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5 Ways to Sneak in Vegetables When Your Child Doesn't Like Them

12:00 AM

By Jessica Streit

I’m going to admit something here today on this blog, it’s not something I like admitting to.

I am (in part) to blame for my son’s inability to eat vegetables. It’s sad but true.

Somewhere along the line of transitioning my now 10 year old from baby foods to toddler foods, I made a number of errors. There were many mistakes but the one that has really been a problem is vegetables. I did not offer my son vegetables enough as he was growing up. I should have been offering him steamed veggies with every meal. Now, I have a child who refuses to try anything new.

I know some of you are in the same position I am in, whether is was a result of doing something like I did or because you have a stubborn toddler who just doesn’t want to eat anything green. There are many of us out there wishing our children ate more veggies.

I have brought together a list of 5 easy ways you can sneak vegetables into your child’s diet. Most of these, I have done myself with success. 

1. Add them to sauces. 

You can make pasta sauce, pizza sauce, sauces for casseroles like lasagna, or anything you can think of that needs a sauce. I predominately make pasta sauce as that is what my son eats that the whole family will also eat (typically he has a separate meal from everyone else). I like to make my own sauce to avoid excess sugars but if you are short for time, a great jarred sauce will work too.

To add vegetables to pasta sauce, use baby food and low sodium V8 juice. When I haven’t had time to make up anything for sauce, I always buy the highest quality of baby food I can find (Earth’s Best usually). I add in spinach and broccoli as well as carrots and yams. I also add a can of low sodium V8 juice when I’m making my homemade sauce. Also, if you have the time to do this, roast or lightly saute some red peppers and then puree them into the red sauce. It will add a sweetness to it that many people use sugar to achieve.

2. Hide vegetables in meatloaves and casseroles. 

One way to add vegetables to a meatloaf or casserole is to use finely shredded carrots, cabbage, spinach, zucchini or broccoli. You can find some of these in the produce section already done for you but I have found that they are still too thick for my picky eater. It takes no time at all to push a carrot through the food processor and then mix it into the meatloaf. No one has a clue.

If you add tomato sauce or ketchup to your meatloaf, be sure to pump it up with some baby food as well.

3. Sneak vegetables into smoothies. 

If you have a child who isn’t opposed to green, then adding vegetables to his or her smoothie will be a piece of cake. Spinach, avocado and kale can be easily added to your smoothie in addition to some strawberries, banana and milk. (Bonus Tip: I always add soft silken tofu to our smoothies. It gives an added protein boost and you’ll never know it’s there.)

Beets can be added to a berry smoothie that also contains raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. Carrots can be added to any smoothie that you are using orange juice in, it will easily camouflage the orange color and when asked, you only need mention the orange juice.

See our delicious kale and berry smoothie here....

Again, if you are short on time, buy baby food. If you have a chance to do a bit of prep work while the kids are at school or out of the house, then steam the vegetables and then puree them in a food processor. It is really simple to do.

4. Add grated vegetables to breads or muffins.

The Sneaky Chef has a recipe for a “purple puree” that includes spinach and blueberries. This mix can be added to chocolate muffins, brownies or even cupcakes without any detection (Stock up on that baby food!). For breads, you can always make banana bread that also has zucchini grated into it. Corn bread would lend itself well to a carrot or yam (or both) puree without disrupting the color. Pancakes can also be mixed with purees whether they are chocolate pancakes or regular ones.

5. Hide small pieces into everyday foods. 

If you think your child won’t notice too much, add small pieces of vegetables under the cheese on their pizza. Or add peas or broccoli to mac and cheese (you could also stir in some orange vegetables into that sauce before serving). Add them into the layers of a lasagna or grated into the casserole that already has a sauce containing vegetables.

In addition to sneaking in these extra servings of vegetables, it is very important that you are serving vegetables in the natural form to kids. Next to that plate of spaghetti put some steamed broccoli. When your child eats only the spaghetti, you can still rest assured that he or she got their extra servings of vegetables into their body.
Jessica Streit is an educator, freelance writer and single mom of 2 boys. Her writing can be found on a variety of topics including personal finance, education and parenting. 

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  1. Thank you for sharing! I will have to try the puree ideas.