I may have won some healthy food battles with my child -- like our two-hour “Blueberry Battle of 2010” -- but I won’t win the war. I realize now that you can’t make your children eat foods they don’t want to eat. Fights are a waste of time, including the aforementioned 120 minutes I spent negotiating with my toddler to eat four blueberries.
So, if you don’t have one of those impossibly agreeable children who eat everything, you have to get crafty. Here are some tricks I use to get veggies into my kids’ diets.
Perk up the Presentation.
Food displayed attractively on a plate does make kids -- and grown-ups too, for that matter -- want to eat it. My tools of the trade are cookie cutters and tooth picks with decorative tips, like umbrellas and flags. Channel your internal artist to create a funny plate face with grape tomato eyes, a baby carrot nose, and a pepper strip smile. I even once created a boat with an apple hull and a toothpick mast with cucumber slice sails. Impressive, I know.
Dip It Good.
Veggies are more fun to eat as finger foods, dipped into something delicious. Ranch dressing has always been our go-to choice, although my daughter has been known to dip carrots into ketchup. Spreads, especially peanut butter and nutella, are great paired with almost any fruit or veggie.
The Power of Purees.
Purees are the Trojan Horse of nutrition, easily hidden into sauces, soups, and baked goods. Bake, roast, or braise your veggies. Using a food processor or blender, break up the solids into a smooth, colorful puree. Then, get creative. I’ve made “pink pancakes” with beet puree and applesauce, mac and cheese with cauliflower puree, and muffins with just about everything.
If you don’t have the time to create your own purees, use baby food, canned pumpkin, or applesauce. I always have jars of sweet potato and squash to add a quick hit to Sunday morning pancakes.
Dessertify Those Dreaded Veggies.
Get out the blender again, and make a smoothie. This is your chance to get some spinach in there! I learned to make sure there's a sweet ingredient, like a banana or apple, in the mix.
On a few frustrating occasions, my daughter didn’t like her smoothies. I froze those into molds and introduced them a week later in popsicle form. Usually I use milk or yogurt, but occasionally, I’ll include a dollop of low-fat ice cream and call it a milkshake. That word has magical powers!
Ultimately, you have to give up the power struggle. Vary their diets as much as possible, give them a daily vitamin, and ask your pediatrician if additional supplementation, such as a meal replacement drink, is needed.
Traci L. Suppa thinks time travel is the only explanation for her son turning 13 this year. Her six-year old daughter brings the glam to their crazy household. In addition to her own family travel blog, Go BIG or Go Home, Traci is a contributing blogger for FamilyVacationCritic.com and has written for WomansDay.com and NewParent.com.