When it comes to the foods they will and will not eat, every kid is different. Some don't like particular ingredients, some simply don't like certain preparations of certain ingredients, and the list goes on and on. However, in general, there's one thing that many parents struggle with: getting their kids to eat enough vegetables. After all, vegetables are absolutely packed with vitamins and nutrients and should certainly be a part of anyone's healthy diet. However, if your child isn't willing to even place a carrot on his or her plate, it can be tough to make it happen.
Luckily, there are far more ways to add vegetables to your diet than simply to eat them raw or steamed as a side dish. From grated to pureed, there are plenty of ways you can sneak a little extra dose of vegetables into just about any dish without impacting the flavor or texture.
If your child still isn't willing to consume vegetables straight up, it's all a matter of figuring out which foods your child likes and how you can tweak them a little bit to be more nutritious. Sure, adding a cup of vegetables into a sauce or mixing a bit of pureed veggies into a creamy pasta dish isn't the best-case scenario, but it's certainly a whole lot better than nothing.
Until your child develops a love of vegetables, here are 20 sneaky ways to ensure they're getting all the nutrients they need by sneaking a few extra veggies into their meals.
20 Add Finely Grated Zucchini To Baked Goods
Okay, if you have children with razor-sharp eyesight and who can spot a fleck of green from a mile away, you may have trouble fooling them with this one, but once they bite into whatever you've made, they just might be convinced. Zucchini has a super mild flavor, which makes it a perfect addition to just about any baked good, from loaves to muffins. It adds some extra veggies into the mix and, if it's grated and paired with stronger flavors like chocolate, chances are, you won't even know they're there. Talk about a total win-win situation! It's a great way to add more veggies to breakfast or snack time.
19 Mix Some Mashed Cauliflower Into Mashed Potatoes
For this trick, you'll likely want to play around a bit with proportions. While many adults find it easy to swap out mashed potatoes for cauliflower mash entirely, a child may be a little harder to convince. Instead, start by swapping out a small portion of the potatoes in a mashed potato dish with some cauliflower and gradually up the ratio until it's about half potatoes and half cauliflower. You'll still get that creamy, comforting side dish to serve alongside your meal, but you'll know that there's a little extra nutrition in there. Plus, when seasoned well and pureed until it's smooth, you likely won't even be able to notice the addition of the cauliflower.
18 Make Chocolate Pudding Even Creamier By Adding Avocado
Many people are a bit taken aback by the idea of adding avocado to any kind of sweet dish, thinking that it'll make everything taste strange. However, avocado has quite a mild taste, and while it may be somewhat noticeable in flavor in a lighter pudding like a vanilla or butterscotch, in a chocolate pudding, you won't even know it's there. Your kid will enjoy a decadent cup of chocolate pudding, and you'll rest assured knowing they got a little extra nutrition—not to mention a good dose of healthy fats courtesy of that avocado. Plus, who doesn't want a healthy dessert option in his or her repertoire?
17 Incorporate Orange Veggies Like Pumpkin Or Butternut Squash Into Mac And Cheese
One of the signs of a delicious, super cheesy macaroni and cheese is the color—the cheddar makes it a lovely rich orange. So, why not work with that? Take some vegetables that have an orange hue, such as pumpkin or butternut squash or even carrots, puree them, and mix them into the sauce. Your kid will simply taste the regular cheese and noodles, and you'll get a few extra veggies in there with very little effort. There are plenty of recipes that add vegetables into the mix in chunks, but for a truly picky eater, the puree method is way more likely to work.
16 Serve Veggies With A Tempting Dip
Children absolutely love food that's interactive in some way, which is why dip is such a great addition to any plate. It's not hard to whip up a healthy dip with a greek yogurt or bean base, and the flavourful addition just might convince your child to up his or her veggie intake. Sure, you may not find them chowing down on broccoli if they've always hated it just because there's a dip option, but they'll likely try far more veggies if they can mask the taste a bit with a tasty dip option. Plus, it's great for adults, too—who doesn't love dip?
