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Help me feed my father in law some vegetables

Long time lurker, first time poster but after reading here for years I thought I would seek a little bit of advice myself.

My father in law hates vegetables (and dislikes most fruit) except for banana, ceaser, salad, carrots and corn. He is a terrible / picky eater (he eats out most of the time, high carbs, snacks on sweets, etc.) in general and a diabetic. He listens to no body but he recently had a bit of a health scare and promised his doctor he would eat half a serving of vegetables a day. I guess going from zero to something is an improvement.

Last week, I promised to help him with his vegetable intake. We carpool in the morning so I have been trying to bring him a snack every which contains a vegetable. The only raw vegetable I have been successful with was carrot sticks (we are up to 4 sticks!). My other success was with (not very sweet) banana bread and zucchini bread.

Hiding vegetables is OK too (I tell him it’s in there and he is fine if he can’t really see much of it, I mask the "veggie" flavour and it doesn’t resemble the raw thing!).

Any suggestions? My criteria is it needs to be easy to eat (in the car), tasty and something he wouldn’t mind eating in the morning. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Your FIL sounds a lot like preschoolers when it comes to veggies. I say that based on a comment that I recall back when my son was a newly diagnosed T-1 Diabetic; I mentioned to his nurse-educator from the pediatric endocrine group where he got his care that there were only 3 vegetables that he would eat -- carrot sticks, red pepper strips, and crisp-tender snow peas. Her response was that this was 2 more vegetables than most of her patients, who pretty much wouldn't eat anything other than raw carrots.

    Anyway, you might want to try sweet red pepper strips and snow pea pods. They, like carrots, are crisp and somewhat sweet. And, if you are also trying to increase his fruit intake, I'd suggest apple wedges for the same reason. (Even if you are using very little sugar, banana and zucchini bread consist more of starch than fruit or vegetable, so I rank them pretty low as a way to increase his fruit or veggie intake.)

    1. I love most vegetables but I'm not big on eating them in the morning. When I do, it's usually as part of an egg dish. Would he be willing to try a crustless quiche? You can sneak a variety of vegetables in there. Or a breakfast burrito with some grilled vegetables? What about red or yellow bell pepper strips (they're much sweeter than most vegetables)? Cherry tomatoes stuffed with cheese spread?

      1. That's awesome that he's looking for new ways to eat veggies! How cool of you to help.

        What about raw veggies/fruits with dips? Hummus, tzatziki, natural nut butters, yogurts, or homemade dressings might be up his alley.

        If keeping something warm with a thermos is possible, I'd recommend baked sweet potatoes (a bit of cinnamon makes them "breakfasty") or roasted veggies. Roasted broccoli with garlic and some spice is a favorite or ours. Steamed veggies might be satisfyingly crunchy- green beans with some lemon is fantastic.

        Every time he enjoys something, I'd ask why- the texture, the spices, the sweetness? Ask him to find some recipes and give you some suggestions.

        Good luck!

        1. Might try thin slicing on a mandolin (broc, cauliflower etc) and add to scolloped potatoes, pasta dishes etc. I even make spaghetti and other pastas with "green meatballs". Brussels sprouts. Sounds strange but is great!

          1. My husband is sort of like that. So the two things I do are: soups with pureed veggies but call it something without mention of what's in it, like Chinese Soup or Spicy Harvest Soup; and then dips like hummus, tapenade, whatever as a snack with crackers and cheese. Take a vegetable and process with cream cheese and some flavorings. So far so good with us.

            1 Reply
            1. re: coll

              When we first married, I pureed vegetables all the time & added them to soups. He was okay with that idea, just so long as he didn't have to see the vegetables.

              We laugh about it today, because he graduated to eating all kinds of vegetables and prefers raw.

            2. green smoothies
              soup -- puree it to hide the veggies -- would he save it for lunch or snacks if he doesn't want it for breakfast?

              The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious cookbooks might be helpful.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Tara57

                <<Green smoothies>>

                Great idea, Tara.
                It's a good breakfast food, and you can mask the flavor of spinach behind peanut butter and banana (and maybe even some chocolate!).

                Just don't put it in a clear cup. He might not try a drink that looks like green sludge. ;)

                Best of luck to you and your FIL!

                1. re: Tara57

                  I second the green smoothies-they don't even have to have peanut butter or anything fancy in them. My go-to is a banana, a handful each of frozen mango and pineapple, almond milk, a tbsp of flax, and two big handfuls of spinach. Just tastes sweet and fruity and takes all textural issues out of the picture.

