By Michela Chiappa
As parents, getting fruit and veg into our kids’ diets is something we often think about. Fruit is usually easier, due to the natural sugar content which most kids (and adults) love, but many of us struggle to make veggies exciting for kids. Thankfully, there are a few tricks that will make this a breeze.
It’s commonplace for kids to eat everything and anything as babies, but flat-out refuse most veg once they reach toddler age. Some are particularly fussy when it comes to certain colours and/or textures, or will only eat a few things – often stodgy or fatty foods like cheese, ham, bread, and pasta.
The best advice I can give? Keep at it. Make sure your cooking has plenty of variety, and experiment outside your comfort zone. Try thinking of fruit and veg in terms of colours of the rainbow, and give your kids a differently coloured fruit and veg for every meal. I try to always give my child a variety of textures to make sure she doesn’t become fussy and only eat the same thing.
It is also important that you offer variety in temperature, as well as texture. For example, if your kids love apples, try serving them baked, or pan-frying them with some cinnamon and a little butter. If it’s broccoli they get on board with, try serving it in a cold quiche, or as part of a salad. The more you can vary the way they experience fruits and vegetables, the better.
However, if your kids are putting up a fight across the board, fear not – there are lots of ways of hiding veggies, or making them fun and exciting that they forget or don’t realise what they’re eating and just enjoy it. Here are some examples:
A lovely nutritious frittata is often a go-to lunch snack when I can’t be bothered to rustle up anything complex. I always have eggs in my fridge, and often have some veggies knocking around which are getting old. These don’t just work for a light lunch for me, though – they also make perfect fun snacks for youngsters. This frittata recipe is a lifesaver – quick finger food with plenty of veg hidden inside.
I always have a batch of homemade “kale powder” in my freezer, which is good for a nutrient power kick. It’s super easy, and you can pretty safely experiment with flavours; I find that by adding some parmesan cheese (or any other cheese, for that matter) it complements the egg and my toddler gobbles it up.
You can see me make this on Family Food Tube below.
Jamie’s beautiful ribbon salad recipe is brilliant for introducing new textures and flavours to a developing diet. It’s also so colourful that my daughter is easily tempted into eating veggies without realising.
Alternatively, these muffins are also great for that, as they are full of yummy, nutritious butternut squash, so you don’t have to feel too guilty about giving your child a sweet treat.
As a mum of two I simply don’t have the time to prepare different meals for different ages. That’s why I love using purees. This one is chicken, avocado and basil, which is not only perfect for my baby to wean with, it’s also great as a sandwich filling for my toddler, and even myself. You can add in some of that blitzed raw kale to hide more of those veggies, and have your toddler help you pick some basil leaves to tear into the filling.
Another winner is the hidden-veg technique I use in my favourite Bolognese recipe. All you need to do is pop your veggies whole in the oven to roast, and once they’re cooked, blitz them and brown the meat before combining. This makes a meal that is packed with loads of hidden veg, including beetroot and carrots, will only take a few minutes of actual prep time, and can feed the whole family.
You can use this trick of blitzing up veg with any number of dishes. Think pasta bakes, risottos, pies – even the tomato sauce you make to spread over homemade pizza. You can get lots more ideas from the recipes on Family Food.
How do you incorporate veg into your kids’ diets?