As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and feeding expert, I work with many parents of picky eaters. But interestingly enough, almost every child that is deemed a “problem feeder” likes chicken nuggets.
Coincidence? Not really. But that’s a more complicated issue for another day.
I talked to a mom once whose son wouldn’t eat much, but he would eat chicken nuggets. Her silver lining…at least he likes any chicken nugget and not just one particular brand!
In the world of problem feeders, that actually is a big deal. But it’s not enough.
The ultimate goal is for kids to not prefer processed food at all. Instead, they should know what real, nourishing food tastes like. And have it be their first choice!
How to Switch From Processed Food to Real Food for Kids
So why don’t parents just make the switch?
It’s hard to bridge that gap! Especially for kids with a deeper root cause of their feeding struggles.
But just because it’s hard, does not mean it can’t be done!
You have to go through a transition phase. That means creating Real Food versions of your kids’ favorite foods. Get the unhealthy foods out while still providing the familiar foods your kids love. It’s all about the baby steps, right?
Why We Love Healthy Air Fryer Recipes
You may be thinking…I can’t make food like what comes out of a box. Or maybe you’ve tried but your kids won’t touch it.
Enter the Air Fryer!
This is one of the best tools for transitioning from processed food to Real Food.
It creates the same flavors and textures your child likes. But the real difference between the two is fat.
Processed food uses rancid vegetable oils that will cause inflammation throughout the body. I shared a story recently about how my family got takeout, and for the next few days, the whole family had body odor, foul-smelling gas and bowel movements, bloating, and stomach aches. It was the unhealthy fat! It took almost a week to fully detox.
When using an Air Fryer, you can use healthy fats like:
These are actually anti-inflammatory and a very important part of a child’s diet. Fat is brain food and helps keep blood sugar stable.
Cooking “kid food” in an Air Fryer is going to be a big step towards an overall healthier diet.
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Kid-Friendly Air Fryer Recipe
So what kid-friendly recipes can you make in an Air Fryer?
The possibilities are endless. Some of our favorites include:
- chicken nuggets
- french fries
- veggie fries
- salmon cakes
- grilled cheese
I love how quickly these all cook! They really don’t take much more effort than opening a box. But the impact on your child’s health from the food quality is definitely noticeable.
Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets
Today we are focusing on chicken nuggets – the dietary staple for so many kids.
Most homemade chicken nugget recipes use chicken breasts or chicken tenders, breaded and then baked or cooked in a pan. The breading process is tedious – dredge, dip, roll. And for those problem feeders, the texture of the solid meat is still too much to handle.
This healthy chicken Air Fryer recipe removes all of those obstacles!
It uses ground chicken to create a similar texture to store-bought or fast-food nuggets.
The breading? It’s just ground oats. One roll and you’re done. No three-stage coating…and it actually sticks!
When I created this recipe I was trying to please my kids. But it was my husband that praised them the most! He loved the texture and the breading. He is an Intuitive Eater…what I call the true picky eater. So his opinion means a lot! My little Intuitive Eater loved them too. An all-around win!Print
Quick & easy Air Fryer chicken nuggets that kids will love!
- 2 lbs. ground chicken, turkey, or pork
- 1/2 tsp.
- 1 tsp. desiccated liver (optional)
- 1 c. organic rolled oats
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp. , avocado oil, lard, or tallow
- Blend oats, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder in a food processor until mostly chopped, 1-2 minutes.
- Pour the oats in a shallow dish.
- Blend the ground meat, salt, and liver in the food processor until smooth, 1-2 minutes.
- Form meat into 1-2″ balls.
- Roll each ball in the oat mixture to coat, set it on a baking sheet, and gently press to desired nugget thickness (1/2″ works well).
- Repeat until all nuggets are ready.
- Preheat the oven to 200-degrees F.
- Heat Air Fryer to 375-degrees F and set the timer for 13 minutes.
- Allow the Air Fryer to heat for 3 minutes.
- Pause the timer and add 1 Tbsp. of oil to coat the bottom.
- Add as many nuggets will fit in a single layer.
- Turn on the Air Fryer and let cook for 5 minutes.
- Pause and flip the nuggets. Cook for the remaining 5 minutes.
- Repeat this until all of the nuggets are cooked, adding more oil as needed.
- Place finished nuggets on a baking sheet in a warm oven until all nuggets have been cooked.
- Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.
If you do not have an Air Fryer, you can bake the chicken nuggets on a greased baking pan at 400-degrees F for 20-25 minutes, flipping half way through.
- Serving Size: 4-5 nuggets
- Calories: 289
- Sugar: 0g
- Sodium: 391mg
- Fat: 13g
- Saturated Fat: 3g
- Unsaturated Fat: 0g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 7g
- Fiber: 1g
- Protein: 34g
- Cholesterol: 108mg
Keywords: kid-friendly, kid food, copycat
Where to Find High Quality Meat
Having trouble finding good quality meat locally? Would you like to fill your freezer with local and pastured options?
If you’re in Canada, check out TruLocal.ca.
If you’re in the US Midwest, Chicago to Milwaukee to Detroit to New York, and select cities across the country, check out TruLocalUsa.
If you’re west of the Mississippi, check out Wild Pastures.
If you live in any of the 48 contiguous states, I recommend Butcher Box!
I’m grateful that there’s an online source of incredibly high quality meat that I can always count on. A subscription from Butcher Box includes grass fed, organic, pastured, and free range = all the labels important to your family’s health! Right now, June 10-30 and July 5-11, their promotion is one of my favorites – Bacon For Life! When you sign up now, you’ll get a free pack of uncured, unbelievably tasty bacon in every box for the life of your subscription!
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Must-Try Healthy Air Fryer Recipe
Most of the kids I work with have some type of food allergy, food sensitivity, and/or sensory issue. This means it’s a lot harder to find healthy food they are willing to eat!
I take that into account when I create recipes. Especially since some of those restrictions are true for my own kids.
This Air Fryer chicken nugget recipe is
- allergen-free (no gluten, eggs, dairy, nuts, soy, corn, or rice)
- sensory/picky eater-friendly (no strange textures or hard to chew parts)
What I really love about these chicken nuggets is how quickly they cook! The nuggets are in and out of the Air Fryer in ten minutes.
An added bonus is that they are great for toddlers too. Easy to hold and easy to chew!
Why Do Kids Love Chicken Nuggets?
So why do most kids love chicken nuggets? In a nutshell, they are very palatable and easy to chew. Plus they fill a need.
Most kids with feeding challenges struggle to eat meat (the texture, the chewing, and the digestion), but their bodies cry out for protein. So, processed meat becomes the solution.
If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s time to make the switch to a healthy version of chicken nuggets that also won’t require you to spend hours in the kitchen. In fact, this is a great recipe to let the kids help make!
Add some delicious dips to the mix and you’ve got a really fun, healthy meat that even the pickiest eater will love. Some great dip options include:
Pair your healthy Air Fryer chicken nuggets with roasted sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower for a complete meal. And if your kids are like mine, they’ll love it if you serve everything in a basket like you’d get at a restaurant. A small investment with big rewards!