It is the eternal struggle. In the age old battle of Parent vs Toddler, when it comes to eating vegetables, the toddler more often than not comes out the champion. My son can sniff out broccoli like a little blood hound. Carrots get thrown across the room. Mushrooms are sneered at like I have presented him with a plate filled with slugs.

I was so smug when I started baby led weaning as he ate everything I put in front of him. Fast forward 18 months and the smugness has well and truly gone. I have been humbled.

You can try your best to set up healthy habits by offering vegetables at every meal. By making sure what you eat in front of them sets a good example. But the truth is, most toddlers are damn fussy. In our house, carbs and fruit are king, vegetables are merely the lowly peasants.

But even though I am losing the battle, I will not lose the war.

I will persevere each and every day to get my toddler to eat vegetables. I have found that a balanced approach between hiding them in other things and just giving him a variety over and over again will at least result in him getting some in his belly.

With that in mind, here is my guide to how I get my toddler to eat vegetables and some tried and true recipes that I use.

Nuggets

Kids love nuggets, almost as much as drunk people at a McDonalds drive through. I love to make my own homemade nuggets and stuff some vegetables in them. They aren’t always chicken as well, some are just pure vegetable. But mixed with cheese and herbs and served with a side of homemade potato or sweet potato chips, you would not know they are healthy. Here are some of my favourite recipes:

Cauliflower Nuggets – Cheese and Cauliflower goodness, my son gobbles these up. And because they are white in colour instead of the dreaded green, they are always a hit.

Chicken Nuggets – Classic chicken nuggets that are not deep fried but instead oven baked and filled with hidden veggies.

Zucchini Nuggets – Zucchini has got to be my favourite veggie to hide as it tastes pretty bland so you don’t notice it, so is easily disguised amongst cheese.

Cauliflower Nuggets

Vegetable ‘Spaghetti’

Using zoodles, or zucchini noodles, when serving up bolognaise or sauce is an excellent way of making vegetables fun! I have a spiralizer which can make zucchinis and carrots into lovely rainbow ribbons. Smothered in bolognaise, which is heavy on tomatoes and mushrooms, the zoodles are disguised. You can even mix some actual spaghetti in there to really throw them off. Here is a great base bolognese recipe to use:

Beef and Lentil Bolognese

I also like to make pesto. Yes it is green, but if I only serve up a small amount on there, he sometimes admits defeat and eats it. This is a great pesto recipe:

2 cups fresh basil

½ cup parmesan cheese

⅓ cup macadamia or pine nuts

¼ cup olive oil

2 tbs lemon juice

1 garlic clove

Just blitz it all together in a food processor

Quiches and Slices

Quiches and Slices are great lunchbox fillers for lunch or even a family dinner served with extra veggies or salad on the side. Even if my son usually ignores the side dishes, he will generally munch on the quiche because it is filled with egg and cheese. I use these recipes as a base and just add whatever veggies I feel like:

Quiche

3 eggs

1 ½ cups milk

½ cup wholemeal self raising flour

1 cup grated cheese

Mix everything together and cook in oven for 45 minutes at 200C. If you add onion or ham, you can brown them in a frypan before adding to mixture.

Slice

5 eggs

At least 3 large zucchinis

At least 1 brown onion

1 cup wholemeal self raising flour

1 cup grated cheese

¼ cup olive oil

Mix everything together and cook in oven for 45 minutes at 200C. If you add onion or ham, you can brown them in a frypan before adding to mixture.

Tacos

Anything that I serve in a wrap I call a taco. Because for some reason, ‘taco’ just sound far more fun and appealing than ‘wrap’. To make ‘tacos’ I cook up some chicken breast or mince, mix in mexican seasoning and olive oil, throw in some veggies chopped very small and serve on a wholemeal wrap with avocado, greek yoghurt and grated cheese. Some veggies that work well are corn kernels, capsicum and grated carrot.

Burgers

Another hit, just like tacos, are burgers. Especially if they are mini burgers using wholemeal slider buns. I make my patties with beef mince, wholemeal breadcrumbs and an egg, then I also mix in grated carrot, zucchini, mushrooms and onion. Serve on a bun with melted cheese, avocado and either tomato salsa or sauce. You can also use chicken mince with rosemary to mix things up.

Pancakes

Sweet or savoury, pancakes can be cut into strips and served to toddlers for just about any meal or even a snack. I love to make banana pancakes and fill them with grated carrot, because carrots are sweet anyway so you don’t notice them. This is my absolute favourite recipe to make pancakes:

1 cup oats

1 cup milk

1 egg

Soak these together in a bowl while mixing together:

1 tbs coconut oil

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

2 grated carrots

Add all ingredients together then just cook on a fry pan.

If you are looking for a savoury pancake recipe, this ‘green monster’ pancake one is a massive hit with my toddler even though it is indeed green. Apparently adding the monster after it is the trick!

250g spinach

1 cup ricotta

½ cup parmesan

⅓ cup wholemeal plain flour

2 eggs

Sweat and chop spinach first then stir together with remaining ingredients and just cook in a frypan.

Another great ‘monster’ inspired recipe is this excellent banana and spinach muffin recipe which I also love to eat for morning tea. I do halve the honey though as I find they don’t need all the extra sweetness.

Monster Muffins

Make the obvious more appetizing

As an adult, I think vegetables are delicious. But I still remember being a kid and thinking how gross brussel sprouts were. I still want to serve up whole vegetables without disguising them as I know there will come a time when my son appreciates them. So in the meantime, I love to jazz up my vegetables to make them more delicious for picky eaters. Here are a few of my favourite hacks:

Corn – Once I have steamed my corn cobs, I dab them with a little bit of butter and then roll them in grated parmesan cheese and squeeze a bit of lime over the top.

Sweet Potato and Carrot – I roast sweet potato and carrot with some olive oil and herbs after cutting into ‘chips’. I serve with a bit of dip on the side which is normally natural yoghurt or hummus. You can also add honey to carrots.

Pumpkin – I roast pumpkin with some olive oil and cinnamon. Sounds weird, but cinnamon makes pumpkin even more sweet for my little sweet tooth.

Stir Fry Vegetables– Making a stir fry with a yummy sticky honey sauce, chicken and noodles can be a good way of mixing in vegetables that are covered with the same yummy sauce so they are more appealing.

Cauliflower – Roast cauliflower with cheese sauce, use cauliflower crumbs to make a homemade pizza base or serve a homemade curry with cauliflower rice. It is such a versatile vegetable!

So there you have it, my hacks for getting my fussy toddler to eat vegetables. Please share your ideas too, I would so love to hear them! Remember Mummas, we will not lose the battle in Parent vs Toddler when it comes to vegetables. We just have to be in it for the long game.

Love Sally

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