Looking for ways to increase veggies? By mixing up the flavor and texture with different cooking techniques and seasonings, your family will benefit from the nutrients and vitamins of yummy veggies and you’ll get to skip the begging and bribing (ok, maybe that last part is just me, but you get the drift). Techniques can include pureeing, chopping or even liquidizing your veggies to add a few more hidden veggies to your meals – and the results are delicious!
- Add vegetable juice or purees to your chili. Stews and soups are easy ways to hide vegetables. Existing recipes can easily be tweaked to take on a new spin. Simply add pureed root vegetables or even the basics like pureed broccoli and peas to your standard recipe – taste as you go to find the right combination. For chili, I like to buy a quality organic vegetable juice and add it to my chili as one of the bases.
- A new spin on Mexican night – veggies in the quesadillas! It’s easy to finely chop or puree carrots and zucchini and add them to that cheesy goodness in a quesadilla. If the veggies are covered in cheese, most picky eaters won’t mind at all! (Mix it up and you can use the same method for cheesy veggie nachos!) Guacamole is also a great way to hide extra vegetables like finely diced tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic. Pair them with a mixture of regular tortillas chips and some beet tortillas chips scattered in the mix for colorful bonus points!
- Burgers with veggies hidden in the burger mix. This one can be taken to so many different levels. You can hide the veggies in the actual mix and then top the burgers with more veggies or even swap the bun for a lettuce wrap. The basic recipes usually consist of putting veggies and nuts in a food processor and then combining that with the meat, eggs, and seasonings. Black beans, chickpeas and sweet potatoes are most commonly used as the vegetables, but there are endless options. Make it a family fun night by turning it into a MYO burger bar so everyone can choose their toppings at the end. Too hectic of a schedule to make it happen? Pre-make the patties and toppings and store in the refrigerator a day ahead or simply check the freezer aisle for frozen veggie burgers to use on busy nights. (Tip: Just check the label to see that the main ingredients actually are veggies.)
- Casserole night gets a makeover. Traditional casseroles can often be high in refined carbs and calories – potatoes, rice, or pasta are often the base. However, vegetable centric casseroles can add bulk, texture and much needed fiber to those hungry bellies. Egg casseroles are particularly easy to add vegetables and swap without much change to taste.
Trick even the toughest critic in your household – the kids!
Raise your hand if the begging, bribing and continuous pleading with your kids to eat their veggies, has you at wit’s end and reaching for the fried chicken fingers again? We’ve all been there. Most of us already know the trick of making smoothies with spinach and fruit, but rest assured there are other solutions to try for even the pickiest of eaters – KIDS!
- Add veggies to your kids mac & cheese. Sometimes if you use smaller veggies like peas, or chopped spinach and mix the cheese over it thoroughly, you can sneak veggies in. If objections arise, next time try cauliflower rice – it’s almost invisible and if you add small portions at a time, you can sometimes sneak this by the kids. You can even use a little pureed pumpkin to add sweetness and a fun new color to your mac and cheese.
- Take a new spin on grilled cheese. Diced tomatoes, chopped spinach, diced zucchini are great choices to sneak a few more veggies into that gooey sandwich. When you add more veggies, make sure to double the cheese you use. Use a cookie cutter as an added distraction to make a fun shape out of the sandwich at the end. Make the conversation about the fun shape so they are less likely to notice the veggies.
- Kid approved fries or chips don’t have to be from a frozen bag. If you haven’t ever tried to make homemade sliced sweet potato fries baked on a sheet pan with some olive oil and a dash of seasoning, start there. Once you get the thumbs up from the kids, begin to try other veggies. Carrots, green beans or zucchini sticks can be lightly breaded and baked for a creative choice. (Remember dipping options are key to approval here!) Short on time? Buy some already baked Kale Chips and pair them with hummus or even ranch dressing.
- Nut & Seed Butter to the rescue! Try Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) or almond butter with sweet potato puree and then spread on some wheat bread for an easy sandwich fix. Did we mention sweet potato puree is not that hard to make, gluten free and can even be used to sneak veggies into baked goods? (Yep, it’s an easy oil substitute in many recipes!)
- Pizza Night gets silly. Let your child get involved in this one! It starts with veggie crust. Surprisingly, cauliflower crust made at home is pretty easy – most recipes really just combine finely chopped and drained cauliflower with eggs, almond flour and some seasonings. However, if you are short on time like me, you can buy already made zucchini or cauliflower crust in the frozen section.. Next, prepare a variety of veggies ahead of time and let the kids create silly faces after they top the crust with sauce and mozzarella. Red and green peppers, mushrooms, zucchini slices, basil, tomatoes, olives, even shredded carrots are great pizza toppings to make the imagination come alive with your kids. They’ll have a blast making the pizzas and your veggie goals will be on par! You can also hide pureed spinach in pizza sauce!
So whether you are trying to trick a 4 year old or a 40 year old it is possible to up your veggie game in the new year! Pinterest is a great source for new ideas and remember experimenting is key. Cookbooks from your local library on “hidden greens” are also a great source – and once in a while, let the person you are cooking for pick out the hidden recipe so they realize veggies CAN taste good! Don’t give up, some will be winners and others may not be embraced with watering mouths – and that is okay!