One of my favorite topics to talk about with fellow parents is: How to get kids of all ages to eat vegetables. It makes me so happy to watch all four of my little ones – ranging from 7 to 19 years old – dig into robust salads and other veggie-filled meals. I’m so passionate about the topic, I even created an entire masterclass, which dishes up my 8 secrets for success. You can check that out HERE!
One of the tips I share inside is to get sneaky. Yup – that’s right. If your kiddo can’t stand the sight of broccoli, spinach, or zucchini then it’s up to us to get creative. Here is a list of ways I sneak healthy ingredients into my kids’ meals. Try it!
Disguise Spaghetti Squash as Pizza
When was the last time your kids asked for spaghetti squash? Probably never! But, pizza? Yeah, all kids love pizza! Instead of swinging by your local pizza joint to grab a greasy, carb-heavy pie, try making my kid-approved spaghetti squash version.
You simply mix cooked spaghetti squash with one large egg, a handful of mozzarella cheese, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Then, spread the mixture into a glass baking dish to form a crust. Bake at 400ºF for 30 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden. Top the healthified crust with marinara sauce, cheese, and anything else your heart desired. Then, pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes to let the toppings melt together. The result? Well, let’s just say your whole family will be very happy!
Sneak Cauliflower in Crispy Fritters
These easy-to-make Crispy Cheesy Cauliflower Fritters are reminiscent of traditional potato latkes, but a whole lot healthier. They’re basically cooked and finely chopped cauliflower mixed with an egg and some cheese, formed into little patties. Then, they’re fried to perfection – leaving you with a craveable crispy exterior and soft succulent center. This dish is kid-approved and perfect at any time of the day. Serve them up for breakfast with a sunny side egg on top, for lunch with a light green side salad, or at dinnertime as a sensational side. Get the recipe HERE!
Disguise Cauliflower as Rice
Ever since I moved to Hong Kong nearly a decade ago, I’ve learned to make and healthify a lot of different classic Chinese dishes. One of my absolute favorites is cauliflower fried rice. If you chop the cauliflower and caramelize the vegetables just right, you can almost fool your diners (even kids) into thinking they’re eating the real deal. And that’s really the test of a good recipe, don’t you think? When people dig into your creation and can’t even tell that they’re eating something good for them because it tastes so darn delicious. Get the recipe HERE!
Hide Carrots and Zucchini Inside Muffins
We have muffins at home on the weekends, but I always love to jazz them up with sneakily good-for-you additions! If you want to do something super quick, grab a box of your favorite muffin mix (preferably gluten-free) and add some shredded carrots or zucchini into the batter. Some other healthy additions I sometimes throw into muffins: mashed banana, grated apple or pear, hemp seeds, flax meal, and ground almonds.
Hide Spinach Inside Cheesy Quesadillas
In my cookbook, FOOD YOU WANT For The Life You Crave, I share the recipe to my kids’ favorite breakfast quesadillas. When my kids were younger, this dish became one of my go-to ways to add vegetables to their meals—sandwiched between layers of melted cheese and corn tortillas. We still make variations of these for any meal of the day.
Add Spinach or Kale to Smoothie “Milkshakes”
Rewind the clock to when my youngest was just 3 years old. In an attempt to squeeze some veggies into his diet, I created a creamy and decadent “smoothie-milkshake,” without the ice cream! I used almond milk as the base, to keep it dairy-free, and I loaded it up with the yummy flavors of bananas, mango, almond butter, maple syrup, and a hint of cinnamon. The kicker? I snuck in some kale! The other ingredients masked the veggie flavor, but it still offered up all of kale’s nutritional goodness. The best part? My youngest loved it! He couldn’t put it down and finished the whole glass, which made me want to jump for joy. Get the recipe HERE!
Fold Mushrooms into Burgers
I started loading up my burgers with vegetables after transitioning from vegetarian to once-in-a-while carnivore and realizing I had to work a little harder to ensure sufficient veggie intake. Mushrooms seem to pair so perfectly with beef, but the more veggies you can sneak into your burgers the better! Finely shred carrots, zucchini, or anything else you have on hand. For inspo, check out my Sneakily Healthy Beef Burgers in my cookbook on page 170.
Turn Zucchini into “Green Pasta”
Have you ever tried zoodles? It’s where you use a spiralizer to create zucchini noodles and jazz them up like spaghetti. They’re delicious and kids love them … well, as long as you tell your kids they’re eating “green pasta” vs a plate of zucchini! Either cook your zoodles in a skillet with a little butter and garlic or top them off with marinara sauce.
Add Sautéed Veggies to Bottled Marinara Sauce
I always have bottled marinara sauce in the pantry, in case I don’t have time to whip up a fresh tomato sauce. Is it a staple in your house too? While bottled sauces are super convenient and actually taste great, rather than simply twisting off the top and pouring it over my pasta as is, I like to jazz it up with some healthy add-ins. Try adding finely shredded carrots, zucchini, onions, peppers, etc. The finer you shred and chop, the less your kids will notice!
Use Lettuce to Make Chicken Wraps
I have a slight obsession with loaded butter-lettuce cups. I stuff them with a bite of just about anything, but I’m especially addicted to a combo of chicken, pesto, and mango salsa. The succulent chicken thighs marry sweetly with spiced mango, and the salty and fragrant pesto adds a final kick—to create a one-bite party in your mouth! Follow this recipe in my book (page 91) or use the idea to create your own, filled with your kid’s favorite stuffing.