The Saboteur: Sneaking In Vegetables To Your Daily Kiddie Food

Today’s guest post is in response to this week’s hautemealz.com article,Winning the Food War with our Kids“.

More great info…

-Chef Perry


Admit it: making kids eat vegetables is one of the hardest parts of dinner time.

From Caesar salad to all-veggie stews and dishes, the dinner table will become a riot zone once kids started to drop their forks and refrain from eating those healthy veggies. However, forcing greens in their mouths is never the solution.

Sneaking considerable amounts of veggies in your daily meals is the general solution, but it takes skill, experimentation, and patience to pull this off. Here are some tips:

1. Start small

To slowly desensitize their palate for fast food, start by sneaking inconspicuous amounts of veggies in your favorite dishes.

For instance, instead of going all meat with your flame-grilled burgers, why not start mixing in some very finely chopped carrots, onions, and celery into the patty mixture, then increase the amount little by little?

Also, you can side your steaks with buttered veggies in small portions. However, the real trick in making them eat small amount of veggies is not guarding them while eating. You can leave the meal on the table, sit in front of the computer, and play online bingo at FoxyBingo while pretending you aren’t observing them.

You’ll be surprised how they will outgrow their distaste for veggies little by little.


2. Use them as alternatives

If your kids became accustomed to Big Mac and large orders of French fries, now is the right time to offer them some alternatives.

You can serve patties with veggie extenders or go full vegan by cooking meat-free burgers. Instead of French fries, you can season potato wedges and coat them, then bake them for oil-free wedges.

3. Use them in cooking

Training your kids to cook is the best way to expose them in the wonderful world of “Veggielandia”.

Asking them to wash or peel veggies can make them get to like them. Teaching your kids a thing or two in the kitchen early on won’t just give them life skills but the love for vegetables, as well.


Winning the Food War with our Kids



Cooking for little ones (and not so little ones) often presents some unique challenges.

While, obviously, you want to provide them with nutritious meals, it can be a pain in your….patience…to get them to eat the foods that are best for their growing bodies. We’re all probably well aware of the food plate and the number of servings our children need of healthy grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables, and calcium products.

Getting them to eat these nourishing foods…well, that’s another matter altogether, isn’t it?

Here’s the good news when cooking for children: you do not need to incorporate all the important nutrients into every dinner. This is not Chopped, and the judges won’t send you home for not using all of the ingredients.



If the dinner table has become a battle ground, if the kids are marching to the table, already prepared for war…go guerilla on them! Avoid pitched battles and sneak those healthy foods behind enemy lines when they least expect them.

MMM_9343_2Let’s face it…raw cucumbers, thinly sliced and sprinkled with salt, are freakin’ awesome,  and make a much healthier snack than potato chips! But don’t just chuck a bowl of them in their face like a hand grenade…just set them out of the table, let them see you nibbling a couple yourself, and their own natural curiosity will eventually spring the trap.

Jungle warfare, baby!

The same holds true for melon and cantaloupes. These make excellent snacks and are a much-needed fruit in these important diets for little ones.

Here’s another biggie: If they don’t like apple slices…DON’T GIVE THEM APPLE SLICES! How hard is that? I don’t care if YOU love apple slices, if you do…great, YOU eat them. Give them some options. The goal here is not notches on your rifle-stock, it’s winning the war, long term!


There’s an old saying that an army marches on its stomach, and many a war has been lost not to bad planning, or bad soldiers, but to a lack of good food.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.


Bad attitudes, lack of motivation, poor school performance…all of these “symptoms” have been tied to a lack of proper nutrition.

Regardless of what we think we can or can’t cook, the reality is that our kids cannot live on macaroni and cheese alone. It’s been tried and tested and failed miserably.


