How to Hide Vegetables from Even the Most Suspicious Eaters
Story by Lisa A. Listwa
Over the last several years, I’ve tried to find ways to add more vegetables to our diet. It’s easy for me – I love just about every vegetable I’ve ever met. I have a child who also loves vegetables, with a few exceptions she feels very strongly about not eating. Then there’s my husband. He has a roster of vegetables he is quite willing to eat. But he also has a list of vegetables he will not consider under any circumstances. And of course, their lists don’t exactly match.
Which means it’s my job to figure out how to keep everybody happy. Most days it’s easy enough to incorporate vegetable side dishes, salads, and vegetarian or vegan options into our menus. These are probably the things most people think of doing to add more vegetables. But what if you’re looking for ways to increase your vegetable intake without stacking your plate sky-high with salads? Or you have a vegetable resistant eater in your house? And how do you keep your meat-lovers satisfied and still add more vegetables?
I’ve got you covered. This week I’ve pulled together a collection of ideas to help you sneak in those stealth vegetables. Some are merely sort of sneaky, but some are ways to truly keep those veggies hidden.
Let’s get started.
Smoothies are a quick and easy way to start your day with vegetables. Add a handful of spinach or kale to any smoothie. Fruit masks the taste of greens – especially baby spinach – and dark-colored fruits hide the color as well. Mix shredded carrot with peach or red beets with berries. Leftover pumpkin puree makes a delicious pumpkin spice smoothie to start your day. Try this smoothie with berries, beets, and spinach.
Eggs and vegetables work great together. Whip up an omelet, frittata, or scrambled eggs and toss in your favorite diced vegetables. What if your kids don’t want to look at vegetables in their eggs? Pureed or grated cauliflower will blend in and go virtually unnoticed.
Muffins, pancakes, waffles, and quick breads are all terrific places to hide some vegetables. Try adding pureed butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato to your batter. Grated zucchini and summer squash work well here, too. Who could say no to pumpkin chocolate chip waffles?
Instead of simply stirring brown sugar into your oatmeal, try upping your oatmeal game with pumpkin or sweet potato puree, finely minced zucchini, carrot, or even cauliflower. I want to see if my cauliflower-resistant daughter will like blueberry cauliflower oatmeal.
Lettuce, tomato, and onion are familiar additions to lunch sandwiches. But thin slices of carrot, radish, or cucumber add great flavor and a bit of crunch. Add some vegetables to your grilled cheese – tomato or thin slices of raw zucchini are delicious. Add grated cauliflower to chicken or tuna salad or even grated broccoli stems. Try using lettuce or other hardy greens for wraps instead of sandwich bread.
Add a cupful of chopped fresh or frozen vegetables to any soup for an easy veggie boost. (Bonus points if it also helps you clean out those tiny amounts of leftover veggies in your fridge or freezer.) A little bit of pureed cauliflower can substitute for dairy and give your soups a creamy feel.
Diced or shredded vegetables and greens can easily be added to sauces, stews, soups, chili, sloppy joes, and casseroles. Try adding finely chopped zucchini, mushroom, onions, eggplant, yellow squash, carrots, or tomatoes to your favorite recipes. Vegetable purees work well here, too.
Don’t forget that herbs are greens, too! Mix fresh herbs into your pasta, rice, or grain dishes. Pesto is easy to make, and I’ve made it out of just about everything green from basil to kale and even watercress. Add pesto to soups, sauces, dressings, and more. My husband loves it as a sandwich spread.
Boost your favorite meatloaf or meatball recipe with shredded zucchini or carrots. Swap in finely chopped mushrooms for a portion of the meat. These veggie-packed turkey meatballs are quick, easy, and have lots of room for customization. Add finely chopped greens, herbs, pesto, or vegetables to your burgers.
Give mac and cheese an interesting makeover by adding zucchini, tomatoes, peas, or broccoli. If the family just won’t go for seeing vegetables in their mac, cauliflower works great and blends right in. Check out this recipe for mac and cheese with sweet potato.
Mixing some sweet potato into your regular mashed potatoes or swap in mashed cauliflower for half of the potatoes. Try zucchini or cauliflower tots or root vegetable fries instead of the standard potato versions. For a side dish or even your main entrée, try veggie cakes or fritters made of squash, zucchini, potatoes, or even beets. My daughter won’t even look at spaghetti squash on its own, but when we made these baked spaghetti squash fritters, she couldn’t get enough.
Pizza has plenty of room for vegetables. Try zucchini and cauliflower pizza crusts. Add some spinach or zucchini puree to your crust before the sauce for another healthy boost. Load the veggies on top of your pizza and feel a lot less guilty about pizza night.
Pasta can be kind of boring but add vegetables and you have a colorful, exciting meal. Vegetable noodles are another great option. Use a spiralizer or vegetable peeler to make your own vegetable noodles out of squash, carrot, beet, cucumber, zucchini, and more. Substitute spaghetti squash for pasta and top with your favorite sauce (and vegetables!). Or try some cool vegetable-based pastas. We love Cybele’s Superbfood pastas.
Homemade fried rice is a big hit around here. It’s fast and easy and offers plenty of opportunity to use whatever veggies you have on hand. Vegetables blend nicely with the flavors of the stir fry and it’s a quick weeknight meal. Grab your favorite recipe for homemade fried rice or try this sweet potato fried rice for a different twist.
Desserts and Snacks
We make a lot of homemade popsicles around here. These work in much the same way as smoothies as far as slipping in the secret vegetables, so go ahead and make a double batch of your favorites and freeze for a cool snack or dessert.
Red beets sneak beautifully into chocolatey baked goods and produce a perfect red velvet effect without the artificial food dye. Check out these beautiful red velvet beet cupcakes with strawberry coconut whipped cream. Try this healthy version of the tried-and-true favorite carrot cake or its healthy three-layer cousin parsnip cake. My daughter loves zucchini brownies because the zucchini makes them so moist. One of our favorite cookie recipes is a zucchini oatmeal chocolate chip cookie that gets rave reviews everywhere.
I like to always have a few different vegetables chopped and at the ready for snacking. But for those who don’t love their vegetables straight up, sometimes just a little something extra helps. Try offering veggie sticks with some dressing or hummus for dipping. Celery stalks, mini bell pepper, or cherry tomatoes stuffed with flavored cream cheese make delicious snacks. When she was small, our daughter wouldn’t touch celery until we called it “ants on a log.” We found some fun variations here and here.
I hope some of these suggestions are helpful and I’m sure you’ll find plenty more ideas out there to try as well. The question I ask myself most often is “why can’t there be vegetables in this?” Then I work on figuring out how to do it. The best way to get started is just to consider the possibilities.
Share your creative veggie tricks with your crew if you like. I think it’s kind of fun to reveal after everybody has enjoyed the meal, but my family is onto me. Someone usually asks, “OK, what’s in it that you’re keeping secret?” I just tell them to taste first rather than make a judgment based on the ingredient. I’ll fill them in after they like it.
Of course, you can always keep your tricks completely to yourself, too. We’ll let it be our secret.