25 Vegetable snack ideas for fussy eaters
Putting vegetables and fussy eating together is often not what first springs to mind.
However, picky eaters can and do eat veggies, and the more often we serve them the more a child has the opportunity to eat them.
If we have a child that does not eat veggies yet, serving them regularly is an important part of learning to accept them. The more we see them, the more comfortable we become.
If you’ve been offering veggies for ages and always get a negative response, then:
1. Revising the approach so that there is not open hostility is step 1 (this is not about eating vegetables, it’s about being positive about them!)
2. Serving veggies regularly is step one in building an eventual acceptance of them.
3. Learning to eat veggies may be a long-term project. Think about the five years we read to a child without them reading one word back to us.
There are many ways we can serve veggies to make them rock. Again, for a non-veggie eater, it may not initially be about the eating, but about acceptance. From there it is about interaction – which over time builds comfort, which leads to eating.
*Please be mindful about age and stage. Some of the recommendations are not suitable for young children.
Veggie snack ideas for fussy eaters
1. Raw veggies. There are many vegetables that are delicious raw. Picky eaters often prefer uncooked as they are crunchy, a texture that works for most food hesitant children.
Although foods like carrot sticks and cucumber may be front of mind, they are not necessarily the ones that your child may like. Do not rule out the weird and wonderful as children build comfort with a wide range of foods for many reasons:
i) Carrots. If these are already eaten, great. How else can you present them? Wheels, batons, grated.
iii) Capsicum (peppers)
vi) Sweet corn
vii) Snap peas
viii) Mushrooms – my youngest loves uncooked mushroom
x) Broccoli – the stalks are great as they are crunchy and without the texture of the floret
xiii) Daikon (Chinese radish)
xiv) Green beans
xvi) Orange sweet potato (kumara) – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
2. Cooked veggies. For some children, cooked vegetables are familiar and easier. There are no rules about what can and cannot be presented as a snack.
3. Dips. Some dips count as veg. For example, hummus is one of our 5-a-day as it is made from chickpeas. Others are useful for encouraging veggie eating, or as a comfortable way to bridge from one food to a new one.
You can go traditional with something like hummus, but again there are no rules. Softened peanut butter, yoghurt, ketchup, cream cheese, cheese sauce, sour cream, guacamole (this was how I taught my boys to eat avocado – avocado mashed with kilos of Philadelphia), pesto.
Dipping veggies is a great way to make them more exciting. It can also be a nutrient boost and help to keep tummies fuller for longer.
4. Smoothies with veg. Adding vegetables to a familiar smoothie base, maybe fruit or yoghurt, for example, can make eating veg simpler. Drinking for fussy eaters is often easier than eating. Children may also be less discerning about what they drink.
Many veg like cauliflower or spinach can be added to a smoothie without creating an unpalatable texture.
I am not advocating hiding vegetables, but if drinking them is easier, then it is a great place to start.
5. Vegetable juice. Perhaps this is an easier sell for children who are not comfortable eating vegetables. Getting the nutrients and becoming comfortable with the flavour, is a positive and good first step.
6. Vegetable popsicles. Using vegetable juice or puree on its own or mixed with fruit juice/puree can make for a ‘treaty’ offering. Vegetables like carrots that are sweet, may be a good place to start. Or combining with yoghurt or coconut cream, for example, to create more of a smoothie popsicle.
7. Veggies on a skewer or cocktail stick. Presenting foods differently is always fun. We can also combine veggies with other favourite foods to create something that is coveted. For example, a cocktail stick with a chunk of cheese, a slice of sausage and a piece of cucumber.
8. Roasted chickpeas. Baking chickpeas until crunchy makes for a lovely veggie snack. It ticks a lot of picky eater boxes!
9. Home-made potato chips. If we have a non-potato eater, this can be a mini-step towards eating them.
10. Roasted veggie chips – crispy sweet potato or even zucchini can be a win when they are crunchy and salty. Kale can also be worth a whirl.
11. Parmesan or cheese chips. Cheese, mixed with mini bits of veg and roasted in the oven until crispy. Divine!
12. Veggie ‘sandwiches’. Thin slices of carrot, for example, with a glob of cheese or peanut butter. It is a great way to draw interest towards the veg, even if the vegetables themselves aren’t yet eaten.
13. Cucumber or capsicum ‘boats’. Either do plain with a cucumber or paper sail (cut the shape and attach with a cocktail stick/skewer to the ‘boat’ at the bottom). The veg at the bottom can be served plain or stuffed with cream cheese or hummus etc.
14. Ants on a log. Celery stuffed with peanut butter with or without raisins. We can swap the filling for whatever a child is comfortable with.
15. Stuffed tomatoes. Filling a veggie with a favoured food, for example, a cherry tomato with cheese, can support a child to eat.
16. Vegetable puree. Many fussy eaters are comfortable with baby food puree. If this is the veggie version, it is an excellent opportunity. It can be a dip, a soup, or just a great addition to the snack routine.
17. Stacks. Layering veg with other favourite foods – from pancakes to sliced sausage – may help a child to enjoy additional veg.
18. Capsicum or corn ‘bracelets’. Cutting a slice of capsicum can make a great bracelet for a small wrist. Or using a needle and thread to join corn kernels into a bracelet. It is interesting how sometimes this can totally change the desirability!
19. Popcorn. Yes, I am pretty sure popped corn counts as a vegetable
20. Frozen peas. Many children who are fussy eaters are comfortable with frozen peas. The texture can be more manageable than the cooked version.
21. Olives. Please do not think that a child is more likely to eat something more commonplace like a carrot, than an olive. It is surprising what become firm favourites for picky eaters.
Pickles would be in the same category. There are many children who eat foods with strong flavours while on the whole preferring the super beige and bland.
22. Chocolate avocado mousse. There are many ways to incorporate veggies into a treat-style snack.
23. Zucchini roll-ups. Stuffing zucchini strips with cheese, tuna or another favoured filling can be a win.
24. Sushi. Many sushi options have veggies inside. Using a food that is primarily one thing and drowns out the small quantity of veg, can be a great way to begin acceptance of veggies. What other foods may work like this?
25. Fun ways to present veggies. Veggie bugs, carrot tulips, cucumber flowers or caterpillars, tomato ladybirds or full rainbows. There are many ways we can elevate the commonplace to something a little more exciting!
This is not an exhaustive list, but I wanted to start the thought process. It is easy to get stuck on carrot sticks when there is a world of other veggie options available.
It is also normal to become disheartened about a child eating veg when we feel like we have served them over and over again without progress. Remember, like reading, this is a long-term proposition.
It may be that a child that is super uncomfortable around veggies, needs some additional support too.
Let me know if you try something new with success!
Judith is an AOTA accredited picky eating advisor and internationally certified nutritional therapist. She works with 100+ families every year resolving fussy eating and returning pleasure and joy to the meal table.
She is also mum to two boys and the author of Creating Confident Eaters and Winner Winner I Eat Dinner. Her dream is that every child is able to approach food from a place of safety and joy, not fear.
Learn more about Judith here: https://theconfidenteater.com/about/