Don’t Hide Vegetables – Serve Them with Pride
I wish I could just get on my dietitian soap box and spout the importance of vegetables for children, but, that isn’t helpful when you are in the midst of an epic toddler meal battle.
I myself have a toddler that likes to proclaim how disgusting her vegetables are before she has even seen them… let alone put them in her mouth. I could follow one of the countless recipes available to hide pureed cauliflower in her mac and cheese, or make a batch of brownies loaded with zucchini or avocado, but my concern is what that teaches her.
I might not always win the vegetable battle, but my child does know that in her cute little princess divided plate there is a section for fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains. As she grows the food choices might change (hopefully becoming a bit more diverse), the plate will no longer be divided, and the portions get a little larger but ultimately a balanced healthy meal will always look the same. Here a few tips to help you win your next vegetable battle:
- Let them dip. Raw broccoli usually gets eaten at our house as long as there is ranch to dip it in, and I will always make that deal. Ranch, hummus, salsa or even cheese; offering a dip can be a great tool for compromise if your child is not thrilled with a vegetable’s initial presentation or taste.
- Be creative. Make the vegetables the star of the meal or use them as a vehicle for some of your child’s favorite foods; for example zucchini pizza bites or taco boats.
- Let them know what they are eating. It’s not that I am against cauliflower mac and cheese or avocado brownies, but I think there is value in telling your child what they are eating. The message isn’t “eat as much mac and cheese and brownies as you want” but instead “look how delicious vegetables can be.”
- Be consistent. Always offering a vegetable is a good way to let your kids know that they may win a battle here or there but you will win the war because the vegetables will ALWAYS be there. And who are we kidding; we could all probably do better on vegetables so just clean that section of their plate for them if you don’t want to waste.
- Celebrate the small victories. Thank them for trying, even if it was only one small bite. Serve them their favorite vegetable more frequently so it doesn’t have to be a constant battle. Make sure to tell them you’re proud they finished their vegetables (if they ever do)!
Zucchini Pizza Bites
- 3 large zucchinis, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup marinara or pizza sauce
- 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Black olives, mini pepperonis, or any other pizza topping favorites
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place zucchini on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake until slightly tender, about 5 minutes.
- Spoon a thin layer of sauce over each slice. Top with cheese and toppings as desired.
- Bake until zucchini is tender and cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
Zucchini Taco Boats
- 4-5 medium zucchini, sliced into halves lengthwise
- 1 pound ground beef or turkey
- 1 packet taco seasoning
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup shredded Mexican or cheddar cheese
- Lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro or other taco topping favorites
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Using a spoon, scoop the centers from the zucchini leaving a little over ¼ inch of the flesh. Place zucchini in a baking dish, brush with olive oil.
- Roast in preheated oven until nearly tender, about 18-22 minutes.
- Meanwhile brown hamburger or turkey in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add black beans and seasoning packet, along with water according to packet instructions.
- Spoon meat mixture into roasted zucchini, top with cheese and return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle with toppings and serve.