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How to sneak more vegetables into your children’s food

Healthy eating for kids

Getting your children to eat a well-balanced diet can be a serious challenge, and it can cause serious tantrums at dinnertime. With these healthy recipes for sneaky mums, taken from Samantha Quinn’s new book, feeding your kids the nutrient-rich food they need has never been easier. Make your mealtimes stress-free.

I remember it well . . . popping my little boy into his high chair to offer him his first taste of solid food. Beaming with joy as I watched him sink his little gums into my premium selection of puréed wonder-foods, including fresh fruits vegetables and pulses. Oh, the exhilaration of every successful mealtime! I felt proud (and lucky!) that my little one’s diverse palate allowed him to enjoy nutrient-rich foods that would help him grow and thrive.

I also felt bemused by other mums who constantly bemoaned their beloved ‘picky eaters’! What had caused their otherwise delightful offspring to adopt strange, restrictive diets? Why did they flatly refuse to try and new foods? What on earth were these mums talking about? My son relished all his meals!

A bumpy landing

My smugness was indeed short-lived. In fact, I returned from Cloud Nine back to Planet Earth around the time of my son’s second birthday. I have no idea what was in his birthday cake that day, but he joined the afore-mentioned ‘Picky Eaters Club’ almost overnight! My eager little boy would henceforth eat only dippy eggs and a dull array of beige-coloured foods such as chips and toasted soldiers.

Game on

Like any mum who encounters her child’s sudden, self-imposed food denial, I responded with growing anxiety and concern. I became anxious about my son’s nutrient intake and concerned for his wellbeing. However, like all mums, child-rearing has also prepped me to develop quick-thinking skills and rapid-response techniques. I decided to avoid all confrontation over my son’s restrictive food choices. I remained however, determined that he would continue to eat a well-balanced diet that included his ‘Five-a-Day’ portions of fruit and vegetables.

How did I achieve this? Well, they say that necessity is the mother of invention and I certainly became a mother who needed to invent. My head began to whirl with ideas for healthy recipes that would please my pernickety toddler. I discovered endless ways of sneaking fruit or veggie portions into his meals and snacks. I began to create a collection of sneaky recipes from yummy smoothies to tasty soups – and my son devoured them because there wasn’t a fruit or vegetable in sight. They were all blended to invisible perfection for my little prince to enjoy!

The game changer

Despite my apparent ‘success’, something didn’t feel quite right. My sneaky recipes enabled me to create wholesome meals that my son devoured. However, if I continued to hide and disguise the fruits and vegetables that my son clearly enjoyed eating, how would he know that he actually enjoyed eating them? And I wanted to avoid a silent agreement with my son’s view that fruit and veg were somehow ‘yukky’ and should be avoided at all costs. I found a very simple solution. I simply placed fruits and vegetables onto his plate alongside his prepared ‘sneaky’ meal so that he could see them, touch them and taste them if he wanted to. If he didn’t – no worries! I’d already sneaked some into his meal anyway!

Strangely enough, once I relaxed, my son did too. Once he felt that he had fullcontrol over his own food choices, he became more adventurous and less fussy with every passing week. My relaxed attitude to my son’s eating has certainly paid dividends in that he has transformed from a fussy little toddle into a smart little boy who enjoys eating healthy foods. He loves to potter about with me in the kitchen and he has even helped me create some of the recipes in this book.

If you are the mother or father of a picky eater, why not try one of these brilliant recipes that are bound to turn tea-time tantrums to triumph!

Cowboy Casserole

Cowboy Casserole is a tasty dish containing sausages that kids absolutely adore – as do the adults. This is the perfect dish for a cold winter’s day and since it includes a ton of hidden veg and some sneaky  aduki beans (which contribute to growth, repair and increase energy), it’s a pretty healthy bonanza too!

Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes


  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 celery stalks, finely sliced
  • 2 small carrots, grated
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • 6 pork sausages
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 can aduki beans (380g)
  • Parsley, to serve


  • Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently for 3 minutes. Then add the garlic, celery, carrot and peppers and cook for a further 3 minutes to make a purée.
  • Place in a food processor with the vegetable stock and purée. Set aside.
  • Add the sausages to the pan and cook to pack instructions. When the sausages are cooked, cut them into 1cm slices and place back in the pan.
  • Add the purée to the sausages and mix so that everything is covered. Add the beans and cook for a further 4-5 minutes.
  • Garnish with parsley.

Mum’s Tip: This is a great meal to serve around the campfire, telling stories to little campers. I usually make up the purée before we go camping and add it to the sausages once cooked. If eating at home, it goes very well with cauliflower mash.


Brilliant Bean Burgers

Not quite a hamburger, although they look enough like one that the kids probably won’t mind giving them a go! Filling, packed with fibre and protein, these yummy burgers are a powerhouse of a meal.

Makes 6 large burgers or 10 small ones
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes


  • 50g cashew nuts
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 150g finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 medium sweet potato, grated
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 400g tinned kidney beans
  • 1 tbsp mixed herbs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 90g breadcrumbs
  • 50g crushed almonds


  • Place the cashew nuts in a food processor and pulse to a fine consistency. Set to one side.
  • Place the oil in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms, sweet potatoes and spring onions. Cook for around 5-6 minutes, then add the crushed garlic and cook for a further minute.
  • Meanwhile place the kidney beans in a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Then add the sautéed vegetables, mixed herbs and blended cashew nuts. Season well. Add the egg and mix all the ingredients together well.
  • Roll the mixture into 6 burger-sized balls (or 10 smaller bite-sized balls). Flatten the balls slightly. Combine the breadcrumbs with the almonds and coat the burgers in the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Add a little more oil to the frying pan and fry burgers for 3-4 minutes each side (smaller sized burgers for 2-3 minutes).
  • Serve in a burger bun with salad.

Hidden Veggie Quiche

This is my great-gran’s recipe and we absolutely love it in my house. It’s full of spring flavours and is packed full of vitamins and vegetables. It can be served with steamed vegetables in the winter or a salad in the summer. So versatile!

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 55 minutes


  • 1 small courgette, finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 slices of bacon, diced and the fat removed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 75g grated Cheddar cheese
  • Shortcrust pastry sheet


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Place the chopped-up vegetables into an ovenproof dish with the garlic cloves, add a little oil and roast for around 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime, gently fry the bacon and set aside. When the vegetables are ready, place them in a food processor with the eggs, milk, flour and cheese. Mix on high speed until the mixture is smooth. Then gently stir in the diced bacon.
  • Line an ovenproof dish with your pastry – ideally it should be a 20-25cm round ceramic flan dish. Leave some pastry hanging over the edge as this helps to prevent shrinkage and can be cut off once it is cooked.
  • Pour the mixture into the pastry case and cook in the centre of the oven for around 30-40 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Mum’s Tip: I often pop a slice of quiche in my children’s lunchbox instead of a sandwich. It makes a change and it’s nice and healthy.

Samantha Quinn is the founder of the award-winning baby skincare brand, Mumma Love Organics.