Sneaky Ways Smart Parents Add Veggies to Meals

We all know that eating fruits and veggies is good for us. These colorful foods provide essential vitamins and nutrients a kid’s growing body needs. 

In a perfect world, we’d be able to put down a plate of carrots, broccoli, grilled chicken with tomato salsa, steamed brown rice, and homemade applesauce in front of our toddler, and they’d gobble it up! But like most parents, you probably have a toddler that avoids veggies.

If you have a toddler or preschooler who avoids most or all veggies, we’ve been there! So, how do you get veggies into our picky toddler eaters?

The ‘hide the veggies’ tactic is ages-old mom wisdom that found its way into mainstream media through Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook. And when done well, it usually works! 

Here are some super simple thoughts for helping your household veggies go incognito!

  • Mac n Cheese from Deceptively Delicious with butternut squash or cauliflower puree. 
  • Pumpkin Pie Smoothie from Eating Well. Canned pumpkin is an easy veggie to sneak into smoothies and tastes good, too! You can also sneak a handful of spinach into most smoothies.
  • Meatloaf. I often add red pepper, onion, and broccoli to my meatloaf! Sautee it first to make it sweeter and softer. 
  • Dino Veggie Nuggets. Your kid is probably eating chicken nuggets anyway, and these dino-shaped nuggets are fun and full of veggies!
  • Mix greens into your ground meat for hamburgers or tacos.

Tips to Encourage Your Tot to Eat Veggies

  • Include your toddler or preschooler in the prep and cooking process. Children are more likely to try foods they helped make.
  • Shop together. Take them to a local farmer’s market or let them select something from the grocery store’s produce section.
  • Discuss the benefits of eating veggies. Avoid phrases like “healthy foods” or “junk foods.” Instead, praise each veggie’s attributes. For example, “Eating carrots will make your eyes very strong!” or “Peas have lots of protein and will build up your muscles!”
  • Serve veggies in different ways until you find one that works! They can be steamed, sauteed, boiled, mashed, air-fried, and more! You can also serve them with dips, hummus, or even ketchup if it makes your toddler happy!
  • Grow a garden! Not only will they learn about the life cycle and science, but they’ll also be more inclined to try something they helped create!
  • Only introduce one new veggie at a time, and make sure there is always a guaranteed food your child likes on their plate. Never force your child to eat or use food as a reward or punishment.

Updated May 29th, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry

written by

L. Elizabeth Forry 

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with fifteen years of classroom teaching experience. She earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from The University of North Dakota and has a Bachelor of Arts in English and one in Music from Lebanon Valley College. She has taught children in Japan, Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban Maryland. She is trained as a reading therapist, has a TEFL certification, and has done extensive work with children regarding mental health, social-emotional development, gender development. She has written curriculum for children and educators and has led training sessions for parents and educators on various topics on early childhood development. She is the mother of two boys and resides outside of Annapolis, Maryland.

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