The Top 15 Foods Kids Hate

You might think that it is normal for kids to be picky eaters and that there are certain foods that kids just don’t like. Well, let’s look at the top foods kids hate, why they hate them and what we can do to change this.

I have had the pleasure of having family over to visit for the Christmas holidays as I was writing this article. A house with four kids ranging from one to thirteen years old is a perfect opportunity for practical research on the foods kids hate and why. 

Over the years of trial and error, I am sure most of us have found foods that are hits and others that are complete flops. One thing I really wanted to try over the past few weeks with a full house is to cook the most hated foods for kids in their traditional most hated form and then again use another method to make them more palatable. What I really wanted to grasp was whether it was the food itself that kids hate, or is it how they are cooked/served.

At the top of the list of hated foods for my kids before the experiment, were mushrooms because they were ‘slimy’, Cottage cheese because they didn’t like the texture, tomatoes just because they didn’t like the taste, and beans because they looked funny. The interesting thing I found over the last few weeks is most of the kids ate all these vegetables when they were an ingredient in another dish however couldn’t bear the thought of even trying it when they were served for dinner on their own.

I know you are all busy with work, children, kids’ activities, keeping the household running and the bills paid. So, the last thing you need at the end of the day is a picky eater. You just want to get dinner on the table fast and cleaned up so you can relax a little. So with this in mind, I will lay out 15 common kids hated food ingredients and how they can be cooked differently so kids will actually enjoy them. The fussy eater hit list will provide alternate methods of quick and easy cooking, which are just as nutritious and will have your fussy eater changing their minds.

food kids hate

Foods Kids Hate – The Top 15

  1. Fish
  2. Brussels Sprouts
  3. Broccoli
  4. Eggs
  5. Tomatoes
  6. Avocados
  7. Mushrooms
  8. Cauliflower
  9. Beans & Legumes
  10. Spinach/ Silverbeet
  11. Asparagus
  12. Greek Yoghurt
  13. Whole Wheat Bread
  14. Cottage Cheese
  15. Water

Food Kids Hate #1 – Fish

how to get kids to eat fish

Fish has lots of health benefits, Omega 3 for growing brains and a high source of protein for bones and muscles. For kids, the smell, taste and texture are not a happy mix at the dinner table especially when the fish is overcooked.

To win over your picky eater, find a fish that is blander in flavour and not as fishy, like cod or salmon, crumb it lightly in wholemeal crumbs and air fry it for 10 minutes. Team it up with tartare sauce, a few crispy wedges and you just might have a winner at mealtime.

If you do not want to go crumb to keep it super healthy, a simple pan-fry with salt, olive oil and even a little teriyaki sauce is a simple and delicious way to serve up fish. My recommendation is to have skinless and boneless fish fillets to avoid any unnecessary fussing and drama.

Food Kids Hate # 2 – Brussels Sprouts

how to cook brussel sprouts

Brussels sprouts are at the top of the list of food kids hate. Most adults (including me) still have nightmares of being forced to eat these as children. It’s the overboiling of these mini cabbages that lead to the aroma and the even worse taste. If your kids are saying it smells and tastes like ‘farts’ then you have overcooked it.

A nutritious and delicious cooking method is sautéing them in a little olive oil with garlic, salt, and pepper. Add a few chopped nuts or even as an occasional treat, a little chopped bacon. Only cook the Brussels Sprouts for a few minutes until they are tender and have a bit of colour to them.

Food Kids Hate #3 – Broccoli

broccoli recipe for kids

Kids don’t buy the “broccoli are little trees” anymore. Broccoli is easy to overcook and like Brussels Sprouts this leads to an unpleasant smell which kids find offensive.

Lightly steam broccoli for 10 minutes, drain and sprinkle with cheese or make a cheesy sauce to dress it up. You could cut thinly and air fry for some healthy broccoli french fries. Or another alternative is to fry up with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper which will have your picky eaters running to the table.

The size of the florets was one of the things I found with broccoli which impacted whether they were eaten or not. Keep the florets or pieces small so they can easily be mixed in or eaten with other foods. I wouldn’t want to eat a big mouthful of just broccoli so there is no way many kids would want to either.

Food Kids Hate #4 – Eggs

easy egg recipe

When I was a child, I would not touch eggs in any way or any style. I didn’t like the smell or the taste. As an adult, I will only eat them fried or scrambled. For me, this stemmed from being made to eat a runny gooey egg as a child and this has put me off the food for decades.

What I have found is the hatred for eggs is pretty common due to the two ways they have been served. Undercooked and runny, or overcooked and dry. Ever had an overcooked hardboiled egg that is dry, pasty and next to impossible to swallow? Yeh, you wouldn’t be going back for seconds for that one.

Make eating eggs a good experience for kids by cooking them well. If cooking a hard-boiled egg as a snack, cook it for a max of 10 minutes and immediately transfer it to ice water so it doesn’t overcook.

