photo-3He hates apples. She likes hers peeled, cut up, and dipped. But it has to be the right dip. And it has to be room temperature. No wonder mealtime drives us nuts.

We want them to eat it and enjoy it. If they’re hungry enough, they will, right? (cue *evil mom laugh*)

Today, I’m kicking off my blog series called “Mom’s dirty little secret,” with Priscilla King. This mom of three is dishing on creative ways to serve up healthy foods to kids.

So, how old are your kids?

11, 9, and 6

Who does the grocery shopping in your house?

I do the shopping.

Okay, spill it. How do you get them to eat something they don’t want to eat? My kids moan and groan until I bribe them with dessert.

That’s just it, you can’t make them. So I came up with an idea. I told my boys the rule is they have to eat five fruits or vegetables a day. It can be any fruit or veggie and they can eat them at any time. Instead of saying you can’t eat this, I wanted to focus on what they can eat.

I like your rule of five. What’s a typical day like?

A typical day for my one son, who loves fruit, might be: a glass of orange juice with breakfast (I count that as a fruit, but only once), carrot sticks and grapes in his lunch (that’s 3), apple slices and peanut butter as his after school snack (4), and peas with dinner (5).

My other son loves cooked veggies, which are hard to pack for lunch, so he tends to eat the bulk of his five after he’s home from school. He loves sushi, which is a great way to get the veggies in.

jamespeasMy third born likes to snack on cherry tomatoes and a little bowl of frozen peas.

Did you say frozen peas?

Yes! My son’s friend once asked me during a playdate if he could have some of my frozen peas, like they were something special.

Cute. So, what do you recommend to a mom starting out. Give options until you stumble onto what they like best?

Yep. The choices are the best part. Kids need that. They need to know they have a say on what they’re eating and when.

I’ll ask them, “do you want peas, corn, or broccoli with dinner?” They pick.

What if they don’t like anything? What if they pick one thing and then still don’t eat it?

Each child has different tastes. Keep trying. If your child only likes one vegetable, give it to him every day. Sounds boring but at least he’s getting his vegetable.

It can take up to ten times before a child likes a new taste. When introducing a new vegetable don’t be upset if your child only takes one bite. Sprinkle it with parmesan cheese or melt some shredded mozz on top.

What’s your go-to snack?

thomasapplesWhen my boys come off the bus, they’re starving. I try to have a big plate of fruit and veggies already cut up ahead of time and lay it out while they have some downtime. I’m always surprised at how fast that plate goes clean! So, yeah, they are more receptive when they’re hungriest.

What’s dinner like? Do you let them fill their plate and then make them eat it all or no dessert?

The best part of my five rule is that by the time dinner rolls around, the pressure is off. If they only eat the main entree, that’s okay. They’ve filled up on the fruits and veggies already.

Do you ever resort to trickery? Come on…I want the dirty little secrets.

Yes! Here are my favorite “secrets”…

  • Purée vegetables in red sauce (no chunks for my kids).
  • Replace the cheese in Mac-n-cheese with squash. You can buy the squash in a little block in the frozen section to always have on hand. Check the ingredients to make sure it’s just squash and water. Microwave squash according to the directions. Stir in a spoon of organic cream cheese (no rBGH). Amount of cheese depends on your own child. Color will soon look like Mac n cheese. Mix with pasta. If your kids still do not like it, buy Annie’s Mac-n-cheese. Put a bag of cheese mix in squash.
  • Cauliflower Pasta. Same deal. Buy frozen cauliflower and heat it up in your microwave. Add milk and cream cheese. Blend until smooth. Mix with pasta.

How can I get my kids more involved?

You know what? My mom, who used to teach kindergarten, gave me this idea. Take turns letting your kids plan the menu for dinner. Let each child come up with an idea and together you shop for the ingredients. Kids love to help in the kitchen.

If their siblings don’t approve of the final outcome, at least your child will gain a little empathy for how it feels for us! But chances are, the meal will become a regular favorite.

Priscilla, thank you so much for kicking off my blog series featuring awesome moms. Each week I’ll host a different mom. If you are interested in being interviewed, or would like to nominate a friend, please let me know. Happy mom-ing!