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Jun 21, 2013 02:11 AM

Hiding vegetables from a 5yo

My boy likes peas, corn and nori seaweed (go figure?). That's it. Nothing else. Not even keen on mashed potatoes (again, go figure?).

I have a ceramic Japanese wasabi board which turns carrots etc into a fine pulp in seconds. I try to hide that pulp inside meatballs and marinara sauce but when he eyes even a spec of vegetable (green is the worst!) his appetite vanishes. I used to convince him that dot of spinach was actually seaweed but he no longer falls for it.

So today I had a revelation. What better way to hide green veg than within green veg? I'm going to make him fall in love with English-style mushy peas (he loves peas) and then start sneakily blending spinach into that. Hm, maybe I can even switch edamame for peas.

Pondered other ideas (he loves all fish): mashed carrot hidden in salmon cakes, mashed cauliflower hidden in tuna cakes.

Any other ideas out there? I REALLY want him to eat broccoli but he views it as the most evil thing on Earth. And it seems the most impossible to hide. I'm an advanced cook so don't mind complicated.

(Pls no parenting tips. I'm a long-distance father so only have limited and sporadic control over this. He NEVER gets dessert if he doesn't eat dinner but, in the desire to have little bad feeling when I do have time with him, I try to swing his dinner to his palate so he can have dessert with me. There is another time in the future when I'm living with him and can give it some tough love, but for now I'm interested in the creative cooking aspect of getting veggies into him.)

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  1. green eggs and ham ?
    ( you puree spinach until its smooth and mix it with the eggs for the green eggs)
    curry, you can blend the vegetables until smooth and hide the colour with spices?
    piece pudding and teach him the poem/song?
    foreign vegetables that would be new to him. help him pick a recipe and let him help you cook.
    food week when you guys are together, where you learn about food, try new things and draw/read about them
    tempura with dipping sauces
    battered, fried, naru/abergine/eggplant

    5 Replies
    1. re: merrua

      Green eggs and ham is a great idea -- tackle that green food problem from out of left field. He loves absurd things.

      I also think the tempura idea might work. I have had limited success with vegetable spring rolls (as long as the lights are very dim). Tempura is a bit more flash-fried so healthier, I think.


      1. re: merrua

        You're right. I've been asked point blank if the food I'm giving him (with hidden veggies) has anything he "doesn't like" in it. Talk about putting me on the spot. He doesn't like being made a fool of so trust issues are important. Will need to ponder that one a little longer.

        I have always said the most important thing is he just tries something, even if he doesn't like it. That's easy with a spoon of my food or a piece of something, but when it's a meal I've just spent time cooking him it's frustrating if it's immediately rejected.

        Re overcooked veggies, I totally agree. As a kid I thought brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli were disgusting however wasn't until later I discovered they'd been overcooked my whole childhood.

        1. re: merrua

          That made me laugh. I do remember dry retching as a kid, being forced to eat cold, overcooked cauliflower and such things. Ugh.

          I am a prolific home cook and guess I'm too impatient - his palate will expand eventually. I just see other kids the same age munching on broccoli and carrot but when I ask my boy to try too he insists "I only eat peas and corn". I say why not try something new and he says "but I only eat peas and corn", like it's an unchangeable fact.

          That's why I was trying to find ways to sneak it in.

          1. re: p0lst3r

            As an x- child day care cook and a current public school educator who has worked with some pretty difficult kids...and also a (still) picky eater -- here's my 2 cents.

            If he says he only eats peas and corn say That's right, you only eat peas and corn, then something like, so now that we know that, would you just taste this? then get back to your peas and corn. You are not eating it, just tasting it. You could serve it - just a taste - at a peas and corn meal. the main thing for him is that he is HEARD. Once kids feel they are heard they start to relax and can become more willing to accomodate you. HUMOR is a great strategy. But I would be careful not to make these conversations the focus of the meal. Another way is the reverse psychology thing - drop it. Serve him what he likes and serve yourself what you like and don't slave over meals and get disappointed. Life is too short.. no comment when you serve the 2 different eating options. Just serve and eat. with the stress off, he may come round (eventually)

            I was a picky eater. There were 10 thousand things I did not eat including pizza and potatoes. One day, a baked potato smelled so good, I decided to try it, and now potatoes are one of my fave foods - and i eat them with broccoli, spinach, etc., and many more things now also.

