On St. Patrick’s Day, it’s tempting to buy a bottle of green food coloring and just go to town on everything you plan on consuming or feeding to your kids that day. Green bread! Green yogurt! Boom, you’re festive. But St. Patrick’s Day food for kids is tricky; I have less-than-fond memories of my mom making the same meal for St. Patrick’s Day every single year; green milk (ugh) green mashed potatoes (not appealing) and ham and cabbage. Do you know a child who likes cabbage? Exactly.
Here’s the deal: If your picky toddler doesn’t eat something the other 364 days of the year, dousing it in green food coloring probably won’t help. We get it; you want to be festive and fun, but still feed them healthy(ish) food. So what’s a good-intentioned parent to do?
Before you go to Costco and get a jumbo sized bottle of food coloring, check out these nine green foods your kids are guaranteed to adore. Bonus: Not a single one of them involves food coloring. (Gasp!) Yep, all of these kid-approved foods are naturally green, and naturally delicious. So whether you need ideas for a killer St. Patrick’s Day party for kids or are just making lunch, the whole family will love these green twists on classic favorites. Just see if they can last until next St. Paddy’s Day before requesting the next batch.
Green smoothie pancakes
Image: Healthy Little Foodies.
I have never met a child who didn’t like pancakes, and these are the best, because they are made out of green smoothies. Yes, smoothies. Make yourself a big ol’ smoothie, make a little extra, and add a few more ingredients for the perfect green pancake batter. This is a great way to sneak some greens into your kids’ morning; St. Patrick’s only comes once a year, so milk it and stuff as many veggies into those picky bellies as possible.
Green mac ‘n’ cheese
It may not look like Kraft mac from the box, but holy cheese does this taste better. Even the pickiest eater will love this green mac and cheese. Why? Because it’s drowning in cheese. Also because its ooey-gooey goodness is so insanely delicious, your kids won’t even comment on the fact that they saw you putting spinach in it.
Green smoothie bowl
Um, check out that super-pretty green shade. If your kids are the types to demand ice cream for breakfast, this mouth-watering green smoothie bowl is a great (and gorgeous) alternative. It’s sweet enough to feel like a treat, but packed with fruits and veggies, so you feel good about giving it to your kiddos. Add coconut, berries and nuts to top off this indulgent start to their morning.
Green grilled cheese
I’m pretty sure there were about three years of my childhood in which I lived solely off of grilled cheese; Kid Me is drooling over this green grilled cheese stuffed with avocado pesto, creamy cheese and a chewy multigrain bread.
Behold, the power of matcha. These fluffy green marshmallows are made with only six ingredients. They’re ridiculously light and naturally sweetened — which makes for the perfect marshmallow. March is certainly “in like a lion” this year, and snow is in the forecast for St. Paddy’s in plenty of places, so pair these with a couple mugs of white-chocolate hot cocoa for the best snow day treat. (Fingers crossed.)
Ravioli is a classic kid favorite, and this ravioli verde uses spinach to make a St. Patrick’s Day dinner that will satisfy kids and adults alike. If you don’t have time to make this recipe from scratch, you can also buy green ravioli in most grocery stores to cut prep time down. Top with parmesan and toasted pine nuts, or keep it simple for the kids with butter, salt and pepper.
Not only are these green doughnuts um, well, green, they’re also baked — not fried, so you can feel good about letting your kids sneak an extra one after dinner. They also pack a green tea punch (antioxidants!) and thus give you that excuse you needed (let’s be real, you didn’t need an excuse, but now you have one) to make homemade doughnuts. They’re so easy, and so delectable, you’ll be busting these babies out way more often than just St. Paddy’s Day.
Green chocolate chip cookies
These white chocolate matcha cookies are chocolate chip cookies in disguise, thanks to white chocolate chips and green tea. And believe us: You’re going to taste-test your way through half the first batch before they’re even cool. So bake a batch, and freeze a batch. Or two. Or five.
If you ask any kid from the age they start speaking through, well, forever, what their top three favorite foods are, there’s a pretty good chance pizza will be in there. And this four-cheese broccoli pizza is not only festive and green; its crispy, chewy crust and four cheeses will have even the pickiest eater rejoicing in the goodness. Looking for a busy weeknight shortcut? Grab some pre-made naan or flatbread to use as the crust.
A version of this article was originally published in February 2015.