Healthy Living

How to eat more vegetables: A picky eater’s guide

Are you a picky eater or do you have some in your house? Eating more vegetables in REAL everyday life doesn’t have to be difficult. In this guide you’ll learn practical ways to incorporate more vegetables in your diet (even if you think you don’t like them!).

I wasn’t a huge fan of fruit when I was a kid because they were too sweet for my taste. Instead I would dig around the fridge for leftover green beans to snack on. YUM, garlic green beans!

Clearly I was pretty weird, even by kid standards…

Most people know they SHOULD be eating more veggies though.

But maybe you were never taught to like good-for-you foods? Or you lived in a place where you couldn’t easily access fresh produce? And maybe that happened to your parents and their parents too? What that means is that we have generations of people, who THINK they don’t like vegetables!

In India for example vegetarian food is not an alternative diet, it’s just food. Most of Europe has fresh, seasonal veggies available at open air markets. In the Caribbean fresh produce is sold on the side of the road and people literally pull over to buy it.

That global tour wasn’t just to excite your travel bug. The point is that even if you don’t like veggies yet (especially as an American), it’s probably not your fault.

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Our culture hasn’t fully embraced fruits and veggies in way that’s actually accessible in REAL life.

But proper education can fix anything.

So let’s go to SCHOOL!

The first lesson starts with a little trickery. If you’re already risk averse to trying new vegetables, then you should start by incorporating them in ways where they aren’t hyper visible i.e. hide them in your food.

How to sneak vegetables into your food:

As you know, I’ve always loved veggies. Tim however needed a little more convincing. He had some bad experiences with boiled carrots that led him to believe he hates carrots.

So I started sneaking them into his meals without him noticing. After months of him eating meatballs laced with carrots, I mentioned there were carrots in there. By that point he already liked the meatballs so he couldn’t claim that the carrots made them taste bad.

Ground Meat:

Ground meat dishes are great dinner ideas for picky eaters. You can hide plenty of veggies and no one at your dinner table will be the wiser.

  • Meatballs, Meatloaf or Burgers: They’re all perfect for incorporating finely grated or pureed veggies. Depending on the meat, you’ll have to choose your veggies wisely, so they’re less visibly noticeable
    • Ground Red Meat i.e. beef: Earthy vegetables like finely chopped, roasted mushrooms or cooked, pureed beets work really well! For something more well done like meatballs or meatloaf go for mushrooms, since they’re closer in color to the end product. Opt for the beets in burgers if you prefer a medium temp.
    • Ground Turkey or Chicken: I find that veggies with lighter, sweeter flavors like carrots, yellow bell peppers or yellow squash are perfect with poultry. All you need is a super fine grater like a microplane, to effectively hide the raw veggies in the meat.

Potatoes make everything better!

I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like potatoes.

Have you?

I didn’t think so.

Since they’re so simple and tasty, it’s easy to slip similar textured vegetables in them but still keep that taste you know and love.

Some potato based foods that are good for veggie swaps:

  • Mashed potatoes: When boiling the potatoes, swap out half of them for celery root, cauliflower or sweet potatoes. When everything is boiled, just mash as normal
  • Soup: Lots of soups call for potatoes! As with the mashed potatoes, you can swap out half of them in the recipe you’re following for celery root, cauliflower or sweet potatoes.
  • Tater tots or potato pancakes: Instead of grated potatoes, you can do a mix of grated root vegetables, like in my root veggie pancakes

Incorporate veggies in baked goods

I know I know, veggies in cake sounds really weird but hear me out.

Aside from the nutritional value, a lot of vegetables contain a good amount of water, which imparts helpful moisture in your baked goods.

Zucchini is especially good in cakes and muffins. As a general rule, if you add 2 small grated zucchini’s (about 1.5 cups) to cake or muffin batter, you’ll just need to remove 1/4 cup of the other combined wet ingredients (eggs, milk etc.) and you’re all set.

One of my all time favorite zucchini sweet recipes is Chocolate Zucchini Bread from the Two Peas and their Pod blog. It’s so moist and DELICIOUS.

I also adapt that recipe every time I make it for a healthier punch by making these swaps:

  • Butter –> Sunflower or avocado oil
  • Brown sugar–> maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar

  • White flour –> White wheat flour

Pro tip: If you’re baking for kids (or adults!) who run when they see green in their food, use a potato peeler to remove the green zucchini skin. Then either blend or puree the zucchini (instead of grating it) to an applesauce consistency so that it’s not noticeable in the cake at all.

Another great way to add vegetables to sweets is to use veggie juice instead of food coloring. This is especially good for kids! Kids love color, so if you’re looking for good vegetables for kids, veggie food coloring is ideal for fussy eaters.

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Some options include:

  • Red velvet cake or red velvet pancakes: use beet juice instead of red food coloring
  • Homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream: pop some spinach into a juicer and use that healthy green juice as dye
  • Frosting or rainbow cake batter: There’s a veggie for almost every color of the rainbow. Simply juice each veggie before stirring it in to reach your desired color.
    • Yellow: Corn
    • Orange: Carrots
    • Purple: Purple Cabbage, Purple Carrots, Beets
    • Red: Red bell peppers
    • Green: Spinach
    • Blue: Ok so there are no veggies I can think of but try blueberries

Get the your dark leafy greens in

Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are super good for you. They’re rich in antioxidants, keep your mind sharp and help with blood pressure.

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Consider chopping them up super finely and adding them to:

  • Fruit smoothies
    • I also like to use avocados in smoothies, because they’re super creamy and a great source of healthy fats. WIN WIN!
  • Sauces
    • Even veggie averse people expect to see some herbs in their tomato sauce. When making homemade tomato sauce or using store bought sauce, in addition to fresh parsley or basil, throw in 1-2 tbs of fresh chopped kale or spinach and you won’t taste the difference!

Does any of this actually taste good?

We’ve gone through a bunch of different ways to sneak vegetables into your food. But, are you asking your yourself “Does any of this taste good?”.

Honestly that’s a great question! As I’ve said in other posts, life is too short to eat bad food!

So YES it does actually taste good. You won’t notice most of these flavors at all because they are well hidden. The best way to introduce any new flavor is to combine it with something you already like.

I recommended vegetables in this post that compliment sweeter dishes. I find that if you aren’t used to eating a lot of vegetables, it’s easier to start by adding more sweet vegetables to your food.

Proportions matter!: Remember you’re adding just enough vegetables to make a nutritional impact but not so much that it’s the only thing you can taste.

Here are some good hidden vegetable recipes to get you started:

If you have questions about eating more veggies or want suggestions on the appropriate amounts to sneak into your meals, let me know in the comments!

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Did you try a blog recipe? I’d love to see how it turned out! Snap a picture and tag @brightrootskitchen or use #brightrootskitchen on Insta.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Kate @ High Chair Chronicles
    April 5, 2019 at

    So great that you posted this now! This is Kate from the babaganosh food blog… My husband and I were just brainstorming last night about how to hide vegetables in my 2 year old son’s food (he eats ZERO vegetables) and I am starting a series on my picky eating blog about hiding vegetables in kid-friendly foods.

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 5, 2019 at

      Hi Kate! What a coincidence and glad I could help. It’s definitely tricky but I think sneaking them into the foods he already likes (pureed or juice) is the best way to start. We don’t have kids, but I’ve heard from friends with kids that getting them in the kitchen to cook with you and taste along the way helps too : )

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