Table of contents
- Why is kale good for kids?
- What’s the best way to prepare kale?
- How do I get my kids to eat kale?
- How do I get the bitterness out of kale?
- How do you hide kale in food?
- How to get your child to love leafy greens
- What can I do with a lot of kale?
- Kale breakfast recipes
- Kale lunch recipes
- Kale dinner recipes
- Kale snack recipes
- How do you keep kale fresh?
- Can you freeze kale for later use?
- To sum it all up
Are you looking for interesting kale recipes for kids? Getting little ones to eat leafy greens can be a struggle. But the recipes I’m about to share with you should make this a tad bit easier!
This year, I decided to grow a vegetable garden for the first time. So when it came to picking the vegetables I’d plant, the dietitian in me geeked out and planted loads of leafy greens.
But now that the plants have grown in, I realize I might have been a little over enthusiastic. As a result, I often end up with way more kale on my hands than I know what to do with.
So I figured this would be a great opportunity to add a few new child-friendly kale recipes to my repertoire. And in the process, to share them with you too.
In this article, you’ll find practical tips to help your kiddos love leafy greens. I’ve also included a few of my favorite kale recipes for kids, as well as the modifications I’d personally make to them to increase their nutrient content.
Why is kale good for kids?
Kale is considered somewhat of a nutrition powerhouse.
This cruciferous vegetable – from the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, radishes and arugula – is particularly rich in vitamins A, K and C. It’s also a plant source of calcium (1, 2).
Like all cruciferous vegetables, kale is also a good source of sulforaphane – a beneficial compound thought to offer anticancer benefits. This may explain why studies consistently link diets rich in cruciferous vegetables to a lower risk of cancer (6, 7, 8, 9).
This is also why I personally aim to include at least one portion of cruciferous vegetables to my family’s diet each day. It’s also why I consider kale a great leafy green to feed to kids!
Dinners are typically the easiest place to pencil these vegetables in, but as you’ll see in the recipes below, kale can be easily added to a variety of other meals and snacks as well.
In sum – Kale is a nutrient-rich leafy green worth adding to your kid’s diet. It contains specific beneficial plant compounds that may offer cancer-fighting benefits and protect your child from disease.
What’s the best way to prepare kale?
Cooking can reduce the level of some of the antioxidants found in kale, such as vitamin C.
Sulforaphane, one of the major beneficial compounds found in kale, is activated when the plant is damaged. This means that kale – just like other cruciferous vegetables – must be cut, shredded, blenderized, or chewed to activate its sulforaphane content (10).
Keep in mind that although light cooking can be beneficial, heavy cooking methods such as boiling, stewing and chip-baking may reduce kale’s sulforaphane by up to 58% (13).
So maintaining your cooking temperature below 140-158°F (60–70 °C) seem to be the best (12).
That said, heavily cooked kale still contains some sulforaphane, and an array of other nutrients. So it’s definitely still worth eating if heavier cooking methods are the main way that your family enjoys eating kale.
Adding mustard seeds or mustard powder to your cruciferous vegetable recipes may also help your body absorb the sulforaphane more easily (14).
In sum – Kale is best eaten raw or lightly cooked. Make sure to cut, shred, or blend it and chew it well to activate its sulforaphane content. Adding mustard seeds to your kale recipes can also be beneficial.
How do I get my kid to eat kale?
If your child is anything like mine, kale is probably not their favorite food. My preschooler isn’t a fan of eating kale on its own, whether raw or cooked.
I think that she hasn’t yet gotten used to the texture of leafy greens, nor to their naturally more bitter taste.
Below, I address two of the most commonly-asked questions regarding how to get children to love kale.
How do I get the bitterness out of kale?
Children are naturally born with a preference for salty and sweet flavors. Bitterness is a flavor they need to develop a taste for over time. This is best done through repeated exposure to bitter-tasting foods (15).
This is why introducing kale, and other leafy greens early is key. In fact, the wider range of flavors and textures you can introduce your child to before their second birthday, the wider the variety of foods they’ll likely accept later on (16, 17, 18).
For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend attempting to take 100% of the bitterness out of kale. Especially when you serve it to younger kids. That said, making it a little less bitter can help older children slowly grow to loving this leafy green.
