If there’s one food group that tends to be the source of family food battles, it’s vegetables. Veggies, especially the nutritious green ones, are often bitter-tasting and therefore don’t appeal to children as much as other foods.
Because this food group tends to be a tough sell with children, it is important to come up with some easy, creative, and yummy ways to serve them.
While some parents are hesitant to admit they use dips like tomato sauce, mayo, or even hummus when serving veggies, our take on it is “if it helps your child eat their veggies, GO FOR IT!!!
Raw veggies are easy snacks, but they are boring and dry; add some flavour and fun by serving two or three types of cut-up raw vegetables in different shapes and sizes, with two or three dips such as hummus, salsa, tzatziki, or mayo. If you have a toddler, try steaming (and then cooling) the veggies first so they are a bit softer but still dippable.
Hidden Veggie Tomato Sauce
Hidden Veggie Tomato Sauce is perfect for veggies, pastas and pizzas and can be frozen too!
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 carrots, finely diced
- 2 celery sticks, finely diced
- 2 courgettes, finely diced
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1.5kg Passata (an uncooked tomato purée that has been strained of seeds and skins)
- 500ml / 2 cups veg stock
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
- 1 tsp paprika
- optional: handful of fresh basil leaves
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another minute before adding the carrots, celery, courgette and red pepper.
- Pour in the veg stock and Passata and stir well. Add the tomato puree, dried herbs and paprika and bring to the boil.
- Simmer on a medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. If you want to add the fresh basil leaves do so when the vegetables are soft.
- Remove from the heat and blitz either with a hand blender or in an upright blender until smooth.
- Pour the sauce into jars, containers or freezer bags and allow to cool before refrigerating or freezing.
If at any point the sauce consistency is too thick, simply add some extra veg stock or water to thin it down. The same applies after it has been defrosted as sometimes it may be a bit thicker.
Let your Child(ren) Choose
There are countless benefits to including your children in meal-prep – give them the job of “veggie picker” for the meal — let them choose which vegetables are included in the meal, and how they are cut (cubes, sticks, rounds etc.).
Instead of asking your child which vegetable he wants tonight, ask him to choose three colors out of five, for example, “we have green cucumber, orange carrots, red peppers, green snap peas and red tomatoes. Which three would you like to include in our dinner?” That way, you’re giving some structure, but this still gives him/her some power and control over what he/she is eating.
Let your children also choose how they are served. Toddlers and preschoolers tend to be particular with how their food is served, for example, having their peas beside their macaroni and cheese as opposed to in their mac and cheese.
Let Everyone Serve Themselves
Serving meals “family-style” means placing all of the food that is being served for dinner on the table and allowing everyone to plate their own meals—including your children. Remove most of the food after everyone serves themselves and place it on the counter, but leave the veggie dishes on the table.
You will most probably be surprised to see how your children’s palates evolve – they will eventually – with no pressure or prompting – choose vegetables they have previously rejected for months.
Plating their own meal, without pressure or prompting, gives children a sense of control, which often translates into eating more and trying previously rejected foods.
Frozen is Fabulous
Frozen vegetables are often overlooked because it is assumed they are less nutritious or of lower quality than fresh veggies – NOT TRUE!!
In fact, frozen vegetables are often more nutrient-packed than store-bought fresh vegetables because they are flash frozen at peak ripeness, which is when they tend to be the most nutrient-packed. Although the first step to freezing vegetables is “blanching” them — exposing them to steaming hot water to kill bacteria and stop the action of food degrading enzymes, which can cause some of the water-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and B Vitamins to break down and leach out – the subsequent flash freezing of them essentially “locks” and preserves most of the vitamins and minerals, rendering a very nutrient-dense vegetable.
Tip: Frozen vegetables are a quick and easy option when you are run off your feet looking after your ill child.
Veggie-fy your Main Dishes
Vegetables don’t always have to be a side dish. They can be included in the main dish as a sauce, in a hearty casserole, in soups, in egg dishes and as part of main-dish salads.
An easy way to get extra veggies into everyone is with pasta sauces. Everyone loves pasta, and it can be a quick and easy meal to make.
This Vegetable Medley Pasta is really nutritious and jam-packed full of vegetables.
Vegetable Medley Pasta
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
4 cups (1 L) finely chopped mixed vegetables (onion, celery, carrots, bell pepper, mushroom, zucchini)
1 can (156 ml) tomato paste
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) water
1/4 cup (50 ml) grated Romano or parmesan cheese
2 tbsp (30 ml) Salt-Free Seasoning
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir-fry vegetables until tender-crisp, 4-6 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste, water, cheese and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve over pasta of your choice.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes