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Get Your Children To Eat Their Vegetables -- and Other Foods

Updated on April 4, 2017

Children and Vegetables

As a child, my daughter loved the vegetables many children and adults love to hate. Cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, and spinach, which she has liked since she was a baby. Along with those vegetables, carrots and corn are among her favorites. She loves eggplant, cabbage, and all the basic veggies too -- green beans, peas, etc. She is not fond of Brussels sprouts and beets have lost their allure since she has grown up, but tastes modify with age, so those may come along eventually too.

Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli especially, are best fresh from the produce department – or better yet, from your garden or the farm market. Frozen is good, but for these particular veggies freezing seems to remove some of their good flavor (IMO).

Canned spinach is great for certain recipes, like soups and casseroles, but it's so yummy fresh in a salad -- or steamed from frozen spinach and then lightly buttered. Spinach prepared with the steaming method disappeared almost immediately when I cooked for a family. Sometimes the way a vegetable is prepared can make all the difference in whether or not a child (or even an adult) will like it.

Children eating and learning about vegetables

Little girl enjoying a plate of vegetables.
Little girl enjoying a plate of vegetables. | Source
Young child's list of vegetables and their healthful attributes.
Young child's list of vegetables and their healthful attributes. | Source
Yummy, delicious vegetables!
Yummy, delicious vegetables! | Source

Model a Good Example to Your Children

One thing that can help a child to love fruits and vegetables is seeing YOU love them. Children like to model their parent’s behavior. If you love carrots, it is more likely that your child will love them too.

I used to insist my daughter try new things, just a tiny bit so she could see if she liked them. After a reasonable test, she did not have to eat them if she did not like them, nor even test them again for a couple of months or so. Tastes change over time for both adults and children, so things you do not like today, may seem wonderful in a few months or years.

Again, preparation can make all the difference. If you, or your child(ren) dislikes a vegetable or fruit prepared a particular way, then try preparing it differently.

The Internet is a wealth of information on everything imaginable, especially recipes. Just Google whatever vegetable you want some recipe ideas for. Simply type “recipes for zucchini” or “recipes for tomatoes” or whatever vegetable or fruit you need a new recipe for and you will soon have a variety of selections to choose from.

How to Guarantee Your Child Will Hate a Particular Food

There is no better way to insure your child will HATE something, than to force them to eat something that makes them gag and choke, because to them that food is gross and disgusting. Never force a child to eat something they dislike. To do so all but guarantees they will hate just the thought of that food for life.

Try to make sure your child gets proper nutrition by serving veggies s/he does like, but also ask them to try something new from time to time that is not their normal fair. Let them taste a small amount, and then if they do not like it, forget about it for a few weeks or so. Make sure they see you eating the new food and enjoying it.

Before getting to the "try it" stage however, talk about how much you are looking forward to eating one of your absolute favorite foods for lunch/dinner, etc. When you sit down to eat, ooh and ah about how yummy it is.

Do Not Engage In a Power Game or Bribery With Your Child

If your child refuses to even try, or decides they do not like the food after tasting it, just remark that there will be more for everyone else and let it go. Do not make a huge fuss about their dislike. Do not turn it into a power game. One or both of you will lose that battle.

No bribing should be necessary. If I thought you would pay me for eating my veggies, I would wait for your offer before eating even the ones I love!

Start Fruits and Vegetables Early

Be a good example to your children. Always be willing to try new foods and they will follow your lead. In fact, make trying new foods a favorite activity. If you like to go to restaurants often, make a point of trying new restaurants at least once a month and make it sound like an adventure to look forward to, which it is, right?

Start them on fruits and vegetables when they are babies. At two months your baby should be eating strained or well-mashed fruits in addition to cereal, and formula or breast-feeding.

I know a lot of websites recommend waiting until 4 months, but all the mothers in my family encouraged solids at 2 months and my daughter was loving her strained/,mashed pears, applesauce, and peaches starting at 2 months of age.

Vegetables should wait until 4 months because your baby’s digestive system may not be ready to deal with them yet at 2 months.

Start your child on cauliflower and broccoli when they are about 5-8 months old, after they have learned to enjoy squash, beets, and spinach, and yummy veggies like that. By that age you could be mashing the vegetables yourself instead of buying expensive processed baby food. A fork works fine for mashing in most cases, but if you prefer there are small blender appliances that work easily in a 16-ounce or smaller container.

Do Your Best to Prevent Your Child From Being Adversely Influenced Towards Foods They Have Not Yet Tried

Do not serve your child a vegetable for the first time when you have guests. It would also be best if your child were not first introduced to a new food at a friend’s home where you may be having a family lunch or dinner.

You cannot control what other people say. If even one disparaging word is said about a particular food that your child has not already tasted and likes, once they hear negative opinions about it, it will be that much more difficult to get them to give that food a fair minded try.

If your friend has children and they love the foods that are being served, that is a different story. Let your children see how much their friends love the new food because that will often have a lot of influence on their own opinion of that food.

It should not have to be said that neither parent should ever say anything negative about a new food no matter how much they hate it -- not where the children will hear. Food dislikes should be one of those secrets parents share only with each other.


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