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No matter whether your child is a wonderfully adventurous eater or has a notorious picky palate, convincing little ones to eat vegetables can be a challenge. After all, you want them to not just tolerate the green things but to enjoy them as well. Instead of “tricking” kids into eating vegetables by hiding them in purees, try simply incorporating them as they are into foods they already know and love. The idea is that over time, they’ll associate veggies with their favorite dishes and realize that they’re not so bad after all. Known kid-friendly picks like pot pies, not-too-spicy chili and pasta are easy vehicles for showcasing new vegetables without becoming overpowered by them. Try Food Network’s favorite kid-approved recipes below, then tell us in the comments: How do you encourage your kids to eat vegetables?
Giada transforms a comfort food favorite — the pot pie — into a kid-friendly staple simply by shrinking its size. Imagine a single big-batch pot pie. Now picture what a scoop of that on a plate looks like to a child. It’s not exactly appealing, even though the flavors are surely top-notch, right? The key to Giada’s top-rated recipe for Mini Chicken and Broccoli Pot Pies (pictured above) is making each pie small enough for kids to eat with their hands in just a few bites. If little ones see a piping-hot pile of vegetables taking up a large portion of their plate, chances are they’ll feel overwhelmed by what’s staring back at them. Thanks to their balance of fresh broccoli florets, tender chopped chicken and a creamy cheese sauce, Giada’s pot pies, however, aren’t intimidating to even the most stubborn veggie-refusers. Best of all, this recipe takes advantage of frozen store-bought pie crust so it’s a cinch for moms and dads to prepare on weeknights.
Just as with pot pies, vegetable soup becomes exciting to kids when it includes ingredients they already enjoy, like noodles. In her recipe for Minestrone Soup With Pasta, Beans and Vegetables, mom Robin Miller combines chopped zucchini and spinach with soup mainstays like onion and celery to offer a well-rounded batch of veggies. She opts for adding precooked ditalini pasta — tiny tube-shaped noodles — to the broth for hearty substance and finishes each bowl with Parmesan cheese. Prep this soup in the slow cooker before you leave in the morning then come back later to find a dinner waiting for you.
For the ultimate vegetable swap in, try replacing spaghetti noodles with spaghetti squash and serving it with tomato sauce and meatballs for a look-alike pasta dinner. If you’ve never cooked spaghetti squash before, know that it takes on the shape of very thin spaghetti (think angel hair-style) and feels lighter and more delicate than traditional noodles but acts similarly to them. To make Food Network Magazine‘s Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs (pictured right), simply roast the halved squash, shred it into strands and top with an oregano-laced tomato sauce and beefy meatballs. Since the squash tends to absorb the flavor of its topping, in this case the sauce, your kids may not even notice the change in “noodles.”
Browse Food Network’s favorite recipes for kids for more easy meal ideas and tips for cooking with your family.