Incorporating vegetables into your everyday diet shouldn't be a hassle. Vegetables come in all shapes, flavors, and textures and bring in heavy vitamin and mineral content without harmful fats. Sadly, many kids and adults avoid vegetables altogether because they think they don't like them.
But, there's hope! The following collection of recipes brings you easy and flavorful ideas for the veggie-averse to dip their toes in the vegetable world and get them more acquainted with the options. Before you know it, the picky eaters in your household will be happily chowing down on everything from broccoli to Brussels sprouts!
Vegetables and Potatoes
Potatoes of all kinds are great vehicles for vegetables, and because kids and adults have seen potatoes everywhere they're more likely to try the dish, even if it looks new and different.
- Twice Baked Cheesy Potatoes: Potato "boats" stuffed with creamy potato mash are a great way of bringing some veggies onto the dinner table. Simply add 1 cup of steamed riced cauliflower into the mash before stuffing the potatoes for extra veggies and nutrition.
- Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes: When mashed, cauliflower has a similar texture to mashed potatoes, so those two ingredients are easy to combine to make one filling side. Butter, milk, and cheddar cheese complete the mixture, but if you are worried about the calories, add low-fat greek yogurt, olive oil, and non-dairy milk as substitutes. Add 2 extra Yukon potatoes if using replacements.
- Hash Brown Casserole: Make this hearty, crunchy hash, adding 2 cups of chopped spinach and 1 cup of chopped baby kale to the hash mixture. Bake as directed. If there's a family favorite cheese, use it instead of cheddar, or if your household already has a favorite vegetable, try adding something similar, like turnips instead of carrots.
Vegetables in Soups
When you're trying to introduce new vegetables to your family, don't make the soup the main dish because you might be in for a surprise. Instead, try to serve it in smaller bowls as a side dish and give them the chance to try a few spoonfuls at first. Once they're more comfortable with the idea, you can make it a main and offer bolder flavors. Start small with these recipes:
- Sweet Potato and Kale Soup: This soup requires minimal effort and has a beautiful flavor thanks to the sweet potato and pungent kale. The original recipe calls for a chunky presentation, but if your picky eaters are new to soup, it's best to blend it until creamy. Serve it with grilled cheese or tuna salad sandwiches.
- Healthy Tomato Soup: This low-cal recipe is a great base for a soup bar once everyone is acquainted with the flavor. Make the soup and serve it with small dishes of crunchy toppings for kids to add on. This helps them make their own healthy choices and gives them the courage to try something new. Offer cubed avocado, crispy tortilla chips, sweet corn, full-fat greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), chopped cilantro, and cubed chicken (turkey, ham, or cheese) and let them make their own combination.
- Cream of Mushroom: Mushrooms are tasty and carry a lot of the B vitamins that are necessary for healthy brain function. These fungi can mimic the meaty texture of animal protein and are great in stews and grilled preparations. This soup uses very few ingredients, letting the mushrooms shine, and is a great dairy-free preparation. As suggested above, blend it at first, and then leave the chunks once the family is comfortable with the mushroom flavor. Top it with vegan cheese and serve with warm rolls.
Vegetables for Egg Lovers
Eggs are a great source of protein and easy to incorporate in recipes. Egg-based preparations can hold plenty of vegetables without the fresh flavor of veggies overpowering the creamy eggs. Serve these easy recipes with potatoes or a quick salad for an extra serving of fiber:
- Crustless Spinach Quiche: Bacon pieces could be an incentive for picky eaters to give this quiche a try. The spinach brings a lot of texture and you won't even miss the crust. Add more veggies like peppers or onions to pack more nutrients per bite. If you want to stay away from gluten, replace the flour with gluten-free all-purpose flour but do add 1/4 cup of milk or non-dairy milk to the mix.
- Carrot Souffle Recipe: If your picky eaters aren't convinced about trying out a souffle, this recipe, served as dessert, might make them change their minds. Once it's baked, use powdered sugar to dust the top and pair with berries or baked apples for more healthy sweetness.
- Cheese and Leek Soufflé: Leeks have a beautiful flavor and texture, but a little goes a long way. Great additions to soups and stews, leeks get sweeter when cooked and are a lovely ingredient to introduce to veggie newbies. The recipe calls for Emmental cheese, but replace it with a milder cheese if your guests aren't used to aged cheeses. Choose a mild shredded mozzarella and serve your souffle with a fresh fruit salad.
Veggie chips are a fantastic way of introducing kids to veggies. But don't go for processed chips made from fats and vegetable flavoring. Instead make crispy kale, beets, or broccoli florets seasoned with healthy herbs. Most picky eaters have trouble with mushy textures but like crunchy items and are willing to try something new if it resembles something they know, like a crunchy potato chip. Make these recipes and serve them as a side with your proteins of choice and a dip or salsa they already know and like:
- Crispy Kale: If you have 25 minutes to spare you need to try these chips. With just 4 ingredients, these crisps are an amazingly crunchy first introduction to leafy greens. Try to make them part of your taco night, or serve them with your hot dogs instead of french fries. It can be hard at first, but the more times you make them, the more they're going to be willing to try them.
- Beet Chips: These chips are fried, but sometimes you have to sacrifice something for the greater good, right? If your picky eaters are willing to try these chips, maybe next time you can offer beets in a different presentation and they could be more inclined to give them a try. Serve with a healthy sandwich or soup.
- Cassava Chips: Cassava (yuca) is a root vegetable very common in Hispanic and Asian cuisines. It's mild in flavor and very fibrous, but when fried they're irresistible. This simple recipe will leave your picky eaters without any excuse whatsoever not to try a portion of new food. Serve them for dinner with grilled fish, or use them instead of popcorn for family movie night.
Tips for Picky Eaters
- Don't try to hide the vegetables: It's pointless. Everyone will notice the shade of green in your mashed potatoes or the floating kale in your marinara. Instead, lead by example: if you eat them, repeatedly and consistently, your kids will eventually follow.
- Don't rush: They won't like vegetables overnight. Be repetitive and relentless, make the same vegetable in different forms over and over. You'll be surprised that repetition makes them cave in!
- Don't make four different meals: Dinner is served! And that's what's for dinner. The more you cook catering to separate preferences, the more everyone will ask for something different. Family dinner should be a moment of togetherness, not you or your partner in the kitchen taking orders.
- Don't change everything at the same time: Do ask each person in the house for some preferences for the week's menus, and work with that to add veggies to your pasta dishes, sandwiches, and soups.