Parents have been repeating the old adage, "Eat your veggies!," forever — and with minimal success in getting their children to scarf down plates of Brussel sprouts or broccoli. Luckily, there are quite a few easy and creative ways to up the nutrition in your child's life and, in some cases, without them even knowing.
Here are seven simple ways to sneak a few extra nutrients into your kids' meals.
1. Smoothies: Very few kids will turn down the opportunity to drink a smoothie, which makes it the perfect vehicle to add in a few extra veggies. The sweetness of fruit like strawberries, bananas, or green apples can mask the taste of ingredients like kale and spinach that pack a nutritional punch. Just a handful of leafy greens will secretly amp up the amount of vitamins in the drink — but your kiddos will still keep drinking their smoothie.
2. Enhance a dish they already love: Another great way to add in a few extra vegetables is by sneaking a few into an already favorite dish. Adding in pureed carrot or squash to macaroni and cheese or stuffing a few extra vegetables into the spaghetti sauce they already love will help them get in a few vegetables without the fear of trying something new.
3. Make it interactive: This one may not work for every kid, but we'll guarantee it'll work for some. Give your child the chance to DIY with their food and they may surprise you. Set up a taco bar with things like avocado, tomatoes and peppers, or have them make their own pizza and offer healthy toppings like mushrooms and spinach, or have them try their hand at stuffed baked potatoes with broccoli and scallions.
4. Just add cheese: If your kids hate vegetables but love cheese, you may find a compromise by making things au gratin. Cauliflower mash is simple to make and tastes more like mashed potatoes than vegetables. Even sprinkling shredded cheese on top of cooked broccoli can go a long way with the little ones.
5. Try different textures: This method may require some more trial and error (and resistance!), but once you find a keeper or two, it's worth it. Just because a kid doesn't like raw carrots, they may fall in love with the sweeter cooked version. Kale may be yucky in a salad, but kale chips could be delicious. Cauliflower florets may not do it for them, but cauliflower as rice may be another story. Vegetables can be prepared so many ways — so get creative.
6. Dips: There is something about dipping that kids just love. Dips can be a great way to get them to eat raw vegetables dunked in hummus or even trying a dip made with edamame or spinach. Celery and peanut butter is another great one — and you can always throw a few raisins on top.
7. Did someone say dessert? This shouldn't be the only way you serve vegetables, but it doesn't hurt to make dessert a little less sinful with the addition of a few.
Muffins or cupcakes with shredded zucchini or carrots are delicious, as are quick breads. You can even sneak sweet potatoes into brownies or avocado into pudding or chocolate mousse.