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More Vegetables Please? Getting Your Kids to Eat Vegetables

It's All In How You Dice It

Do you dream that your children – or in my case husband – will ask this question at the dinner table?

You’re not alone – It’s just a dream in my home too! Do you know that ideally we would consume 9 – 1/2 cup servings of fruits and vegetables a day and should have no less than 5! Some of my friends seem mystified by how many vegetables my children eat, so I’m giving away my secret.

Many people are familiar with hiding puree’s in your food. I do use this technique, but need it less and less as my children eat their vegetables without me having to hide them.

My secret is diced mixed vegetables. Every week I dice up a giant dish full of mixed vegetables – this mix typically contains onions, red pepper, green pepper, zucchini, and celery. Sometimes I will add grated carrot or diced yellow squash. Really you can add almost anything.

Once you have this mix – add it to everything you cook that week at the end of 5-7 days cook up whatever is left and put it in the freezer for use on a day when you are out of the fresh mix.

We use this mix to up the veggie count in spaghetti sauce (1/2 vegetable and 1/2 meat), shepherd’s pie, tuna noodle casseroles and other comfort foods. I put it in mac & cheese, quesidilla, enchilladas, burritos, rice pilaf, soups, ready made spaghetti sauces (my kids never met a noodle they didn’t love!) and eggs. Basically if I’m cooking – there are mixed vegetables going in.

Once the mixed vegetables are in, I also add chopped frozen spinach to most dishes and other vegetables that are part of the dish. For example, in our home peas are part of shepherd’s pie and tuna casserole.

It’s also a good idea to add flax meal to any dish that will hide it’s dark color, 1-2 tablespoons in the sauce. A tablespoon in the pancakes or french toast egg mix. You won’t taste it, but you will amp up the nutritional value.

So there you have it. You are hiding vegetables, but they still know they are there.

Some of you may find your eaters pick around the vegetables (I’m OK with this, they can’t get them all) and in my experience they will eventually give up with most dishes. My daughter used to pick around the vegetables in spaghetti sauce and after enough nights of “you can’t have more noodles until you eat the sauce”… the sauce is now eaten with the noodles.

We just need to be more persistent and consistent than they are.

All Diced Up

{ 30 comments… add one }

  • Beth June 26, 2009, 8:10 pm

    Wow! I thought I had tried everything to get my daughter to eat more veggies, but this may actually work! She ate them a lot when she was little, but once she hit school and was introduced to “the junk” it was all over!  Now at 10 she has a faster paced life so getting those veggies in is much more difficult!  I can’t wait to try these new techniques on her!

  • Stacie July 18, 2009, 7:07 pm

    I never thought about dicing the veggies up and slowly adding more. My daughter is the only one so far who likes veggies. My middle son likes lots of raw veggies and my oldest well that’s hopeless. I never thought of puree the vegetables. I am followed you on networked blogs (MBC) Hope you have a great weekend.

  • Maricris August 11, 2009, 6:01 pm

    This is a good idea, cutting up all the veggies in a big batch. My hubby is vegetarian so guess, eating vegetable in the home is not a problem. Thanks for the tip.

    • Tania Reuben August 11, 2009, 8:17 pm

      Glad you like it. I think veggies are always an issue when you have toddlers! Our husbands sound like polar opposites!

  • Kristinia August 21, 2009, 5:50 am

    Thanks for this idea, my son (2 1/2 yrs old.) has an issue when it comes to veggies.. He won’t even try them half the time! He’s more into fruit… I’m going to try these ideas out! :)
    .-= Kristinia´s last blog ..Winners Announced =-.

  • Julia August 23, 2009, 4:46 pm

    So right on veggies!  We do pretty well but could always improve on our total numbers.  My only prob is that my kids pick through stuff.  Agghhh!!  Frustrating. 

  • Farrah from Transforming Me September 1, 2009, 5:40 am

    I add chopped spinach to my spaghetti. In fact we had that last night! :-)

    • Tania Reuben September 1, 2009, 8:44 am

      I cheat with the spinach, I always add chopped frozen spinach and flax meal to anything that won’t be ruined with it.

