If you spend the better part of your morning or evening cutting up your little one’s meals into funny shapes, and even creating his favorite cartoon characters, you’re not alone. And, while it’s not to say that your playful and thoughtful parenting technique is all for nothing, a new study may make you feel better—and even encourage you—to serve your kiddos food as is, especially when it comes to veggies.
We moms know how frustrating a picky eater who turns his nose up at every broccoli floret can be—and, like most things, it often gets harder before it gets easier. But a new study, that’s the first of its kind, looked at the way young children are likely to consume a vegetable when it is served whole versus served diced up or cut into small pieces.
Researchers from the Deakin University’s Centre for Advanced Sensory Science in Australia put their theory to the test by analyzing a control group of 72 elementary school-aged children. On the first day, they gave each child about 2 cups (500 grams) of whole carrots. The second day, they gave each child the same amount, but served the carrots diced. On each of the two days, the children were instructed to eat as much as they pleased over the course of a 10-minute period. What did they find? Surprisingly, the children consumed the carrots 8 to 10 percent more of the whole vegetable by weight, and consumed the vegetable for longer, when given the whole thing as opposed to diced.
This makes things a whole lot easier for us parents, too—and saves us time (which we could all use a little more of). Here are some other solutions for sneaking in more nutritious foods in your child’s diet:
Turn veggies into pasta
Zoodles are in! And, trust me, your kid will hardly know the difference between that carb-heavy pasta and some spiralized zucchini. Squash is another great option to spiralize and serve in place of noodles.
Mash up cauliflower
Cauliflower was the superfood of 2016—and for good reason. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C, which little ones need for healthy muscles, tissue and skin cells, as well as vitamin K, folate, and vitamin B6. The entire B vitamin family is essential for your child’s growing body. Mash up cauliflower and serve as a health substitute for rice or mashed potatoes.
Let them cook
Little kids love to help out in the kitchen. Turn healthy eating into a fun activity that they can feel good about being a part of. Whether it’s helping you bake banana bread or encouraging them to pick out their favorite fruits for a smoothie, it’s great bonding time and a chance to show them what eating healthy is all about.
Sneak veggies into dessert
Add a little avocado in his muffin mix or some diced up carrots in his pancakes and he’ll never know. Seriously! It’s a sneaky, but smart, way to add more vegetables into your child’s diet—and it works!
Bake fruit leather
Skip the processed food aisle at the grocery store and instead make your own fruit roll-ups at home. They’re cheaper, fun to make and are made without all the extra sugar and unhealthy additives you certainly don’t want your kids eating. A popular one includes pureed strawberries and a small handful of cooked kale or spinach. Dribble on a tablespoon of honey or cinnamon, and then bake it on the lowest oven setting for about 4-6 hours.