How to sneak veggies into food for toddlers is something many parents resort to doing. We are all aware that toddlers need their vegetables but they do not realize that. And why blame them? Even adults need constant reminding that they need to eat their vegetables. Toddlers do not know any better about what their nutritional needs are, and it is up to us to see to it they eat what is good for them.
Eating properly is essential for children of all ages and establishing a healthy and varied diet early on is very important. Vegetables have a vital role in completing the nutritional pie, so what should you start with? Is one vegetable better than the next one? In addition, what should one do when these stubborn toddlers stand their ground and resist eating vegetables?
The Importance of Vegetables
Vegetables are extremely important and are key to completing the nutrition equation. They provide minerals, vitamins, dietary fiber, and lots of nutrients naturally present in plants known as phytonutrients. These all contribute to keeping the body healthy. Vegetables also help maintain a healthy weight. This is because they are low in kilojoules (energy) relative to many other foods. Having them every day can thus help prevent excessive weight gain.
Vegetables may also help guard against chronic diseases such as stroke, heart disease ,and some types of cancers. Many fruits and vegetables can help protect the body in a variety of ways, so choose a rainbow of colors every day, such as:
- White (mushrooms, cauliflowers)
- Red and Yellow (tomatoes, corn, capsicum)
- Purple (purple cabbage, beetroot)
- Green (peas, broccoli, spinach)
- Orange (pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots)
Establishing Veggies In Food with Toddlers Is Vital
The right attitude towards food is essential in making sure a person has lifelong healthy habits. The time to establish those attitudes and plant the seeds of knowledge is when they are toddlers. Many flavorful vegetables provide many tasteful experiences. The key here is to introduce them way ahead of artificially flavored treats and junk food that have fake or overly enhanced tastes that can eclipse natural food like veggies.
This way a parent will be able to show a toddler that veggies and fruits are loaded with variety and flavor. This is of course the ideal way. However, what if your child has developed a propensity to avoid vegetables? What do you do when all they want to eat are empty calorie foods and treats? There is, after all, a very powerful marketing industry out there promoting food for toddlers that are far from ideal. If such is the case (and it often is), it is time to take action.
How to Sneak Veggies Into Food for Toddlers
Being a parent means, you have to employ strategies when a confrontation with your toddler is becoming unproductive. It can also be futile to even engage in arguing with a 1-3-year-old that does not know any better about what is good for them. As an adult, you have to try other means of making sure your child gets what it needs, and not just what they want.
Sneaking Veggies into Toddler Food
At the expense of sounding Machiavellian, if the end justifies the means, why not? A great way to get nutrition unique to vegetables in your toddler’s diet is by “hiding” them in food or activities so they become less obvious. Here are some ways that you can try so you can improve your toddler’s daily nutrition.
Stealth Ways to Sneak Veggies Into Food for Toddlers
Use Pasta as Another Way To Sneak Veggies into Food for Toddlers
Often times, a visual illusion can have surprising results. For instance, the shape of some food can convince a toddler that it is something else. Try spaghetti squash for noodles, or slicing up cucumbers to resemble pasta. These visual tricks can be enough to convince some curious toddlers that the dish is something they actually like, simply because of presentation and appearance.
Toddlers will otherwise usually refuse these vegetables outright once they see them in their natural form. Use the power of presentation and visual illusion, and you will at least have them try it. Who knows they might become accustomed to the taste and realize they actually like the vegetable in the future.
Casseroles are excellent dishes that can contain everything in your imagination. The nature of the dish is they are a mix of ingredients, and they are a great opportunity to sneak in veggies. Besides, adding vegetables into a casserole once cooked simply disappears into the delicious recipe. Add minced pieces of green pepper or smashed green peas to a tuna casserole, or finely chop spinach so that they blend right in with the other ingredients, without altering the flavor of your toddler’s favorite casserole meal.
Make A Smoothie Drink or Juice Beverage
One of the most effective ways to get kids to get their vegetables is to make them into smoothies or beverages. Vegetables such as kale or spinach (usually difficult for kids to like) can instantly become a smoothie that kids will drink with no hesitation. A great technique to make the drink yummy is to add in just a tiny bit of tasty fruits or yogurt that will mask the taste. You could also opt for other vegetables that might be less obvious.
Creative parents can even work into a child’s imagination, and make a smoothie recipe with a personality. For instance, you could give the drink a cute name like the green magician, or the green slime. This way toddlers look forward to the unusual color and forget that they are eating vegetables. They will instead play into the charade and drink the smoothie with gusto.
Hide Them in Baked Goodies Like Cakes and Muffins
Carrots and zucchinis are good examples of vegetables to sneak into a cake, muffins, and other baked good recipes without kids knowing they are there. Use these veggies as a base as you sneak them in, then bring in more popular ingredients like raisins, blueberries, or even dark chocolate. As the veggies combine into the other ingredients they will become hardly noticeable.
