Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Secret Veggies - Popsicles For Kids

My Favorite Stealthy Vegetable Recipe...


Summertime Veggie and Fruit Popsicles


I've recently been confronted with the reality that despite all my diligent efforts to follow the recommended guidelines for introducing foods to my daughter, and providing healthy, organic home cooked food - my daughter (now 18 months) has lately started to exhibit some picky eating habits, especially when it comes to vegetables.  The broccoli, carrots and zucchini that she used to love are now pushed to the side of her plate or get the 'no, no, no' with closed mouth head shaking response when we try to give her a spoonful. 

Magical moments like the one below have become increasingly rare...



Yes, I now am experiencing what I swore to myself would never happen with my own children.

My little picky eater has developed all sorts of methods to avoid eating vegetables, from screaming, crying and throwing food to pointing and pleading for beloved food items like mac and cheese, blueberries or other toddler favorites. She has been causing havoc during meal times like a real pro lately.

So in order to maintain my sanity and ensure she is getting the nutrients she needs in her diet I have employed a 3 step approach that I know many others before me have done.

- First, I continue to make vegetables a part of almost every meal and offer them to her, as well as eat them myself to set a good example.

- Second, I feed her the things she loves like mac and cheese, spaghetti with meatballs, fruit, chicken quesedillas and things like that in order to have some peace at mealtimes and making sure she eats a full meal.

- Thirdly, and most importantly, I have learned the art of placing stealthy, sneaky vegetables into almost everything I make - which works well with my husband too.




I purchased a book called The Sneaky Chef  by Missy Chase Lapine which has given me all sorts of great ideas for hiding veggies and is a great reference guide for recipes that kids love.  I highly recommend this book!

The author is a mother we can all relate to - she's a pediatrician and healthy eater herself whose children would often refuse vegetables and other healthy foods despite all her efforts to start them off the right food with eating. 

After reading the book, and reading many a blog from mothers who have experienced similar trials with feeding their little ones, I started putting pureed veggies into almost everything I cook and by far my favorite thing to make is veggie filled popsicles.  I love to make them mainly because they are super quick and easy, and because my daughter absolutely loves them!

My home made popsicles are made with tons of veggie and fruit goodness in them.  It's the perfect afternoon snack to give her when she is fussy.  I give them to her daily, and we go and sit outside on our back patio and eat popsicles together.  I'm pregnant now with my second baby so they are the perfect healthy, refreshing snack on a hot day for me too.

Even if she doesn't eat another serving of veggies all day, these little popsicles are jammed packed with vegetables so I feel great knowing that she has gotten a healthy dose of her daily nutritional needs.  Also she has been rejecting milk more now too so I put yogurt in them sometimes which helps her achieve her daily calcium needs.

The secret is to make sure that color combination of vegetables to fruit gives you a nice pleasant, toddler friendly popsicle color like orange, red or purple.  When they end of up looking green or greyish brown that's when you might run into trouble.

The steps for making them are pretty straight forward and easy.  You just pick your combination of fruit and veggies, steam the vegetables if necessary to soften them, then puree the fruit and veggie combo together and pour into popsicle molds.  




For this one I used strawberries, steamed zucchini, steamed beets, honey and yogurt.


I get the beets from Trader Joe's - they are already steamed so you can just open the package, chop them up and throw them in.  They are a great veggie to add because they are a super food and their deep red/ purple intense color will make any popsicle turn out a pretty color.




Sometimes I put whole berries like blueberries in them for fun like the one below:


I don't have specific measurements for them - I just do about half veggies / half fruit and add more fruit for color if needed.  I just taste my purees after I mix them to make sure they taste good and then when I am satisfied I pour the mixture into popsicle molds and put them in the freezer.  It's easy-peezy!  With a blender or food processor full of pureed mixture I can usually make about 12 - 15 popsicles, which last me about 2 weeks if she eats one a day.


If I have any leftover mixture I just drink it down like a smoothie, or put it in a straw sippee cup for her and she slurps it down.

These are some of my favorite combinations to use:

Light Pink Popsicle:
steamed cauliflower
steamed zucchini
strawberries
peaches
a little apple sauce or apple juice for extra sweetness
plain whole milk yogurt

Light Pink Popsicle 2:
steamed zucchini
raw kale or spinach
whole milk plain yogurt
strawberries
peaches or mango (make sure your child is not allergic to mango if you use it)
apple sauce or apple juice

Orange Popsicle:
carrot
orange juice
pineapple
steamed cauliflower

Orange Popsicle 2:
carrot
mango (check to make sure your child is not allergic to mango before using)
peaches
steamed zucchini

Light Pink Popsicle 3:
cucumber
plain whole milk yogurt
honey (only use this if your child is 12 months or older)
strawberry
raspberry

Purple Popsicle:
kale
raspberry
blueberry
apple juice or apple sauce

Red Popsicle:
steamed beets
kale
strawberry
raspberry
pomegranate juice (the Langers brand has a version that is not from concentrate)

Red Popsicle 2:
cherries
apple sauce
spinach or kale
rasberry




Side Note:  Almost every vegetable, fruit and dairy product I use is organic mainly because a lot of the fruits and veggies I use are notorious for containing large amounts of pesticide residue on them (which doesn't come off even when washed).  So, I recommend buying organic when you can. When produce are in season you can often find them for the same price or similar price to the non-organic products.

If you can't buy organic all the time, here is a list of must-buy organics based on the amount of pesticides found in non-organic produce, often called, 'the dirty dozen' to help you decide when to buy organic -
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/the-dirty-dozen-and-clean-15-of-produce/616/

Here is another list:
http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214