Ask the Mamas: Toddlers & Veggies

Each week we will ask our mamas a question from our readers that pertains to babies, toddlers, or parenting. Make sure to check back each Tuesday to see their responses!

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MSW reader Stephanie asks:

“How do you get your picky toddler to eat more fruits and vegetables? If you have to, how do you sneak vegetables into their food?”

We are lucky that our toddler loves fruit, so that’s not an issue. But vegetables are a little trickier! Here are a few things that we feed him to ensure he’s getting what he needs each day:
-YoToddler yogurt blends that include vegetables
-Add spinach to fruit smoothies - you won’t even know it’s there!
-Spinach Muffins
-Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Nuggets
-We also cut up some veggies that he likes, like cherry tomatoes and raw peppers, and serve them with cheese, crackers and other snacks. ~Mary Ellen M.

My son loves fruits but he refuses most vegetables except for peas and carrots. I usually try to sneak veggies in two ways. First, I make homemade dumplings. Buy some dumpling wraps from an Asian market, make fillings with any type of ground meat and defrosted frozen spinach, or any chopped up leafy veggies like cabbage. They keep very well frozen (uncooked) and only take a few minutes in hot water to cook through. It makes a perfect fast meal and is full of veggies!

Another way to sneak in veggies is to make smoothies. The combinations are limitless. The trick is to add some sweet fruits so they can’t taste the vegetables. Oranges hide veggie tastes particularly well. Frozen berries are a great substitute for ice and also adds a welcoming splash of red or purple. You can also add yogurt to make the texture smoother. We also give him V8 to drink and he loves it.

I think meatballs are great for hiding veggies as well. Mashed potatoes are also great when mixed with chopped up veggies like broccoli or zucchini. After you mix them, simply bread the patties or nuggets and bake them until golden. Oven baked veggie fries is a good option too. Our favorite is zucchini fries. Good luck and have fun! ~Rebecca S.

I will admit, we are not the best parents when it comes to serving veggies. My son loves any and all fruits, so he eats them all the time, but when it comes to the green stuff… not so much! We have found that he likes green beans, so we try to always have those handy at our house.  Since he loves yogurt, I try to hide veggies in there, but he is getting smarter each day and is starting to catch on! I think I will try the spinach muffins and see how that works! ~Heidi C.

My son is really picky when it comes to fruits and vegetables. He would be a happy boy if he could only eat meat, rice and noodles. He likes apples, peaches, oranges and clementines, and will occasionally eat a strawberry or a grape, but that’s pretty much it. He won’t eat any vegetables unless they are hidden somewhere.

As for hiding, I chop up carrots, onion, celery, zucchini and sometimes mushrooms and hide them in dishes like meatloaf, bolognese sauce, minestrone, lasagna, meatballs, mac n cheese, and soups. I have found if they are diced up small enough and have been cooked long enough where they are no longer crunchy, he doesn’t try and pick them out. Some soups, like my minestrone, I blend smooth so there are no obvious veggies.

We also do a veggie dip that he likes to help me make. In the food processor I add one container of cream cheese, a pinch of sea salt and 1 clove of garlic. Then he gets to push the button and throw in a handful of carrots, a handful of blanched broccoli and some kale or fresh spinach. It’s a yummy dip we’ll eat with bread sticks or crackers. I like to dip carrot sticks in it, but he’s not keen on the crunchiness of carrots.

In the summer when we are growing tomatoes, we’ll make fresh salsa in the food processor (he loves helping with the food processor). We use it as a dip and will douse some carne asada or roasted chicken with the salsa. Sometimes he’ll eat it with scrambled eggs too. He loves it.

He also adores when I make carrot and zucchini pancakes, which are a huge hit in our house, and he even KNOWS there are veggies in there.

Every once in a while, we’ll buy the Superfood Green Smoothies for him. I know they still have a lot of sugar, but we’ll do two or three ounces watered down, and I know he’s getting at least SOME vitamins from the veggies in it. ~Alex. T

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but for now Alexis loves fruits and vegetables! I know it’s only a matter of time before she becomes a picky eater though. I bought a cookbook a couple months ago called The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine that I plan on using in the future. It has recipes such as cauliflower masked in macaroni and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs with eight hidden vegetables. Hopefully when Alexis becomes picky I can break out this cook book and still get some vegetables in her.  ~Christy A.

