Ah yes, kids and veggies. It’s the eternal struggle. Why, why won’t you eat this broccoli?! Well, to be honest I can’t really blame kids. They don’t really understand (or care about) the health benefits of eating veggies. There are a lot of other foods that taste better than veggies. My parent wants me to eat them so of course I must do the exact opposite. And in the end a battle ensues. A battle of the wills. And if you’re fighting this battle with a picky eater with autism, you are bound to lose. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Hiding veggies in other foods is a perfectly acceptable way to ensure your child is getting the nutrients they need, without them knowing it. I don’t mean to say this is a long term solution. Eventually the child will have to learn that veggies are just food. They’re not scary or gross, and in fact they can be really delicious. But I’m a big proponent of taking baby steps. Some kids just aren’t ready and that’s ok. Working with a feeding therapist can help expand a child’s diet and help them to feel comfortable trying new foods. In the meantime, sneaking veggies into foods they like can give you peace of mind and get some much needed nutrients into your kiddo.
If you’re hesitant to try this or you’re absolutely certain your child will be able to tell the difference, give it a shot but just go really slow, adding only a few small pieces of the veggie to start. This is a marathon ya’ll, not a sprint and that’s totally ok! So here are some sneaky tips (and recipes) for incorporating veggies into those more popular foods we all know and love.
- Add veggies like frozen carrots or cauliflower into smoothies to make them creamy & delicious.
If your kiddo likes smoothies, this tip is for you. Cauliflower or carrots are great options because they won’t change the color of the smoothie. Carrots are a sweet veggie and cauliflower has a very neutral flavor so neither will ruin the taste of a fruity smoothie. Using frozen veggies can save on cost and make a smoothie super creamy. You can also just use a few pieces and save the rest for later, without worrying about it going bad. Give it a shot with these recipes!
Sweet potato smoothie that tastes like ice cream
Strawberry banana smoothie with hidden cauliflower
2. Meatballs and meatloaf are ideal for hiding shredded zucchini, minced mushrooms and even pureed lentils.
Believe me on this, I have fooled nearly every member of my family with this trick. I really hope they don’t read this blog actually because I don’t want them knowing my secrets! If you peel the zucchini, you won’t have to worry about your child seeing anything green in the meatloaf. When it comes to meatballs, sauce comes in handy to cover up things. Mushrooms and lentils are already brown so they blend in perfectly. Here are a few recipes for this one.
Meatloaf with hidden lentils
Baked zucchini meatballs
3. Pureed butternut squash is the perfect veggie to add into mac & cheese.
This is a must try. And for those of us that are really strapped for time, you can buy canned butter squash and add a little to boxed mac and cheese. What could be easier or cheaper? If you want to try this out from scratch, here’s a recipe. Give it a whirl!
Homemade butternut squash mac and cheese
4. Sweeten pasta sauce with mashed carrots and sweet potatoes.
This is something my mom has been doing for literally years because let’s be honest, tomato sauce can be bitter, especially if tomatoes aren’t in season. Whether you’re hardcore like her and make your sauce from scratch or you buy it in a jar like me, you can still add sweet veggies to help curb that bitterness. I even buy pureed sweet potato and add a little at a time to the sauce, tasting and checking the flavor after each addition. Carrots and sweet potatoes seem to work best but my mom has even added applesauce at times. These are great substitutes for sugar and give a boost of nutrients too. Win, win!
Sweeten your tomato sauce with carrots
5. Don’t forget about healthy breakfast recipes like zucchini bread or pumpkin muffins.
So often veggies get ditched when it comes to breakfast time. But its so easy to hide veggies in breakfast foods! Breads and muffins are absolute favorites and you can disguise the taste of veggies so easily in these foods. This is one of my go-to strategies for getting an extra dose of veggies into my little one and these recipes are some of my favorites and bonus, they’re all gluten free!
Pumpkin muffins (made with almond flour)
Pumpkin spice muffins (grain-free and made with almond butter)
Grain-free chocolate chip zucchini bread (made with coconut flour and a whole bunch of eggs)
Protein packed chocolate chip zucchini bread (grain-free, made with peanut butter and either coconut flour or collagen peptides)
Gluten and dairy-free zucchini bread (made with almond flour and almond or cashew butter)