15 Get Kids To Help In Veggie Preparation
It seems silly, but this one's actually a pretty effective trick—just get your children involved in the kitchen! If you simply present plates full of vegetables, your children may be resistant to trying them. However, if you bring your kids into the kitchen and get some help with the process, whether that involves peeling things or washing things, studies show that your children will be more likely to try out whatever they've helped make. If they're part of the preparation process, they kind of get curious about how what they've put together is going to taste! And they get a bit of nutritional knowledge and quality time with mom or dad, which is an added bonus.
14 Hide Some Veggies In A Smoothie
We'll be honest—if your child avoids everything green, you probably won't be able to convince him or her to slurp down a vibrant green smoothie packed with kale. However, there are plenty of smoothies you can create that your child will have no idea are filled with a few vegetables. Go for milder-tasting veggies, such as baby spinach, and add them in small amounts so the fruit flavor is still the dominant one in the drink. You'll be able to sneak in a few extra nutrients without your child even noticing, especially if you go with fruits that yield a vibrant, fun-to-drink smoothie.
13 Add Mushrooms To Ground Beef Mixture For Sloppy Joes Or Spaghetti Bolognese
From sloppy joes to spaghetti bolognese, there are plenty of dishes that start with a ground-beef base. While you may have always assumed you just have to use all ground beef for that or maybe swap it with ground turkey if you're looking for a lower-fat option, there are far more possibilities available. If you're looking to up the veggie content of your dishes, consider swapping out half of the meat with really finely chopped mushrooms. The texture is similar to meat; they'll absorb all the flavors of the dish you're making, and they add a little extra bit of nutrition to a dish your child probably already loves.
12 Toss A Few Veggies In Pizza Sauce
There aren't many children who don't love pizza, so why not take a dish they're already eager to eat and try to tweak it in different ways to incorporate more vegetables? For example, starting with the sauce—you can add some pureed vegetables such as pumpkin to your standard tomato sauce to add a few extra veggies without changing the flavor much. Then, for the toppings, you can experiment with what your child likes—perhaps you don't want to go full-on vegetarian pizza, but even adding a few extra vegetables—thinly sliced, under the layer of cheese and pepperoni—may be a winning formula.
11 Add Beets To Chocolate Cake
Beets can be a great addition to a meal because of their earthy taste and vibrant color, but if you're having a bit of trouble convincing your little one to try the root vegetable, here's an idea: incorporate the vegetable in a slice of chocolate cake! You can easily add beets to a chocolate cake to make the treat a little more nutritious, and you won't be able to taste it at all. The color may be a little bit different than pure chocolate cake, but hey—you can just call it a chocolate/red velvet hybrid! No kid would be able to resist.
10 Mix Some Veggies Into Marinara Sauce
While you can definitely make marinara sauce solely with tomatoes, why not add in a few extra veggies when you have the chance? Marinara sauce has a fairly strong flavor, which means you can easily add a few vegetables such as roasted red pepper, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions. If you're worried about a picky eater noticing the different vegetable chunks, the answer is easy: simply puree your sauce a bit for a smoother consistency and a seamless incorporation of vegetables. Toss some on your kid's favourite type of pasta, grate a little cheese on top, and you've got a meal your kid is going to absolutely love.
9 Create Crunchy, Irresistible Veggie Chips
For many kids, it's the texture of raw or cooked vegetables that's the issue rather than the actual taste. And many kids love the satisfying crunch of chips. So, why not come up with a creative solution and try baking vegetable chips? While there are a few vegetables that are tougher to make crisp because of their high water content, for the most part, you can transform just about everything into chips. A little bit of oil, a sprinkle of salt or your seasoning of choice, and you'll have a great healthy snack that you just may be able to convince your kids to love.
8 Make Some Veggie-Filled Nuggets
Let's get real—kids will eat just about anything if it's in nugget form. There's a reason that chicken nuggets are one of the most popular dishes with kids around the world—they're crispy, they're bite-sized, and they're perfect paired with some kind of sauce. So, why not take advantage of that and try to incorporate other kinds of nuggets into mealtimes? If you combine some potatoes with other vegetables into little patties, bread them, and bake them, you've got a crisp nugget that your kids will be dying to eat. You can play with as many flavor combinations as you want, which is another bonus.
