Learn how to get veggies into taco night with this kid friendly method of veggie loading taco meat!
Taco night and our first spring dip in the lake!
Lake Michigan is 37 degrees, and that, my friends, means I’m barefoot in the beach sand trying to soak in some early spring sun rays while these little Michigan born and bread kiddos of mine are in the water and happy as little larks! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can help you with those main staples that are on everyone’s meal plan list, by amping up the nutrient level while still keeping them kid favorites.
I would venture to say that most households have a staple taco night. It is an easy kid favorite, familiar, and obviously so delicious too! Sometimes I over look the obvious staples to blog because I figure everyone knows how to make a taco right? But do you know how to make a taco that isn’t just meat a cheese? Something that will get some mineral rich veggies and fiber into the kids without the kids complaining? Without having to add the taco meat to a salad? Not that there is anything wrong with a salad, but I’ve been in those little kid years, dear momma! I know salads are not always first pick. And toddlers don’t always digest or chew salads very easily. They also will be full after one or 2 taco shells with taco filling…so let’s get more in every bite!
Making every bite count…taco style!
Little kids have little bellies. And while I have been the witness to bottomless pit kid appetites, when my girls were very little I found out very quickly that 1 or 2 tacos was about all their bellies could hold, so I had to make those bites count. The secret to veggie loading tacos is all about mixing the meat with veggies that have been cooked with the right technique….a slow, flavorful sauté. Sure, this does add about 10 minutes to your cook-time, but it will be so worth it. And one of the best parts about taco meat is that it can be done in advance on a prep-day, and even frozen for easier weeknights!
Older kid & teen benefits
Veggie loading tacos isn’t just beneficial for filling up little bellies. Those growing teenagers can seriously put the food away! Filling them up on protein is important, but fiber rich veggies will help fill up those appetites and help them feel fuller longer. Another benefit to veggie loading the meat is that the added extra veggie mineral nutrients is so vital to the function of all of their organs – hello teenage hormones! Hormones need these mineral nutrients from veggies to function properly, and this is a great way to get those in. And even better if your teen likes a big taco salad – double the veg!
Two Birds, One Stone…Veggie Loading & Budgets!
While my main focus in veggie loading these tacos is to get more veggies into your kids, I want to also help you see that this method of making taco meat really stretches that pound or 2 of ground beef for your hungry crew. My family of 5 can pound out a pound of taco meat and then some. But when I veggie load taco meat, not only does the volume of taco meat almost double, giving us more to fill into those taco shells, it is also getting fiber rich veggies into hungry bellies to fill them up.
A note about taco seasoning
You can swap the DIY taco seasoning for 1-2 packets of taco seasoning – just be real careful on those ingredient lists – staying organic usually helps with avoiding MSG, GMO’s, and other fillers. Also keep in mind that packets (even many organic ones) add starches, so you will need more bone broth or water because those starches thicken things up. I keep a jar of my DIY taco seasoning doubled or tripled up in my cupboard so it is easy to pull out on taco night.
Tips for families with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers
Dear momma, if you have an older baby or toddler, I would invite you to take my “jump in with both feet” method of feeding littles, and just add the veggies in without taking too much care to dice them up super fine. Obviously make it small enough for them to handle in their mouths, but I truly believe that my girls never batted an eye at any meal, from spaghetti to tacos, being “veggie loaded” in their lives because we started them out that way. Babies and toddlers have ZERO frame of reference for what a “taco” should look like. <—Read that again! If this is all they have ever known, it is exactly what they will grow up being used to! In fact when I veggie load these tacos, I typically double the spinach in this recipe – feel free to add more if you wish.
Tips for families with older kids and teens
If you have older kids used to “normal” tacos I have a few tips for you to ease them into this idea!
- First of all, don’t make it a big deal – you make it a big deal and they will feed off that. I would actually just try the taco meat with the chopped veggies, and if they ask what it is, simply tell them! Don’t try to hide it – that really creates some trust issues. Just treat them like normal human beings, and be honest with them.
- If you know for sure this is going to be a battle, try starting out with half of the veggies recommended here and work up to the full amount. As I said in the section above, this is actually toned down from my usual amount of veggies, but you can bring it down a couple of notches to work up to the full amount.
- Try using a food processor to really finely chop the veggies so they are truly barely noticeable. Once the taco season is in the mixture, there is zero veggie taste – promise. But I know that some kids have texture issues, so perhaps making the veg super small will help ease those kids into this. In all actuality, the sauté and simmer cooking times really make the veggies very soft and manageable, but I do know that some children can be veggie detectives 🙂
Kid Friendly Veggie Loaded Tacos
- 2 tbsp friendly fat for cooking in butter, olive oil, avocado oil, tallow, etc
- 1 small onion diced
- ½ small red bell pepper diced
- ½ small head of cabbage sliced thin or shredded
- 1 large carrot shredded
- 2-3 cups baby spinach finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 lb grassfed ground beef
- 4 tbsp taco seasoning
- 1 cup bone broth or water
- Sea salt/pepper if needed to taste
- In a large skillet, melt the fat over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, cabbage, and carrot with a big pinch of sea salt, and cook over medium high heat until the veggies are soft and sweet. This will take about 5-10 minutes depending on how small you chopped the veggies (smaller chopped veggies will cook faster).
- Add the spinach, garlic, ground beef, taco season, and broth to the pan. Break up the beef, and cook the veggies, beef, and broth together for over medium high heat, until the broth comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, stirring occasionally until the beef is cooked through, and the broth is reduced all the way down so that the taco mixture isn't runny. This takes about 10 minutes.
- Serve your veggie loaded taco meat with traditional taco shells (we love these blue corn shells or yellow corn shells) or soft shell tortillas with toppings, or over a big salad to make a taco salad (use this French dressing or Fiesta Dressing for the salad!)
- Instead of chopping, you could put all of the veggies in a food processor to chop up super small. This is a good technique for kids that don’t like “pieces” in their food, or have aversions to veggies. They will cook down and get so small you’ll never see them this way.
- You can swap the DIY taco seasoning for 1-2 packets of taco seasoning – just be real careful on those ingredient lists – staying organic usually helps. Also keep in mind that packets add starches, so you will need more bone broth or water because those starches thicken things up.
- When my kids were little, they always struggled with managing a taco and it’s fillings! I got these little taco holders and they are game changers!