Listen to the podcast version:
According to the USDA, only about one-quarter of children eat enough vegetables every day to meet the dietary recommendations. Children who consume fewer vegetables tend to be less healthy and develop nutritional deficiencies that may lead to health issues down the line. By learning to embrace vegetables as a delicious and healthy alternative to unhealthy foods, we can encourage our children to embrace a healthier lifestyle and build lifelong habits that promote optimal nutrition.
I can’t tell you how many times I wondered as a mom of toddlers how I could get my boys to eat their veggies!
Let’s face it, fruit is much sweeter and often more attractive.
Luckily, I came up with some pretty simple solutions and I’m happy to say that many, many years later, my adult young men love their vegetables and even cook them on their own.
1. Serve vegetables first, then the main dish.
If you do not allow your kids to snack or have beverages other than water before dinner, they will come to the table hungry and eat what you put in front of them!
In a recent study, it was found that the main factor in whether your child will eat his veggies is what else he is served.
When he is served something he loves, he will eat all of that and less of his veggies.
When he is served a main dish he doesn’t like so much, he will eat more of the vegetables.
By serving the vegetables first, you make the main dish a non-issue.
(And if you think about it, this works for adults too… You’re much more likely to eat your salad when you aren’t already full from eating a burger, right?)
2. Add flavor to your vegetables with butter, cheese, peanut butter or a dip!
Research shows that kids are more likely to eat their vegetables when paired with dip, and who doesn’t like butter or cheese with your vegetables!?
Have a child who doesn’t eat dairy?
No worries! Here is a delicious dairy-free ranch recipe to try!
My dad says the best way to eat cauliflower is with cheddar cheese melted all over it.
My boys love steamed broccoli.
I have always made it with individual side custard cups of melted butter and lemon, almost as if they were having crab or shrimp!
They love to dip the broccoli in the butter and lemon and they eat a ton of the vegetable.
Personally, I am not a celery fan…at all. I can gobble it up if I have peanut butter to dip it in.
3. Add bacon, seriously, bacon makes everything better.
It sounds silly, but if you are a carnivore, just the smell of bacon makes food better.
My dad is convinced he does not like brussel sprouts.
He came to our house for a Thanksgiving where I was making shredded brussel sprouts https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/53715/shredded-brussels-sprouts/ instead of a common side or green veggie.
My dad turned green. He said, in front of the rest of the family that he was glad he was an adult and did not have to eat the awful brussel sprouts.
I convinced him to try them. He was shocked.
He let my kids know that it was a good thing to always try because “your mom can actually make brussel sprouts taste good.”
I also make a “wilted salad” if you are familiar with those only instead of spinach I use steamed kale.
Then I still use the bacon and bacon grease to make the dressing.
This kale became one of my boys’ early favorites. It was never the brussel sprouts or the kale, it was always the bacon.
4. Add vegetables to your kids’ smoothies!
This was how I first got my boys to eat kale and spinach, which they both now eat steamed.
Plus your little kids can help you push the buttons on the blender, which they love to do!
Never made a green smoothie? Here is an easy tutorial on how to make a green smoothie your kids will love.
5. Disguise the vegetables in other dishes.
One of my kids thought the green stuff in my lasagna was parsley.
I let him believe that for 4 years!
Once he decided he liked spinach, I confessed it was spinach in his lasagna all along.
This is also a really fun way to make desserts and feel like you’re feeding your child something semi-healthy.
Try this spinach brownie recipe! Your kids will never know…
6. Cut the veggies into fun shapes.
Children are more likely to eat their veggies if they are presented in a fun and engaging way.
Try arranging the veggies in fun shapes or making a game out of eating them.
You can use a serrated blade, use cookie cutters, or make shapes within shapes. In this link you see how to put hearts into circles.
7. Involve children in food planning.
Planning the weekly meals can be cumbersome.
Have this be one of the first “chores” your children learn to help with.
Explain the importance of having different types of food at each meal.
Vegetables are part of that well balanced meal.
What types of food will they eat?
What types of veggies will they help prepare?
Ants on a log may not be your preferred side vegetable, but if your child is willing to prepare it and eat it, you may want to include it weekly as part of your rotation.
This will give your child a feeling of control over what is being planned for the family and it is something they want to eat.
With all of the help you will be getting in the kitchen, you can start all of those organization plans you have had on the back burner! Do you want a checklist to get stuff done..
10 Minute Tidying & Decluttering Tips
52 Tidying Tasks
60 Decluttering Tips
All in 10 minutes or less!
Do you want a checklist to get stuff done..
8. Start a family garden.
Have you noticed that family gardens are totally in vogue right now?
From prepping your backyard to planting the seeds to harvesting vegetables, a garden is an amazing learning opportunity for your child AND an easy way to get her to eat vegetables!
If you don’t have space for a garden, you can join a community garden or go pick fresh fruits/vegetables at a “you pick” farm.
Children who “hate vegetables” will pick and eat green beans, tomatoes, kale, and other vegetables, and munch on them without even realizing what they’re doing!
9. Give your child more choice.
I’ll admit this does not make dinner time easier (and I love anything that makes my life easier as a mom) but it does work.
If you make two vegetables, or even one vegetable prepared two different ways (i.e. raw broccoli vs. steamed), your child can choose which vegetable to eat. Control over one’s food choices is empowering!
10. Sign up for the weekly produce box.
See if your area has one of these.
I live in a small town and we have this.
Once a week, a truck pulls in and I have preordered the organic or non organic produce box.
I get whatever is in season.
It challenges me because I need to learn how to cook, for example beets.
It is fun, though, because it is a surprise box each week.
We want to use up everything and not waste, so we immediately start looking at recipes on line to try out with our new ingredients.
11. Don’t give up.
“They” say a child needs to be introduced to a food 10 times before they are convinced that they may need to try it and that they may actually like it.
That means you have shown them zoodles 10 times before they are willing to give the a try.
Be consistent, and be positive.
12. Make Vegetables Accessible.
My boys will eat cucumber and carrot sticks with ranch all day long…as long as the ranch is prepared (I make homemade ranch) and the veggies are washed, cut up, and in a container ready to eat.
It seems we all have a default “easy” or even “lazy” button.
It that food is easy to get to and we can be lazy and eat healthy, we don’t mind choosing the better choice.
However, are we really going to peel the cucumber, wash the carrots, and make the ranch in order to have a veggie filled snack…not likely.
13. Finally, practice what you preach!
It doesn’t work if you say, “This is really good for you,” but then you do not model healthy eating.
Your child will mimic you.
Make sure that you are also eating your veggies!
As a parent, one of the most challenging tasks is to convince your child to eat their vegetables. Picky eaters can be frustrating and worrisome, especially when you want to ensure that your child is getting the necessary nutrients to support their growth and development. However, the good news is that with a little bit of patience and creativity, you can get your child to eat their veggies and it doesn’t have to be a struggle. With these thirteen creative ways, you can encourage them to develop a love for vegetables and ensure that they get the necessary nutrients for their growth and development.