If you have kids, the last thing you probably know is how hard it is to get them to eat veggies with their food. Here are the top tips that will give you more reason to enjoy veggies and be glad that your kiddos are enjoying them too.
Why Do Kids Hate Veggies?
Little kids are fearless when it comes to eating candies and other colorful items that aren’t healthy for them. This is why candy makers use vivid colors and added shine to make candies look so tempting. If you look at steamed or boiled vegetables, you just don’t get anything that looks more than a super-matted surface. Moreover, kids tend to associate sweet treats with good experiences (b-day party, ice cream parlors, reward for good behavior, etc); in comparison veggies are associated with parents nagging and being forced to eat them.
The other reason is the straight-up appearance of veggies and knowing that it’s different to them. Seriously, you can’t just plop down broccoli and peas on your kid’s plate and expect them to fall in love with it. As any master chef will agree, a meal has everything to do with appearance than it does with taste. Your kid will be keen to spot something mixed into their food that doesn’t look like it fits.
This is where you’ll need to perform some magic, or lack of a better word, sleight-of-hand to disguise their food. This means that you’ll need to hide veggie ingredients with similar-looking vegetables, so your kids don’t have a chance to investigate strange colors that your kids may spot. But let’s be honest, there’s more than your kid can be fussy about.
Disguising your food is perfect for some veggies, but not all of them since the smell that comes from their food will make alarms go off! So we’ll offer some suggestions as to which are better for taste and smell when matching them to popular dishes.
Add Veggies to Food Kids Like
Let’s start with a little story that will amuse you. One of our friends we had over for dinner once ate a bowl of spaghetti had meticulously picked out the chopped onions in the sauce one piece at a time. Even though the onions added great flavor to the sauce, they zeroed in on this like a hawk. Later the solution was to put the onions in a food processor so it made a paste. This is how we served it to him the next time and he raved how great it tasted!
The Secret Is In The Sauce
As you can see, the appearance of certain ingredients can make all the difference in flavor in addition to how it looks. Sauces are the easiest way to mix veggies to where they’ll never be noticed or given a second thought. Since many kids like fun meals like Mac and cheese and spaghetti with meatballs, you can take advantage of these savory sauces quite easily. Just as long as it doesn’t overpower the natural flavor these sauces typically have.
Vegetables including potato, zucchini, cauliflower, white beans, and butternut squash mix perfectly into the cheese sauce for Mac and cheese. For spaghetti sauce, you can use carrots, red bell pepper, squash and pumpkin, and even beets. If it’s a sauce, be sure to match the color as closely as possible so the final mixture will look the same as these opaque sauces usually appear.
Veggie Pies, Patties, And Nuggets
There’s no doubt that kids love things that are fried. If they come with a breaded covering, there is something magical about meat patties and nuggets which already have a meaty flavor, not to mention dipping sauces! We’ll get more into the dipping sauces later, so let’s stick to these meat mixes. Most meat will brown very nicely when it gets fried and baked so this is the perfect way to mix in vegetables they’ll never know are there.
For ground beef, you can hide veggies like carrots, potatoes, corn, onions, and a variety of green veggies as long as they’re mulched and mixed into the ground beef. For chicken, you can easily add cauliflower, potato, turnip, and butternut squash. Chicken meat is pretty white when it’s cooked so you’ll need to use matching light-colored veggies so they blend into your chicken mix. You can bind these two together using a food processor and a little egg white.
The result will be a paste material you can form into whatever shape you like that can be fried or baked. Chicken and cauliflower or turnip will especially be tasty for kids. You can recreate this method for mixing pork and vegetables together too. If you want to make this more attractive you should make breaded nuggets and patties that resemble shapes that kids also love. Try using cookie-cutter veggie shapes like dinosaurs for added appeal.
Very Veggie Dipping Sauces
At some point, your kid is going to go nuts over dipping sauces such as colored ketchup and sweet BBQ or honey-mustard sauce. These go great with meals that have fried foods that resemble Tater Tots, hash browns, chicken nuggets, and breaded meat patties. You’ll have plenty of choices to mix and match veggies that can be turned into a puree and mixed with their favorite sauce.
Fries, Tater Tots, And Potato Snacks
Your kids won’t turn their nose up to French fries and will love the novel idea of tater tots or hash brown patties. This is where veggies including butternut squash, cauliflower, and turnip will enhance the flavor of potato 20 to 30 times its’ flavor. You don’t need to do much to mix these together if you cook them separately and then process them in a food processor to get a thick paste to form these shapes.
To make French fries, all you need is to steam your veggies rather than boiling them. These are then run through a food processor and then mixing in a little cornflour to get a nice formable paste. This can be rolled out using a rolling pin inside a cookie tray as thin as you like with silicone parchment paper between the tray and the top of your veggie/potato mix. Place this mixture into the freezer for half an hour to let it stiffen up.
You can then slice your fries to size and then fry them right away. Tater tots can be made similarly by rolling this mixture into a long log and cut into little barrels. If you have a pasta-making machine you can use this mixture to create thin strips that are baked. These thin chips will be healthier than the regular kind you get at the store.
Also look to pick up a speciality slicer that will let you make decorative cuts and restaurant style french fries at home.
The advantage for you is your kids will never know it will hide veggies in plain sight!