Secret’s in the Sauce: How I got my kid to eat her veggies

Once upon a time, not long ago, my daughter ate everything I gave her. I was overjoyed to watch her devour a plate of sautéed zucchini. Beside myself with delight as she polished off a bowl of steamed carrots. Couldn’t believe my eyes as she shoved broccoli in her mouth by the fistfuls! And then….she turned two and a half. All of the sudden everything I made was utterly repugnant for my daughter’s newfound picky palate. I couldn’t even get her to eat sweet potato! Seriously, who does not like sweet potato? I thought if it had the word “sweet” in it, then surely a child would eat it. Not my kid. Any type of orange vegetable is just plain off limits to her.

“Concerned about my vegetable intake mommy? Call someone who cares.” I swear she is mocking me sometimes.

It seems all she wants for dinner lately is “Pastaaa!” as she shouts for it. Anything else, I basically have to pry her mouth open. I was warned by Mia’s pediatrician about the “beige phase” toddlers go through where all they want are pasta, rice, and crackers. I was hopeful we’d bypass that stage and then BAM, here we are in Beigeville. It’s boring here, folks.

This past weekend I was feeling especially tired of the mealtime drama and for thinking that I was a bad mother for not forcing giving my daughter enough veggies to eat. I felt defeated. “If all she wants is pasta, who am I to stop her?” I thought to myself.

So I started making the sauce for her pasta like I do most Sundays. When I opened the fridge, I stared in sadness at the beautiful carrots, celery, shallots, and squash that would never touch my daughter’s lips….or would they? I had an idea. I busted out the food processor, chopped those veggies into oblivion, and threw them in with the simmering tomatoes. I even added frozen peas to really test her limits. They are visible and can easily be picked out….but I was feeling risky. Maybe I had a little fight left in me after all? I had some flax seeds on hand and sprinkled them into the bubbling brew too. “You want pasta little one? I’ll give you pasta.”

The end result was a concoction much thicker than my mom used to make. But hey….

She liked it!

This concept of smuggling veggies in food is not revolutionary. I think some celebrity mom wrote a cookbook about it and was on Oprah or something. But that was before I had a child and all I could think of while watching the episode was “Ewww, who the hell would eat brownies with beets in it?!” Ah…. to be that carefree again.

I realized it may be a while before she eats her veggies straight up again and that I have to be a little more creative in how I get them into her belly. These kids don’t make anything easy, do they? For sanity’s sake I also vowed not to drive myself over the edge if she is not eating everything I expect her to. She is developing her own tastes and growing into her own person. Besides, she doesn’t seem malnourished. She can find a way to climb onto the kitchen island and have enough energy to do endless somersaults in the living room.

The greater issue at hand is her stubbornness and the battles yet to be fought over food, doing her homework, sneaking out of the house, etc. All I can do now is just hug my little sweetie and shovel another spoonful of pasta and magic sauce into her unsuspecting little mouth.

Anyone else going through the picky-eater/beige-food phase? How/where do you hide your child’s veggies? I need more ideas as to where to smuggle the contraband. God forbid there come a time when she will tire of sauce and scrambled eggs (a place where I harbor broccoli and kale). I might just brake down and get that cookbook.

Or, are you fortunate enough to have the perfect child that consumes veggies without fuss? If so, please tell me how you do it!

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15 thoughts on “Secret’s in the Sauce: How I got my kid to eat her veggies

  1. Mary Grace- this is a great way to try to sneak in the veg! Mike and I are always obsessing about how to get Jake to eat veggies (besides baked french fries…………….) and i have found the sauce sneak to work wonders! Jake is pretty O.K. with eating a variety of foods, but man, i wish he would do the veg thing more often! and Mia is ADORBS, btw.


    1. Haha Elise! Those are removable, washable cotton slipcovers I got on clearance from Pier 1. I’d never be that brave. Besides, the sauce and avocado smears blend in nicely with the flower pattern 🙂


  2. It’s hard to get my boys to eat veggies because their father doesn’t. Like AT ALL. So here are the two things that have saved me thus far (though I’ll be adding your suggestions as a third): 1. Our pediatrician said that, at least for kids, fruits are just as good as veggies. My kids eat a TON of fruit so I don’t worry about it too much. And of course my husband thinks that applies to him, too, but I don’t really care to police his eating habits. 2. “Without a doubt, it is the parents’ only responsibility to offer a variety of healthy foods. It is up to the child to choose among these foods what he eats and how much.” — from My Child Won’t Eat: How to Enjoy Mealtimes Without Worry by Carlos Gonzales


    1. Haha Jen! That is hilarious about your husband. I feel better you said that about fruit, because Mia loooves fruit. I also love the quote you shared, I’m realizing we can only do so much as parents, the rest is up to them.


  3. Oh Mary Grace, I always LOVE your posts! They’re just so gosh darn entertaining! You must have felt like a million bucks watching her scarf down that sauce!
    As far as I’m concerned, I’ve basically given up. I figure that perhaps kids don’t really need THAT many vegetables…who knows? Maybe they have an inner wisdom about what their bodies need (never heard about the beige thing…that is so interesting!) and maybe I should just stop getting in the way. It’s an experiment. I’ll let you know how it goes! 😉


    1. Kate you might be on to something. I remember reading an article a year or two about how forcing your kids to eat (veg or anything else) can lead to eating problem later, the main one obesity. Children are born with the insight to know how much and what their bodies need and forcing them passed what they want only teaches them to eat all in front on them and not just until they are full. I have been trying this with my daughter but when she won’t eat I always get that worry she is not getting enough and try what I can to get her to eat. I really want to work more on just letting her be.


  4. We didn’t go through this until 3.5, and Nate is 4 and it’s STILL a problem. I think it’s my punishment for bragging about how he would eat anything. Now he wants sweet potato fries, chicken nuggets, pizza, and grilled cheese. I am so sick of it! I made a rule that he either eats our food at dinner (we eat EVERYTHING!) or he has to make himself peanut butter on wheat bread (I won’t make it but I’ll put the ingredients on the counter). He is STUBBORN, and has eaten PB on wheat bread for as many as 4 nights in a row. The pediatrician said it will pass…but I may lose my mind first. Soooooo frustrating.


    1. I feel you mama. For the past three nights in a row, little miss has wanted toast with almond butter at 3 am! I can’t wait until she is old enough to make it herself 🙂


  5. Oh we are going through this, but she is only 23 months (will be 2 very soon). She use to eat basically everything and anything but lately she wants only what she wants and veg are usually not on her list. I use to be able to get those extra vegs in her with pasta and sauce or even putting them in meat balls. But all of a sudden all I hear is “No pasta, no pasta”. I can still get her to eat rice dishes with veg in them most nights. Another place I have hid them when she won’t eat them is in pancakes for breakfast (pumpkin are her fav) and meatloaf which she usually eats but lately again won’t always touch. One tick I have found is that she loves thing in a pouch. We get the apple sauce in a pouch many times for snacks on the go and so I picked up a few veg ones. Well she loves most of them. Days when she won’t took anything with a veg in it I just give her one of those.


    1. Thanks for the tips! How could I forget about those pouchy things? She likes those. And those pumpkin pancakes sound yummy! Pumpkin is orange, but she may not notice it in the form of a pancake drowning in maple syrup.


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