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Is Your Child a Picky Eater? 10 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables

Updated on January 15, 2013
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Kathy is a busy mom of two teens who loves to cook tasty and simple food for her family and friends.

Some day your child may learn to love all of these vegetables - and more!
Some day your child may learn to love all of these vegetables - and more! | Source

Involve Your Child in Meal Planning

Empowering your child with the ability to help plan the dinner menu can help avoid power struggles around mealtime, and may lead to more success in getting him to eat healthier foods. Obviously, you probably don't want to give up complete control of meal planning, unless you're prepared to eat a steady diet of pizza or chicken fingers and fries. However, you can ask your child to help you plan dinner by making certain choices about which foods to include, or how they will be prepared.

For example, you could ask if they would prefer:

  • cooked carrots or raw carrots
  • broccoli or cauliflower
  • mashed potatoes or baked potatoes
  • asparagus with cheese sauce or hollandaise sauce

By involving your child in the decision making process, you help give them a sense of having some control over what they eat. This can work wonders in getting them to eat healthier meals while avoiding meal time battles.

Serve Vegetables with Kid-Friendly Sauces and Dips

Many parents have discovered the secret to getting their kids to eat more vegetables is to serve it with dip or cover it in a cheesy sauce. If this works with your child, then I encourage you to do it. Eventually they will learn to enjoy the vegetables without the added dips or sauces, but in the meantime at least they are getting the nutrition from the vegetables. You may also be able to introduce new vegetables by serving them with familiar sauces and dips.

  • Serve raw vegetables with dip for dipping. Some good choices are carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower.
  • Hummus , which is made with chickpeas, makes a great dip for vegetables, crackers and pita bread or use it as a spread on sandwiches.
  • Cheese sauce is a perfect topping for cauliflower or broccoli, but experiment with other vegetables too.
  • For variety, try other sauces such as hollandaise or bernaise sauce over vegetables.

Take your kids with you to buy some fresh and interesting fruits and vegetables at local farms or farmers markets.
Take your kids with you to buy some fresh and interesting fruits and vegetables at local farms or farmers markets. | Source

Visit Farms and Farmers Markets With Your Kids

Visiting farms and farmers markets is a fun way to introduce your child to a variety of fresh produce. Meeting the farmers who grow their food, and perhaps tasting some samples can make vegetables more interesting and may help encourage your child to try some new foods. Encourage them to ask questions about the vegetables and how they are grown.

Fresh local vegetables usually taste better than vegetables from the grocery store, and are less likely to be treated with chemicals to extend their shelf life.

Visit local markets or farms as frequently as possible, and encourage your children to pick out something for dinner, such as the biggest carrots, the craziest looking squash or the prettiest tomatoes.

Lead by example

Children learn a lot of their food attitudes and eating habits from watching their parents. You may tell them it's important to eat their vegetables, but if you make a face when offered brussel sprouts or by-pass the tray of veggies and dip to snack on chips instead, they will certainly pick up on these things.

Try to be a good role model for your children by modelling healthy eating whenever possible. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and be willing to try new foods and recipes.

Grow Your Own Vegetables

Growing your own vegetables can be a great way to get your child to eat more veggies.
Growing your own vegetables can be a great way to get your child to eat more veggies. | Source

Growing your own vegetable garden is a wonderful way to get your children to eat vegetables. Get your kids to help you plant the seeds or vegetable plants in the spring and involve them in helping to take care of the garden through the growing season. Children of all ages can help by watering the plants, pulling out weeds and harvesting the vegetables. Even kids that don't normally eat vegetables will likely be motivated to eat fresh vegetables from the garden when they've helped grow them.

Some great choices for a kid-friendly vegetable garden are:

  • carrots
  • peas
  • green beans
  • cherry tomatoes
  • cucumbers


Cook With Your Children

When you cook with your child, you greatly increase the chance that they will eat the meal that you have made. Even young children can help snap the ends off of green beans, make a salad or wash vegetables. Older children can help with tasks like peeling or chopping vegetables, husking corn on the cob or mashing potatoes.

