There is a great book out there called: Deceptively Delicious that I can’t wait to get one of these days. It is a book all about one of my favorite tricks to healthy eating: don’t let them know that it is good for them!
One of my favorite strategies to healthy cooking is hiding nutritionally packed ingredients in the recipes that my kids love most. Here are a few standard “tricks” that i use:
–Ground nuts and seeds, wheatgerm, and especially ground flax seed have a way of making their way into lots of things. Hot cereal, cold cereal, sprinkled on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sprinkled on other sandwiches, mixed with yogurt, grilled in quesadillias… there are many places to hide these boosts. You of course need a nut or coffee grinder for the nuts and seeds, but I assume that many places have such a appliance available. Oh, and ground nuts and seeds can go rancid, so you need to only do small batches and freeze anything that you don’t use right away. I just found flax seed for really cheap at the market here, so now I am especially excited.
–Spinach puree is also great for adding to various dishes. I add it to soups, sauces, stir fry, spreads… Here is a recipe that my sister-in-law recommended that even uses it in a delicious dessert! You can puree other veggies and use them the same way, but i usually use spinach since we can buy it pre-pureed and in cubes here. Yea for Russia!
-Pumpkin puree is also a great and mild mix-in that won’t disturb the flavor of most things. Add it to a curry sauce, mix it into a marinara, experiment with this one. Other mild squash purees would work great too.
-Nutrition packed marinara: My kids LOVE spaghetti and I take advantage of that fact. I use lean meat (turkey or chicken are my preferred options, but we usually only have lean beef), and then mix in the usual flax seed, wheat germ, other ground seeds or nuts, purred spinach, etc. The meat and red sauce disguise pretty much everything else both in color and texture.
-Plain yogurt is my standard substitute for anything that calls for sour cream. It works great! You can also use it on sandwiches instead of using mayonnaise (we supposedly have “light” mayo here, but it only has about 1 gram less fat than the regular stuff, or something crazy like that).
-Olive oil in brownies, muffins, and other baked goods sounds gross I know, but with extra light olive oil you can’t taste a difference.
-Applesauce instead of oil? This is a classic substitute, but in my opinion it messes with the taste and texture. If it is for little ones though, chances are they will still be excited about a special treat and won’t realize that it tastes much healthier than it should.
-“Veggie” burgers: I have heard that you can add finely minced veggies (soft ones I assume) to ground meat and use it to make burgers. I think you can use about 1/3 minced veggies proportionately. I don’t make burgers (not a huge fan of touching ground meat), so I haven’t tried this.
-Tofu: I grew up vegetarian and my mom put tofu in pretty much anything that should have had meat. Marinara sauce and stir fry were the classics that I loved. Also you can scramble tofu, cottage cheese, and shredded cheese together for a great breakfast! Add some purred veggies, diced zucchini, or kale, and put it on toast to make a balanced meal. Yum!
-Smoothies: a standard trick to getting your fruits for the day. Add frozen berries, yogurt, milk, juice, purreed pumpkin, frozen bananas (cut and freeze in small pieces), frozen yogurt… No recipe needed. Just go with what you think might taste good.