How to Make your Meals “Vegielicious” and Outsmart the Cleverest “Food Ninja” …

How to make your Meals Vegielicious and Outsmart the Cleverest Food Ninja 001

Like everyone else, my kids have their own likes and dislikes when it comes to food, which can sometimes make it tricky when cooking. Generally they’re pretty good but I have to own up to “smuggling” or hiding vegies in my cooking whenever I can. And don’t let the fact that they are now older lead you to think things have changed … because they haven’t. Admittedly, they are now more willing to sample things they may have rejected in the past but that doesn’t always happen. So although the variety of what they all eat is pretty good, I still like to “smuggle” some extra vegies into most things I cook.

My kids are also guilty of rejecting food they have previously enjoyed once they know the hidden ingredient. They’ve never been fans of dates, however, would demolish my Chocolate Bliss Balls on sight. When they found out the key ingredient (dates) they all of a sudden didn’t like them! Fortunately their taste buds craved these little balls of goodness and they relented and started eating them again. So, the lesson I learned from that – I stopped telling them!!

I also try to use the foods that they won’t typically eat on its own in other creative ways. I’ll give you an example … zucchini. Serve it up as a vegetable on the side of the plate and that’s where it will stay. They’ll push it around the plate, hide it under something else, generally moan and complain until the offending vegetable is removed or they’ll just flat out refuse to eat it. However, present it as Zucchini Slice and that’s fine. They’re also quite happy to eat it in Carrot and Zucchini muffins … go figure!

But without a doubt, my best trick is to steam any offending vegetable, puree it and then add it to soups, Chilli Con Carne, Bolognaise, Lasagne, Curries, Casseroles and a whole host of other recipes. So my tip is this: Parents unite, make your food “vegielicious” and hide and “smuggle” those vegies at every opportunity!

Okay, so dieticians and nutritionists may criticise this approach arguing that kids should have the choice and learn to eat different kinds of food and you won’t get any argument from me. However, I also know how difficult it can be to get little people (and sometimes big people, as well) to expand their horizons and try something new. Persistence is great but it can also lead to frustration and endless fights over food and, let’s face it, who needs that! Meal times should be an opportunity for the family to eat together, chat, have a laugh and reflect on their day and the last thing anyone wants is to feel like you’re in the trenches doing battle.

So here are some of the things I did (and still do) to make sure my kids eat heaps of vegies as well as a huge variety:

  • Make food interesting particularly when introducing new foods to toddlers. Presentation is important, so try arranging food to make a picture like a smiley face or rocket ship and kids might just try something new.
  • Make their bowls, plates, cups, cutlery and lunchboxes interesting and colourful as well.
  • Include raw, crunchy vegies in lunchboxes like snow peas, green beans, carrot/celery sticks and cherry tomatoes.
  • Present a variety of food and serve different dishes often. No one wants to sit down to the same food every night and serving the same meals too regularly gets boring for everyone.
  • Even though I may load a rissole, casserole, soup or some other dish with vegies, I still serve vegetables on the plate so that the kids get to see and try the vegetable in it’s original form.
  • Be patient, consistent and persist. The kids might ignore the new item on the plate the first few times it’s served but might surprise you by trying it the next time.
  • Don’t make a huge fuss. That will only give them ammunition to keep fighting you and it will drive you crazy.
  • Set a good example. Kids learn by what they see so if Mum and Dad eat a wide variety of things on their plates and are willing to try new things, then the kids just might copy you.
  • Don’t create alternative meals. I know it sounds mean but my often-repeated mantra is this, “It’s not a restaurant with a menu! Eat what’s in front of you or you will need to wait for the next meal.” Incidentally, dessert was never served to any “food ninja” who left their food or threw a tantrum!
  • Chop or grate new items and mix it amongst something they already enjoy. If it’s tiny and mixed together with something they love, they’ll get the chance to try new things without even realizing it.
  • If all else fails, “smuggling” a few vegies into a favourite meal might just do the trick. Steam an unliked, in-season vegetable, puree with a little bit of water (if needed) and then freeze the puree in zip lock bags in ¼ cup or ½ cup quantities. Add to soups, casseroles and other dishes each time you cook.

So tell me, what food do your kids hate the most and were they willing to try that same food once they got older?


  1. I REALLY wish I had been blogging when I first had kids some 6 years ago, it would have saved me all the heartbreak I’m going through now with fussy kids that I created by doing most of the above – eg double meals!! GREAT advice! – going to share :)

    • Thanks Emily and please feel free to share. Kids can really test our patience and leave us Mums pulling our hair out when it comes to food and eating, so I hope this helps!

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