Toddlers will be too preoccupied wolfing down on the cake or muffins to notice there is something in them they would otherwise avoid eating. Finally, they will be getting a healthy amount of vegetables, even if it comes from a usually unhealthy treat like cake.
Get Creative with Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are a great side dish for toddlers, but you can get creative and use it as a means to get in other food. For instance, mashed cauliflower tastes quite different from regular mashed potatoes, but for some toddlers, it is more a matter of consistency. What’s more, when they spot food on their plate that is a blob of white, they presume it is their favorite mashed potatoes. You could also try mashed sweet potatoes to get your kids some natural betacarotene.
If you want to be even smarter, mash some potatoes and add some mashed cauliflower to it so the kids will be totally thrown off the taste. If you have a blender, use it to mix everything up thoroughly until the cauliflower is hard to notice.
Be Inventive With Names
Toddlers like all kids are playful, and they have fertile imaginations. It is easy for them to forget they are eating vegetables when the vegetable dish given to them is called something like a “superhero potion.” Use natural peanut butter in between a piece of celery topped with blueberries. You could also cut green peppers into thin slices and present them as a smiling face on a plate while asking them to eat everything before the smile turns into a frown.
You will be surprised by how much presentation can make a difference, especially with toddlers and their active imagination. Likewise, never underestimate the power of suggestion, so take advantage of these techniques.
Use Finely Cut Portions of Vegetables
Speaking more of presentation, always keep in mind that toddlers can be fussy eaters. Therefore, what they cannot see won’t hurt them. They will actually willingly eat their vitamins and nutrients. A great way to ensure this is to cut or mince vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, or spinach so finely that they are beyond recognition. Your choosy toddler will not realize they are even in the dish.
This sneaky technique can be applied effectively with dishes like mac and cheese, spaghetti, or various stews and soups. Very minuscule pieces of spinach with grated cheese can easily be loved by your picky eaters. Furthermore, once covered in tomato sauce, no kid will notice the green color of minced broccoli.
Mix Veggies with Hamburger Patties or Meat Balls To Sneak Them In Toddler Food
When making homemade hamburger patties (which is always better than store-bought brands), toddlers love having the usual add ons like cheese on them. Try to sneak in some other veggies since you are the one making the patties. Bring in healthy stuff like peppers, onions, or even spinach and celery. Just make sure that you cut finely enough or ground them too, for a similar texture to the rest of the patty.
Once you blend them in with the ground meat and eaten between two buns with cheese and ketchup, you might not fool just the toddlers but adults as well. You could also do the same when preparing meatballs. The next time you theme a meal Italian, they will not realize that as they gobble down their spaghetti and meatballs, they are eating spinach and celery too. A bonus is the veggies can add more flavor to the burger patty and meatballs, making kids favor your burgers over commercial fast-food versions.
Cook Waffles or Pancakes with Incognito Veggie Ingredients
As you prepare your pancake batter, mix in some mashed and roasted butternut squash and create a different recipe. It will give this breakfast staple an unusual but attractive orange color that the kids will find visually appealing. This will make them eat the waffles or pancakes with added enthusiasm, and you are guaranteed healthy nutrients in the morning with one of breakfasts’ classics.
The moment you butter it and maple syrup is poured over, toddlers will eat it all up, not knowing the much-maligned squash is the secret ingredient. While you are at it, add some fruit on the side like some sliced bananas.
Create Chocolate Pudding with An Omega 3 Twist
While avocados are technically a fruit, they have tons of wonderful nutrients and omega 3 fats that you would not get in most vegetables. They add delectable creaminess to homemade treats, such as in chocolate pudding. The strong taste of chocolate hides the avocado flavor so well that they will not seem to be in the recipe. Throw some ripe avocados in a blender and combine this with unsweetened cocoa, milk, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon.
Bring this to a chill for 30 minutes, then excite your toddler by telling him or her there is a new treat coming.
Go Commando with Sauces and Soups
Making your own sauces or soups is a great way to introduce healthy nutrition to your toddler’s meals. For instance try adding cauliflower in traditional alfredo sauce, or mix some veggies into your spaghetti sauce. You could include a nutritious mix of sweet potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes in a sumptuous Bolognese your toddlers will crave.
Getting Your Toddlers to Eat Healthy Food
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the best way to ensure your child has healthy eating habits their entire lives is to start while they are young. The best advice for most parents to get kids to eat vegetables is to lead by example and explain the benefits of veggies. Kids are like little sponges, and they are constantly learning from their parents.
However, if you find that your toddler is particularly headstrong and will not give in to your parental authority, come back to assert yourself another day. In the meantime, the important task of getting them the proper nutrition is at hand. Do not get discouraged if you are struggling with ways to get toddlers to eat veggies. Employing tricks for the sake of your toddler’s diet is probably as good enough a reason there is for being a “sneaky” parent.