Everyone knows that veggies are good for us—and especially for our kids. Here are our favorite easy ways to prepare them, plus a few tricks to make every vegetable taste delicious for little (and big) palates.

By Jenna Helwig
September 20, 2019
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Vegetables have so much good stuff—fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They’ve been shown to help prevent chronic diseases and promote healthy growth and development. The American Academy of Pediatrics MyPlate recommends that kids eat:

  • 2-3 years old – 1 cup of vegetables per day
  • 4-8 years old—1 ½ cups of vegetables per day
  • 9-13 years old – 2 cups (girls) to 2 ½ cups (boys) per day
  • 14-18 years old – 2 ½ cups (girls) to 3 cups (boys) per day

But, let’s be honest, sometimes including veggies in everyday life can be a challenge, especially if kids are choosy.

Just do the best you can. Offer your child vegetables as often as possible. Don’t pressure her to eat them; just make vegetables a normal part of your family’s meals. The goal is to create a life-long positive relationship with vegetables. It’s okay to play the long game!

Basic Ways to Cook Vegetables

Knowing what to do with the cabbage or spinach when you get them home from the supermarket can also be a challenge. Here are some fast, easy ways to prepare vegetables for the whole family, plus a few sure-fire way to make veggies taste better—for kids and adults!

A note on the cooking times: these will vary based on how tender your veggies are and what size pieces they’re cut in. Check on them early and cook them to the level of doneness you prefer. And, remember to wash and dry all of the vegetables before prepping them.

Asparagus

Prep: Snap off and discard the woody stems.

Blanch them: Bring an inch of salted water to a boil in a wide pan or pot. Add the asparagus and simmer until tender, about 2-4 minutes.

Roast them: Spread the asparagus on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F until tender and golden, 15-18 minutes.

Avocado

Prep: Carefully cut the avocado in half. Remove the pit and scoop the flesh from the skin with a spoon.

Mash It: Using a fork, mash the avocado into a paste. Stir in salt and lemon or lime juice. Serve as a dip or spread onto toast.

Chop It: Add to a salad or place on top of roasted vegetables for a hit of creaminess.

Even more so than most vegetables, avocado wants salt and citrus, so don’t skimp!

Broccoli

Prep: Cut the florets from the stalks, leaving about an inch of stem. Further trim the broccoli so the florets aren’t humongous. Discard the stalk, or peel it and slice it into sticks for eating raw.

Blanch it: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the broccoli until tender, 4-5 minutes. Drain.

Roast it: Spread the florets on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F until tender and golden, about 25 minutes.

Or, eat them raw!

Brussels Sprouts

Prep: Cut off and discard the end of each sprout.

Sauté them: Cut each sprout in half. With the cut side down, slice each sprout half into ribbons using a sharp knife. Sauté on the stove-top in oil until tender, adding a splash of water or vinegar if they seem dry, and salt. Stir in raisins and/or chopped nuts if you’d like.

Roast them: Cut each sprout in half. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil, and roast at 425°F for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and continue roasting until tender and browned, about 10-15 minutes more.

Butternut Squash

Prep: Use a vegetable peeler to peel the whole squash. Cut off the ends. Cut the squash in half where the neck meets the bulb. Cut the bulb in half length-wise and scoop out and discard the seeds.

Roast it: Cut the prepped squash into cubes. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F until tender and tender and browned, about 30-35 minutes.

Mash it: Skip peeling the squash. Cut off the ends and cut the squash in half length-wise. Using a spoon scoop out and discard the seeds. Place the squash halves cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast at 425°F until very tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then scoop the flesh out of the skin and into a bowl. Mash with a fork with a little butter, salt, and brown sugar.

Cabbage

Make a slaw: Thinly slice the cabbage and put it into a bowl. Add shredded carrot if you have some around. Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, a spoonful of mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.

Roast it: Thinly slice the cabbage, toss with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F until tender and golden, about 20 minutes.

Carrots

Prep: Cut off and discard the greens if there are any. Peel the carrots.

Make a soup: Cut a lb. of carrots into chunks. Chop an onion. Cook both in oil in a large pot until the onion is tender. Add 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth, salt, and a peeled, chopped potato. Bring broth to a boil, and simmer until the potato is tender. Serve as is, or blend until smooth.

Make a salad: Grate the carrots on a grater and place them in a bowl. In a separate bowl, make a dressing with a little mustard, vinegar, and olive oil. Mix into the carrots. Add any or all: raisins, fresh herbs, sunflower seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds.

Or, eat them raw!

Cauliflower

Prep: Cut off and discard the leaves. Cut the cauliflower into quarters length-wise. Cut the florets off the core and discard the core.

