Sneaking in veggies

One of the questions I get pretty frequently is if I plan for Liv to eat the same way I do. Tom and I have talked about this a little bit, but it’s always been understood that she’ll eat like he does: whatever we have or I cook at home, and whatever else we may enjoy while out and about or at friends’ houses. We want Liv to be surrounded by healthy foods to keep her active and thriving, but also have the chance to be a kid and enjoy “kid foods” like chicken nuggets, funfetti cupcakes, milkshakes, whatever she’d like. While we won’t be hitting up McDonald’s every single day, I don’t want any food to be “forbidden” to her. I want her to develop a healthy attitude about food from watching us and figure out her own palate. I’ve heard that usually kids want to eat what their parents eat, so if we’re eating salmon, sweet potato and veggies for dinner, she may want some, too.

salmon salad2

She’ll eat red meat and dairy like her daddy does, but I’m not sure what to say if she gets to the point where she’s wondering why I’m not eating it, too. I was planning on telling her that I really wanted something else instead or I don’t really like the taste of them (which is true), but I could see her responding that she doesn’t like the taste of anything we try to put in front of her. Has anyone dealt with something like this when one partner eats meat and the other doesn’t?

I’ve also been wondering about sneaking in veggies if she decides she hates them. It’s a pretty popular tactic to puree veggies into cheese sauces, and add different fruits or veggies to baked goods for kids to up the nutritional value. Many friends have said it’s a great way to ensure that the kid is getting extra vitamins in their diet when they’re on the chicken nugget, pizza, mac n’ cheese diet.


When I was growing up, I didn’t eat any fruits or vegetables. Ok, scratch that, I ate fruit in the form of roll-ups and tomatoes in the form of enchilada sauce. My mom would buy fresh produce and none of us would eat it, so it would go bad and she eventually stopped buying it. I probably could have used some veggies snuck into my life.

On one hand, I can see how it would be awesome to know that a picky eater is getting in some extra nutrients, but on the other hand, how will they actually learn that they like the incognito fruit or veggie?

What do you think about sneaking in vegetables? Favorite surprise veggie recipe? My only request is no beans in desserts…. those two just will never go together in my brain 😉

If you could declare one thing “the food of your childhood,” what would it be? For me, it was nana’s homemade tortillas spread with strawberry jam and rolled up. We called them “jam things”


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  1. Laura on April 2, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    This was really interesting and thoughtful. It’s amazing how our child can make us re-think or really consider why we choose to eat the way we do and in some cases do better for ourselves and them.

    My childhood food is actually a drink, apple juice. Loved apple juice. I grew up believing that apple juice was how you got rid of colds! Might have to do a little more research into finding some lower sugar apple juice options before I make my little girl an apple juice addict too 😉

  2. Laury on April 2, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Childhood food—macaroni and tomato soup. My mom would make elbow macaroni and add a little butter and a can of tomato soup and it was incredible.

    This is such an interesting topic and my goal right now is introducing Ella to a variety of foods. She has had spices, she LOVES turmeric and cumin (I think we have a future Indian food lover on our hands, which is funny because neither mom or dad “love” it). She loves different veggies, and has even eaten sauteed spinach and kale, but I think after a few bites the texture gets her. I make these awesome little quinoa-garbanzo bean sliders where I add in like 3-4 cups of veggies like kale, spinach, peas, sweet potato, etc. She LOOOOOOVES them. She loves chia seed pudding, and she loves berry millet pancakes, and avocado and banana softserve. It’s so much fun feeding her all of these amazing foods, and seeing her love them. I pray and HOPE that it doesn’t change, from what i hear kids can get picker as time goes on. I just hope introducing her to all of this now will help the cause!

    Love him but my husband is the pickiest, weirdest eater and I know and I am going to do my darndest to make sure Ella is more open minded like me with food! Or else I am moving to Hawaii because they will both drive me crazy! 😉

  3. Kate on April 2, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    My childhood food – my Mum’s slices, ginger crunch was the best!

    I have to say, my little boy is fussy. He didn’t start well with solids, and would have happily stayed on a milk diet forever, but his little body obviously needed real food at some point! I offer him vegetables in their true state so he can experiment and taste everything. But, I also hide veges in food that I know he will eat. He loves anything with mince (I think you call it ground beef in the States) and mashed potato/sweet potato so it’s really easy to hide the ole vegaroos in that sort of meal. I usually grate them so he can see the colour and there is still some texture. I’m possibly making things harder for myself, but I usually end up cooking two meals – one that is toddler friendly and ready at an appropriate time, and a meal for my husband and I. We eat a lot of salads and my boy just won’t eat them. Occasionally there is something in the crockpot that works well for us all as a family!

