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Great Strategies for Picky Eaters: The sneaky gourmet… what they don’t know is good for them.

By Melissa Summers

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.

browniemuffins.jpgThe 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 on why pumpkin is considered a Super Food. 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.

gerber.jpgA 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.

muffin.jpgMuffins 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.

zucchinimuffins.jpgFood Network gives some ideas for sneaky ways to get your kids to eat more veggies.  There are 12 recipes ranging from sweet potato pancakes to chocolate zucchini muffins.  They also suggest making mock 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.

barillaplus.jpgYou 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? Juicy Juice is here to save you. No sugar added, one cup of fruit and 120% Vitamin C in each 8 oz serving.

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?

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • NewfieldBella

    June 7, 2007 at 11:20 am

    I’ve added veggies to lasagna or spaghetti by finely dicing and sauteing with the ground sausage or meat.

  • Lisa

    June 7, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Fantastic post Melissa! Although it is just me and my (non-picky) husband, I’m always looking for good and tasty ways to not only add vegetables to our diet, but also do it in a delicious way. I love new recipes!

  • Angel

    June 7, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    My mom added a bunch of fresh mushrooms when making hamburgers the other day–my son didn’t know the difference!
    Adding veggies to muffins, breads, sauces are usually a good way to sneak it in. Letting them have stuff to dip it in (salad dressing, etc) can encourage healthier snacking. And fruit smoothies (with protein/vitamin powder) are another thing kids will usually drink down without a thought.
    Ok. So my kids eat everything anyway. Sorry. This is the only silver lining to my son’s severe food allergies (dairy, eggs, nuts)–all he’s known are “healthy foods” so his diet is really good. Even my daughter chooses the salad bar at school :::Running away before I’m banned:::::

  • Dodi

    June 8, 2007 at 12:25 am

    I’ve had mashed cauliflower. It’s good. Especially with a little white cheese mixed in. My sister made it for her family and her husband ate several helping of it and liked it before she told him it wasn’t potatoes. They look the same, but I thought they tasted like cauliflower. Maybe if I didn’t know I would have been fooled too. I recommend it.

  • Johschmoh

    June 16, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    I can’t take credit, but a friend once made pizza for a bunch of toddlers, sneaking in kale pieces under the cheese. Most never knew it was there, and under the cheese, it wasn’t easily picked off.

  • evie

    June 18, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    another great chocolate cupcake recipe can be found on epicurious, mini chocolate cupcakes made with dates are amazing!!

  • Jenjen

    July 16, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Love your post, both my son and my second child (husband) are very picky eaters and I need all the tricks I can find.

  • mari

    August 24, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    I always sneak pureed veggies into meatballs. I use my ‘Vitamix’ to puree raw or cooked veggies ie:cabbage, spinach,bok choy, kale, carrots and mix all or a choice few into meatball and meatloaf mixture. The grandchild chows down & I feel comfortabel knowing that if other offerings of veggies are ignored, at least some were mixed into the meal, making it healthy.