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Kid friendly vegetable recipes for a PICKY eater?

I used to brag to my friends that my little boy would eat anything. He loved salads, sushi, dim sum, hummus, things that other little kids couldn't even pronounce.

Now that he's 4 and impossibly picky, I long for those days. I have a hard time getting any vegetables into him. He might love something for months, only to flip a switch and decide he won't touch it for as long.

I need some ideas - kid tested, particularly if your kid is a picky eater, to get something into his diet that grows on a tree, vine, or bush.

If it helps, he likes (at least today), the flavors of bacon, balsamic, parmesan, prefers his veggies crunchy rather than soft, and won't eat any tomato that isn't in ketchup form.


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  1. Fry up some bacon, saute green beans (or broccoli, or zucchini, or any veggie!) in the bacon fat...crunch up the bacon over the beans and top with some Parmesan cheese. YUM. (You can even drizzle with some balsamic!)

    1. Fill celergy sticks with cream cheese mixed with crumbled bacon.

      1. Jumping on the bacon bandwagon-
        Render down and crisp slivered bacon, toss in napa, savoy, bok choy, chard, spinach- green "leafies" with some texture and some heft to them, and begin to wilt, toss in a bit of stock or broth with a pat of butter, steam until just tender, then reduce the stock and buttery bacon jus and serve with pork, chiken, duck... If you're serving to those taht can handle it, adding in a clove of garlic or 5, or at least a minced shallot or onion would not be remiss. Works great with brussels sprouts, too, but Not many picky eaters will go for the gassy little buds. Also tasty with raddicchio

        On the no bacon front, split baby bok choy and begin to sear in a medium hot pan, cut side down in a non stick pan with a dash of sesame oil. Add in a couple of ladles of water, a splash of soy sauce, and a pat of butter. Cover and steam until just tender.

        Alton Brown had a good episode of Good Eats about making peas palatable to all folks. My contribution: try making a "hummus" out of fresh peas or favas (green bean-type things) and use it as a spread.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lunchbox

          I agree - a nice wilted spinach bacon salad with some cheese and balsamic vinegrette seems to fit the bill. There are a variety of these types of salad recipes out there.

          But - having a bacon/cheese salad is not exactly "healthy". I'm not sure if the health aspects of the veggies outweigh the fat/calories. Maybe try a multi vitamin and wait until he outgrows this phase.

        2. If he likes soup, make soup w/ a lot of vegetables then use an immersion blender to make it thick. Also, mash up canellini beans in things that he can't taste, like pizza crust or lasagne. If he prefers his veggies crunchy, can you just let him dip it in fun dressings?

          1. My 4-year-old's vegetables (other than french fries and popcorn) include spinach ravioli and pumpkin (carrot, zucchini, etc) muffins. I'll be keeping an eye on this thread for more ideas ;-) (Yours is way ahead of mine with the "prefers vegetables crunchy" -- mine prefers them on my plate.)

            1. pumkin muffins, banana walnut muffins. grated zuchini and lots of gourmet cocao powder, applesauce and whole wheat flours to use with other muffins.
              there's a book called: stealth health with a great black bean brownie recipe that tastes better than the real thing!

                1. Most kids do like mashed potatoes. You can sneak some greens or even carrots in by cooking them until soft, puree the veggies and then mix with some mash potatoes. Swirl the colored mash into the white mash for some Green and White mash, or Orange and White mash..or something like that.

                  1. I used to sneak grated carrot and grated zucchini into meatballs and meatloaf when my kid went through this phase. Did the same with potato pancakes--funny how frying things works so well. Also when I was making mashed potatoes I'd cook a bunch of vegies in stock, then puree the whole--vegies thickened the sauce to a very gravy-like consistency.
                    Best of all was lasagne--you can sneak all kinds of stuff into that! Personally I wouldn't worry about the fat/calorie content of a vegetable sauteed in some bacon fat for most kids for a lot of reasons but mostly because if it gets him to eat some vegetables...
                    Mostly though I just kept putting whatever veg I was cooking anyway on her plate--never insisted she eat them (and she sure didn't), just kept putting them out there. The phase lasted about 6 months. Oddly, she would drink V8 during that time...

