Metro-East Living

Here’s how to get your toddler to eat veggies in place of french fries

Baked Sweet Potato & Carrot Fries are healthy alternatives to feeding your children french fries.
Baked Sweet Potato & Carrot Fries are healthy alternatives to feeding your children french fries.

Americans have had a love affair with french fries for decades, so it’s no surprise that a study out May 1 in the journal Pediatrics shows just how much we like to feed them to our kids, too.

U.S. toddlers are more used to eating fries than veggies on any given day, according to a survey of children’s eating habits, reports the Wichita Eagle.

About 26 percent of 1-year-olds ate french fries the day before the survey was taken, compared with 7.5 percent who ate dark green vegetables and about 17 percent who ate deep yellow vegetables.

The survey also found that one in four 6- to 11-month-olds and one in five 1-year-olds ate no vegetables at all on days they were surveyed.

It’s no surprise that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vegetables with every meal and snack, lead researcher Gandarvaka Miles, a doctoral candidate with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, told HealthDay News. “On two random days, parents didn’t report any vegetable consumption for these children.”

So, what to serve the little ones who already are pretty attached to french fries? As most parents already know, anything a kid can grab with his hands is going to go into his mouth.

There are plenty of vegetables that can substitute for fries. And yes, I know you have to make them rather than buy them at the drive-through or shake them out of a frozen food box. Still, consider the habit that is developing by giving them salty, processed food.

To help, here are three baked veggie-stick recipes that may stand a good chance of passing your child’s taste test. You can omit some of the seasoning as you see fit, but all of the recipes are simple to make.

Contact me at, 618-239-2664 and follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

Crispy Baked Cheesy Zucchini Fries

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 pound zucchini (about 1 medium)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place a wire rack in the baking sheet.

Add the flour to a resealable plastic bag. Combine the egg and water together in a shallow dish, and beat lightly with a fork. In a second shallow dish, mix together the Panko, Parmesan, salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

To cut the zucchini into fries: Slice the top and bottom off the zucchini. Cut into about 3-inch fries by cutting the zucchini half and then continuing to cut the pieces in half again and again.

Add the zucchini to the resealable bag containing the flour. Shake to coat them evenly. Working with one fry at a time, shake the excess flour off, then dip in the egg mixture and dredge in the Panko mixture, pressing to coat completely. Place the fries on the wire rack. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the coating is golden brown and crisp. These are best served immediately (or shortly after baking).

If desired, serve the fries with the sriracha lime mayo by combining 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha sauce and 1 teaspoon lime juice.

Baked Sweet Potato & Carrot Fries

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced or wedged

2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced or wedged

2 tablespoons oil

Salt and pepper or paprika to taste

Oregano flakes, for seasoning

Ketchup or any other dip

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut the sweet potato and carrots in wedges of at least the thickness of your little finger.

3. Toss the slices or wedges in oil and spices so that oil is nicely coated.

4. Lay the wedges on a baking sheet/parchment paper. The wedges should be well separated.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Every 10 minutes, turn fries to ensure even baking.

6. Allow it cool over the rack for 5 minutes.

7. Season with oregano and salt (if required).

8. Serve with ketchup or dip of any choice.

Tips: If the chips become soft, heat in a preheated oven for a minute or two.

Green Bean Fries

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1/2 to 1 pound green beans, trimmed

Panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated or crumbled Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the buttermilk with the egg and soak the green beans in the mixture for about 10 minutes in the fridge (hoping for a little extra sticking power).

Mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan (if using) together on another plate.

Roll beans in mixture, then arrange the green beans in the pan.

Bake 10-15 minutes, or until bread crumbs start to turn golden brown.

Adapted from