The War on Vegetables: Recipes for your Little Ones

I enter the battlefield, also known as my kitchen, every day determined to win a daily conflict around our dinner table: my toddler eating vegetables. With each passing week, it feels more like a crusade incorporating leafy and salubrious vegetables and other healthy options in my toddler’s diet. Some days I am defeated and other days I “win.” Those moments of triumph are memorable but what I have learned is what works one day does not necessarily work the next.

Below are recipes I have written based on conversations with other moms that have evolved from other recipes and have faced the greatest critic: a toddler. I have incorporated them into our family’s meals and, more often than not, have been successful in our daily battles to incorporate vegetables and other salubrious options, like beans and squash, into our children’s diet.

Kale Chipskale chips

Kale is considered one of the healthiest vegetables available. These crunchy treats are not only addictive but packed with amino acid. It is a great addition to any meal or gathering. It is also a perfect option for expecting mothers.

*Note: This is a great recipe to have your children “help” you prepare. I have my toddler help by tearing the leaves into “chips” and sprinkling the seasoning on top.

– 1 bunch of kale
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 tablespoon sea salt
– 1 tablespoon paprika
– 1 tablespoon garlic powder

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet.
– With a knife, kitchen shears or your hands, carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner.
– Lay kale flat on a baking pan. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning.
– Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.

Peas & Applesauce Puree

Try this easy and simple recipe with your little one once you have introduced peas and apples into their diet and passed the “reaction test.” It is a great way to not only add a serving of fruit but vegetable as well. Peas are a magical vegetable packed with protein but it has an intense flavor when pureed. Applesauce is usually a favorite among little ones, so the combination is perfect.  Who knew apples and peas go so well together! And, don’t be surprised if they seek seconds.

– 1/4 cup peas
– 1/8 cup apple juice
– 1/4 cup applesauce or 1 prepared apple (I recommended purchasing organic apples or applesauce when offering it to your little one.)

– Steam 1/4 cup of peas until tender.  (You may also slice a pealed apple and steam with the peas in lieu of using purchased applesauce.)
– Put slightly cooled peas (and apples) in a blender/chopper and add enough apple juice to cover.
– Puree.
– Add 1/4 cup of applesauce (if steamed apples were not used) and mix together.

Creamed Cauliflower

If your little one loves mashed potatoes, try this option instead; they just might not know the difference. Cauliflower is packed with folate, dietary fiber, water and Vitamin C.

– 1 medium head cauliflower
– 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or their favorite cheese)
– 1/4 cup heavy cream, half & half or Whole Milk
– 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 1/8 teaspoon salt
– 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)

– Set a pot of water to boil over high heat.
– Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces. Set cauliflower into a steamer in the pot for about 10 minutes, or until well done.
– Mash cauliflower in bowl until pureed/smooth.  Add the cream/milk, salt, pepper, cheese.
Also, you may add roasted garlic and/or butter, to taste.

Super 5 Smoothie Super 5 Smoothie2

In case you or your little one is feeling adventurous, try this smoothie. Jamie tried this drink with her kids and I was elated to receive her message, “Both of my kids are eating spinach and kale!” That makes any mom happy. Don’t have satisfied tasters? Then add more pineapple juice until you have achieved success!


– 1 hand full of fresh washed Kale

– 1 hand full of fresh washed Spinach

– 1 bunch of cilantro

– 1 ripe banana

– 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks

– 1 cup of water and ice (depending on the consistency you prefer)


– Blend all ingredients together on high until smooth, drink & enjoy!

Banana Pumpkin Milkshake

pumpkin banana shake

Are you struggling for nutritional ingredients to disguise milk? Consider banana and pumpkin. Even though pumpkin is technically a fruit, it is packed with Vitamins A, C and E as well as dietary fiber. This is one of my favorite, and easiest, ways to create a fun and healthy milkshake.

– 8 – 10 oz (whole) milk
– 1 ripe banana
– 2 heaping spoonfuls of roasted or canned pumpkin

– Blend all three ingredients and serve in their favorite cup!


Next time you cook carrots consider adding a little butter and brown sugar, enough to coat them, after you have boiled or steamed your carrots. Honey is also an alternative option, in lieu of butter or sugar, when your child is over one.

Butternut Squash SoupButternut Squash Soup2

– 2 pounds of butternut squash, halved, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
– 1 1/2 cups diced onion
– Sage (4 whole leaves)
– 2 carrots, peeled and diced (optional)
– 3 (13 3/4-ounce) cans chicken broth
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons butter
– 1/2 cup light cream or heavy cream, plus extra for garnish

– In a medium saucepan, combine squash, onion, carrots, if using, sage, broth and salt. Simmer, uncovered, until squash is very tender, about 40 minutes.
– Puree soup in a blender or food processor with the butter. Whisk cream into soup. Serve in wide, shallow bowls with a dollop of cream, if desired.


HummusThis is a fail-proof and “light” recipe that requires only a chopper.  Chickpeas are packed with protein, dietary fiber and potassium.  This is a great snack to have in the refrigerator and serve with multi-grain bread, carrots or red pepper strips. Cannot get the little one to eat it? Spread some on their sandwich.

– 3/4 c water
– 1/2 c tahini
– 6 garlic cloves, peeled (start with 3 and add as needed)
– 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 teaspoon pepper
– 2 (19oz) cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed & drained

– Place 1st 3 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.
– Add juice & remaining ingredients; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
(Add water as needed to achieve consistency desired.)

Roasted Butternut Squash

This is a great alternative to mashed sweet potatoes. Short on time? Then consider purchasing already prepared squash washed and cut into squares.

–  1 butternut squash – sliced in half and seeded
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 1 tablespoon pepper
– 2 cloves of pressed garlic
– 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
– 1 teaspoon of nutmeg

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
– Wash and cut squash in half.  Remove seeds.
– Drizzle baking pan with olive oil, salt and pepper as well as the exposed squash half with the remaining ingredients.
– Place squash face down on the pan and roast in preheated over until tender and lightly browned, 30 to 45 minutes. (If using precut squash, flip pieces every ten minutes; check with a fork for tenderness after 30 minutes.)
– Cool briefly and scoope squash “meat” out into a bowl and mash with a fork.  And butter and nutmeg.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Spaghetti Squash (in lieu of pasta)

Consider this alternative to pasta next time you serve spaghetti.

– 1 large spaghetti squash

– Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

– Wash squash thoroughly and cut in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and pulp.
– Prepare a pan by covering with aluminum foil. Spray or drizzle with olive oil. Place each exposed face flat down on the pan and roast until soft, approximately 30-45 minutes.
– Run a fork from one end to the other creating strands.


  1. Thanks for this post, Ana. I’m currently battling this with my toddler as well. He went from loving veggies to spitting them out and feeding them to the dog! So, I will definitely have to try some of these out!


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