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A young girl happily eats a salad.

5 Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Their Veggies

Feb 27, 2020

Let’s face it — getting kids to eat their vegetables can be a struggle, but there are ways to get a picky eater to pick up a forkful of greens. By making mealtime more fun, you can encourage healthy habits that will stick with your little one for a lifetime. 

1. Pair It Properly 

According to one study, researchers found that the item you pair veggies with will determine how appetizing they are to your child. When served as a side to unhealthy options like pizza, children are less likely to consume the produce on their plate. But pairing it with healthier options like baked chicken or fish will make it seem more appealing. 

A sandwich sits in a container with carrot sticks and zucchini.


2. Puree & Incorporate

Sometimes it can be easier to get your little one to drink their vegetables than to eat them. Hiding them in tasty smoothies or juices gives you the opportunity to sweeten the deal with an extra boost of nutrients. 

Recipe: Green Strawberry Smoothie

  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries
  • ½ banana
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup of plain, vanilla, or strawberry Greek yogurt (without added sugar)
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth and free of lumps. 

A toddler drinks a green smoothie.


3. Substitute 

Take their favorite foods and put a healthy spin on them. Swap the pasta for sauteed zucchini noodles. Skip the beef and make fresh veggie burgers. Or replace french fries with lightly breaded zucchini fries.

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash With Veggie Marinara

  • 1 spaghetti squash 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper 

Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large carrot 
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 cloves garlic 
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion 
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms 
  • 1 28-oz can low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp low-sodium tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Carefully slice the spaghetti squash in half and poke holes on the outside of each half to let steam escape while cooking. Scoop the seeds out, rub the insides with 1 tbsp of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place skin-side up on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes. 

  2. For the sauce, slice up the carrot and celery and place in a food processor. Add in the garlic, chopped onion, and chopped mushrooms. Pulse the veggies until finely chopped.

  3. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and add in your finely chopped vegetables. Sauté for 3-5 minutes.

  4. Add in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

  5. After the spaghetti squash has been removed from the oven and cooled, scrape out the inside of the spaghetti squash with a fork and serve portions of it on plates.

  6. Serve the sauce over the spaghetti squash.

A person scrapes cooked spaghetti squash out of the skin.


4. Bake Into Sweets 

Sneak some veggies into something sweet! It’s surprisingly easy to incorporate vegetables into baked goods such as zucchini muffins or black bean budinos. Here’s a way to make brownies using sweet potatoes.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Brownies

  • 1 large sweet potato (or 2 medium sweet potatoes) 
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup (or substitute with agave)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter or nut butter of choice (go for no added sugar)
  • 3 tsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup oat flour (rolled oats processed into a fine powder)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (or substitute with carob powder)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and place the sweet potato on it. Poke 5-6 holes into each potato with a fork before putting it into the oven to bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

  2. When tender, remove the sweet potato from the oven and let cool. Once it’s cooled, slice it in half and scoop out the inside into a bowl. Mash it into a purée with a fork or food processor. 

  3. Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place about one cup of the sweet potato purée, maple syrup, nut butter, avocado oil, and vanilla extract into a large bowl and stir until combined.

  4. Mix your dry ingredients (oat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt) in a separate bowl with a whisk until evenly combined. Gently add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients in the large bowl until well incorporated.

  5. Pour the batter into an 8x8 glass baking dish, and bake for about 30 minutes (or until you achieve your preferred consistency). Remove, let cool, then enjoy! You can store these in the refrigerator for up to 5 to 7 days.

A young girl happily eats a brownie with a glass of milk.


5. Get Creative 

Making food look fun makes it more fun to eat, so approach your child’s plate with an artistic eye. Make a smiley face with radish eyes, a mushroom nose, and a bell pepper smile, or turn broccoli florets into trees to create a mini forest. Not only will the food be more appealing to your kid, but it might even be more exciting to prepare. 

Bell pepper slices and cauliflower florets make a rainbow.

If you’re looking for more tips to help your picky eater get all the nutrients they need to grow big and strong, speak with a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician or pediatrician. Our dedicated team can provide easy-to-follow advice for helping your child develop healthy habits.
 

Sources: 
Washington Post | Researchers have discovered a surprisingly simple way to get kids to eat more veggies
Scientific Research | Investigating the Relationship between Food Pairings and Plate Waste from Elementary School Lunches