Ways to Sneak Veggies and Beans into a Toddler’s Diet

by Meghan Yost

If you’re struggling to get your little one to eat healthy, here are some ways to sneak veggies and beans into a toddler’s diet.


I try to eat plant based as much as possible. I believe it’s one of the healthiest ways to fuel our bodies and prevent disease, including cancer. Before having Grace, I knew I wanted to teach her to love real, whole foods as much as I do. But the reality is, it’s not always easy feeding a toddler straight beans or vegetables. So I try to get creative with how I serve her food.

At 15 months old, Grace now eats a variety of fresh foods, including veggies and beans. I’m proud of how well she eats. While there’s always room for improvement, here are some of the ways I incorporate these super foods into her diet.


Once Grace started showing signs of wanting to self feed at breakfast, I began looking for easy and quick finger foods to serve in the morning. With a slight modification, I make a couple of batches of these vegan banana oatmeal blender muffins and pop them in the freezer. At breakfast, I pull one out, microwave for 30 seconds and voila. Paired with some fresh fruit, food is served.

Instead of adding chocolate chips to the muffins as the recipe calls, I shred zucchini and/or carrots in my food processor, squeeze the water out with a cheese cloth and stir it into the batter. I add about a half cup of veggies per batch. Grace absolutely loves these muffins and bonus – so do my husband and I.


I remember the first time I had a smoothie with spinach way back in 2011. It was game changing. Veggies in a smoothie? Heck yeah. You don’t even taste the vegetables. Really. I promise.

In our house, we have a smoothie a day, and that always includes Grace. Our freezer is filled with frozen fruit and vegetables. Our go tos are mixed berries, pineapple, mango, spinach and kale. But if we have it, we’ll also throw in to our smoothies other veggies like cauliflower, carrots and butternut squash.

We also add a scoop of flax seed (whole seeds are the best) to our smoothies and usually pea protein. We use Vega All in One protein powder (vanilla or chocolate), which has protein plus vitamins and minerals from whole foods. I was a little hesitant to give Grace the protein powder at first, because I wasn’t sure how she would react to all of the ingredients (such as spirulina, algae, mushroom, etc.), but so far so good. If I’m making our smoothies, I only add one scoop for all three of us.

For a non-dairy milk base, we use Westsoy Organic and unsweetened soymilk, which has literally nothing in it but soy. Also, for those of you who are worried that eating soy foods (i.e. tofu, edamame, soymilk) can cause cancer, don’t be. The most up-to-date research shows it actually reduces your risk of certain cancers. While it contains phytoestrogens, it’s different than the estrogen we make in our bodies. You can read more about it here.


I love following Earthy Andy (Andrea Hannemann) on Instagram. Not only does she live in one of the most beautiful places on earth (the North Shore of Oahu), but she also cooks up amazing plant based dishes. That includes her “magic” chickpea cookies.

They’re actually supposed to be made with chocolate chips, but I eliminate those for Grace since they are a choking hazard. If you do want to use chocolate chips, I recommend Enjoy Life’s Dark Chocolate Morsels.

Think chickpea cookies sound kinda weird? I promise, you will love them. When I gave one to my nephew (who only wants to eat chicken nuggets and mac n cheese) he took one bite and said, “These are the best cookies I’ve ever tasted!” One bite. Everybody knows the rules.


At the end of most lunches and dinners, I’ll usually hand Grace a packet of pureed fruit and veggies. I have this fear as a mom that Grace won’t eat enough and will be hungry (not logical, I know). Therefore, I give Grace a packet to 1) top her off and make sure her belly is full, and 2) to get her to eat an array of vegetables and beans she wouldn’t otherwise have.

Kind of like smoothies, packets are one of the easiest ways to sneak veggies and beans into a toddler’s diet. Grace’s favorites right now are the Peter Rabbit Organics Kale, Broccoli and Mango packets; and the Sprout Organic Butternut, Chickpea, Quinoa, Dates packets.


One of the first finger foods I fed to Grace was sweet potato. I baked them and then cut them into strips. But after a few months, Grace seemed to get bored. Now at 15 months, I’ve found a new way for Grace to enjoy sweet potatoes again: As oven baked fries.

I peel the potatoes, cut them into even sized strips (which is key to help them cook evenly), and toss them with a bit of olive oil (no salt!) I then bake the fries at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, tossing them about halfway through.

Grace can’t get enough of these fries. I also make them using white potatoes or Yukon gold, and she loves those as well (and so do I).


One of the easiest lunch or dinners for Grace is toast topped with hummus and smashed avocado. I serve it cut into strips Grace can easily eat. For the toast, I love Food For Life’s Flourless Ezekiel bread. For the hummus, we are currently loving Ithaca Hummus‘ many flavors, including original, lemon and dill, and beet for an extra veggie kick. I’m not a huge beet fan, but I do love this hummus. Grace also thoroughly enjoys it. The flavor is mild and lemony. So good.


Grace loves pasta. I typically cook some sort of Banza pasta (made of chickpeas) or a lentil based pasta. I also “veggify” her sauce by blending steamed carrots into it. She won’t typically eat carrots plain, but in a sauce? No problem.

I’ve tried blending a bit of broccoli into her sauce as well, which she didn’t seem to mind, but cauliflower didn’t go over too well. Overall, Grace seems to enjoy carrots the best, probably because they add a natural sweetness. For jarred sauce, I look for those with no sugar and low sodium, like Rao’s Sensitive Marinara.


Whether homemade or store bought, veggie burgers are one of the best ways to sneak veggies and beans into a toddler’s diet. They’re easy to make homemade (check out my own veggie burger recipe here), but I also buy Dr. Praeger’s. I can’t say she loves veggie burgers, but she’ll at least take a few bites.

If you do buy Dr. Praeger’s, I recommend baking them in the oven. They cook much easier than on the stovetop (took me quite a few years to learn that hehe). Also, the one thing I’m not a fan of about them is they contain canola oil, which isn’t so great health wise. You can read more about that here.


Grace looovvvess cauliflower crust pizza. I buy prepared crust from Stop & Shop. Again, not a huge fan of it because it’s made with canola oil, but it works in a pinch. I opt for organic pizza sauce sans sugar. If you want to get extra veggified, you can blend in steamed carrots just like with pasta sauce. For cheese, I go with Daiya Mozzarella, which is dairy free but melts just like real cheese. Is this the healthiest of plant based meals? No, but sometimes it’s okay to indulge. And full disclosure: Grace has eaten real pizza as well.


I haven’t tried giving these foods to Grace yet, but a couple of other ways to sneak veggies and beans into a toddler’s diet include black bean brownies and sweet potato waffles. Dr. Fuhrman’s black bean brownie recipe is my favorite. I don’t have a sweet potato waffle recipe I can recommend, so if you do, please share it in the comments below. 🙂


If you’re new to eating plant based and would like to learn more about the benefits, I highly recommend reading one of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s many books. I’ve been a pescatarian for most of my life, but he is the reason I started focusing so much on eating mostly whole foods and eliminating processed foods. It all started with his book Super Immunity, and then Eat to Live. Since I first learned about Dr. Fuhrman, he’s written many other books, which I’m sure are all great. On a side note, I interviewed Dr. Fuhrman in 2016 and it was one of the highlights of my career as a reporter! 😉

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