    At the end of the day, you’ll work it out. I think you have really sound values around food as it is, so I’m sure you will be able to pass them onto your wee gal 🙂

  4. Amy on April 2, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    I don’t sneak vegetables. It is a given though that if you’re eating something I baked there is a high probability that there is vegetable puree, beans or fruit puree in it. If there’s something in there I will tell them. I add puree to most things, always have. I had one sister who would freak out when she found out so I got in the habit of making sure everyone knew, if she knew before hand she was fine. Our oldest boy (11.5 yrs) was not a fan of vegetables so I told him I could put them in his food and he was all over that. He also loves purple smoothies, greens with mixed berries. A few weeks after he turned 10 he said “I am getting to be old enough that I need to start eating more vegetables besides what you put in the food, can you get me salad?” Since then he’s been all over vegetables and fruits. Our middle boy hates meat, we have chicken one night a week and salmon one night a week the rest of the meals are meat free. He refuses to eat the meat. He will eat chicken nuggets when we go out some where for dinner.

    The food of my childhood was beans. We ate a lot of beans in my house growing up. My Dad was enlisted and there were 7 of us children.

  5. Jill on April 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    I was a hot dog kid. Loved ’em! I also loved Kraft Dinner and chicken nuggets. Whenever my mom would be away and my dad had to make supper, it was either chicken nuggets & fries or eggs & hash browns. I’ve always loved fruit but have had to learn/force myself to eat veggies.

  6. Gina @ Running to the Kitchen on April 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Food from childhood? Sunday macaroni and meatballs at my grandparents. 🙂
    As for the “sneaking veggies” thing…and I’ll preface this by saying I don’t have kids nor plan on it, but I think sneaking is the wrong approach. When parents say their kid “only” eats chicken nuggets or fries or “insert bad food for them here” I can’t help but think, well why the hell do you let them eat that or make it an option to begin with? If it’s not in the house, it won’t be a possibility. I think more kids would eat veggies if they’re not given another option. If chicken nuggets aren’t in the freezer, eventually they’ll get hungry enough to eat what is. As you can probably tell, I think I’d fall into the “tough love” approach here. 😉

  7. Ilana on April 2, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I lived on a spaghetti-with-butter-and-cheese diet for most of my youth. I couldve used some sneaky veggies

  8. Kayla on April 2, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    my mom doesn’t eat red meat. She was a vegetarian until she got pregnant with my brother and then added back in fish, chicken and turkey. I actually didn’t even realize until I decided to stop eating red meat when I was 11. Since my parents didn’t make a big deal about that fact that my mom doesn’t eat meat, it never crossed my mind that it was something she did for any particular reason. I don’t think my choice to not eat it was influenced by her, although growing up we were definitely fed more chicken and turkey based recipes because that is what my mom grew up eating with her family.

  9. Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon on April 2, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    I was a very very picky eater as a kid and the only vegetable I really liked was corn! My mom was never pushy with me about it and I eventually grew into the veggie queen that I am today!
    But, I think that getting kids to eat vegetables is all about the way you prepare them. Roasted veggies are so much tastier and more appealing than boiled or steamed veggies. I remember that one of the first vegetables I learned to like after corn was carrot fries–just roasted carrots but sliced thin and with a kid-friendly name!

  10. Averie @ Averie Cooks on April 2, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    We don’t sneak in veggies, never have. We serve them in all their green glory and ever since she had teeth, our 5 year old eats salads with tons of veggies on top of them for dinner right along side us. Isn’t that what everyone eats? 🙂

    She eats anything from fig butter sauteed tempeh to seared sea bass to tofu nuggets with mango & chili spice. Dinner is served, this is what we’re having, eat it kiddo 🙂 And yes, she also has dessert and it’s not “healthy”. It’s a brownie or a sliver of cake. A balance, moderation, exposure to diverse foods. It works for us.

    I don’t make grilled cheese sandwiches on Wonder bread with the crusts cut off and if she truly doesn’t want something, that’s fine. Not everyone likes every single thing but for the most part, we are blessed to have an adventurous eater. Not sure how much my approach is the cause or how much genetics and luck of the draw is the reason…but I’m not complaining.

  11. hippierunner on April 2, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    It’s interesting that you call ‘chicken nuggets, funfetti cupcakes, milkshakes’ “kid food”- sounds more like it could be described as junk food, no? I’m a nanny and have cared for a LOT of kids and different families; none of the babies, toddlers or older children ever seem to have a natural appetite for that food (in fact, today I watched two 2yearolds happily gobbled up edamame, vegetable dumplings and rice with black beans!) . Their ‘kid food’ is baby carrots, yogurt, pita triangles w hummus, orange and apple ‘smiles’, celery sticks, etc. The kids I’ve watched love and enjoy the fresh food they eat, because there’s no reason not to. I think maybe it’s not kid food but ‘typical American food’ you’re planning to incorporate. Just some food for thought! 😉

    • babs on April 4, 2012 at 4:47 am

      I really love your blog Gina, but I was pretty disappointed with this post. I completely agree with Hippierunner’s comment.

