Vegetables should be a major part of a balanced diet, in fact ideally we should be eating at least as much vegetables as we do grains (carbohydrates). Vegetables contain a lot of vitamins, minerals and fibre. The more variety of vegetables we eat, the more different nutrients we will consume. Unfortunately many children (and even adults) do not include enough vegetables in their diet. So how do you get your child to eat more veggies?
Like I always mention in my social media posts, repeated exposure is always important. When my daughter tells me "I don't like it" I simply answer "You don't like it YET". So I would always advise to offer vegetables in packed lunches and family dinners and to include your child when you are preparing these meals so that they can be familiar with different vegetables, even if they are for now refusing them. Here are some easy ways to include veggies inside the lunchbox:
1. Serve vegetables as they are
Like I said above, putting a few slices of cucumber or carrot, or a couple of cherry tomatoes, exposes the child to vegetables, and they might some day decide to try them. Using accessories such as food picks, lunchbox forks and Lunch Punch stix, or cutting them with a crinkle cutter or mini shape, makes them look more fun to eat.
Vegetables can easily be included in smoothies and very often they get 'hidden'. Spinach, cucumber and avocado are my favourite. But you can also add cauliflower, baby carrots, kale and beetroot for example. If you are new to smoothies, check out my video on how to prepare a balanced healthy smoothie. An easy way to serve a smoothie in a packed lunch, is using a food pouch
Soups are a hearty meal and perfect especially for during the colder months. Pack your child's favourite vegetable soup in an insulated food jar with some bread or croutons on the side. Some of my favourite soups are: Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup, Vegan Roasted Cauliflower Soup and Butternut Squash Soup.. My daughter also likes carrot soup and sometimes mixed vegetable soup (minestra).
4. Fillings in sandwiches and wraps
Sometimes a child might not eat a vegetable alone but will gladly accept it inside a sandwich or wrap: lettuce, grated carrot, avocado and baby spinach are easy examples. Some ideas could be:
- cream cheese + grated carrot + raisins
- lettuce + chicken
- avocado + ham or bacon
- hummus + baby spinach or cucumber
Incorporating vegetables inside muffins is probably the easiest way to go. Both savoury and sweet muffins can be made using veg, sometimes without your child realizing. Check out my 10 Muffin Recipes for Snacks and Packed Lunches and you will see that most of them contain at least one vegetable ingredient. They are ideal for replacing sandwiches and can be batch cooked and frozen.
Dips are great because you can add vegetables when creating the dip or even use vegetable sticks to dunk into them. Some ideas for nutritious dips:
- Spinach hummus
- Pumpkin hummus
- Beetroot hummus
- Sweet Potato hummus
- Creamy Avocado dip
- Spinach pesto
7. Pancakes and Waffles
Pancakes and waffles are not the first things that come to mind when we think of incorporating vegetables, but they could be a great way to present veg in the lunch. For example check out these Savoury Waffles which look delicious. These Sweet Potato Pancakes , Pink Beet Pancakes and Pumpkin Pancakes are also perfect for the lunchbox.
8. Quiche / Pies
Quiche and pies always have an element of vegetables inside. If your child likes to eat these, send them to school in their packed lunch. They can be leftovers from dinner or you could make mini quiche or pies in a muffin tray.
9. Egg muffins / Frittata
Egg cups or egg muffins are basically whisked eggs with additions of your choice. Having the shape of a muffin they are easy to pack into the lunchbox and the flavour can be varied depending on what you add into it. Here is a good place to start for ideas. With a frittata, the mixture is cooked in a dish or baking tray and then sliced into rectangles / triangles to fit into the lunchbox.
For those kids who are pizza-obsessed, try including some vegetables as toppings. You will be combining them with a food that they love, plus if they really don't want to eat it, they can easily pick them off, so you don't have to worry about your child going hungry. Try my Mini Pancake Pizza or try making lunchbox size pizzas using this Two ingredient dough. Add their favourite toppings and then 1 vegetable ingredient such bell peppers, corn, peas, grated carrot, mushrooms etc. If you're thinking 'there's no way my child will eat that', how about adding veg to the pizza sauce and blending it? worth a try!
Pastries can make boring food seem fun because they scream party-mode! Check out these Pizza scrolls with red bell pepper, Cream cheese and sundried tomato pinwheels, Lunchbox sausage rolls and Vegan Sweet Potato sausage rolls as easy examples. You could also put veg in some home made pies.
12. Patties and veggie nuggets
These Mini Beetroot Falafel are divine and so cute for the lunchbox. So are these Broccoli nuggets. But really any veggie-loaded patties you prepare at home can be sent to school and either eaten cold or put in an insulated food jar.
It's always a good idea to serve leftovers from dinner especially if they enjoyed eating them, e.g. peas, bell peppers, cauliflower rice, cauliflower cheese, pasta salads with veg, pasta bakes that contain veg etc. Plus serving leftovers is a great way to reduce waste.
Finally, Don't beat yourself up if you try all of the above and they come back uneaten! If you're offering them in the first place then you're already doing a great job!