Getting kids to eat their veggies can be … tricky, to say the least. Maybe it’s easy enough to sell your little ones on baby carrots smothered in ranch dressing, but if you serve up a salad? Or you try a new dish with grilled asparagus or, well, anything that’s undeniably green? You probably get turned up noses and pushed away plates. The struggle is real. One thing to keep in mind is that kids often need several tries before they decide they like a particular food, so it’s a good idea to keep introducing a wide range of veggies into their lives, cooking them in a variety of ways, even if they do complain about the color, taste, or (heaven forbid) your cooking.
The other thing to remember is to try not to force your kids to "clean their plates" or to eat a food they’re digging their heels in against. The more you push, the less likely they are to want to comply (humans, even little ones, are funny that way). Cook for the whole family (do your best to make the presentation reasonably appealing), involve your kids in the prepping, cooking, and taste-testing, and serve what you think will appeal to most. At the end of the day, keep subscribing to the adage, "try, try again." Here are some good recipes to get you started.
Mac and cheese is always a hit, even when there’s broccoli added
Mac and cheese is almost always a kid-pleaser, and really, an adult-pleaser, too. So when you’ve got a recipe that you know your kids are going to want to gobble up, and it happens to include extra veggies, like this broccoli mac and cheese recipe, you’re looking at a win-win situation. Not to mention, this recipe includes chicken, too, so you can serve it up as a full meal. And even if your kids pick around most of the broccoli the first time you serve it, you won’t feel like the whole dish has been wasted if they’re eating everything else.
Your kids won’t believe this lasagna is made from spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash is like nature’s little gift to parents. Really, it’s pretty amazing — when baked, the insides really do scrape right out of the gourd in long, spaghetti-like strings, with a flavor that’s more-or-less neutral when combined with other foods (especially strong, meaty and cheesy flavors). This means that when you serve up this cheesy, meaty, spaghetti squash lasagna casserole, your kids really might not clue into the fact that they’re eating veggies in place of pasta … and layering that veggie with onions, tomato sauce, and a variety of herbs.
There’s lots of broccoli loaded into this crowd-pleasing casserole
Casseroles, in general, are a good way to "hide" veggies to help increase your kids’ intake of these nutrient-rich foods. And if, in general, your kids don’t like broccoli, serving up this broccoli casserole (it features an entire bag of the frozen florets) may be the ticket to getting them to eat the little green trees. Of course, it helps that the casserole is also loaded with cheddar cheese and includes crushed Ritz crackers, which tend to be kid-pleasers. Use it as a classic side, or add chicken to the recipe to try it as a main dish.
This barbecue chicken casserole is packed with hidden veggies
On the surface, this barbecue chicken casserole doesn’t look like it’s a bearer of many vegetables, but looks can be deceiving. The recipe actually calls for sweet potatoes, onions, and red bell peppers to be layered with the chicken, barbecue sauce, cheese, and various seasonings. The sharp flavors of the cheese and barbecue sauce melded with the chicken and veggies helps tamp down any overwhelming response of, "Ew, mom — there are veggies in this!"
Try a chicken fajita pasta tossed with veggies
Little kids might still turn up their noses at this chicken fajita pasta recipe because it’s "spicy," (i.e., it includes actual flavors, like salt), but slightly older kids are going to gobble this pasta dish right up, veggies and all. In fact, this recipe (not unlike actual fajitas) calls for onions, red, green, and yellow bell peppers, and … a lot of cheese. And as you well know, cheese tends to be a kid-pleaser. Once you see how well this recipe goes over, you may just add it to your weekly repertoire.
Kids love chicken and rice, so this one-pan dinner will be a hit
Chicken tends to be kid-friendly, as does rice, so why not offer up a chicken-and-rice meal that’s served hot in a sauce that includes tomatoes and fresh basil, too? Your kids might stick to mostly eating the chicken, but it’s pretty hard to completely separate the chicken from the sauce. Plus, most kids don’t turn their noses up too much at tomato sauce — it’s one of the more kid-friendly vegetable-rich options out there.
Try a side of rice pilaf with kid-friendly peas and carrots
When your main dish is a meat (and hey, chicken nuggets count!), serving up a veggie-rich side is important. But if your kids refuse to eat vegetables by themselves, try this rice pilaf recipe that includes peas and carrots mixed into the rice, along with a few other spices and seasonings. Even if your kids don’t benefit from a full serving of veggies in a spoonful of this side, you’ll at least be introducing them to more foods that include vegetables, and with time, they might become more adventurous and open to new flavors.
