Yes, I see your hands, and I know that even kids that like some vegetables will fight like mad if they see something that isn’t their favorite on the dinner table. You might have found yourself debating if you should hide them in meals or teach your kids to love them. You may have even felt like you needed a vegetable intervention or expert advice. Well, I have been there, and to me, when it comes to advice about getting my kids to eat vegetables, I take an all-of-the-above approach.
Here are a few of my tricks to getting my kids (and husband) to eat vegetables in the hope of saving you a few headaches because, really, how many of us are trying to eat more vegetables ourselves but need some inspiration. How many of us were traumatized as kids by overcooked, flavorless, or canned vegetables, and you don’t know if you will be brave enough to try something new? Well, here are several recipes I have found over time that are crowd-pleasers and can even get picky adults to eat a better diversity of vegetables.
When it comes to the kids, peanut butter (or your favorite alternative) is a lifesaver. How many of you fondly remember ants-on-a-log from your childhood (somehow, I forgot about these until I was desperate to get more veggies into my kids). If celery isn’t your kids’ favorite, try cucumbers, peppers, or zucchini sticks dipped in peanut butter or even Nutella (my kids will regularly request to eat vegetables with Nutella, and I guess eating it on cucumber is better than eating it off a spoon). My SIL even swears by mixing powdered greens into her peanut butter, but this may only work when you start early (she started this when her first was very little, and he was later so confused with he saw a brown spread at a friend’s house).
Another classic trick is hiding the vegetables in foods they like (and these double as ways to help those worried about how many carbs we are eating each day). Cauliflower rice in the freezer section can be secretly added to so many foods! A classic is a cauliflower hidden in homemade mac-n-cheese, but it’s also good to hide it in mashed potatoes or potato pancakes. You can even add it to chili or green bean casserole (and really, these last two are hiding multiple different vegetables in a yummy sauce).
And sometimes, it is just about oven roasting to let the vegetable shine (and feeding them to your kids in small portions over and over). My husband’s favorite salad bar always had roasted broccoli, and when he brought this idea home, it was a revelation. We then started roasting cauliflower, green beans, brussels sprouts, and asparagus using the same recipe with just some EVOO and salt. There is nothing better than that little bit of crunch and caramelization to take a challenging vegetable and making it delicious.
And what about vegetables in baked goods or a sweet sauce. My kids regularly ask me to bake zucchini-chocolate chip and pumpkin muffins (and these pumpkin muffins have only two ingredients, so it can’t get any easier). Try honey-glazed roasted root vegetables, and you will find that they are eating beets, parsnips, and carrots without complaint. You can even pick up a bottle of teriyaki sauce and mix it with a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies – teriyaki’s sweet and salty mix of flavors always please my kids (you can even add in some meat or fish and make it a meal).
And then the tray-bake dinner revolution began, and I just rejoiced! Hello, kielbasa, apple, and cabbage bake. Thank you for releasing me from the stovetop sheet pan fajitas and balsamic chicken and veggies. And if it is warm outside, make Hawaiian chicken and then skewer it together with zucchini, onions, and peppers – the pineapple’s sweetness in the marinade will transform the veggies and kids in my house love anything served on a stick.
After a year of cooking more meals at home, using all of the above strategies to get more vegetables into our bellies, our kids are now eating chicken pot pie and shepherd’s pie packed with veggies without any complaints – they even ask for seconds.
Picky eating is a challenge for every parent, and I can’t guarantee you won’t still be crying over food battles now and again, but I think if you try everything, something will work. And some vegetables are always better than none.