                  I don't know much about diabetes so that much fruit may be a no-go.

                2. don't know if he's go for this, but how about a fritatta? i do mine with 6 eggs (in an 8-inch cast iron skillet), 1 slice of bacon and steamed baby spinach. but there are lots of veggie combinations if he's game.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: wonderwoman

                    This is a gr8 idea. I do this also with a wide varity of veggies and potatoes sometimes and even shrimp or crawdads. But seriously girl.... ONE slice of bacon??? Make that at least 6 (crumbled up) and I'm with ya.
                    What, are you going for healthy? lol

                    1. re: lastniceguy

                      "What, are you going for healthy?"


                      but, seriously, one slice of thick cut bacon (and, i should add, i use the melted bacon fat to grease the pan:), adds a lot of flavor.

                      1. re: wonderwoman

                        All that bacon and eggs may not fit in with the diet that the FIL's doctor is trying to get him to follow. I just note that the OP said that the recent impetus for her FIL to change his diet was a "health scare." Depending upon the details, the beneficial increase in veggie consumption from the frittata might offset by the increase in fat & cholesterol consumption. Of course, even in those circumstances, with some modification, the frittata might work - all egg whites, fried in olive or canola oil, and a bit of Canadian bacon along with the veggies.

                        1. re: masha

                          If he's currently eating a high-carb diet full of sweets, bacon and eggs are the least of his concerns.

                          1. re: biondanonima

                            You may be right. Only the OP knows the dietary issues.

                            1. re: masha

                              And to be completely honest, I don't know 100% of his doctors instructions. All I know is he MUST increase his vegetable intake. The rest is up to him. On the little information I even know, I'm trying to give him a couple easy options to get some veggies in.

                              This is weird for me since I am a veggie loving freak :)

                              1. re: pumpkinspice

                                I just want to say your are a wonderful daughter-in law to try to help improve his health. God bless you

                    2. Tara57 stole my thunder! :-(

                      My suggestion was to juice some veggies and fruits and let him drink up the yummy nutrients during your ride to work.

                      1. And wonderwoman stole mine. A fritata with lots of grated vegetables: carrot, parsnip or daikon, onion, green onion, cabbage, zucchini, eggplant, some pepper strips, a little broccoli, cauliflower, and lots of egg and cheese. Beware of too much cruciferous veg, lots of vegetable haters really hate the cruciferous ones. Don't be afraid to serve it with some dipping sauce - ranch or other creamy dressing, yogurt, hummus, his favorite dip or sauce, salsa.

                        Also adding some dip may make other raw or steamed vegetables more palatable.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          Thanks for all the suggestions. I am recently married and learning to cook but I am trying to help in any small way I can.

                          I know banana bread and zucchini bread are high carb, just trying to give him a small snack where I can (this man doesn’t eat small meals throughout the day either!).

                          I was going on the breakfast idea since this is the only time I see him since he will usually eat it right in front of me (so I know it won’t end up in the garbage). It’s difficult for me to come up with ideas since he “doesn’t do leftovers”.

                          I will take all your ideas into considerations, and maybe my plan of action should be having him over for dinner more :)

                          1. re: pumpkinspice

                            Have you considered trading him in? ;o) sorry couldn't resist lol

                            1. re: pumpkinspice

                              I know where you are coming from, have a MIL with similar habits. She doesn't actively hate (most) vegetables, but when eating out generally won't eat the 5 green beans they serve as a side with the meat and potatoes she normally orders. And won't eat much in the way of raw vegetables because she "doesn't digest it well". She will take a serving of vegetables when eating at my house...

                              One thing I have found that will get eaten is soup, I make a big batch of chicken vegetable or minestrone (making sure there is plenty of meat to go with the vegetables) and freeze in serving size containers.

                              1. re: firecooked

                                i suggested frittata above because it's easy to eat in while driving, but pureed vegetable soups are my go-to for increasing veggie intake: tomato fennel; carrot ginger; sweet potato (or butternut squash) apple; roasted cauliflower are a few of my favorites.

                                1. re: wonderwoman

                                  Ooh; I like the idea of the sweet potato/squash and apple soup. Would you consider posting a recipe?