If your kids like eggs, they may just love shakshuka
OK, it’s fair to assume that shakshuka won’t be topping the list of every kid’s favorite breakfasts, but if you have a child who’s a big fan of eggs and doesn’t hate tomatoes, you might consider trying shakshuka on a lazy weekend. This recipe comes loaded with veggies, including onions, bell peppers, and crushed tomatoes, and it goes perfectly with crusty bread. So even if your kid ends up eschewing the main event, you can enjoy your perfect brunch while your kids enjoy the bread. Really, it’s a win-win.
Kids are likely to be more adventurous with fried veggies
Frying up veggies isn’t usually the best way to retain all those healthy nutrients found in nature’s vegetable bounty, but it is a good way to start introducing new types of veggies to your picky eaters. Most kids like the crunch of fried foods (and the breading, of course), and when served with a side of ranch or ketchup, the actual veggie taste is fairly limited. So if you’re looking for a way to get your kids to try zucchini, give this fried zucchini recipe a try.
Your kids won’t even know there’s zucchini in this sweet bread
You don’t have to tell your kids that there’s zucchini in this lightly sweet loaf of dessert bread, but there’s actually a whole, grated zucchini inside. But what with the sugar, the walnuts, and the lemon glaze, your kids will never even taste the green veggie. The best part is it makes a good after school snack or a breakfast option (you can sub it in for donuts on the weekend!), and while a single slice won’t serve up a full serving of veggies, at least you’ll know your kids are getting a little something extra healthy.
If "pizza" is in the name, it’s bound to be a kid favorite
This delicious rigatoni pizza comes packed with veggies, including tomato sauce (a lot more than you’ll find on an actual pizza), onions, and bell peppers, and it also gives you the chance to personalize it based on your own pizza preferences (love olives or mushrooms? Throw them in!). But because it also comes with pizza classics, like pepperoni and cheese, it’ll be a lot easier to pitch to your kids as a regular dinner, even with all those veggies included inside.
You don’t have to save green bean casserole for the holidays
Green bean casserole is one of those dishes that shouldn’t be reserved just for the holidays, and with the creamy filling and crispy fried onions on top, the green beans themselves are practically an afterthought. Serve it up as a side and let your kids give it a try — you (and they) might be surprised how much they love it. Plus, this green bean casserole recipe is made in the slow cooker, which means it’s super easy for you to pull together in the late afternoon — prep time is only five minutes — and have it ready by dinner.
Kids won’t even realize there’s butternut squash in these stuffed shells
What kid doesn’t love eating giant, stuffed pasta shells? And this butternut squash-stuffed version is chock full of a slightly sweet, creamy filling of squash, cheese, spinach, and marinara sauce that’s practically guaranteed to be a hit. And if your kids can’t handle eating a meatless meal like this one, go ahead and brown up some ground turkey to mix in. Chances are your kids won’t have any clue how many good-for-them nutrients they’re consuming inside those giant pasta shells.
Chili recipes like these are basically just a way to sneak in extra veggies
Chili is one of those classic family favorites that’s perfect for cold nights spent around a fire. But one of the truly beautiful things about this dish is that it’s basically just a pot full of beans and veggies (and, of course, meat, if you’re so inclined). This five-ingredient chili recipe couldn’t be easier to make and consists of canned tomatoes, canned beans (your choice of variety), onion, ground beef, and chili powder. So basically, aside from the meat itself, you’re looking at ingredients that come straight from the earth.
There are tons of veggies in this fun and delicious breakfast lasagna
When you’re looking for a new recipe to satisfy your family on a weekend, it’s worth trying this breakfast lasagna recipe. It features kid favorites, like biscuits, eggs, cheese, and bacon, but also includes lots of veggies, including spinach, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and fresh parsley. And because it’s all mixed together, even if your kids pick away at their favorite parts and leave the bigger chunks of vegetables alone, they’re still bound to get a few bites of veggies in, making it a pretty great way to start a morning.