            Another idea is to have a kid friend over and serve you and him green veg or what ever and your kid...peas and a very matter of fact way. the more you try to entice, the more he will resist.

            The one thing my mother did require of me, though was to deal with food issues politely when at other people's homes. this meant i had to speak up nicely and ask for a pb and j if i saw there were going to be things i did not like, or just eat what I could and not complain, etc. Luckily, I drank milk, and that would always save me.

            On a food strategy note - don't ask me why, but the kids I cooked for LOVED my chinese hot and sour soup that had tofu and spinach in it (was it the sesame oli i added?) and my tiny flounder florentines. I still also learned how to cook a lot of things i will not eat. peanut butter sauces - gado gado or dan dan type sauces were popular too.

            Good luck with all that, but as some earlier people commented -- it gets better. Another involve -in-the food strategy is to start educating aloud (musing/conversational style) on the nutrients provided by different foods and what they do for the body. your starting point, of course...peas and CORN!!! Peas and corn and the PILGRIMS. hmmmmm

            I had several events where adults tried to force me to eat foods i hated. None of these went well, and i still remember them.

            if as a good cook, you just NEED to cook and try things, you might try Chinese artifice cooking - cook broccoli so that it looks like peas for example. Don't try to trick him, but more, put it on the track of something he can tolerate - visually and palate -wise. If he eats potatoes 9sort of), could you make a broccoli/potato (carrot) mash that could be made into pea shapes( or peas, potato brocc mash) and - serves it say as something like..broccoli in the style of peas, or imitation peas, or ....have him help you name it...and yes, use something to get the strong or bitter taste of the broccoli out.. maybe cook it in milk (that sweetens it). then mash up with potato or peas or brocc mashed into corn flour and egg - sort of like a dumpling?, then roll into pea balls...or use a less aversive veg - spinach? parsley/potato peas - fried, perhaps?

            from a fellow (gourmet) picky eater and excellent cook.

            let us know how it goes!

          2. re: merrua

            Bento box is a good idea, for sure. He loves when some effort goes into presentation.

            I make a "baked beans surprise" by doing a very thin one-egg omelet in a large skillet, put baked beans and some cheese in the middle, fold four sides over into a parcel then turn out onto a plate. Loves to take that perfectly sealed parcel and tear it apart to find the beans inside.

            So yes, I can see the bento box would add a bit of play and variety/interest into meal time. Will do some research.


          3. In my experience hiding is counter-productive. Hiding can promote trust issues as they get older, and trust issues can spill into not trying other food. I prefer to wait them out and supplement with a multivitamin if necessary.

            I've found that picking out an 'adventure fruit' or 'adventure vegetable' together once a week can be helpful. That means going to the farmer's market or store together and picking up something foreign and trying it a few different ways. Sometimes you'll like it and sometimes you won't...but you'll keep trying things. Its good modeling. Show him that its okay not to like things, but we keep our minds and palates open.

            Once you get them in that frame of mind (I don't have to eat it, but I will try it and be polite) you keep getting tastes of various vegetables in there until his palate gets used to the idea. Hate will gradually fall away and either enjoyment or neutrality will be his feeling toward most vegetables.

            I have 4 boys and each of them has started out picky in one way or another. This policy has broken down most of their issues, increased their food adventurousness, and the few prejudices that have not changed they are extremely polite about.

            (And make sure you're not overcooking the vegetables. That's killer! If you're unsure try uncooked vegetables or lightly steam or roast sogginess! Grilling them can be fun too.)

            4 Replies
            1. re: Tam38

              What great ideas!

