If your children have already mastered how to avoid eating those green stuff on their plate (and you’ve miserably failed the art of persuasion), then it’s time to bring out something new to the table. Making your kids eat vegetables doesn’t always have to be a struggle when you know how to prepare and serve them. Arm your sleeve with these tricks to magically turn your notorious picky eaters into little veggie lovers!
Why Is It Important to Make Kids Eat Vegetables?
Vegetables are essential components of a healthy, balanced diet for kids. They provide energy, vitamins, fibre, water and anti-oxidants that children need to avoid diseases when they grow older, like heart ailments and certain cancers. Based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines, our kids should have the following vegetable servings per day:
- 1 to 2 years old – 2 to 3 serves
- 2 to 3 years old – 2.5 serves
- 4 to 8 years old – 4.5 serves
However, according to a 2018 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, 96% of children in Australia did not meet these standards. Nutrition experts have come together to introduce solutions to address this health issue. Mums like us, on the other hand, can also help out by putting the yum back into home-cooked vegetable meals.
How Can I Make My Kids Eat Vegetables?
You’re not alone. Most mums go through mealtime blues with kids when vegetables are on the menu. The good news is, there are several ways to make kids eat vegetables without the begging and bribing. Even grown-up broccoli haters will give in to these tricks.
Cook them in butter
When food is green, it has to taste bitter, and this is the exact reason why kids are not fans of broccoli or spinach. Solve this by sautéing your vegetables with a small lump of butter. Aside from masking the bitterness, butter is a good source of fat for absorbing vitamins from the veggies. For meal variety, you can use these other flavour add-ons to turn vegetables from bland to fab:
- Use olive oil instead of butter for a plant-based fat alternative.
- Season your steamed or sautéed vegetables with some salt.
- Spritz them with lime or lemon juice for flavour and vitamin C.
- Coat cooked vegetables with a little honey or maple syrup.
- Toss them in grated cheese like cheddar or parmesan.
Serve them with dips
Kids love dipping their food into sauces. So, make the most of this eating habit by serving vegetable sticks with dips. While you can always use store-bought ranch dressing, take it up a notch with homemade honey mustard sauce or hummus. And if your kids are still making a face at the mere sight of fresh carrot sticks or blanched green beans, turn them into veggie fries instead. Dip your veggie strips in egg, coat them in seasoned breadcrumbs then bake or air fry until tender. Don’t forget the aioli or guacamole for dipping!
Make them cheesy
Even children can’t say no to cheese. And if your kids love macaroni and cheese, why not throw in a few cauliflower florets and diced carrots into the cheesy mixture? It’s easier to have kids eat vegetables when you combine them with dishes they already know and like. Cheese fondue with veggie dippers is also another option. After all, anything dipped into gooey, melted cheese is a delight.
Add them in pizza and baked goods
Here’s another way to put vegetables into your kids’ favourite food list: use them as a pizza topping or stir them in your muffin batter. When you do these, ask the kids to help out in the kitchen. Let them arrange the veggies on your pizza base. Grate the carrots for the cake then leave the mixing to your little sous chefs. Kids love eating the food they helped to prepare. You can apply this approach when making their school lunch, too.
Turn them into smoothies
Making purees or smoothies is an effective method to make kids eat vegetables more. A study even concluded that young children prefer pureed veggies more, which almost doubled their vegetable intake. It’s easier for kids to drink their vegetables rather than chew big pieces of them. Also, you can stir in natural sweeteners like fruit to temper the bitter taste. For example, you can blend in banana slices and almond milk with spinach or blitz kale with pineapple slices and coconut juice.
Roasting makes vegetables sweeter and more palatable for young tastebuds. The best ones for roasting are root vegetables, but you can roast most veggies in season. When you do, make sure to slice them evenly in small pieces, so they cook at the same time. Also, drizzle them with enough oil, season with salt and pepper, add herbs or garlic if you like then cook them until tender. I love how versatile roasted vegetables can be. You and your kids can enjoy them as is, with dipping sauces, in sandwiches or wraps and so much more.
Stir them in soups
The best thing about putting vegetables in soups is that everything tastes like your delicious broth with all the nutrients preserved in every spoonful. Aside from the usual chicken soup, introduce your kids to tomato soup, zucchini and corn chowder or minestrone with elbow pasta.
Mix them with ground meat
Bulking up your beef burger patties or meatloaf with chopped vegetables not only add flavour and nutrients but also keep them juicy. You can also do this method when making homemade chicken nuggets. If you do not want to use meat, you can omit it and make fried fritters instead, served with a yummy dipping sauce, of course!
Put them in a disguise
Just like grown-ups, kids are excited with impressive food presentation. So, rather than use regular pasta, bring out your spiralizer and make zoodles and courgetti. Make rice out of cauliflower. Let your kids arrange shaped vegetables (using cookie cutters) and make face toasts. Use clear containers to make layered vegetable salads (aka rainbows in a cup). Come summertime, make healthy veggie popsicles to beat the heat.
The ideas to make kids eat vegetables and enjoy them are endless. All you need is a little creativity and heaps of love!