Maybe it’s because they have so many more meal options than we did growing up, or maybe they’re just being kids, but it seems like many children today have a very limited list of foods they’re willing to eat. Not only can this be frustrating for parents, it can be unhealthy for growing kids who need a variety of vitamins and minerals to grow.
While parents know we’re supposed to get a certain amount of healthy foods into our kids every day, it can be hard for vegetables to compete with comfort food favorites like chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese. Luckily, there are things we can do to make the vegetables more kid-friendly, and we’re going to discuss them below.
Here are 5 easy ways to get kids to try (and maybe even enjoy) healthy foods:
1. Quietly Cauliflower—
The secret undercover agent of the vegetable world, cauliflower can be cooked, mashed and blended with butter or cheese to resemble and taste very similar to mashed potatoes.
Adults on low-carb diets already know about this amazing substitution for the starchier dish it so closely resembles, but children are used to seeing cauliflower on veggie trays in its raw and somewhat pungent-smelling form.
If your children are extremely particular, you can try blending mashed cauliflower half and half with potatoes to gradually get them used to the flavor. And don’t forget that this vegetable can be added to casseroles, or covered with cheese and baked to create a delicious cauliflower gratin.
2. Marinara is Magnificent—
With a strong tomato base to hide other flavors, shredded or pureed carrots, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, zucchini, peas, mushrooms, or any other vegetable that sounds good can be added to this popular red sauce (especially if it has ground turkey or beef added as well to hide the texture).
Pasta primavera is another tried and tested way to get children to enjoy vegetables, so don’t forget that a good, creamy butter sauce can also convince a picky kid to give veggies a chance.
3. Macaroni and More—
Macaroni and cheese sits firmly at the top of many people’s favorite food lists, but the deliciousness of this dish doesn’t have to stop with cheese, and neither does the nutrition.
This is because it’s easy to add finely chopped broccoli, steamed spinach, diced tomatoes, or any other vegetables you’d like, thanks to the strong cheese flavor that both covers and compliments pretty much anything you add to it.
Experts have discovered it can take more than 10 times of tasting a food to decide whether or not we like it, making macaroni and cheese a great way to help a child develop an appreciation for nutritious foods without even realizing it.
4. Meat You in the Garden—
Unless you’re a vegetarian, meat can be a great way to work vegetables into your diet via meatloaf, meatballs, and meat sauces.
Veggie burgers, either made entirely from vegetarian sources, or meat with pureed and finely diced vegetables mixed into the patties is another method used by resourceful parents to encourage kids to eat healthily.
The addition of a hamburger bun and condiments further serves to add to the illusion of an all-meat burger, allowing families to add baked fries and skip the fast food for a healthier homemade alternative.
5. The Secret Baker—
Everybody loves zucchini bread, right? And carrot cake is a classic favorite dessert. So what’s weird about adding pureed cauliflower, carrots or spinach to chocolate cake or spice muffins?
Cauliflower is bland, carrots are a surprisingly sweet vegetable, and spinach has a mellow taste that goes unnoticed when paired with stronger flavors. Give it a try, get creative, and never fear: It can be a little secret between you and us, and we promise we’ll never tell.
Be sure to blend all well-cooked vegetables you’re adding to a baked good into a smooth paste to avoid textural discovery of your well-hidden nutrition, and nobody will ever know the difference.
The above tips are ways to disguise the flavor of vegetables and conceal them within foods kids already love in hopes that children will eventually grow to enjoy the flavors they’re subconsciously tasting.
But the best way to help kids learn to love vegetables is to lead by example; by eating them with meals openly and positively. By using the tips above, and making a point of enjoying them in front of your children, you can take the mystery out of these nutritional superfoods to help your children learn to love vegetables.