Every parent knows the struggle. Just a speck of anything even minutely resembling a vegetable sends your kids running from the dinner table. Growing children need the important vitamins and nutrients that come from vegetables, though, so how can they get their recommended daily value of the green stuff without you getting your daily value of stress?
The answer lies in finding creative ways to add veggies to your kids’ favorite meals. They’ll be none the wiser, and you’ll be glad everyone’s happy and getting the nutrients they need. Read on for some clever ways to add veggies to your kids’ food that don’t also require dousing the dish in sugar or salt:
Undercover mashed potatoes
The humble cauliflower, overlooked by many for its somewhat plain taste and appearance, has found a new calling. The white veggie blends perfectly into mashed potatoes so it can deliver vital nutrients to kids’ diets unseen. Diana at The Chic Life blog recommended using a one-to-one ratio of potato to cauliflower – she used 3 cups of potatoes and 3 cups of cauliflower. Boil the potatoes as you normally would, but once they have about 7-8 minutes left to cook, Diana advised adding the cauliflower and cooking them together in the same pot. Then, you simply add butter, milk, salt and pepper to the pot and mash everything together to complete this kicked-up classic side dish.
Secret spinach smoothie
Kids love smoothies – not the kind made with wheatgrass, spinach and Greek yogurt that you enjoy after a run, but the kind that’s packed with sugar and topped with dizzying amounts of whipped cream. While you probably won’t get your tot to try a wheatgrass smoothie, you can get them to enjoy one made with spinach, which is chock-full of good-for-you nutrients like Vitamin K and iron. The key is mixing spinach with darker-colored fruits like blueberries, blackberries and plums, since they’ll mask the green color of the spinach and cover up the veggie’s bitter taste with their sweetness.
A casserole has many layers ... of secrets.
Top-secret sauce and soup
Consider the food processor your ally in creating secret veggie dishes. You can puree pretty much any kind of vegetable, from zucchini to corn, and then stir them into tomato-based pasta sauce to pack even more nutritional power into spaghetti and meatballs. The same trick works for soups and chowders, too - add pureed veggies to heavier, cream-based ones, which hide the puree better than thinner soups.
Sneaky squash mac n' cheese
Another kid favorite, mac n' cheese can be made a little healthier by using a squash-based sauce. Cook 2 cups of butternut squash on the stovetop until it softens, and then pulse it together with a couple tablespoons of vegetable broth in a food processor, the blog Naturally Ella recommended. Cook together a little flour, milk, salt, pepper, garlic and the squash in a small pan until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add about 1.5 cups of shredded cheese of your choice and whisk until it's all fully melted. Pour over pasta for mac n' cheese that's nutritious and deceptively delicious.
"Mac n' cheese can be made a little healthier by using a squash-based sauce."
A casserole has many layers ... of secrets. Finely slice zucchini, carrots or squash into skinny strands - a food processor is good for this - and hide them into a layer of your go-to-casserole. The veggies won't be noticeable to kids, but you'll know that they're getting extra vitamins. You can also hide shredded veggies in lasagna, which you can then top with pureed-veggie pasta sauce for an extra health boost!
Mushhhroom sloppy Joes
A sloppy Joe is a no-fail kid pleaser, but it doesn't have much in the way of nutrients. Mince mushrooms into tiny pieces and mix them in with the ground beef and cook together in a skillet. Add the sloppy Joe sauce as you normally would, pile the meat onto whole wheat buns and voila, a dinner classic made veggie-fied. That sloppy Joe - he really is a fungi.
Put down that white flag of surrender and try these creative ideas to add vegetables to your kids' food. They're stealthy, healthy and delicious.