Lips sealed, arms crossed, “I don’t like this.” Meanwhile, he’s never even tried it before. Sound familiar? All of my kids love fruit and they each have a few select vegetables that they will ask for, but none of them willingly eat a wide variety of vegetables. Being that I want them to get the nutrients from vegetables like broccoli, spinach and kale, I have to think of clever ways to get my kids to eat them.
Many vegetables are an acquired taste, so the more your children are exposed to something, the better the chance it’s something they will request at some point. This is why though I feel it is important for children to help prepare meals and to see the vegetables on their plate often, I believe it’s just as important to get the vegetables into meals in ways that the kids may not even know that they’re there. Maybe your kids will surprise you! Mine did – One day I put broccoli on Liam’s plate and after many times of him not eating it, this particular meal he asked for seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths and finally sixths! Imagine my amazement! Here’s some ways to get more veggies into your kids:
1. Green eggs (minus the ham)! We read Dr. Seuss’s book and then I made green eggs. Here’s how: I chop the broccoli, spinach, OR zucchini up small, or sometimes I puree them. At times I grate the zucchini instead of chopping it. I then cook the veggies for a minute or two in butter or a healthy oil and then add the beaten egg. I often also add some grated cheese, as this helps to hide the flavor of the vegetables. When the egg is scrambled, it’s done. If your child simply can’t get past the green, then at least use a yellow squash, as he/she won’t even notice it. I find letting Liam dip his eggs in organic ketchup helps too.
2. Yogurt – what I’m about to tell you to do will probably not sound appetizing, but my kids LOVE it! I start with plain Greek yogurt, because I’d rather not give the kids unnecessary sugar and I sweeten it later. I add finely chopped or pureed carrots AND kale (the kale is sweet like apples this way). To top it off I add granola (this seems to overpower the textures of the veggies) and let the kids help with adding the honey. When mixed together, the kids don’t notice the veggies, though it is clearly visible. I think this is because they are excited about the fact that they added the honey and they love finding the granola chunks.
3. Having fish for dinner? Make a veggie filled fish salad. When I serve whole fish, Liam rarely eats it. However, if I take the fish off his plate, along with whatever veggie I serve it with, put it in the food processor with a tiny bit of mayo and serve it on rice crackers, he’ll eat the whole meal. Kids like crackers! I have also done this with turkey/chicken! Making tuna fish (I recommend SafeCatch Tuna, as it has the lowest mercury of any brand) for lunch? Pack it with the nutrients of veggies in the same manner.
4. What kid doesn’t love mac and cheese? Whether I make it from scratch or I use Annie’s rice pasta mac and cheese, I always add pureed veggies. When making the homemade version, I usually add either cauliflower or squash. I add it before I put the pan of pasta and cheese into the oven. If boxed, I use whatever vegetables I have, even if that means quickly chopping up some carrot and/or kale using the mini food processor and throwing it in the mac and cheese.
5. Pasta with red sauce – This is possibly the easiest way to hide veggies! Again, whether the sauce is homemade or jarred, I use either pureed or finely chopped veggies, like carrots, celery, spinach, squash and/or mushrooms. If it seems too lumpy, like my ‘secret’ may be found out, I put it in the blender or use my super immersion blender to make it smooth so no one knows about the added delights!
6. Quesadillas – Kids love bread and cheese. I take it one step further by sneaking in the pureed or chopped vegetables. I make it easy on myself by cooking it in the toaster oven. The meal takes about 5 minutes to prepare!
7. Muffins – See my recipe for my pumpkin/butternut squash muffins. Of course you can also do carrot or zucchini as well.
Guarantee Greens Each Day
I really think it’s important to get as many greens as you can into your children. In this day and age, where so many of us are on the go and it’s not always possible to prepare every meal as nutritiously as we would like, I think that getting a great green drink into them is key. I start the day giving each of my children one. This way I know they already have a serving (more really) of greens in them. I add one scoop of Purium’s Kids Nutrition Drink to some water with lemon and that’s the first thing they have in the morning. My oldest finds the drink a little too sweet, so I do half a scoop along with half a scoop of More Greens. Why Purium? Honestly, they are the only company I have found who offers farm (organic farms in the USA) to package, who are USDA organically certified and who actually processes their products in ways that the nutrients are bioavailable. They also have a great Kids multi vitamin and protein shake – the owner tried to make it into a chewable form but found that this could NOT be done without using something synthetic, which is why it’s in powder form. You can save $50.00 on your first order by using code RAISINGNATURALKIDS . It’s worth it to join as a member for the benefit of better product pricing and shipping charges.
For more veggie tricks see this post: Getting Kids Into Veggies and Veggies Into Kids TWO. I also really like the cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, BUT know that though her veggie hiding tricks rock, not all of her ingredients do. I just switch out the ones I don’t like for ones that I do. For example, the author calls for margarine. I use butter instead. I don’t use sugar; instead use maple sugar and cut it in half… As far as a must have kitchen tool – if you don’t already have one, a mini-food processor is key – it makes chopping fast and easy – allowing the pieces to be tiny enough that kids won’t notice them in much of these meals.
**Raising Natural Kids serves as an affiliate for Amazon, and links any products we use in our own homes and with our own families to Amazon when applicable. Any monies earned help us to run and maintain this blog. We have also recently joined Purium in order to help to spread the word about the importance of getting greens into kids. They have an amazing Million Moms Movement going on!