10 Tweak moms share the healthy recipes they use to get their kids to eat more vegetables
With a little bit of planning, you can say goodbye to fussy eaters
It’s a battle of champions. The crowd has assembled as you pick up your weapon of choice – a fork. Your mode of attack: a bit of karela, impaled upon the three prongs, does a quick spiral in the air before freefalling towards your kid’s mouth. That is, until they realise what you’re trying to feed them. Then it’s either lips sealed tighter than a baby’s fist or a swing of the arm sending the plate of food flying across the room, painting your walls with bits of karela, chawal and the battered hopes of trying to get your kids to eat more vegetables.
Why is it that some children will wolf down whatever’s on their plate while others pick and fuss over every morsel? Your kid being a fussy eater isn’t the end of the world. But a long-term habit of being a picky eater, especially if they avoid complete food groups, can lead to nutritional deficiencies, according to the experts.
Fussy eating has been linked to social influences, external factors like controlling parents, modelling their parent’s behaviours and kids just being, well, kids. Every parent knows that trying to force your child to do something they don’t want is like trying to get your building cat to wear the lumpy sweater you knit during lockdown because you needed a new hobby (which are fantastic for adults, by the way). Sure, the cat may have kept it on for the few seconds it took to get a cute photo, but were the hisses, scratches, and the lifelong grudge really worth it?
When we asked our Tweak community how they get their kids to eat healthy, they offered up helpful advice. “I made it a habit to feed my kid all types of veggies right from karela to lauki from childhood. As a family, we eat all sorts of vegetables. A simple rule we have is that we all have to eat the same food,” said Sanjukta. Vinisha Markan added that “When elders don’t throw tantrums and eat everything, the child picks up healthy eating naturally.”
A good place to start if you’re trying to get kids to eat more vegetables is to change your eating habits for them to see and model. Make meal times fun, involve them in the preparations of the dishes and talk to them about the ingredients going in to get them excited about the outcome. A bit of whimsy goes a long way, like pretending each bite is a choo-choo train or a flying unicorn.
And if all else fails, you could always sneak more veggies into their food without them knowing and watch them gobble it all up. It’s an easy way to get them to try something new, but, experts also say that hiding it from them doesn’t help them develop a fondness for vegetables. So once they’ve devoured that mutton curry, it’s best to let them know that it was actually made from jackfruit.
“When veggies are hidden, the child does not have a chance to get to know their texture, taste, or smell,” Lvova adds. “That necessary familiarisation is missing, so they won’t have an opportunity to develop an adventurous perspective when it comes to food.”
We got 10 moms to share recipes they used to get their kids to eat more vegetables and be healthier. Some swapped out ingredients for vegetable alternatives, while others shared traditional recipes with a healthy spin.
How to get kids to eat more vegetables, according to Tweak moms
Omelette with sauteed veggies by Sybil Thomas
Your morning staple has a veggie upgrade. You could grate pretty much anything into this, fold it up, and serve it hot with a side of buttered toast. Leftover sautéed vegetables are stored in an airtight container in the fridge, to be used the next day.
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 carrot, finely grated
- 1/2 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
- A handful of spinach, finely chopped
- 1/2 bell pepper of any colour, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Butter to pan-fry
- Beat the eggs, season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
- Sauté the onion in a frying pan for a few minutes until translucent. Then add all the other vegetables, except the spinach. When nearly softened, put in the spinach and wilt down.
- In another frying pan, melt a little butter. Keep it on medium flame and pour the egg batter into it.
- Wait for a few seconds and then add all the sautéed vegetables just like you would pizza toppings. Nicely fill up the egg and cover and cook it on one side.
- After a couple of seconds, slowly flip the omelette and let it cook for 10-20 seconds and then turn the flame off. Transfer it to a plate and serve hot.
Ragi banana pancakes by Rishma Valsan
The only bananas that Valsan’s kid would eat are elaichi or yelakki bananas which aren’t always easily available. So she devised this recipe to sneak some regular ‘ol bananas into her food. “With ragi and jaggery, it looks just like chocolate pancakes,” she says. This is the breakfast dish we wish we grew up with.
- 1 large ripe banana
- 3/4th cup sprouted ragi powder
- 1/4th cup whole wheat flour or rice flour
- 2 tbsp powdered jaggery (adjust based on preference and sweetness of the banana)
- 2 tsp milk (adjust based on consistency)
- 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
- For decoration: honey, raisins, jam, chocolate syrup, anything you have at hand
- In a bowl, combine the milk, mashed banana, wheat/rice flour, cardamom powder and jaggery. Whisk until blended and let it rest for 5 mins.
- Slightly oil the surface of the pan, alternatively use a non-stick pan.
- Scoop the batter onto the hot skillet. The consistency may not be like dosa, so you can make smaller and thicker pancakes.
- Cook until small bubbles form on the surface. Sprinkle some butter/ghee on the surface to make it soft as ragi tends to dry quickly.
