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The secret to get your kid to eat more veggies – and fruit

One year for Christmas, my ingenious sister-in-law gave me this fancy blender.

Because new moms need blenders. To make baby food.

You know, like, soupy purees, where avocado and peas and broccoli all look exactly the same. So if baby hates the pea-green one, baby is gonna look at you sideways when you pull out the avocado one and coo, “Look, it’s a completely different shade of green, I swear this one is different and you’ll totally love it.” Green is green, momma.

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8 tips to get more veggies - AND FRUIT - into your kid's mouth and your life. Inspired by Dr. Seuss. Smoothie recipe included.


I did make purees for about two weeks for baby #1. During which time I felt very smug and looked down on all the moms who went the store-bought puree route. (Because baby food should be part of the mommy wars.)

Then a friend turned me on to baby-led weaning. Where I steamed random veggies and sliced fruit into long strips that baby could easily grasp and gum to death. It’s a huge frikkin’ mess, but my little guys LOVED having complete control over what went in their mouths. Plus, no more “open the hanger, the airplane is coming in for a landing!” And they learned to distinguish between peas (gross) and avocado (so.much.yum!)

So the blender sat in the cabinet. And the years rolled by.

My kiddos turned into toddlers and preschoolers and convincing them to eat peas or avocados became a losing battle.


I tried lots of things. Before I discovered the secret to get my boys to eat fruits and veggies.

1. Bribery.
I’m anti-bribery, but I’ll stoop pretty low to build healthy eating habits. Yep, that makes complete sense. You want cake? Fine, after you eat 10 grapes. You want more french fries? Sure, first finish your cucumbers. Quid pro quo, baby.

2. The fear of missing out.
Ooh, look at momma’s bowl of beautiful pineapple. It’s as tasty as it is pink! Momma is super lucky to eat ALL of it. Yummmy! Hm, wow, only two pieces left and I’m getting so full. What should mommy do with these last bites of this heavenly sweetness?

These theatrics are mostly met with blank stairs. Instead of falling for my FOMO tricks, the boys will helpfully offer, “You can put it in the frig for tomorrow!”

3. Hiding veggies in stuff.
Like the time I chopped up cauliflower really thin and dumped it in the chili Rock Star Dad was cooking. I ended up eating chili. By myself. For days. No one was impressed.

Y’all, cauliflower is an underappreciated chili garnish. So says me….Hubby, on the other hand, has banned me from “helping” in the kitchen. This may explain why he’s in charge of meals at our house.

4. Peer pressure.
Whenever we have play dates at our house, I generously offer raisins or celery sticks coated with peanut butter to all the little folks. This way if one of them ventures to eat the goodness, I can bully the others into eating it.

Just kidding. I never do this. Everyone gets goldfish.

5. Ranch dressing.
Y’all, I’m raising my boys up right. Southern girls will eat anything with a little ranch dressing, amiright? So will toddlers.

This works like a charm. Like a very, gunky charm. Kiddo got some veggies, but who can tell if he ate a tomato or a parsnip or a fried onion ring under all that goop.




6. Rhyme time.
I practice the age ole “one bite, two bite, then you’re through bite” bit. As in, if you try the green beans, just two measly bites, you can watch “Cars” all night.

This works well with big brother. Little brother is a different story. The other day I chased him around the house with a small piece of pepper. “All you have to do is take one bite.” He looked at me with a smirk and said, “Or what will the consequences be?” Uh, what 3-year-old says that? Time for momma to get a new trick.

7. Dr. Seuss.
One day me and the boys were reading “Green Eggs and Ham” and I did what every other mom has done since the invention of Dr. Seuss: spinach-scrambled eggs! The boys were intrigued. But I chopped the spinach up and, when all was said and done, they spent 20 minutes picking teenie tiny, green bits out, piling them in the middle of the table.

That experiment clearly went well.

8. Purees.
Which leads me back to my ingenious sister-in-law and the damn blender that I banished to the back of the cabinet when baby #1 was 6 1/2 months old.

The next time we analyzed That-Sam-I-Am’s ridiculous persistence about foxes and boxes, I drug the blender out into the light. I told the boys to each grab a handful of raw spinach and dump it into this Ninja Master Prep and then we took turns working the blender.

The noise and whirly action was thrilling. Next up, I cracked two eggs into a bowl and poured in a little milk. The boys took turns harnessing their aggression and beat the eggs. Then we added the pureed spinach, mixed everything together and transferred it to a cast iron skillet on the stove. The boys hovered around to watch their scrambled eggs turn green.

They were delighted and ATE IT ALL.

Long live purees! The secret to get kiddos of all ages, including mommas, to eat more veggies – and fruit!


My boys puree broccoli and help me make banana-broccoli pancakes. (Simply follow the instructions for your favorite pancake mix and toss in 1 cup of pureed broccoli + one mashed up banana.)

We’ve also been known to go a little crazy and make spinach-banana-avocado pancakes. Or to puree celery and add it to spaghetti sauce.

But SMOOTHIES are by far everyone’s puree-heavy, go-to meal in our house.

brothers_hugging
post-smoothie joy – and brotherly love

Here’s my favorite recipe that the boys (I swear) love to make and love to eat. It makes a good post-grandma detox meal (because in my world, Mimi visits typically involve donuts with butter and hot dogs with bacon.)

