If you’ve ever found yourself on Pinterest searching for “Recipes with Hidden Vegetables” late at night then it just might be you have a picky toddler. I know I do.
One day they will eat something, so you get excited and make it again. . . and the next three tries they won’t eat it. So you give up, assuming the first time was a fluke only to have them eat it again off of your plate two months later. Ugh. . And of course they won’t eat anything that you would actually want to eat, so you end up cooking two separate meals.
One thing does seem to remain consistent – the toddlers hate of everything that is labeled “vegetable.” Fruit is just fine; it is of course nice and sweet. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, it either means you don’t have toddlers. . . or you are incredibly lucky.
Veggies, uh uh. No way, man. Make a fancy dip or dressing to “cover up” the veggies and they’ll just use them as a “spoon” to eat mass amounts of dip. Steam them, roast them, etc. . nope, sorry. Maybe in the future these options will work, but right now with my 2.5 year old I’ve resorted to blending and baking them until they are unrecognizable
I’ve spent a lot of time on Pinterest the last few months in a desperate attempt to somewhat sneakily introduce more vegetables into my little ones diet – here are my notes (and a few of the recipes that have been pretty successful).
My plan of attack started with identifying different food products, recipes, and/or “meals” that I can sneak veggies into. . .they are as follows: (1) smoothies & popsicles, (2) soups, (3) baked goods, and (4) dinners.
(1) Smoothies & Popsicles. There are a TON of hidden-veggie smoothie and popsicle recipes on Pinterest. Common veggies to “hide” include spinach, carrots, beets, avocado (which is technically a fruit, but that is for another conversation), and kale (baby kale seems to work the best). Blend chopped (or grated) veggies in with some greek yogurt and fruit (berries, banana, mango and citrus fruit are great for masking the flavor of veggies) and you have a delicious, and often brightly-colored treat. Give it to your little one to drink, or pour it into a popsicle mold for later (or both!). Here are a few recipes on my to-try list.
- Healthy Red Velvet Smoothie (beets)
- Mixed Berry Mango Kale Smoothie (kale)
- Strawberry Banana Spinach (spinach)
- Blueberry Avocado Smoothie (avocado) - though I may leave out the chia seeds for my picky eater.
- Carrot, Mango & Raspberry popsicles (3 carrots in 10 popsicles)
(2) Soups. I’ve found blended soups to work the best, so searching for “Cream of __(insert vegetable name)__” is a good bet. The bonus, is that they are often delicious for the whole family – and you quite often can get multiple vegetables into one soup.
- Cream of Zucchini Soup (onions, celery, zucchini) – recipe coming soon! In the meantime, here is one I’d love to try – it has an added “twist” of basil (Zucchini-Basil Soup)
- Cream of Broccoli Cheese Soup (broccoli, onions) – I haven’t tried this one yet, but I’ve had great luck with recipes from Damn Delicious!
- Healthy Asparagus Soup (asparagus, bell peppers, onion)
(3) Baked Goods. Veggies that make great “hidden” ingredients include zucchini (again, technically a fruit . . .) and carrots; however, I’ve found a few fun ones that include odd ingredients like beets and spinach. Muffins are a great way to add vegetables to breakfast time, but I have to say I’m most intrigued by all of the efforts to sneak in healthy ingredients into desserts. Here are a few recipes I’ve tried, and others on my to-try list:
- Zucchini Carrot Apple Muffins (carrot, zucchini) – bonus, also contains an apple & uses applesauce to help sweeten and reduce the oil in the recipe.
- Healthy Muffins for Toddlers (carrots, zucchini) - bonus, no added sugar – only applesauce & bananas!
- Spinach Pancakes (baby spinach) – bonus, no butter, oil or sugar – they’re made with greek yogurt and sweetened with honey!
- Carrot Cake Pancakes (carrots) – a delicious indulgence with the added bonus of carrots!
- Chocolate Beet Cake (1 cup of pureed beets. .yes, beets!)
- Zucchini Brownies (zucchini) – bonus, applesauce & whole wheat flour make for a healthier overall recipe.
- Chocolate Zucchini Cake (zucchini) – contains two whole cups of grated zucchini
(4) Dinners. It seems the most common way to add hidden veggies is in the form of a sauce or to mix them in with some kind ground meat.
- Jessica Alba’s Turkey Meatballs (zucchini, onions, carrots) – I tried this recipe and it was a huge success! Not only did my little one LOVE the meatballs, but my husband enjoyed them as well. As a bonus, you’d never guess that they were made from turkey and not ground beef. One note: I did add slightly less spice than was called for, and they were still quite heavily spiced – so to start, I’d recommend using half the Italian seasoning the recipe calls for.
- Pumpkin Pasta (carrots, onion, pumpkin – ok, pumpkin is technically a fruit, but we’ll go with it) – this pasta looks like mac-n-cheese, but it’s chock full of veggies and made with a bit of cream cheese. Dying to try it out!
- Cauliflower Macaroni & Cheese (1 entire head of cauliflower!)
You can also find some great ready-t0-eat products in the store that have hidden vegetable ingredients. Lately, we’ve been enjoying Stonyfield’s Yo-Toddler yogurts (Pumpkin Banana and Apple Sweet Potato). Miss H loves yogurt, and since she is regularly eats it once or twice a day I figured it’d be a great opportunity to sneak in some healthy ingredients. Also, we were fortunate enough to get the chance to try out some great new products from Tommee Tippee! While a few of them are being saved for baby #2 (sippy cups & bibs) we are really loving the explora feeding spoons, easi-mat and easy scoop feeding bowls.
Until now we haven’t been overly happy with any toddler-friendly silverware; either they are hard to hold, or the ends are too small to hold enough food or too large to be reasonably used by a toddler (both problems generally resulting in extra mess). The spoons handles are triangular, so they are really easy to hold – and the part that holds food is the perfect size.
For more ideas, I’ve actually started a Pinterest board called “Feeding a Picky Toddler.” Follow along as I continue on my quest to improve my little one’s diet
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