Picky Eaters? Being Sneaky Isn’t Always The Answer

With just a few days left in September for Fruits and Veggies–More Matters Month, now is the perfect time to focus on incorporating more healthy foods into your child’s meal pattern. If you have a picky eater at home, you have probably considered sneaking a few vegetables into her/his favorite foods. But is this a good idea? Here are some tips for growing veggie lovers in your home, with and without resorting to deception.

3 Ways to Help Kids Eat Their Veggies

  1. Smuggle veggies, sometimes. You want to foster healthy habits that continue into adulthood, so try not to hide vegetables all the time. It is important for kids to know and accept fruits and vegetables on their own terms. However, if you have an extreme picky-eater problem, disguising produce a little can be a helpful way to start introducing new foods into your child’s diet. Examples of this include folding puréed mushrooms into meatloaf, meatballs, taco meat, or even sloppy joes, adding shredded carrots and zucchini to spaghetti sauce, or blending a fruit smoothie with spinach or kale.
  2. Be creative and ditch the disguise. While deceptively delicious meals can help your child eat more vegetables, it should not be your only strategy. Serve fruits and vegetables unmasked in a variety of forms to help your child experience new tastes, textures, and smells. Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried are all great options. Offer raw fruits or veggies with dip or in a crunchy salad. Serve frozen fruit or make your own homemade fruit popsicles for a tasty treat. Bake crispy kale or zucchini chips or mix dried fruit in a colorful trail mix. Cook with different herbs and spices for diverse flavors or “hide” vegetables in plain sight on top of pizza, on a sandwich, or in a wrap.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If you have offered fruits and vegetables multiple times without success, do not lose heart! Learning new things and forming new habits take time. In the same way, repetition is key when it comes to adding new foods to your child’s repertoire. Make produce available and convenient in unique and exciting forms and eventually, your kids will eat them.


Mushroom Beef Sloppy Joes
Serves 4.
Yield: 4 servings


  • 8 oz white button mushrooms
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms
  • ¼ lb 90% lean ground beef
  • 1½ tbsp canola oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 8 oz can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 whole wheat buns

Chop mushrooms to approximate size and texture of cooked ground beef. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and mushrooms, and cook. Sauté until ground beef is done. Remove mushroom-beef mixture from pan. Add onions and garlic to pan; cook until golden. Return mushroom-beef mixture to pan, along with remaining ingredients. Simmer about 10 minutes; remove from heat.

Recipe Courtesy of the Mushroom Council and Produce for Better Health Foundation

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