At the moment there is quite a lot of controversy around what we should or shouldn’t be eating. But one area that I don’t think is controversial at all is vegetables and fruit. We (including our kids) should be eating loads and loads of vegetables and fruit.
I know for picky eaters getting vegetables into them can be hard. So should we be sneaking them in? Should we be all about the hidden vegetable recipes?
Nutrition in plants
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are known to be protective against Obesity, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Cancer.
Gone are the days of the 5+ a day rule. 5 plus a day is simply not enough.
The focus should really be on the plus. As adults, we should be aiming for more like 8-10 servings a day to gain the protective benefits that fruits and vegetables provide.
So it makes sense that we should be starting our kids early on this dietary regime. We need to be creating little fruit and vegetable eaters and lovers. Or at least setting our children to be great vegetable and fruit eaters in the future.
Vegetables for toddlers
Great in theory, but if you know a two or three-year-old, you may well also know that vegetable intake seems to take a massive hit at this age.
Not for everyone, I know some toddlers continue to eat vegetables without skipping a beat, but for many, veggies can become a battleground at the dinner table. (My two-year-old has been on veggie strike for the past month or so)
The same problem doesn’t seem to happen with fruit. But for many reasons, toddlers all of a sudden determine they don’t like vegetables without even trying them! Ahhh the joys of parenthood!
Vegetables for picky eaters: What can you do if your child has given up eating vegetables?
1 It is a phase and this too shall pass
One thing to know is that it is typically a phase and it is more than likely that children will come out the other side and start eating vegetables again.
In saying this though, I do not want to dismiss your concerns with the age-old saying, “it’s just a phase”. It can still be frustrating AND stressful AND difficult.
For some toddlers, it is also not just a phase. So I don’t want to dismiss the issue with “it’s just a phase” If you are really concerned that your child’s eating may be an issue my article –Is your child’s eating a problem or just a phase, 5 ways to tell, could be a good read.
Know that fruit will be supplying many of the vitamins, minerals and fibre that they may not be getting from their vegetables.
So up their fruit intake while they are on vegetable strike.
In a perfect world, we would want children to be eating more serves of vegetables than fruit. BUT during times when our children are still learning to like vegetables fruit is a great alternative.
3 Offer what they like
Most toddlers, even the picky ones will have the odd vegetable that they will still eat.
Peas and carrots, for example, are usually quite well-liked. If your toddler has a veggie that they particularly like then keep serving that vegetable at each meal alongside the others that they won’t have a bar of.
Take the pressure off, vegetables should be offered at every meal, but forcing kids to try them and pressuring them to eat is typically not a good strategy for tackling picky eating long term.
4. Be a role model
Yup, just like with everything kids eventually do imitate the behaviour they see. So eat as a family where you can, serve yourself loads of vegetables and let your kids see you eating them.
Don’t make a big song and dance about it, as that can inadvertently add pressure to the mealtime. Just serve yourself a good helping of whatever veggies are on the table for the meal and eat them.
5. Make vegetables for children fun and inviting
You don’t necessarily have to get all crafty and start making elaborate vegetable sculptures. But simple games can work.
My eldest is quite keen on ‘pea fishing’. This involves getting a scoop of mashed potato on your fork then dipping it into a bowl of peas to see how many you end up with on your fork
6 Get them in the garden
If you have access to a vegetable garden or even a planter on the patio get your kids amongst it.
Things they would never dream of eating at the dinner table for some reason become absolutely magical when you eat them straight from the garden (with or without muddy fingers).
- Peas straight from the pod
- Weird shaped homegrown carrots (homegrown carrots are never uniformly shaped like the ones at the supermarket)
- Fresh, raw corn cobs
7 Keep it simple
Get back to basics with the vegetables you serve, sometimes our fancy pants adult recipes can just be too mind-boggling for a toddler determined not to eat vegetables.
Old school simple veggies can seem much more appealing.
- There is nothing wrong with frozen peas, try serving them still frozen
- A simple salad of grated carrot, apple and cheese goes down well at my house
- Steamed carrot rings/wheels
- Corn on the cob
8 Add a sauce or dip
Kids love dipping things. Sometimes dipping vegetables into a sauce or dip can make them more appealing.
- Cheese sauce always goes well with cauliflower and broccoli
- An avocado dip is great with carrot and cucumber sticks
- Cottage cheese
- A good quality mayonnaise
- A reduced sugar ketchup or tomato sauce can also work wonders
9 Get sneaky- Hidden Vegetable Recipes
Then the final tactic is the vegetable sneak. I am not above hiding vegetables in the foods I give my kids. While yes I would love them to look at a vegetable that is not disguised in any way and willingly gobble it down, I am a realist, I may well need to get sneaky.
Well actually let me rephrase that. It’s not really about ‘hiding vegetables in food’ for my kids. I look at it as boosting the vegetable and plant-based component of the meals I serve for my whole family.
No matter what diet regime we follow one truth holds true, vegetables are good for us, and we could all do with lots of plant-based nutrition in our diet. Everyone needs to be eating more vegetables
So in answer to the original question. To sneak or not to sneak… I say yes, get sneaky parents. Get sneaky alongside presenting kids with vegetables in a loud and proud manner.
My Most Popular Hidden Vegetable Recipes
- My amazing Healthy Mac n Cheese sneaks in piles of vegetables that will get past even the fussiest kid.
- These carrot oat energy bites are usually a winner
- My kids love these beef and veggie rissoles
- Grated veggies in my carrot cake oat cakes, loved by all kids
- Decadent double chocolate zucchini muffins (gluten-free)
- My kids devour this Creamy coconut chicken curry (it has a lot more vegetable content than you would expect)
- Courgette/Zucchini Slice is not necessarily a sneaky source of vegetables, the sneaky part is to serve it for breakfast! If you make it the day before it is a super quick and nutritious breakfast option.
- This Mango Chicken Curry sneaks in a fair few vegetables
- My ultimate hidden vegetable lasagne
I do actually have an entire category of hidden veggie recipes on my site as well, you can find it here