- Flip the pancakes, then cook until lightly brown on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes more.
- Repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more butter or oil and adjusting the heat as necessary.
- Serve hot with toppings like honey, raisins, jam, peanut butter or chocolate syrup.
Instead of a pan, you can also pour the batter in an idli mould to make it even healthier with no use of oil or butter. Just steam it like your regular idli for 10 minutes. Decorate it the way you want and serve it hot.
Phulka tacos by Sushmita Arora
Arora spotted this recipe in a Tweak article about healthy snack recipes and decided to give it a try. She has turned it into a fun interactive game with her kids where they get to choose their taco fillings and toppings and put them all together. Sometimes, she adds spinach to the dough, mixes up the grains, replaces avocado with paneer or adds sliced boiled egg.
- 60 gm wheat dough (enough to make two phulkas)
- 7-8 pieces of avocado
- 1 small bowl of onions (diced)
- 1 small bowl of tomatoes (diced)
- Green chillies to taste
- 2 cubes of cheese (grated)
- Roll out a dough roll of 30 gm.
- Put the phulka on a pan and cook well on both sides, pressing down during cooking so that it doesn’t become crisp.
- Spread a little butter on the roti and then add the avocado, followed by the veggies and then grate cheese over it.
- Add a dollop of salsa if you like.
Sweet potato banana bread by Supriya Khanvilkar
When the banana bread craze took over during the lockdown, Khanvilkar gave it a try and her daughter fell in love with the sweet treat. She saw it as an opportunity to experiment by adding other ingredients her daughter would refuse to eat. One time she added carrot to the mix, another she added chia seeds, flax seeds and some walnuts. But a hit in the household has been the sweet potato banana bread which has become a Sunday staple.
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup cooked sweet potato (baked or boiled)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a pan and set it aside.
- Mash together the wet ingredients – ripe bananas, sweet potato, egg, vanilla, honey and coconut oil until all lumps are gone.
- In a separate mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix – flour, cinnamon, cloves, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
- Mix the two by stirring in the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl of wet ingredients until you get a thick batter. Transfer batter to baking pan.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until poked knife/toothpick comes out clean.
- Let it cool before slicing and serving.
- Depending on preference, you can serve it with a drizzle of honey, a side of greek yoghurt, ice cream or as it is.
Baked beetroot chips with peanut butter and honey dip by Ankita Malhotra
Beetroot, banana, zucchini, even apple – Malhotra found that the best way to replace packaged snacks was with homemade baked chips. She started off with the humble potato and then saw it as an opportunity to get her kids to eat more vegetables. “Beetroot is the favourite, I think, because of the vibrant colour.”
- 2 beetroots
- 1 tbsp olive oil (approx.)
- A pinch of salt
- A bit of black pepper
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp chaat masala
- 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
- 1/2 tsp soaked chia seeds
- A bit of sea salt (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius or 290 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Peel the beetroot. You can use a metal slicer to slice it up or use a knife to make very thin slices. Add to a large mixing bowl.
- Gently dab the beetroot with a paper towel to absorb some of the natural moisture.
- Drizzle some olive oil and add a pinch of salt, black pepper and the chaat masala.
- Carefully rub the mix onto the slices.
- Lay the slices out on a baking tray, spaced out and without overlap. Pop the tray into the oven for 15 minutes, then get the tray out and flip over each slice of beetroot and bake for another 15 minutes. Set it aside to cool down and crisp up.
- In a bowl, mix the peanut butter and honey together.
- Add the bloomed chia seeds and gently mix.
- You can top it with a pinch of sea salt for a sweet and salty taste.
Chocolate (Avocado) Mousse by Smriti Parekh
Her 4-year-old daughter has a sweet tooth just like mommy. This is a recipe, Parekh says, that she stumbled across online one day and started making for herself to try and be a bit healthier while indulging her dessert craving. When her daughter, an extremely picky eater, showed interest in what was in mama’s bowl, she saw it as a golden opportunity to introduce into her diet some avocado. “It’s a treat every now and then, not really sustainable given the price of avocados. When I finally told her it was avocado in the dish, she was then interested in trying avocado in different forms, and gave my avocado toast a bite too.”
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 ripe banana
- 3 tsp cocoa powder
- 2 large dates, soaked, or 1 tbsp honey
- Choice of nuts, seeds, and fruit for garnish
- Mash the banana and avocado separately and add to a blender or food processor.
- Add your de-seeded dates or honey, whichever you choose and blend.
- Add the cocoa powder one spoon at a time and blend. This way you can ensure you get the chocolate flavour to taste, add more or less as you like.
- Transfer the mix to a bowl and let it sit in the fridge for 1-2 hours. You can then garnish it with more honey, some seeds, nuts or berries, or eat it as is.
Party smoothie by Aashvi Gupta
All Gupta’s son wanted to eat was dal, chawal and dahi. No vegetables, no fruits, nothing else. It lasted close to two months. She worried he wasn’t getting any of the nutrients he needed for a growing 6-year-old boy. She came across a video about different smoothie recipes online and a light bulb went off in her head – smoothies.