Helping to cook dinner can help take some of the mystery out of foods, and give your child motivation to sample the food they helped prepare.

Make eating healthy fun for kids

Rainbow Innovations Today I Ate A Rainbow Kit
Rainbow Innovations Today I Ate A Rainbow Kit

Make healthy eating fun for kids with the Today I Ate a Rainbow Kit.

 
Crunch a Color: The Healthy Eating Game for Kids
Crunch a Color: The Healthy Eating Game for Kids

Crunch a Color - a mealtime card game that makes eating veggies fun.

 

Have Fun with Food

There are many ways to make eating vegetables fun for kids. There are healthy eating kits like Today I Ate a Rainbow and games like Crunch a Color that encourage childrent to eat a variety of different colors of fruits and vegetables, which is very important to good nutrition and health.

You can cut vegetables into funny shapes, or even make faces or animals out of different vegetables to serve as lunch or snacks.

Other ideas are stuffing celery stalks with cream cheese or peanut butter, letting kids build their own pizzas or planning meals around a certain colour.

Build on Existing Preferences

Most children will eat at least one or two vegetables. If there are certain vegetables that your child likes, it's a good strategy to try to expand their vegetable repetoire by introducing them to other vegetables that are similar in taste or texture to ones they will already eat.

Some children prefer crunchy raw vegetables, while others will only eat soft cooked vegetables with a mild taste. Figure out what your child's preferences are, and start with the easier wins first.

See the chart below for suggestions on how to increase your chances of success of getting your child to eat new vegetables.

Expanding the Vegetable Repetoire

If your child likes:
Similar food to try:
Or:
mashed potatoes
mashed cauliflower
mashed sweet potatoes
french fries
sweet potato fries
parsnip or carrot fries
banana muffins
pumpkin muffins
zucchini muffins
cucumber
raw zucchini
yellow pepper
spaghetti
spaghetti squash
add vegetables to pasta sauce
fruit smoothies
add cucumbers or carrot
add spinach or kale
tomato sauce
add pureed vegetables
add finely chopped vegetables

Great Books for Sneaking Vegetables into Foods that Kids Will Eat

Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food
Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food

Jessica Seinfeld is a master at sneaking vegetables into all kinds of foods that kids will love!

 

Sneak Veggies Into Favourite Foods

Although this strategy is often frowned upon, for many parents of picky eaters it is the only way they can get their children to eat certain vegetables.

If your child absolutely refuses to eat certain vegetables, or any vegetables on their own, there are many ways to hide vegetables in foods to ensure he is getting the nutrition he needs.

For example, if your child loves spaghetti, you can blend pureed or finely chopped vegetables like carrots, spinach, broccoli, zucchini, or peppers into the pasta sauce to add extra nutrition.

If your child likes muffins, you can usually get away with adding carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes or pumpkin to them and they will still think the muffins are delicious.

You can add cauliflower to mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, black beans or spinach to brownies, or white beans to cookie recipes. Although some of these sound strange, you might be surprised how good these foods can taste.

For more creative ways to sneak vegetables into your children's favourite foods, be sure to check out Jessica Seinfeld's book "Deceptively Delicious" or "The Sneaky Chef" by Missy Chase Lapine.

Be Persistent

The secret to getting your child to eat a variety of vegetables is often persistence. Keep offering a wide variety of vegetables, presented in different ways. Encourage your child to try small bites, but try not to make it into a power struggle.

It may take many tries before your child is ready to really give certain vegetables a chance, but repeated exposure usually increases your eventual chances of success in introducing new foods.

Kids and Vegetables

How Many Different Vegetables will your Child Eat?

See results

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kathy, I'm sure glad my parents never read this. Thankfully they just gave up trying to get me to eat veggies. :)

      Very useful suggestions my friend.

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Bill. I guess I better hope my kids don't read this or they'll be on to my tricks!

