Last week I got the following question in my inbox:
“Hi Linda, I am a huge follower of your blog and love your recipes and positive message. I personally have enjoyed so many of your recipes and look forward to them each week but I am the only healthy eater in my household. I have two young boys and a husband who DO NOT like vegetables. I really want to change my family’s diet for the better but it’s really difficult when they refuse to eat what I eat. Any suggestions?”
Here are my suggestions when it comes to picky eaters:
1. Don’t stress!! We can’t expect our picky eaters to change their diet overnight. Stressing out about it won’t help anyone and usually just pushes your picky eaters further away. Try to do the best you can without getting overwhelmed. For complete step-by-step guidance check out my new Healthy Kids EBook that’s filled with healthy versions of classic favorites along with tips & tricks.
2. Stick to the things they do like. I am a Midwest girl which means I was basically born and raised on casseroles (slight exaggeration but still pretty accurate). In my house we had casserole in some form at least once a week. Most (if not all) of the vegetables I ate were part of that cheesy carby casserole goodness. I’m going to be honest here, casseroles are not typically considered health food but if you have extremely picky eaters who won’t eat anything else, then stick to what they like and slowly add veggies into the mix. If the only way your family will eat vegetables is if they are smothered in cheese and pasta, then start there. Everyone has to start somewhere…you know the saying “How do you get from LA to New York? One step at a time.”
3. Make “healthy swaps”. One of the easiest ways to add more nutrition is swapping for higher quality ingredients. For example in this recipe I swapped the following:
- instead of white pasta I used whole grain organic spelt pasta – you could also use quinoa pasta. Both of these are higher in nutrients and fiber than white pasta.
- instead of heavy cream or cream of mushroom soup I used a fat-free probiotic rich organic greek yogurt
- instead of butter to cook the veggies I just used water (see instructions below)
- instead of regular cheese I used raw goat cheddar. Goat cheese is typically easier to digest, has less casein (a common food allergen), and contains more nutrition than standard cow’s milk cheese.
4. Add veggies but disguise them. In this recipe I used onions, yellow squash, and zucchini. The key is to cook them down until they almost dissolve. This way the vegetables blend in with the sauce and are almost undetectable. I also added kale for an extra green boost but you could just add it to your dish if the rest of the family is not interested in getting on the kale train just yet!
This dish is great for picky eaters but it’s also makes a good cleaned up “cheat meal” especially during the colder months. The sauce tastes very similar to alfredo sauce but is much cleaner and lower in calories and fat. You could also make this sauce and use it on it’s own over vegetables. Sometimes your picky eaters will be more inclined to eat their veggies if they are smothered in a yummy sauce.
Your whole family will love this dish, even the picky eaters! It’s considerably lower in fat, contains a fair amount of vegetables, and uses nutrient rich ingredients. Try it and let me know how it goes!
1. Info for Creamy Penne Pasta with Vegetables
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 25 mins
- Servings: 4
- Calories: unavailable
2. Ingredients for Creamy Penne Pasta with Vegetables
- 1 box spelt penne pasta
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1 yellow squash, diced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 12oz organic greek yogurt
- 4oz raw goat cheddar, shredded
- sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
- several leaves of kale, torn into tiny pieces
- In a large pot with hot water, cook your pasta according to the directions on the box.
- While your pasta is cooking prepare your sauce. In a medium skillet over med-high heat add ¼ cup water, minced garlic, diced onion, yellow squash, zucchini, a pinch of sea salt, and pepper and cook for several minutes until soft. Using water eliminates the need for oil or butter. You’ll still have the same great taste but without the added fat! If the pan starts to get dry, simply add more water. Continue to cook for about 10mins or so until veggies get very soft and start to dissolve. If your picky eaters are sensitive to texture, you could also use an immersion blender or food processor to blend.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked veggies with the kale, greek yogurt and shredded goat cheddar, adding sea salt and pepper to taste as needed. Then stir in your pasta and serve immediately.