You can replace the fruits with whatever is in season, and add veggies as you like. Gupta’s tip is to use a fruit that has a vibrant colour that will be attractive to your child, anything other than green.
- 1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
- 1/2 cup greek yoghurt
- 1/2 banana (fresh or frozen)
- 1/2 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
- Few pieces of spinach
- Sliced almonds (or nuts of choice)
- Shredded coconut (optional)
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- Add the milk and yoghurt along with 2-3 ice cubes to the blender and give it a whirl.
- Add the fruits and vegetables you desire and blend.
- You can add the nuts to the mix before blending or use that along with the shredded coconut as a garnish.
Leftover vegetables fried rice by Prachi Chandorkar
Chandorkar told us that fried rice is the best way to get kids to eat more vegetables. It makes sense. You could add pretty much any vegetable you have left in the fridge and it’ll taste good. You can serve it as a star dish by itself or make it a part of your larger meal with this rice as the base.
- 1 cup cooked long grain or basmati rice
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1/3 cup chopped french beans
- 1/3 cup chopped carrots
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cabbage
- 1 cup button mushrooms
- 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper (red, yellow or green, by choice)
- 1/2 inch finely chopped ginger
- 2-3 chopped garlic, medium-sized cloves
- 1 star anise
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp rice wine or rice vinegar
- A pinch of black pepper to taste
- A pinch of salt to taste (optional as soy sauce already has salt content)
- Heat oil in a pan or wok and add the star anise. Stir until fragrant.
- Add the ginger and garlic. Sauté for a few seconds until slight caramelisation.
- Add the finely sliced beans and stir for 3 to 4 minutes over medium to medium-high heat. Beans will take the longest to cook.
- Add the remaining vegetables and stir fry until 80% cooked.
- Add the soy sauce, salt and pepper and stir.
- Add the rice and stir until everything is mixed well, turn off the flame, and serve hot.
Half-and-half zucchini noodles by Kavita Krishnamurthy
Green is Krishnamurthy’s son’s favourite colour but you’d rarely catch him eating any green veggies. “As soon as he’d spot some green in his plate, he’d push it away and say nahin chahiye (I don’t want it).” One night she spotted the word ‘zoodles’ on a restaurant menu and asked the server what it was.
“Zucchini cut into strips like noodles, it seemed so simple. I gave it a try the next night.” Luckily, her son loves spaghetti so Krishnamurthy has been making him her special half-and-half zucchini noodles – half a portion of regular spaghetti and half of the zucchini noodles mixed in. She says that to date he hasn’t noticed the difference. Topping the dish off with some cheese helps him gobble it up without a thought too.
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 fist spaghetti
- 1 large zucchini
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped carrot
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp oregano
- Salt to taste
- Boil the spaghetti and then keep it aside once ready
- Cut the top and bottom of the zucchini. You can use a julienne peeler to slice long thin strips or a regular peeler, which will give you wide flat strips resembling fettuccine. Set aside for later.
- In a pan, add 1 tbsp oil and add the tomatoes to cook for 3-4 minutes on medium flame or until soft. Then transfer it to a blender and blend into a puree. Set it aside. You can alternatively use packaged tomato puree.
- In a separate pan, add 3 tbsp oil and the chopped garlic, stir till slightly brown. Add the chopped carrot and onion (you can add more or fewer vegetables). Cook for 2-3 minutes on medium flame.
- Add the tomato puree and oregano, add a little water and store till it is cooked.
- Add the zucchini and stir for 2-3 minutes for it to cook.
- Add the boiled pasta and mix well for a minute on medium flame, then transfer to a serving bowl. You can grate some cheese on top before serving.
Hidden vegetable pasta sauce by Inayat Hussain
Like a lot of kids, Hussain’s were picky eaters but pasta is a house favourite. She picked up this recipe from her mother who would make this dish often for her as a kid. It was only when she was trying to get kids to eat more vegetables that she learnt how many actually went into it. “You can definitely taste that it’s not a ‘traditional red sauce’ but if you add a dollop of heavy cream or butter to the mix, it tastes better for the kids,” she says.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup cauliflower, minced
- 1 capsicum, finely chopped
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp oregano or Italian spice mix
- 2 cups vegetable of chicken stock
- 1 tbsp heavy cream or butter
- On medium heat, add oil to a large pan. Once hot, add the onion, garlic and oregano, and stir till the onions turn translucent.
- Add the remaining vegetables and mix well. Cover and let it cook for 10-15 minutes. Keeping stirring in between to ensure they cook but do not burn.
- Add tomatoes and the stock and combine it all. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Add 1 tbsp of heavy cream or butter. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Set aside to cool before you put it in the blender and blend until it is a smooth consistency.
- Your sauce is ready to add to any boiled pasta of your choice.