To overcome a bad experience with gooey eggs, try scrambling with a little cream (1 Tbs for every 2 eggs) and grated cheese for the most delicious and cheesy breakfast. Failing that, try putting a fried egg, using an egg ring, between an English muffin with a slice of bacon and a thin slice of cheese and watch them wolf it down. Eggs can be a hard sell due to the texture, so make sure to set a timer to nail the perfect cooking time to avoid under or overcooking.

Food Kids Hate #5 – Tomatoes

tomatoes for kids

The hatred for tomatoes in their natural form is really common in children. They have a weird texture, can be really watery, sometimes can have a strong flavor, be too sweet or be too sour. Like most fruit varieties, tomatoes vary based on how ripe they are.

Other than tomato in sauce form or dip form there are a few ways to make the natural version just as tasty. Try cherry tomatoes instead of your normal larger varieties. They are smaller, easy for kids to hold and often much sweeter. They aren’t as juicy which helps to know that you are less likely to get a soggy one that puts off your kids.

Full of vitamin C and lycopene to reduce heart disease and cancer, tomatoes are a nutrition powerhouse. When choosing tomatoes from the grocery store, pick ones that are firm and avoid buying the prepacked bags as there are bound to be a couple of gross ones lurking in there. Put the tomatoes in the fridge straight away and try to use them within a few days. The longer they sit the soggier they will become.

Generally smaller tomatoes are sweeter and the bigger ones or more acidic, so pair the sweeter ones with ingredients that will balance them, like balsamic and herbs. Balance the more acidic ones with cheese or sweet fruits like mango.

Food Kids Hate #6 – Avocados

avocado recipes

Texture and consistency are the main bugbears with avocado for kids who dislike them. Spreading thinly on a sandwich with a slice of cheese and ham is a good way to increase kids’ intake of this healthy fat. Picky eaters might appreciate guacamole with all its seasonings and added extras. They can dip corn chips or carrots sticks into this healthy alternative.

If being more sneaky is something up your alley, then avocado is a great ingredient in desserts. It works great with chocolate, can barely be noticed, but it adds a creaminess which makes the dessert itself seem more decadent.

Food Kids Hate #7 – Mushrooms

why do kids hate mushrooms

Kids universally hate mushrooms, some describing them as a ‘slug’ due to the texture. Mushrooms can have a strong taste that undeveloped taste buds can’t handle. Try chopping them finely and adding them to ground meat stir-fries, pizza, or other kid-friendly food.

A source of umami, a savoury meaty flavour, mushrooms pack a nutritional punch and are essential for a healthy diet. Like our other veggies, chop them up into smaller pieces so they can be easily eaten and pair them with foods that also have a strong flavor like bacon, tomatoes, garlic, red meat, or herbs.

Food Kids Hate #8 – Cauliflower

cauliflower mash recipe

This beautiful vegetable is so versatile. Packed with vitamin C, fibre and is known for its cancer-preventative properties, you can’t go past cauliflower for nutrition. A picky eater doesn’t see it this way so you need to go super stealth on them to get it into their mouths.

If a fussy eater likes mashed potatoes, try mashing cauliflower for a tasty change. Add a sprinkling of cheese, a dash of cream and season well during the mashing process and you have a healthy vegetable mash that isn’t too different from the regular potato kind.

Cauliflower can be roasted, fried or stir-fried with spices, olive oil and salt and pepper. Stir-frying is another great way to add it to meat and other vegetables they do enjoy.

A popular alternative is cauliflower chicken nuggets. Cut up the cauliflower florets into chicken nugget size, dip in a tempura batter (all-purpose flour, egg, salt, pepper and ice water) and fry in the air fryer for 15 minutes. These crispy cauliflower treats are delicious and popular with my kids but only when they are fresh. Once they cool down they will go soggy, so if you do try this dish at mealtime, make sure it hits the dinner table soon after cooking.

Food Kids Hate #9 – Beans & Legumes

chilli con carne

Chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans are just a handful of choices from the beans and legume family. Eating these alone is a big ask for kids due to their bland taste and pasty texture.

Beans are good fibre-rich foods, a great protein boost and are a cost-effective way for parents to make more food at a lower price. Chilli Con Carne is a kid-friendly favorite or nachos with red kidney beans. Two parts meat to one part red kidney beans will mean you will save money by having less meat, have a good portion of beans in the recipe, but not too much to throw off the taste or the texture of it.

Kids forget they hate beans and legumes food as they tuck into these tasty alternatives. Team up the red kidney bean chilli con carne with some mushroom and serve it with some guacamole and broccoli chips, and you have a taste sensation kids love with beans, mushrooms, tomato, avocado and broccoli.

Food Kids Hate #10 – Spinach/Silverbeet

healthy pizza

Back in our day, Popeye would throw back some of this vegetable for strengthening bones and muscles which helped us as kids tolerate it. These days our kids just see spinach as leaves, or as my 3-year-old son said when it was on his plate, “why is there grass here”. Spinach or silverbeet can be a tricky one to eat raw or cooked.

A fantastic source of vitamin C and fibre will see your kids ready for anything. Kids hate this food because of the taste, lack of eye appeal and wilting. They will happily hide it under other food on their plate or feed it to the dog under the table. And the dog probably won’t even eat it.

