Vegetable Dishes Your Kids Will Love

Family Health, Featured Article, Healthy Living, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition
on April 26, 2012

When it comes to eating vegetables, every kid is a little bit different. Some like crunchy, others prefer pureed. Some like plain, others are won over with cheese sauce or ranch dressing. Younger kids might appreciate a silly face salad or “ants on a log” while middle-school kids won’t touch anything—unless they’ve made it themselves (part of that my-way-or-the-highway stage).

         We asked children’s nutrition experts about their kids’ and their kids’ friends favorite vegetable dishes–those that seem to have universal appeal. Here’s what they have to say.

Crisp ‘em. Toasted, baked or crisped vegetables often appeal to kids when nothing else will, says registered dietitian Sarah Krieger, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Kids like crunch,” she explains.  Some favorites:  Green bean “fries” and kale “chips.” 

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Another favorite: Crispy Baked Veggie Dippers, a mix of zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower with a crumb-and-cheese coating. "These got devoured at a kids' birthday party,'" Krieger says.

Make confetti. Add minced veggies of all colors to rice for festive Confetti Rice, suggests registered dietitian Rosanne Rust, author of The Hypertension Cookbook for Dummies.  Another favorite: Whole wheat pasta with cheese sauce and broccoli "trees"–broccoli florets.

Swirl 'em.  Add a swirl of pureed carrots, peas or tomato sauce to a serving of creamy mashed potatoes.  Add just before serving; swirl with the blade of a knife.

Eat ‘em raw. Nibblers often like raw veggies like carrot, celery or zucchini sticks, cucumbers, jicama and red or green pepper, says Toby Amidor, a registered dietitian and instructor in the “Kids in the Kitchen” series at the International Culinary Center in New York City. “My daughter especially loves baby cucumbers,” Amidor says. Adding a little dish of dip, such as ranch dressing or hummus, can make raw veggies disappear, especially if they are the one option available during hungry times of day–before dinner.

Wrap ‘em. Kids who aren’t into veggies will often try them if they are part of something familiar, Krieger says. “I’ve gotten kids to try red peppers and spinach by adding them to a turkey wrap.” Slice the veggies into thin slivers; cut spinach leaves into ribbons. Ranch dressing also adds flavor to wraps.  

Stick ‘em up. Colorful vegetable kebabs can entice kids. Toss red and green pepper, eggplant, onion, zucchini and summer squash in olive oil. Add salt and pepper, place on skewers and broil on high for 6 to 10 minutes, turning once. Grilled corn on the cob usually gets eaten, too. For a chewy, charred version, remove husks, butter corn and roast on a medium grill about 15 minutes, turning every three minutes. 

Flatten them.  Add corn or grated zucchini to unsweetened pancake batter to make tasty Veggie Pancakes, says Janice Kay, a kids healthy cooking instructor in Bethlehem, Penn.
Slurp ‘em. Soup is a good way to hide vegetables (add pureed veggies to potato soup, for instance) and “a surprising number of kids like sweet, creamy soups where the veggies are in plain sight, like tomato soup or Golden Harvest Soup, made with orange winter squash,” says Kay.