Some kids love veggies and devour kale salad without blinking an eye. Others run screaming from a carrot stick. But with a few tricks, you can make every meal more wholesome and nourishing for the whole family. Here are 10 somewhat sneaky, but still delicious, ways to encourage eaters, big and small, to love those veggies.
1. Blend a Better Batter
The next time you whip up batter for a batch of pancakes or waffles, go green … or orange, or pink! In a high-speed blender, add a couple of handfuls of fresh baby spinach, or a cup of either cooked beets or pumpkin puree (canned works well) to the wet ingredients. Worried about “earthy” undertones? Add a little extra vanilla and cinnamon.
2. Maximize Muffins
You can pack a whole lot of nutrients into one mighty little muffin! Add shredded carrot to your favorite spice, apple, or bran muffin recipe for some natural sweetness. Shredded zucchini can bump up the benefits of chocolate-based muffins; just make sure to squeeze the excess water out of the zucchini before folding into the batter.
3. Superfood Smoothies
Perhaps the quickest way to get a hefty dose of greens directly to veggie haters is in a tall glass. Try a simple and sweet combination of baby greens (like spinach and kale), banana, pitted dates, almond butter, low-fat milk, and ice.
4. Eggs with, Well, Everything
Almost all vegetables are even better when sautéed and mixed with a scrambled egg. You can also combine spinach with eggs in a blender before scrambling for a “green eggs” themed meal, or whisk together eggs and veggie purees (cooked and cooled) such as squash, carrot, or cauliflower.
5. Cauliflower Power
Cauliflower is so versatile, and it’s really good at standing in for other carbs. For cauliflower “rice,” steam a head of cauliflower until al dente, then shred on a box grater-shredder, or blitz in a food processor until it forms small, rice-sized pieces. Sauté gently in a little broth and serve as is, or mix with cooked white rice. For cauliflower mash, steam ’til soft, then push through a potato ricer, or process in a food processor until smooth. Mix with a little chicken broth or milk, and season to taste.
6. Zoodles and Voodles
Turning veggies into noodles definitely needs to happen at your house. The first and most popular version is zucchini noodles (“zoodles”), but you can use carrots, sweet potatoes, and other squash, too. It’s pretty easy when you get the hang of it; simply use a spiralizer or veggie peeler to make long ribbons, and sauté in your favorite sauce.
7. Magic Meatloaf and Meatballs
It’s so easy to pack any vegetable under the sun into meatloaf or meatballs. Try minced mushrooms, shredded onion and carrots, and finely chopped leafy greens, in addition to traditional seasonings. For a meatball recipe that rolls well with any noodles or zoodles, try mixing ground turkey with an egg or two, spices (dried oregano or basil work well), grated Parmesan cheese, minced spinach, and shredded zucchini.
8. Bite-Size Veggie Pizzas
Use mushroom caps and zucchini rounds instead of dough for a fresh spin on pizza night. Simply bake mushroom caps and zucchini rounds in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then top each with a teaspoon of sauce and a pinch of cheese. Serve these bite-size pizzas alongside homemade meatballs, olives, and whole-wheat breadsticks.
9. Mac and Cheese, Leveled Up
Adding veggies to macaroni and cheese is a winner of a dinner for kids of all ages. Chop up baby spinach and mix into your cheese sauce for a green-flecked dish, or for something more incognito, stir pureed veggies into the sauce (butternut squash hides well).
10. A Smarter Snack Platter
On weekends, when kids and grown-ups fall into the mindless-eating trap, set out a platter of veggie sticks with a few dips. Any time someone is hungry, they can find a flavor combo with crunch. Try carrots and tahini, celery and nut butter, green beans and honey mustard, bell peppers and hummus, broccoli and a ranch yogurt dip, or cucumbers and Italian dressing.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.