My 17-month-old will eat any fruit you put in front of him… he loves them. As for veggies, that’s another story completely. As an infant he loved all veggies, and would eat anything, so I figured we would have a relatively easy time feeding him into toddlerhood… not so much. He won’t even entertain or touch most veggies. I have tried literally everything, cooked in every way possible and he will just push them away or throw them off his tray. One veggie he will eat, though, is canned green beans so we have those on hand pretty much all the time. Otherwise, I give him the Gerber Graduates Grabbers squeezable fruit or veggie pouches. I have made the spinach muffins which he liked for a few days, and sometimes he will eat soups with veggies in them, but not often. It is something we still struggle with everyday. I like the idea about the YoToddler yogurt blends… I am definitely going to look for that! ~Melissa T.

I hide veggies in our foods all the time. I shred carrots and puree zucchini and add it to our spaghetti sauce. I bake my carrot cake with real shredded carrots. I make spinach pasta for greens. My four year old drinks V-8 splash instead of apple juice. My one year old loves the organic pouches, so that’s how I get veggies into her when she’s not feeling it. ~Bonnie N.

We are lucky that Georgia loves fruits and veggies…now! Before, she used to hate a handful of things, mostly her greens. We would hide them in spaghetti sauces, pancakes, muffins and smoothies! I’m pretty certain it’s the smoothies that really helped us break her dislike of veggies. ~Sarah H.

My daughter is pretty good about eating her fruits and veggies - she actually asks for “bopples” (apples), “bapes” (grapes), corn and peas as snacks. As an occasional treat, she likes Yoplait Simply Go-Gurt — we freeze the little tubes, so it’s like a popsicle (but she gets more nutrients and it’s much less messy than the refrigerated Go-Gurt tubes!).
We have tried to get a little creative, though, by sneaking spinach into a couple of her breakfast foods. One thing she loves is pancakes. I’m not much of a cook, so I buy a box of wheat pancake mix and prepare that as normal, but then throw it all in the blender with some fresh spinach, and cook as your would any other pancakes. Sometimes I make a large batch and freeze them so that they’re ready to serve at any time! I also sometimes cut the spinach up in small pieces and mix it in with her scrambled eggs. Because of the other flavors, she doesn’t seem to notice it — but I don’t use TOO much to overpower it. ~Sam A.

She loves fruit so there are no problems there. As far as vegetables, I admit we could be much better at it. I make her scrambled eggs with spinach, and of course cheese— she loves it! I’ve also mixed peas into mashed potatoes and broccoli into macaroni and cheese. ~Debbie F.

I’ve shredded veggies into everything from scrambled eggs to muffins. Our favorite breakfast lately is a yogurt smoothie with a variety of fruits and veggies blended in. It’s a whole lot of nutrition packed into one tasty, easy, on-the-go treat he can slurp down without taking time away from exploring. ~Laura K.

We’ve always been lucky with N eating fruit. He pretty much eats it at the end of every meal (we’ve made it more like a dessert). But veggies have been a different story. He used to love them, but now if he sees anything other than avocado he immediately says no. It’s like he has some sixth sense that tells him it is a veggie before it even touches his lips. Now the only way for us to get him some veggies is to hide them. We do the fruit/veggie pouches. His favorites are the Happy Tots from Happy Family. He will eat every single one of their varieties and he sucks them down. We’ve also been doing smoothies and adding spinach. He loves to help me make them too (we use a stick blender). And the cream cheese dip that Alex mentioned is super yummy. We try anything and everything. I also remember that this isn’t forever and eventually we won’t have to try so hard. ~Cari H.

Here’s a compilation of the hidden veggie recipes we’ve shared on Mama Say What?! so far. We’ll try to add to it when we share new recipes. Happy eating!!

The advice given here is solely based on our individual experiences and in no way is it going to be perfect for every mama, every baby, and every situation. None of us are medical doctors. If you have a question regarding a medical topic we can give our opinions, but please consult with your doctor. We are not liable or responsible for the results of following any specific advice in any given situation.

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