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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Jenna Smith, Extension Educator brings you helpful tips to make meals easy, healthy and tasty!

Mission Impossible: Sneaking Vegetables into Your Diet

I'm pleased to introduce guest blogger and dietetic student intern at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Debra Liu!

If you have a picky eater at home, I'm sure you feel like the dining table is a battle zone when it comes to getting the kids to eat their vegetables. However, don't give up! Studies show that it could take up to 10 tries for a taste preference to develop. Presenting foods, especially vegetables, with a wide variety of textures, flavors, smells, and temperatures from infancy can speed up the process.

Vegetables are packed with fiber, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals that can help your child feel more energized, focused, and overall more healthful. This colorful food group doesn't deserve to be left as an afterthought when preparing a meal and only end up as a boring pile of food pushed to the side of the plate. Keep in mind your child is allowed to have preferences, and they may be a part of an elite group of "super-tasters." About a quarter of the population are super tasters who can detect a bitter taste from many cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage.) Despite all these obstacles, there is a way to outsmart your little veggie-detectors.

Here are a couple tips and tricks to get your child to try vegetables they may grow to love:

  • Add vegetables they almost like to a dish they love: Try adding purred carrots to mac and cheese. Mash cauliflower florets to make "faux-tatoes."
  • Blend them into a smoothie: Mornings are hectic and tossing spinach, avocado, banana, and milk into a blender can be a quick fix.
  • Sneak them into spaghetti sauce: Add chopped mushroom, tomatoes, and onions to meat sauces
  • Dip 'em: Whip up a lighter veggie dip with plain Greek yogurt and fat-free ranch for a fun finger food.
  • Grill and bake: Marinate in a sweet or tangy sauce and toss them on a grill or sheet pan for the oven. For something crunchy, try baked zucchini crusted with bread crumbs.

Try to be inventive, get the kids involved, and keep in mind how much time it'll save on the battlegrounds!

Here's a recipe for a seasonal vegetable you can try and conquer:

Cheesy Faux-Crust Pizza

Prep + Cook time: 30-35 minutes


1 medium sized head of cauliflower (yields 2-3 Cups once chopped)

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 egg


¼ cup no-sugar-added marinara sauce

½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in an oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. On a cutting board, place a large piece of parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking oil.

Wash and pat dry the head of cauliflower, and cut off the florets (won't need the stems). Toss the florets into a food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds, or chop until it resembles a crumb consistency. Place 2-3 cups of cauliflower crumbs into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 4 minutes, covered. Allow the cauliflower to rest until cool enough to touch.

Spread the cauliflower out onto a paper towel and wrap it up in a dish towel. Ring it as hard as you can to get as much water out as possible. In a large mixing bowl, add the dry cauliflower and parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, salt, basil, oregano, garlic powder, and egg. Mix together with clean hands. Move your "dough" onto the oiled parchment paper and make a tightly formed ½ inch crust.

Slide the crust from the cutting board onto the hot pizza stone/baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until it starts to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven spread with marinara sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake for another 6 minutes until cheese has melted.

Yield: 1 (10-12 inch) pizza, 4 Servings

Nutrition Analysis per serving: 100 calories, 3 grams total fat, 50 milligrams cholesterol, 480 milligrams sodium, 6 grams total carbohydrate, 2 grams dietary fiber, 12 grams protein

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