Kids hate vegetables, I am not telling anyone with children anything they don’t know. I am also not about to win a Nobel prize for groundbreaking work in ending the dinner time struggle, however there are winners when it comes to hiding the veg, and others that leave a lot to be desired.
As much frustration as it may cause, children do have a legitimate reason for turning up their tiny noses at a plate full of greens. Taste buds are programmed to keep us safe, ensuring we don’t eat anything harmful. As young children are susceptible to illness, their taste buds have been found to be more sensitive to bitter compounds, a taste the tells us not to eat something. Unfortunately, this also extends to a natural dislike of the bitterness found naturally in green veggies.
With a desire to ensure the kidlets are getting all the nutrients they need to grow up healthy and strong, parents go to extraordinary lengths to find sneaky ways to hide veg in everyday meals. Some successful, others not so much.
Now we understand the reason our little friends shy away from what is good for them, we can use this information to combat this ageless meal time battle. Draw a line in the sand, bust out these selected recipes and prepare to gloat at the next moms group meeting. Be sure to distinguish between those that offer potential success, and those that are destined for failure.
23 Win: Zucchini Brownies
Right off the bat we tackle every kids’ worst nightmare. Soft, squishy and bitter, zucchini is something to be feared. Even as an adult, this vegetable has the potential to turn people off with old tough specimens offering nothing more than watery, blobs of texture lacking mush. However, cooked just right, it can be amazing.
Regardless of its culinary treatment, there is no chance kids will knowingly scoff this one down. Mixed with a rich chocolate batter, balancing out that bitterness is a winning combination with this zucchini brownie recipe, with the shredded veg all but disappearing when cooked. Bust out the baking tins.
22 Fail: Zucchini Fries
In direct contrast, this recipe has no hope of fooling anyone, least of all eagle-eyed kids. It looks like zucchini, and despite a feeble attempt to cover up its questionable flavor, it tastes like zucchini. Not only is the texture as appealing as a soggy bread roll, the name is nothing short of false advertising.
Steaming in their own juices, there is nothing fried about this offering. At least come through on the promise of turning something gross into a much-loved side. A fail on all fronts and not likely to pass the scrutiny of young diners.
21 Win: Parsnip Fries
As mentioned, the best way to gain the trust of those we are trying to deceive, is to at least offer something that they most certainly don’t want to eat, with some level of integrity. Unlike their soggy friends, ‘zucchini fries’, these root vegetable alternatives offer some hope of a non-potato based fried vegetable being eaten.
Crispy and brown, their favourite food color, these are a much better choice for trickery when it comes to messing with the hero of kids food, the French fry. Whip up a big batch and sit back smugly as they woof them down, none the wiser.
20 Fail: Homemade Baked Beans
The reasoning behind this recipe, I can only assume, is to make a ‘healthier’ version of a food kids actually eat. I will concede that, yes, the store-bought kind does have more sugar than a chocolate chip cookie, but it makes up for it in fibre and protein. Beans are a great way to get some much needed ruffage into little people’s diets, why you would potentially mess with a winner is beyond me.
The reason kids love these canned beans is purely down to the orange, sweet sauce they are swimming in. No doubt you will feel better serving up your home-made alternative, sans sugar, just don’t be surprised when there are more on the floor, than in their mouths.
19 Win: Lentil and Beef Meatloaf
Even to me this sounds kind of gross, how could we possibly sneak this one past? However, with a bit more thought, this recipe makes sense. Lentils have very little flavor of their own and when cooked in with other ingredients they become a binder, adding texture, much the same as breadcrumbs.
The huge bonus of the sneaky legume is the massive boost in protein and fibre. That’s a pretty big win in my book when it comes to hiding nutritious ingredients that will make the cut with the kids.
18 Fail: Broccoli Dip
One look at this and both you and I know it - this is a no go. What was this desperate parent thinking? Green puree is still green. Unless you are color-blind, there is no way to avoid this indisputable fact. If there’s one thing kids hate, it is broccoli. Their in-built radars can sense this formidable enemy in any form, no matter how cleverly disguised.
No amount of blitzing can transform this unwanted this foe into a friend. It is one thing to be optimistic, but this is only setting yourself up for failure. I am sure it is a lovely recipe – for your vegan sister in-law, don’t insult the kids with it.