                    1. My kids are fickle. They one day will be the pickiest eater and another adventuresome...but, the the things that tend to go over well are:

                      1. edamame - great suggestion. My kids down those!
                      2. Roasted or mashed sweet potato. We will roast them with a citrus glaze (just orange juice reduced down), cut them into "frys" and bake them, or mash them with roasted bananas. My kids love all of those. not crunchy
                      3. With greens and salad, we have found that we need to chop things small. The long stringy cooked greens or such freak out my kids. Using greens as a stuffing to "empanada" or something like that seems to work well.
                      4. Good sweet red bell peppers and carrots, and frozen peas - my kids love them as is (no cooking). Add a good veggie dip. My kids won't touch ranch, but they like Brianna's poppy seed dressing.
                      5. summer squash pancakes.
                      6. roasted golden beets (aren't as messy as red). Must be roasted, can put with a citrus glaze.
                      7. Lentil soup. we hide all sorts of veggies in there, and every kid we have tried it on will eat it. We don't have a recipe, basically, saute veggies onion and garlic, then add stock/water, boil lentils, finish with lemon juice.
                      8. Spegetti squash with chili on it, or stovetop cheese sauce. I put smoked paprika with the cheese sauce, because it has kind of a bacony flavor.
                      9. Carrot puree - again not crunchy.

                      1. Roast cauliflower until a lot of the pieces are browned (they taste like french fries)...if you son must, he could dip them in ketchup

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Jacey

                          get trader joes organic ketchup- loaded with nutrients- still, use sparingly- delicious

                          1. re: Jacey

                            You can also sprinkle parmesan cheese on the roasted cauliflower. I usually do this a little before the cauliflower is done and then throw it back in the oven for a couple minutes to let the parm melt on.

                          2. Two words: Cheese sauce. You can put it on pretty much any vegetable and it pretty much obliterates everything objectionable.

                            Maybe Shepherd's pie too? You can put all sorts of vegetables in that and sandwich it between layers of ground meat and mashed potatoes.

                            But this too shall pass. I don't have kids, but my little cousin lived on hot dogs and baked potatoes when she was four. At 16 she's a disgustingly healthy star athlete right now who eats a wide range of vegetables and towers over the rest of her family except for her father. My uncle is an excellent cook, and she was simply presented with a wide range of foods and outgrew her picky phase. For me, the anti-veggie phase lasted well into my teens.

                            There was an article on slate.com recently that was kinda interesting:

                            1. Thanks for the ideas everyone. I will be trying them out in the new year!

                              1. I agree with Elizzie's comments above about vegetarian lasagna, also with the idea of putting the veggie out on the plate by itself, in case the little tyke forgets for a moment that he hates vegetables. We've also had success with vegetarian pizza, and with casserole-style dishes like Shepherd's Pie.

                                1. How about salsa? I found most kids like tortilla chips with salsa because they are more like snack. If you have the salsa in "chucky" style - more chucky tomatos with onions and other greens (like green pepper or corn) then may be he will like tomato better!

                                  Also, most kids LOVE corn on the cobs! Just put some butter and parmesan on the corns (and if it helps, serve the corn with ribs or fried chicken) then he will at least get some veggie going!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kobetobiko

                                    Your salsa idea is a great one! I've also heard the organizers of our local food bank suggesting that canned/jarred salsa a great donation to the food bank......it preserves on the shelf, is tasty, low in fat but a source of vegetables...

                                  2. By the way potatos and corn are not vegetables-- actually in the starch family:)

                                    Salsa is a super idea! Great way to sneak tomatos into a child's life.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: drmimi

                                      Good point. I was thinking about corn and peas and so I thought of corn as a veggie.

                                      At least it will give him some fiber! =D

                                      1. re: kobetobiko

                                        Fiber is a good thing:)
                                        Peas are great food-- some kids like em frozen others like them just barely done (my son). He stopped liking peas after Grandma (who is from Mississippi and lives in Chicago) boiled them beyond recognition:). Frankly, I never liked my mother's veggies as a child for the same reason. She never realized I HATED peas until I explained that to her as an adult. Many Midwesterners and Southerners overcook veggies (at least the really large family that I belong to).
                                        The other thing is some kids really have an issue with mixing food or food touching. Not sure what that is all about.

                                    2. I was lucky that my sons loved vegetables. I always had a big bowl of crisp lettuce in the fridge with homemade blue cheese or redwine vinegar and oil hand for after school snacks. And I mean everyday after school that is what they headed for.
                                      They also like carrots with ranch dressing all ready to dip and eat. Couldn't get them interested in celery but they would eat raw broccoli. Go figure.

