If your kids don’t immediately take to the vegetables you’re serving, don’t give up. It may take a little time.
You have been trying to teach your kids healthy eating habits from the time they were infants and toddlers. You know vegetables are an important source of vitamins and minerals. There’s just one problem.
Your kids refuse to eat vegetables. Attempts to bribe and coerce them have been only mildly successful. Dinner is starting to feel like a nightly battle set to the tune of Weird Al of Yankovic’s parody “Eat It.” It doesn’t have to be that way, though. With these tips on how to get your kids to eat more vegetables and a lot of persistence, you can teach your kids to not only eat vegetables but to love them!
1. Hungry kids eat more vegetables. Don’t let your kids fill up on snacks before meals. Take advantage of their hunger by putting out a plate of raw veggies or salad to eat while you prepare the rest of the meal.
2. Dip them or top them. Which would your kids rather eat? Plain steamed broccoli or broccoli covered with melted cheese? Plain raw cauliflower or cauliflower dipped in ranch dressing? The same vegetables that kids turn their noses up at when cooked and served plain will be devoured when served raw with a tasty dip or cooked and covered in cheese sauce or a crumb topping.
3. Teach your kids to cook. Have them help plan the meal and shop for the vegetables. Let them help you prepare the food. Kids will be far more likely to eat vegetables if they helped cook them.
4. Start a vegetable garden. Or have your kids spend time growing vegetables with a friend or relative who likes to garden. Anyone who has ever tried to sneak an old school project into the recycling knows that children are very attached to the products of their own efforts. Kids will eat almost any vegetable that they have grown or harvested themselves.
5. Make vegetable soup. Some children will eat almost any vegetables if they are in soup. Chopped very finely or pureed, many vegetables will be devoured by children who claim to hate veggies.
6. Eat your veggies too. If you have healthy eating habits, your kids are more likely to develop them too. You will never get your kids to eat more vegetables if they catch you slipping your zucchini to the dog.
7. Learn to cook. Brightly colored vegetables, well seasoned and cooked until just tender, are far more appealing than overcooked, colorless mush.
8. Eat them fresh. Fresh vegetables are barely related to their frozen and canned counterparts. If a kid’s only experience of vegetables is the canned or frozen variety, they probably hate them. And who can blame them?
9. Don’t trick kids into eating vegetables. Sneaking vegetables into dishes that your children love will only result in them looking at everything you cook with suspicion. Besides, how will kids develop a lifelong love of vegetables if they don’t even know they are eating them?
10. Be persistent. Serve vegetables every day. Keep offering food that has been rejected. Children may have to encounter a new food many times before they will decide that they like it.
11. Start slow. Start with the more appealing vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, and snow peas, and work up to the bitter or strongly flavored vegetables like Brussels sprouts and leafy greens. A good way to get leafy greens into your child’s diet is to add the milder baby versions of spinach, kale, or chard to a salad.
12. Above all, relax. Are your children strong and healthy? Active and happy? If the answer is yes, don’t worry too much. Keep trying to get your kids to eat more vegetables and continue offering a variety of healthy foods for meals and snacks, while minimizing junk food. If you do this, odds are that your kids will get enough vitamins and minerals and learn lifelong healthy eating habits.
Try some of the author’s favorite recipes for kids: