BKLK_90_featured image_How To Get Your Fussy Toddler To Eat Vegetables_vegetarian pasta sauce_dad can cook_father in kitchen_dad hack

Dad-Hack To Get A Fussy Toddler To Eat Vegetables

Does your toddler eat only the three S’s of the kiddy-food-pyramid: Salt, Sugar & Starch? My two year old, Little E, devours potatoes, bread and pasta but his mouth goes into shutdown mode if there is a healthy vegetable anywhere in sight.

Well, here’s a culinary Dad-hack that will make you the conquering hero in the kitchen. And it’s super easy!


[An ENORMOUS THANK YOU to Hannah & Marco for putting us onto this brilliant parent-hack!]

BKLK_90_ready to eat_How To Get Your Fussy Toddler To Eat Vegetables_vegetarian pasta sauce_dad can cook_father in kitchen_dad hack

Phenom-A-Mum and I were let in on this trick when visiting friends back in Sydney. Marco suggested that the boys (Little E and his son, Little O) have vegetables for dinner. Oh how Phenom-A-Mum and I laughed. ‘Twas quite the giddy parental gas. However, the awkward looks from Hannah & Marco made us stop our faux-aristocratic laugh attempts and realise they were serious. Or crazy. It was up for grabs.

In came the pasta covered in vegetable mush. Onto the spoon, into the mouth, down the hatch and the spoon went back for more. Holy! How the heck did they do that?

You will need:

  • A big pot
  • 500g of fresh tomatoes
  • 500g of other vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, spinach, eggplant, squash or pumpkin.
  • 1/2 a bottle of tomato passata
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 x bay leaves
  • 3 x sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
  • A stick blender


<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/29323477@N04/2843812475">Tomatoes Cherry-Size</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
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It’s super simple when you think about it. What’s the one thing most toddlers will devour? Pasta or lasagna. The concession they make to eating veggies is tomato sauce, the flavour of which is strong enough to cover most of the other ingredients, like the (usually pretty flavourless) minced meat. So we’re going to remove the meat and replace it with lots of vitamin and mineral filled vegetables.

Head down to the local fruit & veggie warehouse and buy up all of the cheap, soon-to-go-off goods. They are perfect for a sauce because you’re going to boil and blend them, and make this a very dad-wallet friendly recipe.

The rough equation I use is an equal weight of tomatoes to other vegetables. This ensures that the tomato flavour masks the others. This recipe makes about 1 litre of sauce, but I do it in big batches so that I can have loads of it in the freezer. It’s just as easy to make 5 litres of it and you’ll have it on hand should dinner ever collapse into a toddler starvation protest.

Step 1: Chop

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/22394551@N03/2689909482">Vegetables</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
Click image to visit source site


Cut up all of the tomatoes and other vegetables into rough chunks. Don’t be too thorough. You just want to break them up enough that they will cook more quickly.

Step 2: Put it in a pot

Pop the tomatoes and veg  into a large pot over a medium heat. Add the bay leaves and the thyme. Pour in the passata and the water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and leave for about an hour.

Step 3: Blend

Once the vegetables have softened, remove the bay leaves. Add the smoked paprika and allow it to cool. When it will no longer burn you at the touch, mush it all up with a stick blender. You can do it in a regular blender but that just makes loads more washing up. It is REALLY IMPORTANT to blend it until it’s just a puree. Any chunks will alert your toddler to the scam!

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Step 4: BOOM! You’re a kitchen god.

Boil up your kids’ favourite kind of pasta (it’s dinosaur shaped pasta in this house) and add the sauce. I’ve found that sprinkling on some parmesan cheese when they’re watching you is a great distraction and makes them think it’s regular old bolognese.

Sit back and watch it all disappear without your toddler having any clue that you’re helping them to grow up big and strong. I also use it to make lasagna, or add meatballs and a roll to make an awesome meatball sub for lunch!

Healthy kids, an impressed wife and showing the next generation that dads can own the kitchen too. It’s that simple.

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David Hawkins

Half nerd, all Dad & Founder of Big Kid Little Kid, the go-to blog for Awesome Dads. David is on a personal mission to become a more awesome dad to his two sons and teach them all the facets of being a major nerd. NES-off anybody?
  • Oh yes! My favourite trick! I have also started to add cauliflower to everything – it’s white so it blends into mashed potato and macaroni cheese seamlessly!! 😉
    Although, I am so shocked that the Little Mister likes it as it is raw for a pre-dinner snack (i.e. when he’s bugging me while I make it)! I think the trick is that it’s white. Lack of colour means it’s bad for you in toddler/pre-schooler world. Which means they’ll like it haha.

    • David Hawkins

      I haven’t tried the cauliflower option. Thanks Kez! I’m going to test out the raw cauliflower and see if I can make Little E believe it’s sugar-covered.

    • Alex

      Noooooooooooo! The old hide the cauliflower in the mash trick! You devil you! 😀

      That was my mums favorite!

  • Alex

    Yeah man! We grate carrot and zucchini into damn near every mince based dish we do… spag boll, tacos etc. Throw in some frozen spinach as well.

    We’ve also found lately that the boy will eat carrots IF they are cut into chips not slices. Good old Peter Rabbit!

    • David Hawkins

      Sweet ideas! I don’t use mince all that much so may have to look into getting a little grinder. How’s this for weird? Little E used to eat carrots, the only exclusion to his anti veg rule, but since he’s gotten into Peter Rabbit he’s stopped eating them!

  • Tash from Gift Grapevine

    Bravo David! Awesome Dad work there. I’m going to throw a spanner in the works and admit that my two tornadoes are probably the only 2 kids in the world who refuse to eat pasta or rice. As a result I’ve had to get really creative. Miss T is fine with her veggies but Mr TT is proving to be super fussy. Apart from potatoes, he won’t eat any other veggies. So to up his intake I hide veggies in juices. His current favourite is “red juice” with oranges, apples, celery, carrot, beetroot and a small bit of pumpkin. I hope to god this fussy eating “phase” is a short one – my juicer is annoying to clean!

    • David Hawkins

      Sneaky juice? Brilliant Tash! I’m going to steal that one as soon as we get a juicer (I’ve been planning to ever since I did the post about helping blood pressure with beetroot juice, but I move slowly on these things).

  • Oh man – some people deserve a medal for clever thinking. Well done you guys xx

    • David Hawkins

      There’s going to be a follow-up article Sonia. I’ve just discovered how many uses this secret sauce has!