    • Fitnessista on April 4, 2012 at 11:18 am

      that’s a great point. for me, growing up, the two (junk food and kid food) were synonymous but i can see how that’s totally different in every family. i could have written a post on why my kids are going to eat hummus and veggies, but that’s just everyday food that’s kind of assumed, ya know? i hope my kids love fresh foods, especially when we lead by example, but if they want some “junk food” that’s totally cool too

      • Debbie on April 5, 2012 at 11:55 am

        I understood what you were trying to get across. McDonald’s or a cupcake once in a while is not going to kill them. Let them be kids! It is all about balance. It is our job to raise our kids to make the correct choices and teach them about a healthy diet and exercize. My 4 yr old daughter has always loved veggies and will try anything. She also understands that we need to keep active and if she eats a lot she always tells me we have to go exercise. When she does have McDonald’s, she chooses the milk and apples vs. fries on her own. But My two year old son is very picky…will not even try veggies, spits them out every time, if I try to hide them, he is like a dog…he sniffs them out, then spits! I have tried everything. It is frustrating but I am not too worried right now..I just try to find other healthy items for him and keep him active. I do put spinach in smoothies to sneak some veggies in because it makes me feel better knowing he is getting some…and my daughter loves that fact that he doesn’t even know he is eating spinach! All kids are different…we do the best we can.

  12. Emily on April 2, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    I have a friend whose elementary-age daughter hates french fries and always goes for the fruit or veggies as a side. My friend is a “dabbling” vegetarian (eats meat sometimes but mostly non-meat diet) and I think her daughter totally learned her healthy eating habits from pure example from mom.

    My siblings and I were all “picky” eaters. My mom is super healthy, but my dad used to make us frozen pizza for breakfast on the “mom days off”. I’m pretty sure my mom’s attempts at introducing healthy food were inadvertently sabotaged by my dad’s habits.

    When the husband and I talk about how we want our 3 month old son to eat in the future, we’re pretty much in agreement to limit sweets and junk food in the every day stuff, and to treat it like it is – treats. He most certainly is going to enjoy chocolate cake and french fries, but as once-in-a-while treats and not in the general meal rotation. He was just diagnosed with a metabolic disorder where he won’t be able to digest some types of proteins. Since he’s still on breastmilk we don’t have to worry about it now and don’t really have an idea yet what this means for a future diet, but it may be a good excuse in the future to turn down excessive goodies from well-meaning relatives that have less than ideal food standards 🙂

    So there’s three perspectives for you!

  13. Abby on April 3, 2012 at 12:25 am

    My 10 month old daughter adores fruits and veggies! She refused to eat pureed baby goods and instead started eating “bites” of my apples(scraping little bits off with her two bottom teeth) at around 7 months old. Now her very favorite thing to eat is salad haha.while i’m sure her eating habits will change as she grows i’m loving that she eats just like me for now! And add far add sneaking in veggies goes,I already do that with husband haha

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2012 at 12:26 am

      hahah same here!

  14. Tara on April 3, 2012 at 12:36 am

    I’m not a mom, but I went vegan for a few months during the same time I was a preschool teacher. Those babies notice EVERYTHING, even when you think they aren’t watching. I always told them “sometimes meat and dairy gives me a tummy ache, and I don’t like when my tummy hurts!!! So Ms. Tara eats things that make my body feel healthy and strong!”. Then sometimes it would lead to a talk about food that is good for our bodies. Aside from that, one thing I liked that we did was mix healthy fruits and veggies with “snack” items. Yes, they had some goldfish but they had some AWESOME oranges too. Most of the time the goldfish were not all eaten because of the excitement of the orange. You live a balanced life. Exemplifying that balance yall have is the best thing you can do!

  15. ashley on April 3, 2012 at 1:19 am

    It seems like smoothies are a great way to sneak fruits and veggies in. When you put a little bit of spinach in a Vitamix, it shreds it up so well that you can’t tell it’s there. Just make sure to add lots of berries and banana so she thinks it’s a sweet treat. I’ve never met a kid that didn’t like berries. My big childhood food of mine was something we called “cut-cut”. It’s jasmine rice mixed with a runny fried egg and you cut it up until the rice is coated with the runny yolk. I tried making it with brown rice and it’s just not the same. 🙁

    • Shelly on April 3, 2012 at 8:45 am

      What about brown jasmine rice? 🙂

  16. Keri on April 3, 2012 at 1:32 am

    We eat a lot of veggies in our house, both as whole and as purees. You can almost guarantee that whenever I use my blender (for whatever meal or snack I am making) there will be spinach in it. My husband and I were joking the other day that my blender wouldn’t work without the spinach. 🙂 I am in the camp that a meal can never have too many vegetables in it!

    We do a lot of juicing too so we all get lots of veggie intake through that. Both of our girls (2.5 years and 15 months) love the juice! It really makes me happy that they are acquiring a taste for it now!

