My kids have always been more adventurous with food than the average preschooler. My oldest loves sushi, pad thai, and cabbage. My youngest will kill a plate of raw veggies and even likes beets. But still, there are hints of the picky eater emerging. I’m always looking for ways to get healthy, whole foods into them and have found a few that are crowd pleasers.
Zucchini. This may be my favorite vegetable thanks to my first season of vegetable gardening and how easily they grow! Four plants had me swimming in zukes all summer long. I grate them and freeze them to throw into sauces, stews, muffins, you name it, a zucchini may be hiding within.
Our family does Friday pizza and a movie night. I open a can of stewed tomatoes, half a can of tomato paste, some chopped garlic, a little salt, and at least one grated zucchini. Add some dried, Italian herbs in the blender and voila. The sauce is delicious, has much less salt and sugar than the store-bought a variety, and it’s way cheaper!
Our family loves comfort foods. We regularly have meals of stew or pot pies. Whatever veggies I have can be chopped small (size does matter for the reluctant veggie eater) and added to a pot of sautéed onion, garlic, meat or not, and vegetable broth to get it all started. Cauliflower can be substituted for all or half of the potatoes. Greens chopped fine and sautéed look just like seasoning. Put a homemade, self-rise crust on top and watch the clan devour.
Soup is another way to use up veggies that are going off or your just sick of cooking with that week. Chop, sautee, season and cook in broth. Once everything is soft throw it in the blender and make a creamy soup. Just having a potato or some cauliflower in the pot will produce a creamy texture without the necessity of dairy product added. Save the cheese and milk for some super easy and delicious drop biscuits. Throw in half a grated zucchini or some chopped spinach leaves for good measure.
There are some great shows out there that encourage, sometimes subtly, good eating habits. My son started eating lettuce by the handful after watching Dino Dan and realizing that’s what his favorite dinosaur (brachiosaurus- but he still pronounces it broccolisaurus) likes. When we head off for the day, I always make a snack bag and often have sandwiches for lunches on the go. I put lettuce, along with cheese, and turkey on some whole grain bread. If they don’t eat the lettuce, I don’t worry about it too much. Half the time they’re so hungry from playing at the park that they eat it all without even thinking about it. It takes about 2 minutes to make a plate of sandwiches and is once again, much healthier and so much cheaper than having someone else make it for you at a fast food joint.
My blender holds a special place in my kitchen heart. It may have a slight lead over my stand mixer and espresso machine in the race for favorite kitchen appliance. Investing in a good one is worth the expense for the consistency it will deliver. I make smoothies regularly. Large bags of frozen fruit, coconut water, plain yogurt, bananas, and sometimes carrot juice are go-to ingredients for me. Add some handfuls of spinach with a high vitamin C fruit like mango, pineapple, kiwi, orange or strawberry for iron absorption and you’re on your way to fruit and veggie requirements for the day. My secret ingredient that tricks even the most staunch processed food junky is frozen cherries. They’re so sweet and flavorful, you could probably blend them with Brussel sprouts and still get a tasty result.
These are a few ideas for ways to incorporate more veggies into your meals. Eat real foods. Eat the rainbow. Cut out the processed junk butt or make homemade versions that are so much better tasting, cheaper, and healthier. Chicken can be sliced up, lightly breaded with flour and seasoning and baked on a tray in the oven, for instance. Throw in some sliced potatoes that can be dipped in ketchup like their deep-fried cousins and your kids will be singing your praises. You bought a grill for a reason, right? Make a ton of hamburger patties (add some grated zukes, of course) and freeze the leftovers for your burger-on-the-go fix. It might be an adjustment but your body will thank you.