A sure dinner pleaser for my kids is sloppy joes from scratch. I don’t know whether it is the messiness or the flavor that draws them in!
I like making sloppy joes because they are a quick dinner to prepare and I can make them in large batches (I freeze the extras and have an instant dinner choice for really slammed days ). Whatever the reason, this meal finds its way onto our menus about once a week. I have no qualms about feeding them to the kiddos so often since they contain more than a half a cup of vegetables per serving. WHAT, you say?!?! Super Sloppy Joes with vegetables? YES, they are actually Super Vegetable Sloppy Joes.
Shhhh! Don’t tell my kids, but I have been making sure they get plenty of vegetables by packing them into their favorite recipes. It’s easy, tastes great and helps them develop healthy eating patterns for life.
I grew up with a mom who grew a huge garden. She canned and froze her homegrown vegetables and encouraged us to try lots of varieties of produce. Her efforts paid off, I love all kinds of vegetables and I want to make sure that my kids develop the same preferences. Of course, as kids grow and age they go through stages where some healthy vegetables are not as appealing as french fries. The solution? Disguise the vegetables!
This recipe contains three vegetable my kids currently claim to hate: zucchini, onions, and red peppers. It also contains carrots, which they love, but they don’t know they are in their meal either! I serve sloppy joes with a green salad or fruit salad and sweet potato tator tots. By the time the meal is over the kids have consumed more than 75% of the daily vegetable allowance in just one meal! Add an after school smoothie and some lunchbox vegetables and they are getting more than their recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. You can learn more about fruit and vegetable consumption guidelines for kids at USDA Choose My Plate
The recipe also calls for tomato sauce and tomato paste which are both full of lycopene, an antioxidant that wards off cancer. In fact, tomatoes are the most concentrated food source of lycopene and the body absorbs lycopene more readily from cooked tomato products. Learn more at the American Cancer Society.
Since we’re talking about healthy eating, I am going to point out that this recipe contains honey and molasses. As you may know, sloppy joe sauce has a barbeque-esque flavor. This comes from combining an acid (like vinegar) with a sweetener. Commercially purchase sloppy joe sauce contains high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup (yep, 2 corn syrups in one can), and sugar (plus a heaping helping of sodium). I chose to use a bit of honey and molasses, healthier sweeteners.
The recipe calls for full flavor molasses (sometimes called second molasses). It is made from the boiling of sugarcane juice (the granulated sugar making process). Second molasses is the result of the juice being boiled and cooled twice (with sugar crystals removed at each stage) Molasses contains a significant amount of potassium , magnesium, calcium, and iron. You can also use mild flavor molasses (also called first molasses) in this recipe; be aware that, since it has not been boiled a second time, it contains a few more carbs/sugars and less potassium and magnesium than full flavor molasses. Do not use bootstrap molasses, the flavor is too strong.
Sloppy joes are a kid pleasing dinner! This version packs in multiple servings of vegetables and your kids will never even know!
- 2 cups grated carrots (about 3 large)
- 2 cups white onion, finely chopped (about 1 large)
- 4 cups peeled, grated zucchini (about 2 medium)
- 2 cups diced sweet red pepper (about 1 large)
- 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
- 1 tsp seasoned salt
- 2 –15 oz cans tomato sauce (you can substitute 1 can for 1-15 oz can petite diced tomatoes in juice)
- 1 –6 oz can tomato paste
- 1/8–1/4 cup molasses
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1–2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp yellow mustard (prepared, not ground)
- 1/2–1 tsp salt (optional)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 20 whole wheat hamburger buns (we prefer small buns)
- Grate and dice all vegetable finely.
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tsp of olive oil, onions, garlic and ground meat. Cook and stir until meat is nearly done. Drain and/or rinse meat and return to pan.
- Add vegetables and seasoned salt. Cook until all vegetables are tender and meat is done.
- Reduce heat to medium, stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, molasses, honey, Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper and paprika. Stir to combine and heat until bubbly. Taste sauce and add additional 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tsp salt if needed.
- Enjoy your nutritious meal!
- Serving Size: 1 sloppy joe
- Calories: 241
Keywords: healthy sloppy joes, vegetable sloppy joes, hidden vegetable dinner
I hope you try Super Vegetable Sloppy Joes and get your family an extra serving of vegetables! You should also check out my Lazy Mom Smoothies and one simple trick to get your kids to Eat More Vegetables.