Picky Eaters? Mom Hacks For Getting In the Greens!

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sneaking in greensMeal planning has to be one of the most challenging things about parenthood.

My firstborn was always a great eater (except for that pureed chicken, yuck). She would try anything and liked most things. Her go-to snack choices continue to be copious amounts of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. I was very self-assured and, dare I say, cocky in her early food eating years: “If you don’t give kids “kid foods” like chicken nuggets, etc.… they won’t know what they are missing, and they will eat a nice variety of food! Duh! Right? Um, no, me from 8 years ago, so much no! Ugh, first-time mom me was insufferable!

Along came second baby. He had low muscle tone and didn’t even really start eating solids until after 12 months. We had to give him awful medicine when he was hospitalized at 8 months and, in desperation, put it in anything we could think of, such as chocolate syrup. I was so desperate to have him eat because it would help his condition that I offered him anything and everything, but he was, and is, fairly picky.

We joke that he constantly suspects that we are poisoning him when we offer him a new food. He looks at us suspiciously, assuming that he will hate it. He is better (sometimes) at trying new things but prefers those “kid foods” most of the time. And red meat. He’s a steakatarian, but I don’t cook red meat or pork because I haven’t eaten it since I was 11 and wouldn’t have the first idea how to do it. Daddy grills on the weekends for the win! But seriously, cheese pizza and chicken nuggets anyone?

I’ve concluded that their tastes really have nothing to do with me. My daughter was a great eater from the get-go because she was born that way. I fully support trying to get as much healthy, vitamin-filled, organic food into kids as we can, but they also need to eat so that they don’t turn into hangry monsters. And my son will straight up NOT eat if he doesn’t like what we have given him.

That old doctor’s saying, “They will eat if they are hungry,” does not apply to kids with sensory issues. picky eaters

Recipe Ideas: A few that work in our family.

Over the years, in my desperation and guilt about not having a supremely healthy diet, I’ve found a few things that they will eat and that pack in the greens at the same time: Avocado/Basil Pesto, Pizza with pureed spinach (in the sauce) and smoothies with greens and fruit.

Avocado/Basil pesto is pretty easy. It’s just basil pesto with avocado and lemon juice. You can put it on anything. Our preference is good old-fashioned pasta, but you could certainly put it on potatoes, gluten-free pasta, or even zucchini noodles. With a food processor, you puree one whole avocado (or half to your taste), a large package of basil, 1-2 garlic cloves to your taste, a pinch of salt, ¼ cup walnuts, juice of half a lemon or so, also to your taste, and stream in olive oil while it’s pureeing to your level of thickness. I like it on the thicker side rather than oily. Then add ⅓ cup of Parmesan cheese. My kids absolutely love this, and my picky eater requests it regularly. 

picky eaters

Pizza is a weekly treat in our house. I buy whole grain pizza dough and make it myself. My picky guy actually requests it even over restaurant pizza! When I feel like I need to boost the nutrition in this meal, I add tomato sauce to the food processor (or use Nikki’s Weeknight Marinara Sauce recipe) and puree spinach or kale with the sauce. You can even add carrots or other veggies to the mix. Then you spread it over the dough and add cheese and whatever toppings you like.

Finally, another good trick is to mix in some greens when making smoothies. It can turn the smoothie into different cool colors depending on the fruit you use. Just use your favorite smoothie recipe and add the greens. You may have to add more honey or another sweetener to cut down on the bitterness of the greens.

The takeaway: Do what works and have those go-to recipes that are family favorites a couple of days a week.

I’m not sure what will happen with baby number 3. She’s having breast milk and formula right now (breast is best, but fed is better right?!), and I assume that I will start introducing solids around 6 months. I’m certainly not going to stress about food “perfection” because it doesn’t exist. All kids are different. The truth is that we all have food aversions and things that we love. My big kids tend to like opposite things, which keeps me busy in the kitchen (I try not to be a short-order cookbut it definitely happens more often than I would like). I’m assuming that this little one will also have her own likes and dislikes.

What are your go-to hacks for packing in nutrition? In what ways have your kids forced you to change your cooking and eating habits?

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Jasmine is a local mom who lives in Fairfield with her husband and three children (born 2010, 2013 and 2018). She is a psychotherapist with a focus on women in life transition, especially the perinatal period. Her private practice is located in downtown Fairfield (BetterSelfCT.com). Jasmine was born and raised in Connecticut but spent her college and graduate school years in and around New York City. She has worked as a psychotherapist since 2007 and is passionate about helping others to reach their goals. Jasmine is still trying to get the hang of this parenting thing, 10 years into it. In the two hours after her children go to bed, she enjoys a good glass of wine and watching the latest Netflix series with her husband. She also loves the beach, supportive mom friends and baked goods.

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