Spinach or silverbeet is so versatile it can be included in casseroles, soups, curries, or pizza to get kids chowing down. Instead of the traditional wilting method of cooking, try chopping up finely and mixing into these recipes in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Food Kids Hate #11 – Asparagus

tempura asparagus

Asparagus is often overcooked and under-seasoned and thus is one of those foods’ kids hate. They can also be tough, stringy and bitter. Blend all these negatives together and you have the basis for a hate relationship with asparagus for life. It doesn’t have to be this way; asparagus can become a firm favorite.

Cut half an inch off the end of this vitamin-packed vegetable, rinse, and pat dry. Mix with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper. Roast, pan fry or air fry for 10-15 minutes. To add some fun to eating asparagus, use a tempura batter, air fry to get them nice and crispy and let the kids hold it, dip it in some aioli and eat it whole.

Food Kids Hate #12 – Greek Yoghurt

greek yoghurt for kids

Yoghurt is a great protein choice for kids. However, Greek yoghurt does not enjoy the same popularity as sugar-filled and artificially flavored yoghurt. Greek and plain yoghurt are bitter in comparison, are packed with protein and have much less sugar.

Greek yoghurt is a great addition to savoury foods as an alternative to sour cream. Adding some greek yoghurt on the heavy-hitting veggie chilli con carne we mentioned earlier will top it off perfectly. The natural tartness and bitterness will be masked by the flavors of the food and all that will be left will be the creaminess of the yoghurt.

If your food preference is sweeter rather than savoury, add some pureed berries and a swirl of honey to bring a natural sweetness that will have the kids demanding more.

Food Kids Hate #13 – Whole Wheat Bread

whole wheat bread for kids

Try getting the kids to switch from white to whole wheat bread and you could have a riot on your hands. Whole wheat breads or varieties that have fewer preservatives and sugar aren’t as soft, are a little heavier and just aren’t as appealing to the eye.

The transition can be made easier by trying whole wheat wraps. They are a great fibre boost and the whole-wheat will leave them filling fuller for longer, meaning no crying for unhealthy snacks 30 minutes after a meal. The wraps can be made into tortilla chips great for dipping into a cucumber yoghurt dip. Or filling with cheese, chicken, and spinach leaves.

Food Kids Hate #14 – Cottage Cheese

healthy mac and cheese

Eating cottage cheese can leave a sour taste in kids’ mouths. They look like they just swallowed a lemon. For this reason and its strange consistency, cottage cheese is a no go for kids. Packed with protein, cottage cheese can be added to a cheese sauce, mixed in a dip or served with fruit. The key to cottage cheese, like most of the foods on the kids most hated list, is to ensure the serving size is balanced. So for the fruit example, try equal parts fruit and cottage cheese so there is a pleasantly sweet and fruity taste that offsets the sourness and texture of the cheese.

Food Kids Hate #15 – Water

foods kids hate

Walk through any grocery store and the choices of sugary drinks makes it hard for any kids to resist, which makes it a difficult task for parents to try and get their kids to drink boring plain water.

Most kids prefer sugary alternatives to drinking water. Water to them is bland and boring. Water can become a favorite with added lime, lemon, or orange juice from fresh citrus. Get a little inventive with flavors to encourage greater consumption, especially during the summer months.

Adding bubbles is another great option as it makes it feel like more of a treat. Loads of households already have a SodaStream machine and these over the last couple of years have become more and more affordable. Just avoid the sugary flavors.

Little bodies can be quickly dehydrated through sweat and activity and there is nothing better for this than good old water.

Top Tips For Picky Eaters

I hope this list gives you lots of quick and easy ideas to put nutritious meals on the table after a busy workday. It can be tricky getting kids to eat a variety of healthy food and it can be so tempting to reach for the take-aways just to prevent the dinner table tantrum. There is a range of healthy alternatives using the same food they claim to hate.

The common theme with the most hated foods are:

  1. Cooking method – boiling foods will only bring out the natural flavors, which for most healthy foods and veggies isn’t the nicest of flavors. Air frying and pan frying in my opinion give the best results and a better texture through crispiness which in most cases is more favorable
  2. Undercooking or overcooking – For most of the hated foods, overcooking is the main culprit but undercooking can serve up equally as bad results. Next time you cook up one of these foods, cut 5 minutes off the cooking time and if it is undercooked you can simply put it back to cook a little longer. It is much easier this way as there is no coming back from overcooked food
  3. Serving size – chop up the pieces so they are small enough to be eaten with other foods. Half a brussels sprout, a chopped up broccoli floret, a quarter of a mushroom is much easier to chew and actually swallow compared to its whole counterpart.
  4. Make these foods a part of your dish, not a side dish

My results from the last few weeks have been positive with nearly all foods being eaten the second time around using a better cooking method. Try these alternatives with your family and if it doesn’t work then try another method or tweak the cooking time.

Healthy family eating is a journey, each time you think you have made it, you find another turn that requires a little more problem-solving. I suppose that is one of the challenges but also one of the gifts that being a parent brings us.

Good luck with experimenting with the little taste buds.

food kids hate

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