If your little ones are anything like mine, it can be difficult to get them to try new foods. In our case, vegetables are particularly challenging. While we continue to offer our son vegetables in their recognizable state (and he sometimes surprises us by taking a bite or two!), we also have come up with some ways to sneak vegetables into his unsuspecting little body, like grating zucchini into the spaghetti sauce and mashing cauliflower into his rice. (Stay tuned for a future post on working with a picky eater!)
From the beginning he has rejected sweet potatoes on principle, because of their blatantly non-rice, non-bread, non-banana color. Even though I knew my little Monkey would LOVE sweet potatoes once he tried them, we couldn’t get him to so much as touch them with the tip of his tongue. (This sounds like I am just being figurative, but this is actually how we have gotten him to try a few new foods, by touching exactly one millimeter of his tongue to the said item. As a note, this only sometimes leads to a more adventurous sampling, but it’s always worth a shot).
So what to do? Sweet potatoes are so nutritious (and just plain yummy), I wasn’t willing to wait until he decided to give them a try. Instead, I now incorporate sweet potatoes into two items that he already loves: pancakes and smoothies. Every few weeks I peel and dice two sweet potatoes (okay, yams – you know, the orange ones) and steam them until they are soft enough to mash. Some of these go towards dinner for my husband and me (either just as they are or as part of bean burritos), leaving just the right amount for the following two toddler-friendly recipes.
1. Sweet Potato Smoothies
I am a sucker for smoothies, and luckily my little boy is, too. When he was very new to the whole “solid foods” business, this was the main way he got fruits and vegetables in his diet. So why not try this technique with sweet potatoes? I did, and it was an instant success! Here are the ingredients:
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup vanilla yogurt – You can also use plain yogurt, just add a little vanilla and sweetener to taste. As for brands, my little Monkey and I think Greek Gods really has no competition
- approx. 3/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
- 2-3 dates (optional) – They add extra sweetness and depth, but if you don’t have some on hand, that’s okay
- frozen or fresh blueberries, handful (optional) – I originally added them because my little Monkey loves blueberries, and so he is more likely to try something he knows contains them. Now I just add them for the flavor!
Mix it all in a blender and voilà! Something every little Monkey can enjoy, blissfully unaware of how healthy it is!
Makes one adult-sized serving or two Monkey-sized servings
Sweet Potato Pancakes
Another big hit: For this, just add mashed sweet potatoes to your favorite pancake recipe. (We use Trader Joe’s Multigrain Pancake Mix). For one cup of pancake mix, I add about 3/4 cup of sweet potatoes. The only change you have to make is to adjust the amount of liquid to get the consistency you like. You can also drop the oil you’d usually add, thanks to the sweet potatoes. (Here is a post, based on a similar principle, about how to use canned pumpkin as a substitute for oil and eggs in baked goods). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can sprinkle in some cinnamon and cloves.
Then cook as usual! So delicious!
As a side note, we tend to make our pancakes into shapes, because this keeps our little Monkey’s interest in breakfast, usually his least favorite meal. We have actual pancake molds to make fabulous trains and airplanes, plus I like to freestyle it to make hearts, snowmen, cats, dogs, letters, and numbers. This time I even tried a butterfly! Luckily my little Monkey has a good imagination. (Note the “C” for “courage” and the “friendly” bear with a big smile in the picture below – tie in’s to the latest lessons in the Radiant Hearts program!)
1) Make sure your batter isn’t too runny. While you may otherwise prefer a thinner batter, this will only result in a batch of blob-like pancakes, as the batter spreads all over the griddle out of your control.
2) Make at least a few that are just ordinary pancakes, if you plan on eating any yourself. Otherwise your little one may protest when you attempt to take Mr. Bear from the platter. If you get carried away when cooking and forget this tip, as I often do, fear not. My little Monkey is usually just interested in taking a few bites of each pancake for the novelty of it. To eat your breakfast, you just have to wait a bit for the carnage to subside, as your sweet child gnaws on a bear’s jaw and chomps the ear off a cat. Once the pancake shapes are no longer recognizable, they are usually fair game.
What ways have you found to sneak vegetables and other toddler-taboo foods into your little one’s diet?