This recipe is perfect for children with a meat aversion and families that may like chocolate?!  Meat avoidance is a common fussy eating behaviour during cognitive leaps (and beyond) depending on the tools that parents have used to help their children through process eating meats.  Meats are particularly challenging for some fussy eaters because they require more sensory input processing than the deemed reward.  Fussy eating behaviours that go hand in hand with cognitive shifts may have started presenting themselves at approximately 18mths – 2 years and may have intensified or subsided after this point.  The next major cognitive leap happens between 5-7 years of age.  This is again where tools that parents use about food can assist / hinder the child’s ability to accept foods that they deem “too hard”.

Central American Style Shredded Chicken and Meat Aversion for Fussy Kids by Play with Food

My suggested process to overcome a meat aversion:

Work backwards from where they are at using the same methodology as a food jag. For you this could mean starting with the chicken nugget and map out a progress chain to get to a steak.  Use the foods your family aspires to eat together in this process. A strategy for you to try to overcome a food jag is to introduce different shapes, colours, textures and flavours of the “favourite food” in that order.  This is obviously not as simple with meat!  Here is how I change the shape of “meat”.  I work out what they are liking – is it chicken nuggets (think almost pre-digested easy to put in your mouth chew for only a little while and swallow) or is it mince in spag. bol?  The next “shape” I would try is meatballs made with some breadcrumb binding.  Try these chicken and chia meatballs out. Remember to make appropriately sized meatballs for little kids.

Meat Aversions and Central American Style Shredded Chicken Recipe |

Your kids will love that this chicken recipe has CHOCOLATE in it – you will too!

The next step is to appeal to their sensory processing stage.  Children may still not be ready for a full piece of whole meat.  However, they may like to try some plain shredded poached chicken, flakes of fish or plain shredded pork.  By shredding the whole meats we are still getting them (re)used to the flavour of whole meats but without too much of that pesky chewing that a well done steak requires.

After this we may be ready to introduce some other flavours of shredded meats.  Pulled meats are all the rage atthe moment and the best thing is that they are so easy to prepare.

From here you can get creative with cuts of meat, flavours and variety.  You are on your way!Central American Style Shredded Chicken | Play with Food

There is so much more behind meat aversions, however, this post is designed get you on your way. Plus, I am eager to get to the CHOCOLATE part!

Central American Style Shredded Chicken
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A shredded chicken recipe with hints of chocolate. This made enough for a family of 4 for dinner plus enough leftovers to have on bread rolls for lunch the next day. Leftovers could also be tossed through some pasta, cous cous or rice. Or you could use it on a homemade pizza.
Recipe type: Main Meal
Serves: 6
  • 600g Chicken Thighs
  • Olive Oil
  • Tin of Tomatoes
  • 2 Small Onions, Finely Chopped
  • 1 Carrot, Finely Chopped
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic, Finely Chopped
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground Coriander
  • 2-3 tsp Cocoa Powder (the higher the concentration of cocoa solids the better)
  • Dash of Water
  • 90ml Fountain Chipotle BBQ Sauce*
  • Optional: 1 Fresh Chilli Deseeded
  • *If you don't have this sauce that is OK - You can use some tomato paste + Worcestershire sauce or standard BBQ sauce.)
  • To Serve: Fresh Coriander, Lime Wedges, Salad Vegetables and Tortillas
  1. Sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs whole and brown them all over. Add all of the other ingredients to the pan. Make sure the chicken is well coated. Add a dash of water.
  2. Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Remove from the heat and use two forks to shred the meat within the sauce.
  4. Serve from the middle of the table with salads for a great #happymealtime.


Do your kids love meat or stick to their safe options?  What meat dishes to you enjoy as a family?

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