  17. Serena on April 3, 2012 at 4:11 am

    I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years, lacto ovo for most of it but now vegan, and my 13 year old son has been lacto ovo vegetarian since birth (well, techincally since 6 months when I weaned him onto solids!) I’ve had kazillions of people ask me the same question “was it his choice to be vegetarian?” which drives me nuts because was it their children’s choice to be omnivores? I’ve gotten a bit snarky after years of hearing that question and I often say “no, at the time of weaning he wasn’t able to make that choice, did your children make the choice to eat meat? Don’t we as parents have to make choices for our children based on their best interests?” People look at me with wide eyes as though it’s never crossed their mind that eating meat is something some people don’t necessarily take for granted! I’m pretty pleased that now it is an active choice for him, though sometimes I do wonder if down the track he might want to try meat. It’ll be ok though, I have a myriad of hang-ups about food, and I’d rather he make his own choices based on what he thinks is right, rather than my neuroses! My only job is to make sure he understands good nutrition and how it impacts on health. I think I went somewhere off track there…

    Love your blog Gina – I check in religiously every day! <3

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      thank you! 🙂

  18. Joy on April 3, 2012 at 6:44 am

    I didn’t try this (I’m vegan) but my sister made this and my husband will tell anyone it’s the best thing he’s ever eaten

  19. Life's a Bowl on April 3, 2012 at 7:02 am

    My diet consists a lot of produce, grains, some dairy, and white meats and my fiance eats a similar diet with the exception that he also loves red meat [sounds similar to your situation]… I don’t eat much red meat because I’m not a big fan of it’s taste/ texture but if I am out at an event and it is served to me I will eat it. After dealing with my own eating problems, I hope to positively influence my children’s relationship with food but not influence them in terms of what’s “bad” or “good.” I think it’s okay to educate them about the nutrition of foods and what may be a healthier choice but I also agree that they should have the opportunity to experience all the typical kiddy foods…

    My childhood staples definitely would be mac ‘n cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, or pancakes 😛

  20. Life's a Bowl on April 3, 2012 at 7:04 am

    I used to love spinach-artichoke dip but it’s become too rich for my stomach to handle… Until I found out Alouette has a light spreadable spinach artichoke spreadable cheese that is fabulous! Great on top of rice cakes, in wraps, on toast, in pasta…

    • Life's a Bowl on April 3, 2012 at 7:04 am

      …in response to “Ways to make April great”- IDK why it backtracked? Sorry!

  21. Kristen on April 3, 2012 at 7:56 am

    I sneak veggies all the time, even for myself. Sometimes I just don’t want vegetables but I know I need them so I sneak them in. I don’t see the harm as long as kids are exposed to the “real” thing also.

    My favorite childhood food was for sure chicken fingers and Mac and cheese. I think Livi will turn out great. I ate absolute junk all the time but was still exposed to healthy home cooked meals. Now I’m 27 and I love to exercise and eat healthy. So my junk food didn’t ruin me. I plan to do the same with my son. I’ll make sure he gets healthy meals but it’s not the end of the world if he eats nuggets from McDonald’s or birthday cake every now and then. Oh and funfetti cake- THE BEST!

  22. Maureen on April 3, 2012 at 8:14 am

    A couple of thoughts……..

    We’ve always had a one dinner for the family philosophy so it allowed us to expose our daughter to a variety of foods from very early on.

    Second, I really believe strongly in explaining things to children……yes they are young, but they’re people to and sometimes all they want is to understand why you are doing something. So we regularly talk about (without pressure) fruits and vegetables and nutrients (or nutrales as my daughter calls them), healthy foods and “special treat” foods, how that relates to the health of our teeth and growing big and strong. By doing thisour daughter regularly asks for fresh juice, salads and smoothies and understands that we have “everyday eats and sometimes treats.”

    It’s also important to get your child involved in the process of picking food. Now that our daughter is nearly four she gets to pick at least one dinner a week, helps us grocery shop, put away the produce and I think in the end it reinforces healthy choices when she picks a snack……if she knows what is available (because she bagged the apples, cut up the kale, or picked out the pears) I really believe she’s more likely to eat them.

    And finally, with all that said you’d be surprised how quickly children form opinions of their own about food and their preferences. For well over a year our daughter stopped eat all meat (why both her father and I are meat eaters), just after two she simply stopped and would refuse. Yes, I kept putting it on her plate but it also forced me to get creative with other protein alternatives like tofu and beans. I never made it a battle, never forced her to eat just kept offering it while providing other items we knew she (and all of us) would eat. So needless to say I wouldn’t worry about how you or Tom eat and how it will influence your daughter, if anything it will expose her to a great variety of foods but ultimately she will make choices on her own.

  23. Autumn on April 3, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I guess we kind of do both. I don’t go out of my way to sneak veggies in, but sometimes it just makes sense! Of course, we also serve vegetables just as they are. My husband and my younger son are intolerant to gluten/dairy so the rest of us eat that way most of the time too. It’s just easier that way. I’m also a vegan but my kids and husband eat meat/fish/eggs. I make them meat about once a week and I just eat the other parts of the meal. My oldest is 5 and he sometimes would ask why I didn’t eat the meat. I just told him some people choose not to eat meat and he was satisfied with that. I think that my kids don’t think it’s weird because the things I eat when they’re having meat (beans, lentils, tempeh, edamame, etc.), they eat all the time too.

