We all think that our kid will be different – at least I did.
I was determined to have kids with diverse palates who eat everything. My child would be one who chose veggies over bread and cheese and who didn’t opt for Goldfish above all else. Maybe this dream child of mine exists somewhere out there, but despite my efforts, I still have to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, especially for my son who would happily eat a piece of bread at every meal.
If you’re a toddler mom fighting the same battle, you should know that you’re not alone. And while you might be wondering if your son or daughter will be serving grilled cheese 20 years from now at their wedding, you should also know this preference is completely normal. Many toddlers (even those who like fruits and vegetables) tend to opt for bland, beige foods because they feel safest. It can take many, many exposures of new food (over 20) for a child to feel brave enough to eat it, so don’t give up hope if you’re just starting on this journey.
So, what can you do to get some fruits and veggies in your baby’s belly?
First and foremost, keep offering the foods you eventually want them to eat and start small. If you want your child to eat broccoli, the worst thing you can do is place a full plate of broccoli in front of them. New foods are scary and overwhelming. The best way to introduce them is in small quantities. Simply pack their plate with the things you know they love and then offer one or two small pieces of the new, novel food. They might touch it, smell it, taste it, or ignore it completely, and all of this is OK. Just stay consistent.
Shop, cook, and most importantly, eat together when possible. Kids learn from example and imitation, and your little tots will benefit greatly from seeing you eat a plate full of colorful foods with different textures, tastes, and smells. Have you ever noticed that your toddlers often want to try what’s on your plate even if they’ve just rejected the same thing from their own plate? This is the perfect opportunity to give them a taste of whatever fruit and vegetable you hope they’ll one day learn to love.
Of course, when all else fails, I’m not above sneaking some veggies into some kid-friendly foods. They eat happily, and I know they’re getting the nutrients they need to thrive.
Here are my go-to recipes for getting my kiddos to secretly eat their greens.
Spinach Banana Flax Muffins
- 2 cups of oats processed into flour in a food processor
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup oat milk blended with two big handfuls of spinach in food processors
- 1/4 cup flax seed
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup or sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix everything together. Pour 1/4 cup into lined muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until set. Makes 12 muffins which can be frozen and thawed.
Hidden Veggie Meatballs
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- ½ cup shredded zucchini
- ½ cup riced broccoli
- ½ cup chopped shredded carrots
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic power
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil for frying
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add zucchini, broccoli, and carrots. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until veggies have softened. Approximately 5 minutes. In a large bowl, add ground turkey, cooked veggies, egg, and spices. Mix by hand until well combined. With wet hands, form mixture into 2-inch balls and set aside. Heat remaining oil in same skillet over medium heat. Brown meatballs for 2-3 minutes per side until all sides are golden brown. Transfer meatballs to baking dish or baking sheet if your skillet is not oven friendly. Finish cooking the meatballs in oven for 15 minutes. Serve with rice, pasta, your kid’s favorite dipping sauce, or on their own!
Spinach & Berry Smoothie
- 1 banana
- 1 cup mixed berries
- 1 ½ cups almond milk or water
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
Add everything to a blender and blend to desired consistency. Add several tablespoons of water or almond milk if the mixture doesn’t blend smoothly. Makes two smoothies.
Butternut Squash Macaroni & Cheese
- 3 cups cubed and peeled butternut squash (about 1 medium-size butternut squash)
- 3 1/2 cups of almond milk (or the milk of your choice), divided
- 3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 lb. fusilli pasta
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, scatter cubed butternut squash and top with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook for 20-25 minutes, tossing occasionally until soft. Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente according to directions on box. While pasta finishes, remove butternut squash from oven and allow to cool slightly. Once butternut squash is cool, add to a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup of milk and blend until creamy. In a skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and flour. Mix to create a roux. Add in the remaining 3 cups of milk and whisk until milk thickens. Turn heat to low and add in cheese and butternut squash mixture, whisking to combine. Add in the cooked pasta and serve!