We all know that veggies (and lots of them!) are key to a healthy diet. So it's frustrating to cook a healthy dinner, including plenty of fresh, vitamin-rich vegetables, and watch our kids disdainfully push the veggies to the edges of the plate and refuse to eat them. At times like these, it pays to be a little bit sneaky. Here are five easy ways to sneak veggies into your kids' meals -- without them realizing it!
1. Add Shredded Veggies to Ground Meat
This is one I actually use a lot, even though my kids generally like vegetables. Whenever you're able to add a bit of nutritional oomph to a meal, why not take advantage of it, right? Whenever you make something with ground meat, such as meatloaf, hamburgers or meatballs, simply shred some veggies and add them into the mix as well. Some good options include carrots, zucchini or other summer squashes. The key to this trick is to select vegetables that won't change the flavor of your food a whole lot. For example, foods like broccoli and cabbage are great for you, but they'd definitely alter your meatball recipe quite a bit! You can also try very thinly slicing leafy green veggies, such as spinach or Swiss chard, into your favorite meatloaf recipe.
2. Add Leafy Greens to Breakfast Smoothies
If your kids like smoothies, you have an easy way to sneak some veggies into their diet. Simply add a few leafy greens to the blender when you're whipping up their smoothies. They'll get a nice dose of all of those wonderful B vitamins, without being any the wiser. The flavor of leafy greens such as spinach, chard or beet greens is pretty hard to detect when it's mixed in with tradtiional smoothie fruits, such as bananas, oranges or berries.
3. Add Veggies to Your Pizza or Spaghetti Sauce
Tomato-based sauces, such as pizza sauce or marinara, already pack a decent dose of nutrition. But if your kids love pizza (and hate veggies) this may be the perfect opportunity to add a bit more nutrition to their diet. You can add many different veggies to tomato sauces, simply by sautéing them ahead of time, then adding them to your favorite sauce. If your kids are especially vigilant for signs of vegetable matter, you can even give the sauce and added veggies a quick whirl in the blender before you serve it. There are several veggies that are good options here:
4. Sneak Veggies into Desserts
Many traditional desserts, such as carrot cake or zucchini bread, are perfect ways to get your kids to eat some veggies on the sly. If you don't want to make a full cake, carrot cake lends itself very well to cupcakes, and zucchini muffins are a quick alternative to zucchini bread as well. If those don't interest your kids, why not try zucchini chocolate chip cookies or zucchini brownies?
5. Up the Veggie Ante in Soups
Most kids really seem to like soup, and will eat whatever's in their favorite soup without complaint. Try adding a few more veggies to whichever soup your kids like. Dice up a few carrots, a bit of celery or even some broccoli or leafy greens next time you make a pot of chicken noodle or vegetable soup.
While sneaking veggies in is a great way to get your kids to eat healthfully, it's still a good idea to keep serving them whole veggies at each meal. They may push them away most of the time, but eventually, they just might suprise themselves (and you!) by taking a bite and actually liking it. These sneaky measures are just a way to ensure that they're getting plenty of nutrients in their diet -- without having to hear them say "yuck!"