  24. Shelly on April 3, 2012 at 8:43 am

    The food of my childhood? Probably spaghetti with tons of shredded cheese and ketchup! (Sounds horrible but it was so good!)
    My husband and I only eat red meat as an occasional treat and I have no problem telling my future children that we don’t eat red meat b/c it’s not as good for you as white meat, fish, and veggies. Especially after the recent study from Harvard came out linking any kind of red meat to an increased chance of dying. (I’m not however, going to tell them that if they eat red meat they’ll die. haha!) I’ll probably still enjoy a steak once in a while if I’m traveling through a land locked state, but I just plan to tell any kids I have that red meat is just a sometimes treat.
    I also don’t plan to hide veggies but I don’t plan to force them either. My attitude is to present veggies at every meal (easy enough since that’s how we eat anyway) and if my child doesn’t want to eat what I’ve made for dinner- they can have PB on whole wheat or hummus and pita. (I’ve heard that offering an easy, healthy, but non-exciting option is a good way to reduce fights with a picky eater while still encouraging them to try what’s already on the table.) The leftover veggies will get eaten eventually since I am a leftover eating machine. 🙂

  25. Pinky on April 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

    I can’t help but think of the kid from jimmy kimmels “Parent’s eat your kids Halloween candy skit”

    “YOU SNEAKY MOM”!!!! If you haven’t seen the youtube, do yourself a favor, it is HILARIOUS!!! xoxo

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      hahaha i loved that!

  26. Steffany on April 3, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I love sneaking in veggies !! haha and you should rethink the bean thing, because those black bean brownies are AWESOME (even if they smell kind of .. not when you are blending all the ingredients .. almost made me gag the first time, haha)

    • Fitnessista on April 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      i just can’t. haha.

  27. mountain girl heidi on April 3, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I love your comment about no beans in baked goods. I actually tried some black bean and spinach brownies a few weeks ago, and while the taste wasn’t bad, I could barely get it down my throat. I’ll just stick to brownies with butter and flour and cocoa from now on. 🙂

  28. Helen on April 3, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I was a super picky eater growing up, and if given the choice, would have lived off of baked potatoes with cheese. (I still love that….) It was just always assumed, though, that I would eat what was on the table. My mom had a “you have to try it” policy, and if we really didn’t like it then we didn’t have to eat it, but it was her way of ensuring that we got at least a couple bites of brocoli. A friend of mine has a three year old, and she’s said that a lot of it is just expectations. That she acts like it’s perfectly normal for a little kid to eat spinach and that there’s not any other option, and her daughter will sit down and eat it and enjoy it. She also, of course, loves cookies, but by acting like veggies are normal she’s perfectly fine eating them.

    My husband eats meat, and I’m a vegetarian, but we don’t have kids yet, so I’m not sure what to tell you there. We’ve talked about this ourselves and haven’t really come up with a good answer on what to tell them when they ask. I think I’ll probably just end up being honest. It doesn’t bother my husband that he’s eating a cow, so it’s possible that it won’t bother our kids. I think I’ll want them to know my reasoning though, because if they’ll want to be vegetarians we’d both encourage that as long as they were being healthy.

  29. Ali @ Around the VeggieTable on April 3, 2012 at 10:07 am

    I am a vegetarian but my fiance is not. We do not ever have meat in our house though…he eats only what I cook at home, and then when he is out to dinner if he wants to get beef or chicken it’s cool. That is probably going to be my approach with my children as well. I know their grandparents will not feed them the same healthy diet that I will at home, but I don’t want it to be a big deal. Oh and knowing that I’m a veggie now makes the food of my childhood that much more repulsive: Baloney sandwich…with BUTTER. I didn’t like mayo so I would get a thin spread of butter on the bread to keep it moist. So gross now lol. Also that salad looks AMAZING…as do the cupcakes 🙂

  30. Holly on April 3, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I have a 4 1/2 year old and a 3 year old. The 4 year old is very picky and will not (or very rarely) will eat a veggie. But I still put a veggie on his dinner plate every day hoping he’ll eventually at least try it and discover that he likes it. At the same time I still sneak veggies into most meals (ex. pureed carrots in meatloaf) so I know that my kids are at least getting some veggies. I also juice veggies with a fruit and my kids think they are just drinking some fruit juice and love it.

  31. Julie on April 3, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Awesome post! My sister did/is doing exactly what you want to do, and it has worked out great. She pureed her own baby food, and snacks were fruit. Breakfast every morning from the time she began eating solids until about her 2nd birthday, was homemade yogurt mixed with a smashed banana, or sometimes rice with yogurt (she LOVES yogurt rice, just like daddy). Her husband is Indian (the country, not American) and so their diets revolve around grains, vegetables, and small amounts of meat. My niece always had steamed broccoli, sweet potato, okra, rice, and copious fruits. They never have made anything off-limits, so when they make hamburgers, they make a small one and cut it up for her, but she usually eats all the fruits and vegetables/grains and doesn’t touch red meat. She will eat a bit of chicken if daddy marinates it in one of his yogurt curry sauces. She makes the funniest squinty face and says “It’s spicy”, then devours it.

