How Can I Trick My Picky Eater Into Eating A Vegetable?
By Michelle Bailey, M.D.
It is very frustrating as the parent to watch your toddler turn from a human garbage disposal into someone that eats three and only three things. Developing picky eating habits at age 2-4 is a very common complaint I discuss at well visits. At that age, children are trying to find ways to assert their independence, and refusal to toilet train and refusal to eat ANYTHING you ask them to is part of that developmental phase.
First of all, there’s a great article already on the topic of picky eaters.
What I’m going to talk about in this article are specific ideas on how you can add (or hide) vegetables into your child’s diet.
1. If your child eats rice, substitute a steamed bag of cauliflower rice for ½ of the regular rice. Now half of their rice serving is a high fiber vegetable.
2. Cauliflower crust pizza. It’s delicious and they’ll never know their thin crust pizza has veggies.
3. Fruit & veggie pouches. Not just for infants, these are good for any age!
4. If your child eats pasta & sauce, this is a golden opportunity to really crank up their veggie intake. Puree a zucchini plus add a can of pureed pumpkin into your meat sauce.
5. Meatballs: sauté then puree a number of vegetables: onions, peppers, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, etc and add the pureed veggies into your meatball mixture.
6. If your child loves potato chips, try kale chips. Make them yourself with a big bag of chopped kale: season with olive oil, salt & pepper, and bake 375 degrees for 10 mins.
7. You can even hide vegetables in dessert! Look up zucchini brownies or avocado brownies recipes on Pinterest. So much healthier!
8. Add pumpkin puree and cinnamon into your pancake and waffle batter.
9. Smoothies! Add a handful of spinach into a berry & banana smoothie.
10. Frozen yogurt drops. Blend up plain greek yogurt, spinach, berries, and honey and drop by spoonfuls onto a sheet tray and freeze. Fun snack and actually makes a great edible teether too.
11. Let you child do the cooking. For an older child who still refuses to eat their vegetables, task them with making dinner once a week. Let them plan, help at the grocery store, and cook with your supervision. The rule is they must make a vegetable with their meal (corn and potatoes don’t count). The house rule is everyone must eat their dinner vegetables every night, no matter who did the cooking.
12. Muffins. There are store bought or plenty of recipes to make muffins that include shredded carrots or zucchini.
13. If your child doesn’t like to eat what is on their own plate, but finds it hilarious to eat off YOUR plate, take this to your advantage. While still making them a plate, put what you want them to eat on the side of your own plate as well. Loudly say something like, “Ohhh, these are mommy’s FAVORITE roasted broccoli pieces, I sure hope no one takes it”. Then look away and see if your “sneaky” child steals off your plate. Act shocked, they’ll giggle away at their super stealthy skills.
Even if you are able to sneak in your child’s vegetables in these ways, still put a couple of whole veggie pieces on their plate, even if they are “no thank you” bites.
I’m a board-certified pediatrician, passionate about ensuring the well-being of patients ranging from newborn through late teens.
I attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer!), and completed my pediatric residency in Houston.
Since the completion of residency, I’ve worked in outpatient clinics and enjoy not only caring for my young patients, but becoming a part of every family by building long-lasting, trusting relationships. While I treat common and not-so-common childhood infections and diseases, I especially have a passion for asthma and allergies, nutrition, and ADHD along with other learning disorders.
I’m married and we have a rescue dog named Jack. When not at work, I enjoy attending cultural events and traveling. To make an appointment with Dr. Bailey, click here or call 682-303-1000.