8 Ways to Get Your Kids to Love Veggies

I have to admit it. As a child, I didn’t like vegetables much. And now I am a dietitian. Strange, right? I grew up liking peas (but only in mashed potatoes), canned vegetable soup, and broccoli, if cooked to mush consistency and then put into a casserole with processed cheese. Then, I had a turning point when I attended a wedding, and there was something on my plate I had never seen before. Fresh steamed asparagus.

 A whole new world flashed in front of me.

I previously only knew of canned asparagus, of which I was not a huge fan. From that point on, I became more adventurous, and it clicked that if I can find it canned, I can probably find it fresh and prepare it my way. My kids have benefited from this epiphany, and I hope that you can find ways to benefit from the ideas below.

How to help kids like vegetables…

  1. Start ‘em young. Provide a wide range of vegetables starting at a young age and make having vegetables on the plate the norm in your home. It’s never too soon to develop great eating habits. And if your child is a picky eater and doesn’t love something the first (or second, or third, etc.) time you serve it, fear not. A child may need to taste a new food 10-15 times before becoming a fan.
  2. Set a great example. Your kids look up to you. Do you turn up your nose to cauliflower? Do you openly profess a dislike of carrots? Or do you take at least a few bites of a vegetable that may not be your favorite? Your negative and positive reactions to food can definitely influence young onlookers.
  1. Be creative. Does your child like for you to call broccoli “trees?” Or does he like for you to make ants on a log with his celery, or maybe a bell pepper and hummus octopus? Run with it.  We recently discovered, from talking to our local farmer’s wife, that she substitutes eggplant for rice in her stuffed bell peppers. We tried it, and we can’t even tell that we’ve removed rice and added a new vegetable that we rarely eat. Absolutely delicious! Better yet, the kids asked to have the eggplant stuffed bell peppers again.
  1. Let them be involved. Let them help pick the vegetables from the produce stand. I was thrilled on a recent shopping trip when my 8-year-old stopped in front of the asparagus, pointed at it, and asked if we could have it with dinner that night. Children can also be involved with washing the vegetables and preparing them for cooking.
  2. Grow a colorful vegetable garden. Spend time together while gardening, then reap the delicious benefits of your labor of love. The kids, when helping to tend the garden and pick the vine-ripened spoils, are invested in this food and will want to enjoy it.
  3. Understand what matters to your child. Does it matter to your 4-year-old that eating his spinach and other veggies will help provide him the essential vitamins and minerals he needs for his developing body? Probably not. But knowing that these foods can help him be strong like Batman or Captain America may get his attention.
  4. Try a one bite rule and add on praise. Ask that your child always try a bite of each food before refusing the food, and praise him for doing so. 
  1. Try different preparations. Just because your child doesn’t care for steam in the bag Brussels sprouts doesn’t mean he won’t love oven roasted Brussels sprouts sprinkled with a bit of salt and fresh parmesan. My daughter dislikes artichokes and will flat-out tell you that fact. But when she found out that they were in the vegetarian enchiladas that I made, she got excited and declared that they are good when they are mixed with other stuff. Success!

Grow an adventurous eater using the techniques listed above along with your own tools. Your child doesn’t have to love every food out there, but knowing that you exposed him to several vegetables (and foods) at an impressionable age gives you the knowledge that you did what you could to shape your child’s future diet.

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