                                  1. re: kcshigekawa


                                    roasted sweet potato (or butternut squash) apple soup

                                    2.5 pounds sweet potatoes (or butternut squash -- or a combination)
                                    1 pound onions
                                    1 bulb fennel
                                    6-8 cloves garlic
                                    2 granny smith apples
                                    olive oil, salt, pepper
                                    4 cups chicken or veggie stock

                                    peel, core, chop veggies. toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. roast @ 500-degrees for 30 minutes. transfer to soup pot and cover with stock bring to boil and reduce heat. simmer 15 minutes, then puree

                                    1. re: kcshigekawa

                                      Note for the OP that sweet potatoes are probably considered a "carb" vs "vegetable" in his meal planning for diabetes.....

                                2. re: pumpkinspice

                                  My dad had a similar list when I was a kid, but Caesar salad became other green salads. He liked tomato salads, too, and cucumber salads.

                                  Mornings are hard - I can get my kids to down a green smoothie, but never my dad. A breakfast burrito with a nice chunky salsa might be a good fit. Or some baked sweet potato wedges with a little cinnamon.
                                  Other ideas - an artichoke and cream cheese spread for crackers, baba ganoush. Spaghetti with a veg-heavy sauce (not for car breakfast, probably. But for dinner) and I've found that cauliflower makes a great gateway veggie - it's easily disguised. You might also try him on a kale Caesar salad.

                              2. You can make "muffins" using scrambled eggs (or egg whites), and chopped veggies. I make these for my kids' school lunches and for snacks on the weekends. Throw some cheese and/or meat in there if you'd like too. I like to add cooked quinoa sometimes to make them more filling. Chop up fresh spinach, broccoli, kale, tomatoes, onions, etc. (whatever you want) and mix it with a few beaten eggs. Add in any spices (salt, pepper, Mrs. Dash, whatever you want -- I vary it batch to batch). Mix in some shredded cheese and your chopped meat (I like ham or crumbled sausage). The mix should be somewhat thick. Spoon into liberally greased muffin tins, about halfway up. Bake at 375 for 15-20 or until the muffins are just lightly browned on top and the egg appears set. Let them cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin.

                                1. Jessica Seinfeld wrote a cookbook on how to hide veggies from kids. Yes, I know someone else claimed she wrote it first and sued, but there is a cookbook published by Jessica Seinfeld...anyway, it sounds like just the thing for you to help your FIL:


                                  1. Baked vegetable "chips"-sliced carrots/beets/zucchini super thin, toss with a little olive oil and salt/pepper, bake at 350 15min, flip, bake another 10 or until done
                                    Carrot "fries"- change the seasoning to what he would like:

                                    Banana "soft serve" would be more of a breakfast than snack, i like to add berries as well but that may be outside of his comfort zone... Basically take 1-2 bananas, peel, cut into chunks, freeze. Then blend into an ice cream texture. Use a splash of milk if needed to get it going, with 2 bananas and one TB peanut butter its a yummy small meal

                                    1. I would put them in an egg omelette, maybe along with some turkey sausage.

                                      A tomato sauce would be really easy, stuff like carrots and other veggies can be shredded or chopped finely and will break down into the sauce as it simmers.

                                      You could put spinach into a filling for manicotti. Roasted red peppers into a hummus snack.

                                      1. Minestrone should be a winner. It is such an easy dish to make and reheats perfectly.

                                        1. These aren't exactly breakfast meals, but some ideas:

                                          1. Use low-sodium V8 juice to make a meat-and-veggie soup and/or Shrimp Creole.

                                          2. Make homemade stock in the slow cooker, cook it down to sludge/demiglaze, freeze, and add a cube or two to everything you cook to make it taste meatier.

                                          3. Thicken soups, sauces, and gravies with vegetable purees instead of flour or cornstarch.

                                          4. Hide veggies (onions, spinach) in meatballs. Also meat loaf.

                                          5. Homemade tzatziki is a beautiful thing. Use as a veggie dip or as a mayonnaise substitute.

                                          6. Would bean/lentil soups count?

                                          7. If you make him a meat salad (chicken, ham, etc.), use LOTS of celery.

                                          8. You could try garnishing sandwiches, etc., with homemade refrigerator pickles (they don't have to be cucumbers: pickled red onions are favorites at our house!). Japanese pickles are pretty good, too.

                                          9. Veggie gratin? Risotto (easier to make in a pressure cooker)?

                                          10. Use coleslaw mix for a quick stir fry. It's already prewashed and shredded for you. You can find preshredded carrots and broccoli, too.

                                          11. Spinach-artichoke dip.

                                          Have you tried asking him what he dislikes about vegetables? I used to hate, them too, because my mom boiled them all to death. Once I discovered Asian cooking and crisp-tender veggies, I never looked back! :)