When our oldest was under 4 years old he would eat an entire can of spinach in one setting, eat prunes for a snack, and rarely ever scoffed at a vegetable on his plate.
Fast forward several years and plenty of exposure to much less healthy alternatives and eating vegetables has become an afterthought for him but a major concern for me. When I realized that it was getting more and more difficult to make sure that our kids have several servings of vegetables and fruits every day, I bought the book Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food. I tried a few recipes but wasn’t terribly impressed. I had hoped it would become a staple in our kitchen but instead has sat on a shelf collecting dust. Just keeping it real here!
But it wasn’t a totally wasted purchase. It did give me a few tricks and ideas that I have since elaborated on and started using in my normal cooking routine. Most importantly, it taught me to be more intentional about my cooking and try to
hide incorporate as many vegetables as I can into some of my typical menus.
Here are some of my tricks:
::cauliflower with mashed potatoes: Before boiling potatoes to mash, I add a package of frozen cauliflower in. The 2 vegetables soften together and mash up perfectly without anyone even noticing. I always use my leftover mashed potatoes to make homemade potato gnocchi so that makes 2 meals with a double dose of veggies.
::add zucchini to bars, bread, in sauces, soups, breakfast muffins: A couple of zucchini plants in my garden usually provide a year or two worth of zucchini that I shred and freeze. If it is peeled first, the zucchini dissolves when you add it to recipes. If I think it will be noticed I just put it through the food processor first. Some of our favorite recipes are zucchini bars, zucchini coconut bread, and zucchini chocolate chip muffins. However, I also like to throw a couple of cups of zucchini into chili, beef stew, spaghetti sauce, and even saute it and mix it into pasta dishes with non-red sauces.
::chili with blended beans: The one veggie that neither of our kids are terribly fond of is (non-green) beans. I did discover though that it is actually only when they can see the beans. So when I add beans to chili or other dishes, I just run them through the food processor first and no one notices or cares.
::pasta with butternut squash: My neighbor-friend actually made a pasta dish with peas and a butternut squash sauce. I have yet to get the recipe but still throw pureed butternut squash into my sauces often.
::spaghetti sauce with pureed carrots, zucchini, spinach, kale, onion, squash, peas: Very few vegetables are overlooked when I am making homemade spaghetti sauce. Even if I buy canned sauce, I still add pureed veggies and no one notices. I actually think they add awesome flavor.
::chicken noodle soup with carrots, onion, zucchini, celery: Same as with spaghetti sauce, I puree several different vegetables and add to chicken noodle soup.
::taco bake with re-fried beans: This is a great dish to use leftover baked chicken up but sometimes I just brown a pound of hamburger instead. I don’t really use a recipe for it. Many of the recipes I have seen for this type of thing use canned soups. Instead of the soups I use re-fried beans or just puree a couple of different kinds of beans. I basically throw a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, mix, pour into 9 x 13 pan, cover with cheese, and bake. Ingredients include a mix of: beef or chicken, re-fried beans, salsa, sour cream, cooked rice, torn tortilla shells, and cheddar cheese and handful of crushed whole grain tortilla chips for the topping.
While our kids do a decent job of eating a fruit and vegetable for lunch, snack, and dinner, I know they are always in need of more.
Hiding Integrating them into recipes is a great way to be sure that they are getting as many extra nutrients as possible without feeling overwhelmed at the amount they are eating in a day.
**Two other ingredients that I often hide in MANY of my recipes are ground flax seed and wheat germ. They both have an array of health benefits and I love knowing that our kids are getting those often. No one has ever noticed either of them and I pretty much put them in all of the above mentioned meals and most others as well.