I have three kids, and a husband that can still be somewhat picky, so I have learned a few techniques over the years that have helped to get the veggies eaten in our house. Here are a few of those; and I honestly hope that they help. Fruits and vegetables should truly make up the majority of a healthy diet, and most kids in our country are not eating as many as they should.
1. Green Peas. Almost every vegetable that I see kids turn their noses up at is overcooked. Don’t ever buy peas in a can: they are already destroyed. They are cooked simply by boiling a pan of water, and then adding a bag of frozen peas. Stir the peas into the water with a spoon, and as soon as that water begins to bubble, remove the peas from the heat and drain off the water. My kids love them warm with garlic powder, salt, and melted butter, or cold on top of a green salad or in a pasta salad with vinaigrette.
2. Carrots. Actually working some knife skills will help a lot with carrots. I have seen children devour a platter of carrots that I have cut into thin julienne strips, when they will not even touch the baby carrots right out of the bag. Few kids like cooked carrots in butter or a sweet sauce in my experience, but when shaved thinly into a chili or a vegetable soup with a peeler, my kids always gobble them up. Remember to buy a dry packet of ranch dressing at the grocery store and then mix it with cream and sour cream at home to avoid the added sugars found in pre-made dressings, for serving raw carrot sticks.
3. Green Beans. The cutting technique can come into play with these as well. To get kids to eat green beans, I always buy French Cut Green Beans. They can either be canned or frozen. Then I sauté them with garlic and red onion in olive oil and top them with salt and pepper. My kids absolutely love this dish, even though they will not even touch southern-style green beans that have been boiled with ham and bacon drippings for hours upon end.
4. Tomatoes. My daughter still will not touch a plain raw tomato, although she will eat salsa all day, or tomato sauce or cooked tomatoes. The key is in the size of the bites. I have discovered that she will even scoff at tomatoes that are diced in sauce (according to the can), but will devour a petite dice without complaint. Please note that store bought ketchup is NOT to be considered a vegetable under any circumstances. As a matter of fact, most ketchup varieties contain more than fifty percent sugar.
5. Broccoli. Again with this vegetable, cooking can make all of the difference. All three of my kids like broccoli, one adores it and will eat entire heads. I always, always, blanch broccoli. I boil water and remove it from the heat completely before stirring chopped broccoli into it for no longer than a minute before draining. No amount of melted cheese could ever get me to touch broccoli as a kid. Strangely enough however, a very savvy cafeteria lady in elementary school got me to start eating it with red wine vinegar and salt. I still enjoy it that way occasionally today, and I have never met anyone who will eat broccoli who does not enjoy it more when topped with browned butter.
6. Celery and Cabbage. These two veggies have awesome fiber and both undergo complete transformations in flavor when stewed. Soup is the answer. I throw them both into my vegetable soup, which the kids adore, and they are both common ingredients in all kinds of soups that are healthy for kids.
7. Pumpkin. I sneak canned pumpkin into all kinds of things in our house. It goes into spaghetti sauce, as well as into chili. I have made homemade hot chocolate with pumpkin, as well as custard, and it goes great in warm rice or oatmeal at breakfast.
8. Spinach. It is green and has a strong flavor, but it has scads of vitamins and minerals, so it is good to try and work it into meals. Surprisingly, my kids will eat it willingly when chopped and added to scrambled eggs with ground pork. Spinach can also be easily incorporated into meatballs as well as meatloaf and typically goes completely unnoticed by children.
9. Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and Artichokes. These can be hard sells, but I find that the one thing that will get kids munching on them is the fact that they can all be dipped in melted butter. We boil artichokes in our house, and when there is melted butter around, they disappear before my eyes. For asparagus and Brussels sprouts, I find that the best bet is to roast them sprinkled with salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic powder. At 350, this takes about 30 min for sprouts, and 10 for asparagus.
10. Cauliflower. This is a vegetable that I kept trying to prepare in a way that my kids would like, and I have yet to succeed. Then I woke up one day and thought: “Why bother?” Cauliflower is a white vegetable that contains relatively few vitamins and minerals. Who cares if they eat it, then? If they decide to when they are older, then great. For now I am sticking to working on the vegetables that pack a bigger nutritional punch.