Make a soup: Chop an onion. Cook the onion and the florets from a half a cauliflower in oil in a large pot until the onion is tender. Add 1-quart chicken or vegetable broth, salt, and a peeled, chopped potato. Bring broth to a boil, and simmer until the potato is tender. Serve as is, or blend until smooth.

Roast it: Spread the florets on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F until tender and browned, about 35-40 minutes. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a little Parmesan cheese.

Or, eat them raw!

Celery

Prep: Cut the tops and bottoms off of each stalk. Save the leafy greens to add to salads.

Fill them: Cut the stalks into 3-inch lengths. Fill with peanut butter for a crunchy, protein-packed snack.

Sauté them: Slice thinly and add to a stir-fry with other vegetables and/or chicken. Drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil.

Or, eat them raw!

Collard Greens

Prep: Cut the leaves away from the stems; discard the stems.

Braise them: Chop two cloves of garlic and sauté in oil for one minute in a large pot. Chop the greens and add to the pot. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the greens start to wilt. Add ½ cup of broth or water. Cover the pot and simmer the liquid until the greens are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue simmering until the liquid has reduced. Season with salt.

Add to soup: Chop the leaves and add to chicken or vegetable soups. Add them near the end of cooking time and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes.

Cucumber

Prep: Cut off the ends. Slice in half length-wise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon.

Make a salad: Use a vegetable peeler to slice the cucumber into long, wide ribbons. Dress with a little sesame oil, rice vinegar, and salt. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds if you have any around.

Make a dip: Grate the cucumber and mix into plain yogurt with a squeeze of lemon juice, a clove of finely chopped garlic, and a big pinch of salt. Use as a dip for veggies or a spread for chicken or fish.

Or, eat them raw!

Eggplant

Make it a dip: Prick the eggplant all over with a fork. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast at 425°F until super-tender throughout. When cool enough, finely chop the eggplant and place it in a bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, a dollop of plain yogurt, salt, pepper, and finely chopped garlic. Stir and serve as a dip for crackers or raw vegetables. (You can also do the chopping and mixing in a food processor.)

Roast it: Chop the eggplant into 1-inch pieces. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F until tender and golden, about 20-25 minutes. This is especially delicious with marinara sauce for dipping.

Green Beans

Prep: Snap off the stem end of each bean. It’s okay to leave on the little tail!

Blanch them: Boil in a large pot of salted water until tender, 4-5 minutes. Drain, dry, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and top with toasted sliced almonds for extra crunch, if you’d like.

Roast them: Spread the beans on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F until tender and golden, about 20-25 minutes.

Or, eat them raw!

Kale

Prep: Remove leaves from thick middle stems. You can do this by ripping off the leaves or cutting them with a knife. Discard the stems.

Make a salad: Slice the leaves into thin strips. Drizzle with olive oil and rub the oil into the leaves with your clean hands. Toss with plenty of salt (the leaves are bitter and the salt will help them seem less bitter) and lemon juice. For extra flair, add chopped nuts, raisins, and/or dried cranberries. This salad is also a good place to use up little bits of extra cooked grains like quinoa or farro. Just add it all in!

Make chips: Rip the leaves into pieces about 1 ½ inches x 1 ½ inches. Toss with olive oil or sesame oil and salt. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 300°F until crisp, about 15-18 minutes, stirring halfway through. If you have too many leaves for a single layer, use two baking sheets or bake in batches.

Mushrooms

Prep: Give the mushrooms a quick rinse to wash away any dirt. Dry with paper towels or a kitchen towel. Remove the stems.

Blend them into a burger: Finely chop ½ lb. of mushrooms. Mix into 1 lb. of ground beef or turkey with salt and pepper. Form into patties and cook.

Roast them: Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add some fresh thyme or rosemary if you have any. Roast at 425°F until tender and golden, about 20-25 minutes.

Peas

Prep: Start with frozen peas! They’re frozen at the peak of ripeness and full of the same nutrition as fresh peas. Defrost according to package directions.

Blend them: Place the defrosted peas in a blender or food processor with a couple glugs of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a handful of basil leaves or parsley. Blend until smooth-ish. Serve spread on toast or toss with pasta like a pesto.

Serve as a side: Dress defrosted peas with oil and a little lemon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss with grated Parmesan cheese.

Potatoes

Make little cakes: Prick holes in the potato with a fork. Microwave on high for 7-8 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Let cool until comfortable to handle. Pull off the skin and transfer the flesh to a bowl. Add 1 beaten egg, salt, pepper, and any chopped fresh herbs or spices that you like. Stir, adding breadcrumbs until the mixture feels not too wet. Shape into small patties, and sauté in butter or oil on the stove-top, preferably in a non-stick pan, until golden brown on both sides. This recipe also works with leftover mashed potatoes!

