As parents, we’ve all been locked in more than one battle with a stubborn kid who doesn’t want to eat the food we’ve prepared. More often than not, these clashes arise over that one thing that kids seem to universally revile: vegetables.
No matter how much we cajole, punish, and beg, the broccoli will just sit on the plate, untouched. Which isn’t just worrisome because good food is going to waste – it also means your child isn’t getting the nutrients and vitamins that vegetables are naturally packed full of.
To help you win the battle between your child and vegetables, here are some unique ways to make sure your children are getting their vegetables, and enjoying them.
A note on required materials: Many children dislike the texture of vegetables, so it’s important to use a juicer, steamer, food processor, or blender, which can help you sneak veggies into soups, smoothies, and sauces without a fight. Look for a blender or food processor with sharp steel blades, high powered motor (500 watts or more), and multiple speed settings. I’m partial to Vitamixes because they can make anything, but you’ll need to drop a pretty penny and not everyone is ready for that kind of investment.
Now it’s time to be creative in the kitchen and find some recipes that disguise vegetables in creative ways. Here are some delicious, and simple, recipes to try out that combine vegetables with foods your kids probably already love.
Kid-Friendly Vegetable Recipes:
Cauliflower Dipping Sticks
Kids love dipping their food in sauce, and these dipping sticks are fun for them to eat, but full of nutrients instead of starch.
2 cups cooked cauliflower (steamed)
2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp fennel
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp parsley
½ tsp onion powder
Preheat oven to 350° F. Divide cauliflower in half. One half, mash by hand. The other half you’ll want to puree in a food processor. This will give you a mixture that’s not too smooth, not too chunky.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients except for the garlic salt. Hold back about a half- cup of mozzarella to use as a topping. Grease a casserole dish and form your “dough” into sticks—about one inch thick and 6” long.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until they are firm to the touch and a light golden brown. Remove from oven and, using a spatula, transfer your sticks onto a cookie sheet.
Increase the oven temperature to 450° F. While you wait for the oven to heat up, sprinkle your breadsticks with the mozzarella and garlic salt to taste. Bake until the cheese browns slightly, about five minutes. Serve the dipping sticks alone or pair them with a cheese or marinara sauce.
Adapted from Recipe Girl
Vegetable Mashed Potatoes
When you are making mashed potatoes, consider replacing half with another kind of root vegetable, such as a rutabaga, beet, or turnip.
4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1 pound beets
½ cup butter
½ cup Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut all leaves off the beets and discard. Wash beets thoroughly. Wrap them loosely in foil and bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating every 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and peel potatoes. Cut potatoes into 1 inch pieces and boil until tender. Pull skin off beets and combine with potatoes. Add butter Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper. Use an electric mixer or a potato masher and mash until smooth.
Adapted from AllRecipes
Kids love lasagna. In fact, when I was a kid, this recipe was my absolute favorite thing that my mom made; I’d beg her for it all of the time. Yes, it was so good that it had me begging for vegetables! It has all of the cheesy goodness of lasagna, but the starchy pasta has been swapped out for vitamin-packed squash.
3 pounds of zucchini, slice lengthwise with a mandolin
1 15 oz package of ricotta cheese (you can substitute cottage cheese)
12 oz premade pasta sauce
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons grate Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8” baking pan with cooking spray. Next, you’re going to build up your “lasagna.” Lay out a row of your zucchini slices. Spread some sauce on with a spoon and then sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Add another row of zucchini, and repeat this process until you’ve used all of your squash.
Make certain that you’ve reserved about 1/3 of your mozzarella and Parmesan for the topping. Cover your pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned, another 10 minutes or so. Allow to cool a bit before slicing it up and serving it.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Simple Mac and Cheese (and Spinach!)
Mac and cheese is one of my favorite recipes to doctor up because you can put any type of vegetable in it and your kids will still love it. For example, reduce the cheese amount and use pureed butternut squash for a healthy veggie alternative. You can also use cauliflower. It’s versatile and still always yummy!
1 box penne pasta
½ medium yellow onion, diced
3 cups fresh spinach
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
2 beaten eggs
16 oz soft cheese, ricotta, or can substitute cottage cheese
1/3 cup breadcrumbs or crushed saltines
1 tsp. olive oil or margarine
2 tbsp chopped basil
Prepare the pasta according to the directions. Drain and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, cheese—set aside about half of your Parmesan—and basil.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sautee onion in olive oil or margarine over medium heat until onions are clear, about three minutes. In batches, add spinach until it wilts.
When it is finished cooking, combine vegetables, cheese, and pasta and stir until pasta is thoroughly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Coat a 9” X 13” inch baking pan with cooking spray and pour your pasta mixture in. Top with your bread crumbs and leftover Parmesan and back until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Adapted from Eating Well
Images via Shutterstock
Rebecca Bridge is a screenwriter, painter, and poet living in Seattle. When she’s not writing, Rebecca can be found whipping up new recipes in the kitchen. You can follow her on Twitter if you want to read updates about inane things and her dog.