    I will admit, she is a candy FREAK right now (almost 3), but I think it is because they can’t really get her to realize that treats are not for every meal and she gets one treat a day, she doesn’t understand that concept (or she is being a sneaky bug!). Me and my sister had a very extremely disordered view of food thanks to our mother, who still has a few EDNOS and compulsive eating traits, so we both make sure to never say something is “bad” or “good”, as we don’t want her to have the same messed up relationship with food that we had and still struggle with.

    I think if you take the approach they did, offer her a little bit of everything once she is ok to eat all things, while starting off with fruits and vegetables in addition to breastfeeding (little M was breastfed until about 15 months), she will make up her mind really easily and will also love all vegetables and fruits. This past weekend I was eating a huge carrot, and she sat down beside me outside and ate it with me. If she sees you all eating healthy, she will want it/love it too.

    Also, she goes bonkers to be outside, would rather be outside than anything in the world, and it is because every single day they take an evening walk with her (unless it is raining). They started carrying her, then pushing her in a stroller, then she walked with them, and now she has her own little baby stroller I got her, that she puts her dolly in, and pushes her around the block. And their vacations are hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, skiing, and we even enter M into the little “fun runs” at our races, where the small kids run like 1/20 of a mile for fun. It seems like whatever parents do and show that they enjoy doing, from eating to activities/lifestyle/attitude, they very easily adopt those same things. I think your daughter will most definitely be a happy and healthy little girl thanks to you two, she has been blessed with amazing parents!

  32. Laura on April 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I am vegetarian but my husband and our three girls are not. I have told them up front why Momny doesn’t eat meat or fish and they will have spells where they don’t eat meat by choice. I don’t sneak in veggies, but I’m not against it by anymeans (just too lazy to make purées 😉 We do have a three tries rule, though; you must try a food at three different meals before you can tell us you don’t like it .

  33. Mary Anne on April 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I have 10 and 12 year old boys……#1 rule – we aren’t short order cooks here and you must try what’s offered…….I (Or my husband) make 1 dinner which is typically lower carb…….always with vegetables. The greatest piece of advise is expose them and keep exposing them to all different foods (that you are comfortable offering). At breakfast you must have fruit! At school they do choose a fruit and vegetable they like. It’s all about exposure in my book. My youngest actually told me “Mom I used to not like salad at all – now it’s my 2nd favorite vegetable” (He’s a broccoli lover!). Good luck!

  34. mary on April 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I bought the Jessica Seinfeld book on hiding produce in kids’ food and it was a disaster. She puts like .5c of veg in an entire recipe. What’s the point, besides making the whole dish taste like cauliflower or carrots, or be off-color? And it makes your kids distrust you. And wonder why if veg is tasty, it needs hidden.

    I have a picky eater and I’m much more interested in her having a healthy mental/emotional relationship with food than a super healthy diet, so I let her eat what she wants. I keep healthy food around and eat it in front of her but at 11, she picks her own foods. You just can’t force feed, in my opinion. She has friends that are force fed ‘square meals’ and denied any junk food and they’re all the same level of healthiness and fitness, but I think the deprived/forced kids are prone to going overboard on junk when the choice is finally their own. I read a lot about it when she was little and the experts say, “don’t make food an issue and kids will generally make fine choices overall, not each meal, but over the course of time, and that’s what bodies are made of.”

  35. Megan on April 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I ate what my parents ate, which included veggies at every meal, no questions asked. My little brother was pickier than me, but my mom always refused to cook a separate meal for us, so we either ate what was there or we went hungry (we never actually went hungry)! I only remember turning my nose up once at steamed summer squash. Turns out I was sick at the time and EVERYTHING tasted gross, though! We had sweets and stuff in the house too, but my mom was good at modeling moderation.

    I’ve also read that our taste buds change (actually, they die) over time, so even if we “hate” a food when we are younger, we might end up loving it when we get older. For that reason, it’s important to continue to expose kids to food that they “hate” because they might actually end up liking them!

  36. LJ on April 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Your thoughts about not restricting your child’s treats are so refreshing! I’m a SAHM to a 4 and a 6 year old, and we don’t make a big deal about them having treats (ie, candy, cookies, etc) so long as they are consumed in moderation. The result? They sometimes decline treats if that’s not what they’re in the mood for.

    We’ve seen with so many of their friends, they OBSESS about treats that are restricted or forbidden, and when they do have an opportunity to eat them, they go nuts and scarf them down, sometimes in secret. It’s really sad as these parents are likely setting up these kids to have eating disorders later on in life.

