Hidden & Del-i-cious Veggie Secrets!

I realize the idea of hidden vegetables or sneaking vegetables into kids meals often stirs up some controversy, but when it comes down to it, I prefer to look at it simply as healthy cooking than anything else – healthy cooking that tastes delicious. And, if it just so happens to help kids get in their daily doses of vitamins and minerals in natural, good-for you form, then I am by all means for it. Some kids legitimately do not like the taste or texture of certain vegetables on their own, but when mixed appropriately with other foods, kids can both enjoy and reap the nutritional rewards. So, here’s to healthier cooking all around and creating yummy dishes! If you’re looking for new ways to get more vegetables (it IS 5-A-Day month after all) into your menu, this is the article for you and your kids.

I believe the ways to get veggies into our normal every day foods are nearly limitless, because they can be made to go with almost anything. Pumpkin with the sweets, zucchini with the savory. It’s about that simple. Here are some of my favorites tips for you!

Avoiding the Dreaded Crunch
Let’s face it, sometimes it’s the crunch that gets our kids squirming. A crunchy carrot, a crunchy zucchini slice or cucumber wedge can be the death of the vegetable. The good news is that the remedy to this is simple: soften. Whether you sauté, you boil or you puree, whatever you can do to take that biting edge off of a vegetable, your chances for getting it eaten go up ten-fold.

Snack-i-tize It
Although this will seem in direct opposition to the last tip, sometimes you do have to go completely the opposite. If you can transform a vegetable into a food that kids normally associate with a “junk-food” snack, you get major bonus points. Try baking or drying zucchini, carrot, potato or kale slices. Just thinly slice, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and some spices your kids love. This crunch is one that’s a-okay.

Sauce It
Making sauces is one of the very easiest ways (and insanely delicious) to get vegetables into numbers of dishes. You can puree almost any vegetable and add it to a tomato sauce: zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, etc. Tomato sauce can then go on pasta, pizza, goulash, calzones, spaghetti & meatballs… Getting hungry yet? If you’re aiming for a white sauce or a cheesy sauce, use pureed cauliflower. And if you’re going for something like mac & cheese with an orange sauce, then you should absolutely add in pureed carrots.

Makin’ & Bakin’
Baked dishes like meatloaf and casseroles are just begging for shredded vegetables. You’ll never notice them, unless you do largely chopped veggies which I do on occasion because I happen to really enjoy the texture and taste of biting into vegetables in my meatloaf. Otherwise, shred vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant) finely and add in with the meat. Got a favorite family casserole? I bet you can throw some extra vegetables in that no one will ever notice. Pureed white beans will even give added fiber and protein.

Ah, Comfort Food
There are certain things, like comfort foods, that any kid will have a hard time turning down. Mashed potatoes are one of them. Switch out the potatoes for mashed cauliflower. Cheese is another one. Anything dripping in melted cheese becomes an instant winner and sure-to-be-edible meal sensation. Melt cheese and pour over steamed veggies. Got a pasta fanatic? Make veggie noodles out of spaghetti squash. Hamburgers? Include shredded veggies in the meat and shape into patties as normal.

Wrap it Up
Puree white beans and veggies to make an instant spread ideal for turkey wraps or sandwiches. Can also be used as a yummy dip along with carrots and celery. Make a veggie tomato sauce, spread over a wrap and top with olives and cheese. Wrap it up for yummy pizzas on-the-go.

Bake It In!
Quick breads and muffins are always kid favorites. Pureed pumpkin, carrots, beans, and even avocado will all add nutrition. Beans give that extra boost of fiber/protein and avocado will give some healthy fat first thing in the morning to help your kids brains think sharp and clear all day long. These are also great options to include some applesauce with too. You’ll be able to use less sugar and less oil.

Mexican!
Most kids also love Mexican food and Mexican food just so happens to love veggies. Corn, tomatoes, olives, chiles, yum! Go for nachos, enchiladas, burritos, taco salad, whatever you and they feel like and then just pile in the veggies. The Mexican spices are so wonderfully powerful you can’t help but love whatever they touch.

Freelancer Jocelyn is passionate about helping families live healthier lives, particularly through good eating habits. When not writing about health and food, she writes for one of her favorite companies promoting the use of eco-friendly hot water heaters.

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