Registered dietitian Andrea Mathis has figured out how to persuade her sons to eat—and enjoy!—vegetables. Copy her hacks for quick weeknight-dinner inspiration.

By Kara Thompson
April 10, 2020
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Got a picky eater on your hands? Don't we all.

"What my sons—CJ, 5, and Caden, 3—like to eat changes every day," says mom and dietitian Andrea Mathis. "If they refuse to try something, I don’t let it get to me; I just offer the dish in a different way. I capitalize on their love of carbs and cheese and work less appealing foods into my recipes."

Andrea Mathis and her children
Credit: Courtesy of Andrea Mathis

Inspired by her enormous amount of easy and nutritious recipes on Instagram, we picked Andrea's brain when it comes to getting her boys to eat (and enjoy!) healthy foods. Here are her best mom tricks so you can steal them, and you can follow Andrea @beautifuleatsandthings for more inspiration.

Work Them Into A Casserole

Brussels Sprouts
Credit: Eyewave/Getty

Tortellini, chicken, and bacon are big hits in my house, so I used these ingredients as inspo for my casserole with Brussels sprouts. I swear the kids don’t pick them out, probably because the sauce I make with garlic, half-and-half, and Parmesan is so delish. I bake it in a white ceramic dish that’s perfect to take to a potluck.

Make It Mini

Chicken Pot Pie
Credit: Courtesy of Andrea Mathis

Chicken potpie from scratch on a weeknight isn’t going to happen at my house. Instead, I make it with crescent-roll dough and shape each piece inside a muffin cup, which cuts down on baking time. And I swap in frozen mixed veggies for fresh; they have the same amount of nutrients and it’s more convenient. The kids love that they can eat the muffins with their hands.

Say Cheese (And Greens)

Grilled cheese and spinach
Credit: Courtesy of Andrea Mathis

I never cook quesadillas or grilled cheese without throwing in a few spinach leaves. The kids actually eat the greens because they’re stuck to the cheese. If you need a more subtle add, try spreading on a tablespoon of mashed butternut squash or sweet potatoes and topping with orange cheddar cheese. Bonus points: Serve with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. Tomatoes count as a veggie.

Try Broccoli Alfresco

Teal lunch boxes
Credit: Peter Ardito

Eating outside definitely improves everyone’s mood. A couple of times a month, I make “snack dinners” in Bentgo lunch boxes and take them to our backyard or the park. I put raw broccoli florets in one of the compartments and fill the others with dip, cubed ham, and Colby Jack cheese.

Float Their Squash Boat

Credit: Alasdairjames/Getty

Instead of traditional dough, I use zucchini as pizza “crust.” I cut it in half lengthwise, brush on marinara sauce, and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. My kids top it with Hormel Pepperoni Minis. Place on a baking sheet in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes at 375°F.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's May 2020 issue as “Add Veggies to More Meals.” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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