Secret Tricks to Get More Veggies Into Any Picky Eater

Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

I remember being so darn proud of myself as a first-time mom when my little chubby bald girl started eating solids. I had gone through all the veggies, one by one, before I started fruits, just like the doctor and all the guides relentlessly say to do.

But THEN–oh, I was so proud of myself. I had searched online (and friend–this was a big deal, because this was 2008 and it was a bit harder to find anything on the planet at that time online), I found a company that sold baby food in flavors from around the world–like different cultures! So I had my 6-month-old eating the many flavors of Asia, Germany, and Thailand!

And you know what? She’s STILL a good eater. But as it is with any kid that attends public school and gets CANDY (still not happy about this 7 years strong) from the teachers for rewards, and the biggest selection of junk you’ve ever seen in the cafeteria, well…they start to move more towards tastes for non-foods than real food.

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{Photo credit: Wendy Wei, pexels.com}

I always do my best to pack in as many veggies at dinner as I can, but when you’ve got 2-3 kids constantly complaining every. single. night. about the veggies you’ve cooked (whether it’s because they don’t like the color, taste, texture, or the fact that they’re cooked)…well, at that point I turn to being sneaky. Because I’m the parent. And I know what’s best for them. And also I’m sick of the whining.

So instead of a constant fight, I start looking for ways sneak veggies in. At least that way, they’re still getting used to the actual flavor of the veggie, and I can reintroduce it later. So at that point it may actually be a texture issue (yeah, everybody's got one of those kids.) But at least I know I can slide more in here and there to up their vitamin profiles for each meal.

But also–I take advantage of this to add more veggies to MY meals! Cause veggies are by FAR the best carbs you can have. So here are my best and favorite ways to sneak in more veggies for picky eaters:

Purees for smoothies

Ok, so first let me say– purees are so awesome for several different things. But one of my best tricks is to sneak it into smoothies. As long as it’s sweet, the kids don’t really care what’s in it. So I take advantage of this to put in as much as I can. The one thing to pay attention to is that you’re not putting in anything too strong. So like, a jalapeno may not be a good idea.

Purees for soups

This one is actually super easy. My kids actually love soup for dinner (and will frequently ask for it for their lunches, too.) This includes chili. So when I make soups, I have purees in bags in the freezer, and I’ll thaw and mix it in. So their seemingly normal chili, or chicken noodle, or stew, or any given other soup–has always got extra veggies mixed in that they don’t even know is there!

Purees for sauces

The same principle can also be applied to sauces. I’m talking spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, and even gravies. Keep purees on hand in the freezer, and pull out a variety of colors (because that’s what gets you a variety of nutrients) and just add them in!

Fruit pouches

So, although I generally recommend eating fruit on the lesser end of the scale than veggies, I would still rather feed my kids, and myself, 2 fruits + 1 veggie over JUNK. Plus it still has all the fiber in it, and these things are portable and don’t have to be refrigerated.

I always recommend organic, and make sure it has at least ONE veggie in it! Some can be found in the applesauce aisle at the store, and others in the baby food section. (My kids are totally offended if their pouch has a picture of a baby on it, so I usually get them from the apple sauce aisle.)

Batters for fried + baked things

So, being from the south, I’m well-versed in all things fried. So we do still fry some things like homemade chicken nuggets, homemade fish sticks, and even breaded pork chops on ocassion. But all the batters are gluten free (and usually grain free), and then instead of milk or water to dip in first, I just get a mix of pureed veggies.

Sometimes it’s even helpful to just go ahead and make a mix of the dry + veggie puree, and then sort of pad the meat or fish before placing it in the pan or on the baking sheet.

Sneak them into other dishes like mac n cheese and even brownies

I came across a helpful book a few years back by Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld’s wife). It’s called Deceptively Delicious (and there is also now a sequel called Deceptively Delicious 2), where she uses tons of purees to add into a whole slew of recipes.

We’ve tried many–including brownies with spinach!–and they were delicious. However–she still uses white flour and sugar in a LOT of these recipes, which I’m not all about. So I use these sparingly and even as inspiration for our own dishes.

Lay out a crudite platter while cooking dinner

Or in normal-people terms: a veggie platter. If you’re pressed for time like most of us, they sell these in the produce section at the grocery store already laid out and cut. I peel the top off, then just leave it on the counter while I’m cooking.

This is the time of day where the kids are trying their best to sneak snacks cause they’re ‘staaaarrrrvvvviiiinnnggggggg!!’ And I’d a million x them go ahead and eat veggies at that time than crap, and then not want to eat dinner. At least this way they’ve filled up on veggies.

Go one step further with a 'board'

One of the biggest crazes lately are boards of any kind. And for good reason-- they're gorgeous! (If done right.) But a big lesson I've learned from having food be a part of my business is that when I'm doing photos of our meals, the kids only want the plates that are styled. They want pretty. They want the visual aesthetic. So we even have entire meals now that are just a themed board where I put in a ton of veggie options.

Ask + Deliver

One valuable thing I've learned from my kids is that sometimes it's not that they don't want to eat a certain vegetable, it's just that they don't want it either cooked or raw. So my response to that is to simply ask which they'd rather have beforehand. (Because I could be saving myself some time in the cooking department if they want it raw.)

Dealing with picky eaters can be super hard when you're exhausted and just need to get a meal on the table. But using a few tricks--even if they're 'sneaking' some veg in under the radar--can help boost their nutrition while building their taste buds for healthier options.

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My mission is to always find the magic middle where healthy + efficient merge. As a nutrition specialist and certified health coach with a master of science in nutrition, I firmly believe in nourishing the body, mind, and spirit with proper food, rest, movement, and stress management. My mission is to teach people how those CORE 4 things work together, how to do them on the daily, then put them on autopilot.

Montgomery, TX
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