When veggies are pitched as "boats," kids are bound to eat up
When veggies are used as the delivery mechanism for other kid-favorite ingredients (in this case, "enchiladas" served in zucchini boats), your kids are less likely to even notice the extra green you’re sneaking into their systems. And the thing is, aside from the ground turkey meat, cheese, and seasonings, you’re basically looking at a recipe that’s nothing but veggies. In addition to the zucchini itself (and you do use the whole zucchini, not just the scooped out "boat"), you’ll be serving tomatoes, onions, green chilies, mushrooms, and red bell pepper. Talk about a well-balanced meal option.
This cauliflower rice recipe is so good kids won’t realize it’s cauliflower
If your kids like rice, it might be worth giving this copycat Chipotle cauliflower rice recipe a go. Of course, cauliflower rice doesn’t taste exactly the same as traditional rice, but with the right seasonings, and paired with a tasty main dish, your kids might not even notice. The trick to this recipe is adding lime juice and cilantro to give it a nice south of the border flavor. And if your kids eschew the low-carb version plain, consider making homemade burritos and adding some inside.
Fajitas legitimately taste better with more veggies added
Fajitas are a pretty simple way to give your kids a chance to add veggies to their own meals. If you cook up the bell peppers and onions separately from the meat (and maybe offer a few other options, like fresh tomatoes, avocados, or jalapeno peppers), and then offer the meal buffet-style, it gives your kids the chance to add the items they like the most. Maybe they’ll stick to meat, cheese, and sour cream, but maybe they’ll surprise you by piling on a few peppers and some salsa. And don’t forget the power of unspoken peer pressure — if they see everyone else adding veggies to their own fajitas, they may be more likely to add a few on their own to "fit in."
This avocado egg salad will become a new lunchtime favorite
If your kids are a fan of egg salad (or just eggs, in general), it’s worth giving this avocado egg salad recipe a try. You can serve it as a sandwich or with a side of chips (pita chips are a good idea, too), and if they turn up their noses at the green coloring, try reading the book Green Eggs and Ham together (and throw some sliced ham into the salad, too) — it might encourage them to give it a try.
Calzones are a fun way to help your kids eat more veggies
Calzones are basically just handheld pizzas, right? And with that nice, encased pocket of crust, you can hide just about anything you want inside. This calzone recipe calls for spinach and tomato sauce as the main veggie ingredients, but you could add just about anything you want your kids to try. And it might be worth getting your kids to help you construct the finished product, adding the items they think they want inside. If they feel like they’re part of the process, they may be more inclined to take a few risks.
Mini-frittatas are so cute your kids will load up their plates
These bite-sized mini frittatas are basically just egg muffins stuffed full of broccoli, onions, and cheese. And while the veggies may make your kids a little hesitant, the kid-sized bites are bound to be tantalizing, and the flavors won’t be as sharp when muted by the eggs and cheese. And the beauty is, you can jazz the recipe up even more if you want, adding bacon, ham, or sausage to add a little more veggie-distracting flavor.
If your kids love egg rolls, they’ll love this veggie packed egg roll in a bowl
If your kids love egg rolls (that fried, crunchy exterior is hard not to like), it might be worth serving up this egg roll in a bowl recipe. The basic ingredients (including an assortment of vegetables) are the same as a traditional egg roll, but you can serve the stir fry up on a bed of rice (cauliflower rice, maybe?) and top with broken shards of fried wontons to give your kids the classic egg roll crunch. Served in a bowl, though, you can adjust the ratio of meat and veggies to ensure your kids are getting more of the good stuff.
The bacon in this salad just might teach your kid to love broccoli
As your kids get a little more adventurous, it might be worth adding the occasional "tester" dish to see if they’ll take a bite or two of something that is clearly veggies with a capital V. The trick is to deliver it in a salad or casserole that offers lots of other, strong flavors that your kids love. This broccoli salad is full of broccoli, of course, but it’s also packed with bacon, cheese, salted sunflower seeds, and mayonnaise. Really, the broccoli ends up just offering a delivery method for all the other kid-friendly flavors.
Your kids will want second helpings of this sweet potato casserole
Dishes don’t have to be savory to offer up a serving of veggies. If your kids are more likely to go for a sweet dish, try this sweet potato casserole. It makes for a classic fall-flavored side full of chopped pecans, brown sugar, and vanilla to amp up the potatoes’ sweetness-factor. But it also includes the bright orange veggie, which makes it an excellent way to get vitamin A and vitamin C. And if your kids decide they like the dish, don’t be afraid to offer it as a dessert or breakfast alternative, too.