I always imagined myself as the mom who would serve her kids a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at every meal. Their diets would be healthy and well rounded, and they would be open to tasting new foods from all around the world. When my kids were babies, I pureed and fed them the entire produce section of the grocery store, introducing them to the most unique flavor combinations I could find. And although that idealistic part of me still exists, it is so much harder now that they are older.
Those babies have now grown into picky, independently minded children who prefer a rotation of five meals — meals that include hot dogs, mac and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So, three kids later and a lot of trial and error, I am sharing with all my struggling mamas a few kid-approved ways to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your family’s diet!
Smoothies are one of the easiest and more obvious ways to add fruits and veggies to your diet. The flavor combinations are endless, from sweet fruits to the more acquired tasting veggie smoothies. But it doesn’t end there! You can also sneak in a lot of other nutritient-packed ingredients like greek yogurt, ground flax seed, or chia seeds.
When it comes to my kids’ smoothies, this is the formula I typically stick to: 3+ fruits, honey as a natural sweetener, and water for the liquid. Easy peasy! I steer away from added sugars in juice, but if your kid prefers the flavor of orange or pineapple juice, then by all means go for it! You do what it takes to fit those fruits and vegetables in!
This is my family’s favorite go-to smoothie recipe that we make for lunch at least once a week:
Dragon Fruit Smoothie
1/2 c frozen dragon fruit chunks
1/2 c frozen mango chunks
1/2 c frozen pineapple chunks
3 frozen whole strawberries
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
1 cup water
Throw all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth, and enjoy! Makes 2-3 smoothies.
Feel free to make this smoothie as-is, or change it up to make it your own! It’s all about trial and error and finding what your kids like.
Who doesn’t love breakfast? Quiche is one of my favorite meals that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I use eggs frequently for protein in my kids’ diets, and I love the simplicity of throwing a bunch of fresh ingredients into a pie dish to bake and serve. The best part is you can easily modify any recipe to fit your family’s taste buds.
Start with eggs and sour cream as your base, then add meat and/or vegetables of your choice with a little seasoning and voila! Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner is served.
My favorite quiche to make is a crustless broccoli quiche. Our family is mostly vegetarian, so this recipe may not satisfy a meat-loving family, but it does include my favorite vegetable that I struggle to get my kids to eat — broccoli! You can find the recipe here. I love to make it for dinner, and then we usually have about two servings leftover to have for lunch the following day. My husband and I usually take the leftovers because we love this meal so much, we just don’t want to share!
Okay, so I know not everyone is sold on the idea of vegetables being finely chopped up to manipulate and replace the fluffy deliciousness of rice. I get it! But hear me out. If you prep cauliflower rice in a way that is packed with flavor, you really can’t tell a difference and it does provide a lot more nutrition and less carbs than rice. Below is my tried and true recipe for fried cauliflower rice. It is a simple, but surely Americanized twist, on traditional Chinese fried rice. I always serve it with egg rolls, which are the star of the show, but the kids always eat all of their cauliflower rice so I can’t complain!
Fried Cauliflower Rice
1/4 c frozen peas and carrots
16 oz bag frozen cauliflower rice
2 Tbsp (more or less to taste) soy sauce
Spray a large pan with non-stick cooking spray. Scramble your egg and cook in pan, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Add frozen peas and carrots and cauliflower rice. Once cooked, add soy sauce and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetable and egg mixture has absorbed all of the soy sauce and there is no sitting liquid in pan. Serve and enjoy!
Macaroni and Cheese
This is all three of my kids’ favorite meals, EVER. They would prefer to eat Kraft in a box every day, but we compromise and they have come to appreciate different varieties of mac and cheese. Of course, I use this to my advantage and try to sneak veggies in their diet when I can!
Did you know you can cook and puree carrots, squash, cauliflower, or zucchini and add it to your cheese sauce? A friend of mine also adds broccoli and calls it “mac and trees”. The kids fall for the name alone! My favorite mac and cheese recipe can be found here. It uses butternut squash to make the sauce, and I promise you it is one of the most delicious and creamy mac and cheese recipes around! There are a few unique ingredients you might have to plan for, but it is so worth it! My family always looks forward to having this meal for dinner.
Mamas, we are in this fruit and veggie struggle together! I hope these tips and recipes help your family incorporate a few new foods in your diet, or at least jumpstart ideas on your own ways to introduce a larger variety of fruits and veggies at meal time!