As parents, the kids-eating-their-vegetables struggle is real. We know veggies are important because they’re packed with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that children (and all of us) need for optimal health. But, they definitely don’t taste as good to kids as some of the other things on their plate. When all else fails, is sneaking vegetables into kids’ foods a good idea?
As a registered dietitian, I get questions like this all the time. I don’t see anything wrong with adding some extra veggies to commonly eaten foods (see ideas below). But, it’s crucial to continue to offer vegetables in all their glory on your kids’ plates to help them learn to eventually try them and like them. Research shows that it can take up to 15-20 exposures to foods for your child to finally try new foods, including vegetables! So, don’t give up when you have a few discouraging attempts at getting your kids to eat vegetables.
If you only rely on sneaking vegetables, your kids will be unaware that they’re eating them and will likely not learn to love them. A combination of sneaking veggies and continuing to offer and serve veggies is a good middle ground to strike when feeding your kids and family.
Here are some ideas for sneaking vegetables in:
Grate zucchini and chop carrots/mushrooms and add to sauces
Grate and add zucchini to pancakes
Spiralize zucchini and add it to spaghetti noodles and sauce
Add spinach or kale to smoothies
Chop cauliflower finely and add to scrambled eggs
Steam yellow squash and add to mac & cheese sauce (easier if you make it homemade)
Add fresh herbs to pastas, pizzas, or other grain dishes
The way you offer veggies to your kids matters. Ellyn Satter outlines the process of helping your child to learn to love new foods here. Some highlights are: avoid pressure, don’t give up and expect inconsistencies.
Sneaking vegetables in commonly eaten foods is a strategy that’s appropriate as long as you’re continuing to offer vegetables on their own at meals and snacks. Also, ensure your child has an example to look to in loving veggies by eating and enjoying vegetables around your children.
No one ever said feeding your children was going to be easy; but, with a little finesse and tenacity, your kids can be on their way to loving these nutrient-rich foods for life.
This article originally appeared on KSL.com.