Great Strategies for Picky Eaters: The sneaky gourmet… what they don’t know is good for them.
In general kids are picky little people, some kids are not picky and they eat everything from sashimi to lima beans cooked with liver and onions. Those are kids I don’t really want to hear about, frankly. I mean, I’m happy for you but I’ve lived for 8 years gently coaxing my daughter into putting a piece of (non-fried) chicken into her mouth. My kids are better eaters at this point but I’m not convinced we’re eating enough vegetables and I’m certain we’re not eating enough variety.
The idea for this post started with these brownie muffins from Hungry Girl. Not only are these brownies easy to make, low in fat and calories (a Weight Watcher recipe), they’re made with pumpkin puree, a concentrated form of the vegetable which is known as a Super Food. Pumpkin, even when out of the can is full of beta carotene, vitamin A and antioxidant. This article has more information and some other ideas for solid pack canned pumpkin, like adding it to canned cream of tomato soup. Which would be great if my kid ate tomato soup, maybe yours does. You can also visit the Libby site for other great recipes, including this pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe I’ve already printed out for later use.
A trick I read about repeatedly while reading up on the topic is using pureed vegetables to boost the nutrition in foods your child already eats. Strain the vegetables, drain and then puree them in a blender or with a stick blender. Even easier, buy baby food in jars and tell your kids they either eat regular vegetables or the baby food. Ha. I love that idea but no, add the veggies to things like spaghetti sauce, ketchup (imagine ketchup could have lycopene and, if you add strained spinach, iron!). Other great ideas, add a little pureed sweet potato to applesauce or butternut squash into mashed potatoes.
Muffins are an easy way to sneak in veggies because kids are taken off guard by the fact that they resemble cupcakes. Try these zucchini carrot muffins, or these sweet potato muffins. Or check out this “Full Meal Muffin” at Shmooedfood, the genius lunch maker behind Vegan Lunchbox. It’s packed with whole grains, banana, zucchini, iron- and calcium-rich blackstrap molasses, and omega-3-rich walnuts. Don’t tell the kids.
Cookie Magazine has a lovely ongoing series titled, “Sneak It In”. I’m particularly enamored of the chocolate zucchini mini muffins and I’ve got their suggestions for spinach, fresh produce and tofu bookmarked for future use. Food Network gives some duplicate ideas but the article itself is good for inspiration. They suggest adding mashed cooked cauliflower to the cheese sauce for your kid’s mac and cheese or shredding carrots or mincing up broccoli to add to meatloaf or meatballs. I’ve had great success with this technique using this Martha recipe. They also suggest making faux mashed potatoes with cauliflower instead of potatoes. Let me know if that works for you. I love it but can’t get my family to touch the stuff. Including my third child, my husband.
You can also find ready made food at the regular grocery store meant to help you up your child’s nutritional intake. I love Barilla Plus pasta because I feel better about how much pasta my kids eat (no sauce for my daughter, are you insane!!!?) when they’re getting actual protein, omega-3 and fiber. Pasta all around! A lot of kids drink a lot of juice and how can we blame them when juice comes in handy little juice boxes? How about water, in a box instead? So far you can’t grab these at the supermarket but you can find them here. Still need juice in your life, Juicy Juice is here to save you with Harvest Surprise, three different juices blended with sweet potatoes, carrot, pear, mango to give your kids lots of vitamins they might be lacking.
Remember experts say it can take up to 15 times to get a child to try a new food and other experts point out how it’s important to make sure kids are familiar with vegetables in their natural form. Otherwise we’re raising a generation of kids who think french fries are a vegetable all on their own. Wait, that’s already happened. Tell us, how have you had success getting your kids to eat vegetables or luck slipping nutrition past their finicky little lips?