconut milk ice cream with chocolate to cover up the fresh fruit that I added.  It does not look or taste like regular ice cream, but it was a success.

  • One 14 ounce can coconut milk
  • One or two ripe bananas
  • 1 avocado, pitted
  • Quarter cup raw honey
  • Quarter cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container and freeze for 6 hours, stirring every 45 minutes.

8. Power bars – nut free

I was looking for a healthy, nut-free snack that traveled well and prevented constipation.  So I started making my own snack bars similar to Larabars, which are made only with raw ingredients and no added sweeteners.  Because I also add cocoa powder, I can truthfully call these “Chocolate power bars.”

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • Half cup pitted prunes
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • Quarter cup raw pumpkin seeds or flax seeds
  • Quarter cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Add the ingredients a little bit at a time into a food processor.  Process until a thick dough forms.  Take the dough out, roll it into small balls or roll it flat and cut it into bars. Store it in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

9. Kale chips

Kale is widely hailed as one of the most nutritionally dense foods available.  But even the most die-hard fans of kale admit that it is an acquired taste.  How does one acquire the taste? Crispy, salty kale chips, that’s how.

  • I bunch of kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste (most recipes say 1 teaspoon, but half a teaspoon was plenty for my family)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Tear the kale leaves into bite-size pieces. Toss the pieces with olive oil, and then spread them out on a cookie sheet. Lightly sprinkle the pieces with salt.  Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are brown – make sure the kale does not burn!

10. Pickles or fresh cucumbers

I have a friend who says that cucumbers and pickles are her children’s favorite summer snack.  Cucumber sticks are a cool, refreshing snack without strong flavors.  For those who seek more sensory input, the salty, sour flavor of pickles can be highly satisfying.

11. Chocolate Oatmeal Muffins

I make muffins every Sunday, and pack them in lunch boxes and serve them as snacks during the week. I add certain ingredients to maximize the nutritional value and to mollify my pickiest eater.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats or quick oats
  • Quarter cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Half teaspoon salt
  • Half cup maple syrup or honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or soft butter
  • 1 ripe banana
  • Half cup frozen fruit (blueberries or peaches work best)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. In a food processor, puree the banana and frozen fruit until completely smooth.  Add the remaining wet ingredients to the food processor, and mix.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and blend together.  Fill muffin cups and bake 15 to 20 minutes.  Because of the heavy ingredients (whole wheat flour and oatmeal), the muffins won’t rise very high – they will be dense, moist and rich.

What is your favorite summer treat? Share it with us in the comments below!

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Karen Wang

Written on July 23, 2014 by:

Karen Wang is a Friendship Circle parent. You may have seen her sneaking into the volunteer lounge for ice cream or being pushed into the cheese pit by laughing children. She is a contributing author to the anthology "My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids With Disabilities"

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