Eat Your Greenies: Making It Fun and Making It Stealthy

Photo by Nabi Tang / Stocksy United / 467733
Photo by Nabi Tang / Stocksy United

Picture this: You call your little one to the table for dinner, where she has a giant bowl of spring green salad awaiting her arrival. With a happy smile, she sits down and starts to dig in. Pretty picture, right? Unfortunately, kids’ reactions to greens usually tend to be the opposite: wrinkled noses, stuck-out tongues, and a long, drawn-out “Do I haaaave to eat it?”

As adults, we know that greens are necessary to keep our bodies healthy—and most of us even develop a fondness for them (hey, add some sliced apples and pecans to your spinach and you’ve got a downright tasty lunch!). But even more than that, eating with the seasons is a wonderful way for you to teach your child about when foods grow and where food comes from.

The challenge (as you’re probably already aware) is getting our kids to try to enjoy the bounty of the spring coming to gardens, farmers markets, and grocery stores near you, including gorgeous veggies like asparagus, zucchini, fennel, spinach, and lettuce.

Here are a few of our favorite ideas and a couple recipes for getting some of that bounty onto your children’s plates (and for expanding their palates):

1. It’s Okay to Get a Little Sneaky

It doesn’t always have to be just greens by themselves. If your kids go crazy for mac and cheese, add a handful of fresh peas to the pot. If it’s burger night, add some grated carrots or chopped spinach to the ground beef or turkey. Is spaghetti on the menu tonight? Purée some zucchini and onions and mix them into your tomato sauce. And for the sweeter side of things, tossing some mild lettuce into a berry smoothie will get those greens down easy.

Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta / Stocksy United / 1403028
Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta / Stocksy United

2. Make Zucchini Noodles

What kid doesn’t like pasta? Skip the regular pasta and make your own ribbons of noodles using that gorgeous greenie zucchini! Simply peel a zucchini using a hand-held peeler, or invest in a spiral slicer for spaghetti-shaped “zoodles” kids will love. If your little ones won’t touch anything green, just be sure you peel off the skin before making your spirals or ribbons.

The options are pretty endless as to how you can use them, too. Our favorite “zoodle” meals? Added in a salad, sautéed in olive oil, topped with tomato sauce, or mixed into Pad Thai.

Photo by Melanie Defazio / Stocksy United / 168999
Photo by Melanie Defazio / Stocksy United

3. Sweeten the Experience

Sure, we know we mentioned smoothies before—but have you ever tried adding veggies to something like a pastry or breakfast sweet before? We know, it sounds crazy, but with the right mix of ingredients, your little ones won’t even know the veggies are in there. Check out our recipe below to get started!

100% Whole-Wheat Maple Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ½ cup raw coconut oil, melted
  • 1 ¼ cup real maple syrup
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini, well-packed
  • 2 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda½ teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, butter, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and syrup.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and fold in the zucchini.
  5. Pour batter into two greased 9-inch loaf pans.
  6. Bake 50 minutes or until a fork inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool and then enjoy!

4. Go Raw with a Tasty Dip

The secret to getting kids to eat veggies in the raw is to serve them up with a side of their favorite dressing. For this one, we recommend veggies like sweet snap peas, carrot sticks, and cucumber slices.

While ranch and honey mustard are classic kid favorites, they may try this extra healthy (and extra yummy) veggie dip and fall in love. Check it out below!

Incredibly Edible Edamame Dip

From The Blender Girl Cookbook by Tess Masters

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shelled edamame
  • 2 cups raw spinach
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, freshly minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Directions

1. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
Photo by Sally Anscombe / Stocksy United / 223228
Photo by Sally Anscombe / Stocksy United

5. Grow a Little Garden

Research shows that gardening with children and growing your own veggies together makes little ones much more interested in eating their greens. No need to haul out the tiller: Even just a pot of lettuce can spark your child’s interest in the wonders of gardening and make him more willing to eat veggies!

6. Lead by Example

You might have to prepare vegetables in different ways to entice your picky eater, but don’t let that deter you from serving a variety of greens. And don’t forget, it always helps to lead by example, so make sure to pile your own plate full of greens and dig in!
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