Kids and vegetables: How do you get your children to eat healthy?

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Answered by: Michael, An Expert in the Cooking for Kids - General Category
Ask any parent what comes to mind when they hear kids and vegetables. Their first thought will likely resemble an unhappy toddler spewing forth a mushy, half-chewed green substance, followed by bouts of gagging.

It's an all-too familiar scenario that plays out daily.

Some parents don't have this problem. Those lucky few have produced children who genuinely enjoy eating fruits and vegetables. In rare instances, their kids will actually ask for them. Unheard of right?

That's because for the rest of civilization, kids and vegetables, and to a lesser extent fruit, requires careful planning and a little trickery. Don't think of it as lying to your kids, though. Think of it more as telling the truth while conveniently leaving out a few key details.

The name of the game is puree. Make it liquid and make it invisible. If they don't know the vegetables are in the meal, they can't complain about it.

Case in point: Most kids love pasta. Most kids love chicken. However, most kids hate cauliflower with the power of a 1,000 suns. How can you combine the three, sans eliciting your child's gag reflex? First start the pasta noodles. Either angel hair or regular spaghetti noodles work best. For the chicken, use boneless tenderloins and cut them up into half-inch to 1-inch pieces. Either season and bake the chicken using bread crumbs or use salt and pepper and utilize a slow cooker to preserve juiciness.

Meanwhile, chop up and puree some cauliflower in a blender. After that's finished, add the pureed cauliflower to the Alfredo sauce you already have slightly bubbling on the stove. Mix it up and get ready to pour it atop the noodles and chicken.

The end result is a quick, easy and tasty meal your kids will love that includes vegetables. The best part is they have no idea. Only an extremely refined palate will pick out the cauliflower flavor amidst all the creamy, buttery Alfredo goodness.

This can work for a number of vegetables: broccoli, pumpkin, spinach, butternut squad, etc.

The key in determining what vegetable to use in what recipe is color. In the example of the Alfredo sauce, since it is a white sauce, cauliflower works best. But color doesn't have to be the lone determining factor.

Another easy way to sneak vegetables into your kids' dinner is through another childhood favorite ... cheeseburgers. This is why you should never purchase or preform patties prior to freezing. After thawing out the meat, start mixing in pureed spinach in with the ground beef. Mix it thoroughly. The taste of the spinach is masked by the cheeseburger's natural flavors.

To ensure secrecy, use other herbs and spices to mask the flavor. Try a mixture of fresh ground pepper, onion salt, garlic salt and basil. It gives the burger a great flavor and your children will be completely and blissfully unaware as to the nutritional dynamo hiding in side.

The bottom line? These are your kids. You want them to eat healthy so be as creative as necessity calls for in ensuring they eat the proper amount of vegetables.

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