7 Grate Veggies Into A Decadent Casserole
It can sometimes be tough to identify exactly what's in a casserole because... well... there are often a lot of ingredients all mixed together! Which is kind of the perfect situation for adding in a few hidden vegetables. If you're making some kind of casserole packed with delicious ingredients like cheese and noodles, get your grater out and toss a few vegetables in there as well. If putting whole chunks of vegetables isn't a winner, just grate a few things like zucchini or squash. It makes the dish much more nutritious, and it basically tastes the exact same—you'd never even know.
6 Spice Up Grilled Cheese Sandwiches With A Few Add-Ins
Grilled cheese is another staple food for kids everywhere, and while it's not quite as easy to actually hide vegetables within a sandwich, it can be a great way to experiment and see if there are vegetables your kid would be willing to eat—provided they're smothered in cheese and sandwiched between two slices of buttery toast. If you're worried about the lack of nutrition in the regular grilled cheese with American cheese slices that your child is crazy for, simply try adding in a few vegetables—perhaps some avocado, a slice or two of tomato, or a little bit of wilted spinach.
5 Bulk-Up Burgers
Burgers, like marinara sauce, are one of those dishes where you can add in a ton of different vegetables and still end up with a delicious dish. When you're making your own burgers, swap out some of the ground beef for other additions, such as chopped mushrooms or even some very finely diced and sauteed vegetables like carrots and onions. It adds a ton of flavor, as well as an extra dose of nutrients, to the patty. And, when the patty is grilled up, sandwiched between two buns, and covered with condiments, your child definitely won't notice there have been a few changes to the patty recipe.
4 Add Veggie Puree To Chicken Soup
There's not a lot you can do with a thin chicken noodle soup except try to add in a few chunks of vegetables. However, if you prefer your soup a little bit thicker, the options are endless for hiding a few vegetables in it. All you need to do is incorporate a few fairly neutral vegetables like squash or potato, and then puree the base of the soup so you have a thick, creamy base for your chicken. It may not be the traditional style, but it's just as delicious—and absolutely packed with nutrients. Give it a try at least once to see if it's a winner.
3 Freeze Veggie-Filled Smoothies Into Popsicles For A Nutrient-Packed Treat
Most kids absolutely love popsicles. Unfortunately, many of the packaged versions are filled with sugar and some less-than-ideal ingredients. It's super easy to make your own—all you need is a mold—and you can play around with any flavor combination under the sun. And you can even sneak a few veggies into your child's favorite frozen treat. If you craft a smoothie that incorporates some vegetables, you can pour that into popsicles molds, freeze it, and get a delicious, flavorful treat that's filled with nutrients. What's not to love about that? You can mix and match different flavor combinations, making sure to incorporate strong flavors like pineapple, that will help mask any veggie taste.
2 Have Fun With The Presentation
Everyone, including children, eats with his or her eyes first—so why not try to make vegetables look as appealing as possible? If your child has only ever seen vegetables the way you'd serve them to any adult, then you need to give this trick a try. Get creative with how you prepare your vegetables and cut them into different shapes and sizes that your child can play around with. If there's suddenly a pile of fun shapes on his or her plate, he or she might be a lot more willing to give different foods a try. After all, if a carrot is shaped like a flower, isn't that so much more interesting?
1 Make A Colorful Slaw
Slaw is often a total crowd pleaser, and it's a great way to incorporate different types of vegetables. Many people prepare slaw simply with regular green cabbage, but that's totally missing an opportunity. You can add just about anything to your slaw mix, from shredded carrots to shredded kale and more. And then, all you need to do is toss all your veggies in your dressing of choice. If there's a particular dressing that your child absolutely loves, putting it on a slaw rather than on a regular salad can be a fun way to get him or her to try out different vegetables.