3 Vegetable-Packed Dinners That Kids Will Eat

by Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

Last Updated: February 3, 2021

Trying to get kids to eat more vegetables seems to be a never-ending dilemma. Kids love carbohydrates, and parents want their kids to love vegetables. We’ve felt this struggle as well. As Dietitians, we believe all foods fit, and when foods are paired together, everyone wins! Carbohydrates are a great vehicle for vegetables, and they add convenience, satiety, and many essential nutrients to meals. We can use carbohydrates to our advantage, so when we pair them with vegetables, there’s a better chance those greener parts will make it into those growing bodies.

The recipes below feature 3 vegetable-packed dinners that tend to be gobbled up by most munchkins. These very traditional meals include a lot of veggie flair.
  1. Vegged-Up Spaghetti
    Serves 6. Brought to you by Kroger Health Dietitians.
    • 12-16 oz. 100% whole grain pasta (any shape) or spaghetti, cooked
    • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
    • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef or turkey or meatless crumbles
    • 1 onion, peeled and diced
    • 8 oz. white or brown mushrooms, washed and sliced or diced
    • 1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 zucchini, medium, washed, and shredded on a cheese grater
    • 1 carrot, washed and shredded on a cheese grater
    • 1 jar (25oz.) Simple Truth Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce
    • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

    Directions:
    1. Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Drain. Set aside.
    2. Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet.
    3. Add onion and meat to the skillet. Break up the meat with a spatula and cook until browned and cooked through.
    4. Add all the other vegetables to the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes or until just tender.
    5. Add pasta sauce and tomato paste and stir until combined and heated through.
    6. Serve a generous portion of veggie sauce mixture over pasta. Enjoy!
  2. Blended Chili Mac
    Serves 4-6. Brought to you by Kroger Health Dietitians and The Mushroom Council.
    • 8 oz. brown or white mushrooms, washed and finely chopped
    • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
    • 1 pound 90% lean ground turkey or beef or meatless crumbles
    • 1 package (1.25 oz.) chili seasoning mix
    • 1 zucchini, medium, washed
    • 1 carrot, washed
    • 1 can (14 oz.) less-sodium beef broth
    • 1 can (15.5 oz) kidney beans, drained, rinsed
    • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
    • 1 cup salsa
    • 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
    • Garnishes optional: shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro

    Directions:
    1. Place mushrooms in food processor and pulse until finely chopped, or dice with a knife.
    2. Grate carrot and zucchini using a cheese grater.
    3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and brown meat and mushrooms with chili seasoning.
    4. Add grated zucchini, carrots, and broth to the pan along with kidney beans, tomato paste, salsa, and macaroni; mix well.
    5. Bring mixture to a simmer and cover. Continue to simmer on low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    6. Top each serving with cheese, sour cream, and/or chopped cilantro. Enjoy!
  3. Rainbow Taco Bowls
    Serves at least 4. Brought to you by Kroger Health Dietitians.
    • 16 oz. protein of choice (chicken, 90% lean ground meat, pork, meatless crumbles, fish or shrimp)
    • 4 cups cooked brown rice
    • 2 avocados, chopped or 8 oz. guacamole
    • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained, rinsed
    • 4-6 cups diced vegetables of choice (sweet pepper, sweet onion, tomatoes, shredded lettuce or cabbage, grated carrot, etc.)
    • Condiments of choice: salsa, sour cream, grated cheese, hot sauce, jalapenos, sliced black olives, cilantro, etc.

    Directions:
    1. Prepare protein according to directions or use precooked or leftover protein. Cook or reheat until a safe internal temperature is reached.
    2. Wash and cut vegetables.
    3. Add each vegetable and all other ingredients in separate serving bowls to make it “salad bar” style for serving.
    4. For serving, place about ½ to 1 cup rice in each person’s bowl. Let everyone top with their favorite toppings. You can layer the different toppings in arched rows to form a rainbow design with each color of vegetable in the bowls. This activity helps kids get involved in designing their meal so that they are more likely to eat it. It can be done with kids as young as 2-3 years of age.

During your next meal planning session, consider incorporating one of the above twists on tradition or if you’re feeling savvy, use some of our other tips to veg-up your family favorites. Remember, pairing vegetables with carbohydrates offers a tasty and successful compromise to get more nutrition into those little mouths. For more meal inspiration, read 5 Ways to Break Meal Monotony, or for more personalized advice, you can book a Telenutrition appointment with any of our talented Kroger Health Dietitians who are well seasoned in juggling life and cooking challenges.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

A mom of 2 little kiddos and over 15 years experience in nutrition, Katy enjoys helping her patients squeeze good nutrition and activity into an already “full” life and find their own balance with nutrition and health while still enjoying food to the fullest. She is an expert in weight management, mindful eating, digestive health, anti-inflammatory nutrition, culinary nutrition, cooking/baking, and any other topic related to food! Outside of work, you’ll find her traveling, walking, jogging, beer tasting, and eating gelato.