Vegetables are the nutritious power-houses of food, bursting with important vitamins for energy and supporting the healthy development of little ones’ brains. We know this, but sometimes it’s hard to get the kids (and ourselves) to the magic number 5 of fruit and veg portions we should be eating each day.
As most parents know, this is one of life’s little battles – but it doesn’t have to be. There are all sorts of tricks to increase the amount and variety of vegetables in your weekly diet without missing the meat, from cleverly-crafted veggie burgers to colourful multi-veg mixtures that kids are excited to try.
We’ve gathered our top tips for filling your diet with veg – family-friendly ways for extra portions to pack a punch, instead of putting the kids off. Try them all to find your family’s new favourites!
Snack swap: munch on crunch
One simple way to up the veg intake is to have bite-size pieces of sweet, crunchy, raw foods on hand for snacking.
Although some vegetables shouldn’t be eaten raw (check food packaging for details) cooking does release some nutrients for the body to absorb better, but snacking on raw carrots or red peppers is still healthier than junk food!
Carrots, green beans, kale, mangetout (also known as sugar peas, or snow peas), even broccoli - and of course salad vegetables like peppers and cucumbers – all taste great raw. Once cut up they should last a few days in the fridge (keep them in a sealed container).
Add a small dollop of your favourite dip (we love hummus or guacamole) for a quick yet healthy and filling snack; great for getting kids to eat more vegetables on the go.
Switch it up
Bin the bread; use lettuce instead! Family favourites like burgers, fajitas and even classic sandwiches all taste great with lettuce – so why not use large leaves (like iceberg or cos lettuce) instead of tortillas or buns?
Innovation in food has resulted in lots of great ideas for substitutes – without even noticing, you’ve got more veg in your meal:
- Use spiralised vegetables (made at home or bought in larger branches of supermarkets) instead of pasta
- Swap meat portions for vegetable alternatives – like Birds Eye’s crispy veggie burgers or veg fingers
- Cauliflower pizza bases, made with shredded cauliflower, can contain more nutrients than the traditional wheat flour bases
- Chunky veg like broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms can be wrapped in golden batter or breadcrumbs and fried for a tasty one-off treat
Sneak them in to family favourites
First of all, it’s key that you eat breakfast. When the New Year gets into full swing, it’s all too easy to slip out the door without eating anything and starting the day on the wrong foot. So what should you be tucking into after rolling out of bed?
You don’t have to re-invent the wheel – something as simple as a bowl of wholegrain cereal with a piece of fruit will give you a solid start to the day. That said – don’t be afraid to mix it up. How about making yourself a smoothie chock full of your favourite vegetables and fruits, or cooking up a savoury option such as a pea omelette!
Some classic family meals can take on an extra portion of veg without their taste changing much at all. Try adding carrots to a spaghetti Bolognese, peas to a pesto, or chickpeas to your chilli – our pulses mix gives you 3 beans in one go, for a little variety!
Try meat-free Mondays*
(*it doesn’t have to be Mondays.)
Pick a day to go meat-free, and discover that eating vegetables can be just as satisfying as meat-based dishes. Birds Eye’s Veggie Bowls each contain two portions of veg in filling (even for adults!), yet healthy, dishes.Veggie curries, stir fries, risottos and chillies (without the carne!) are easily as flavoursome and filling as their meaty counterparts – but by substituting the meat for another vegetable, you’ve instantly doubled the amount of veg in the dish.
Soups are incredibly quick to make and will last for at least a few days in the fridge – giving you ready-made veg in smooth portions that are great for lunches. Our favourites are simple tomato, and spiced parsnip.
Shortcuts to save time
Make it easier to eat more vegetables by stocking up on varieties that are quick to prepare. Use frozen veg, with nutrients locked in, to store large quantities for longer and save on food waste – you can even bulk cook and keep cooked veg in the fridge, ready to add to plates at short notice.
Microwave our garden peas in hot water for a sweet snack, and pick up some spinach leaves – add these atop a sandwich or pizza for a veg boost or mix into stir fries and risottos, where the heat of a cooked meal will quickly wilt the spinach down.
When you’re really pushed for time, our SteamFresh vegetables are ready in under 10 minutes and come in a dozen different mixes. They’re ideal for introducing new flavours to the family with a boost of veg, from aromatic Indian rice with spinach and lentils to the mini-mountains of sweet Romanesco broccoli.
Dress them up
Even the dullest of vegetables can be spiced up with a delicious dressing or a flavoursome marinade, well-seasoned for the seasoned among us or toned down for younger ones.
Try root vegetables with olive oil, black pepper and rosemary – drizzle the dressing over, then roast them in the oven. Kids will love a sticky sweet chilli sauce (not too spicy), which works brilliantly with roasted cauliflower.
Explore new vegetables, together
Make meals an adventure and discover exciting new flavours together. Work your way through a rainbow of colour, from bright red peppers and tomatoes to deep purple aubergines, and help your kids to explore the new textures and tastes (with their hands, if they need to!).
Help your children see that new foods and vibrant vegetables aren’t scary – it’s OK if they don’t like something, but you’ll never know unless you try. Get the whole family involved in plating up a picture – with a little help, and made with love, from Birds Eye.