  • Robin @ toxicbeautyblog.com September 25, 2009, 4:46 pm

    Awesome post! I do this all the time! Another way to make vegetables more palatable is to use fresh herbs, salt, and pepper to season them. I just made a sliced potato, carrot, and asparagas dish that used fresh parsley and chives. Soooo yum! Of course all the ingredients were organic too! I got this recipe from the “Cook Yourself Thin” cookbook…my new favorite cookbook!

  • Robin @ toxicbeautyblog.com September 25, 2009, 4:47 pm

    Also, add spinach to smoothies. You can’t even taste it (even though it might make your smoothie look like gray sludge.)

  • Alona Lahav November 9, 2009, 12:24 pm

    Wonderful post with great tips !Thank you !!!

  • shraddha November 30, 2009, 12:21 pm

    great post…very important for our household too..visiting via MBC…following via networked blogs…if you can follow my google friend connect and Facebook fans page, i will appreciate…

    if you want to exchange buttons or other networking, do leave me a comment!

  • Daisy November 27, 2010, 10:44 am

    Your method also teaches children that vegetables are good. Hiding them as a puree may seem tricky and successful, but will the kids choose to eat vegetables as they get older? Only if they know that veggies taste good and are good for them. 

  • Erica December 30, 2010, 12:42 am

    While I like your tactic, I think it’s better (if possible) to teach kids to appreciate whole foods whenever possible. Not to disguise them, but to enjoy!

    • Pure Natural Diva January 5, 2011, 10:39 pm

      I agree. Which is why I prefer this method to pureeing… it get’s the lil’s used to the texture of veggies. It’s just another tool to use when needed!

  • MIke January 10, 2011, 9:29 am

    We don’t need any “tricks” to get people to want money. Why do we need tricks to get them to eat vegetables? It’s a fair question. Vegetables are very good for us. VERY VERY good. The perception is that money is also very very good for us. Is it? I would make a case that says this is a beautiful and abundant planet and that without money we’d all be rich here. We know where the ideas that lead people to believe that money is totally awesome and we need to get as much of it as possible come from. Where do the ideas that lead people to believe that veggies are not good come from? Why don’t kids want to eat their veggies. Ask yourself why? I guarantee you it’s not because we’re not hiding them good enough or we don’t have a good enough trick to get our kids to want them. So if that they’re not hidden isn’t the problem, then hiding them isn’t the solution. Common sense. The reason why kids don’t like veggies is obvious. We give our kids SO MUCH CRAP to eat- cookies, chips, candy, soda, etc…that of course they think that veggies taste bad. Combine that fact with the overall lack of food knowledge that parents have and kids have no reason to like or want veggies. Want your kids to want veggies? Give them a reason to. If people knew the truth about the importance of veggies and nutrition they would want to eat their veggies as badly as people who know about the importance of having money, want to have money. You don’t have to trick anyone into wanting money. To ME the reasons to want veggies are just as important (actually much more so) than the reasons to want money. Because I know the truth, and I did not grow up eating chips, candy, and soda. If your children don’t like veggies then you’ve done something wrong as a parent. You’ve given them something they shouldn’t have -JUNK food, and have kept from them something they need, and perhaps you don’t have yourself- education about the importance of nutrition. Baby formula is full (over 50%) of sugar and sweet tasting chemical food additives. It’s a bad start. A really bad one. That today’s children do not like to eat vegetables is TOTALLY unacceptable. It’s really ALL they should be eating. Stop this madness. Children are like blank CD’s. We can put any program on them that we desire. The program that they run that tells them they don’t like veggies was installed by us, the parents, the programmers. We keep putting the same lame program that our parents put on us , on our own children. The program that says veggies are yucky, your worth is dependant on the amount of money you have, war is a necessary acceptable thing, Blacks are this, Jews are that, etc, etc, etc….THAT program. It’s time to stop running that old program people. If you don’t have the knowledge or the guts to program your children differently, don’t have children! Is it too much to ask?

    • Pure Natural Diva January 10, 2011, 1:41 pm

      Wow! I’m not sure where to begin… but a comments like “If your children don’t like veggies then you’ve done something wrong as a parent.” is so vast and generalized I’m almost speechless.
      My children both eat vegetables, but I’ve had to work at it… they didn’t start out that way and I would never go so far as to say they “love” vegetables.
      They were both nursed, given whole grain, organic homemade baby food. Their daily diet is nutritious, they join me at the farmer’s market, pick tomatoes off the plants in the garden – but they still don’t really “want” to eat their vegetables, nor do they love them. I am teaching them that they are an important part of their diet.
      You are clearly passionate about this – which is great – but your message is lost with all the judgement piled on top.
      Thanks for visiting!

  • Steph January 10, 2011, 1:53 pm

    It is unacceptable when kids don’t eat their veggies Mike… I think that is what Tania is trying to address. She is giving parents ways to feed their children vegetables. Maybe the parents never fed their kids veggies before. maybe the kids are just stubborn. Either way, this is a great way to introduce kids to veggies and new flavors to help them become vegetable eaters for life. And now for a little snark Mike… when was the last time you sat down with a toddler and tried to explain the nutritional value in the plate of spinach? It isn’t happening… they are babies. That can’t comprehend why spinach is better than that cookie they love.

    Tania… thanks for the tips and tricks. I am sure so many parents appreciate different ways to get their family to eat more veggies. I have always been lucky that my kids enjoyed fruits and vegetables. But I know a lot of people that really struggle with that. I KNOW those people gain so much from these types of articles.

  • Sarah Pinnix January 10, 2011, 2:05 pm

    I have one child who can’t get enough of vegetables! Her favorite meals include broccoli, salad, carrots, all of it! One of my children loves meat. Anything with chicken, she will gobble up first.  My third child is my carb lover.  Her body craves pasta, bread, and potatoes. They’ve all grown up eating the same things for meals and snacks!  In fact, I had to formula feed my first child, who is my avid veggie lover! The other two were breast fed, and honestly, breast milk is pretty sweet too.  So I don’t think our children’s natural favorite tastes have everything to do with what the parent feeds them.  Of course, I do agree that we should offer healthy snacks, make veggies a visible part of every meal (and hide ’em too, if we want!). I love your ideas for adding veggies to every day meals.  we could even have the kids pick out which veggies go in the diced mix, so they have some control over the matter.  The same techniques won’t work with every child, so we need all the ideas we can get! 

  • Shana January 10, 2011, 2:18 pm

    First, I loved your post Tania. Dicing them up is a great idea! One of my favorite dishes to do this with is fried rice. My kids eat it all up. One thing I do in our house is a I squirt lemon on our veggies. It adds an extra bit of flavor to them and it’s much better then salt and pepper. My kids now look forward to broccoli with lemon on it. Mike,While I think your intentions might have been good I think you came about this completely wrong. ” If your children don’t like veggies then you’ve done something wrong as a parent”. I’m wondering if you speak from experience here because I think it is rather rude for you to state something like that. Each child is different in their likings and to sit and tell a young child why they should eat their vegetables sometimes falls on deaf ears simply because they do not understand. Now when they are older I think it’s a very good idea to do that.

  • Carissa January 10, 2011, 2:58 pm

    I make a bolonaise almost exactly like your photos. TONS of chopped veggies, in fact sometimes I just skip the hamburger and we have veggie bolonaise, add a handful of some sort of raw grains mixture and good to go. I agree, keeping at it is the best way to help them get over the toddler to young kid time where they back away from veggies. Two of my kids ate veggies well as young kids only to emerge later to be picky about them… Just a fact of toddler growing up life.

  • DiPaola Momma January 10, 2011, 6:49 pm

    Seriously there Mike.. first.. obviously you don’t have kids. I’ve got four, one is a vegetarian and yet another inspects his food as though he were a world class chef. I can’t get him to eat an unmasked veggie if I paid him (in money, which he isn’t so keen on either. Books, those he likes). Yet I KNOW the importance of veggies so I hide them in order to get him what his body needs. I take umbrage with “children are like blank CDs” statement. My children are individuals, unique in their own rights. I am not here to program them but to guide them in how to be good people, non-judgmental, kind and hopefully one day they’ll change this world for the better.. with a celery stick in hand no less. 

  • @RachelFerrucci January 10, 2011, 7:12 pm

    T- Love the post- I wish I thought of that when my kids were young. I did make veges a playful food from the time they were little, before junk food came into play. They also went through times when there were certain veges they didn’t like, but I kept on making them and when one would see us enjoying it so much, eventually they would ask to try it again. By the time they were teens they liked enough veges to go around. We still try different veges and foods hoping we’ll like it! As you get older your taste naturally changes and if parents stay persistent the kids will get their veges. And YES we did have homemade cookies and cake, but veges always came first. Wondering how old Mike’s kids are?

