It’s a common problem: The family gathers for a meal full of beautiful dishes only to have the younger members balking at the vegetables on their plates. Their diet is one of tan-colored food, including bread, fries, chicken, and milk. In an effort to get some variety and nutrition in these young diners, we asked a group of people who cook plenty of dinner for picky hands for their best tried-and-true ways of sneaking vegetables into their children’s meals.
We asked 17 food bloggers with kids one simple question:
“What is your most successful way of sneaking vegetables into picky diets?”
Their answers were not only surprising, but gave us hope that picky eaters of the world can indeed be swayed.
My sure fire way to sneak vegetables into my kids diet is via a scrumptious pasta sauce. Zucchini, yellow squash, carrots and sometimes mushrooms get blitzed in my food processor, sautéed in butter and olive oil, then simmer away in spices, tomato sauce and wine. The vegetables melt into the sauce and they’re none the wiser.
My kids love my: Garden Vegetable Ragu -Laurie McNamara, Simply Scratch ”
Water is not your friend! The single biggest thing that changed my kids’ attitude toward vegetables was by me grilling or roasting them with some salt, pepper, and olive oil. Boiling just cooks the vegetables, but roasting caramelizes, browns, and crisps them up. My Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower is a big hit - they even ask for seconds. My 8YO calls it “vegetable candy.” Doesn’t get better than that!
My kids love my: Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower -Amy Flanigan, Very Culinary ”
We try to avoid any sneaking of veggies into our dishes because we want our kids to learn about different veggies, try new things and find out what they like. Occasionally we will add extra veggies to smoothies or pasta sauces but we always tell them what we are doing and encourage them to experiment with food. Plus when they help prepare it they are more likely to try it.
My kids love my: Easy Garden Skillet -Carrian Cheney, Sweet Basil ”
I am not a fan of hiding anything in my kids food just to get them to eat it. I get my kids involved with meal times. They help pick veggies at the store and prep them at home with me. Snapping green beans is fun, shelling peas is awesome plus they end up snacking on more veggies while they help. My kids have a wide variety of vegetables that they eat and I believe its because I never felt the need to sneak them into their food. I don't want them sneaking things from me, why would I sneak things from them?
My kids love my: Simple Roasted Baby Bok Choy -Shanna Schad, Pineapple and Coconut ”
I don't really "sneak" them in. The kids usually help me make dinner so they see what I'm making. I do play them off one another because they both like to "win", so I might make it a competition to see who eats all of their veggies. I'll also make up stories and call the veggies dinosaur poop or bugs...gross but kids love to think they can one up me by eating all the "gross" veggies. Voila, veggies gone!
My kids love my: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta -Gerry Speirs, Foodness Gracious ”
Generally I don't really "sneak" veggies in my dishes and usually like to display the vegetables in all their glory, but in the most flavorful way. But in desperate times, I like to add shredded vegetables to a dish when I can. For example I will add shredded carrots to a chicken burger mix. I also love to make savory pancakes with chopped scallions or I’ll load it up with shredded zucchini or butternut squash.
My kids love my: Korean Butternut Squash Pancakes -Amy Kim, Kimchi Mom ”
Chocolate successfully hides a lot of the "icky" green stuff. Think brownies, cake and popsicles made with zucchini, avocado, kale or spinach. Just be sure to shred it very finely or puree it so that it's unrecognizable.
My kids love my: Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake Carolyn Ketchum, All Day I Dream About Food ”
I don't usually sneak veggies into my kids' food. However, my son is very picky. The only way I can get him to eat leafy greens is by hiding them in a berry smoothie. He slurps them right up without a complaint and never knows what's in there. It's the only way to get veggies in him.
My kids love my: Acai Smoothie Bowl Lindsey Johnson, Cafe Johnsonia ”
My strategy when it comes to kids & veggies is to not sneak them at all. I bought this really cool crinkle cutter ($3) that makes everything look like waffle fries. It’s great for carrots, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. My kids will also eat frozen peas straight out of the bag. Presentation is key.
My kids love my: Crispy Oven Roasted Chickpeas Emilie Raffa, The Clever Carrot ”
My trick is not to "sneak" the veggies at all. I've found that kids eat more veg if they're encouraged to help out in the kitchen and even allowed make some choices at the market. Hand-on experience empowers kids and gets them curious and excited to taste all sorts of goodies.
My kids love my: Deconstructed Salad Erin Scott, Yummy Supper ”
Living in a home full of the pickiest eaters, I love to sneak veggies into our everyday meals to give them a healthy boost. My favorite way is with green smoothies! My kids think they’re just getting a sweet, tasty smoothie but I know they’re getting big nutrition with the mixture of fruits and green veggies. Their favorite is my Cinnamon Pear Green Smoothie.
My kids love my: Cinnamon Pear Green Smoothie Kate Donahue, Food Babbles ”
At our house, the hour before dinner is the front-line in the battle field of getting my kiddos to eat their veggies. Like clock work, they are climbing the walls and begging for snacks. But I don't want them to fill up on empty calories. So I put out a plate of cut up raw veggies with home-made ranch dip. It is a win win for me, they stop asking for a snack and they get in their vegetable servings before dinner even begins.
My kids love my: Low Fat Ranch Dip Katie Webster, Healthy Seasonal Recipes ”
My most successful way of sneaking veggies into my kids' diets is by increasing the amount of veggies, and chopping them up extra small, in things like pasta sauces and soups. You can add a whole lot of minced carrot to a marinara sauce and no one will be the wiser!
My kids love my: Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili Rachael Hutchings, La Fuji Mama ”
It's easy to hide a variety of veg under melty cheese in a Mexican dish. Also, sometimes I'll finely shred all sorts of things and add to pasta sauces and meatballs. Soups are also big for my kids- sometimes they don't even realize how much good veg they're eating, when it's all pureed.
My kids love my: Easy, Make Ahead Blender Tomato Soup Allie Roomberg, Baking A Moment ”
I actually don't sneak veggies into my kids diets. Instead when I create vegetables I just make sure I make them in a really, really good way. I think most of our vegetable aversions stem from eating something as a child that wasn't prepared well, so we just assumed that's how those vegetables tasted for life. One example is Brussels Sprouts. I HATED them as a child, but it was because my mom just always boiled them and they just weren't good. (Sorry, Mom!). I roast my brussels sprouts with some butter, salt and pepper and my kids eat them up like crazy. In fact, my husband and I never seem to get as much as want. So, in short, just look for really good, tasty recipes for preparing vegetables and you'll have no need to hide them!
My kids love my: Asian Toasted Sesame Asparagus Kristen Doyle, Dine & Dish ”
Instead of sneaking in vegetables, I try to prepare them with a little thought so that my kids WANT to eat them. One of the simplest and easiest methods to maximize flavor is roasting. When you cook vegetables at a high temperature, the natural sugars begin to caramelize which turns a bland, raw piece of produce into a sweet, tender and slightly smoky side dish. Let the kids pick out their favorite vegetable to roast. The more involved your kids are in the kitchen, the more likely they are to take ownership of their dish at the dinnertable.
My kids love my: Za’atar Roasted Carrots and Green Beans Liz Della Croce, The Lemon Bowl ”