Friday, August 27, 2010

Feeding picky eaters


I have some tricks up my sleeve for getting picky eaters (of which my husband and daughter are the pickiest!) to eat their veggies.

In my experience, tucking the (offensive) vegetable in with meat and a starch works wonderfully. Seriously, this little discovery has changed our lives. We have a much broader diet these days. In the past, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and even squash were on the list of banished veggies. We subsisted much of the time on carrots, peas, and beans.

No more. Last night’s dinner consisted of organic pasta, mild Italian sausage, and yes (gasp!) cauliflower. It certainly helps when the vegetable blends into the dish, as in the above photo. And, texture is a key here, too. You want the cauliflower to be tender enough that it isn’t offensive on the discriminating palate. A little butter never hurts either. Another key is to make the pieces very small. Even mash it if possible. Trust me, this works. We’ve also enjoyed some mashed acorn squash mixed in with some chicken and rice this week. No one was the wiser. (Mama smiles.)

Cauliflower is probably the easiest vegetable to start with. It has a mild flavor and blends in easily. Just steam it until tender, add a little butter, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then, mash or finely chop it, and add it to your dish. You can also do the same with broccoli. For winter squash, cut it in half (or quarters depending on it’s size), scoop out the seeds, and rub the flesh with a little extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Roast it in the oven @ 400 degrees F for about an hour or until tender. Then scoop out the flesh, mash it, and add it to your dish. YUM!

I’ve also been know to add finely shredded kale to spaghetti sauce. It doesn’t need to be steamed first. Super easy and delicious. The sauce will look like you went heavy on the herbs. Soups and stews are another great way to slip in noxious (to them) veggies. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a sneaky chef. Good nutrition is important. It’s a priority around here.

Here’s one of our favorite easy recipes if you need a jumping off point:

Just be sure to chop the vegetables very finely at first. As your diners realize that they actually like their veggies, you can chop them more coarsely.


Berit said...

lol it was always "Well, I guess you aren't hungry enough." When I was growing up! And, it still is. I'm convinced that if there are no alternatives a person will eat. (Maybe not this meal, but the next for sure). You just have to be hard-hearted enough to remove the alternatives!

It's hard for me to not understand liking those vegetables; cauliflower is a LIVESAVER for me as someone who is on a VERY restricted diet (No fermented things; so no vinegar--or anything made with vinegar, fermented cheese, mushrooms, starch, starchy vegetables, flour. I eat meat and vegetables in a 1:2 physical ratio. Additionally, I'm limiting my "nightshades" so I can only have a bit of tomato a couple of times a week.) Cauliflower is GREAT because it's an awesome "rice" substitute, and helps you feel like you're eating something for dinner other than 4-8 oz of meat with lettuce and cucumbers dressed with EVOO and Lemon. :P

My lunch until I started school was cottage cheese with spinach or mashed brussels sprouts, I'm told, and though I may not have been looking forward to the green beans on my plate at dinner I ate them without complaint.

I sure am lucky, right? And Dear Marc eats EVERYTHING except for dried fruit and Melons (He hates any melon, lol!) I think it's something to do with his Filipina mom's upbringing.

That aside, I love your strategies to improve their diet in spite of pickiness--studies show that diversification of food might be the key factor to health. The more various foods you eat in a week the better your health often is--even if some of them are "unhealthy". One of the biggest problems with the American diet is a lack of diversity. Well, I could go on about this for a while, so I'd better scoot!

Oh, have you tried mashed/creamed cauliflower on them? Boil it in clumps with chicken stock and garlic cloves, transfer with slotted spoon to stand mixer, whiz it up and toss in some butter, pepper...maybe even some nice parm or asiago cheese; a glug of cream...a slice or two of cream cheese...This is a "heaven can wait" recipe. As rich and celebratory as mashed potatoes without the resulting food coma!

The Mac's House said...


I've started doing this with our 2 year old granddaughter who lives with us. She is nuts over pasta and sauce but not much else, so now I'm cooking up carrots and mashing them into the sauce as well as spinach and anything else I can get in there. She drives me crazy with her "shaking head" no reference to anything on the plate that she doesn't think she will like even if she hasn't even tried it.


I will try some of these ideas as well. Thanks!


Melissa @ Sweet Homestead Alabama said...

Berit, your mashed cauliflower sounds divine! I'll be giving that recipe a try VERY soon. And you're right. Dinnertime goes much more smoothly when you put your chosen meal on your child's plate and EXPECT them to eat or else go hungry. That's always how things worked when I was growing up. And it's what I've done around here until my daughter came along and often did choose to go hungry rather than eat something that didn't appeal to her. She would actually gag if I required her to take a bite of something she didn't like. And she's a skinny little thing.

I never had this problem with her older brother, who like myself, eats any and every veggie with glee. Broccoli is his favorite food. Seriously. All I can imagine is that she got my husband's very particular taste buds. (His mama did not make him eat anything he didn't want to growing up. I would imagine entire weeks went by and the kid wouldn't have so much as looked at a piece of fruit or eaten a vegetable. Boo!!!) It's been a slow-go converting these two over, but well worth the battle. My honey has even admitted that cauliflower and broccoli aren't so bad after all. Not exactly a compliment, but I'll take it! And my sweet baby girl proclaimed just this week that she LOVES cauliflower now. : )

Melissa @ Sweet Homestead Alabama said...

Teri, I feel your pain. It's so frustrating when a child refuses to eat what's good for them. Keep at it though! She'll learn, in time, to appreciate all those funny looking veggies. I'm glad to give you some ideas to help you along in that department!

Rhetta @ On Raspberry Hill said...

Wonderful info! Wish I'd been more deceptive when my girl was little. Now 28, she eats everything--even things I don't like! However, her little guy is a picky eater. Next time Ethan comes for a visit, he'll get some nutritious veggies and be none the wiser. Meanwhile I'll pass your tips on to his mommy.


You can also used the water from the vegetable steaming to cook your pasta or potatoes.

Ann said...

I still don't understand why my son doesn't like most veg, we love all veg and no amount of encouragement would get him to eat it when he was little. Now he's 40 and still only eats a very limited variety of veg, wish I'd thought of the disguising method!!!

Berit said...

It's true that your taste buds change over time. You know, my dear Marc is now eating a lot of things of all types he didn't like before we got together; for example he takes his steak medium or less. Also, he LIKES brussels sprouts (before he said he hated them 'cause they're mushy and stink up the whole house. I get those microwave bags (just like popcorn!) or them and they are real lifesaver on busy nights. Plus they are fresher than I can find them "fresh". I like the Birdseye and pictsweet brands.

Ooh; another thing we REALLY LIKE is Turnip Fries. You cut 'em up, oil and season them and roast 'em in the oven like oven fries. Awesome with no salt or sugar-free ketchup. They do have a bitterish (acquired) taste your sweet DD may balk at; so you can soak them in something dairy to draw it out. Or, I just season and live with it.!

joolzmac said...

Hello Melissa

I 'hide' zucchini and carrots (grated0 in my spaghetti sauce (it pulps down nicely) so my kids never knew they were getting a serve of veggies when eating spaghetti & meatballs. I love being sneaky that way!

Have just found your blog so will have a browse and visit again.

Cheers - Joolz (Australia)