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      Great ideas Kathy. Involving kids in food planning & cooking, and having them harvest their own veggies sounds like a perfect recipe for a healthy-being success story. We need to lead by example before we ask for them to make healthy choices and we need to teach them to love veggies. I really do love veggies and I wouldn´t be a happy person if they didn´t exist, so I commend you for this Hub. I hope many kids will benefit from it and grow as happy as me! :) I am definitely sharing this one.

      Voted up and useful.

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Claudia! I'm glad you approve. I don't know too many people who would say that veggies make them a happy person, but it's nice to hear! Thanks for sharing. :)

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Claudia! I'm glad you approve. I don't know too many people who would say that veggies make them a happy person, but it's nice to hear! Thanks for sharing. :)

    • carriethomson profile image

      carriethomson 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      thanks for the useful tips ...no matter i have no kid but it will be very beneficial for my mother. It is very helpful for her as everyday she is facing same situation...........

      thanks for sharing information.

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You're welcome! I hope it helps :)

    • KatSanger profile image

      Katherine Sanger 4 years ago from Texas

      I still remember when some relatives came over; my mother's cousin's daughters (how are they related to me? does it matter?), didn't call broccoli by it's name. It was "dinosaur trees," and as "dinosaur trees," they ate it like crazy. Sometimes a little white lie or two about the name of the food can help. :)

    • Bettyoverstreet10 profile image

      Betty (Alawine) Overstreet 4 years ago from Vacaville, Ca.

      loved the great info! A note to KatSanger, I think your mothers cousins daughter would be your 2nd cousin!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      This is a great, comprehensive resource for such an important topic! Nicely done.

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Katherine, Betty and Rose. I appreciate the feedback!

      I never used the "dinosaur trees" tactic Katherine, but I'm sure that would work well for a lot of kids. I'll try to remember that next time my nephews are over. :)

    • ftclick profile image

      ftclick 4 years ago

      I like the lead by example and fortunately there are some choices she likes (broccoli, lettuce and tomato). Although, I still thunk a tomato is vegefruit.

      The sauces or dip are where I have a small issue. The sauces are processed foods so it is mixing bad with good (the vegetable).

      The pure vegetable chips work - sweet potato and others.

      Thanks

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      This is an ongoing battle in our house that will be waged for a long time to come. I need any tips I can get. Thanks!

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You're welcome. I hope you find something in here that helps you in your battle!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      Some of these suggestions work with picky hubbies, too! I know my husband likes celery with peanut butter. I don't think the cute shapes would help, though. : ) The chart is really useful. My husband definitely has texture issues so these suggestions should work for introducing vegetables prepared in similar ways. Thank you!

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Vespa, a lot of these ideas definitely do work with picky eater husbands as well. I'm glad you found it useful. My son, who has autism, was a VERY selective eater when he was younger - not just with vegetables, but with everything. Texture was a big, big issue for him. Expanding his diet through similar textures was the only thing that worked for us. Good luck!

    • HoneyBB profile image

      Honey Halley 4 years ago from Illinois

      Wonderful advice and helpful...they seem like things that could work pretty good at getting those picky kids to eat their veggies. I shared this link on my facebook page in any of my family or friends are having a difficult time getting their kids to eat them. Thanks for sharing. Voted+++

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks HoneyBB! I appreciate the share, and hope the tips will be helpful to anyone struggling with a picky eater.

    • Joanna Verdan profile image

      Joanna Slodownik 4 years ago from New Jersey

      My son loves drinking green smoothies, so I put a lot of greens and veggies into them - leafy greens, celery, avocado, cucumbers, etc. He also likes vegetable soups and pasta, so I put lots of veggies into those dishes as well.

    • savingkathy profile image
      Author

      Kathy Sima 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Those are great tips, Joanna. Green smoothies are an awesome way to get lots of good veggies into kids, as long as they can get past the green colour. I know some kids love it, some are a bit turned off by the colour. Thanks for sharing what works for you!

    • caseymel profile image

      caseymel 3 years ago from Indiana

      Great tips! My kids only like vegetables prepared certain ways and each vegetables preparation is different.

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