Meal makeovers for when your child refuses their dinner

“Eat it or starve.” We’ve all been there – either hearing it as a kid or saying it as a frustrated parent. There’s not doubt that your offspring refusing to eat the meal that you’ve lovingly prepared for the family dinner is annoying to say the least. But often you just know that what the rest of the family are having for dinner isn’t appealing to your picky eater – whether it be because of texture or the way it looks.

Before you ditch the dinner, or relent and create a whole new meal for them, consider giving the existing meal a makeover. The team at Love Food Hate Waste have shared some of their great ideas for meal makeovers that require just a few extra ingredients to easily transform the meal into something new that may just appeal a whole lot more.



If you think putting a curry or stew in a toastie sounds a bit strange, remember that spaghetti toasted sandwiches were a hit when you were a kid, so putting leftover stir fry etc in a sandwich may not sound so weird after all.



Kind of like a toastie! Spread the food on half of a tortilla, sprinkle some cheese over it, fold over the tortilla and toast it in a frying pan or toasted sandwich machine until the tortilla is crisp and the cheese is melted. Alternatively, use tortillas to turn the leftovers into a burrito or enchilada.

Bread cases

bread case

Continuing on the bread theme, bread cases are easy to make and perfect for housing all sorts of fillings. Here’s an easy to follow recipe.



Who doesn’t love a pie? No matter how little you have left, you have enough to make a pie. Remember that pies can take all sorts of forms – they may be made with filo pastry or potato topped. Check out the Love Food Hate Waste pie guide.

Put it on a pizza


Whilst not everything will work on a pizza, you’d be surprised at what does. Keep a stash of pita pockets in the freezer as they make quick bases and are the perfect size for a child. Alternatively, if you have yoghurt in the fridge you can whip up this quick and easy base.

Tip: Keep a ‘pizza box’ in the freezer where you can stash things that would make good toppings – half a sausage, a piece of capsicum, a chunk of cheese until you have enough to top a pizza.

Make scrolls


Savoury scrolls can be made using pastry, wraps, or a scone or pizza dough. Simply roll out your base, top it with tomato sauce (if appropriate), spread over your leftovers, sprinkle with cheese, roll up, cut into slices and then bake in the oven until cooked. Try it with leftover mince.

For ideas on how to use up specific foods, check out the ultimate guide to using up your child’s leftovers.

Do you have a meal makeover tip? Join the discussion in the comments below.

This article was originally published by Love Food Hate Waste and is reproduced here with permission, with additional editing by Kidspot NZ.

Love Food Hate Waste

Every year Kiwis send 122,547 tonnes of food to landfill, all of which could have been eaten. Not only is wasting food costing us money, it is also bad for the environment.
Love Food Hate Waste has tips and recipes to help you reduce your food waste and save money. To find out more, visit

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  1. kymmage 30/08/2018 at 5:54 pm

    I usually make a big pot of Mac n cheese and that use to last us two days. But with my kids getting bigger it doesn’t go as far. I’m going to try adding toasties to the rotation to get a full meal from those pasta bake left overs!

  2. Jen_Wiig 27/08/2018 at 2:33 pm

    i often use the crust from the bread to make little cheese and garlic bread sticks for the boys to then dip in home made hummus. they wont their crusts as bread but these sticks dont last more than maybe 7 mins in the bowl haha.
    I also mix jelly and yogurt together then pop i fridge to make a creamy sort of desert tasting snack as my 3 yr old seems to think he doesn’t like yogurts and the boys current fav is stuffed potatoes or stuffed sausages

  3. dawnblyth 27/08/2018 at 12:52 pm

    Re-jigging meals is a great way to get food into our little one’s tummys. I have, in the past, been guilty of preparing two different meals just to get my boys to eat! I try not to do that so often now – I try to make slight changes. If we are having cooked carrots, my eldest doesn’t like cooked carrots, so I leave his raw. If we are having something spicier – I left out a portion without the spice. I have tried little tricks – like roast potatoes (in the smaller nibbly version) I say that they are little chippies and boy do they get eaten. I have made meatloaf with grated veges in the mixture so that they don’t see the vege and it gets eaten. I think as parents we often come up with a lot of tricks to get food down!

  4. Mands1980 23/08/2018 at 7:14 pm

    These are some yummy recipes which I will certainly be using. We try get the kids to try all the food on there plates as we don’t make separate foods for the kids. One way is making a mince dish and adding vegetables into the pot most the kids don’t know they are in there.

  5. Bevik1971 21/08/2018 at 2:33 pm

    These ideas are great, however we have got to the point with our 5 year old that if she doesn’t want to eat what we dish up (her Dad is a chef by trade so the meals are awesome!), then she doesn’t get anything else. Some people might think that’s harsh but she is just being fussy most of the time and if she’s hungry she will eat it 🙂

  6. MuddledUpMolly 20/08/2018 at 10:08 pm

    This is so relevant in my life right now! Our daughter is almost 2 and although she is mostly a good eater, the other night I had to turn her fresh wrap into a quesadilla just to get her to eat the damn thing! Pleased to say it did work though 🙂

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