  37. Rebecca on April 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I’m hoping I don’t have a picky eater! There is little to no junk food in my house and I don’t plan on having any junk ‘kids food’ in my house when Max starts eating solids. Obviously there are times when Max will be exposed to food that I would rather not have him eat, but those are treats/special occasions, not every day. Going to McD’s will be a very special occasion, not a once a week thing (like it was when I was a kid).

    I don’t plan on sneaking in veggies. I love almost every veggie, so I’m hoping to lead by example…hopefully!

  38. Cat on April 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    My little one loved veggies at first and is now on the popular-to-toddler’s beige food diet – pasta, cheese, bread, rice, applesauce, yogurt, repeat. I sneak veggie/fruit purees into anything I can, but I also offer a fruit and veggie EVERY meal even if I am 90 % sure he will ignore it. Some days he surprises me and eats it. I figure if I keep trying, then he’ll learn to try. It gets super frustrating, but we have eaten peas, carrots, edamame, broccoli, grapes, strawberries and blueberries just because I served it. I think by doing both the sneaky and non-sneaky you are ensuring that they learn to try new foods and also get the right nutrition. Sorry if someone else already posted this same tip – I didnt feel like reading all 100 comments.

  39. Diana on April 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Ooh, I had a really good idea for the whole “why don’t you eat meat?” thing today! If she asks, tell them you made the choice because you don’t like the food. If she presses that she doesn’t want to eat certain things, tell her that she can make that choice when she gets to a certain age (12 or 13, for example), just like you did. But until then she still has to eat things. (Granted, if she wants to stop eating something that isn’t very healthy, like my life-long loathing of mayonnaise, by all means let her boycott.) When she gets to the age you set and still wants to give up certain foods, have her do some research like my parents did when I went vegetarian. I had to read books and learn all about the nutrition, which I decided to use for an argument paper for my English class that year. This way, she’s getting knowledge and learning why certain foods are good/bad for her and making her own choices at an age where she’s more likely to be reasonable about why she has to eat certain foods.

    That being said, there was a rule in my house that each of my brother and I could choose one vegetable each that we didn’t have to eat. If you want to put that veggie on the menu for the evening, you can always make sure to have at least one more veggie to choose from.

  40. Kathy on April 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    I recently saw an interview with a woman who just wrote a book about getting kids eating what we eat from early on like the French do. She moved to France and noticed a huge difference in the way they introduce food and a relationship with food to their kids. I listened because I lived in France and noticed that the kids ate exactly as described in this book – and never really wanted all of the snacks & treats & junk. Did you know that French strollers don’t have cup holders? Kids eat at meals with parents, the same food, and don’t snack very much.

    The other reason I listened is because my neighbor, who is not French, feeds her kids this way too (variety of foods, same thing adults are eating, veggies, not much snacking, no special orders or picky eaters) because she grew up that way. They have 4 kids including a 3 year old who loves salad.

    I’m not saying all fries are the devil or anything. But I know kids who refuse anything that is not from the beige food group (pizza, chicken tenders, potatoes, bread) LOL. I’d like to lead my kids in to healthy relationships with food and the good nutrition that comes from variety, fiber etc of healthy food. There seems to be something to learn and use here; far fewer French kids have obesity issues or bad body image.

    If you are interested the book is French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

  41. April on April 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I maintained my vegetarian diet while I was pregnant, and I recently went vegan. Thankfully, my 2-year old loves his veggies and I don’t have to hide them! He doesn’t care much for pork or beef, he’s neutral on chicken, and he kills the seafood! He’s eaten sushi, squid, and ahi poke and goes back for thirds. I try to remind myself not to make faces at my husband’s food so my son is willing to try everything at least a few times. I am guilty of making desserts with beans, which he loves, and he loves having at least half of my green smoothies 🙂 And I’ve found that if he’s not feeling a certain food one day (but if I know he likes it), I can just roll it up in a tortilla for him and call it a burrito.

    But I’m also worried that down the road he’ll start to question our different diets and use that as an excuse to stop eating well! Here’s to hoping that won’t be the case!

  42. Ali on April 4, 2012 at 12:23 am

    I think it’s really great that you are aware that your child will want to eat all that junk food, and you are aware that it’s ok every once in awhile. It seems she will have the best of both worlds and for that you are pretty much awesome! Good job mama!

  43. Michelle M. on April 4, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I sneak in pumpkin A LOT, in almost any sauce. Also I always do reg. squash in any of my cheese sauces. It’s really good with annie’s mac and cheese 🙂

  44. Maddy on April 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Deceptively Delicious is my favorite cookbook because all of us seemed to like most of the recipes I tried. I also think sneaking veggies into food helped my son develop a taste for that vegetable so eventually he would eat it on his own.

    One of my favorite dishes as a kid was pasta and meat sauce. Now I just make it with Tinkaya brown rice pasta and I substitute mushrooms for some of the meat. I also throw some pureed carrots in the sauce.

