Carla S - June 14, 2021
How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables
Some kids will eat anything. Then, like the flip of a switch, your kid is shaking their head at the vegetables you thought they liked. It’s tricky to convince them to try new vegetables.
It’s a classic question: how to get kids to eat vegetables?
If you have a picky eater, we have a few tips to improve your kids’ relationship with vegetables.
When vegetables are a separate serving, your kids zero in on the problem. By integrating veggies into mixtures or soups, it’s challenging to pick out one food. If you make the vegetables smaller, your kids can focus on the flavor of the food they prefer.
One tasty example is cauliflower in mac n’ cheese. You can also finely slice and dice vegetables to add into a rice mixture.
Pureeing disguises vegetables. You can puree vegetables into a side serving, like potatoes, or make a smoothie. Banana or citrus fruits can disguise many veggie flavors, transforming a vegetable serving into a treat.
Whether you tell your kids about the trick is up to you. Younger kids might resist on principle, even if it tastes yummier. Older kids will probably appreciate the ingenuity.
One straightforward answer to how to get your kids to eat vegetables is to make veggies the first food they see. You can offer a veggie platter snack after school or serve veggies first at dinner.
When you put vegetables first, the idea is that kids are getting them out of the way. The downside of this approach is framing vegetables as an obstacle. Some stubborn kids might choose not to eat anything rather than force down vegetables.
Be careful of the language you use. Framing vegetables as the “bad” food can sometimes teach your kids to dislike vegetables. Try not to say, “you must eat this before you get that.” Similarly, avoid bribes or punishments.
Getting your kids to eat healthily is important, but forcing your kids to eat your version of healthy can backfire. Let your kids pick the veggies. Whether you bring your kids to the grocery store, farmer’s market, or select virtually, get your kids involved.
The downside of the virtual approach is that your kid won’t experience the same selection process. But if you have a store playset or a similar setup, you can create your own experience.
If your kid only chooses carrots, encourage them to pick something new every week. They don’t have to like every vegetable, but they should have fun experimenting.
A garden can get your kid invested. You can test your kid’s green thumb with outdoor green space or a potted plant.
Ideally, your kid should do most of the work. If you’re unsure how your kid feels about getting their hands dirty, start with less. If they love playing with dirt, you can expand their garden.
The key is to pick a veggie they’ll like. Potted pepper plants are sweet and more appealing to kids. Tomatoes are another easy plant. You can also remind the kiddos that you can turn tomatoes into a sauce (for noodles or pizza).
We know tomatoes are fruit. But it’s more important for your kids to consume the nutrients they need than panic over fruits vs. veggies.
If you want your kids to enjoy their vegetables by the handful, experiment with veggie dips. A 2013 study discovered that kids are more willing to try vegetables when combined with dip.
While ranch dip is a popular flavor, you can find recipes for healthy, delicious dips that you and your kids can enjoy.
Peer pressure has a negative connotation, but it can also positively influence your kids’ food habits. Has your kid ever requested a new snack because they noticed a school friend eating it?
You can effectively use peer pressure to improve your kids’ eating habits by watching for peers with good habits. Do your sibling’s kids eat their veggies? Does your kid eat veggies without complaint at their BFF’s home? Send your kid over. Let them see that kids their age (or kids a little older they might look up to) aren’t suffering over veggies.
When your kids order from a menu, it’s a choice. When you tell them what to eat, it’s a chore. Ask your kids: do you want broccoli or carrots? Do you want a salad or cooked vegetables?
None isn’t an option. But if you’re preparing two cooked veggies, you can always let your kids know they can choose both. Your kids will be less resistant when it’s their call.
When your kids help with meal prep, they feel included in their food choices. Let them prepare the vegetables (when safe). If they’re too young for some preparation, let your kids select spices or other ingredients to pair with their vegetables.
If your kids help make their food, they’ll be more invested in taste-testing.
Monkey see monkey do. Instead of making veggie snack time kids-only, serve yourself some veggies and ask your kids to join. Try sharing your favorite vegetables and show your kids why you like them.
Be a role model for healthy habits. Similar to positive peer pressure, your kids won’t want to be left out.
Make it an Event
If mealtime with vegetables drains your kids’ energy, try adding some fun. Arrange a dinner party. Make vegetables the guest of honor.
You can go all out with celebratory napkins, plates, and utensils. Or, you can keep it simple by playing music, games, or themed trivia.
Consider an Italian or Mediterranean-themed dinner with appropriate veggies. You can theme by country, season, color, or ask your kids to brainstorm a theme. By celebrating, you take some of the pressure off and make food fun.
We shared some of the most effective tips answering how to get kids to eat vegetables. If you find one method has stopped working, move on to another. You might need to put a few in the rotation if your kids get wise.
Which tricks have you tried? What is your kids’ favorite way to eat vegetables? If they haven’t found their favorite yet, don’t give up! Your kids might surprise you.