Vegetables aren’t often very high on the list of children’s favourite foods. But there’s no reason why they should miss out on their important five a day. Follow our tips on adding more vegetables to the meals of even the fussiest eaters.
Choose naturally sweet vegetables
We all prefer sweet flavours over sour – and children are no different. Beetroot, sweetcorn, carrot, butternut squash and red pepper are all colourful and naturally sweet vegetables.
Try chopping plain, cooked beetroot (not the pickled kind) and toss into creamy pasta sauces – the juice from the beetroot will also make the pasta turn pink.
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Or when making mashed potato, try adding some cooked butternut squash or sweet potato before mashing, for a sweeter flavour and to gently introduce children to new flavours.
Eat them raw
Often, children prefer to eat their vegetables uncooked: wash and slice up some carrots, cucumber and red and yellow peppers and serve with a dip. Try Baba Ganoush – it’s a dip made from aubergines and has a slightly smoky flavour that kids often love.
Kids will often be more inclined to try ‘mini’ versions of vegetables, too – try baby sweetcorn, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots.
Serve a side salad
Kids like to feel grown up – and serving themselves some salad from a bowl in the middle of the table can introduce them to new vegetables at every mealtime.
Choose vegetables for their colour – and crunch. As well as lettuce, try and incorporate some grated carrot, white cabbage and bite-sized cherry tomatoes. If you’re making coleslaw, use chopped spring onion instead of the stronger-flavoured white onion.
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Children can feel less intimidated by a spoonful or two of salad than they do with a steaming pile of greens on their plate – and because they’re eating the vegetables raw, they’re also getting more nutrients.
Mix them with cheese
Many vegetables work especially well with cheese – particularly those that children tend to be less fond of, like broccoli or cauliflower. Bake broccoli in a cheesy sauce with pasta or sliced potatoes, or try the Italian dish aubergine parmigiana – layer slices of aubergine, tomato sauce and grated Parmesan in a dish and bake.
Use vegetables as pizza toppings and also stir them into cheesy pasta sauces. Peas, red and yellow peppers, sweetcorn, red onions and courgettes all work brilliantly in cheese dishes.
Get the grater out
If your child just won’t eat vegetables, and pushes any trace of them to the side of the plate, try grating them and adding to stews, sauces and curries.
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Grated carrots or courgettes will add sweetness to a Bolognese sauce and, if cooked over a long time, can melt into the sauce so although you’ll know they are there, your children won’t.
Don’t always assume that children won’t enjoy a particular vegetable. Some children enjoy eating artichokes, while another will snack on baby spinach leaves. It’s a myth that children don’t enjoy strong flavours – crisps and garlic bread are both strongly flavoured and kids tend to love them.
If you see your child take to a few particular vegetables, try and incorporate them into mealtimes as much as possible. And don’t give up – keep introducing new vegetables, cooked in various ways – you never know what they might like.
Which vegetables do your kids enjoy eating? Do you have any tips for encouraging children to eat more veg?