Some kids are great eaters, and others are a little picky. Ours happen to be the latter so we’ve had to get a little creative in the kitchen.
I’m the first to admit that I am a SUPER picky eater. My list of things that I like to eat is way shorter than the list of things that I will NOT eat. I am weird about food and I am picky. It’s annoying actually. I wish I liked certain foods because they would be so good for me and I would be a much healthier person. (Not to mention the fact that I am endlessly made fun of for having the culinary palate of a 5 year old.)
So, with that embarrassing admission out of the way, I’d like to make it very clear that I’m trying my hardest to NOT pass this on to my children. I want them to eat a varied diet of healthy foods. It’s really important to me that they have a healthy relationship with food and are able to make smart decisions about what they eat when they are older. But to do this, I need a little help sometimes. Sometimes it's not worth the battle. As long as they are getting the nutrition they need, that will have to be good enough for now.
When Claire was a baby, she would eat just about anything in pureed form. Joe-Joe was a bit different. He didn’t care for certain foods right from the start. Then the older they got, the more selective they got with food choices. So I had to start getting creative with meals.
Since Claire has always been on the smaller side I worry more about her than Joe-Joe (who is average size). I have tried to feed her things that I know she will eat while also getting her to try new things. She is pretty hesitant to try new things though unless we are eating them. Then she likes to eat of our plate. I have gotten her to try many new foods this way successfully. But not many veggies.
Both of the kids love noodles and particularly love chow mein when we get Chinese take-out. So I started experimenting with different things in the kitchen and have now found a version that looks and tastes similar enough that they will eat it happily. I use stir fry noodles, teriyaki sauce, and broccoli slaw (found at Trader Joe’s) or sometimes just shredded carrots. I just toss them all into a skillet and stir fry them for a few minutes. It’s so easy and the kids (and my hubby!) eat them up. Claire also likes just steamed carrots with a little teriyaki sauce, but Joe-Joe isn’t into it.
Another thing I do is make homemade beef stew. I get the stew meat and cut it up into smaller bite-sized pieces, then add carrots and potatoes, beef broth, and my secret ingredient: two jars of mixed vegetable baby food. Nobody ever knows it’s there and it adds a little extra nutrition for all of us!
Both kids also love broccoli cheese soup. In particular they love the ones from Panera and Togo’s. Not sure why, but hey, I’m going with it! I’ll take whatever I can get at this point...
Getting Evie to eat a vegetable is nearly impossible. She’ll eat the sourest strawberry ever before she’d eat a green bean. I’m not sure why that happened. We started giving her vegetables very early, her first solid was carrots and she LOVED them. We gave her a serving of vegetables at lunch and dinner every day. It seemed like smooth sailing!
Then around 18 months she stopped eating them. At first I thought it was just a phase, but as she started getting older she plain refused them. For the most part, both my kids eat healthy (Milo eats vegetables, so it’s not really a problem with him) but there are times I wish Evie would eat vegetables. She loves fruit, she loves chicken, she loves cheese, rice, beans, etc. but vegetables are one thing she just won’t do.
That’s where being sneaky comes in. I know there are some parents who don’t like to “lie” to their kids, and while I totally respect that, that’s not really how I roll. I don’t think slipping a veggie into my kids food here or there is going to damage them permanently, so I’m ok with working a little Mommy magic in the kitchen. We have a few tricks that we’ve picked up here and there that have worked on more than one occasion to get Evie to get her veggies in.
One came from Mom Squad friend Kristin G. I was at her house for lunch one day and she made the kids mac and cheese and added a jar of pureed sweet potatoes into it. Evie ate it right up and had no clue! So we tried carrots on another occasion and again she ate it right up!
Another one I’ve done is added spinach to a fruit and yogurt smoothie. My kids LOVE yogurt smoothies and I had some fresh spinach in the fridge and I thought “Hmm...I wonder...” and lo and behold they both drank them right up!
I’ve also slipped veggies into grilled cheese sandwiches; chopped up broccoli, carrots, green beans, etc. It doesn’t work so much anymore with Evie because for some reason she completely deconstructs any sandwich she gets, but if you have a child who eats a sandwich normally, this is a great way to add some veggie-ness to their meal.
As much as I wish Evie would eat her veggies, I’m ok with having to pull a fast one on her occasionally to get her to eat them. Although, we do try to get her to eat them when can, it’s not a battle I’m willing to fight right now.
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What sneaky ways have you used to get your kids to eat better? Got any great recipes or tips to share? We’d love to hear from you all! Please share with us in the comments below.