Getting kids to eat their vegetables can be challenging on a good day, and when you add in food allergies and sensitivities, aversions to certain tastes and textures, and power struggles, it can feel downright impossible. As the mother of a picky eater, I’ve tried every trick in the book to get my sweet girl to expand her diet and eat more vegetables over the years. It used to feel like an uphill battle I would never win, but we’ve made great strides as she’s gotten older. She’s more receptive to the idea of trying new foods, and thanks to these hidden veggie recipes for kids, I don’t sweat the picky eating like I once did.
Keep reading for my best tips to curb picky eating, along with 24 family-friendly hidden veggie recipes your kids will love!
How to Deal with Picky Eaters: 6 Tips
1. FOLLOW A CONSISTENT EATING SCHEDULE
If you have a picky eater in your household, creating and maintaining a regular eating schedule can be very helpful as it will keep your little one’s blood sugar stable, and will ensure he or she doesn’t feel too full or too hungry at meals, which will [hopefully] make him or her more willing to try new foods. A good rule of thumb is to offer 3 meals with snacks in between, ensuring your child is eating every 2-3 hours. If your child refuses the food you are serving, he or she will have to wait until the next snack or meal, but you can rest easy knowing the time between meals and snacks isn’t very long.
2. GIVE YOUR CHILD CONTROL
Another great tip for parents who want to know how to deal with picky eaters is to offer more control. Search for recipes together, create a meal plan, take your child grocery shopping with you, and get him or her involved in the kitchen. By allowing your child control over the foods he or she consumes, you will avoid power struggles and have an opportunity to teach him or her healthy eating habits along the way.
Keep in mind that there needs to be some balance. You want your child to feel as though they have a choice in what they eat, but you still want to ensure they’re eating a healthy and nutritious diet. A great way to achieve this is to offer choices within the same food category. So, instead of giving the option between vegetables and cookies, ask your child to choose between carrots, peas, or green beans.
3. APPEAL TO YOUR CHILD’S SENSES
If your child is a picky eater due to sensory issues, use that to your advantage. If he or she prefers crunchy foods over soft textures, focus on finding healthy options that appeal to him or her, like celery, carrot sticks, crisp apples, and granola bars. Still struggling? Get creative! Pop some blueberries, strawberries, and banana slices in the freezer overnight, add Grape-Nuts Cereal to Greek yogurt, try Martha Stewart’s Cornflake-Crusted Baked Chicken recipe…you get the idea.
5. ALWAYS SERVE SOMETHING THEY LIKE
I’ve read a ton of articles and books about how to deal with picky eaters, and one strategy that has been recommended to me countless times is to offer new things at meals, but to always include 1-2 foods you know your little one likes. I have been using this technique for years, and while my daughter doesn’t always agree to try everything on her plate, I often catch her sampling new foods when she doesn’t think I’m looking.
5. DON’T OFFER BRIBES
Many parents use dessert to bribe their children to eat their veggies, but few people realize that this approach can actually backfire. By offering a treat in exchange for 2 bites of broccoli (for example), you’re teaching your child that broccoli is something undesirable, making them less likely to try it again unless a reward is offered to compensate. Bribing kids with dessert also sets the stage for emotional eating down the road, and since a child will almost always eat dessert regardless of how full they are, it also encourages them to overeat.
6. ‘YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT IT’
Another one of my favorite tips for parents of picky eaters comes from an article I read a few years ago. I don’t know who wrote it or what website or magazine I found it in, but the premise of the article was to reinforce the fact that our job as parents is to provide our kids with 3 healthy meals and 2 healthy snacks each day, and that our child’s job is to eat it. That’s it. So rather than accommodating different requests and getting angry when your child refuses to eat whatever you’ve put on his or her plate, the author of the article suggested avoiding any conversation about the meal completely. Simply place it in front of your child, and if he or she complains about one or more of the food items on his or her plate, say ‘you don’t have to eat it’ and change the subject. This avoids big emotions and power struggles, and ensures mealtimes aren’t stressful.
12 Hidden Veggie Recipes for Kids [MEALS]
Hidden Veggie Smoothies | The Everyday Mom Life
Butternut Squash Waffles | Morton’s Grove
Hidden Veggie Pizza Bread | My Kids Lick the Bowl
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese | My Fussy Eater
Chicken Meatballs with Hidden Veggies | Life on Beacon
Veggie Loaded Tomato Sauce | Baby Foode
Crispy Zucchini Fries | Mas & Pas
Kid-Approved Cauliflower Tots | Healthy Little Foodies
Sneaky Veggie Enchiladas | goodcook
Veggie Packed Pizza Rolls | Super Healthy Kids
Hidden Vegetable Baked Meatballs | Squirrels of a Feather
Homemade Chicken Nuggets with Hidden Vegetables | Cooking for Busy Mums
12 Hidden Veggie Recipes for Kids [DESSERTS]
Cauliflower Cookies with Peanut Butter | Vitacost.com
Super Healthy Fudge Pops with Hidden Veggies | The Natural Nurturer
Hidden Veggie Popsicles | My Home Based Life
Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins | A Baking Journey
Sweet Potato Banana Bites | Charisse You
Hidden Veggie Rainbow Popsicles | Totally The Bomb
Homemade Fruit Snacks with Hidden Veggies | Dessert for Two
Healthy Hidden Veggie Whoopie Pies | Yummly
Hidden Veggie Smoothie Pops | Simply Today Life
Veggie Brownies | The Hidden Veggies
Homemade Fruit Leather with Hidden Veggies | Wellness Mama
Flourless Sweet Potato Chocolate Cake | The Big Man’s World
If you want to know how to deal with picky eaters, I hope the tips in this post help you as much as they’ve helped me, and that my collection of hidden veggie recipes for kids inspires you to find new and creative ways to get your little ones to eat vegetables…even if they don’t know they’re doing it!