June 16, 2021

Mom's budget-friendly guide to getting picky eaters to try new foods

WATCH: Kids Eating in Color encourages kids to eat more diverse food

Getting kids to eat a variety of foods is a struggle that even moms who are nutrition experts know well.

"My first son fell off the growth chart starting when he was 6 months old," Jennifer Anderson, a registered dietitian and mom of two, told "Good Morning America." "I was standing in the pediatricians office thinking but I'm a dietitian. How does this happen to a dietitian?"

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The experience prompted Anderson to dive into research on kids and nutrition. The result is her Instagram account Kids Eat In Color, where she gives her more than 1.3 million followers tips to get kids to try new foods.

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"You may be feeding your child only fast food. You may be feeding your child only chicken nuggets. Whoever you are, you will find a place where other parents are there to welcome you and to say, 'Hey, you are doing a great job,'" Anderson said of her social media community.

Anderson is also focused on providing recipes and tips that are budget-friendly for families.

She partnered with a team of experts to create the "Affordable Flavors Meal Plan," a 30-day plan to help children expand their palates while sticking to a budget of $500 a month or less for a family of four.

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"We do not believe that you have to eat poorly on a budget," said Anderson. "You do have to be careful. You do have to be creative, but the food can still be flavorful. It can be delicious."

Here are three tips from Anderson to help children try new foods without wasting food or money.

1. Serve children 'micro portions'

This tip will help reduce food waste and stretch your food budget, according to Anderson.

"Micro portions are when you serve your child a very small amount of food and then let them keep asking for more until they are full," she said. "Instead of using [a large] spoon, you would actually use something more like [a small] spoon to help your child eat their meals."

2. Learn how to cook a few basics

Learning how to cook a basic food like chicken can stretch into several meals over the course of a week, according to Anderson.

"You can buy and cook your chicken on the weekend and then you can eat it that day and you can also save the leftovers for the week," she said. "You took one purchase and turned into a resource for the entire week."

3. Don't always splurge on organic foods

Knowing when it's OK to not choose organic foods can help you get more bang for your buck, according to Anderson.

"Organically grown foods and conventionally grown foods look exactly the same when you cut them open, except that conventionally grown foods are a lot less expensive," she said. "And that's going to help your family get more variety and get more food for your dollar."

Try a budget-friendly recipe from Anderson's "Affordable Flavors Meal Plan" at home with your family.

Peach Oatmeal Bake

Kids Eat in Color
A peach oatmeal bake from "Affordable Flavors" by Kids Eat in Color.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes


1 Tbs. butter, for greasing

2 cups milk (WIC accessible)

1 egg (WIC accessible)

¼ cup honey or maple syrup (do not serve honey to babies under age 1)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ cups oats (WIC accessible)

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup sliced peaches (canned in juice or fresh) (WIC accessible)

1 cup plain or Greek yogurt, optional, for serving (WIC accessible)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease an 8x8-inch baking dish with butter.

In a medium bowl, mix oats, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine milk, egg, honey and vanilla. Add wet mixture to dry, then add peaches. If using canned peaches, be sure to drain before adding.

Pour entire mixture into a greased baking dish and spread out evenly.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown on top.

Divide between 4 bowls and top with yogurt.

Recipe reprinted with permission from “Kids Eat in Color® Affordable Flavors: Diverse family meals for under $500 a month.”