Make baked fries: With the peels on, slice the potatoes into wedges or sticks. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can also add other spices here such as oregano, cumin, chili powder, or turmeric. Roast at 425°F until tender and golden, about 30-35 minutes, flipping once.

Radishes

Prep: Cut off the leafy tops and the skinny root on the bottom. You can save the leaves for sautéing or to add to salads.

Make a fancy appetizer: Cut off the root, but keep the leaves on each radish. Serve with softened butter to spread on the radish and salt to sprinkle on top.

Roast them: Halve the radishes. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425°F until tender and golden, about 20-25 minutes.

Spinach

Prep: Clean and dry the leaves. Remember, if you cook the leaves they’ll shrink down to almost nothing! So start with a lot. And don’t overlook frozen chopped spinach. It’s a real timesaver so you don’t have to wash the greens.

Add them to a smoothie: Make your kid’s favorite fruit smoothie (such as 1/2-3/4 cup milk, 1/2 banana, ½ cup frozen berries, 1 Tbs. nut butter) and add a handful of spinach.

Make a hearty salad: Place the spinach in a large bowl. Cook a couple of slices of bacon and drain them on paper towels. Pour a tablespoon of the bacon fat into a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of vinegar and whisk—this is your salad dressing! Pour this over the spinach and toss with salt and pepper. Top with crumbled bacon and chopped hard-boiled eggs.

Sweet Pepper

Prep: Stand the pepper up. Slice down the sides with a sharp knife leaving the stem, core, and seeds behind.

Sauté: Slice the pepper pieces into strips. Sauté in oil with sliced onion and salt until tender. Serve on tacos or fajitas.

Make scrambled eggs: Dice the pepper into small pieces. Sauté in olive oil until tender. Add beaten eggs and salt. Scramble the eggs with the peppers.

Or, eat them raw!

Sweet Potato

Make baked fries: With the peels on, slice the potatoes into wedges or sticks. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can also add other spices here such as oregano, cumin, chili powder, or turmeric. Roast at 425°F until tender and golden, about 30-35 minutes, flipping once.

Make a mash: Prick holes in the sweet potato with a fork. Microwave on high for 7-8 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Let cool until comfortable to handle. Pull off the skin and transfer the flesh to a bowl. Add a pat or two of butter, a sprinkle of salt, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Mash with a fork until smooth-ish.

Tomatoes

Prep: Remove the stem.

Make a bread salad: Cut the tomato into bite-sized pieces and place into a large bowl. Add chunks of toasted bread or croutons. Add fresh basil leaves if you have them, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir, and let sit for 10 minutes to soften the bread.

Make a quick sauce for pasta: Chop the tomatoes or halve them if they’re cherry or grape tomatoes. Cook on the stove-top in a big glug of olive oil with a little chopped garlic and salt. Stir occasionally, adding a splash of water if the sauce seems dry. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the sauce is broken down. Serve on pasta with grated cheese on top.

Or, eat them raw! This is an especially good idea with cherry or grape tomatoes.

Zucchini and other Summer Squash

Prep: Cut off the top and bottom ends.

Add to pancakes: Grate the zucchini and place the strands in a clean kitchen towel. Squeeze to release any liquid. Add the zucchini to your favorite pancake batter and cook as usual.

Roast it: Cut the zucchini into planks 2 inches x 1 inch and place in a 2-qt. baking pan. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Add two whole garlic cloves, salt, and any fresh herbs if you have them. Bake at 350°F until very tender, about 40-45 minutes, stirring once. Stir in a splash of vinegar before serving.

6 Tricks to Make Any Vegetable More Delicious

Try one, or all, of these tricks with virtually any veg:

  • Add salt – A sprinkle of salt can help tame a vegetable’s bitterness. Don’t be afraid to season produce. We hear a lot about the need to reduce sodium in our diets, but the vast majority of the sodium Americans consume is in processed foods, not fresh foods with a little salt on top.
  • Add lemon or lime juice – A squeeze of acid, like citrus, on a vegetable can help brighten its flavor and make it seem less bitter. Plus, the Vitamin C in citrus can help make the vitamins in vegetables more available to the body.
  • Add some fat – A drizzle of butter or olive oil makes pretty much anything taste better and vegetables are no exception. Like Vitamin C, fat can help unlock some of the nutrients in vegetables.
  • Add a touch of sugar – A thin drizzle of honey or even a little maple syrup in a glaze can help the vegetables go down much easier.
  • Add some cheese – Who can resist veggies topped with a little grated Parmesan cheese? (Not me.)
  • Serve with pasta – Almost any of these veggies can be served with pasta, such as penne. Top with a little olive oil and cheese for a healthy, delicious dinner. A bit of bacon or sausage in the mix is also delicious.
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