              I would also add that I wouldn't make dessert a reward for eating dinner.

              What my folks did with me and my brother (granted, not picky eaters) was present us with a wide variety of foods. We had to take some of everything, and eat it politely, but it could be a tiny amount (even 1 bite). Nobody gets malnutrition if they are eating the things your child apparently likes!

              Food tastes different to children, and their tastes should be respected but not coddled, if that makes sense. And some food issues are just control issues, I say give them as much control as possible within healthy constraints.

              1. re: Tam38

                cruciferous veggies like broccoli and brussel sprouts may just be strong-tasting for some kids. their palates are far more sensitive to sulphurous or bitter flavors. it's a survival mechanism from when we were knuckle-draggers.

                i also agree that it's a bad idea to sneak/lie/hide or in any way dissemble about food. it turns meals into not just a power struggle but a mind-f**k.

                for some kids it's a textural issue too, so you may want to try veggies prepped different ways -- pureed with butter, roasted with olive and salt, raw with dips, etc.

                for many it may take trying the food several times before they will accept it. make it, plate it, serve it. no discussion.

                either he eats it or he doesn't. he's not gonna die from not eating broccoli.

                your lack of cajoling or reacting may disappoint him and cause surrender, lol.

                would he like helping in the kitchen? helping pick out produce in the store? or helping in the garden if you have one? being more involved in the front end may pique his curiosity.

                1. re: Tam38

                  Hiding is totally counterproductive

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    Regardless of what people think, the OP requested:

                    "Pls no parenting the desire to have little bad feeling when I do have time with him...There is another time in the future when I'm living with him and can give it some tough love"

                    I assume he took the time to write that for a reason. We might agree or not but it's his request.

                2. Mashed cauliflower works great in mac and cheese. If you can juice, I make blueberry smoothies w/ spinach. It has to be a dark berry so it hides the green. Cherries also work. Cucumbers are great w/ watermelon, though not a nutritious powehouse. Quick breads are great. The problem w/ hiding most greens is the color in anything lighter.

                  Oh, shredded cabbage or mushrooms make meatloaf really moist and you can't see/taste it. I even put it in taco meat and chili.

                  1. Spaghetti sauce is a great way to hide pureed carrots or sweet potato. I've also included roasted red peppers but that does alter the taste, the other two just make it sweeter. Start slow with small amounts so the taste becomes normal and then increase the amounts. Going big at first usually backfires.

                    Have you tried raw veggies instead of cooked? I had to lower my standards and let the kiddo eat raw veggies with ranch dressing and be happy that she was eating plant foods (not my child, complicated situation so I had to be very careful with the "tough love" approach.)

                    1. You can make "rice" by putting cauliflower in food processor and pulsing a few times, works for my kids. You could try using broccoli stalks for this too i bet.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: sbs401

                        "cauliflower rice" ... that's a crazy idea that might just work

                        You mean raw cauliflower? Or slightly cooked?

                        1. re: sbs401

                          Cool, I can see there are also "Eating the Alphabet" companion lesson plans online too. Will get hold of this book, for sure.

                          1. re: sbs401

                            Not living together at the moment but we soon will. And growing veggies (and sprouts) would be a perfect thing for us to do together :-)

                            1. re: sbs401

                              Oh wow -- kale chips!! Never thought of that.

                              So much like nori in look and texture.

                              That is brilliant!!!!

                              1. re: sbs401

                                Thanks for that :-) Actually on balance there has been lots of great food advice and it's much appreciated. Don't mind some of the gentle nudges with parenting when it's explained from personal experience and interwoven with food discussion, but it's funny how blunt some people can be ("don't lie to your child!!"). And all I could do was laugh when someone started quoting the ten commandments!

                                BTW, here is pic of the vegetable rebel himself.

                                  1. re: p0lst3r

                                    <<<faints from adorableness overload.

                                    let him eat circus peanuts all day!

                                    1. re: p0lst3r

                                      Ah. I see your problem. Looks like One Tough Hombre. :-)