Toddlers are fun, aren’t they? Each week, they give us moms something new to worry about. My most recent obsession is my son’s newly developed hatred for all things vegetables. Upon research, this problem seems to be very common, as many other moms are also seeking out ways to get kids to eat vegetables.
Alas, after much trial and error, I’ve had some success when it comes to the battle of the greens!
That’s right, frustrated mom vs. stubborn toddler, round one goes to me because I found easy ways to incorporate more vegetables into my son’s diet– and he doesn’t even know it!
My son has always been a pretty decent eater. In fact, he was kind of a freak of nature and really loved things like broccoli, carrots, and different types of lettuce. I thought it would be smooth sailing until he started to gradually refuse items that didn’t include blueberries or bananas.
Soon, I realized he had pretty much zero vegetables in his diet, which became concerning.
Like many parents, I want to raise my child with good eating habits, but sometimes it’s not our choice! I tried tons of things like cheese covered vegetables, vegetable omelets, eggplant parmesan, vegetable fries, etc. but it was like he had some detection that sounded an alarm whenever a veggie was near.
I knew I was going to need to get creative because I was smarter than a two-year-old…. right? Thus started my search for how I could get my picky child to eat more vegetables, without him knowing!
After experiencing some success and knowing many of my mom friends were in the same situation as me, I decided to share some ways to get kids to eat vegetables with my readers too.
What’s even better, I teamed up with registered dietitian, Mary N. Felando, MS, RDN, to find ways to get the key nutrients your child needs from vegetables, without having to feed them actual vegetables!
I want to also add that I’m pregnant and tired, so these ideas are brought to you by lazy, exhausted mom who did NOT want to blend, whisk, or clean-up afterward. Judge me, but after so many failed recipes, I just can’t anymore!
1. Zoodles & Other Spiralized Veggies
Spiralized vegetables are trendy and fun. If you haven’t tried it yet with your child, you should.
They are a low carb, healthy way for you to enjoy your favorite pasta dishes without the noodles, but also serve as one of the ways to get kids to eat vegetables.
We love zoodles, which is zucchini spiralized in the shape of a noodle.
I know moms who have experienced success with just throwing some zoodles in tomato sauce, pesto, or butter and parmesan, but your child may make you work a little harder for it.
If that’s the case, try mixing regular spaghetti noodles with a small number of zoodles and cover them in your child’s favorite sauce. Show them how fun slurping up pasta can be and before they know it they can’t tell the difference between the texture of spaghetti noodles to a zoodle.
Depending on what’s best for you, you can buy zoodles already prepared at your grocery store or spiralize them yourself. I use a spiralizer to save money and have great success with the Paderno World Cuisine Vegetable Spiralizer seen below.
2. Carrots in Sloppy Joes
Talk about your hidden veggie, this idea is sure to keep the color, taste, and texture undiscernible from the vegetable police. It’s also SUPER easy to achieve.
All you need to do is grate carrots and saute them a little before adding the meat, sauce, and seasoning to your regular sloppy joe recipe.
Since sloppy joes are already sweet, the carrots mix-in well. My sophisticated palate couldn’t even tell the difference, and, the best part, my kid couldn’t either!
The grating can take some time, so plan ahead.
3. Breakfast Cookies
Did someone say cookies? These are not your traditional cookie, but your child won’t be able to tell the difference. Upon my Pinterest search for “hidden vegetable recipes” I came across this fabulous one from My Fussy Eater! It’s the perfect recipe because it does not require any odd ingredients and there is no blending or whisking necessary. I also love that there is no added sugar to these cookies unless you choose to include the chocolate chips.
This recipe includes grated carrots as the hidden vegetable, along with fresh apples, applesauce, and vanilla extract to give it that desired sweetness for your child. If you didn’t want to use chocolate chips, for your breakfast cookies, raisins would make a great substitute.
Warning, these are dangerous for adults as well, so make sure you save enough for your child!
4. Birdseye Vegetable Pasta
Birdseye is a frozen food brand that involves you and your microwave- my favorite kind of quick lunch or dinner for my child. They have tons of options for vegetable and pasta dishes, but they also make vegetable pasta! Using zucchini and lentils, Birdseye creates meals with penne and rotini shaped pasta and cover them with cheese or marinara sauces.
You could add your child’s favorite protein to sweeten the deal like chicken, hot dogs, or tofu!
One bag provides three days’ worth of lunches for us, so it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
5. Amy’s Microwave Meals
I love the Amy’s brand. If you’ve never tried it, you should definitely try. Amy’s is frozen meals done right. They’re seriously delicious. I also love them because they are non-GMO and organic! In your frozen food aisle, check out the options Amy’s offers and buy a couple to test them out. If your child doesn’t like it, you can just eat it instead, so no one really loses.
Recently, my son has responded to the spinach ricotta ravioli. Yes, my son actually ate spinach! I thought my son would be totally turned off by the color, but he wasn’t, so this could be worth a try!
Similar to the Birdseye Vegetable Pasta, Amy’s frozen meals can be used for multiple meals throughout the week and repurposed in different ways if desired.
6. Sweet Potato Fries & Tots
Most kids love sweet potatoes, making it one of the obvious ways to get kids to eat vegetables. What’s more, Mary N. Felando, MS, RDN, suggests that sweet potatoes are known as “the top nutrition superstar” when compared to most other fruits and vegetables.
We love throwing some sweet potato fries or tots in the oven as a side dish for the evening. My son loves these sweet potato tots from the Alexia Organic brand.
If you were feeling really creative and chef-like, you could easily bake your own sweet potato fries to make it even healthier.
So let’s say nothing is working. I’m sorry mama. It’s really frustrating and hopefully will change over time. Don’t give up, but some people may not be able to find ways to get kids to eat vegetables just yet!
If this is you, Mary suggests choosing specific fruits to feed your child. “Don’t forget that vegetables aren’t the only place where you can find fiber, vitamins, and minerals,” she explains, “Moms can look toward some of the more nutrition packed fruits like kiwis, cantaloupe, mango, and watermelon.”
According to this nutrition expert, one kiwi supplies a day’s worth of vitamin C and 1 medium melon (about 5” in diameter) contains large amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
This information was comforting to me as a parent because I knew I had some sort of a fallback option as we tried and tested different “hidden veggie” recipes.
Ways to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables in a Nutshell
Overall, finding ways to get kids to eat vegetables can be tricky. If your child is anything like mine, they’re a pretty tough customer. Don’t give up the fight though. Each meal may be the battle, but you will win the war! Use this list of the 6 ways to include more vegetables in your child’s diet. You can also rest a bit easier knowing that certain fruits can still provide much of the vitamins certain vegetables do. I wish you luck on your journey. Please let us know if you have found any other exciting ways to get kids to eat vegetables, so we can share them with other moms!