So my son Mac is four. He's vegan and very proud of it. He will tell anyone that he talks to and says everything is vegan. But he's picky! Very picky and always has been! I read all kinds of blogs about families that are vegan and they show a plate with hummus or tofu bits or tempeh and I sigh...Mac will not eat those things. He says they can be for me and Daddy. So, I have to be a little more creative about how I get him to try new things or squeeze in those veggies.
Today I thought I would share the ways I have used (successfully) to get him to eat things even though sometimes he may not know he was eating it.
1. One trick I have used is that I get him to eat it a couple of times but I don't tell him he's eating it. Then when he says "I don't like almond butter" I say "You eat it all the time in your pita sandwiches" and then (luckily) he says "Oh...I like almond butter!" I can't say that it will happen for you since I don't know your kid but it has worked for me.
2. Spaghetti is your friend! Mac doesn't know that he likes spaghetti, he does however love spaghetti rice. Difference...we cut the long strands of whole wheat pasta into little tiny pieces since he likes rice but doesn't like pasta. We also use a jarred, organic primervera pasta sauce on it and he hasn't noticed the chunks of carrots somehow. Then we mash up a few spoons of beans or chickpeas or even tofu and mix it in with the pasta and he's never complained. We also sneak a little nutritional yeast in there since it adds some b12 and cheesy flavour. We also put his peas in his spaghetti and he eats more of them that way than if they were right next to them on their own. And it wouldn't work at all if there wasn't a piece of toasted ciabatta cut into a bunch of little pieces next to it. There's no real rule like "you have to eat 2 bites to get bread" just an understanding that he has to eat both and he went with a bite of pasta, a bite of bread, repeat. This is now his favourite supper and he will request it pretty much every night of the week and I don't have to feel guilty about him eating it on some of those nights. Oh...and don't forget the ketchup.
3. Mashed potatoes are also your friends...they are so yummy and most kids will eat them, especially with a little ketchup. I like to add some cauliflower florets to the pot while I am boiling the potatoes and mash it all together. I have also added a can of chickpeas while boiling as well and he was never the wiser. This works awesome as a filling for pierogi which I make in bulk and keep in the freezer for a quick supper even my husband can make.
4. Make the meal more fun and sometimes you can get them to try something new! Just this past weekend, we were reading Blue's Snack Party for about the three hundredth time and I said "How about for lunch tomorrow we have a Snack Party and we can make all the snacks they make in the story but vegan?" and he was sooooo happy! I was making the snacks and Mac actually came into the kitchen and wanted to help. He put together the apple cookie sandwiches while counting the apple slices and drops of agave. He freaked right out when he saw the vegetable race car I had made from a mini cucumber and some carrot slices and I don't think he could have been more excited for the "cheddar" letters made from Wheat Thins and Tofutti cheddar slices. He was having so much fun, he was literally bouncing and wouldn't sit down. He ate most of a vegetable race car and actually stopped Ryan from eating any of the carrot wheels because he wanted to. I usually can't get him to eat carrots and here he was fighting for the right to eat them all! It really didn't take much longer to make than usual lunch and the pay off of how happy he was and seeing him wanting to eat healthy snacks was so worth it!
4. Respect that they aren't going to like somethings but keep offering. I know Mac doesn't like cooked carrots but I still put a few on his plate when we have them. Same with broccoli and every time he would say "but I don't like that" and I would just say okay and eat it up. Then one day he just ate it and said he did like it. Other things like peanut butter, he really seems adverse to, I just let it go and tried almond butter and he was okay with that. I could stress myself out about what he won't eat but life's too short and instead I focus on all the things he will eat! As long as he is a healthy kid, I'm happy!
5. Be a good example. A big reason we ditched dairy and eggs in the first place is because of Mac's food allergies. When he was a baby, we ate what we wanted very carefully and kept it far away from him but as he got older he wanted what we had and we realized it just wasn't going to work. Around the same time, I had my aha moment with food so it made it really easy to give it up since we had a really great reason. Now Mac sees us eating our green beans and wants to try them. Some things he's still not sold on and it's just for grown ups but he does say when he gets bigger he will eat it too so maybe there's hope.
6. Serve something they do like with something they are less in love with. Mac loves potatoes so I know if I want him to try something new and I put it with a potato dish of some sort (mashed, baked, boiled, oven fries, tater tots) there is a better chance he will eat it. He has now come to love when Daddy makes supper because Daddy makes tater tots. It is a bit of a special occasion and while he's all happy about tater tots and corn (off the cob only!) then we slip in a Gardein Crispy Tender or two and he will eat them. This is also how I did get him to eat tofu a few times when I made my own tofu sticks but I just told him they were the same as what he was used to.
7. Last but not least, cook together and always let them lick the bowl! Mac loves to help in the kitchen. I will admit it was hard for me at first since I am a bit of a crazy perfectionist but I learned to let go and have more fun since he has been helping and to leave myself a little extra time to get things done so I'm not panicking about being behind. He loves to knead bread, roll out dough, stir up batters, measure out ingredients, cut things with a butter knife and taste test of course!
Anyways, those are some things that have worked for me with my little picky eater but strangely do not work on my pickiest (my mom!). Anyone out there want to share their tips? Leave a comment and let me know what works for you. Parents of picky eaters unite or we don't stand a chance!