Veggies are the pretty much the worst things on earth, put on the planet to destroy humankind. According to most kids, at least.
But, as parents, it’s our job to get them to eat at least some veggies every day. So how can you convince your children that you are not trying to poison them by adding a serving of veg to their plate?
Trick them, of course.
Last week the NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, made a staggering announcement that only 4.8 per cent of Aussie kids actually eat enough veggies. What this means is that, if your kids aren’t fans of eating their greens, you are definitely not alone.
We went to celebrity chef Lyndey Milan to uncover some of the ways we can up our kids’ veggie intake without ending each meal with tears or tantrums (or the need to bribe them with chocolate if they eat at least one piece of broccoli). Here’s what she says about how to get kids to eat more veggies.
“Smoothies are a fabulous way of getting hidden veggies into your child’s diet with little fuss,” Lyndey tells Mum Central. “For a great afternoon tea option, I’d add spinach or kale to a flavour-packed smoothie.”
Of course, the problem with adding a handful of leafy goodness to a smoothie is that it can alter the taste slightly. Lyndey suggests using fruits with bold flavours, such as banana, mangoes and pineapple to ensure the greenness remains minimal.
Hiding veggies in soups is another easy way to up the veggie intake. Many veggies, like onion, garlic, celery and carrots, will soften upon cooking, making them hard to spot.
“Try sautéing these veggies in olive oil or butter as your first step of flavour-making. The aroma will naturally leave the kids following their nose to the kitchen,” Lyndey suggests.
Any time you make a sauce, add a few cups of grated veggies into the mix (think carrots and zucchini). As the sauce thickens, the veggies will start to fade into the sauce and hopefully your kids won’t even be able to see them.
You can use this little trick when you make savoury mince, spag bol or pie filling, to name a few.
Frying Finger Foods
Okay, so frying isn’t the healthiest option, but if you use an airfryer, it can add flavour without the fat. Step outside the traditional potatoes and try frying other veggies like taro, sweet potato, carrot and even zucchini. These are great as side dishes or as finger foods for little appetites.
Using an airfryer allows you to “achieve a crispy, delicious taste without the guilt and copious amounts of oil,” Lyndey says.
Taste the Rainbow Pizza
Making your own pizzas allows you to add extra veggies to the topping but without compromising the flavours. Lyndey suggests using Lebanese flatbread or pocket bread as a base before adding your favourite toppings. Then, bring an element of brightness to their pizzas by using colourful veggies like capsicums, tomatoes or sweet butternut pumpkin.
Kids love dips, paired with the likes of pita chips, carrot sticks or even alongside a dish like lamb koftas or chicken bites. Dips can be packed with flavours and made entirely of veggies.
“My go to dips for the kids and grandkids are pureed cooked carrot with cumin, guacamole using fresh avocados loaded with healthy fats, baba ganoush using eggplant or a cool cucumber tzatziki using fresh mint and Greek yoghurt packed with calcium,” Lyndey tells us.
By adding a few of these ideas to your weekly meal preparation, you can easily increase your children’s veggie intake without them even realising it. Sure, it might be a bit sneaky to trick your kids like this, but, hey, if it works, then we’re all for it!
Want more ideas on how to get kids to eat more veggies? Then check our previous article for some fab advice on picky eaters from a paediatrician.
Lyndey Milan is a celebrity chef and ambassador for Philips appliances. She has written nine cookbooks, including Taste of Australia.