As infants, both of my boys would suck down spoonful after spoonful of strained peas, butternut squash and mixed vegetables.  Then they hit the common (but not necessarily popular) age of “all things starchy”.  Vegetables were no longer appealing, especially when you are feeding yourself and can CHOOSE not to eat them.  In fact, it wasn’t until about six months ago that I was able to see my now 8-year-old eating green beans again.  Before then, he wouldn’t touch the juicy legumes.

So, when your child hits that picky stage, how can you make sure he or she is getting the nutrients and vitamins so wonderfully packed into nature’s garden of vegetables?  While multivitamins serve a purpose, children’s bodies don’t necessarily absorb all the “good stuff” a vitamin has to offer.  That is not to say children shouldn’t take a vitamin (because mine do), but if you can get those nutrients in them the natural way, it is so much easier on their systems. 

And, while Veggietales seems to take vegetables to a whole new level, it may not be enough to get them in your child’s mouth.  Here are some helpful hints that might make getting the “good stuff” into their diet:

  • The standard “blender” trick: One of my favorite ways to disguise the good stuff is to blend it.  This works especially well with spaghetti or other pasta-sauce dishes.  First I blend the steamed vegetables as much as possible, then I slowly add the marinara sauce, making sure there are no lumps.  My kids have never known the difference.
  • Bake it right in: I’m famous around the neighborhood for my killer zucchini bread.  I used to just shred the zucchini in my food processor, but now I puree it right into the batter.  You can do the same with corn muffin mix as well.  It also works well with cauliflower, which is chock full of all sorts of good-for-you stuff.
  • Anything goes with (macaroni and) cheese: This is probably my most favorite way to get the veggies in, especially broccoli.  After steaming a spear of broccoli, I chop it into fine pieces and mix it in with a freshly prepared bowl of macaroni and cheese.  My boys are a firm believer in cheese makes EVERYTHING better, so you can guarantee it will work with those veggies on their plate!
  • Make it fun: when we went through a “no fruit” phase (which, in hindsight, isn’t THAT bad, considering the sugar content of fruit), we turned to playing with our food.  Kebabs, making artwork (the old mashed potatoes and peas = the “mountain and trees” trick), and even simply serving it up differently sometimes made the difference.  Make a raw veggie plate, grab a skewer and get started!  Bring out the ranch dressing for a bit of dip and you have a veggie party!

Of course, the best course of action for a picky eater is to simply expose them to the “good stuff” over and over again.  While you can ensure they get some of the vegetables they need, you should also continually offer them “as is” to promote healthy eating practices.