Sneaky Chef: How to Get Your Kids to Eat Veggies

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Kids, on the whole, hate vegetables. Sure, there are a few weirdos who think that asparagus is the bomb, but most children would rather go hungry than eat their veggies. As parents, though, we know how important a healthy menu is for a growing kid. It’s deeper than just bodily health, too, as study after study shows the effects of diet on brain health, attitude and behavior.

But how to get stubborn kids to eat their veggies …

Simple: Don’t tell them.

Yes, it’s time to implement the “what they don’t know won’t hurt them and will damn sure help them … a lot” feedin’ plan. The idea is simple, if a bit deceptive. Give your children their favorite meals, with one slight variation: Infuse them with vegetable puree.

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The best way to fool your kids into believing that their pizza is just regular old pizza is to be prepared. If the children are milling around the kitchen while you’re adding squash or carrot puree to the pizza sauce, they’re going to get wise pretty quick. You’ve got to be covert, and early preparation is a must.

So make your puree batch while they are at a friend’s house or at school. It’s important to use fresh veggies, not canned, so do your shopping alone, too, if possible. Grab a bunch of carrots, squash, spinach — whatever is in season — bring them home and wash and rinse them well.

Peel, trim and chop them into manageable pieces to prepare for steaming. (Steaming is better than boiling as it preserved the nutrients in the veggies.) Make a big batch if you have the time and room. You’re going to freeze much of it (more on this in a minute). Place the steamed veggies in a blender or food processor. You can mix vegetables, or keep them separate for color and texture similarities, which may make it easier to slip into various recipes.

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When grinding the veggies, you may need to add a little water to keep it smooth. That is key. The smoother the puree, the less likely it will be detected in the recipes you prepare for your little ones. Once a nice, smooth consistency is reached (probably after a few minutes of blending and stirring), remove and set aside.

If you’re making a dinner that evening that might be well-suited for puree addition, be sure to keep a portion for cooking later on. The rest will be frozen for future use. If you have large quantities of puree, spoon it into freezer-safe containers. Label them with deceptive names that only you will recognize. Easier to manage, though, is the ice tray full of puree. Spoon small amounts into empty ice trays and freeze. This renders small portions of puree that are easily popped out, melted down in a sauce pan or microwave and quickly added to recipes without nosy children figuring out what’s going on.

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The cubes can be melted and added to any number of recipes: pizza or pasta sauce, soups, grilled cheese, quesadilla filling, mashed potatoes, burritos and tortillas. Fruit puree can be added to muffins, pancake mix, and oatmeal or hot cereals.

Easy to puree veggies include beets, broccoli, butternut squash, cauliflower, carrots, peas, spinach, bell peppers, sweet potatoes and zucchini. Of course, you can grind up just about anything. Be creative and covert.

If you start to feel guilty about lying to your child (even though you shouldn’t, in this case), you can be straight with them. We told our child they are “flavor cubes,” and that they turn our food interesting colors. You can even name the odd-looking meals. A soup that turns bright green with spinach puree could be called “Alien Soup.” Macaroni and cheese that turns dark pink with beet puree could be “Vampire Mac.”

You get the idea. Be creative and have fun. The kids will be healthier … and you’ll be happier.

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