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Extension Spotlight: Picky eaters

January 30, 2019 GMT

Does your dinner routine look similar to this? You make a meal and it’s loaded with vegetables, but then your kids stick their noses up at it and pick at the parts they want, leaving the rest to be thrown away.

You decide that any food is better than none, so you make them their own meal of mac and cheese because you know it will get eaten. You also know they really need their fruits and vegetables. You’re not alone! The number one comment that parents make about the eating habits of their children is that they hate vegetables and refuse to eat them.

Many cookbooks have been made on this subject that suggest hiding vegetables in recipes. There have been critics who say children should just get used to eating them and not have them “hidden.” As parents, we do what we can to ensure our children are getting well balanced meals. Here are some ideas to incorporate vegetables into meals that kids will enjoy!

First, pick a few meals you know your children love. Do they love mac and cheese? Spaghetti? Lasagna? What about sloppy joe’s? All of these recipes can be loaded with vegetables and still be crowd pleasers for even the pickiest palate.

Muffins are another fun way to incorporate veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes and zucchini, and you could even make veggie quiche muffins that are loaded with protein and vegetables and are a savory treat.

The Food Hero Skillet Lasagna recipe is packed with spinach and tomato sauce, as well as ground beef, whole grain pasta, and cottage cheese which checks off four out of five food groups. Frozen spinach is a great addition to pasta sauces because the flavor is mild but it’s loaded with nutrients.

Garden Sloppy Joes have mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and onion, and I’ve even added zucchini to them and kids love the flavor.

You can always go the smoothie route for a quick and easy recipe that’s sure to please. The Food Hero fruit smoothie with yogurt is easily adapted to add vegetables in addition to fruits. Try adding frozen carrots, beets, bell peppers, and spinach to a smoothie.

A little bit goes a long way, so when the recipe calls for two cups of fruit, try substituting ½ cup of vegetables and 1 ½ cups of fruit.

Some vegetables, like spinach and carrots, really compliment or are hidden in smoothies, so you can add a bit more and your kids will never know.

Color is important when making smoothies for your children, so think back to elementary art class and what colors complement each other when choosing fruits and veggies. For instance, you might not want to add spinach to a smoothie made of red and orange fruits, or it could turn brown. But, adding spinach to a blueberry smoothie would just deepen the color or adding it to a pale yellow or white smoothie would turn it green, in which case you could name it something fun like The Green Monster or Incredible Hulk. FoodHero.org has a green smoothie called the Popeye Power Smoothie that’s a huge hit with kids.

However you decide to incorporate more veggies, make it fun! Have your children help you in the kitchen and they’ll be more willing to try new foods. Let them play with their foods! Do a rainbow veggie plate, or give them a handful of various raw fruits and veggies and let them create a masterpiece before eating it. The more opportunities children are offered a variety of vegetables, the higher their chances of trying new foods will be!