Kid-Approved, Veggie-Fruit Smoothies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup of orange juice
1 cup of plain Greek yogurt
1 cup of milk
3 cups raw spinach or kale
3 medium bananas
2 cups of strawberries

Directions:

1. Gather children round to help you.
2. Measure out all ingredients. (Great opportunity for older kiddos to practice math skills.)
3. Dump fruit and veggies into the Ninja Master Prep, aka, your blender.
4. Add OJ, Greek yogurt and milk.
5. Ask your kid science questions: What color do you think we’ll see when we mix the red berries together with the green leaves?
6. Take turns pushing the blender button until everything is nice and smooth.
7. Talk more science: Wow, it’s all green! Wow, it’s purpley polka-dotted!
8. Pour into cups.
9. Indulge together and talk math: How many different fruits are we drinking? How many vegetables?
10. Thank your kids for making such an amazing meal.

Notes:

Add whatever ingredients you want. We’ve experimented with cherry tomatoes, grapefruit, honey, blueberries, pears, mangoes, raspberries, arugula…We draw the line at cauliflower – and definitely at peas. But you do you.

To save time, do some prep work. Peel the bananas, de-leaf (is that word?) the strawberries and freeze them for later use. I also puree kale and spinach, with a little water, and pour the mixture into ice cube trays to freeze. Then I have the green stuff on hand at a moment’s notice and can toss 4 of the “ice” cubes into the blender.

Any blender will work. I like this one because it’s only got one button. And it’s super easy to clean – you can throw everything but the motor (duh) into the dishwasher. (And, nope, this isn’t a sponsored post, the manufacturer doesn’t know I exist. So buy whatever you want.)


Share your favorite veggie and fruit secrets or SMOOTHIE recipes below or on Facebook at MothersRest.


Photo credit, featured image: Natalia Dworniak from Unsplash.com




ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS
Loving these tips mommas shared on Facebook.

First Secret: My husband has kept a massive garden in our backyard since our kids were babies. Both kids have always loved helping him plant, water, and pick. We pull into the driveway in the spring/summer afternoons and they will hop out of the car and head to the backyard to eat their snacks literally off of the vines.

2nd Secret: I set up a big platter in the middle of the dinner table with all kinds of cut up veggies, plus hummus and homemade dip, give my kids plates and tell them they can pick whatever they want to eat. They absolutely love the independence of making their own choices and being able to make their own plates of food. I add in fruit choices once they’ve gotten down a lot of veggies. “Try to eat a rainbow” works, too.
–Cameron, mommy of two


Just figured out a trick that works for my 4-year-old. The brussel sprouts were not quite done when I served her the rest of her dinner and then she saw them on my plate. When she realized I got something she didn’t, she asked for some and then ate a HUGE portion. I think the trick is to make her think it was just something I was going to eat myself that she couldn’t have.
–Crystal, mother of two under 5


I chop up mixed veggies (carrots, corn, peas and green beans) really small and add to a cheese quesadilla.
–Karrie, dog mom, girl mom


I LOOOOOOVE THIS BOOK: 365 Vegan Smoothie recipes!
–Rebecca, girl mom


I add pureed butternut squash to our Mac n cheese. My guy loves it. You really cannot tell a difference. You can also add sweet potato puree.
-Sara, boy mom


I made brussels sprouts mac and cheese recently and my kids devoured it. They have no idea there were veggies in there! The brussel sprouts were shredded and had been cooked already before I baked them in the mac and cheese. I got the recipe from the new Smitten Kitchen Every Day cookbook.
–Kate, mom and daycare headmaster


Wrap things in bacon
–Deanna, mom of two boys

2 thoughts on “The secret to get your kid to eat more veggies – and fruit

  1. Sorry this is long.

    So, I have a slightly different approach because I don’t just want him to have fruits and veggies in his tummy, I want him to like and appreciate them.

    So, I started early and slowly. Here are 2 pieces of broccoli. You don’t have to eat them, but I’m going to put them on your plate. Next week he had to put them in his mouth but could spit them out of he wanted. The following week he had to chew the broccoli, but could still spit it out. Then finally he had to swallow at least one piece. If he still didn’t like it, we talked about it. Was it the smell? The look? The feel? The taste? I always ask what he thinks might make it better. Sometimes he’ll say it’s too mushy, sometimes he thinks lemon juice, garlic, maple syrup, bacon or more pepper will help.

    Then we started over with either a different vegetable OR a different cooking method.

    And now he knows the drill. With a new vegetable or method, we go straight to the “you have to swallow at least one bite” and because we get to skip all the other steps, he’s pretty happy about it.

    We also use the circle method. He uses an adult dinner plate and food is arranged near the outside-a pile of broccoli, a pile of salmon, a pile of couscous, a small cup of yogurt or fruit. His bites have to go around the circle (of course he can have two things in 1 bite, but he can’t eat all the yogurt and then say he’s too full to try the broccoli.)

    It’s made him more adventurous in everything he eats, not just veggies – the kid loves sushi- we don’t fight about it at the table, and he even makes requests for dinner.

    Yes, it was a process, but it wasn’t painful or messy and he knows what he’s eating so he can ask for it again. There’s no skepticism in what I give him to eat – no hidden veggies means he doesn’t have to inspect every bite and he can trust me. And I don’t have to worry about him eating healthy when we go out to dinner.(Bonus, we rarely need kids menus because he’s willing to try so many things now!)

    This method isn’t for everyone and kids will still be kids, but it worked well for us.

    1. Um, this is brilliant! I love the circle idea. And also the process you’ve outlined and how you’ve really involved him in the EXPERIENCE. I’m totally going to try this!!

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