How to sneak vegetables into your child's diet

You tried all the suggestions. You made happy faces out of broccoli spears and beets, but your kid wouldn’t eat them. You dipped celery and carrot sticks in cream cheese and sauces, but your kid just licked off the dip. You told her not to move until she finished her peas, and you found her face-down in her plate the next morning, sound asleep with peas up her nose.

You let your kid plan, plant and harvest her own vegetable garden, cook the snap beans and cabbage herself, and she didn’t even bother to taste it. She just grabbed a pop-tart and suggested taking the food to the homeless shelter. You’ve done everything every parenting magazine has printed, and you just can’t get your child to eat vegetables.

Don’t worry. There is something you can do: trick them. Sneaky? Yes, but also effective. Here are some ways to slip vegetables into food so that they will be virtually undetectable.

STRAIN VEGETABLES:

Strain them yourself by boiling vegetables, putting them in the blender and pureeing them, then straining again. You can also keep it simple and just buy small, single-vegetable baby food jars, such as spinach, beets, green beans, squash, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, etc. Then covertly slip them into a number of places:

  • Mix beets or carrots with pasta or pizza sauce, then add a bit more spices.
  • Blend just about any strained veggies with ketchup; it masks the smell and the taste well.
  • Use food flavor injectors to add carrots or beets to bit-size pizza rolls or pocket sandwiches. A little dab here and there will do you.
  • Mix butternut squash in with mashed potatoes. The color is light enough that they’ll never know.
  • Mix broccoli or peas into chop meat when making hamburgers. You can get half a jar into a hamburger, then bake it. With condiments, the flavor is virtually undetectable.
  • Mix squash or sweet potatoes with apple sauce. Blend it well. The colors will be similar, and both vegetables are sweet enough not to sour the applesauce.
  • Mix spinach or green beans with condiments, such as pickle relish and salsa.
  • Don’t exclude breakfast: slip some sweet potatoes, squash or carrots into their cheese omelets.

CAMOUFLAGE VEGETABLES:

  • Mash some boiled cauliflower into the mashed potatoes.
  • Shred some cabbage with lettuce for toppings on tacos or sandwiches
  • Cut up some green beans or soft-boiled broccoli stems into small pieces, and mix into chunky salsa.
  • Mix taco or burrito filling with finely grated carrots.
  • Add small cuts of very soft-boiled sweet potato or spaghetti squash to fruit salads made with cantaloupe or peach chunks.
  • Get recipes for zucchini muffins, carrot cake, and pumpkin bread. Add some nuts and ice with cream cheese frosting, and they’ll go as fast as cupcakes.

ADD JUICE:

  • Pour vegetable juice in the fruit juice bottles. Carrot blends well with most, beet juice with berry juices, and some green juice can be slipped into yellow juices without too much noticeable discoloration.
  • Use vegetable juices or broths in sauces where ever water, chicken or beef broth are called for in recipes.
  • Inject vegetable juice inside meat with flavor injectors.
  • Make your own ice cream and add vegetable juice to the cream mixture.

SWAP BRANDS:

Veggie burgers, veggie crumbles (similar to chop meat), veggie nuggets (similar to chicken), tofu dogs, and even meatless bacon, can be bought in most supermarket frozen food sections. Try swapping them for your regular fare and see if it raises any eyebrows. Note what goes undetected, and simply continue to purchase the meatless brands.

If you have anti-veggie children, try any of the methods above to sneak vegetables into their meals and snacks. Remember to start with small quantities, but you can gradually work up the vegetable content by a spoonful or two as their taste buds acclimate to the flavors. If they think something tastes strange, just tell them they must be coming down with a cold and reduce the vegetable quantity next time you make it. Build it up again, but slowly.

Hide the juicer and get rid of the empty baby food jars when they aren’t looking. Don’t fret if they find them have a cover story ready. Tell them that the juicer was a gift from years ago, and you just recently found it in the garage. Tell them you got the baby food jars from a friend with a baby because they are the perfect size to store spices or buttons. If they find the tofu dog package, you’re on your own. Just remember if they see any sign of subterfuge, or look at you suspiciously, abort your mission and try again another day.

Before you know it, they’ll be eating vegetables without a fuss, and you’ll be humming the theme to Mission Impossible whenever you cook.

Before you know it

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