By Cammie Jones

Moms carry a lot of pressure when it comes to raising healthy children. When children are babies, you worry about giving them enough milk and food to keep them healthy. As they start to develop their own tastes, it becomes more challenging to manage nutrient intake. A diet of chicken fingers and french fries will not suffice for long! So, what are some ways to sneak more vegetables and nutrients into your children’s diets, especially during the holidays?

Straight Up

Hiding vegetables in food is a great idea if your child is a picky eater and refuses to eat them consistently. However, if you start introducing healthy options to kids early, then vegetables won’t end up the bad guys. Try green beans or sweet potatoes when they are babies. As they get older, add in broccoli and carrots, serving it steamed or raw with a little ranch sauce on the side. Hopefully, introducing vegetables to your child at a young age will allow those taste buds to grow accustomed to nutritious foods. Also, kids who watch their parents eating and enjoying fresh vegetables usually end up eating and enjoying vegetables as adults. They learn by example so modeling healthy eating habits will hopefully rub off on them.

Trendy Purees

Jessica Seinfeld wrote a book in 2007 called Deceptively Delicious. This cookbook included a program to use simple ingredients to get kids to eat good food. Her basic premise included taking various vegetables, roasting or steaming them, and then pureeing them using a food processor or blender. She suggested cooking and pureeing in large quantities and then freezing portions for future use. Some of her recipes included scrambled eggs with pureed cauliflower, sweet potato puree in pancakes and adding broccoli and carrot puree to spaghetti sauce. There are tons of ways to hide nutrients in your meals without anyone having any clue!

Switch Swap

Although Seinfeld might have been one of the first to write a book about this topic, the idea has mushroomed (no pun intended) into other hacks on the Internet.  It’s pretty simple to exchange vegetables for starches in many side dishes. Mashed cauliflower works well as a substitute for mashed potatoes and zucchini spirals can be swapped for spaghetti noodles. Instead of cooking frozen french fries full of sodium and false nutrition, why not cut your own sweet potatoes, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake them in the oven? Thinly slice zucchini tossed with a little olive oil and fresh Parmesan bake up to tasty zucchini fries.

The Smooth Ideal

Hiding spinach, avocado and other leafy vegetables in your child’s smoothie is an easy way to increase their nutrient intake. Just make sure to have plenty of red strawberries or blueberries to hide the green color. You can also add in flaxseed or a little protein powder to further the nutritional value. They will have no idea and think of it as a yummy treat.

Veggie Tales

When all else fails and you are struggling with your children at mealtime, why not make it a fun adventure? Tell them broccoli florets and stalks are trees and they must eat them to save the forest. Or make up a story about a bunny rabbit who wished he had carrots to eat and how lucky children are to have carrots on their plate. This may sound corny, but it works, especially with younger children who still think mom and dad are cool.

Most children will go through a phase of banning vegetables. The good news is that as their taste buds develop and they experience interesting foods with friends or in restaurants, they may be more open to new epicurean treats. With some prodding and a little sneaky smarts kids can grow up in good health!

Cold Weather Tomato Veggie Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce diced tomatoes
1 cup sweet potato puree
1/2 cup broccoli puree
1-quart beef broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 t pepper
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature

Cook celery, onion and garlic in olive oil.
Add tomatoes, sweet potato puree, broccoli puree, beef broth, bay leaf and pepper.
Turn off heat and add cream cheese.
Remove bay leaf and blend in blender for a smooth consistency.
Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and a side of fruit!