Here are a few ways to slightly reduce its bitterness:
- Massage: rubbing raw kale with your hands until it looks a little wilted helps release some of its bitterness. Do this before adding kale to salads or other uncooked meals.
- Mix with sweets: combining kale with naturally sweet-tasting foods such as fruits, or sweet-tasting spices can help mask some of its bitterness.
- Add a touch of salt or spices: spicy and salty flavors can also tame some of kale’s strong bitterness. Try cooking kale in vegetable broth with a touch of chili flakes. Just be mindful of the amount of salt you add if you have younger kids.
How do you hide kale in food?
Due to its bright green color, kale isn’t the easiest vegetable to “hide” in food. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because sneaking vegetables into your child’s meals or snacks is not a strategy I particularly recommend using anyways.
I realize this may be difficult to wrap your mind with when dealing with picky eaters. Nonetheless, there are a few reasons why I don’t think hiding foods a beneficial strategy to use in the long term.
First, sneaking vegetables into your child’s meals can break the trusting relationship I encourage parents to create around mealtimes.
As a parent, I’m willing to bet that your goal is to get your child to eat a well-balanced, varied diet rich in a variety of plant foods. In order for this to happen, your child must gradually learn to enjoy these plant foods.
Hiding veggies in meals will prevent your child from learning to enjoy them, since they won’t even know they’re in there.
Telling your child that you hid kale into that spaghetti sauce they said they loved after they ate it may even cause them to refuse to eat it again in the future! Your child may also become distrustful of future meals.
Repeated exposure is the best way to get children to gradually accept and enjoy a wider variety of foods (16).
A child that becomes distrustful of new recipes for fear of a particular veggie being hidden into them can make repeated exposure very difficult to achieve.
How to get your child to love leafy greens
A better strategy to get children to learn to enjoy eating kale is to include it into recipes, without overtly hiding its addition. For instance, you can try adding kale to a muffin recipe. Serve it to your child to see if they like it.
If your child asks what’s in it, truthfully tell them about all of the ingredients you used to make it, including kale.
Ask them to taste it so they can let you know if you should make it again in the future. Then, proceed to sit at the table with them and taste it yourself, sharing your first impressions with them.
Modeling the eating behaviors you’d like to see your child develop can make them more willing to give a new recipe a try. Involving your child in the making of the recipe can also help encourage them to taste it later on.
If, despite all of this, they refuse to try it, don’t stress too much about it. Simply enjoy the muffin yourself and try again next week!
In sum – Removing some of kale’s bitterness can help your child more likely to enjoy this leafy green. Try being transparent with your child about using kale in recipes. It may seem counterintuitive, but is often a more effective long-term strategy.
What can I do with a lot of kale?
This is the exact question I asked myself after I realized how much kale my garden ended up producing on a weekly basis.
Like I mentioned earlier, my eldest doesn’t particularly like eating raw or cooked kale on it’s own. However, she doesn’t mind eating it when served in other forms, like a smoothie.
I suspect that’s because smoothies change kale’s naturally leafy texture, and somewhat mask its bitter taste. Here are a few kale recipes for kids I recommend trying if you find yourself in the same predicament.
Kale breakfast recipes
- Savory granola: this recipe provides an interesting twist to the typical breakfast granola. The kale and rosemary make it a savory option to add to plant-based yogurt or to mix with plant-based milk.
- Kale pancakes: we have pancakes at least once a week. This savory version is a great way to add a little extra greens to your family’s diet. Top it with walnuts, plant-based yogurt and some raspberries for a balanced meal.
- Kale waffles: waffles are another great medium for kale. This pumpkin waffle recipe would mask kale’s natural bitterness well. Simply mix fresh or frozen kale with the liquid ingredients in a blender before adding to the dry ingredients.
Kale lunch recipes
- Almond kale pesto: this kale recipe is super easy to whip up, and can be used in so many ways. For an easy lunch, I’d serve it together with crackers and sliced veggies. But it’s also great with pasta, pizza, or sandwiches.
- Kale falafels: falafels are such an easy vehicle for leafy greens like kale. They hide kale’s natural bitterness perfectly, and happen to also be rich in protein. In my books, that counts as a win-win!
