Kids are notoriously picky about their food, especially when it comes to greens and veggies. Here are 7 simple tricks to get your little ones the nutrition they need (without the headache).
1. Sneak greens into a smoothie by masking the color and flavor with bright fruits like raspberries and sweet ones like bananas.
And if you find that your childhood dislike of all things green has carried over to adulthood, try a yummy supplement like Green Qi by Modere, which has delicious fruit notes already!
Tropical Green Smoothie
From Averie Cooks
Makes one 12 oz. smoothie
Total cook time: 2 min.
1 to 2 cups frozen spinach
1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 medium ripe banana, peeled (previously frozen in chunks is ideal)
1 cup strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or a favorite berry, optional
1 cup milk (we suggest almond or coconut)
1 teaspoon+ vanilla extract
Sweetener to taste (we suggest agave, stevia or honey)
Prep & Cook
- Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth (additional notes in original recipe. Please see above link).
2. Add normally bland veggies into garlic-y, savory pasta with lots of, you guessed it, parmesan.
Strong flavors like cheese and garlic simply turn otherwise-despised veggies like broccoli into satisfying texture points. Here’s a recipe that’s sure to get the job done.
Angel Hair Primavera
Makes 4 servings
Total cook time: 35 min.
12 oz. angel hair pasta
2 c. broccoli florets
1 pt. cherry tomatoes (yellow and red)
1 8-oz. package baby bella mushrooms
1 15-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
2 tsp. garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 c. grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
Sliced fresh basil for serving
Prep & Cook
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water, and return to pot.
- On a large baking sheet, toss broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts with olive oil and season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Roast until tender and caramelized, stirring once, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add vegetables to pot along with Parmesan and 1/2 pasta water and, over low heat, stir vigorously to create a sauce. (Add more pasta water until you reach your desired consistency.)
- Serve garnished with Parmesan and basil.
3. Make homemade pesto with tons of greens.
Consider pesto your secret weapon. It goes in pasta, on chicken, with rice; it’s a veritable sneaky-veg hero. Full of bold flavors like lemon and garlic, pesto masks greens without batting an eyelash – even bitter ones like kale. The recipe below will rock your (kid’s) world.
Kale, Spinach and Basil Pesto
From Marin Mama Cooks
Makes 2 cups
Total cook time: 10 min.
2 cups spinach, lightly packed
1 cup kale, rinsed and de-stemmed, lightly packed
1 cup basil, lightly packed
¾ cup unsalted raw whole almonds, lightly toasted
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
Prep & Cook
- First off, let’s toast up the almonds. You can do this ahead of time to save a step. If you’re toasting them up at the same time you’re making the pesto, then you will want to give them at least 10-15 minutes to cool down, so they don’t heat up the pesto. I usually toast up the almonds ahead of time and then reserve them in a covered glass container till I need them.
- Set a dry (no oil here) skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the almonds and stir frequently until they start to brown and smell toasted. Remove them from the heat and the skillet, (as they will continue to cook in the skillet) and let them cool. Don’t let them burn, you just want them to be lightly toasted and lightly browned.
- Get out a food processor, mini prep or blender.
- Place the ingredients into the food processor.
- Process until slightly smooth. You will have to use a spatula once or twice during the process to make sure that everything gets combined! The pesto will not be entirely smooth, but somewhat chunky in texture from the almonds. Chunky in a good way though!
4. Offer vegetables before other snacks and put obstacles in front of less healthy options.
Research(1) suggests that we’re more likely to grab carrot sticks over candy if they’re closer in reach. Why? Good ol’ fashioned human laziness.
5. Hide ‘em in mac ‘n cheese.
The ultimate kid-approved food can take a major heap of veg without getting caught, especially when you include textures similar to macaroni. This recipe is a great example of how to get lots of nutrients into an already-beloved dish (plus, extra points for the baking).
Baked Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
From Snixy Kitchen
Makes 6 servings
Total cook time: 40-50 min.
1lb gluten-free quinoa macaroni or your favorite macaroni
1-1/2lbs sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
8 ounces cottage cheese
8 ounces sour cream
½ head of cauliflower, finely chopped (I just send mine through the grater of the food processor)
3 yellow squash or 1-2 small zucchini, shredded
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Prep & Cook
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Cook the macaroni according to the directions, under cooking it just slightly. Gluten-free mac and cheese can over cook fast, so as soon as it is al-dente, drain it.
- While the macaroni cooks, mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl, reserving 1-1/2 cups of grated cheddar cheese.
- Drain the macaroni and add it to the large cheese bowl. Mix until well-combined.
- Pour the macaroni into a 9×12 glass baking dish.
- Sprinkle the reserved grated cheddar cheese over the top.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 6-9 more minutes until the top turns brown and crispy.
6. Mash cauliflower – not potatoes.
It’s one of those little tricks that’s hardly noticeable, thanks to cauliflower’s natural starch-less creaminess. Plus, it’s just as easy to make as your favorite mashed potato dish (if not more so). Give the below recipe a whirl!<
Creamy Mashed Cauliflower
From The Kitchn
Makes 8-10 servings
Total cook time: 35 min.
2 (16-ounce) packages riced cauliflower, or 1 large head cauliflower (about 3 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Prep & Cook
- Finely chop the cauliflower (for whole cauliflower only): Halve the cauliflower through the stem. Cut a “V” shape around the core to remove the core from each half. Finely chop the cauliflower. The smaller the pieces, the faster the cauliflower will cook and the creamier the finished dish will be.
- Sauté the cauliflower: Melt the butter in a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and sauté, stirring regularly, until the cauliflower has lightened in color, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Boil until tender: Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.
- Reserve the cooking liquid, then drain: Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the cauliflower.
- Mash or purée: Place the drained cauliflower and reserved cooking liquid back in the pot. Mash using an immersion blender to desired consistency. Serve hot.
7. Make veggies more visible than other foods.
Studies show that people – including kids – are far more likely to consume what they can regularly see. Part of the challenge with greens is that they take more time to dig out of the fridge and prepare. Out of sight, out of mind. Junk food, by contrast, is ready for consumption with little to no effort albeit the tear of a freshness seal. Keeping vegetables in easy-to-see (and access) places will introduce them into your kids’ consciousness. For example, displaying a bowl of fruits or a platter of baby carrots and moving the chips up a shelf or two can go a long way in helping along good eating habits.
(1) Viskontas, Indre. Mother Jones. How to Trick a Child into Eating a Vegetable. motherjones.com