                                      They loved green beans with garlic, bacon and onion and butter too. They did love those frozen lima beans and Italian beans (the wide ones )cooked the same way. Oh and they loved steamed carrots with dill. They ate those like candy.
                                      Spinach with red wine vinegar or sauteed with garlic and fresh lemon.
                                      Cauliflower or broccoli, yes needed cheese sauce
                                      Zuchinni cooked with garlic, butter and oregano

                                      and any great bean soup loaded with garlic, bacon or ham or short ribs/

                                      1. My picky eater loves snowpeas. He especially likes the ones he grows himself. Maybe when the weather warms up you could try that.

                                        1. There are so many good suggestions here. I think what I have is just a normal 4 y.o. His likes and dislikes make no logical sense, except to him. He will eat tomato in ketchup and chili (bell peppers and beans there too), but nowhere else, including salsa. Loves fries, hates mashed potato. Enjoys carrots raw, but only on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and sauteed with cumin and honey on Thursdays, except for the third week of the month. He likes salad, most of the time, especially with cheese and fruit, but not the purple lettuce, and occasionally just says no. Corn on the cob is great, but not off the cob. He picked off the snowpeas we grew in our garden before we could, and ate them raw, but won't touch them in a chinese stirfry. Loves a good hunk of parm or blue cheese, but refuses cheese sauce (on veggies or even pasta) and bluecheese dressing. So no go on lasagna. He'll deign to eat a bean soup every so often, but no hummus. Mexican refried beans are ok though.

                                          I guess I just needed some moral support from the other parents. I think I need therapy rather than recipes, although there are a few here I will certainly try. The Slate article made me feel a little better, although this is a kid who would rather starve than eat what he doesn't like. If only I could keep up with his whims. Thanks you guys for letting me vent :)

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: sasha1

                                            Vent away. I know it's hard on everyone. My son is a picky eater and he doesn't want to be. I think he's almost as frustrated as I am. When he was younger he really would rather starve than eat pasta that was "wrong." Now that he's older, he's making an effort. But it IS an effort.

                                            1. re: sasha1

                                              If he likes french fries, maybe cut veggies (sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, peppers) into strips and roast them? Would the shape make the veggie more familiar to him and more likely to eat?

                                              One of my favorites is broiling green beans tossed with olive oil for 5 minutes or so (they'll start developing charred bits) and dress with balsamic vinegar and salt. If the vinegar would put him off, I'm sure there's loads of creamier sauces that you could dip the beans in and it would taste good.

                                            2. I have 3 kids, 2 of which are very picky. However they do love baked ziti, (pasta, ricotta, sauce in any combination). I always put chopped spinach into it so it's totally mixed in.

                                              They eat it and actually love it.

                                              I also always put peas in pasta. Sometimes a stack gets left on the plate, but they can't pull out all of them!!

                                              1. I find lots of kids like artichokes, due to the interactive ripping off leaves and dipping in a sauce of some sort. I like to steam them then roast them on high with a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Also, the potential "it could kill me if not prepared right" adds just enough danger..

                                                I just make a honey mustard for a dip most of the time.

                                                My 2 and 4 year old nephews like it when I sautee asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon zest and juice and parmesian cheese.

                                                When I was little, you couldn't stop me from eating cream of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Diana

                                                  My kids also love artichoke (dipped in melted butter or olive oil). And edamame. And asparagus, sugar snap peas, french green beans... Come to think of it, if they can eat it with their fingers, they like it better! The 7-year-old is taken with arugula. I think she just likes saying it.

                                                  But as other posters have noted, their preferences certainly can change from day to day.

                                                2. I spin brocolli and cauliflower in the food processor and add it to pasta sauce. They love pasta and never realize they're eating vegetables.

                                                  1. Just a brief interruption, folks. On the Home Cooking board, please focus your replies on preparations and recipes that will help to make food more appealing to the little guys. Thanks.

                                                    1. Not exactly good for the cholesterol, but I grew up "tolerating" veggies by eating them smothered in carmalized onions with fresh cream. Seriously, I would even eat brussel sprouts like this when I was a kid:-)

                                                      1. This may sound ridiculously simple, but my cousin would only eat vegetables if it was fun. We constructed a forest for him. We made trees out of broccoli (melt some shredded parm on them if necessary), made a forest floor out of spinach leaves and zucchini shreds. In the center, put a lake of dressing for dipping--you could try parmesan caesar or balsamic vinegarette. We made logs out of carrots, and boats out of cucumber halves.

