Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Healthy meals can be a challenge

My son, as much as I love him, is a complete pain in the ass when it comes to mealtimes.  He's the pickiest eater I've ever met!  I used to think, when he was 2 and 3, that it was just a phase he'd grow out of.  Now he's 6 1/2 and still refusing to eat anything that isn't chicken or peanut butter related.  He has a very small list of food he'll eat, like cheese pizza, mac n cheese, scrambled eggs, and, well, that's pretty much it.  Oh, tomato soup, but that's only because we call it "red soup" and not tomato soup.  I have to hide the cans from him now that he can read lest he figures out that there's :::GASP::::  vegetables in it!

Since I don't want him to come down with scurvy or something, I have to get creative.  Plus, while weight isn't an issue for him right now, I don't want it to become an issue in the future, so I have to limit the pizza and things. 

Our old neighbor showed me a book, Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.  While it may be full of cook-from-scratch recipies that I'm not capable of (I'm a TERRIBLE cook!) the principal of the book is brilliant.  Mix in small amounts of pureed veggies into your kids' favorite foods and they'll never know!  For example, the other night the kids wanted mac n cheese.  I got velveeta shells and cheese because it is creamier that Kraft (easier to blend veggies) and they have a 2% milk variety that is lower in fat and calories.  I got a can of northern beans and pureed it then mixed a few spoonfuls in a bowl with the cheese sauce before dumping the noodles in, that way the beans were mixed in completely.  It added a protien and potassium boost to the food and the kids were happy. 

Some other ideas for picky eaters and moms who can't cook (AHEM, me, AHEM)
1. If you don't have time to cook and puree and freeze your own veggies, buy baby food.  One jar is usually the perfect amount for adding to a dish!  I did the cook/puree/freeze thing myself as the cookbook suggested, but it took a good 2-3 hours and I had to do it after the kids went to bed so they didn't wonder why I was doing that.  Didn't want them to figure it out!  When Erin, my youngest, started on baby food, I realized it was the same thing.  better, maybe, because it was pureed better than mine was!  Plus the kids never wondered why I was buying so many jars of carrots and squash.  Now that she's on table foods, it is a little trickier but just slip the jars in the cart when they aren't looking.

2. When in doubt, add some shredded cheese.  The mac n cheese had a slightly different texture the other day, so I threw a bit of cheese on top and it masked it.  I do the same for tomato soup; instead of adding the whole can of water, I add half a can of V8 and half of water.  Sometimes I'll throw in a jar of baby food carrots too, to sweeten it.  The V8 does change the flavor a bit, so I just toss a spoonful of cheese on top.  I also let the kids drink their soup thru a straw, so the novelty of it causes them not to think too much about the taste.

3. Everyday foods can be fixed up this way.  Brendan likes to take spaghetti o's in his lunch for school.  I mix them with a jar of baby food carrots and microwave them for 45 seconds before putting them in his thermos.  Gerber carrots are actually pretty sweet (yes, I tasted them.  If I'm going to feed them to my kids, I want to know what they taste like!) so he's never noticed, and I get a jar of carrots into him 3x a week. 

The book also had things like carrot cake from scratch, which i'm not capable of.  I bought a box mix and did it that way, added a full cup of pureed carrots and a half cup of cauliflower.  Spread a tiny bit of frosting on the top and the kids thought I was the best mom ever because I was letting them have cake for breakfast.  Sure, there was sugar in it, but there's sugar in syrup too and waffles don't have veggies! 

Green veggies are a little harder to hide, because they change the color of everything.  Pizza sauce is a good one for them, instead of buying frozen pizza or Dominoes, make your own..  You can get the pre-made crusts and the jars of sauce, then just sneak in some baby food green beans or some pureed broccoli.  Be careful not to put too much, but the spices in the sauce mask them pretty well.  The kids get a kick out of making their own pizza, it's healthier than other pizzas, and they're getting veggies!

The biggest trick is to make sure they don't know you're doing this.  I'll probably tell Brendan eventually.  Like when he's a dad with his own picky eaters!  My mom loves to tell the story of when she snuck spinach into lasagna for my brother and while he was eating he asked what the green stuff was.  I didn't know he hated spinach so I told him.  He refused to eat another bite, even though he had loved it before I told him.  So make sure to give a heads up to people who know your secrets!

Hope this gives some of you some tips for picky eaters.  Do you have any tips?  Please share them!


  1. Never had to mix in healthy food for kids but did for my in-laws.

    When I make stuffed shells or lasagna, I use a 50/50 mixture of ricotta cheese and firm tofu. Tofu will take on the taste of the cheese. You have a healthy protein mixed and it cuts down on some of the fat.

    Also, when my father-in-law needed to have a more heart healthy diet, his partner started mixing plain soy milk in with 2% milk.

  2. I have this book. Got it when Lily started eating solids. i have lent it to many friends. its is a great concept. It does get harder when you have a child with MANY dietary challenges, as Nolan. Luckily I have been successfull in getting my kids to eat healthy. For example, one of their favorite snacks are "pepper fries": just red, yellow, green or one of them cut thinly on a plate. I have found with Lily that as she got used to the tastes of the veggies in the foods (I didn't try to hide the taste, if you could tell), she ate them more and more.

  3. I have an unusual child...Emma loves all kinds of unusual foods...she had the choice of cake or key lime pie, and chose the key lime pie. She just loves all kinds of foods that no 5-year old should...so I'm feeling so grateful about it...when we go to Sam's, she always wants to try EVERYTHING they have for samples and keeps looking for shrimp so she can try it! LOL