We’ve all heard it before: kids just don’t like vegetables. But the truth is, kids will crave carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, legumes, and other plant-based ingredients if they are prepared properly.
But how do you cook vegetables so that they’re as fun and desirable as a chicken nugget, pizza slice, or quesadilla?
Well, you can take a number of different approaches. The simplest way is to add vegetables to foods they already like. That means folding extra peas and carrots into pasta, adding beans to their favorite rice dish, or topping a pizza with colorful veggies. Another option is transforming plant-based ingredients into foods that kids recognize and enjoy. Making veggie tots, nuggets, or burgers is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into meals, and these types of foods also benefit because they can be dressed up with condiments like ketchup, honey mustard, or barbecue sauce.
Another easy trick from Meatless Monday Culinary Ambassador, Chef Priyanka, is to introduce a new veggie every week. Start by letting your kid(s) pick out a new vegetable at the grocery store or farmer’s market so they feel involved in the process. Then use that veggie in different meals throughout the week. For example, cauliflower can be whole roasted, made into ‘steaks’, turned into fritters, sautéed over noodles, made into rice, and more.
However, the best way to entice young eaters to eat their fruits and vegetables is to get them involved in the cooking process. Kids are more likely to taste-test new veggie foods when they have helped prepare the meal. And there are many simple tasks that kids of all ages can do in the kitchen, from sprinkling cheese, to mixing ingredients, and decorating pizzas.
This Monday, we’re providing you with some inspiration with our list of kid-friendly meatless meals that the whole family can enjoy. Some of the recipes are plant-based spins on old-time favorites, while others present common vegetables in new ways, but they all share one thing in common: kids will want to eat them.
Baked Veggie Tots
This recipe for veggie tots from Sweet Simple Vegan is loaded with nutrient-rich ingredients like carrots, cauliflower, and zucchini. Using bread crumbs and flax eggs as a binder recreates the crisp, chewy texture of tater tots.
For the Baked Veggie Tots recipe, click here.
Black Bean “Meatballs”
A meatless alternative to a kid-friendly staple, these black bean meatballs from Myra of The Happy Health Freak can help convince picky eaters to try more plant-based foods. You can toss these “meatballs” with any sauce (jarred or homemade) and serve them with either traditional spaghetti or vegetable zoodles.
For the Black Bean “Meatballs” recipe, click here.
Baked Polenta Fries
Instead of oily French fries, go with this recipe for baked polenta fries from Sherry of Exploits of a Vegan Wannabe. The polenta has a mild taste (and often comes precooked), and it can easily be cut into familiar shapes perfect for dipping.
For the Baked Polenta Fries recipe, click here.
Chickpea, Avocado, Cucumber Salad
A simple crowd pleaser, this chickpea, avocado, cucumber salad from The Six O’Clock Scramble is an easy way to get everyone at the dinner table to eat their vegetables. The bite-sized veggies and chickpeas make great finger foods for little eaters to enjoy. Fresh herbs and a homemade dressing make this a clean and refreshing side dish to any meal.
For the Chickpea, Avocado, Cucumber Salad recipe, click here.
Creamy Butternut Squash “Mac n Cheese”
Don’t be afraid to push your child’s palate. This recipe from Christopher Mohs of Pumpernickel and Rye is a great way to introduce kids to the earthy sweetness of squash, and it may even motivate them to try other squash dishes.
For the Creamy Butternut Squash “Mac n Cheese” recipe, click here.
Easy Black Bean Burritos
Sometimes you want to simply snap your fingers and have a healthy dinner just appear. These easy black bean burritos are nutritious, delicious, and a breeze to make. There’s actually very little cooking required: you can use canned black bean soup and reduce it until it’s a stew-like consistency to save time.
For the Easy Black Bean Burrito recipe, click here.
Rainbow Veggie Pizza
We eat with our eyes, and the same goes for adolescent eaters. This rainbow veggie pizza recipe from Tawnie of Kroll’s Korner is as fun to look at as it is to eat. Packed with all sorts of vegetables, this pizza can be served for lunch, dinner, or midday snack.
For the Rainbow Veggie Pizza recipe, click here.
Frozen Banana Peanut Pops
When you freeze bananas, they develop a smooth texture similar to ice cream. These frozen banana peanut pops from Phoebe Lapine of Feed Me Phoebe are easy to assemble, making them perfect for a young helper to make. Dip them in chocolate, roll in peanuts, and stick in the freezer for a healthier dessert option.
For the Frozen Banana Peanut Pops recipe, click here.
Lentil Sloppy Joes
These lentil Sloppy Joe sandwiches are a plant-based twist on a childhood classic. This recipe from The Family Dinner Project is simple to assemble and a great way to get kids excited about cooking. Plus, it’s pretty fun to eat.
For the Lentil Sloppy Joes recipe, click here.
Classic Tomato Soup
Kids and adults love the nostalgic simplicity of tomato soup. This recipe from Tomato Wellness is completely plant-based, using vegetable stock instead of dairy. Toast up some bread and you have a quick and easy lunch ready to go.
For the Classic Tomato Soup recipe, click here.
Vegan Zucchini Fritters
Crispy on the outside and warm and moist on the inside, these vegan zucchini fritters from Loving It Vegan are a healthier alternative to French fries and hash browns. Just make sure to completely drain the zucchini of its moisture before frying, so that you get a light and toasty crust.
For the Vegan Zucchini Fritters recipe, click here.
Transforming vegetables into fun and relatable shapes is a great way to encourage kids to try them. But this recipe for veggie nuggets from Sally of Real Mom Nutrition is a healthy snack that’s suitable for people of all ages.
For the Veggie Nuggets recipe, click here.
Interested in exploring more kid-friendly recipes? Check out The Kids Cook Monday for culinary inspiration and for ways to get young people excited about cooking.