                                                        Also, my cousin used to love eggplant, so we used to grill it with a balsamic dressing or garlic (he loved garlic too, weird kid), and you could also try ratatouille, if your son doesn't mind stuff all mixed up... as a kid, I didn't eat combined things... I still don't prefer food all mixed up, but some kids find it more palatable that way.

                                                        One more thing, you might try mashed potatoes as a vehicle for mixing in veggies, i.e. broccoli w/ parm or cheddar, corn, etc.

                                                        1. Two things that have worked for me are pureed soups and pancakes. If I serve pureed soup (broccoli, squash, tomato, etc.) warm but not hot in a mug with a wide straw (the kind they serve with "bubble tea" - they can be bought at the Chinese grocery store) the kids drink it pretty fast. It's like a veggie smoothie. I also grate zucchini and sometimes carrots, salt and drain the zukes, lightly steam the carrots, mix with a little pancake batter (add some S&P so it's savory) and serve with a soy based sauce. Ranch dip or some type of creamy dressing may make veggies more fun. Works for one of my kids but not the other. I've had some luck with camouflaged pureed veg in pasta sauce also.

                                                          1. Well, kids are all different, I'm amazed at some of the things that people are saying their kids would eat! For my kids at that stage, the simpler the better. A couple of clearly discernable ingredients.

                                                            Carrots steamed and then add butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, always very popular.

                                                            Dip-- usually ranch-- for any kind of veggie that they might eat (brocoli, raw carrots, green beans). Parmesan cheese, cheese sauce, also good.

                                                            Salad (lettuce and cukes, esp.) that you dip in the dressing rather than pouring dressing over (finger food, very good).

                                                            Grilled sweet potatoes (or cut in cubes and fried).

                                                            Sugar snap peas, with dip if necessary.

                                                            When they won't eat veggies, shrug and give them fruit. I got lots of fruit into my kids, mostly by cutting it up bite sized. Cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, apple slices (with peanut butter and/or caramel), honeydew, grapes, bananas, kiwi, mango, strawberries, etc., etc. Make it very easy, get rid of the seeds, turn it into finger food.

                                                            I can relate to your disappointment about young kids eating everything, and then suddenly stopping-- I think this is normal. Mine at sauerkraut at a young age... and then stopped eating anything but noodles for awhile.

                                                            1. Mashed butternut squash (add spices depending if you want a more savory or sweet dish)

                                                              spaghetti squash: put in pan, stir fry it with a little bit of nutmeg, earth balance butter, cinnamon and brown sugar

                                                              eggplant parm: you can omit the breadcrumbs or make it with whole wheat ones, and possibly add soy cheese instead of regular ones

                                                              if serving a burger, add a portabello mushroom between the bun with the patty (sometimes kids don't notice).

                                                              make "french fries" by roasting/baking root veggies

                                                              roasted pepper kabobs

                                                              if your kids like eggs, add veggies to them

                                                              season spinach and melt cheese over it or make your own spinach pie minus the filo

                                                              1. My sons are 5 and 7 and getting them to simply try new vegetables is a struggle. However, they do eat at least raw carrots and apples nearly every day, plus at least a glass of orange juice....not great, but at least they are getting 3 out of 5. In addition to those daily basics, I put creamed spinach in their mashed potatoes. They love that with battered fish, fish sticks or schnitzel. Cauliflower cheese soup is also very simple and they usually taste more cheese than cauliflower, which makes it appealing. My 7 year old will eat plain cooked broccoli with a little butter. Throwing a few extra veggies into lentil soup works well too, as long as there are enough mini-hotdogs in the soup. I too am hoping this is just a stage. I have a feeling it is really going to be up to me to become a masterful cook so that I can offer them more of a delicious variety of healthy foods.

                                                                1. Sliced carrots, celery, broccoli, green beans, etc. served as a pre-dinner "course" away from the table can work well. I find if the same foods are served on the dinner plate they are less appealing. When time permits, a sliced apple upon awakening gets the digestive juices flowing.

                                                                  I agree it is a stage, and food preferences can shift overnight. It may seem to go on forever, but at some point the cravings for sushi and other delicious foods may return.

                                                                  A raw snack when a child is hungry and distracted with a book can work for everyone.

                                                                  1. This post has been around for a while, so many may have found this site:


                                                                    British mom and her two kids, one a 7-year-old who thought he hated vegetables, who
                                                                    have been cooking their way through veggies A-to-Z. The lad gets to help cook and rate the results. Might be worth a look-see. I particularly like her approach to giving son control in the process.