17 Win: Chocolate Spinach Muffins
Baked goods are hard to resist, even with the risk of a stow-away veg lurking somewhere beneath the surface. Here we see another clever use of sweet baking to disguise the unwanted bitter savory flavor of veggies.
Spinach becomes almost undetectable when baked in small pieces and its offensive flavor masked by the sweetness of chocolate. So, chop, blend and bake your way to veggie success and feel good about building little Popeyes of your very own.
16 Fail: Green Fritters
Just when we think we can’t get any more obvious than broccoli dip, we are faced with a multi-green veg offering in the form of these fritters. Kids do love fried foods, but when they bust them open and are stared down by an ominous mix of Kermit filling, things are unlikely to proceed well from there.
A mix of zucchini, broccoli and dill, it is a disaster waiting to happen. Not even grown-ups like dill. It has one purpose, which is to adorn blinis topped with cream fraiche and smoked salmon, not mixed through already yuck tasting green veggies.
15 Win: Cauliflower Mash
Creamy, bland in color and taste, this is the ultimate sneaky veg. Mixed in with a healthy portion of fluffy potatoes and you have a winner. This recipe does leave the red skins on the potatoes which is probably not best for super fussy eaters but peeled and mashed well with the cauli and they will be none-the-wiser.
Cauliflower lends itself to all things mashed, you could even branch out and try this with a mix of white sweet potato for an extra boost of undetected veggie goodness.
14 Fail: Vegetable Pizza
Let’s get this straight, kids can spot a vegetable from as far away as humanly possible. They know even when we try to hide them, so why oh why, would you attempt to deliver them in plain sight? Pizza is a firm family favorite, yummy sweet tomato sauce on dough, covered in mild melty cheese. It is the perfect recipe for suspicious tots.
It will inevitably end in tears when their trusted pie is served up with a helping of crunchy vegetables staring back at them. No amount of cheese can hide a sliver of pepper, or worse still a slimy mushroom. Save the pizza as a treat and ruin some other meal they already hate.
13 Win: Chickpea Chocolate Slice
Ok, I will admit when I read the name of this recipe, I was grossed out too. I immediately imagined some kind of dark brown hummus substance, with maybe some whole chickpeas scattered throughout for extra fun. Fear not, this is not as it sounds.
This yummy chocolate slice is made super easy being an all-in-one processor recipe. Blitzed until smooth, the chickpeas disappear into the mix of chocolate, banana, peanut butter and maple syrup - all kid approved!
12 Fail: Green Beans With Sweet Potato Dip
Seriously? A mean ol' green vegetable dipped in yet another vegetable. This makes no sense on any level. There is zero attempt to conceal the identity of either of the offending veg in this recipe, and what makes it even worse, is the idea that one could make the other better.
I get the feeble thought process, sweet potatoes are well, sweet. But so is ketchup parents! Is the agony of having to endure green beans in plain sight not enough? Give them some bright red sauce and consider it a win if that does the trick.
11 Win: Mini Beef and Veg Sausage Rolls
Heck even I would pretend to be averse to veggies to get my mitts on some of these bad boys. Delicious golden flaky pastry, who really cares what’s inside! Perhaps some of our more finicky friends will and this recipe delivers.
The finely grated carrot and zucchini melt away into the juicy meaty filling, topped with ‘black sprinkles’ (poppy seeds), this recipe is a win for the whole family.
10 Fail: Skewers
We all know all great things come on sticks; corndogs, toffee apples, candy floss, potato spirals – the list is endless. I realize we are attempting trickery for the purpose of evading vegetable detection, but fruit can be just as challenging. So, why, I ask you, do parents continue to cut huge hunks of these undesirables and place them on sticks?
Not only is this reaching, it is just another excuse for kids to hate on foods they once previously loved. Leave the stick food for the carnival and put some real effort into concealing this unwanted produce.
9 Win: Pumpkin Risotto
Before you think I have lost my mind on this one, lets consider what risotto is. A bowl of creamy rice blanketed in starchy goodness, with cheese. Perfect as far as those bland taste buds go. What do kids love more than bland starchy foods with cheese? Sweetness.
