3 Ways to Include Vegetables in Children's Meals

It's important to include vegetables in children's diets to ensure a sufficient supply of antioxidants and vitamins. Learn how!
3 Ways to Include Vegetables in Children's Meals
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Written and verified by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 22 September, 2022

It’s essential to include vegetables in children’s meals in order for them to enjoy good health over the years. Otherwise, nutritional deficits could develop, affecting the normal functioning of their physiology. They could also cause alterations in the state of inflammation and oxidation, something that’s considered very negative.

Before starting, it’s key to emphasize that it’s very important to improve the diet from the early stages of life to prevent the development of chronic diseases in the future. The most important thing is to ensure variety and balance. Perhaps, this last point could be altered during childhood to promote growth and thus achieve a slight energy surplus.

Ways to include vegetables in the diet of children

Next, we’re going to show you how to include vegetables efficiently in the diet of children. Remember that it’s always positive to consume them fresh and in season to make the most of their nutritional benefits and organoleptic characteristics.

1. Prepare purees

Vegetable purees are generally well accepted by children. Here, you can combine a large number of foods of vegetable origin, which ensures an optimal vitamin intake. Vitamin C stands out above all, as it has been shown to help boost immune function. In addition, it improves the innate and acquired defense system, which guarantees a lower incidence of infectious diseases that may cause discomfort.

At the same time, we have to mention that purees are excellent for improving a  child’s hydration status, due to their water content. This is good news for hot weather. They can also be consumed cold to produce a refreshing effect. This will help to compensate for fluid losses through sweating, which will prevent the physiology of the internal environment from being altered.

A bold of mashed peas.
Purees are usually well accepted by children, so it’s a good idea to mix vegetables into the recipe.

2. Use tomato sauce to disguise flavors

Tomato sauce is often a favorite condiment for young children. You can use it to cover vegetable dishes and thus disguise the strongest organoleptic characteristics. This way, children will gradually become accustomed to including plant-based foods in their preparations. This will prevent health alterations over the years.

Moreover, tomato sauce is an excellent source of phytochemicals with antioxidant capacity. Among them, lycopene stands out above the rest. This element is capable of reducing the risk of suffering diseases that affect the heart, as evidenced by research published in the journal Atherosclerosis. It could even help delay tumor growth in some types of malignant masses, such as prostate cancer.

3. Use original presentations

Food often enters through the eyes. The arrangement of the food on the plate or the way it’s presented could condition the subsequent acceptance by little ones. In this sense, investing a little time in creating original elaborations can be very beneficial. This way, you’ll be able to get children to eat them willingly, which will result in greater adherence to the diet over time.

Also, remember that vegetables must be well prepared. It’s important that they remain tender, so it’s key that you buy good quality fresh produce in the supermarket. Thus, their organoleptic and nutritional characteristics will be better.

A toddler girl eating vegetables.
One of the ways to include vegetables in the diet of children is to present dishes in an original way to attract their attention.

Including vegetables in children’s meals is essential

As you’ve seen, it’s crucial to include vegetables in children’s meals to ensure that they grow up with less risk of developing chronic and complex diseases. These products provide essential vitamins and a good amount of phytochemicals, which are elements that will help control the inflammatory and oxidative balance in the internal environment. But remember that protein requirements will also have to be covered for everything to work properly.

Finally, keep in mind that establishing good habits during the early stages of life will make a difference. This way, you’ll be able to maintain them in a simple way as the years go by, which will prevent health from deteriorating. And of course, you should never forget that eating well isn’t enough–it’s also important that children practice regular physical activity and get adequate sleep at night.

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  • Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1211. Published 2017 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/nu9111211
  • Cheng HM, Koutsidis G, Lodge JK, Ashor A, Siervo M, Lara J. Tomato and lycopene supplementation and cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Atherosclerosis. 2017;257:100-108. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2017.01.009