The World Health Organization recommends consuming at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. What’s more, you are supposed to “eat the rainbow”, so you get a broad distribution of vitamins, trace minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber to help your body curb cravings and function perfectly. As lovely as all that sounds, kids can be tough customers at the table. So, here are some creative ideas for helping your whole family to enjoy more veggies every day.
Sauce them. A good tomato sauce is one veggie (well, technically a fruit) that many kids will gladly eat. It’s also a great place to stash EXTRA veggies because the tomato and seasonings overpower flavor-wise. If you are adding meat to your sauce (or making a chili), you can usually get away with adding other chunky things such as carrots, cubed eggplant (which virtually cooks away), summer squash, or even finely chopped savoy cabbage (steamed separately first). If you are serving a plain marinara, try roasting an assortment of red peppers, carrots, peeled eggplant, butternut squash, cauliflower – anything that won’t alter the red color of your sauce – purée and stir right in!
Egg them. Scrambled eggs are another thing many kids will eat willingly, so it’s not a huge leap over to quiches or egg stratas, starring finely chopped veg. Another option here is little pan-fried cakes in which eggs serve as a binding ingredient for sautéed veggies or steamed greens with cheeses, breadcrumbs, and seasonings.
Soup them. We’re not talking about the high-sodium, canned variety here. With an incredible selection of ready-made, low-sodium stocks and broths available in stores, you can have an almost-homemade soup loaded with fresh, colorful veggies whipped up in just 15-20 minutes. Kale is a great super food to try in soups (leafy parts only, chopped small) as it takes on the soup’s flavor (rather than vice versa) and adds lots of fiber and nutrition.
Drink them. You might never convince your kid to try a green smoothie, but a bright orange carrot-apple juice or magenta beet-carrot-apple combo can be enticing to kids color-wise and just sweet enough to pass the taste test.
Cheese them. Melty, gooey cheese is another perennial kid favorite. Think cheese sauce for broccoli or cauliflower and virtually any combo of steamed, pureed veggies for baked gratins, starring béchamel or other cheesy-creamy sauces.
Transform them. You don’t have go full Paleo to borrow a trick or two from the popular diet’s playbook. Paleo adherents have come up with hundreds of creative recipes, using pulverized cauliflower as a replacement for carbs and rice. They’re also big into ‘spiralizing’ – turning zucchini, peeled broccoli stems, and other firm veggies into mock noodles to serve with yummy sauces or in soups. When the toppings are really tasty, it can be tough to tell the difference between ‘zoodles’ and real noodles.
Other great ways to transform veggies are to bake them – think zucchini and carrot breads – or to bread and fry lightly, serving with dip or other kid-favorite condiments such as ketchup or ranch dressing. Bon appetit!