Find my very best hidden-veggie recipes to add more produce to your family’s diet—and the scoop on why you actually may want to tell the kids what’s in their food for the long run.
Hidden Veggie Recipes
I want to start by saying there is so much pressure out there to get our kids to eat every food—especially more vegetables—and so much of that advice is completely removed from the reality of the development of little kids. I am a firm believer that we don’t have to pack everything our kids eat with vegetables and that it makes a lot of sense to call foods what they actually are. Ditch the fear that they won’t eat something simply because it contains a vegetable.
(You may like my Pasta Sauces with Vegetables post, too.)
I understand the nutritional urge to hide vegetables in food, but as soon as a child realizes we put something they didn’t want or expect into their food, they may never eat it again. And it may decrease their trust in us to be honest at the table.
So instead of thinking about recipes that have veggies in them as having to be hidden, I simply consider them as having veggies added. And I call the food what it is—Marinara Sauce with Extra Veggies, Green Pasta Sauce, Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, and so on to help drive home the idea that we don’t have to fear our food.
Best Recipes with Extra Produce
For my best veggie-packed recipes, see below. And know that many kids may be more interested in eating these foods if they get to help prep the produce or make the dish. My kids love to add veggies to a blender and watch them disappear into the sauce we’re making!
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I love this as an option for recipes for kids, for when we’re sick and wanting extra comfort, or simply as a way to add nutrients into a child’s diet when variety is otherwise lacking. Also: It’s a wonderful and easy way to add flavor to all sorts of foods.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
This mac and cheese is a family favorite and one of our go-to comfort food recipes. By adding the cauliflower right to the cheese sauce, we’re able to tuck a veggie right into the sauce without having to make a side dish to go with dinner.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
If your family loves creamy, cheesy pasta and you’re looking for a simple way to up their veggie intake—because aren’t we always?!—this super simple 5-Ingredient Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese needs to be on your menu.
Red Pepper Pasta Sauce
I’ve been looking for yummy ways to incorporate different veggies than we usually eat, and this red pepper sauce is a new favorite. I love how roasting the peppers with onions and garlic deepens their flavors and that it’s as simple as blending everything together after that step.
Green Pasta Sauce
This recipe is easy in that we cook the veggies in the same water as the pasta, the sauce can be made separately and frozen for future meals if you prefer to meal prep, and it’s filling enough to work as a vegetarian main dish.
Add extra veggies to your next pot of marinara sauce for more nutrition and the classic flavor your family expects.
Chicken Nuggets with Sweet Potato
These homemade Chicken Nuggets (with sweet potato!) are an easy toddler dinner that parents will enjoy, too. They’re packed with nutrition and have a veggie right in the mix!
Spinach Banana Muffins
Each bite is packed with nutrients from greens and fruit—and the interior is so moist that even babies can enjoy these easy blender muffins!
Spinach Banana Pancakes
These sweet Banana Spinach Pancakes are a favorite when you’re looking to boost nutrition in a favorite breakfast option.
Chocolate Protein Muffins
These flourless Chocolate Protein Muffins pack in the nutrients but taste like a brownie. They are quickly mixed up in a blender and have so many nutrients tucked inside.
Extra-Veggie Recipes (that Aren’t Pasta)
If you’re wanting some easy ideas with extra veggies that aren’t pasta, these are my go-tos.
- Cauliflower Cheesy Rice
- Spinach Banana Pancakes
- Savory Veggie Muffins
- Chicken Nuggets with Sweet Potato
- Broccoli Cheese Waffles
- Toddler Meatballs
- Carrot Cake Oatmeal
- Vegetable Broth
- Spinach Banana Muffins
- Blueberry Spinach Smoothie
How to Add Veggies to Food Without Deception
I am a big fan of adding produce to recipes when it adds flavor or enhances the texture. (I mean clearly, just look at my Recipe Index!) And adding fruits and veggies to easy to eat foods like muffins, meatballs, pasta, smoothies, and popsicles makes it easy for everyone to eat well, including caregivers. But for kids to eat these foods when they’re older and without us, they need to know they’re eating them. And like them. At least sometimes.
So the next time you add cauliflower to a smoothie, have your kids put it into the blender and watch it disappear together. When you make pasta sauce with extra veggies, tell the kids at the dinner table why their sauce tastes so good.
When you make Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, explain what helps to make the sauce so creamy.
It takes kids (and adults) a lot of time and experiences with foods to eat a broad range. This is a normal part of childhood development (you can read more about neophobia) that we can work through over time. Promise!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and how you serve up veggies to your kids, so please comment below to share below.