- Kale soup: I often think of soup as a warm smoothie! I’d personally top this beautiful bright green recipe with white beans, cooked quinoa, a sprinkle of hempseeds and a few radish slivers and make a full meal out of it.
Kale dinner recipes
- Kale and sweet potato fritters: this one requires less than ten ingredients and is a great source of plant-based iron and protein. The naturally sweet flavor of the sweet potato also masks the kale’s bitterness nicely.
- Kale pakoras: I absolutely love pakoras, and so does my little one. This version mixes chickpea flour and kale, for a nutrient-rich kid-friendly dinner option.
- Creamy white beans with kale: my daughter absolutely loves white beans. If your child does so too, this recipe would be a great one to add a little extra kale to.
Kale snack recipes
- Kale chips: my daughter ate these up like candy! The trick is to ensure that your kale chips are ultra crunchy. You may need to adjust baking times based on how your own oven performs this task.
- Rosemary kale crackers: this recipe was surprisingly easy to make. Consider countering some of kale’s bitterness by adding a natural sweetener like dried apricots or dates to the mix.
- Coconut kale muffins: this was an all-around hit in our family, both with little and not-so little ones. This recipe can be batch-made and frozen. Can also be served for breakfast together with yogurt, nut butter and fresh fruit.
- Kale smoothie bowl: this smoothie bowl provides an easy alternative to the usual kale smoothie. Serve as is for a quick snack, or top it with nuts, puffed quinoa and a little extra chia seeds for a full meal.
In sum – These kale recipes for kids are nutrient rich, and full of flavor. They’re a great way to help this leafy green make a regular appearance in your family’s diet.
How do you keep kale fresh?
If you have access to kale from your garden, try to harvest it right before using it. If I cannot use it immediately, I tend to put a bunch of it, stems down, into a vase filled with fresh water – creating a kale bouquet of sorts.
I find the sight of fresh greens beautiful on my countertop or windowsill. However, fresh kale will only keep for a few days when stored like this, before the leaves start losing some of their bright green color, even if you change the water daily.
For longer-keeping options, wrap a bunch of kale leaves in a kitchen or paper towel and store in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. The towel will help absorb any extra moisture, helping your kale stay fresh for around a week.
Another option is to destem and slice your kale. Wash it and dry it as well as possible. Then store it wrapped in a bag or tupperware, wrapped in a kitchen or paper towel. This should keep your kale fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
A final option is to dehydrate your kale, and grind it to make a green powder out of it. You can use this green powder to add a touch of kale to all of your favorite recipes.
You can probably keep powdered kale for a few months. Just remember that the nutrients in your kale will degrade with time. So from a nutrition perspective, try to eat it as quickly as possible!
Can you freeze kale for later use?
Kale can also be frozen for later use. You can do this in three different ways:
- Blanch before freezing: cook destemmed kale leaves in for 1-2 minutes in boiling water before running under ice cold water to cool. Dry well, place in freezer bags and freeze quickly.
- Freeze as is: freeze fresh kale leaves in freezer-safe bags or containers as is. No need to blanch first. Add this kale directly from the freezer to your favorite smoothie, soup, or other cooked recipes.
- Puree before freezing: puree kale by mixing fresh or blanched leaves with a little water. Pour in an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a bigger bag for storage. Use in soups, sauces, or smoothies.
Blanching your kale before freezing it offers a few advantages. First, the blanching process will preserve the kale’s color, flavor, and nutrients more effectively than storing it as is.
Moreover, blanching also kills any microorganisms. Because of this, blanched kale can be kept in the freezer for up to 12 months, while unblanched frozen kale is likely best used within 4-6 weeks.
Finally, blanching shrinks the size of the kale so it takes less room in your freezer.
In sum – Kale can be kept fresh for longer through proper storage, refrigeration, or freezing. Consider how quickly you plan on eating the fresh kale when picking the best storage strategy for your family.
To sum it all up
Kale is a leafy green that many children struggle eating, at least at first. That said, it’s very rich in nutrients, and well worth adding to your family’s diet.
The kale recipes for kids I mentioned above alter kale’s natural texture and flavor to make it more appealing to little ones.
My daughter loved many of these recipes, so I hope your kiddos love them too. What’s your favorite way to serve kale to your family? Let’s chat about it in the comments below!