Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about how to make your kids fall in love with broccoli by letting them ‘help you make dinner’ or some other ‘useful’ advice. That doesn’t work, I’ve tried.
But it is a post about the desperate measures a parent will go to to get their little ones to consume some nutrition (or just something other than white food as is the case with my little carb-lovers).
My boys, aged four and two, turn their noses up at anything green on their plate and the only vegetable they will willingly eat is corn on the cob – gnawing it chipmunk style.
But, they do eat vegetables, because I am a desperate mum who fools them into doing so and I am here to share my sneaky ways with you, too.
1. Tell them raw carrots are treats and they are only allowed ONE
I give my boys raw carrots like they’re Zooper-Doopers. I peel them and then wrap a piece of paper towel around the bottom of them so they have a handle, then I tell my kidlets that they are only “allowed one carrot because raw carrots are special treats and I don’t want to hear them ask me for another.”
Sometimes I even refuse to give them a carrot when they are hungry, just to keep my “carrots aren’t healthy so you can’t have too many of them” lie alive. This trick only works with raw carrots as my sons associate the cooked ones with dinner – “Oh, yucky!”
2. Make ‘blueberry’ smoothies
My boys love a smoothie or homemade juice but they hate the noise of the Nutribullet when I make them. So of course I use this to my advantage *taps fingers together*.
Before turning on the scary ‘whizzer’, I ask my little guys to put in all the things they’d like in their smoothie – like little handfuls of frozen blueberries, a banana, some strawberries, a squirt of honey and some spoonfuls of wheat germ and LSA mix (they love to scoop!).
Then I plonk them in front of Peppa Pig, close the door and quickly chuck in any vegetables, like spinach leaves, cucumber, carrot and avocado that I can find. Then I add either milk or juice and do a quick, ‘is this sweet enough to fool them’ taste test before I give it to them and they chirp, “Yay! Blueberry smoothie” (little do they know).
The trick is to mask the colour and flavour of your mum-shake with blueberries, which are a superfruit anyway and thankfully turn everything purple!
3. Build a train track using bite bribes
When my train-obsessed toddler is being particularly annoying with eating dinner, we let him build a train track with Daddy. The catch is, Dad will only click on another piece of track if he takes a bite, chews and swallows his food. See desperate, I tell you! It works though.
4. Give veggie snacks but call them something else
My four-year-old believes seaweed snacks are a treat because I do the same “not too many” carrot trick with him when he asks for them. I also call them “paper biscuits”, because biscuits fall into the ‘special foods’ category in his mind.
Also, once a week I slice a sweet potato into circles, cook them and pop them in the fridge. Then I give these to my boys as snacks whenever. Going to the park? Pack the drink bottle, hats, popcorn and a couple of sweet potato circles, but I call them ‘circles’- lest I mention the forbidden vegetable name.
5. Sneak them in
I know I’m not the only mum to puree vegetables and add them to a spag bol sauce, grate them up into a pasta bake or make a zucchini slice masking the flavour with cheese and bacon. My other tricks include making mashed potato with a little sweet potato mixed in and calling it ‘orange mash’.
6. Use saucery
Then, some nights I have to pull out all my magic, AKA, a bottle of tommy sauce. I buy the low salt version to ease my guilt, then I let my kids drown the nutritious dinner I’ve slaved over making them in tomato sauce. But it works, as long as I’ve done the next tip.
7. Starve them before dinner
Of course I always find if my boys are hungry, they’re more inclined to eat dinner and that includes whatever veggies I’ve snuck in. This means snacks after 4pm will butcher my chances of them eating their dinner. I have to be strong with this one and not buckle to the, “but I’m still hungry!” whines but when I am, I am rewarded with empty plates and full bellies.
8. Make a face plate
Who hasn’t done this one? Using whatever I have to work with, I get all Picasso on my boys’ dinner and turn it into a face – carrots for eyes, a blob of mash for a noise, some chicken strips for a mouth, you get the idea.
Now, if you want some actual professional tips from a nutritionist on how to get your fussy eaters to eat more veggies, this is a great read by a paediatric dietitian.
Good luck fellow desperate Mama!