Helping a picky eater of any age to ingest their 3-5 recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables can be a challenge. While the National Academy of Science’s Food Pyramid clearly suggests the “how much,” it remains a little skimpy on the “how to.”
Some may call these methods underhanded or sneaky. I call them effective. And full disclosure of all ingredients is always an option from the very beginning. Or, you can just let them know as you’re dropping them off at the freshmen dorm. It’s your choice.
You’ll need a blender or more preferably, a food processor, for processing these vegetables into less offensive sizes. A microwave or a heavy lidded saucepan will also be necessary to either steam or simmer these vegetables into a consistency that will allow us to mix into the larger, accepted entrees.
A food processor can reduce a large 12-16 oz. bag of fresh bagged spinach to a little more than a cup of very fined chopped, almost pureed, spinach. It can be added in teaspoon or tablespoon amounts to scrambled eggs, Spaghetti-O’s, sprinkled over pizza or cheese toast, stirred into soups and pasta sauces.
When cooking a larger entrée, use more of the spinach mixed into the quiche, lasagna or pot of soup. It can also be mixed into a quesadilla or burrito. The finely diced spinach can be kept for a 2-3 days in a closed plastic bag with a paper towel inside.
#2 Sweet Potatoes
Using baked or steamed sweet potatoes is a little bit harder. I typically make regular mashed potatoes with about 20% sweet potato mixed in. The color difference isn’t as obvious if you use unpeeled white potatoes and there is only a small taste difference.
I’ve also served a brown sugar and sweet potato mix on toast, somewhat like one would use an apple butter mixture.
You can also add a mashed sweet potato layer in your lasagna and reduce the meat in your recipe accordingly. It’s indistinguishable from regular lasagna.
#3&4 Zucchini & Yellow Squash
Diced and steamed zucchini or yellow squash can be added to eggs, soups, Spaghetti-O’s, mixed into spaghetti sauces, and tossed onto pizzas or quesadillas. I’ve even lightly sprinkled them between the layers of bread for a grilled cheese/slightly zucchini sandwich.
Mashed carrots can be mixed into soups, used as a bottom layer for quiche, or mixed into almost anything that include similarly colored cheddar cheese.
Some of these recipe tweaks work better than others, obviously, and they’ll always be personal preferences. But at least they make an attempt to increase a picky eater’s vegetable intake.