In Part 1 of this series on vegetables, which includes some experts from this post, I shared some quick and easy ways to get more vegetables into your kid’s diet. And in the Mega List of Vegetable Recipes you have lots of specific recipes to inspire you! But, sometimes, especially with a picky eater, you may want to customize the veggie your offering even more and for that you need to plan. Of course, the recipes I share in these two other posts incorporate these strategies, but now you’ll be able to brainstorm your own ideas and find more recipes that will likely be successful for your kid!
How to Prepare Veggies for Your Kid
1. Consider size and quantity. Small pieces and a small amount are always the way to go. Kids can be overwhelmed with their eyes first and texture second. Biting or chewing through a little piece will help them explore the texture, which can be really different, before being overloaded by it. Spinach inside of ravioli is great, but if it is all spinach they may not go for it – at first anyways.
2. Consider mixing the veggies with something else. Yes, I know this can be a double edged sword. Many kids refuse casseroles and foods that are mixed together, but it is still worth a try. Besides, it is good for kids to see foods mixed together sometimes. Keep the veggie you’re mixing in small and don’t add too much on your first try. If possible, let your kid know in advance that you are mixing it all together or even better, cook it together. You can also remind your child that it is their choice to pick out the veggie, but this is how you are serving it for the family. However, I would only offer that up, if they seem to be getting stressed.
3. Put veggies between or on some type of bread. For example, add veggies to the inside of a quesadilla, burrito, sandwich, or pita. The bread and other foods mixed with the veggies help to soften the strong tastes and different textures. Let me be clear though, the point isn’t to hide the veggie, in fact, I want you to point it out (casually) to your kid, if you haven’t already. Chances are they are going to detect it anyways and then feel like you were trying to dupe them. If they helped you cook, then they know it’s there and will be more comfortable with it. Ultimately, if they think you tricked them, they likely won’t eat it. Most kids love bread and bread products – if your’s doesn’t, than skip this last step.
How About Some Spaghetti Squash?
A few weeks ago I wanted to serve spaghetti squash as a main part of our dinner. This is a non preferred food for both of my kiddos. Well, Sam will usually try it, but I really wanted him to eat it, a full serving of it. So, I had to put my therapist hat on (it is usually on anyways) and think about kid’s issues with veggies.
Alright, so now you know my line of thought, I decided to make up an original creation with what I had on hand and it ended up turning out really well. See the recipe at the end of this post.
I should point out that the strategy I’m describing is the beginning of getting your kids to eat veggies. Once your kid is readily eating them in this fashion, they will be more likely to try them prepared in other ways. In the meantime, keep serving vegetables in a variety of ways and encourage them to at least touch, smell, or lick it. More on that here.
So Easy Turkey and Spaghetti Squash Burrito
1 spaghetti squash
1lb of turkey, pork, or chicken cutlets (I used turkey)
1/4 c of chicken stock
1/2 c sour cream (eyeball it)
3/4 c of drained and rinsed black beans
1/2 c cheddar cheese (eyeball it)
1 tsp cilantro
1 tsp cumin
8 whole wheat tortilla shells
salt and pepper to taste
*tomatoes would have been great in here, but I didn’t have them.
Slice spaghetti squash down the center. Remove seeds and spread with olive oil. Place face down on a baking sheet in the the oven at 400 for 30-45 minutes or until a fork easily pulls squash apart like spaghetti. While squash cooks, slowly saute meat in chicken stock, which will keep it from getting dry. Once it is cooked through (about 10 -15 minutes), remove from pan and dice. Return to pan and add rest of ingredients, including 1-1/2 to 2 cups of squash. Cook for a few minutes to heat through. Place a few spoonfuls into the middle of a warm tortilla and fold into a burrito.
*Use your judgement to determine how much of this mixture you want to be squash. Also, keep in mind how much filling you put in the middle. Remember that it is important to keep portions small, yet appropriate. I minced their filling up really well, as you can see in the not-so-great picture above and pressed the burrito really flat to make it easy to handle and help make the texture more even. I hadn’t thought to share this with all of you before they gobbled it up and sadly didn’t take any pics of the finished product.
The burritos are just one example of applying the strategy I described above. Don’t stop there. Think about adding chunks of tomato or zucchini to corn bread, spinach to jarred spaghetti sauce, pumpkin to your pancakes, or red peppers in your rice. Whenever I”m making something, especially a carb, I’m also thinking of a way to get the most nutrition out of it. There are many recipes that can be easily modified. Click through on the links for those recipes!
Have an idea or something that you’ve tried, PLEASE share, I and other’s reading would love to hear from you!
Don’t forget to follow along on Pinterest, I’m always posting new recipes from all over that fall into the strategies you learned here!