The battle to get young children to eat their greens is as old as history. So maybe it’s time for some ninja moves! With these easy recipe ideas in your arsenal, your kids will be eating healthily without even knowing it (you can tell them when they’re older).
Use cauliflower as a pizza base
Every child loves pizza and cauliflower is perfect as a substitute for the conventional flour-and-egg base because it is bland; it wouldn’t set your children’s veggie radars off as most vegetables will. When done properly, cauliflower also forms a nice, crisp base that most associate with rustic, thin-crust pizza. Not to mention how nutritious the cruciferous vegetable is. Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of manganese, which are two powerful antioxidants, brain food that is crucial for your children’s health and wellbeing. It is also an excellent source of vitamin K, an anti-inflammatory nutrient, and fibre.
How to do it: First, pulse raw cauliflower until it reaches a rice-like texture. Boil the cauliflower until just soft and strain. Place the boiled cauliflower in a clean cloth and squeeze out the excess water (be careful, the cauliflower is hot!). When it is nice and dry, mix it with some egg and seasonings, form it into a base, then bake in the oven at 220°C until it is browned.
Swap out potatoes
Potatoes are everywhere in our Malaysian diets - simmering in stews, stir-fried with meat - so there’s an abundance of opportunity to replace them with their healthier cousins, sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a veritable motherlode of nutrients, including calcium, vitamin A, C and B6 and potassium. They are also high in fibre, being a complex carbohydrate. Another good potato substitute is pumpkin, also a complex carbohydrate, as it has excellent credentials on the nutrient front. Just beware as pumpkin cooks faster so put them into your cooking only towards the end.
How to do it: Try making sweet potato fries. The kids will love the savoury-sweet flavour and you’ll love the fact that it’s baked, not fried, and healthy as anything.
Puree vegetables and sneak them into sauces
When making pasta or pizza (such as the cauliflower base for pizza in no.1!) or any kind of stewed or braised meats, amp up the nutrition quotient by adding puréed vegetables. Lutein-rich carrots, cauliflower and stronger-tasting green leafy vegetables, filled with iron and zinc, can be hidden quite effectively in a tomato-based sauce while pumpkin and sweet potato, both complex carbohydrates, add depth as well as vitamins and minerals to cream-based sauces. Pumpkin is especially suitable as it becomes creamy when cooked, giving, say, a carbonara or a white stew greater body and flavour.
How to do it: Cook the vegetables you intend to purée first until soft, adding salt and pepper and other seasonings to taste. Purée then add them to your sauces at the end of the cooking time and simmer for a short while to allow the flavours to mix.
When trying a new recipe, stick to ingredients your children are familiar with, then slowly add new flavours to reduce the chances of them outright refusing to even try it because it looks/smells funny. Now, go forth and introduce these veggie-packed foods to them. Your kids will thank you later. If they ever find out!