And the not-so-mysterious breakdown of whether to hide vegetables in your toddler or older child’s food!
What’s the big deal with recipes with hidden veggies?
Well, remember the days when Uncle Joe used to create flying planes out of spoonfuls of food with hidden veggies? And the kids thought it was great fun? Until they were presented with the exact same vegetable in its glorious natural form and bam – immediate food refusal!
So just imagine how it would feel if you could cook just one meal every night and the kids came happily to the table?
No crying, drama or a thousand reminders. Everyone eats the same foods, including vegetables.
Sounds amazing right?
Well, I’m going to show you why recipes with hidden veggies are NOT a good idea and what you should be doing instead.
Because look I get it.
You just want to see your child eat a healthy diet.
Help them get enough fibre so they can poop and minimise their chance of constipation.
Or maybe you worry that your child won’t get enough vitamins and minerals that fruit and vegetables have to offer.
Listen, I’m a mum to two girls. So like you, I worry about all of this too.
But as a paediatric dietitian specialising in children with feeding difficulties and tummy troubles, here’s what I recommend you do.
How to hide vegetables in recipes for toddlers
So it’s time to stop googling for recipes with hidden veggies.
If a recipe like risotto or fried rice calls for vegetables to be chopped finely or into bite-sized pieces, then perfect, do it.
It’s a brilliant way to help children become familiar and comfortable with a wide variety of flavours and textures.
The key here is to get them to help you in the kitchen.
But they don’t need to prepare the dish from start to finish.
Instead, could they fetch the vegetables, wash them and once it has been chopped, transfer them into the wok or frying pan for you?
Give them just the fun jobs in the kitchen.
This helps them associate fun and happy memories with these foods.
What about hidden veggie muffins?
Yes! I love breakfast-style muffins that include vegetables as an ingredient.
I’m loving the sound of this Cheesy Courgette Muffin recipe from Tesco.
It’s a wonderful way to introduce courgettes to your children.
Courgettes are very similar in appearance to cucumbers so if they like that, then they are bound to learn to love courgettes too.
Recipes with hidden veggie snacks
By now you know that I’m not a fan of deceiving the children with hidden veggies in anything!
However, if you’ve prepared frittatas, bread or muffins that include vegetables, don’t be afraid to be transparent with your children about what’s inside.
Let them smell the food and enjoy taking small bites of the homemade snacks to fully experience the flavours.
They may refuse it at first, but if you keep offering it, they will learn to enjoy these foods.
Are smoothies okay as a recipe with hidden veggies?
Smoothies can be popular amongst children, particularly if they mostly contain fruit.
The sweet flavours of fruit can be refreshing particularly in summer.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Fruit or vegetables in a smoothie can count towards your child’s intake of fruit and veggies for the day.
But hidden veggie meals are a no, no for me.
So instead, if you do make smoothies, make it together and let the kids know what goes into their smoothies.
Here are some of our favourite smoothie recipes.
Strawberry banana smoothie
- 1 banana
- A small handful of strawberries (frozen are okay too)
- Splash of cow’s milk or plant drink
- A few fresh mint leaves
Now mix all the ingredients together and enjoy!
Green smoothies for kids
For kid-friendly smoothies for kids, you can use milder-tasting vegetables with fruit and ice for a pleasant flavour.
- Small handful of baby spinach
- 1 mango, diced or frozen mango pieces
- 2 kiwifruits
- ½ teaspoon chia seeds
- Splash of water or plant drink
Now blend and pour into cups and serve immediately.
This recipe can be handy for children who are prone to constipation.
What if my child is a picky eater and will only eat foods with hidden veggies?
A lovely parent inside Fussy Eating Solutions Programme shared how smoothies were the only way of getting vegetables into her daughter.
So imagine her shock and upset when her five-year-old daughter suddenly refused it and would no longer drink smoothies.
Hidden vegetables in recipes might feel like an insurance policy but it can undermine your child’s trust and confidence in what you serve at meals.
That’s why inside Fussy Eating Solutions Programme I show you how to empower your kids so that they go from being scared to excited to try new foods.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but with patience, consistency and the strategies that I teach you inside the programme, you will get results.
If the doors are currently closed, join the waiting list and I’ll let you know as soon as you can join the small group coaching.
If your toddler or older child refuses vegetables then chances are, you’ve got into the habit of relying on recipes with hidden veggies to get their daily dose of vitamins and minerals in.
But this can easily backfire if they start to refuse the ‘special recipes’. You can end up getting right back to square one.
To help your child learn to love vegetables, ask them to help you cook the special recipe with the ‘hidden veggies’. This can help increase both familiarity and curiosity to try new foods.
Let Me Help
Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?
No matter what you are worried about, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.