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10 Tips for Finicky Eaters

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If nothing else works, try tricking them!

kid eating broccoli

Tracy McArdle: A few disclaimers before well-meaning moms let me know that butter and salt are bad for children and all processed food is evil (I know these things) ... I am not a nutrition expert, or any kind of expert, just a working mom struggling to get her two toddlers, ages one and three, to eat something (OK, ANYTHING) resembling real food at every meal!

In the last three years, I have learned a couple of things that work for me and my kids -- they may not work for everyone, but I am hoping, in the spirit of exhausted motherhood camaraderie, that you will share some of your tips too! Onward, all pea-fearing babes!

10 Tips for Finicky Eaters

And on the 7th Day, God Made Butter. And Salt.

Whether fresh or frozen, nothing improves the taste of any vegetable more than a pad of butter and a little shake o' salt. I was amazed at how eagerly my 2-year-old ate the broccoli that was steamed and chopped just right with a little melted butter and some sprinkled salt (p.s. -- you can cheat with cinnamon, too, or other spices they like).

Chicken Broth -- the Universal Solution.

Why use plain old boring water when you can infuse veggies with the savory flavor of chicken broth (or beef stock or vegetable broth, for that matter)? Whether boiling or steaming, the broth adds a flavor that may fool a fussy eater.Also -- I'm not condemning anyone for frozen vs. fresh, organic vs. non-local. When it comes to kids eating green, you take what you can get, and you do the best you can.

Just Say Cheese.

Just Say Cheese. Shredded or sliced, hiding vegetables under a blanket of melted cheese can work wonders. I slice veggies into small pieces, cover with shredded cheese, and throw them into the toaster oven or microwave. Voila -- instant """ target="_blank">casserole."

Hide and Seek with Muffins.

I am sure this one is no secret, and I swear I am not lifting it from Jerry Seinfeld's wife's book because I didn't have time to read it. But shredded carrots and mashed broccoli or beet purée hidden in muffin mix (carrots go well in the Jiffy corn muffin mix; beets in bran mix) works. The kids never knew what hit 'em. Note: You do have to lug out the food processor for this one, but it's worth it because the muffins are delicious.

Hide and Seek, Italian Style.

My kids love spaghetti and tomato sauce (yes, the jarred kinds are full of sugar, but I think there are tomatoes in there somewhere too), so hiding chopped broccoli, carrots, or squash in tomato sauce is a neat trick. You can buy frozen cubed squash -- cheaper and easier.

The Dessert Compromise.

Fruit for dessert is a nice idea, but it doesn't always go over so well in our house. But instant pudding (Trader Joe's makes an excellent chocolate one) is made with real milk! And if your kids like Jell-O, why not throw in pineapple, blueberries, or mangoes chopped up so small the kids don't know what they are!

Inventive Names.

Believe it or not, I got my kids to eat a chicken breast and cheddar omelet with green peppers and red onion by calling it a Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla. Think of how often you've been swindled by a fancy name on a restaurant menu. Works on kids, too.

The Mac & Cheese Compromise.

If I cave to mac & cheese, there's always going to be diced carrots or peas involved. (Okay, maybe not always.) You can buy bags of diced frozen veggies and throw them in just before the pasta is ready. Again, butter helps. Veggies that are the same color as your mac & cheese are less easily detected and rejected.

The Meatball Switcheroo.

I realize it is ambitious to make your own meatballs, but if you are making hamburgers (we make turkey burgers), save 1/3 of the ground beef or turkey to make 10 mini meatballs. You can add a bit of shredded carrot or broccoli to it with some bread crumbs and a bit of egg. No one will be the wiser.

The Breakfast Trick: Smoothies.

When kids say no to apples, oranges, and strawberries in favor of toast and cereal, throw them in a blender with vanilla yogurt, ice cubes, and a little apple juice (and honey, if your kids are over the age of two). When they see you drinking it, chances are they'll want some too. And the name helps!

next: The Last Day of My Life
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous January 11, 2010, 1:02 PM

on the spaghetti sauce i found a recipe and my son LOVES it. you take 2 cups of sliced carrots and boil them until tender, throw them in the blender with a can of diced tomatoes with basil and oregano and blend. i have added squash or zucchini to it as well and just less carrots.

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 2:18 PM

Nice site. Enjoyable and fun reading. I have one observation to submit about funny shirts.

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