Getting kids to eat their vegetables can be a trying task. And while you should never try to fool kids into thinking that they aren’t eating any vegetables at all, or that they don’t have to, a little clever cooking can help you sneak in more than they realize and ensure they’re getting the valuable nutrients they need for their growing bodies.
It’s worth noting that you should continue to emphasize the importance of eating vegetables, and eating healthy overall, to your kids. And still serve vegetables openly so kids work towards at least trying to eat them with their meals. But there’s nothing wrong with being crafty to ensure that they get more than they think they are, or that kids who outright refuse to chomp down on carrots or strategically pick out the cooked vegetables from their meals are getting some vegetables in their diet.
How can you get veggies into their meals without them realizing? Here are some sneaky ways that will leave kids indulging in foods they love while being none the wiser.
10 Add Them To a Smoothie
The most common way to get kids to consume their vegetables is to throw them into smoothies. Vegetables like spinach or kale can instantly turn a smoothie green, which is a clear tip-off. But you can throw in just a tiny bit, use fruits or yogurt that will overpower the taste, or opt for other vegetables that might be less noticeable.
You could also create a smoothie recipe and give it a cute name like the green monster, or the green dream so kids look forward to the unusual colour and forget to ask what makes it so. Instead, they’ll sip and declare how yummy it is.
9 Bake Them Into Muffins
Zucchini and carrots are the perfect vegetables to sneak into morning muffins, cakes, and other baked goods without kids realizing they’re in there. Use them as a base, then add more favourite ingredients like blueberries, raisins, or even dark chocolate chips. As the veggies bake into the food they will become barely detectable.
Kids will be too busy chomping down on the muffins to realize there’s something in them they don’t quite recognize. And they’ll be getting a healthy amount of vegetables, even if it comes with some sugar.
8 Serve Mashed Cauliflower as Mashed Potatoes
Caulifower mashed does taste different from mashed potatoes, but for some kids, it’s all about the consistency. And if they see something mashed on their plate that’s white in colour, they may automatically assume it’s potatoes.
If you want to be even more clever about it, make the mashed potatoes and add some mashed cauliflower in with it so the kids won’t even taste the vegetables at all. Use a blender to mix everything up nicely until the cauliflower is virtually undetectable.
For breakfast, you can do the same by disguising cauliflower within scrambled eggs.
7 Make Cute Creations
Kids will soon forget they are eating vegetables when the celery is presented as “ants on a log,” with peanut butter (or another spread) in between a piece of celery and topped with sweet raisins. Or sweet peppers might not look so intimidating when they are cut into thin slices and presented as a rainbow on the plate. Can they eat them all to get to the pot of gold treat?
Sometimes, it’s all about the presentation, particularly with toddlers and younger kids. Is that celery or a log housing delicious peanut butter and raisins? Is that shredded lettuce or a bed for a cute bird made out of a boiled egg? Kids might be more inclined to eat vegetables when they are presented in a fun way.
6 Mix Them In With Hamburger Meat
If you are making homemade hamburgers, kids love having ingredients like cheese added to them. Sneak in some other veggies as well, like onions, peppers, or even spinach. If it’s cut finely enough, and mixed in with meat housed between two buns, the kids might not even realize it’s in there.
Plus, the veggies can add more flavour to the burger, making kids beg never to have fast food burgers again.
5 Make Pancakes or Waffles With Butternut Squash
When mixing up your pancake batter, throw in some roasted and mashed butternut squash. It will give the breakfast food a fun orange hue that the kids will love and makes sure they get some nutrients in the morning with one of their favourite breakfasts.
Once the pancake syrup is poured over, and you serve fruits on the side, kids will gobble it up and continue to declare that they “don’t like squash” until you finally confess what the secret ingredient is.
4 Make Avocado Chocolate Pudding
OK, so avocados are technically a fruit, but they contain lots of great nutrients that you would get with a typical vegetable, so they’re worth including on this list. Avocados add delicious creaminess to homemade chocolate pudding, and the distinct taste of chocolate masks the fact they they’re even in the recipe.
Blend up some ripe avocados (this is a perfect way to use up avocados that are about to go bad), mix with unsweetened cocoa, sugar, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, chill for at least half an hour, then tell kids they are getting a special treat for dessert today.
3 Cut Them Finely And Add to Dishes
What picky eaters can’t see won’t hurt them or, in this case, will actually help them get the vitamins and nutrients they need. If you cut vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots finely enough, then cook them down, kids won’t realize they’re even in the recipe.
These can go well with a dish like macaroni and cheese (a kid favourite), spaghetti, or stew. Tiny pieces of cauliflower covered in cheese can easily be mistaken for broken pieces of macaroni noodle. Or when smothered in tomato sauce, no one will notice the distinct green colour of broccoli.
2 Substitute Wheat Pasta With Spaghetti Squash or Cucumber Noodles
Sometimes, the shape of something is enough to convince a young child that it is what they think it is. So using spaghetti squash as noodles, or cutting cucumbers up to look like noodles can be enough to assure a curious toddler that this dish is something that is familiar, or at least worth trying.
Kids might be reluctant to try these foods otherwise. But when seeing them presented in this shape, they might become a bit braver and realize they actually like it.
1 Feed Them Casseroles
Casseroles are great dishes that can include everything but the kitchen sink. So since they are so chocked full of other goodies, it might be easier to sneak in a few extra veggies that, when cooked down, disappear into the delicious mess.
Add tiny pieces of green beans or smashed green peas to a tuna casserole, or finely chop mushrooms so that they meld right in with the other ingredients, without changing the flavour of your kid’s favourite meal.