adding more veggies to our kids' meals title page over image of vegetables

A Simple Way to Add More Veggies to Kids’ Meals

For some kids, eating more vegetables is easier said than done. Today’s post is for the children who don’t cheerfully devour a wide variety of plant-based foods (fruit, vegetables, etc). It’s a simple and tiny step that can hopefully be included into the meals they do enjoy eating.

Briefly? It’s adding pureed foods to existing dishes. Just replace some of the liquid in a recipe with a thin puree. For one example, if a pancake mix calls for 1 cup of water, use half a cup of water and half a cup of pureed vegetables. Below, I’ll go through the step-by-step details of what this looks like with a variety of foods, and how to minimize unwanted taste combinations.

To which meals can purees be added?

Almost any food that we prepare can have the puree added. The amount varies depending on the flavors and preferences of the person eating, but here are a few dishes to which I’ve added various purees. Most happen to be foods I already know my family will eat. (They’re also foods to which I often add flaxseed which I discussed in a recent newsletter. Subscribe for future kids’ health e-mails).

  • pancakes
  • waffles
  • chaffles
  • french toast
  • oatmeal
  • apple sauce
  • muffins
  • granola bars
  • baked veggie tots
  • savory sauces (i.e. pasta sauce)
  • smoothies and shakes

How to Prepare the Purees for Adding to Other Dishes

Preparing the purees isn’t complicated. When I don’t have any leftovers immediately available,* I love using frozen produce (as discussed more here. Please also note that I will freeze any fresh produce that looks like it won’t get eaten before going bad. So far, it all works in the pureed form, including foods like lettuce and avocado).

I take a small amount out of the freezer, place in a microwave safe bowl, add enough water to cover the produce, then microwave until it’s soft, usually about a minute).

Then, I add the vegetables and water to a small blender. (I use the same one from when I prepared baby food. A handheld immersion blender or regular blender would also work, of course).

I eyeball the amount of water added to achieve the desired consistency. If it’s an unpopular veggie, I add more water to get to a thinner puree (more dilute).

Next, I add it to the meal I’m making. More on this below.

*When preparing vegetables as part of other meals, I try to set aside a small amount and not season them. This way, a few extra vegetables (without garlic or onion flavor, for example) are usually easily available to puree as needed.

Storing Leftover Puree

For the remaining puree, there are two options. I usually keep it in a small airtight container in the refrigerator and use it with other dishes over the next day or so. If more is leftover (or I don’t anticipate using it), I’ll freeze it, either in a zip top bag (laying it flat so that it’s frozen in a thin layer and easy to break off a chunk as needed in the future). If there’s a large amount leftover, ice cube trays are a great option, then transferring the cubes to a bag once frozen, to prevent freezer burn.

In the future, these frozen purees can be easily thawed and added to other recipes.

For what it’s worth, if one of my more inventive smoothies (ahem, broccoli?) isn’t a hit, I’ll freeze it the same way and then add to future dishes too.

Subtly Adding Purees to Meals

As mentioned earlier, the key here is just replacing some of the liquid with a puree. It’s trial and error of not impacting the taste in an unpleasant way.

Adding Pureed Veggies to Pancakes, Waffles, and Muffins

Generally, I replace about half to three fourths of the liquid in pancakes, waffles, and muffins with a puree. In my experience, spinach, lettuce, root vegetables and fruit-based purees don’t add too strong of a flavor. I’ve learned to add much less of a puree from green beans, bell peppers, or broccoli. (I’d love to hear if these preferences are similar in other families!)

For those that like the flavor, a few drops of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of cinnamon helps with the overall flavor, especially if there’s something new or unfamiliar in the mixture as well.

(Here’s my old Instagram post on some festive pancakes).

On a slightly off topic note, for kids who don’t eat much meat: adding more eggs to replace the extra liquid in pancakes is another way to add some extra nutrients if needed. (Yes, the texture is affected somewhat, but they’re still pretty close to what we expect from a pancake).

Adding to French Toast or Chaffles

First, using a multigrain bread for any toast is a good way to add a little more variety. (Read here on why variety of grains and other plants may be really helpful).

To add a puree to French toast, I add several tablespoons to the egg mixture before drenching the bread. Vanilla and cinnamon here also complement.

For chaffles, adding a few tablespoons to the mixture before cooking works well.

Extra Purees in Oatmeal or Apple Sauce

To be frank, this has been hit or miss in my home. So, for oatmeal and apple sauce I’d suggest a tiny amount of most purees to start. I do consistently add peanut butter to apple sauce, but my kids haven’t liked any added spinach since they were old enough to talk.

Adding More Plants to Granola Bars

I’ve sung the praises of this recipe before (“5-Ingredient Healthy Peanut Butter Granola Bars” from The Real Food Dieticians). It’s so adaptable and it’s also easy to limit added sugar.

If homemade granola bars are on your horizon, here are my adaptations to the recipe: I usually add a few tablespoons of a puree and then a little less maple syrup or honey to achieve the right consistency. (For sweetness with less maple syrup, chopped dried fruit has worked well, along with plenty of chocolate melted on top). To increase the variety of plants, I often replace 1 cup of the oats with a cup of cooked quinoa and replace about one third of a cup of oats with ground flax seed.

Summary: Adding Veggies and Other Plants to Our Kids’ Meals is Possible

There are many great resources on helping our kids eat a variety of foods. And, there are many methods to help children develop their palates and learn to eat more fruits and vegetables. Pureeing a few of these veggies and incorporating them into foods they already enjoy is just one way. To be clear, it is not the best or only way! It’s just one tiny extra tool families can use as their children grow.

Maya M. Mahmood, D.O., FAAP is a board-certified pediatrician and mom. She is passionate about parents having evidence-based information to help their families be healthier.

This is for information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this websiteFull disclaimer here.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *