Family-Friendly: “3 Vegetable Challenge” Pasta


Kids have this concept called the “3 marker challenge” that I brought up to my daughter in the form of the “3 vegetable challenge” asking her to have 3 veggies at a time during at least 2 meals or snacks per day.  It is visually attractive to them on the plate, but involving your kids in the cooking as well as relating it to a “challenge/game” that is current can be a huge win for parents!

I try to keep things simple. Simpler, the better. I will make the dish itself and then sometimes make myself a separate, more complex sauce or dressing. It isn’t much more work because it is the base that stays the same. 

Depending on the size of your family the amount will vary.

The Pasta Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat penne, cooked
  • Chicken, baked/cut + pan-grilled (I love this kitchen tool – you don’t have to use your hands and picks up everything- great for kids!)
  • Broccoli- steamed
  • Zucchini noodles* – optional, but it’s so fun for the kids if you make them yourself! A substitute can be asparagus
  • Butter
  • Parmesan
  • Carrots
  • Salt + Pepper


  • If I set up the spiralizer, she likes to “catch” the noodles + then puts them in a bowl
  • I steam the broccoli first in larger florets so she can use her toddler knives + protective gloves to help cut it more easily when it is softer. Sometimes they are even easy enough to pick apart  by hand once slightly cooled.
    • COOKING TIP: don’t over steam the broccoli/carrots. Kids do like different textures and crunch!
  • Plating or setting the table. Involve them through to the end! My little one loves the responsibility of getting things ready and getting her own food on her plate. She feels grown-up and included.

NOTE FOR YOU: I steamed extra broccoli to use in a breakfast bowl the next morning


    • BUY IT PRE-CHOPPED: Buy the broccoli pre-cut and carrot shreds. Busy night? Buy pre-spiralized veggies noodles (aka: zoodles!)
    • BUY PRE-COOKED CHICKEN: Use a rotisserie chicken instead of baking your own chicken breast. Simply remove the skin + hand-shred. TIP- easier done when warm.
    • BATCH COOKING: Weekly I make neutral flavored proteins (like chicken) in bulk to use in different recipes like this throughout the week. Slow-cook with low-sodium, organic chicken broth, bake with oil + lemon, or pan-grill it all chopped up in a light oil with salt + pepper.


  • White flour has no nutritional value. It elevates blood sugar levels and kid’s teeth are sensitive to it like a sugar. There are so many other forms of “pasta” to try. Depending on your child and what they “accept,” you can get veggie-based, bean-based, or wheat versions.
  • I organize my meals with vegetables as the base. So about 50% of the meals are vegetables while the rest is a healthy protein, healthy fats, + fiber/grains.