14 Sep A 3 course, vegetable packed meal, you can cook, and enjoy, with your picky little eaters!
Although vegetables are often children’s least favorite food types, they offer many benefits that contribute to their physical and mental growth. Experts recommend kids aged over five years need at least five portions each day. Younger children should also eat fruits and vegetables as often, but in smaller amounts.
Hmm. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Right?
A recent study showed that nearly half of all children are picky eaters at some point. Unfortunately the lower your family income is the more likely you are to have children who are picky eaters. But we’re here to help. Here are some easy, low-cost ideas to get some veggies in your child’s diet. You don’t have to follow the recipes exactly, or create all 3 courses, but getting your little one involved in the process, from store to table will eventually pay off.
Each of these recipes will feed a family of 4-5 people, including two adults. If you have leftovers they will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator, or they can be frozen for use a few days or weeks later.
Starter Course – Veggie Fritter Balls
If hiding the vegetables is your goal this is a great one. It should take less than a half hour to make. Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.
120g Plain flour
1 Beaten Egg
½ cup Milk
Seasoning (we suggest some salt pepper and a little paprika)
Vegetable oil (a splash)
Vegetables (suggestions) – Maybe try two at a time
- Can of sweetcorn (drained)
- A grated courgette/zucchini
- Grated carrot
- Grated parsnip
- Grated cauliflower
- Smashed up peas
- Finely sliced onion or spring onion
- Mix the veg, flour, beaten egg, milk and some seasoning in a bowl.
- Get sloppy. Grab handfuls of the mixture and squish into small meatball sized mounds. Think chicken nugget sized portions.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick pan.
- Place the fritter mounds and cook on one side until that side turns golden brown.
- Flip them over and cook until the other side is also golden brown. (should take about 3 minutes each side)
- Serve the fritters with your child’s favorite sauce. It doesn’t matter if it is ketchup, mayonnaise or chili sauce. If it helps to get those good vegetables into their bellies it’s all good.
Main Course – Stealthy, Healthy Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Lots of children can become picky eaters, especially when it comes to vegetables. Some kids have an almost supernatural ability to detect the smallest morsel of a vegetable hidden on the depths of a spoon.
This recipe for macaroni cheese appears pretty much the same as your usual macaroni cheese but it has hidden portions of vegetables added. It’s also a great recipe for using leftover vegetables and for when the cupboard is starting to run dry.
There are two ways to approach this particular recipe: You can hide the vegetable elements or you can include your child in the full preparation. For some parents who cannot convince their children that vegetables are tasty it might be a good idea to let them taste and finish first before revealing the hidden ingredients. But beware, like any grown-up person, little people don’t like being tricked, even if it’s for their own good. If you do manage to get your picky eater to admit that the recipe is tasty, despite the vegetables, include them in the full recipe another time. Remind them about how nice it tasted once it was all cooked together.
Vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. More importantly they are rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are vital for the overall health of your child. So even if you decide not to be transparent about the content of the recipe, you are doing it for the right reasons.
50g Plain flour
2 cups Milk
1 big block cheddar cheese grated
250g Pasta (TIP: Using lots of different leftover pasta shapes is more fun!)
- Butternut squash or other pumpkin
- Sweet potato
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 8–10 minutes. Drain, but not completely. Leave a little bit of that water. As much as a cup full. Pasta water seems like a waste product but it is filled with useful salt and starch from the pasta which, when added to butter or another fat, results in a luxuriously smooth sauce. It’s a case of waste not, want not, especially for the final texture.
- Get a big pot and boil whatever vegetables you like. Cook for 15 mins until soft.
- Drain the vegetables and blitz them in a food processor or hand blender. Just mash and smash and whizz them all up until smooth and pasty. How lumpy you make this mixture is up to you, and your child’s tolerance for vegetable textures. If they’re extra picky make it very smooth. On repeat cooking you can start to introduce surprise lumps, bit by bit.
- Make a roux. Don’t fear this fancy sounding French word. A roux is just a smooth paste, made from flour fried in fat, that is added to sauces, soups or gravy to make them thick, smooth, and rich. In our case we are using butter as our fat. All you need to do is add equal parts flour and butter to a low heat. If your butter is not melted, put that in first and allow to melt before adding the flour. Stir as it cooks until it forms a paste. Cook it just long enough to eliminate the taste of raw flour. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes to form a white roux. Kids love playing with flour. Let them join in and let them see the transformation.
- Add milk to the roux. Now let’s loosen up that roux. Gradually whisk in the milk on the same low heat, a splash at a time. This should take another 5 – 10 minutes. Allow your child to do the pouring or the stirring if you like.
- Now remove the roux from the heat and add half your grated cheese. Keep stirring.
- Get your smooth vegetables and mix that in with your cheesy roux. And yes. Keep on stirring.
- Finally add your cooked pasta, along with some of the pasta water into the pot. Keep stirring, but more gently. You want to retain the pasta shape.
- Transfer the entire pasta, roux, and cheesy mix to an ovenproof dish.
- Top it off with the remainder of the grated cheese. You could add breadcrumbs too for an optional extra texture.
- Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the top is golden and delicious crispy bits form as a crust.
- Serve and enjoy.
Desert Course – Can’t Beet ‘Em Cakes
The pigment that gives beetroot its purple colour is betacyanin which is thought to suppress cancer. They are also rich in heart-friendly compounds called nitrates. Beetroots are also rich in fibre, which supports bowel function. A study also shows that when that beetroot juice to athletes diets may support endurance and improve performance. When it comes to baking beetroot pairs beautifully with chocolate. What a great way to get these wonderful vegetables into your child’s diet. This recipe makes 16 cakes! Enough for a party!
10oz Fresh Red Beets (TIP: One of our team used pre-prepared beets which were really handy. If you do use these you can begin on step 4)
1 Lemon juiced
¾ cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
¾ cup Buttermilk
2 ½ cups Plain Flour
1 ½ cups Brown Sugar
3 tbsp Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Baking Soda
- Trim the beet stems and leaves, but don’t peel. Wash the beets thoroughly under cold, running water. Get your child to scrub them clean with a brush. When shopping look for smaller beets as they are usually more tender than the big ones.
- Preheat your oven to around 350 degrees fahrenheit or 175 celsius.
- Microwave the beets: Place them in a single layer in a microwave-safe dish with a lid. Pierce beets’ skins with a fork to prevent the steam from building up inside. We don’t want them to explode! Add a quarter cup of water to the bowl — about ¼ cup. Cover the dish and microwave the beets for 10 minutes.
- When they have cooled, peel them, chop ’em up, and toss ’em in a blender/food processor with some lemon juice.
- As the mixture turns mushy add the oil and the buttermilk.
- When that’s smooth and mixed in, add the eggs until combined.
- In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
- Add the beet mixture, and stir and whisk until combined. Kids love doing this.
- Fill muffin tins with paper liners. This is a good job for children too.
- Fill the cupcake liners two thirds of the way with the mixture and put into your preheated oven.
- Bake for 15-20 mins until the insides are no longer raw (You can use a toothpick or fork to test)
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Enjoy watching your child eating their beets!