Without exception, children all over the globe shun vegetables. Endearing and enduring cartoon images of Dennis the Menace, Caillou and Calvin come to mind, sitting at the dinner table and making faces when made to eat greens. It is always a matter of wonder how children invariably fall prey to junk food like chips and aerated drinks, despite being given a head start with a healthy diet of fruit juices, soups and mashed veggies.
Most children are born with a sweet tooth and would rather indulge in chocolates, ice creams and desserts. Therefore, mothers have to cook up innovative dishes all the time to make their children eat healthy. There are simple ways to make children eat vegetables, though. Vegetables need to be disguised cleverly so that they do not get noticed or become passable. Baked in cheese or stuffed in breads, they will be consumed like delicacies.
Here we give you a few suggestions to disguise veggies in your child's favourite snacks and meals. Needless to say you can improvise on them.
1) Toasted sandwich
Children love bread and sandwiches. Next time you plan to put butter and cheese or marmalade, try something different. Chop vegetables like carrots, beans, onion, and capsicum and saut it till they are bite-like. Add a bit of soy sauce, salt and pepper. Use this as a filling with dollops of cheese for a delectable toasted sandwich.
This is another way of disguising the veggies in cheese. You have the option of making a pizza base at home or buying it, but even if you can't go that far, use brown bread (or even white for that matter) as a substitute. If you have a toaster, toast the bread lightly, so that it doesn't go soggy soft in the oven when you put the tomato sauce and veggies on it. You can experiment with the toppings - aubergines, capsicum, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, spring onions and so on. Mix and match and try new toppings to see what your child likes or rejects.
Stuffed parathas are a great way of eating vegetables. Very few children would turn up their noses at them, especially if they are accompanied by lip-smacking chutneys and sauces. While aloo paratha is a staple in North Indian households, there is no end to what stuffing you can have in your paratha. Cauliflower and peas, carrots and cabbage parathas taste really good. You can add some greens like fenugreek and spinach in the mashed potatoes to add that extra flavour in the aloo paratha.
4) Flavoured rotis
Parathas can be a little heavy on the stomach. An even more effective option would be to add veggies in the flour while making the dough or atta. Spinach, fenugreek, raw grated cabbage, dill or saunf, fenugreek or methi, mint or pudina, pumpkin and so on can be rolled into the flour itself. With a thin layer of ghee or butter, this roti can be had with cooked dal, raitas or pickles. You'll admit everyday rotis never tasted better.
5) Sweet parathas or pancakes
The gourd family of vegetables - pumpkin, cucumber and bottle gourd - is good for making sweet parathas or puris. Knead grated pumpkin in the flour. Add jaggery shavings and roll the dough in milk, instead of water. Flavour it slightly with a hint of cinnamon powder, cardamom or nutmeg. This rotis can be deep fried or even baked.
Instead of fruits like apples and bananas, try adding pumpkin or cucumber to the pancake batter for a change.
Vegetables can be used to make delicious chutneys. Coconut based ones can be made with tomatoes, onions, carrots and mint. Peanut chutney (call it butter, if you wish) and sesame spread can be flavoured with garlic.
7) Pulao and khichree
If your child particularly loves rice, give him pulao or khichree garnished with boiled vegetables. Similarly, you can flavour the suji upma he desires or daliya (broken wheat gruel) with peas and carrots or even potatoes. Children love noodles and pasta. Make them in vegetable stock, if you have some ready. Do add vegetables discreetly in these dishes, too.