Try mixing things up whenever you can while keeping meals kid friendly. It is important that you try to introduce whole grains, proteins, and vegetables whenever possible at meal times around your home.  Remember the “2 out of 3” rule:

Kids (and many adults) are quicker to accept a new dish if at least 2 out of every 3 ingredients are familiar favorites. Their favorite peanut-butter and jelly can be a Trojan Horse for whole-grain bread or crackers. Shredded cauliflower, carrots, or broccoli virtually disappear in spaghetti sauce. Land mine that home-cooked macaroni with cheese sauce (not that glowing-orange powdered junk) with fresh cooked peas and carrots.

You get the idea!

Mac n Cheese

Cooking healthier meals for kids is now easier than ever before. Fresh fruits and vegetables are best whenever possible. However, if you cannot manage fresh, or frozen, at least avoid “canned with syrup” (swimming in sugary tooth-rotting sweetness) whenever possible. Frozen is far preferable to canned when it comes to both fruit and vegetables, as there are often fewer additives.

Turn their ration of milk into dessert (and get a healthy dessert at the same time) by mixing it into a frozen fruit, like our Blueberry Slush.

Blueberry Slush


Encourage your children to try new things rather than cooking the same few meals over and over again that you know they are likely to eat. This prevents two things from happening. First of all, it helps you not to get bored when cooking for your children.

Second, it allows your children to try new flavors and textures and form opinions about them. By trying new things they will learn not only about the things they dislike but also the foods they really enjoy.

Kids tastes change over time. It’s frustrating, I know, to spend time and money preparing a meal only to have your child push the plate away and say “Yuck.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor this, I strongly recommend enlisting their help in the kitchen. First of all, children are much more likely to eat the things they had a hand in preparing as a matter of accomplishment and pride. (See our post: Tips for Raising an International Gourmet)

Second – you’re training a new kitchen commander who, with any luck, will have dinner ready for YOU, one of these nights!

It’s psychological warfare I know, but all is fair in war and parenting.

1One of the greatest gift you can give your children is to teach them how to prepare delicious, nutritious meals, and free them from a lifetime as a Fast Food P.O.W.

I’ve used these tactics to great success in my own household, and I hope you will enjoy the same degree of success on the field of battle, as well!

-Chef Perry




Blueberry Slush

This recipe is my daughter Gracie’s #1 favorite dessert, and in terms of simplicity, deliciousness, and healthy eating…it’s a trifecta of awesomeness that requires 2-3 ingredients, and about 30 seconds to prepare!

Blueberry Slush

Blueberry Slush
1/2 cup frozen blueberries (I buy fresh, then freeze overnight)
1/2 cup milk, anything from 1% to Whole.
1 tsp preferred sweetener (optional)

Put frozen berries on a bowl, sprinkle with sweetener, and pour the milk over to top until it’s just below the level of the berries.

Let sit 10 seconds, then stir. Repeat until the milk has formed a slush, and there’s no visible liquid in the bottom of the bowl.

Serve immediately.

High in antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber; low in calories, and with no fat or cholesterol, blueberries are considered a “Superfood.”

A 14-year study that followed 200,000 participants showed that the flavonoids in blueberries can enhance brain health, help improve your memory, protect your brain from age-related decline (gotta get me some of THAT!) and also help prevent high blood pressure.

Gracie just thinks it’s delicious…and that’s good enough for me!

hautemealz.com Chef, Terry Ramsey, introduced this crazy-easy dish to our family, and it’s become our go-to dessert (and sometimes breakfast, l0l).

Thanks Terry!

-Chef Perry


Tips for Raising an International Gourmet

Cooking with kids

Today we’re gonna talk about a few tips I have for “Raising an International Gourmet” (and maybe learning a few new things ourselves!)

I have gone through the following steps with children as young as five and, with a little flexibility and patience, it can be a lot of fun.

Note: when it stops being fun, stop. You’re not teaching at the Le Cordon Bleu, so tell your inner Iron Chef to lighten up! Forcing a kid to cook will only get you the opposite of what you’re shooting for…a lifetime peanut-butter and ramen eater.