That’s where the pumpkin comes in. Bursting with natural sugars, pumpkin in its pureed form can make a great sauce for just about anything. Stirred through a yummy bowl of risotto and you have a firm family favourite on your hands.
8 Win: Cauliflower Tater Tots
We all love tater tots. They are shuffled into the cart under the guise of ‘food for the kids’, but we know the truth. Why wouldn’t we love their fluffy potato centre wrapped in a crunchy fried exterior? It is sheer genius - no wonder kids are lining up for them.
A sneaky and equally delicious swap in this ingenious recipe comes in the form of cauliflower. When fried, its natural nuttiness comes out and not only are they soft on the inside, they are crunchy on the outside, just the way we ALL like them!
7 Fail: Asparagus Mac N Cheese
One look at the picture and you know why it made the fail list. Our vegetable sleuths are laughing out loud at this one. Mac n cheese, great – green visible pieces of asparagus. If, like me, you grew up thinking that asparagus was that grey mush that came from a can, you probably also waited well into adulthood to give it another go.
Even when faced with a delightful dish containing the fresh version of this crisp veg, you either love it or hate it. No amount of cheesy pasta can make asparagus edible to the untrained palate.
6 Win: Sweet Potato Mac N Cheese
In direct contrast to the unthinkable combination mentioned above, this recipe makes total sense. Just like the pumpkin risotto, sweet potato makes an appearance here, not as a chunk of unwanted veg, but as a deliciously creamy sauce.
When cooked down and blended in with the traditional cheese sauce, it only adds to the beloved yellow color of this comforting and familiar dish. Topped with a whole-wheat crumb for extra crunch, it’s the perfect disguise for this vitamin packed veggie.
5 Win: Sneaky Vegetable Lasagne
This is one we have all tried. Chunks of veg hidden between silky sheets of pasta, topped with tomato sauce and cheese. Surely it is a winner? Even with the best intentions, kids approach such a meal with caution. They know this trick and pick through the layers in search of their sworn enemies.
The key to success is making them blend seamlessly into the meat sauce, undetectable to even the keenest eye. Mushrooms, cauliflower, spinach and lentils all disappear into the rich tomato sauce, this is a veggie upgrade without a flavor compromise. Get the recipe now!
4 Fail: Green Smoothies
What now? I think you would be lucky to find adults, besides those who frequent trendy gym cafes (in clothes that clearly are not used for working out) that would come at a green smoothie. Gritty, sour and down right icky, this health elixir is most certainly something for the nutritional elite.
To even imagine you could pass this one off is nothing short of ludicrous. With brown froth sitting atop a glowing green concoction, it is unlikely to pass the lips of any youngster without one hell of a fight.
3 Win: Chickpea Pancakes
This recipe uses a slightly obscure ingredient - chickpea (garbanzo) flour – however the end result is worth the effort of trawling the aisles at the market to find it. This is the same flour used in everyone’s favourite Indian appetiser, Onion Bhaji.
Creating a crisp outside and a slightly dense interior, these pancakes can be filled with grated veg, sweetcorn or whatever takes your kids fancy. Made fresh or kept in the fridge for afternoon munchies, pile them up with a side of ketchup and watch them disappear.
2 Fail: Vegetable Faces
I actually laugh out loud when I look through images of these cute, but preposterous attempts to coax unwilling participants into indulging in fruit and vegetables. Is the thought process here that something smiling back at the little tykes couldn’t possibly taste awful?
The worst part of this desperate ploy is the sheer amount of work that goes into creating these works of art, only to be unceremoniously picked apart and left un-eaten. Leave the colorful faces for the circus and get your stealth recipes together for a better chance of wining the hidden veggie war.
1 Win: Chicken Vegetable Nuggets
Grating veggies is part of every desperate parents’ arsenal. This recipe takes it to a whole new level, combining them with chicken and turning the mix into the ultimate kid’s cuisine – chicken nuggets!
The success of this recipe lies in its simplicity. Why is this not on regular rotation in every household? Now you have this nugget (pun intended) of pure genius at your finger-tips, make them at once, stand back and feel every bit as smug as you should watching them being woofed down at lightening speed.