I Tried Sneaking Vegetables in My Kids' Food for a Week & Here's What Happened


Megan Zander

I've always been an adventurous eater with a soft spot for things that were good for me (my mom loves to tell people about how I'd order squid in restaurants as a child). Don't get me wrong, I'll happily go in on a tub of frosting with a spoon, but I've also been known to make and eat an entire batch of kale chips in an afternoon. So when I had twin boys four years ago, I assumed they'd follow in my footsteps of eating plenty of healthy fruits and veggies.

For the first couple years, they did. I was that smug mom who bragged about how her boys devoured beets. But then they started preschool, and discovered the wonderful world of crackers and granola bars. Suddenly they wanted nothing to do with any vegetable that wasn't a potato. I can still get them to squeeze a pouch of fruit down now and then, but trying to get them to eat vegetables? Forget it. So, I decided to do what parents have been doing since Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy were invented -- I got sneaky. Rather than plead with them to try bites of corn or carrots at the dinner table every night, I spent a week sneaking veggies into their food to see if stealth health for littles is possible. Here's what happened.

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  • They loved these carrot cheese stars as toddlers so I figured they'd be an easy swap out for those goldfish they're obsessed with.

    Megan Zander

    I remembered liking these carrot cheese stars because they only needed a few ingredients I already had in the house: flour, egg, cheese and carrots. But the five minute prep time was a total lie, at least for me. When the boys were babies and napping that wasn't a big deal. This time I tried to make these after school, so they were hyper and running around the living room tackling each other asking when snack was going to be ready. I totally understood why I usually sprinkle my kids with fish shaped crackers and call it a day.

    The worst part was after all that work, the boys weren't crazy about these. After a couple bites, they declared themselves full and ran off to play. Clearly my veggie game is too direct. Must be sneakier.

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  • Unfazed, I decided to try sweet potato and zucchini muffins. Because no kid can resist chocolate chips right?

    Megan Zander

    Wrong. Even though my boys usually love all things pastry, they took one look at these muffins and refused to eat them solely because they could see the tiny green flecks of zucchini skin in them. Maybe if I had peeled the zucchini first they would have eaten them, but since that's A: more work, and B: where most of the nutrients come from, I didn't go there. When they shunned them at breakfast I tried tucking them to their lunch bags as a snack for preschool. But nope, the muffins came back with barely a bite taken out of them and the boys were asking for a snack as soon as they walked in the door. Luckily I thought they were delicious, so more muffins for me.

  • Mom versus muffin - Round two.

    Megan Zander

    Since I usually send the boys to school with some sort of granola bar, crackers or other carby snack, I wasn't quite ready to give up completely on the idea of adding a dose of veggies into their morning nosh session. This time I decided to try double chocolate zucchini muffins, thinking the extra cocoa in the batter would help hide those green flecks they found so offensive the day before. The muffins were insanely delicious, so good I would eat them on the daily even if they didn't have hidden veggies in them. But since the goal was to get the boys to ingest more greens, not me, I had to give myself only half of a gold star. One of the boys came home with an empty snack bag and asked for another muffin. His brother had half a muffin left when he got home from school and told me they were "too chocolately." I might have to call the hospital just to make sure there wasn't a switched at birth situation, because I'm not sure how a child of mine could declare anything to have too much chocolate. 

  • Time to change tactics and back away from the green slowly.

    Megan Zander

    I try to keep the foods I feed my family as unprocessed as possible, but it was clear I wasn't making any progress on Veggie Quest 2017 by myself. Some of my friends swear their kids can't tell the difference between regular tater tots and the ones made from cauliflower, so I headed to the frozen foods section to find out for myself. 

    I don't know if it's that my boys usually don't eat tater tots at all, so the novelty alone was enough to make them fall in love, or if these cauliflower nuggets really are that good, but either way they cleared their plates and asked for seconds. While it's not the green leafy veggie I was hoping to add to their diet, I'm still calling this one a win. 

  • Veggie meatloaf FTW.

    Megan Zander

    Riding the veggie high I decided to try adding some greens to a dinner time staple: meatloaf. My kids love a good turkey meatloaf muffin, so I added to my original recipe by dumping in a half cup of shredded zucchini and half cup of shredded broccoli. I knew the flakes of green might raise some eyebrows, but since they're already used to flecks of spices being in the loaf I had my fingers crossed that they wouldn't question these new additions. Surprisingly, they didn't notice the change in recipe at all. They scarfed down the meatloaf as usual and I did a happy dance because I didn't have to beg them to just "try a bite" of veggies on the side, since I knew the were getting plenty of heathy greens in with their main course.

  • Kids are strange.

    Megan Zander

    For the final day of my sneaking eating experiment, I had grand plans. For dinner I was going to make ketchup out of carrots, turkey dogs, and chickpea and red pepper infused mac and cheese. For dessert I was planning gingerbread cake with broccoli ( don't make that face it's really good). But all that changed when one of my sons busted me taking the bag of broccoli out of the freezer. 

    "What is that Mommy?" he asked, as I frantically tried to shove the bag behind my back. I assumed if he saw the veggies the jig would be up, so I told him, "Nothing, it's nothing," as I tried to shoo him out of the kitchen. "Is that broccoli?" he asked. I winced.

    Then, as I was trying to think of some elaborate lie about how I needed the broccoli but only for Mommy and Daddy's part of the meal, he completely shocked me. "Can I try some broccoli for dinner?" he asked. "This broccoli? The green ones?" I showed him the bag. "Yes," he said. "With cheese sauce like you make for Daddy. So I can get tall and go on roller coasters." And then he danced out of the kitchen. 

    Sure enough, he ate an entire serving of broccoli smothered in cheese sauce that night, and his brother even tried a bite. It was a good lesson for me that while I'm happy to know sneaking veggies into my kids' meals is totally doable, it's important to also keep offering them green foods the old fashioned way too. Because they just might surprise you. 

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