Also, don’t let your own bias become theirs! If they pick a recipe that calls for tripe, heart, or pig’s feet…go buy the dang pig’s feet! The whole idea here is to broaden their horizons (and it might not hurt to stretch ours a wee bit, as well, lol...)

So, place your tongue firmly in your cheek, accept that the kitchen is going to be a mess*, and have some fun!

Cooking with kids

Here we go…

1. Take a looking in the fridge/freezer and decide on a protein (chicken, steak, ground beef, salmon, pork roast, etc.) Okay, it doesn’t HAVE to be meat, but I’ve found that those recipes are easier to find in the following steps. You can certainly begin with a vegan main ingredient, as well.

2. Let kiddo pick a country. I have a big mp of the world in my office, but a globe, atlas, or even an online map would work just as well. If the country they pick seems obscure, say “Chad”, just use the continent (Africa) for step three.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.


3. Go to Google and type in “(name of country) (protein) Recipes” ie: “African Chicken Recipes” (490,000 results.) If you have additional ingredients you want to use, like rice, or tomatoes…add them in the search.

4. Together, cull through the recipes that Google finds, until you find one that sounds good, and that you have all (or most) of the ingredients for.

5. Do a new Google search for the name of the recipe you’ve chosen, say “Jollof Rice.” Chances are good that you’re going to get a Wikipedia hit like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jollof_rice. Help junior jot down some notes. Here’s what I found on Jollof Rice:

Jollof rice, also called ‘Benachin’ meaning one pot in the Wolof language, is a popular dish all over West Africa. It is thought to have originated in The Gambia but has since spread to the whole of West Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana amongst members of the Wolof ethnic group. There are many variations of Jollof rice. The dish consists of rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onion, salt, spices (such as nutmeg, ginger, Guinea pepper or cumin) and chili pepper, to which optional ingredients can be added such as vegetables, meats and fish.

Cooking with kids6. Together, collect the ingredients, discarding or replacing those that are too spicy, too expensive, or too obscure, and (together) prepare the dish.

While the dish is cooking, or before you start, let the kiddo draw up a picture or two of the dish, the country it came from, a collage of the ingredients, whatever.

7. When Dad (or Mom, or the Grandparents, whoever) get’s home. Let kiddo give a short presentation of what we’re having for dinner, let them share some key points of your research, pass around their artwork, etc.

Then, help them serve the dish to the dinner guests.

8. Remember the three most important ingredients in kid cooking…praise, praise, praise!

9. If you’re the artsy/craftsy type, take some pictures of the process, start to finish, and start a family scrap/cookbook with the pictures, recipe, research notes, artwork, and “customer comments.” Not only will this make an awesome keepsake, but it gives junior a chance to remake favorite dishes, take pride in their cooking, and revisit past “glories.”

Most of all HAVE FUN!

Cooking with kids

Note: I have a daughter, but if I had a son, I would be following the same culinary plan. Let’s put it this way…when I was 27, my sole redeeming feature was my ability to cook really good food…and I married WAY out of my league. If noting else, parents, think of it as your son’s “Failure to Launch” insurance, down the road!

-Chef Perry

*Just a note on that “mess” in the kitchen…Junior isn’t an Iron Chef either, and you’re not his/her “prep-monkey”…clean- up is part of cooking…they might as well get that idea now instead of later. Again, do it together, and make it as fun as possible.

Remember, it’s never too young to start…

Cooking with kids


Novelist, cookbook author, and award winning food blogger, Perry P. Perkins is a work-at-home dad who lives with his wife Victoria and their young daughter Grace, in the Pacific Northwest. Perry has written for hundreds of magazines, everything from Writer’s Digest and Guideposts, to American Hunter and Bassmaster Magazine. His inspirational stories have been included in twelve Chicken Soup anthologies, as well.

Perry’s books are available at www.perryperkinsbooks.com

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