You followed the pediatrician’s advice and started your baby on solids between 6 and 9 months old. You introduced them to vegetables before fruits so they wouldn’t get the taste for sweets only. You made sure to have them eat a variety of textures and flavors in the hopes of raising a child with a well-rounded palette. For years they ate those fresh organic California avocados you lovingly picked for ripeness. With ease they devoured an entire plate of scrambled local duck eggs and homemade wheat toast. Tandoori chicken and naan never lasted for leftovers. They turned their nose up at Kraft mac n cheese in favor of your home made cheddar shells. Then it happened. One day you laid your delightful, non-combative, eat anything you set in front of them child down for a nap, and they woke up switched with a changeling.
Seemingly out of nowhere they refuse to eat what they ate all last week. Those pears that they begged, pleaded, and sobbed for in the store? The expensive out of season ones? Yeah, they won’t touch them. You go to serve them a healthy plate of their absolute favorite green beans, and they refuse. What? “But, I cooked them just like you like them,” you say. They refuse. You never thought you’d have to resort to bribery, but you bring out the “if you finish your green beans you can have dessert” card. They refuse again and start screaming while pounding their fists on the floor that they absolutely will NOT touch those green beans! You’re absolutely sure at this point that a demon must have possessed your sweet, behaved, well-adjusted 3 year old. Of course you know that they are just testing boundaries and exercising their growing sense of independence and will-power. That knowledge doesn’t help in the moment though, and you still need to make sure your child grows up without vitamin deficiencies and health problems.
So what’s a mom to do? The greatest piece of advice I ever received came from a mom of four little girls. She told me to stop looking at each day as a failure and to look at what she ate over the course of the week instead. So I did, and I realized that she actually did have a fairly well-rounded appetite for different foods. One day she mostly snacked on fresh fruit. Another day she ate only starchy foods like pretzels and mashed potatoes. Another day was a rare broccoli eating day. Over the course of the week she did get most of what she needed in her diet. I breathed a sigh of relief though knowing that I most likely would not have to take her to see the pediatrician for scurvy, rickets, or anemia.
My daughter is four now and sometimes pickier than ever. She has great days where she eats fruits, protein, and vegetables. Some days the stubborn child refuses to eat anything but chicken nuggets. I have learned a few tricks for sneaking more vitamins and minerals into her little body. The best part is that she has no idea.
Use these 10 easy foods to trick your picky eaters
Smoothies are without a doubt my go-to for quick healthy breakfasts, snacks, and sometimes even dinner. My daughter’s favorite smoothie recipe is 1 frozen banana, 4 frozen strawberries, 1 cup almond milk, and sometimes blueberries. Her other favorite is frozen banana, almond milk, peanut butter, and chocolate protein powder. Whatever smoothie I make I always mix 1 teaspoon of cod liver oil (I promise you can’t taste it!), chia seeds, and sometimes vitamin D drops. Smoothies are so versatile and the base flavors are so strong that you can hide pretty much whatever you want in them and get away with it.
My family loves a good meatball. They also love meatloaf, which is essentially the same thing, but made in a bread pan. I love making meatballs with lean ground turkey, farm fresh eggs, cooked quinoa, dried crushed basil, wheat germ, shredded carrots, diced onion, and basically whatever other healthy ingredients I feel like dicing small enough to be hidden. Whatever your family meatloaf recipe, you can pretty much substitute in healthier ingredients without your kids having any idea you did anything different.
Popsicles are so much fun to let your child make for themselves. Let them pick out their favorite juice and some frozen fruit and mix together the ingredients in popsicle holders as a fun after school snack or after dinner treat. Kids always want to eat what they picked out and made for themselves. We really love our Zoku popsicle maker, which you can find at http://www.zokuhome.com/ . Of course you can always make them old school with Dixie cups and popsicle sticks.
This is a trick I learned that my mom pulled on me when I was a kid. Whenever we ate anything at all we would ask her, “What are these little green things???” Her response was always, “Oh, it’s just seasonings honey.” And we believed her. I know now that she would pulse broccoli in the blender and add it to our pasta sauce. She would chop spinach really fine and toss it in salads. Basically anything that she could pretend that the little green things we were eating were parsley, basil, or oregano, we believed her. And she got away with it for twenty years. Now I dehydrate spinach, kale, collard greens and basil and crumble it into “seasoning.” You can toss a small handful into any marinara based pasta, pizza sauce, mix it with breadcrumbs for coating any meat, and throw some into your homemade meatballs. It’s versatile, they can’t taste it, and it packs an extra nutritional punch.
Soups are a tricky one to pull off. First, your child has to actually be willing to eat soup. If that isn’t the case, move on to number 6. My kid on occasion actually requests soup for dinner, and I am more than happy to oblige. I base all of my soups with homemade bone broth. If you don’t know what it is or how to make it, I highly recommend learning how from the nourished kitchen at http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broth/ . From there I chop up a bunch of vegetables I know my daughter will eat, like carrots, celery, and onion and then I add in the pasta of her choice. Sometimes it is the vegetable pasta “wacky mac” and sometimes it’s the fun star shaped mini pasta. Soup is the meal I cook when I want to use up some of the vegetables in the fridge and make room for new produce.
Just this morning I made banana muffins with buckwheat flour, wheat germ, bananas (obviously), blueberries, and poppy seeds. Any muffin recipe can be made healthier by substituting wheat in for white flour and honey in for sugar. You can add flax seed meal, almond flour, chia seeds, poppy seeds, wheat germ, oils…the list goes on and on. Your kid will never know.
7. Fried rice
To make fried rice, I start by cooking rice in my rice cooker with bone broth instead of water. When it’s done I fry a few eggs, chop vegetables, add a bit of “seasoning” and toss it all together in a pan with the rice and some liquid aminos (instead of soy sauce). It is so quick and easy, and it is one of my daughter’s favorite meals. My husband actually likes my fried rice better than the takeout Chinese food rice.
Same concept as muffins, but shaped like a cookie. Your kid will never know that you used chocolate vitamin mix instead of cocoa and whole wheat flour instead of white. I promise you.
9. Macaroni and cheese
Macaroni and cheese is a great meal for hiding small amounts of the foods your child will not touch under any circumstances. Butternut squash and cauliflower for example, when steamed and mashed, incorporate wonderfully into rich cheesy sauces.
10. Taco or sloppy joes meat
I always dice up green peppers and onions into my taco and sloppy joe meat. The family doesn’t notice, it tastes great, and it gets hidden by all of the delicious spices, sauces, and toppings. You can also add in antioxidant rich turmeric to both of these dishes.
There you have it. My ten basic ways for fooling my picky eater into eating fruits and vegetables. What are some of the ways that you get your picky eater to try new foods? Do you fool your kids like I do? I’d love to hear some of your ideas!