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Fun ways to add vegetables to the menu

Simple ideas can make eating vegetables fun for children!

Did you know that less than 1% of Australian children
eat enough vegetables each day?1

Children should enjoy a variety of vegetables every day for their growth and development.

Try these creative ideas to encourage children in your service to eat more vegetables each day:

 

Menu planning tips

  • Provide 1 to 1.5 serves of vegetables per child per day in long day care. See the Menu planning guidelines for long day care for more information.
  • Include at least two different vegetables each day, and at least five different types of vegetables each week.
  • Providing a variety of vegetables helps children learn to enjoy new foods, and ensure they get a range of different nutrients from vegetables of different colours.
  • Include vegetables on the menu throughout the day, in meals and snacks. This makes vegetables the ‘norm’ and it also means you do not have to fit all of the vegetables into one main meal.
  • Did you know legumes count as vegetables? Whether they are dried, canned or cooked, legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans provide fibre, protein and other essential nutrients for children.
  • Aim to use vegetables when they are in season, when they are cheaper, and tastier! This also adds variety to your menu across the seasons.

 

Promoting vegetables to children

  • Introduce children to new vegetables in the classroom before they feature on the menu. This can include healthy eating posters, pictures, books, games, activities, art, experiments, gardening, and more. Children may need to be ‘exposed’ to an individual food 10 or more times before they feel comfortable with it2.
  • Everyone in your service has a role to play, including educators, families, kitchen staff, and the children. Involving everyone in promoting healthy eating means these practices become embedded and sustained over time.
  • Learn more about how to successfully add new items to your menu here.

 

Vegetable-based menu ideas

Meals

Homemade cuppa soup

Serve small portions in cups. For fun, try ‘Pumped up pumpkin’ or ‘Shrek soup’ (broccoli and cannellini bean soup).

Recipes: Pumpkin soup, Minestrone soup.

Super salads

Toss chopped fresh vegetables to make a garden salad, or combine roasted veggies to make a warm roast veggie salad.

Recipe: Carrot and raisin sunshine salad

Veggie slice

Mix grated vegetables (e.g. zucchini) with chopped onion, cheese, flour and eggs and bake in a moderate oven until golden brown.

Veggie pita pockets

Encourage kids to fill pita pockets with their choice of vegetables and dips.

Baked bean bread cups

Baked beans topped with grated cheese in a bread cup.

Recipe: Baked bean bread cups

Stuffed spuds

Cook small potatoes, cut the tops off and scoop out some potato. Fill with creamed corn, salsa, coleslaw or baked beans.

Veggie side dishes

Offer a bowl of colourful veggies with main meals and encourage kids to help themselves at the table. OR offer some corn on the cob or corn cobettes.

 

Snacks

Party platter

Include some cut vegetables (such as tomato, red capsicum, cucumber, steamed carrot) with dips, and add fruit, cheese and lean cold meats.

Dip recipes: hummus, tzatziki, chickpea & beetroot, sweet potato & salmon.

Veggie crackers

Top wholemeal crispbread, corn thins or rice crackers with cottage cheese or cream cheese, and your choice of avocado, lettuce, tomato or cucumber.

Veggie chips

Make sweet, crunchy chips by slicing carrot, zucchini, potato and sweet potato, spraying with olive oil and baking until golden.

Veggie muffins                                 

Try pumpkin and zucchini, carrot and sultana, cheese and corn, pumpkin and date, sweet potato, zucchini and poppy seed.

Recipes: Spinach and cheese muffins, carrot muffins.

 

Find more vegetable recipes here.

 

 

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018. Australia’s health 2018. Australia’s health series no. 16. AUS 221. Canberra: AIHW.

[2] Food - Fussy eating in toddlers, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, NSW Health. Accessed, https://www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/fact-sheets/food-fussy-eating-in-toddlers 

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