Sneaking Vegetables into your Children’s Food

Does the Green Broccoli Monster terrorise your little ones?  Do peas and carrots meet with an unbreakable wall of refusal?  Despite our best intentions to get kids eating healthily, they can be very stubborn about certain foods – particularly vegetables. Some kids are also very sensitive when it comes to certain textures.  But if you’re worried that your children aren’t getting enough nutrients, here are some clever ways to sneak the veggies in.

Sneaky smoothie

Most kids love smoothies and milkshakes – they fall into the realm of treats and snacks. Banana smoothies and berry smoothies are obvious recipes, but you can also puree in spinach, kale and chard. Super nutritious seeds such as chia or flaxseed meal will also get some omega-3s in.

Secret sauce

Pasta sauce is the perfect medium for hiding a wide range of different vegetables, as everything ends up tomato-red. From carrots and celery to spinach and broccoli, there’s nothing you can’t hide! This turkey lasagne recipe contains mushroom and leek.

Stealthy stew

Several hours in the slow cooker and most vegetables will disintegrate into a hidden mush. They may not have quite the same nutrients as more lightly cooked green veg, but it’s a start. Try squash, carrots, onions, sweet, celery and even spinach and kale.

Crafty cake

Carrot cake is an obvious way to get some beta-carotene into their diet. But what about beetroot brownies? Beetroot goes beautifully with chocolate, and is more of a treat than a sneak. Zucchini muffins are another good lunchbox snack, whether a sweet version with apple or a savoury recipe with cheese and bacon.

Mysterious mash

Try hiding cauliflower in regular mashed potato, pureeing in one-third cauliflower to two-thirds potato. Or try mixing some roast parsnip or even turnip in (try smaller quantities, as these have stronger tastes). “Orange mash” can be made with sweet potato, with pumpkin and carrot also sneaking their way in.

Cunning cheese

Cheese sauce is a great way to make many vegetables palatable. Children – and even adults – who turn their nose up at boiled cauliflower will happily eat it smothered in a nice cheesy béchamel. You can also make broccoli cheese, or fancy it up with breadcrumbs for a gratin.

Furtive frittata

Egg-based dishes such as omelette and frittata and even quiche are easy to cook, and go well with a wide range of vegetables which you can chop as finely as you like. This zucchini slice can be enjoyed by all the family – it’s safe as infant food and sophisticated enough for the grown-ups’ table.

Covert cottage pie

You can sneak a tonne of veggies into mince – whether as a pasta sauce or a cottage pie. Finely chopped carrots, celery and onions are the traditional mirepoix to add flavour, but you can easily add zucchini and others. This recipe includes two cups of chopped frozen vegetables.

Even if you are being cunning at hiding the peas, remember that children still need to learn to eat vegetables by choice. So alongside your crafty pasta and deceptive smoothies, make sure you keep offering vegetables in the normal way. You may find that using a shared serving dish – so they can see how much everyone else is digging in – will generate more interest than pre-plating food. It also adds that competitive element for children to “grab the last carrot”!