  45. Madre on April 4, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Dear Daughter, I find it interesting what children remember and what they do not. I can assure you that many fruits and veggies were the blanced choices in your and your brothers menu growing up. As teenagers the choices you made changed. However, there were always sneaky ways of getting nutritional foods into you all and flat out ‘eat your spinach’ meals. Love you, Madre

    • Fitnessista on April 4, 2012 at 11:50 pm

      you always made wonderful, healthy meals for us. growing up, we got a lot of the good stuff! when it was up to me, though, you know what foods i chose 😉
      love you <3

  46. Czabrina on April 6, 2012 at 1:16 am

    This is such an interesting conversation. I have a 6 yr old and a 4 yr old. The 6 yr old is very picky and does not like most vegetables despite my attempts to get him to try different things. My 4 yr loves vegetables especially broccoli and will eat most food. Just the other day though, my 6 yr old ordered steak at a restaurant and had some calamari and today he informed me that he really likes cauliflower. I think all kids are different and some may be extra sensitive to the way some foods taste. I think it is very important to always have an array of food for them to try but not force them. Once they see you eating it, hopefully they will become more adventurous and want to give it a try.

  47. The Mommy on April 8, 2012 at 1:49 am

    Sounds like someone needs to read “Baby-Led Weaning”. Not so much with the goal of weaning the babe, but how to introduce solid food – and a wide range of food.

    Both of our daughters (almost 4 and almost 1) eat everything we eat. I’m a pescatarian (I eat fish, no other animals) and I also don’t eat dairy. Baby #2 eats exactly what I eat. Baby #1 does eat dairy and she’ll eat the occasional serving of chicken or red meat if my husband is cooking it (I won’t cook meat anymore), but usually doesn’t care for it. BOTH girls eat vegetables and in large quantities, without a battle.

    While we do have days where it seems all Baby#1 eats is carbs with a side of carbs for 3 meals/day, I try to let it go and trust that her body is asking for those things for a reason…just as I know when Baby #2 wants to nurse more than eat her solids (no purees here as per the BLW book) it’s because she needs something from the breastmilk/nursing sessions.

    Basically I’ll say if she is always used to having veggies present (or beans, or spices or whatever) and you approach her first meals as a learning experience/part of her overall development, she WILL have an appetite for whatever you put on her plate 🙂

    • Fitnessista on April 8, 2012 at 1:51 am

      it’s definitely something i’ve been wanting to look into. have you ever had a problem with them choking on the food? i heard that can happen with blw and scares me a little

      • The Mommy on April 8, 2012 at 11:16 am

        No choking. There is gagging, though. I’ll admit, it’s alarming at first to watch them kind of gag their food back up, but if you don’t interfere (i.e. run to Baby and shove your fingers into her mouth to dig out whatever is causing the gagging) you will find that Baby has the ability to get the food up and out of her mouth The BLW theory is that babies have a natural gag reflex that is actually closer to the front of their mouths than we think and that prevents them from actually having the food go into their airway if Baby gets too much in there, provided that Baby puts the food into their mouth themselves. There are safety measures that are addressed in the book, as there are with the intro of solid food in general, but the major emphasis on BLW success is put onto Baby doing the actual act of food-to-mouth.

        I wasn’t aware of it when we had our first – I probably saw the book title and thought it was geared toward getting Baby to stop breastfeeding on some predetermined schedule, but making her think it was her “choice” which I wasn’t keen on (#1 nursed to 15 months and stopped on her own, #2 will go as long as she wants as well) so I just brushed it off. I have a friend who’d read it and was going to try with her second and I decided it might be worth a read…and when I did, everything in the book made total sense.

        Baby #2 has eaten actual solid foods since she was ready for solids, and she really does enjoy every single one of her meals. The learning curve was longer, it’s really really REALLY messy 🙂 , and I had to remind myself again and again that introducing food is more about exploration than satisfying hunger (a part of the book that really opened my eyes to what we should have done with Baby #1), but it has been so worth it in the long run and mealtime is easy and doesn’t involve different things for everyone at the table – we all eat the same things (meat and dairy excluded).

        I could not recommend it more. At the very least to give you some things to think about and consider for when Livi is showing interest in food and how you want to approach that stage in her life.

  48. Lisa on May 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Sneaking in veggies is awesome – I do it for myself! (26, no kids). Best veggie-secret recipe? Beet chocolate cupcakes with cream-cheese frosting. Having your friends try to guess what the “secret” ingredient is (roasted beets), is the best part!

  49. Nikki on August 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I know I’m really late to the game on this one, but in terms of how to explain your food preferences to Olivia, maybe you could just tell her that certain foods don’t make certain people’s bodies feel good, and that through experience you’ve learned that dairy and red meat don’t make your body feel good. You could tell her it’s good to try many different foods and to pay attention to what gives you a stomach ache, etc, and learn from that what foods you might want to avoid. Kids definitely understand the idea of allergies pretty early on (since there’s so many kids with allergies these days), so you could just tell her everyone’s body is different and that you’ll just support her being adventurous with food and learning about her body’s nature along the way!

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