Thursday, December 13, 2012

35+ Tips for Getting Young Kids to Eat Veggies

There's a post on Babycenter on tricks and tips to get your toddlers to eat veggies - with 258 helpful comments! I keep starting them and re-starting them, so I'm going to paraphrase the best tips here. My oldest will NOT eat a vegetable unless under the duress of threats and bribery - this post is not meant to be a commentary on the seemingly recent but vigorous hide-the-veggies vs. don't-hide-veggies debate. But if anyone's struggling like I am, and just want to get their child through belligerent food phases with their health still intact, here are some good ideas! I've added some links where a parent recommended a type of recipe.

1. Use cheese grater to grate frozen veggies as "sprinkles" onto food.
2. Make kids eat at least one bite of the veggie offered at every meal.
3. Hiding vegetables in smoothies. Naked Juice makes some great veggie/fruit smoothie combos if you want to take the easy route!
4. Cheesy omelettes with tiny veggies hidden inside. Try cutting them up into cute shapes with cookie cutters, to mix it up a bit.
5. Pumpkin bread, zucchini or sweet potato pancakes and bread and carrot/raisin muffins.
6. Steam fresh vegetables and then puree them with a bit of water and store them in little baggies in the fridge or freezer. Then put them in anything that can "hide" the color, i.e. put a whole serving of pureed spinach in meatloaf; put pureed cauliflower in mashed potatoes. The key is to steam it first, so it is cooked but retains all its nutrients and not put too much in each thing.
7. Kale chips
8. Make stir fries with a little olive oil, broccoli cut small, shredded carrots, frozen peas, zucchini, etc. Throw in a lot of low-heat chili powder and try to avoid salt and butter. They really cover up the taste. Or you can try a different texture -- broccoli and cauliflower bake up nicely on a Pampered Chef baking stone in the oven. Same thing with kale. Bake it until crispy... so good. And boiled carrots (use real carrots... the baby carrots have a strange texture when cooked) are a constant favorite at one mom's house.
9. Make veggie/fruit/yogurt popsicles. Blend a variety of sweeter-type veggies and fruits together with the yogurt, and freeze for a healthy after-dinner dessert.
10. Try sweet potato pancakes, pumpkin bread (use less sugar and whole wheat flour), and morning glory muffins with carrots.
11. Try an unusual combination - one mom mixed finely chopped broccoli with brown rice and crushed pineapple, and her toddler loved it! She does different combination like cut up chicken with mandarin oranges with rice, carrot, broccoli, and cauliflower (all veggies finely chopped up.) She also puts plain carrot baby food on her daughter's pizzas.
12. Mix veggies (like mashed cauliflower, broccoli, squash, and carrots - can all be pre-frozen, then thawed) with applesauce and see if your child will enjoy that more!
13. One popular method is pureed veggies in spaghetti sauce - try carrots, green peppers, parsnips, etc.
14. One mom can get her son to eat spinach quiche, a great high protein dish. She bakes a whole pie, cuts it into wedges, and freezes them as single servings. To reheat, she defrosts them then pops them into the toaster.
15. Try processing cooked veggies in a blender (or chopping them very finely by hand), mixing them with cream cheese, and spreading them on crackers.
16. Try adding brown sugar to carrots, or honey.
17. Buy frozen spinach, chop it up, and add it to pastas or scrambled eggs. Sneak shredded carrots into sandwiches.
18. Have a playdate where you ask moms to bring their child's favorite vegetable dish - easy way to try new tried-and-true dishes without investing your own effort into it, and kids may be more open to eating them if they see their friends doing so!
19. Quick and easy - give them frozen vegetables. Try a couple of spoons of frozen peas or frozen blueberries (make sure they're old enough for this not to be a choking hazard!)
20. Try the ready-to-eat puree packages found in baby food aisles. Ella's Kitchen and Plum Organics have fruit/veggie combo purees, which are easy on the go snacks. My 2 1/2 year old still enjoys these!
21. Give your child the same vegetable for 10-15 days in a row - start them out with 1 mandatory bite of the vegetable, and then increase it as they get used to it.
22. Grate up carrots or other veggies and melt them into cheese for cheese sandwiches.
23. Try vegetable burgers with cheese melted on top.
24. One mom found sweet potato patties in the freezer section, which can be microwaved and then topped with butter and a pinch of brown sugar to sweeten it up even more!
25. Another mom shared an Eat-your-veggies Casserole recipe: 24 oz of mixed frozen vegetables, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar, 1/2 cup butter (melted), 1 sleeve of butter crackers (crushed). Combine vegetables, mayo, and cheese. Mix well, put in a casserole dish. Pour butter on top, then top with crackers. Bake at 350 for 30 mins - reheats best in the oven.
26. You can find tiny mexican squash in most produce aisles - one creative mom cuts the top off of those, takes out some of the insides, and adds the following mixture: pearl rice mixed with finely chopped onion, garlic, green pepper and parsley plus mint (can be dried mint). She then adds in her own preference of spices and a tsp of light olive oil. She stuffs the squash and cooks them in tomato sauce. Her daughter eats them because they're so small, and she can hold them on her own. She also serves her daughter stuffed grape leaves, stuffed cabbage, and spinach triangles.
27. One mom puts together "Dragon Juice" for her children: she puts a couple of handfuls of baby spinach or kale in the blender with apple juice and whatever other fruit (berries, bananas, etc.) is lying around. She mixed it up and puts it in a special cup. If she doesn't use spinach and it comes out purple (from grapes/blueberries) she calls it Dinosaur Juice, if it's red (from strawberries, raspberries), it's Fairy Juice. Her sons are really into dinosaurs, so she tells them that they have dinos in their bellies that need to be fed - some are meat eaters, others are plant eaters, so they need to put some of both types of food in there! Be creative with what your child is interested in.
28. If you have a powerful blender, and you're serving a food with a sauce or soup, blend some veggies in there until they're invisible.
29. Yo Baby makes some great 3-in-1 yogurt blends that have fruits and vegetables mixed in with the yogurt, such as a green bean and pear yogurt mixture.
30. Veggie Booty works for one mom - it's made with dehydrated kale, spinach, broccoli, soy flour, corn, and rice. I haven't tried these, but I would definitely check the sodium content on these.
31. Shelled edamame is a popular tip - boil them for a couple of minutes, or serve them frozen.
32. Try a vegetable soup, like minestrone.
33. Try a muffin tin meal - I put a couple of things I know my daughter loves in a 6-compartment muffin tin, and fill the other sections with different fruits/vegetables. Sometimes she surprises me and polishes off one of the "experimental" sections!
34. You can grab one of the "hide-the-veggies" cookbooks, like Jessica Seinfeld's or Missy Chase Lapine's - they have a lot of recipes for basics that kids love (like chicken nuggets, brownies, spaghetti, etc.) with vegetables cooked right in.
35. Some great recipes with veggies:
Healthy Chocolate Mini Muffins
Spinach Brownies
36. Put it on a stick! Tiny veggie kabobs on a toothpick are a fun way to introduce new vegetables to kids.
37. How adorable are these pizza pops? I would make these and have different veggie combos on each one!
Would love to hear anyone else's ideas!