                                                                    1. Bumping this old thread to mention a tip from the Dr. Oz show: to encourage little kids to eat vegetables, use their favorite baby foods as dip or sauce. Tha familiar flavors help make the new food more desirable. Same deal for raw fruit with fruit-based baby food.

                                                                      1. As long as there are some sort of vegetable that the child eats, at that age I would not worry about variety. Our son at that age ate raw carrots, raw red pepper strips, and crispy snow pea pods. That was it. When I spoke with his nutritionist (he's diabetic), she said that was 2 more vegetables than most of her pediatric patients ate -- they only ate carrots, It's just a stage; he'll outgrow it.

                                                                        1. I'm giggling to myself while reading this thread for tips on how to feed vegetables to a 28 year old man.

                                                                          1. Steam cauliflower, and then puree it in a food processor with a little milk or cream. Cauliflower mashed potatoes. I put in goat cheese, or sometimes curry as well. Cauliflower is a super food, so therefore this is a great way to get it into your kids.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: sassysyd64

                                                                              i do a cauliflower whip in the food processor with roasted garlic, diced cooked onions (sometimes i dice and nuke in micro), cream cheese, a little veggie broth to loosen, and kosher salt and pepper. really good.

                                                                            2. I got a fussy toddler to eat brussel sprouts and ask for more.

                                                                              I start with a layer of chunked potatoes or small red cut in half and minced pistachios and garlic (maybe some rosemary if I have it) sprinkle olive oil and some salt roasting for about half and hour at about 350, while that's going I slice the bases off the sprouts and later toss them in with a little slivered bacon (sometimes with large lemon peel), give the pan a good shake/shuffle and throw it back in the oven for another 20 or 30 minutes until the outer and loose leaves are caramelized and crispy. active work time is really only about 10 minutes and I suppose the timing could be tightened, but I like them and the potatoes crispy.

                                                                              1. My kids eat anything roasted--toss with olive oil, salt & pepper and roast until golden (haricot vert, broccoli, etc.)

                                                                                1. i agree with many ideas from others. one more: kale chips. my daughter (also 4) loves them, and they fit your son's crunchy requirement. Very easy to make, wash/dry a bunch of kale, tear off the leaves, toss with 3T olive oil and 1T cider vinegar or lemon, spread on a cookie sheet, salt, bake in 400 degree oven for 20 mins or so until crunchy.

                                                                                  1. Gosh, I can't help but wonder what sasha1's now-8-year-old son eats now, and how they weathered the picky years. It's like a cool, tiny, one-person longitudinal study.

                                                                                    Sasha, if you check back in, I'd love an update. :)

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: DuchessNukem

                                                                                      Good math! My eight year old is almost nine, and brother is five. The eight y.o.'s favorite food is caesar salad - really! He orders it in every restaurant. He also gobbles up any salads containing lettuce, fruit, and cheese, preferably blue.

                                                                                      Other veggie loves of his include artichokes, asparagus, bell peppers, corn, cukes, kolrabi, roasted brussels sprouts, peas and beans of all varieties, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, you name it, he'll probably eat it. Still not a fan of the orange veggies or most other cooked/braised greens, other than kale chips! Not crazy about eggplant.

                                                                                      Of course, now the five y.o. is picky. But his adventurous phase was less adventurous so it might not turn out quite as rosy...

                                                                                    2. As crazy as it sounds, my kids love these brussel sprouts. A local chef shared the recipe with me and I make it often and the kids gobble them up. The sweetness of the maple syrup cuts the bitterness of the brussel sprouts. They are oh so yummy!

                                                                                      Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Maple Syrup Vinaigrette

                                                                                      1 bag fresh brussel sprouts
                                                                                      1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
                                                                                      2-3 slices of fried bacon, crumbled
                                                                                      Grade A maple syrup
                                                                                      Dijon OR whole grain mustard
                                                                                      Red wine or sherry vinegar
                                                                                      Olive oil

                                                                                      Cut the sprouts into thirds, or halves and quarters depending on their size. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper. Pre-heat a cast iron skillet in a 450 degree oven. Toss sprouts into skillet and return to oven and roast for approx. 8 mins., or until they start to brown in spots. Mix together about 3T syrup, 1 tsp.sherry vinegar, 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar and a 1/2 tsp mustard. Add olive oil to reach desired consistency and taste. Adjust if needed. Toss dressing with sprouts and bacon and serve.