There’s nothing better than your children choosing and eating healthy food, and carrying on these good habits into adulthood. In an ideal world, all our little people would love broccoli, cabbage and kale, and delight in devouring fruit 5 times a day. Unfortunately, this is not always realistic, as we all know many children would prefer to pick sweets and chocolate rather than healthy alternatives.
It is always wise to offer healthy foods before handing over the treats, but if your children are refusing to eat vegetables then sometimes there’s no alternative but to explore other ways to get them to consume those important healthy food vitamins.
Do your kids refuse to eat fruit and vegetables? Here are our little tips to sneak in those healthy foods!
Pop in some red and green lentils
These pulses are a rich provider of protein and carbohydrates and are a great source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins. And you can totally hide them in meals!
Red split lentils need to be soaked in water for roughly 15 minutes and then rinsed before boiling for half an hour – then they’re ready to eat. Green lentils come whole and do not need soaking, but do need boiling for about 50 minutes. Cook them any longer than this, and they turn to a pretty tasteless mush which is fab for thickening sauces and soups, and you’d never know they were there!
I soak red split lentils before sprinkling them into a spaghetti bolognese, curry, or chili con carne, and making sure the sauce summers for a good 45 minutes.
Green lentils work brilliantly in slow-cooked soups or sauces.
Add pureed tomatoes and onions to a red sauce
Sounds simple, but it works! You can puree all kinds of fresh or frozen vegetables and add them to sauces for amazing flavour and none of the lumps! I add pureed tomatoes and onions to all my red sauces and the kids never have to moan about the bits of vegetables that they “don’t like the taste of” in their dinners.
Add frozen spinach to family dinners
Primarily, spinach is an amazing source of iron and also boasts a source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, magnesium and vitamin B2. It is an absolute super-food but only too often people dislike the taste.
It is super easy to hide spinach in meals. Frozen spinach blocks are really handy when it comes to adding it to your sauces. Just pop a block into a bubbling dinner for ten minutes, and you’d never know it was there.
I like to add it to fish pies, pasta bakes and paella.
Baked beans are your friend
All too often people mistake baked beans for the unhealthy option. In fact, they provide a great amount of fiber and plant-based protein. They’re also a good source of thiamine, zinc, and selenium, essential to a healthy diet.
You can purchase low-sugar and low-salt tins of baked beans and you have a good portion of veg without feeling guilty.
And so are peas and sweetcorn
Don’t diss the pea and sweetcorn medley! Peas are packed with fiber and antioxidants, and sweetcorn is rich in vitamins and minerals.
To make these veggies a novelty, buy corn on the cob and peas in a pod, and let your kids have a go at preparing their own veg! Popping peas out of their pods can be a particularly fun activity for children, and they might be more inclined to eat them knowing they have fun preparing the food themselves!
Make some fruit kebabs
Another fun activity for the kids! Cut up a variety of different fruit and let them make their own kebabs! For a great dessert, you can always melt some dark chocolate for dipping.
Easy kebab fruit includes strawberries, melon, apple, grapes and kiwi.
Go shopping for unusual fruit and vegetables
Once I was in the supermarket with my son when he pointed to jack fruit and asked what it was. As it’s not something I would normally buy, it was a complete novelty and my son ended up really enjoying it!
When you’re next in the supermarket with your kids, ask them to pick out an unusual fruit or veg each to try. A fun novelty and a great way to explore variety, and you never know – you might find something new they actually like!
Add celery and pepper to a cheese dip
These two veggies are super easy to hide in sauces and provide fantastic flavour. My favourite recipe to use these in is a cheese dip. Simply cut finely or puree these vegetables, and then add to a light cream cheese and cheddar mix. You can ways chop up some carrot and cucumber sticks for dipping, and you have yourself a brilliant healthy after-school snack!
Make sweet potato chips
I have never come across anyone who doesn’t like chips, and children are no exception!
While potatoes are an excellent vegetable, sweet potatoes are even healthier! They are high in fiber and contain an antioxidant called beta carotene, which is super effective at raising levels of vitamin A, particularly in children. What’s more, they are a tastier and sweeter version of regular potatoes and can be made into delicious chips!
Simply slice them into 1-1.5cm lengths, sprinkle over some herbs, spices, and olive oil, and pop them into the oven at 200 degrees for about 40 minutes.
Top tip: For amazing seasoning, simply crumble a low-salt vegetable oxo cube over the chips before cooking!
Sweet creamy hidden veg soup
A soup which is sweet and creamy and full of hidden veggies – what’s not to love?!
This recipe is packed with sweet potato and butternut squash and goes down a storm at my family dinners. It also includes onions and a variety of herbs for a really nutritious meal.
Not completely healthy, but is better than no fruit at all! You can always substitute the sugar when you make toffee for natural stevia, or simply dip apple slices in some warm natural honey.
Do you have any tips on how to get your kids to eat healthily? Pop a tip in the comments and let us know what works for you!