  • Jeannine Chanin-Penn January 10, 2011, 7:14 pm

    How funny… I just added spinach to my lasagna (with my first ever attempt at using the “no” cook lasagna noodles – I do it all the time and I couldn’t agree more about not hiding they are there! I’m not a fan of the Jessica Seinfeld’s technique because I think it’s important that our kids appreciate vegetables for what they are and why they are good – a little creativity is fine as it is part of what makes food we all love (adults too) so yummy – but that is different than “hiding”I also totally agree with re-introducing food. Sometimes what is “yuck” becomes “yum” and it may take a few years!!! Patience. My son is 8 and eats fish, veggies including brussel sprouts & kale, almost all fruit, sushi, lots of stuff – I always encourage him to try it and if he doesn’t like it I don’t pushbtw, I don’t know who Mike is or why he is so upset – after what happened in Tucson I think he needs to take it down a notch… we’re talking about vegetables here! Every kid is different and all of us here are loving parents striving to do our best for our children.

    • Pure Natural Diva January 10, 2011, 7:32 pm

      Have you tried the no boil whole wheat lasagna from Gia Russa! They are hard to find, but great!

  • Jeannine Chanin-Penn January 10, 2011, 7:43 pm

    No, if these work I’ll look for those – I try and avoid white and go wheat whenever possible… btw, your site looks great!

    • Pure Natural Diva January 10, 2011, 8:43 pm

      I’ve found them on Amazon, Gelson’s (in LA) and oddly in the past at Cost Plus Market.

  • Heather January 10, 2011, 7:44 pm

    Tania, this was a great post. From a small child to an adult, it can be quite cumbersome to get the ideal amount of veggies we need in a day. One can have so many sides of green beans, a salad, or handful of chopped, raw veggies before it becomes boring. It is INGENIOUS to add veggies to sauces and the like. It adds bulk and spread the dish farther. I would have to comment on Mike’s comment. I can totally appreciate where he is coming from with the money angle, while it is quite loosely connected to the content on this particular post and perhaps a tad out of place. Any person that has not had a child does not understand what it is like when beginning to introduce foods. There is a reason that vegetables are recommended over fruits. Hello? Who wouldn’t want a jar of banana over a jar of puree spinach. It doesn’t take one with a Ph.D or experience to solve that mystery. And as children are coming up, it takes time to get them accustomed to certain foods. In other parts of the world, things like insects or other mammals that are considered taboo here are perfectly acceptable. I wouldn’t be surprised if those mothers have to disguise some dishes, as well. It’s a learning process. As a mother of  three- 17, 11, 10- I had to use some hiding and fun strategies to get my kids to eat vegetables without being an ogre about it. Today, they love their junk food like the rest of us, but they are more apt to ask for a vegetable with dinner than you would think. Does this make me a better parent? No. Do they eat as many vegetables in a day as they should? Probably not. But will they if asked? Yes.How many servings of veggies do you get in a day, Mike?  And by the way? You don’t need a comma to make CD plural (CDs). My veggie- loving, non-discriminatory, open-minded program also is set to automatically detect grammar errors.

  • OCMomActivities - Katie January 10, 2011, 8:02 pm

    I am totally a fan of this!!!

    It’s not a matter of hiding it *really*, it’s a matter of getting your kids accustomed to eating it so that they continue to choose healthy options as they grow bigger. I happily tell my kids what I’ve “hidden” in their food once they have eaten and enjoyed their dinner. Because then the realize it tasted good and next time I don’t have to “hide” the healthy food. (Here’s one I didn’t see mentioned… sauteed then pureed veggie mix in pizza sauce! It’s a fav in our house!). Another family favorite is nachos with sauteed red peppers, yellow peppers, orange peppers and onions. We also all love fresh bruschetta with homegrown tomatoes!

    This strategy worked in our house because my kids love steamed broccoli (with a light drizzle of ranch), salads, cucumber sticks, onions and sauteed spinach.

    Great post!

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